The Three Princesses, By Penny Jo McAllister
“Remember Cinderella, we need it spotless for the new year so we’ll come home to a lucky house,” said Genevieve tossing her curls and showing off her new dress to her cousin. The green and silver silk was lovely, and the emerald tiara matched her eyes perfectly.
“A clean house for a new year makes everyone lucky,” said Josephine. She was as vain as her sister but much kinder. She paused to give her cousin a quick hug, pressed her hands and kissed her on the cheek. “I do wish you’d come with us Cindy. It would be so much fun.”
“I hope you both have a wonderful time,” she said and kissed her cousin back.
“Come on Josephine! We don’t want to miss the first dance.”
Josephine hurried out the door after her sister. “Happy New Year!” she called as she was stepping into the carriage.
Cinderella smiled and blew her cousins a kiss.
Cinderella loved her two cousins. They’d grown up almost like sisters after her parents, Thom and Estelle, died in a carriage accident. After this tragedy, Cindy went to live with her Uncle William and Aunt Camilla and her two cousins. Though they all had their flaws, it was as loving a family as she could wish for--at least in childhood.
Genevieve and Josephine grew into the two most beautiful young maidens in the kingdom, while Cinderella remained plain. They took on different interests as well. While her cousins were obsessed with the latest fashions and luxuries, Cinderella was tidying up and either reading in the library, gazing at the stars, or working on mathematical equations. She had a regular correspondence with Sir Hubbleton about astronomy. Her cousins thought her rather odd. Genevieve felt embarrassed by her and told people that she was their servant rather than their cousin.
Genevieve, her eldest cousin, was so beautiful that the king’s gardener named a rose after her and every artist in the kingdom wanted to paint her portrait. With her flaming auburn hair, flawless skin and emerald eyes, she had her choice of suitors from kingdoms near and far. Though her beauty outshined the stars and her manners were perfect, she was haughty when her parents were away (as they were now). She took every opportunity to remind Cinderella that without the goodness of her parents, she would be a beggar and would convince her that it was their will that she do not only her own chores, but hers and Josephine’s as well to earn her keep.
Josephine was almost as beautiful as her sister with golden hair and grey eyes, but was sweet and kind even when no one was looking. Though she was not as close to Cindy as in childhood, she loved her cousin dearly. Even though she couldn’t cross Genevieve, who could belittle her as well and make up lies to get her in trouble with their parents, she would often help Cindy with the chores when her sister wasn’t looking and would always bring her books from the library when she went out.
The truth was Cinderella liked being alone in the house and didn’t always like balls--the crowds, the endless chatter, always worried someone else would look prettier. Sometimes she didn’t mind cleaning as it gave her time to think, and she’d write out mathematical proofs in the dust. Sometimes, though, she wished Genevieve would clean up after her parties herself.
She’d have the house clean before they came back; they planned to be well after . Then she could walk in the garden--a truly magical place at night.
But as she surveyed the room, her heart sank. It was a mess. She didn’t know where to start, so she opened a window to let the breeze in. A shooting star whizzed by. She picked up a cloth, and began to polish a mirror.
Not knowing why, she let out a sob. Then another. “Maybe I should have gone tonight.” Then she began to list the reasons why she stayed behind. “I won’t dress right. I always say the wrong things. My mother never came back from the ball.”
She sat down on the floor, hugged her knees to her chest, and wept. She choked on her tears. She couldn’t wipe them fast enough.
Then she heard someone softly say, “My princess.” She stopped crying and looked around, but no one was there. She looked at the mirror. It was twinkling like opalescent diamonds. She went over to it. A familiar face appeared, but it was impossible. Her mother was dead.
“Mother?” she whispered.
“My little princess,” Estelle said and stepped through the looking glass and embraced her daughter. “Let’s get you ready for that ball.”
“But, nonsense my dear. You’re going to the ball.” She looked around her, and her gaze fell on a portrait. “Yes, I think that’s the dress--with a few alterations of course. But the color’s perfect for you.”
She took out a wand and waved it around Cinderella’s head. An almost identical fabric now draped over her.
“Let’s see, I’ll take it in here and here. And I’ll bring the hem up just slightly. Lovely! Come look at yourself in the mirror.”
Cinderella gasped. A beautiful princess gazed back at her. She smiled; the princess smiled back. She laughed and twirled around, a whirl of blue gold.
“Is that really me?” she whispered, giggling.
“Of course it’s you. Now let’s get a carriage.” Her mother said.
She studied the Christmas tree, which would be up for a few more days, for a few moments before picking off a perfect silver globe.
Estelle gave a wistful smile and said, “Come with me outside. But first let’s get you a wrapper.” She waved her wand and wrapped a gold shawl around Cindy’s shoulders. (Cindy thought that was silly as it December was quite warm in this part of the kingdom, but her mother was not one to argue with.)
The December night was cool but clear , and the stars shone like sapphires, the moon was like newly-polished silver.
Her mother laid the ornament gently on the ground. And singing softly over it, she waved her wand. It grew into a beautiful coach, blue and gold to match her dress.
Two brave mice came out of the shadows, and Estelle waved her wand over them, turning them into two magnificent white stallions.
“Now to find you a driver,” said Estelle. She pointed her wand at a small frog, and in a shower of silver dust he became a royal coachman.
Cinderella mused to herself, “Could I really be going to the ball?”
Estelle took the dazed Cinderella by the hand, to the coach. Just then a shooting star went by.
“I don’t want to go,” said Cinderella.
“What?” asked her mother.
“I’m sorry Mother, but the night is so beautiful. Have you ever seen the stars so bright, and the meteor showers are tonight.”
“There’s another one!” Cinderella squealed as another star went by. “I don’t understand why anyone would want to spend an evening like this in a crowded ballroom. Have you ever seen such beauty?”
“Hundreds of times. It’s time to find you a prince.”
“Oh, why do I always have to do what people expect me to do? I wish I could stay out here all night, but all that work-- and now I’m expected to go to a ball.”
Her mother sighed. “I see. I was hoping you’d meet your prince tonight so I could have some grandchildren, but you’ve plenty of time for that,' and she pointed her wand at the house, and it began to glow. She pointed it at the stallions, and they turned back into mice. The driver once again became a frog.
Her mother looked sadly at Cinderella and said, “Well I suppose we should give you back your comfortable clothes.” A wave of her wand had her back in her housedress.
She looked at the carriage and waved her wand over it, and in its place was an enormous telescope, blue and gold like the carriage had been.
Cinderella gasped. “I never imagined such a thing. It’s beautiful!”
She walked around it, studied it from every angle and peered into the eyepiece. She gasped. “There are people on the moon. