There are defining moments in life where—if you choose one path over another—your life will follow down that path forever. When Ella’s father died, she had one of these life altering choices to make. One option: to roll over and practically become a slave to her tyrant stepmother for years on end, to have animals as friends and to lose all self respect for herself. Sure, maybe at the end of option one, Ella may have received a bow-tied prince and a kingdom for all her troubles. But Ella was nobody’s personal punching bag, and her wise father had taught her well. Nothing was worth more than the love she held for herself—not even royalty.
By Elizabeth Oxendine, TIWP student
Once upon a time, there was an anti-feminist fairy tale, where a prince saves a princess and falls in love with her looks. But now this is the 21st century. Today women kick ass. They save themselves. And they fall in love with men or women with personality.
Instead, Ella choose door number two. She filed for a fairytale equivalent of an emancipation, threw what belongings she had into her father’s old leather briefcase and grinned as she strutted past her ex-step family. Their judging eyes glared at her from atop the marble staircase.
“When you get so hungry, you eat the leather from that briefcase, know I’ll always have that job for you Cinderella,” her stepmother said.
“Don’t count on it,” Ella said as she slammed the door with all her might.
Ella grinned and raised one hand into the air as she descended the long gravel driveway, her middle finger waving proudly, like a beacon of light in the cold dark night. She knew that her step family would be watching her in spite until she simply disappeared into the abyss.
Ella was very clear with herself on the conditions of taking on the world. She had to finish school before she did anything else. So the girl with nothing but her own free will was a student by day and pancake waitress by night. It turned out the cyclops on Disney Street had a soft spot for lone wolfs and gave her the late shift.
“Good things never come easy.” This was the saying Ella lived by, what fueled her through all the hell of being on her own. Every month when she had to fight tooth and nail to pay the rent and every night when she came home soaked in syrup and grease, she knew she’d get her happy ending—because she had worked to get it for herself. Never once did she ever consider her stepmother’s offer. In fact, each night when she threw herself onto her futon and stared up at the growing crack in her ceiling, she smiled in joy and fell asleep freely in the home she had made for herself.
For months, Ella had been hearing rumors of the prince having a ball for his birthday and inviting all the eligible young bachelorettes. She had expected it to be false, like everything she had read about the royals in the tabloids she read on her breaks. But when the invitation showed up on her doorstep a week before the prince’s birthday, she was proved wrong.
The invitation came in a thick manila envelope so fancy it probably cost more than Ella made in a week.
She tore open the flap curious about who was sending her mail. In loopy cursive the thick parchment read:
You are formally invited to:
The Birthday of Prince Philip the Third
1234 Castle Hill
8 p.m to midnight
Attire: Strictly Black Tie
Ella had classes the day of the ball, but no work… How could it hurt to go? I mean, she had no intention of even meeting the prince. But there’d be free food and something to do on Friday night besides study. She decided she go but didn’t think of it again for the rest of the week.
It wasn’t until the night of the ball that the incident occurred. Ella had just dropped her textbooks on her counter when she noticed smoke coming from the bathroom. She sprinted to the door and flung it open, prepared to get a face full of flames. Instead she came face to face with a plump woman dressed in a sparkling leotard and leopard print wings.
“Look Lady I honestly don’t give a f***k! You have five seconds before I go get my shotgun from my closet and beat your a**.”
“But… but I’m your Fairy Godmother. Your low monthly income has qualified you to receive help for all necessities related to attending the ball this evening.”
“Actually I’m good. I really don’t need charity.”
“But you have no dress!”
The woman cried as she gestured to Ella’s near empty closet that held nothing but ripped jeans and her waitress uniform.
“Like I said I’m good,”
“But how will you get to the ball?” the woman said, pointing to the vacant spot on the street where Ella’s non-existent carriage would have sat. (You know, if she had a carriage.)
“I’ll walk, it’s good for the environment and all,” Ella said.
The woman gasped and clutched her heart like she’d been shot—which Ella was about to do. “You are beyond help! All the others jumped at the chance to wear decent clothes and actually be presentable for once in their lives,” said the woman.
“Well, I’m not desperate. This may be shocking but I am quite happy.”
The woman shook her head once and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
That night Ella put on her cleanest pair of sweatpants, lazily tied her hair into a messy bun, but the most important asset of her outfit: her paint splattered vans she had gotten at a thrift store for $2. It was a long walk to the castle and she needed arch support.
By the time she arrived, Ella was drenched in sweat and any remains of makeup that she’d lightly drawn on had come off in the salty streams running down her face. As she descended the velvet covered staircase, it felt as if all eyes fell on the pit stains on her grey shirt that read: “Namaste in bed.” (And of course her lack of diamonds.)
The grand room was the size of an airplane hangar. It was filled with monotone classical music that was probably older than the earth. Ella’s ears stung with the lack of depth or tempo change. But she grudgingly took a spot among the other dancers, all doing the zombie march that somehow was called dancing. Round and round Ella shuffled, huffing every time a man would stare at her breasts instead of look in her eyes. Each time they would move their hand south of her waist, she’d “accidentally” stomp right down on their toes.
It was when Ella had decided to bale and head home to binge watch “Keeping Up With The Ogres,” that she bumped into a guy wearing the most ridiculous monkey suit of all time.
“I am so sorry, that was my fault,” he stuttered, running his hands down her shoulders, checking to make sure she was okay.
“Yeah it was, now could you move? I’m trying to get out of here,” Ella said.
“You don’t like the party, what about the prince?”
“Um no offense to his royal anus…whoops! I meant his royal highness…throws one hell of a boring party. But I guess for the girls he’s trying to attract, it’s kinda perfect.”
“Kind of girls?”
“Yeah, the skinny blonde with high cheekbones, fluent in French, smiles so much people think her teeth are cemented that way, aspires to be a stay at home mom… Oh and she loves to stroke people’s egos. I mean not that I’m judging about that last part. If I ruled this kingdom with creatures ranging from unicorns to trolls all wanting something different from the other, I’d want a person by my side telling me that I made the right choice.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Look besides my opinionated views on the prince’s future wife, is there something you wanted? I kind of wanted to leave before you ran into me,” Ella sighed, sending a longing look at the exit.
“Uh no.. wait yes! I want to dance with you,” he said.
“What? Seriously? What did I say in my rude rant that left you with any desire to dance with me? And please don’t say it’s my looks.”
“You’re quite literally the opposite of anybody I’ve ever met in my entire life,” he said.
“Still, that makes you attracted to me because…?”
“Well I’ve heard it said that opposites are known to attract,” he said.
Ella rolled her eyes.
“I’m going to have to leave right now because of that absolutely barf-worthy cliche.”
“Wait no! Stay one song please! I’ll ask them to change the music.”
“How do you have the power to – you know… Never mind I’ll stay one song on the condition that it’s Trap Queen. After that I’m heading home and changing into my pj’s and sleeping for thirteen hours,”
“Aren’t you wearing your pj’s right…”
The death glare Ella gave him silenced him.
“One song,” she warned. The boy scampered off.
Minutes later the classical garbage was silenced and from large speakers hanging on the walls came the sweet sound of Fetty Wap.
Everyone on the dance floor froze in confusion and some bystanders plugged their ears.
“Now you know how I feel,” Ella muttered as she walked to the center of the now empty dance floor. If all eyes hadn’t found her at one point earlier this evening, they sure had now. She tapped her fingers against her legs waiting for the right moment in the tune. Then when it hit, it hit Ella hard. Like a switch had been flipped, Ella started dancing, letting her physical instincts take command and leaving her mental ones in the dust. The music molded her body like a sculptor with clay, centering her and then rounding her out.
“You know the condition was if I changed the music you’d dance with me.”
“I didn’t spit shake on it. I don’t even know you’re name,”
A large booming voice cut over the blaring tune.
“If everyone could turn their attention to the dance floor, Prince Philip the Third has chosen a woman to spend his first dance as an adult with.”
“So I guess you’re wrong about the type of woman I want,” Philip said with a smirk, snaking his arms around her waist.
“I have to go!” Ella gasped, breaking free of his grip.
“What?” he cried as she fled up the staircase.
With adrenaline pumping and escape on the mind, Ella went to the first door open which was not the exit. Her heavy foot subdued as she slowed taking in the view.
The reflective pool of water at the base of the fountain seemed to hold the moon and the stars, but even the entire night sky could not compare to the girl sitting by the water’s edge. The girl was drowned in mountains of pink silk and toil, but all Ella could see was her face. Random strayed fly-aways framed her face. Her lips stained red, like Ella’s favorite wine and her skin dotted with hundreds of small freckles. And her eyes, well in those Ella saw her future. Ella remembered something her father had said about not staring at the sun too long or else she’d go blind.
Well to Ella, this girl was the sun—and she’d happily go blind every day for the rest of her life looking right at this girl.
So much for not falling in love at first sight. Her subconscious mumbled in defeat.
“Take a picture; it’ll last longer,” the girl called after Ella had been standing there for some time.
Ella blushed bashfully.
But she wasn’t going to start being a pushover now.
“Why are you out here?” Ella asked, approaching her and claiming the space beside her. The closer up Ella got the girl, the brighter the girl shined in her eyes.
“A little forward are we, what are you doing out here?” the girl replied with a playful smirk.
“I asked you first.”
“I asked you second.”
“Well you could say I found myself in an awkward situation.”
“Ooo do tell! My night has been so uneventful and I need something to spice it up.”
“I was roped into a very public declaration of feelings that I did not return.”
“So you’re quite the heartbreaker. I’ve met five others like you tonight.”
“I’m a girl interested in girls, and tonight they’re all here to meet the prince, so I’ve stuck out quite a bit. It only sucks because it’s my birthday too,” the girl bit her lip as though she was about to say something more—but simply smiled.
“Happy Birthday, I’m sorry my heartbreaker kin haven’t been so kind tonight,”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you Ella.”
“What—so I don’t get a name?”
“You’re a heartbreaker Ella. My name—it gives you the power to hurt me.”
“Well being a heartbreaker, I can tell you one thing: if my evil heartbreaker soul was ever lucky enough to be with you, know that you would never strike out with me.”
“You are too kind Ella, taking pity on the poor lonely birthday girl.”
“What I’m telling the truth! Seriously this is no April fool’s joke.”
“Why would you ever go out with me? You literally know nothing about me.”
“I’m going to be cheesy for a second, but I don’t need to know you because somehow sitting here I feel like I’ve known you for a long time.”
“So it’s not my boobs—because I thought they looked pretty hot tonight.”
“Okay so a little of it might be your boobs. But mostly it was knowing your soul forever and stuff.”
“I’ll accept it.”
They sat in peaceful silence as they both inhaled each other’s presence knowing very well what this feeling meant. Within a minute of seeing her, Ella was a goner and for the other girl…
“Ella! There you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Come on, they’re waiting on us to finish the dance,” Philip said appearing in the doorway, then running over to Ella while completing ignoring the girl next to her.
“Oh sure Phil, go on pretend I’m not here,” the girl snarked.
“Please Ella come with me,” Philip begged, still facing away from the other girl.
Ella nearly growled but the guy was royalty. What was she supposed to do?
She stood up and tucked her elbow under Philip’s arm.
The girl at the fountain didn’t say anything in fact she turned away and slipped off her shoes, placing her bare feet in the shallow water.
When out of view of the girl, Ella let go of Philip, found the nearest wall, and slid down it. The weight of finding her soulmate pressing down on her shoulders.
“Ella are you okay!” Philip exclaimed in worry.
“Who was she?”
“The girl outside, you knew her, who was she?”
“Oh you mean Quinn. She’s my twin sister.”