Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a young woman whose sweet nature and simple beauty made her stepmother and stepsisters insanely jealous, so they forced the poor girl to wear nothing but rags and do all the chores in their large estate house.
The girl’s name was Cinderella, and by all rights the estate house should been hers, as an inheritance from her late father, but owing to the stepmother’s trickery and legal wrangling, the entitlement was settled such that poor Cinderella should live as a indentured servant in her rightful home.
Now poor Cinderella was a bit simple, as well as simply beautiful, and with only an assortment of mice, birds, and woodland creatures as legal advisors, she did not rise to take her rightful claim upon the estate, but spent her days singing songs while she scrubbed floors and mended clothing.
Cindy, of course had her dreams, and rather than dream of a career in real estate or property management, in which she could earn a considerable income by charging her stepmother and stepsisters rent for lodging in her rightful home; she dreamed that one day she’d live in a far off castle, and dance in the arms of a prince, and presumably live happily ever after, scrubbing his floors and mending his clothes instead.
Poor Cindy spent her days mooning about, singing songs of love, and being sweet to everyone while she scrubbed floors and mended clothes, and her stepmother and stepsisters bossed her around and found all kinds of nasty chores for her to do, for this was still the era of chamber pots and laundry was done by hand.
One day an announcement was made across the kingdom that there would be a royal ball, and all the maidens in the land were to attend, so the prince could select his bride; because there was nothing to proclaim your ownership over a group of people like having all the best virgins in the land lined up so that you might take your pick.
The stepmother and stepsisters, conventional minds they are, were ecstatic, and spent days in hurried preparation, keeping Cindy busy all the while with extra loads of laundry and mending, and yet, somehow Cindy, with the help of some woodland creatures, managed to sew a dress for herself so she might go to the ball too.
The day of the ball came, and as the stepsisters tore that patched dress to shreds, poor Cinderella was left weeping at home while her stepmother and stepsisters went to the ball.
In the midst of tears, a fairy godmother appeared; and poor, simple, Cinderella, rather than demand why her magical fairy godmother hadn’t shown up before this, if only to release her from a life of hard work and drudgery, she asked to go to the ball too.
With a wave of a wand and some magical words, a pumpkin was transformed into a coach, assorted creatures turned into horses and footmen, and off Cindy went wearing a magical new dress and fancy glass slippers.
Now of course, the poor prince, bored out of his mind by the selection of maidens paraded before him, was immediately attracted to Cinderella as she walked into the ballroom, and he danced with her, and her alone all night.
Poor, simple, Cindy fell in love with the prince, and he with her, and hours flew by in each other’s company; and yet at the stroke of midnight Cinderella suddenly remembered the fairy godmother’s warning that at midnight everything would return to its original state.
As she dashed out of the castle, leaving a single glass slipper behind on the stairs, she thought to herself, I really must get better at paying attention to these seemingly insignificant contractual details.
The very next day the now broken-hearted prince then ordered a search throughout his kingdom so that the owner of the glass slipper would be found, for she alone would be his bride; and a royal party went door-to-door asking the resident maidens to try on the shoe. (Their consent to marriage to the prince, in the likelihood of the shoe fitting, was assumed.)
As the royal party knocked on her door, Cinderella was shoved aside and her stepsisters clamoured to try on the shoe, which, evidentially due to an anomalously tiny foot on Cindy’s part, the shoe was exceptionally small, and the maiden herself thereby presumed to be dainty and delicate, rather than a clear sign of a genetic mutation.
It was with a sigh of relief that the royal party slid the shoe onto Cindy’s freakishly small foot, and she was proclaimed to be the only woman the prince would marry.
Their wedding nuptials were hastily planned, and the ceremony included all in the land, even the stepmother and stepsisters, for poor simple, Cindy had not the heart to exclude them from the festivities. After a brief honeymoon in Never, Never Land, the prince and Cinderella retired to the castle, and that’s where things got really interesting.
Newly married Cinderella spent all her time in the library, in pursuit of the higher education that was previously denied to her through a life of indentured servitude. In addition to all manner of fiction, she read lofty tomes, and studied complex topics – such as the chemistry behind household stain removal products, the biology of the various woodland creatures who were her companions, and law. Law was most fascinating to Cinderella, and she dove into volumes related to estate planning, legal entitlements, and will settlements.
Using her newfound knowledge, she immediately evicted her stepmother and stepsisters from her rightful home, and through the use of generous leasing agreements, set up an orphanage run by the finest caregivers in the land, and ensured her family estate was cared for by a steady stream of very well paid domestic staff.
Once she mastered civil law, Cinderella turned her hand to criminal law, ever fascinated with the topic, and also kept up her engagement with fiction, reading a novel or two every night and starting to pen her own stories.
Her husband, the prince, noticed the change come over his beloved Cinderella. “Why can’t you be as you were, a poor simple girl, desperate for love? I am alone in bed at night while you sit up reading or writing – I am truly neglected.”
Seated at her usual table in the library and surrounded by all of her notes, Cinderella looked up from the book she was reading and pulled down her glasses to study him more closely.
