On Thursday morning I saw that I had been invited to join Anne J Anguilar-Van der Merwe and Theresa Barker in an amazing project. They’d already written their Cinderella-inspired stories – now they want to read mine (and yours!). If this collaboration is a success, it will possibly be published in an anthology.
What an awesome way to start 2017 with.
If you want to know more about the project, click on either link above. And click on the following links if you want to read Anne’s story, City of Magic, and Theresa’s story Little Rich Girl – both are amazing takes on the folktale.
Ah, the folktale. Here’s what I had to say about it in August 2016:
Cinderella, known in different languages by different names, is the folktale of a young woman who lives in unfortunate circumstances (usually through unjust oppression), that are suddenly changed to be more fortunate (usually through some kind of triumphant reward).
There are hundreds of variants of this folktale. Though the titles and the main characters might be differently named in different languages, Cinderella is the archetypal name in English-language folklore.
It’s a popular story lending its myth-elements, tropes, allusions and plot elements to a variety of modern tales and media. Cinderella has even come to mean someone who has suddenly gone from obscurity and neglect to recognition and success.
Though the oldest European version came from Italy, the most popular was written by Charles Perrault. Disney credited his version as their inspiration for their 1950s animated creation. Glass slipper, fairy godmother and all.
More about the origins of Cinderella can be read in the original post.
I wrote a Cinderella-inspired story last year, one I really enjoyed, so I dusted it off, tweaked it to fit the parameters of the project I was invited to, and now you can read it.
By Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Kayla tentatively touched the door handle of the boutique shoe store. She was trembling all over. This was it. This was her big chance. But… She closed her eyes and took a calming breath. No backing out now. She straightened her shoulders, pulled the door open and stepped inside.
Shoes of every kind of gorgeous surrounded her. She felt like she’d stepped into a different world. Kayla had to remember to breathe. Even the air tasted expensive.
Slowly she walked through the store, inspecting every pair. Each new design had her dreaming up the perfect outfit to go with it. But none of them were what she was looking for. Until she saw the pair.
Pointy toe pumps completely covered with silver crystals. And a large crystal flower over the toes.
Kayla gasped. The Jimmy Choo’s were the perfect companions to her dress. She closed her eyes and she could see the voluminous purple silk ruffles…
‘Can I help you?’ a stiff voice asked.
Kayla opened her eyes and saw a saleswoman standing in front of her. The woman’s hair was as stiff as her voice.
‘Perhaps. What’s the price on these?’
The woman pointed to the small plaque on the display case.
Kayla nearly passed out when she saw the price.
The saleswoman smirked and walked away.
The shoes were more than she earned in a month. More than two month’s salary, if she were honest with herself.
But they were perfect. And they would make the just the right statement with her dress.
With her heart beating rapidly, her mouth suddenly dry, she took the perfect pair to the saleslady waiting on the side-lines. The woman wearing couture took the shoes with her perfectly manicured hands and went to the back room.
Kayla looked around at the other shoes there as she sat down on the lush chair the saleswoman had pointed out. She hadn’t even noticed the men’s section. Or the rest of the clientele. For the first time she realised that she stood out among the rest of the well-dressed crowd in her work clothes and sensible shoes. She swallowed and didn’t meet their stares. They reminded her too much of her deceased stepmother’s disapproval.
The saleswoman came back and handed Kayla the shoes in the right size, watching her suspiciously.
She slipped the shoes on. She’d never worn anything so beautiful in her life. They were in stark contrast to her serviceable chain store black pants and white blouse ensemble. She took a few tentative steps. The shoes brought her absolute peace and confidence as she watched them in the mirror. They were made for her.
‘How will you be paying?’ the saleswoman asked, obviously recognising that Kayla and the shoes were a perfect match.
‘Credit card,’ Kayla answered, her voice hoarse as she handed the shoes to the saleslady to box up again.
She walked up to the register after she pulled on her mundane flat pumps again. Her new shoes, pretty box and all, were already in a nice-looking paper bag. She pulled out her wallet and then the special credit card therein.
‘Oh, you work for Castillo Designs?’ the saleswoman said suddenly a lot warmer.
‘Yes,’ Kayla answered.
