The following Cinderella story takes place about 10 years before the events in Lost (book 1 in the Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series). I hope you enjoy!
Under the Dark Gray Clouds
Cinderella held her head high and stood by her father. The rain came down heavy, incessant, as though the sound of the rain drops hitting the frozen ground could erase, or at least numb, the pain.
Her mother’s coffin rested inert before her.
Two men stood on each side of the pine casket ready to lower her mother into the dark, forever.
“Father, can mommy hear our prayers up in heaven?” Cinderella asked.
Distracted, he shushed her and replied, “Listen to the priest.”
Their local pastor stood out in the rain saying words in a language that she did not understand.
“Is he speaking Latin?” She tugged at her father’s winter coat, but he ignored her. Sensing him tense up, she dropped her question and looked at everything but the coffin before her. She turned to the tree, but it was dead and had no leaves on it in the dead of winter. To the right, the mound of fresh dirt, and for the reason for it being there, led her back to the coffin. She glanced back over her shoulder looking for her father’s maid, but couldn’t find her. No one else had attended the service.
Only two men, who looked eager to lower her mother’s casket into the ground, the pastor praying in Latin, the maid and her father.
Cinderella closed her eyes and brought up a vision of her mother smiling. She could still see her in her memory. The way she would laugh when they would play, but there were times when a great sadness would descend upon her for days and nothing could remove the dark gray clouds that hung above her.
“Amen.” Her father nudged her in the side and she opened her eyes.
With having just turned 9 several days ago, Cinderella fought back tears. Her mother would never see her reach double digits. Or head off to her first fitting for a real dress. Help her when she had problems with a boy or give her advice on how to behave at a ball.
Little fantasies rose up within her, of smiles, kisses and plenty of dancing, twirled around in the stretch of life that would help her in the darkness of the now. But the light faded within Cinderella and she came plunging back to Earth. Back to seeing her mother’s coffin being lowered into the ground in front of her.
“Bye, Mommy, I love you.” Tears streamed down her face and she let them. The sting of the cold hit her, but the tiny tarp she and her father stood under kept most of the rain off of them. It was the one good thing that day.
Unbidden, another memory of her mother came to her. She closed her eyes in not wanting to see more of the casket being lowered, and heard her mother’s voice. “What is the one good thing that happened to you today?”
No matter how bad the day, how dark the night, her mother would always ask her that one question when she put Cinderella to bed.
And with a heavy heart, Cinderella heard the first pitch of dirt land on the coffin.
“I’ll be right back. I need to talk to the pastor.” Her father hugged her and turned away. “Helena, can you watch her for a moment?”
The maid nodded and came over to Cinderella and wrapped her in warm arms. “Come here, let’s go back to the carriage. We’ll get you out of this rain and get you warm.”
“I’m cold.” Cinderella remained still for a few moments and could not turn away from watching the two men throw dirt onto her mother’s coffin.
“I will make you some warm tea when we get home and cuddle with you by the fire.” Helena led her away, looked to Cinderella’s father and nodded.
He went up to the pastor, slipped a gold coin into his hand and wished him well. Wanting to get out of the ran, the pastor pocketed the coin and headed off back to the church in the distance. He trotted off quickly.
When he was out of earshot, a grizzled man wearing tattered clothes came out of hiding from behind several trees close to the burial spot. With strong arms, a tattoo on the visible portion of his chest and wild looking hair, he stood in bewilderment and asked, “Vlad, is it truly her?”
Not knowing what else to say, Vlad put his arm around the man. “You must go soon before you’re seen.”
“And is that my daughter?”
Vlad grabbed him and pulled him close with great force. “You must never say those words again out loud if you want her to live. Yes, it is. But I will pretend to be her father. Helena and I will take care of her and raise her. Ishmael, you must go back and do your part.”
“But I don’t want to. I want to take care of my daughter.” Ishmael broke away from Vlad and turned toward the carriage where Helena and Cinderella walked.
“Do you remember what I showed you before? If you want her to live, then you must go back and do as I say.” Vlad put his arm around Ishmael’s big shoulders. “You promised you would no matter the cost.”
Ishmael watched as Helena opened the carriage door and helped Cinderella step inside. He would never see her again. And she would never know the truth about him. Her mother had lied, now he would lie and the world would be filled with lies in order to keep their daughter safe. It was the only way.
“I want to go see her.”
Vlad nodded but led Ishmael back to the trees. “Like any father would. Now go back before it’s too late.” He pointed to a spot between the trees. “Go back and take this memory with you. I will care for her and protect her.” He laid his hand on his heart. “I promise.”
Ishmael glanced back over his shoulder, but it was already too late. The door to the carriage had shut. Startling Vlad, he broke from him and ran to the edge of the grave. The two men hesitated from their shoveling and turned away as Ishmael knelt on the ground. They took their shovels and walked off together to give Ishmael some privacy.
Rain streamed down over him and he reached out to the casket. “I love you.”
He said the words and a piece of his heart broke. The rain covered his tears, but he did not care.
Vlad stood by him and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, my friend, but it’s the only way.”
Ishmael allowed Vlad to help him to his feet and replied, “I wish you were lying, but I’ve seen what would happen. My daughter must live.”
“Then go.” Vlad pushed him toward the trees.
Without another word, Ishmael ran toward the trees and vanished from site. A gust of wind kicked up and Vlad turned back to the carriage. He had given his word and would honor it. He would protect Cinderella no matter the cost. And he feared the cost would be great.