He continued, “You used to be so happy, simply singing, and tidying up a few things here and there – why, I left my whole sock drawer open for you to fold and rearrange, and you haven’t touched them.”
Cinderella frowned, “It’s you then, leaving the ring of pee on the chamber pot, and throwing your dirty shorts everywhere.”
The Prince sniffed, “I am only trying to reach the girl I once knew – and you used to like my dirty shorts.”
Now, the secret behind Cinderella’s domestic success was an undiagnosed case of OCD, as she learned through her studies in psychology and psychiatry. She said slowly, and deliberately, “You think I liked cleaning up your clutter? You think I liked dealing with everyone’s stuff? Why – your soiled shorts of all things – how disgusting – I never liked it – I just couldn’t stand the mess.”
The prince stood, aghast. “But you used to – you used to fold them so lovingly.”
“I couldn’t help it – but, through my studies in cognitive behavioural psychology, I have cured myself of those dreaded impulses.” She stood up, and said forcefully, “Clean up your own damned mess.”
“But – but –” the prince stammered. “It’s you – you’ve changed. Why, I wouldn’t have married you at all if I knew this was the way things would turn out.”
“What – no happily ever after?” Cinderella sneered. “I am happy here, alone in my studies – and you – you roam the land in search of fair maidens with tiny feet – a sign of a true fetishist.”
“What did you call me?”
“A fetishist – a person who sexualizes an obj –”
“Enough,” the prince roared, and then glanced down at the lush Persian carpet, and mumbled, “So what – I have a thing for little feet. And the virgin thing –”
“You are a twisted and deviant man – practically a pedophile –”
“Stop using big words!” the prince yelled. “Look, all I want is my pure and simple wife back.”
“Well, you’re not going to get her – you have me instead.” Slamming her book shut, Cinderella stood up, and said forcefully, “And if you think I’m going to change back to that naïve little fool, you’ve got another thing coming.” She lowered her voice, “Of course, sweet prince, if you even think about divorce, I’ll have half the kingdom and whatever riches you might own before you could say Rumpelstiltskin.”
“What’s he got to do with it?” The prince frowned, looking puzzled, then shook his head. “How would you know about my riches?”
“Talk to your accountants,” Cinderella smiled coldly, “The legalities of finances are endlessly fascinating.”
“Look, it’s not about the money,” the prince tried to smile. “All I want –”
“It’s all about you.” Stepping out from behind the table, she started pacing, “You, you, you – you wanted the fairest in the land? A lineup of fair maidens to pick your wife from – what about me? Do you think I like spending my days tidying up other people’s things?”
“But you used to be so happy, just singing and cleaning all day long.”
“Not anymore, buster.” Cinderella folded her arms across her chest, “And if you think that, you got another thing coming.”
Suddenly enraged, the Prince reached out and grabbed the wastepaper basket, and holding it upside down, shook it out upon the Persian rug. “There – clean that, Cindy.”
“Why – why – why, you –”
The prince stood there smirking at her.
Cinderella reached into her pocket, and pulled out her glass slipper, and, by cracking it on the edge of the table, she produced a fair shank, as she learned it was called in her pursuit of mystery fiction; sharp, and blade-like, albeit still adorned with butterflies.
She stood, facing him, “If you leave another mess out for me to clean up – why, I’ll –” Furious, she waved the glass shank menacingly.
The prince folded his arms across his chest. “You wouldn’t dare – why, you think you’re so high and mighty, but all you’re good for is scrubbing floors.” And with that, he reached across the table Cinderella had been seated at and swept all of her drafts and legal notes onto the floor.
At the sight of such disarray, her OCD went into overdrive, and she lunged toward him. He smiled again, “You wouldn’t dare – do you really think your studies in criminal law will help you if you’re charged with murder?”
Enraged, Cinderella leap forward, seizing him with the muscles that only come from years of scrubbing floors by hand, and swiped the shank across his throat. He looked startled, momentarily, and then paled as blood streamed from the opening in his neck.
Ever mindful of the Persian rug in the library, she forced his head over the wastepaper basket, and watched the blood drain from his body. As his eyes fluttered in fading consciousness, he said, his voice barely a whisper, “You’ll never get away with this.”
Cinderella smiled, “I will, sweet prince, for I’m now writing murder mysteries.”
Years passed by and the case of the murdered prince remained unsolved, despite the best efforts of the royal police as directed by the now Queen, Cinderella. The Queen was known throughout the land for her generosity and fair treatment of her subjects, her clean castle and highly paid household staff, and, most of all, her shrewd legal mind.
She lived happily ever after.
Cinderella and the Probate Will is part of Fractured Fairy Tales, a series on Channillo.
Liz McAdams is a short, sharp writer living in the wilds of Canada with her laptop and black cats. She adores themes of love, loss, and longing – all with a twist of darkness. Her work appears in venues around the globe, including Shotgun Honey, Spelk, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle, and will soon be up at Black Petals, Sick Lit, and The Horror Zine. You can connect with Liz through https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/