‘I heard that all the staff have to wear plain white blouses and black pantsuits. Apparently the awful rumour is true.’
‘Only the clothes designed and made at Castillo should draw any attention,’ Kayla answered, trying not to choke on the company line coined by her stepmother.
She reached for the shoes and opened the box to make sure that they were both there. She smiled relieved as the saleswoman handed her back the credit card. She couldn’t really hear anything above her heart beating in her ears.
‘Your boss will kill you if they’re not there?’ a male voice asked.
Kayla merely nodded, no inclination to explain her actions to a stranger. She had to get back to the office before someone noticed that she had slipped out.
‘Have a great day,’ the saleswoman said as Kayla left.
She saw the man as she turned to close the door behind her. He outshined the gorgeous shoes around him.
Kayla sighed wistfully before merging with the foot traffic on the busy city sidewalk.
Overly floral perfume warned Kayla that she’d be discovered admiring what she shouldn’t have moments before two women entered her office.
‘Can’t you do something about your messy hair?’ Amy asked angrily as Kayla closed the door of the closet she’d quickly stuffed her new shoes in. ‘I know you’re still fresh from design school, but still.’
‘It’s fashionable,’ Danielle said. ‘One of the stylists had suggested it for the new show. It’s called a clavicut or something.’
‘Whatever. Where’s the designs for next week’s show? I haven’t seen anything yet.’
‘Over here,’ Kayla said, trying her best to stay emotionless.
She knew that any sign of emotion from her and her eldest stepsister would explode. She was a lot like Kayla’s stepmother in that way. Probably one of the reasons she was running the company since the funeral.
‘Mm,’ Amy said as she looked at the designs on display in the corner of the office. Her tightly curled hair reminded Kayla of Medusa. ‘I thought we’d agreed on dropped waistlines? Why are all of them raised?’
‘Oh, that was me. I was watching a historical drama and just knew that it would be perfect with the new hair trends,’ Danielle said excitedly, her curly hair bouncing as she talked. ‘I also thought we should go for a black-and-white floral theme.’
‘Really?’ Amy asked dubious, eyebrow lifted.
‘Have I ever steered us wrong?’
She glared at Kayla. It was obvious to her that she would’ve been fired had this been her idea. Completely unfair, but that’s just how things happened between the three of them. Amy was always in charge being the eldest; Danielle was always the happy-go-lucky one that seemed to dodge all danger; while Kayla got hit by every missile sent by her stepmother and oldest stepsister just because she was there.
‘Supervise her, sister. There’s no room for mistakes,’ Amy said to Danielle and left.
Kayla would’ve felt more hurt at the slight if she hadn’t experienced it before.
‘That was fun,’ Danielle said as she closed the door. ‘So, did you get them?’
Kayla nodded and retrieved the shoes.
‘Wow,’ her stepsister breathed as the box was opened and the shoes revealed.
‘Yeah,’ Kayla agreed with a smile.
‘They’re absolutely made for the dress you designed.’ She turned to Kayla, smiling happily. ‘You’re going to be absolutely spectacular at the ball. And once everyone realises that these designs are yours,’ she gestured to the designs in the corner, ‘we’ll start a branded line for you. Not even Amy will be able to fight that. Actually, I think she’ll warm up to the idea once she doesn’t have to make the decision herself.’
‘You really think that?’ Kayla asked as she locked the shoes away.
She wasn’t as sure as Danielle. Those two shared blood through their mother. All they shared with her was a surname.
‘Yes,’ she said as she squeezed Kayla’s hands.
‘I should probably get your credit card…’ Kayla said and pulled away, uncomfortable with Danielle’s sisterly actions.
‘No. You’ll need it for tomorrow.’
‘I’ve booked you a place at Malcolm’s Spa. You’ll get buffed and waxed and styled so you’ll look as lovely as your dress.’
Kayla blushed. She’d been reminded of her unpolished appearance at the shoe boutique.
‘You work so hard, I’m sure you haven’t had time to pamper yourself in forever.’
Kayla still hesitated. Malcolm’s was very exclusive. And very expensive.
‘Oh, come on. Everyone has the day off tomorrow. And you should do your design justice.’
Kayla nodded reluctantly. Anything for the dress.
