The town was alight with the word that the Prince was riding out of his palace. Everybody knew what had happened the night before. Half the town had been at the ball, and the other half had heard about the event very quickly afterwards. It was the final thing he said that most people remembered though. “Nobody could have breath that reeked as hers did.” The Prince had instructed his servants to organise a trip to every household in the kingdom the following day, sniffing the breath of every woman they could find.
Cinderella had returned home instantly after the Tic-Tac had worn off, sobbing for most of the chariot ride. The tigers had been better behaved on the return; she liked to think they had sensed her anguish and decided that this was not a good time to misbehave.
She knew she had ruined all chances with the Prince. She should have listened to the fairy godmother more and made sure that she was gone before the two hours were up. Everything was ruined now. They had been getting on so well, laughing and dancing and talking and joking, smiling at each other and gazing into each other’s eyes. It had been true love, she was sure, but now it was all ruined thanks to her terrible breath. She sobbed again. If only her sisters had allowed her more access to the mouthwash or the stronger perfumes. If only she had drunk more or eaten some of the more fragrant foods before talking to him. Even garlic, she thought, would have been a more pleasant scent upon her breath than that which he had been exposed to.
She heard her sisters giggling upstairs. They couldn’t possibly know, could they? Would they have recognised her without the layer of grime and grease which they were used to being spread over her face? Absolutely not, she thought, they wouldn’t notice if she was replaced with an animated broom as long as the housework still got done. So what could they be laughing about? They rarely laughed, unless some misfortune or other had happened to somebody they detested.
Deciding that she’d demonstrate a rare instance of boldness, Cinderella began ascending the steps to her sisters’ room. She knocked on the door and waited.
“What is it?” one of the sisters said scornfully.
“I was wondering why you were giggling. Did something happen at the ball last night?” asked Cinderella.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but we happen to know that we’ll be getting a visit from the Prince today. At the end of the night some woman was talking to him and then fled, and he said that it was the worst breath he’s ever smelt, so he’s going to search the town until he finds her. Everybody says he’s in love!”
No! thought Cinderella. It couldn’t be! The Prince had surely been repulsed by her breath! She had seen his reaction! And yet, he was searching for her. She thought quickly. “Does that mean,” she said through the door, “that you are hoping to be met by the prince? Do you think he will believe one of you to be the mystery woman? Was it one of you?”
“Absolutely not!” said one sister, “our breath isn’t nearly as bad as he made out.”
“But,” said Cinderella, “if you wanted to make him think it was you, then making your breath smell as bad as possible would be your best bet.”
“You know,” said the other sister, “that might not be a bad idea.”
“I could help you, if you like. There’s a lot of stuff around the house which could make your breath really stink.”
“Cinderella,” said the first sister, “sometimes you’re not entirely stupid.”
For the next three hours, they received reports from other servants that the Prince was making his way around the town. Other people had had the same idea as them and were trying to make their breath as bad as possible. People had been eating the smelliest cheese they could find, piles of raw onion, huge cloves of garlic and more, just to try and win the Prince’s heart, but none of them compared to what he had smelt last night, he claimed.
Finally, the servants announced that he was approaching the long road to the house that Cinderella and her sisters lived in. “We haven’t much time!” cried one sister, “everything we’ve eaten so far has already been tried!”
“Well,” said Cinderella, “I have some other tricks up my sleeve.”
“Like what?” her stepsisters said.
“There’s some compost that’s been sitting for months, getting to the perfect state to grow really good carrots. That would definitely help.”
“Bring it here! Bring it here!” they called.
Cinderella brought in two large scoops right from the bottom of the compost bin. her sisters devoured it eagerly, their breath able to wilt plants afterwards.
“Will this be enough?” they asked her.
“Maybe, but somebody in town will surely have tried it already. I have another idea though. The kennels are yet to be cleaned this week.”
“You mean…” one sister said.
“No,” said the other, “absolutely not.”
“It’s the only way to be sure,” said Cinderella.
Five minutes later, each sister had a bowl of dog shit in front of them.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” said one.
“Just shut up,” said the other, “shut up!”
And they chowed down.
Two minutes later the Prince turned up. The two sisters rushed out to meet him, brown spit dribbling down their chins and vomit stains obvious on their dress fronts. The Prince recoiled from them. “Where are the ladies of this house?” he asked. The two sisters kept running at him, and his guard stepped forward to grab them, wrinkling their noses as they did.
“It’s me, Prince,” called one sister, “can’t you tell? I’m your beloved!”
“You bitch!” said the other, “It’s me! I’m meant for him!”
“Shut your stupid mouth!”
And the two sisters started grappling towards each other.
“Sorry about them,” said Cinderella, stepping forwards, “you just can’t get the staff these days.”
“The breath,” said the Prince, “could you be the… No, I couldn’t have found you so easily!”
“It’s me,” said Cinderella, “we laughed and danced and talked all night. Then midnight struck and I ran away. You can smell the truth of it.”
The Prince dropped to his knees and produced a ring, holding it up to Cinderella and staring at the ground.
Cinderella smiled, and accepted.
And she lived happily ever after.