Cinderella rushed down the steps to the chariot that was waiting outside. The fairy godmother stood at the door and waved at her. “Remember,” she called, “two hours!”
Cinderella nodded, paused by the chariot and threw the Tic-Tac into her mouth, just as the bell tower began chiming out 10pm.
“Why did you do that?” shouted the fair godmother to her, “You should have taken it at the door to the party, idiot! It takes half an hour to get there! That’s half an hour you’ve wasted!”
“It’s only a five minute coach ride!” Cinderalla cried back.
“You’re being taken by tigers! Have you ever tried directing them or using them as a form of transport? It’s like herding cats!”
Cinderella shook her head. At least she’d arrive in style, she thought. She jumped into the chariot, lifted the reins and whipped the tigers on. They began slowly meandering down the drive.
Half an hour later, Cinderella’s chariot arrived at the ball. The tigers saw a rat run out of a sewer and up the drive way, and charged after it, only relenting when it disappeared down a drain cover outside the Prince’s palace’s doors. This gave her approach a suitable amount of gravitas, as the assembled guests saw the tigers charge up the driveway and neatly stop in front of the entrance to the party, Cinderella at the reins behind them.
She smiled as she stepped down and handed the reins to a footman, who glanced warily at the tigers before leading them away.
Inside, everything was beautiful and shining. As soon as she’d stepped in she’d been getting odd looks. It wasn’t her dress or the manner in which she’d arrived, she realised, it was the fact that nobody could smell her breath at all, and so nobody knew who she was. This made them all curious, and Cinderella started to feel burdened as more and more eyes fell upon her.
Even her ugly sisters were looking at her, though without the caking of grime and dirt over her face, they didn’t recognise her either. Suddenly, she felt everything go still as a man in the centre of the room noticed the ripple amongst his guests and turned his eyes on her. The Prince was looking at her and she had no idea what to do. She smiled at him, then felt her stomach leap up as he began walking towards her.
“Good evening,” he said, as he approached, “how are you tonight?”
She could only nod in response, then gave a curtsy.
“Would you like to dance?”
She nodded again and took hold of his offered hand. He led her into the centre of the room and the crowd parted as the orchestra started up. He took hold of her and she felt many of the eyes in the room narrow.
As they danced, she realised that his own breath was almost undetectable, but even the richest, most powerful and most desirable man in the kingdom left a lingering smell every time he breathed. She wondered how long it must take him and his servants to reach that level. She noticed him glancing at her mouth every so often, and smiled at him each time, though she knew he must be wondering how on Earth she’d got her breath so fresh.
The night wore on and they danced again and again. His uncertainty about her breath gave her confidence, and she began talking to him. At first they talked of the weather and what they liked to do during the summer, then the conversations turned to the local nobility and well-known lords and ladies. They traded gossip, secrets and anecdotes under their breath, pausing whenever somebody else came near and laughing conspirationally once they had walked out of ear shot.
They sat and shared a drink, people gasped that the Prince had abandoned his duties as host to talk to this unrecognisable newcomer, but they dared not be too critical of the situation. Most of them were motivated by jealousy anyway.
Cinderella found that she was totally at ease in the Prince’s company, and it seemed to be mutual. They moved to the dancing floor again and, as the minutes ticked by, they leant in closer and closer. People stared, but neither of them cared. The night went on and shortly the orchestra began playing a slow dance, possibly at a secret signal given by the Prince, Cinderella thought.
Regardless of what had caused it, it was very romantic. Cinderella moved her head up, the Prince leant down and they kissed, just as the bell tower began ringing for midnight.
Cinderella pulled her head back, her eyes wide as she heard the tolls ring out. She gasped, began to swear under her breath and then covered her mouth. The Prince was already recoiling, covering his nose. Tears welled up in her eyes as she saw him step away from her.
She spun around and ran for the door. Her clothes were staying the same, at least. Somebody cried out behind her, but she couldn’t hear what they were saying.
She sobbed into her hands and found her chariot was waiting for her outside, the tigers looking alert and ready to go. Almost as soon as she had hopped on and picked up the reins they were off, as if they knew how pressing the situation was.
On the steps of the Prince’s palace, whilst the party guests remained inside and began gossiping about this strange new girl, the Prince stood at the top of the steps and watched the chariot draw off into the distance. “What was her name?” he asked one of the footmen attending the door.”
“I don’t know, your highness. She presented her invitation and that was that.”
“There must be a way to find her,” said the Prince, stroking his chin, “something unique about her,” he snapped his fingers, “Of course! Announce that we will tour the town tomorrow, smelling the breath of every woman. Nobody else could have breath that reeked as hers did.”