‘So, how are the seamstresses doing with the show’s designs?’
‘Oh, they’re on schedule…’
Kayla woke up and stared at the cracked ceiling. She couldn’t really remember her dream, only a vague sense of happiness infusing whatever had happened.
She sighed as the alarm clock yelled at her.
In the corner of her room her dress for that evening hung in a garment bag against her closet. The new shoes stood in their box next to it.
She went to shower, images of designing and making the wondrous dress filling her entire being. She remembered every decision, every moment of agonising over colour and texture.
A knock at the front door pulled her out of the bathroom in only a robe.
‘Come now, you should be at the spa!’ Danielle fussed as she pushed into the tiny apartment. ‘Antonio is taking the car around the block. Quick, throw something on and let’s go.’
Kayla shook her head as her stepsister opened the closet door.
‘Really? Do you only own work clothes?’
Kayla didn’t answer. It was quite obvious from the closet that it was the case.
‘Stay in the robe. Let’s go,’ Danielle said and grabbed the dress and shoes.
‘You won’t need clothes for your day at the spa.’
The spa was crowded for so early in the morning. Danielle hissed something about people not making bookings, but Kayla ignored her. All she could see was the richly dressed people gawking at her in her robe.
Inside, bamboo and orchids thrived in natural planters. Between the plants, the stone floor and gurgling fountain, Kayla felt like she’d stepped into another world.
And she had. She’d stepped into the world her stepfamily had always inhabited.
‘Ah, Danielle. So good to see you,’ a man dressed in shades of green greeted and kissed Danielle on both cheeks.
‘You too, Malcolm.’
‘And this must be your baby sister. So cute. But –’ He pulled his face as if in pain. ‘I see what you mean about her nails. Not to mention –’ he vaguely gestured to all of Kayla. ‘But not to worry. We’ll have her looking like a princess before the ball tonight.’
If someone were to ask Kayla what had happened at the spa, she wouldn’t have been able to answer honestly.
The hours had gone by in a blur. She was thankful that she’d been in a robe when she’d arrived; it was the only way she was able to recognise herself. Between the waxing, massaging, lotions slathered all over her, and other strange happenings she was a little overwhelmed. She didn’t have to make any decisions: Danielle and Malcolm where in charge of her.
As her nails were painted a glittering silver, Kayla felt a panic attack coming on. She wasn’t a princess. She wasn’t a superstar. And she wasn’t her stepsisters. She didn’t belong there.
‘Breathe, darling,’ Malcolm said with a hand on Kayla’s shoulder.
When the manicurist was done, Kayla sat down in another chair and placed her feet in a tub filled with warm, bubbling water scented with violets. She stared at the silver ovals on her hands. It was a little frivolous, but she knew that Danielle was right that it would look amazing with her shoes and dress.
After that she allowed Malcolm to lead her anywhere he thought she needed to go. By the time her hair was done and the final touches of make-up were applied, Kayla felt like a true pampered princess.
‘Off you go,’ Malcolm said after he’d swiped her credit card. ‘You’d better get dressed if you want to make it to the ball in time.’
Kayla took the company card, hoping that it wouldn’t be flagged like Danielle’s and that Amy would still be blissfully unaware of what was going on.
‘You look amazing,’ Danielle said as Kayla walked out of the changing room. One of the spa attendees had helped her to get dressed in the voluminous ball gown.
‘Thanks. You look wonderful,’ she replied as she took in the ice blue dress she’d made for her sister.
Stepsister, she corrected herself.
The silk sheath hugged her lithe body while the gossamer cloak fastened at the back spread out like wings and floated behind her, making her look like a fairy-princess.
‘Thank you. Here,’ she pulled out a jewellery box. ‘I got you a necklace and matching bracelet to complement the rest of your outfit.’
‘You’re much too kind,’ she managed to say as she took in the myriad diamonds.
‘They’ll have to be returned to the jewellers,’ Danielle replied. ‘I certainly don’t have the money to buy them. But to borrow? Easy,’ she winked as she turned to fasten the choker. The pretty bracelet was already gleaming on Kayla’s wrist. ‘There. Now you look like a real Castillo. Ready?’
