Day 23: Cinderella

Clean the stairs next.”


And the bath­room after that.”

I did that this morning.”

Do it again then. I was in there a few minutes ago and it wasn’t nearly spot­less enough.”

OK, OK, I’ll do it,” said Cinder­ella. Her two ugly sis­ters were being par­tic­u­larly demand­ing today, their foul breath kept brush­ing across her face with each new instruc­tion. She stifled a cough.

Hah!” said one of the sis­ters, “Can’t take a little stink?” she leant for­ward and breathed heav­ily in Cinderella’s face, “then you should have set out some breath freshen­ers after the meal.”

Let’s get out of here,” said the other, “we need to get ready for the ball any­way. You laid our dresses out earlier, didn’t you, Cinderella?”

They’re in your rooms,” Cinder­ella replied.

Good. At least you can do some­thing right.”

The sis­ters headed upstairs. Cinder­ella went to the clean­ing cup­board and got out the mop, bucket, three dif­fer­ent clean­ing products and some marble pol­ish. She went to work on the stairs, grumbling under her breath as she poured the bottles into the bucket. The ball they were head­ing to was the Prince’s, and tonight he’d choose a bride. Every­body was going. Every­body had been invited. Except Cinderella.

Well, she had been invited, but the card had found its way into the fire­place as her sis­ters laughed. She had looked on and tried not to cry.

It wasn’t any use any­way. Her breath stank awfully. Everybody’s breath stank, of course, but they all had mints and sprays and mouth­washes and per­fumes to cover it up. If you were really lucky, you could get it down to only being detect­able within a foot of another per­son, but that took hours. Cinder­ella wasn’t given any of that and so her breath could stink out a room. If people didn’t know how to syn­chron­ise their breath­ing with hers then their eyes would begin to water. It really was terrible.

She heard her sis­ters stam­ped­ing down the stairs. “We’re done!” they called, “is the cab ready?”

It arrived five minutes ago,” she shouted back.

They ran out of the door and fought to be the first to get into it. Each was sure that the Prince would choose them, just like every­body else in the city.

Cinder­ella got on with the scrub­bing. Hope­fully, they’d get utterly wasted and spend most of tomor­row in bed. The house was already gleam­ing, so she could spend the day quietly relax­ing, wait­ing for them to feel well enough to start mess­ing things up again.

Twenty minutes later, a pil­lar of smoke appeared in front of her. She shook her head and stared at it, won­der­ing if the clean­ing products were mak­ing her hal­lu­cin­ate again. Gradu­ally, the smoke formed into a solid mass and took the shape of a kindly look­ing, middle-aged woman. “Hello,” she said. Cinder­ella sniffed. It was odd. It seemed like this lady had no bad breath. She sniffed again. It must be the clean­ing products. Nobody could be this close without her being able to smell them.

Tell me, Cinder­ella, are you going to the ball tonight?” asked the lady.

No,” said Cinder­ella, look­ing the woman up and down with a scep­tical expres­sion, “I have to get the stairs clean and make sure my sis­ters’ rooms are ready for when they get back.”

That sounds very bor­ing, wouldn’t you rather go to the ball?”

I’d love to, but I have to get this done. And even if it was fin­ished, they tore up my invitation.”

Well, that’s no real obstacle!” and the lady waved her hands and tapped the wand she was hold­ing onto Cinderlla’s sponge, trans­form­ing it into a golden invit­a­tion to the ball with Cinderella’s name on it.

How did you do that?!” Cinder­ella screeched, “that’s incredible!”

Magic, Cinder­ella. You see, I am your fairy god­mother, and I am here to make sure that you do go to the ball. Now, leave the stairs, they’ll take care of them­selves,” she waved her wand and the stairs were sud­denly spark­ling, cleaner than Cinder­ella had ever seen them, “we have to get you into a dress! And get you some make-up! We’ll need to organ­ise trans­port too, and do some­thing about your breath.”

It’s awful, isn’t it? My sis­ters won’t let me use even a little mouth­wash. I was remov­ing a bird’s nest from the attic yes­ter­day and one of the chicks died when I sneezed on it.”

You’re def­in­itely a spe­cial case, but I have some­thing that ought to do the trick. First though, we need to change your clothes. That part is easy though,” and with a wave of her wand, Cinderella’s rags and apron were trans­formed into one of the most styl­ish dresses that had ever exis­ted. Any light that struck it was absorbed and released gradu­ally in key areas, cre­at­ing a soft glow around Cinderella’s fea­tures and leav­ing the per­fect black base mater­ial of the dress unspoilt, though the numer­ous addi­tions on top of that all caught the light superbly, each bend­ing it or chan­ging it in some strange new way. “Go and look in the mir­ror. See if you like what you see.”

Cinder­ella hur­ried over to the full-length wall mir­ror that made up part of the entrance hall and admired her­self. Make-up had been expertly applied to her face, draw­ing out the beauty that had been hid­den under lay­ers of grime for years. She adored the dress too, and viewed it from every angle, each one just as breath­tak­ing as the last.

Now take a look outside.”

Cinder­ella rushed to the door and pulled it open. In the drive­way to the house were four large, albino tigers draw­ing a golden chariot. Cinder­ella gaped in awe at them, then spun around to face her fairy god­mother, almost cry­ing. “But my breath!” she cried, “I won’t even get passed the door­men with it smelling like this!”

Not to worry,” said the fairy god­mother, “I have just the thing.” She pulled out from her purse a small, plastic box and unpopped the lid. She shook it until a small, green pill landed in her palm. “Tic-Tacs,” she said, “two hours of fresh breath at under two calories!”

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