Kayla caught her own reflection. She didn’t recognise the woman in the mirror. The layered purple, black and silver eye shadow made her look glamorous without it being overdone. She was tall and elegant. And she made the dress look incredible.
The dark purple silk looked amazing as the ruffled skirt grazed her ankles only to regally pile on the floor behind her. The sleeveless top, the fabric twisted around her torso, made her look even taller than she was. And the shoes… All those crystals along with the loaned diamonds around her neck and wrist made her look like a fairy-tale princess.
Yes, she was a true Castillo tonight. She was ready to go to the ball.
Kayla could feel the stares as she descended the grand staircase. Which was exactly what her stepsister had intended. This was her moment to shine.
All the biggest names in the fashion world were gathered there along with those who could afford couture.
The whispers followed her as she made her way to the centre of the room where Danielle waited for her with her fiancé, Colin.
‘You really look stunning, sis,’ Colin said as he kissed her hand. ‘Your design is absolutely breathtaking.’
‘Thank you. Though I do wonder what lies behind all that charm of yours…’
‘A hard-nosed reporter,’ he answered with a wink.
Kayla looked around a little nervously.
‘Have a drink. It’ll relax you,’ Danielle said as the waiter stopped next to them.
‘Why are all the drinks green?’
‘Green’s the new black,’ her sister said with a mischievous smile. ‘Here, have a kiwi margarita.’
More people clucked around them. Everyone had questions about the dress, oohing and aahing as Danielle fussed over Kayla’s awesomeness.
She was glad that her sister was taking control. She’d never been comfortable in crowds, especially not when they expected her to speak. Kayla kept her nervousness to herself. This was her one and only chance to show the world that her designs were amazing and that it wasn’t just a “company effort” that created it. She needed to get recognition for her efforts for once in her life.
Even if it meant that Amy was shooting venomous daggers at her with her eyes.
Yeah, tomorrow there’ll be hell to pay.
‘You clean up nicely,’ an almost familiar man’s voice said.
Kayla turned. It was the man from the shoe store. His tawny hair glowed beneath the light of the chandeliers.
‘So do you.’
She saw Danielle and Colin nod eagerly.
The song playing sounded vaguely familiar, though Kayla couldn’t be sure. She wasn’t that great with instrument-only songs, even if they were warped versions of pop songs.
‘If it weren’t for the shoes, I wouldn’t have recognised you.’
Kayla merely smiled.
‘I’m Kieran, by the way.’
Her heart was fluttering and she felt a little lightheaded.
It’s not like you’ve never danced with an attractive man before, she scolded herself.
But it didn’t help. There was something about Kieran that caused her to melt. Perhaps it was his expensive cologne? It was citrusy and woodsy all at once. Intoxicating.
The song came to an end and she was loathe to let go. But dancing two songs in a row would cause people to gossip. And she needed them to only talk about her designs.
‘That was fun,’ Kieran said as he led her to the side of the dance floor.
‘It was, thank you.’
A crowd of admirers flocked around her and she lost sight of her handsome dance partner. There were a few couples still dancing, but most of the guests were gathered in little groups watching everyone else and what they were wearing.
Her stomach growled, but there was no sight of food. So she took another of the strange green cocktails that circulated the ballroom.
Kayla felt empty and cold now that she stood among strangers. Though the song couldn’t have lasted more than four minutes, it had been the safest she’d felt all night.
The chandeliers reflected light off the gem-coloured ball gowns of the others there. They all looked pretty. Even the ones wearing white. But she knew that her dress was superior to them all. It made her feel a little better as she had to listen to the inane babbling of the people around her obsessed with who-was-wearing-what.
Kayla saw him make his way through the crowd. For the first time she noticed that his suit had a slight purple tinge beneath the light of the chandeliers. It made him look roguish in his otherwise ordinary black evening wear. Her heart sped up.
You’re too old to freak out over a guy like this, she scolded herself.
Kieran smiled and extended his hand. Kayla smiled and took it gratefully. She felt like she was being suffocated by the airheads who could only talk about fashion.
He led her out to the middle of the dance floor. A new song started and everything else faded away.
‘I hear this is your own design?’
Surprised, Kayla nodded. She easily spoke to him about her designs, her hopes, and her dreams.
Kieran listened and asked questions that startled and delighted in equal measure.
One song led to the next and still they danced. After a while they fell into a comfortable silence.
The whole thing felt very surreal. Mostly because she felt like she was someone else. She felt for the first time what it could be to really be Kayla Castillo. And it was liberating.
She could’ve stayed in Kieran’s arms forever. Though they didn’t talk, it felt to Kayla like their eyes were having a conversation all their own.
‘Want to get out of here?’ Kieran asked.
Her mouth suddenly became dry. Something in his eyes compelled her to want to say yes. She looked around. The crowd had thinned, but the party was still going strong.
The sensible part of her wanted to say no. But the other Kayla, the one intoxicated by Kieran and the feelings he evoked, nodded.
Kayla woke up in the grey light of dawn. She stretched contentedly. Kieran lay next to her, handsome even in sleep. The bedside lamps were still on and competed with the soft light coming in through the curtains.
She looked away before her staring woke him up. Most of her was freaking out over what she’d done. She wasn’t ready to face him – or herself – in the light of day.
Scrambling out of bed, she searched for her dress and shoes scattered among the clothes in the room. She blushed as she remembered her uninhibited behaviour of a few hours earlier.
She caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror. Kayla barely recognised the woman wearing jewels and nothing else. A robe lay over a silver upholstered chair and she grabbed it. She could feel time slipping away as she searched for her belongings.
Purple silk peeked out from behind a sofa. Her dress was crumpled. And there was no way that she’d be able to fasten it herself. Sighing, she draped it over the back of the sofa and searched for her tiny clutch and shoes.
One shoe lay next to the door. Her clutch was inside Kieran’s jacket. But no matter where she looked, she couldn’t find the other shoe.
Sunlight was piercing the curtains and the silver-and-white room lit up prettily.
Kayla pulled her cell phone from her clutch and quickly dialled the programmed number.
‘Antonio, can you please pick me up from the hotel?’
When the driver said that he could be there in ten minutes, she sighed in relief. At least she wouldn’t have an audience when she left the hotel in only a bathrobe.
She quickly searched the room again. But to no avail. The other shoe was gone.
Kayla grabbed her dress, her matching clutch and the one shoe then slipped out of the room before Kieran could wake up. Her heart was beating in her ears and she felt a strange sense of loss as she closed the door behind her.
‘So, was the night everything you’d hoped it would be?’ Danielle asked not long after Kayla got home. She’d barely had time to shower and get dressed.
‘Why are you here so early?’
‘The jewellery. And this,’ she did something on her tablet and sat down next to Kayla nursing a cup of coffee.
She showed her an article on a popular fashion blog.
‘Isn’t this great? People are talking about your dress. Not even your, ah, accessories could detract from it.’
Kayla couldn’t look away from the photos of her and Kieran dancing beneath glistening chandeliers. She could still hear that first song playing in her head. She felt herself smiling goofily and hid it behind her cup.
‘Wait until you see the rest…’
More pictures of the ball, most only featuring Kayla’s dress, filled the screen. They were captioned with words like ‘Delightful!’; ‘Sensational!’; ‘Inspired!’ and ‘Trend-setting’.
Kayla’s head reeled. She’d hoped for a positive response. But this…
‘I’ll leave you to absorb all this. Where’s the jewels?’
She vaguely gestured to her bedroom; her eyes fixed on the photo of her and Kieran captioned: ‘Kayla Castillo reveals extraordinary talent and exceptional taste.’
She swallowed heavily. Her heart was beating madly as she stared at the photo and relived the previous night’s wonder.
An angry knock on the door pulled her out of her thoughts. Danielle was still searching for the jewellery.
‘Nightstand,’ Kayla said as she made her way to the door.
Kayla grinned as she looked through the peephole. Her good mood quickly evaporated.
‘May I come in?’ Amy asked stiffly.
Kayla stood to the side and the other woman walked in.
‘How dare you?’ she hissed as she turned on Kayla. ‘Our family had given you everything, took you in as one of our own after your father died. And this is how you repay us?’ She threw a newspaper on the floor; most of its top page was covered with a photo of Kayla at the ball.
‘It’s her design. It’s time we give her credit where credit is due,’ Danielle said softly as she walked out of the bedroom.
‘Of course you’re in on this. You’ve been out to destroy the company ever since Mother died.’
Pain flashed across Danielle’s face.
‘Enough!’ Kayla snapped. ‘You both loved your mother. And somewhere deep down you love each other.’
‘Oh, boo-hoo and no-one loves you?’
‘I’m sure someone does,’ she answered Amy stiffly. ‘But that’s not the point. The designs are mine. We share a family name – my father’s name. And he had founded the company.’
‘And you think that entitles you to something? Our mother made the company what it is.’
‘All I want is recognition for my work.’ She definitely didn’t want anything to do with her stepmother’s legacy.
‘You do it on company time which makes it company property.’
‘Oh, enough. Both of you. We’re sisters. Mom might not have liked it, but we are,’ Danielle said as she threw her handbag on the sofa.
The jewellery spilled out. Kayla looked away. The diamonds looked out of place on the worn material. Much like she did next to her stepsisters.
‘Oh, enough with your pity-party already! Why you feel you need to live out here…’ Danielle threw her hands into the air.
‘I know why,’ Amy said as she walked closer to Kayla, arms still crossed. ‘She wants everyone to feel sorry for her. Poor orphan Kayla. Well, newsflash: we’re all orphans,’ she ended softly.
Kayla’s head snapped up. She’d never considered that.
‘You could’ve moved back home after your stint in university housing. But you chose this. Can you imagine how we felt? Even Mother was hurt.’
Kayla hugged herself. She’d just wanted freedom. She’d blamed her stepfamily for all the bad things in her life. But what if she’d brought some of it on herself? Like the dreadful apartment…
‘How about this,’ Danielle said, stepping between Amy and Kayla. ‘You move in with us, Amy allows you to have your own line, and I get to buy us all new shoes to celebrate?’
Kayla wasn’t sure it would work. Amy was stubborn…
‘Very well. You win, Danielle.’
It felt like her eyes were about to pop out.
She caught a glimpse of the newspaper at her feet. The woman in the photo was staring up at her. She was everything Kayla wanted to be: confident, elegant – the real Kayla Castillo.
She nodded. Then felt warmth flood her cheeks.
‘May I perhaps get two pairs? I, uh, lost one of my shoes last night…’
Her sisters were still laughing as they entered the shoe store Kayla had visited just a few days earlier.
‘You’re back,’ the saleslady who’d helped her the previous time greeted with a smile. ‘How can I help you today?’
Kayla didn’t know how to phrase her request.
‘She’d like another pair of the shoes you sold her,’ Danielle answered.
‘I’m sorry.’ The saleslady looked as if in pain. ‘They all sold out during the first hour of business this morning. Even the display pair. Seeing you in them caused a buying frenzy.’
Danielle giggled at Amy’s concerned expression. Even Kayla found it slightly amusing. And a bit disconcerting.
‘Perhaps I can help?’ a familiar voice asked.
Kayla turned around. Kieran stood there, dressed in a blue long-sleeved shirt and jeans. He had a shadow beard and his hair still looked tumbled.
‘I found this shoe…’ He held it out to her. ‘It was all that was left of a wonderful night. Its owner disappeared without a word at dawn.’ He looked at her reproachfully.
Kayla swallowed, her mouth was suddenly dry.
‘At least now we don’t have to scour the globe for a replacement pair,’ Amy said, stopping a magical cocoon from forming. ‘Aren’t you going to introduce us, Sister?’
Kayla felt a jolt of pleasure.
‘Amy, Danielle – this is Kieran. Kieran, meet my sisters.’
It felt good to introduce them as her sisters.
‘How ‘bout I take you all out to lunch?’ he suggested.
‘Sure,’ Danielle said. ‘Shoe shopping can wait until tomorrow.’
Kayla couldn’t stop smiling. She knew that no matter what happened next, she had her sisters. And perhaps even Kieran…
I hope you enjoyed my retelling of the Cinderella-folktale. Just so you know, Kieran looks like Ryan Reynolds 😉
I always appreciate feedback, so leave your thoughts in the comments.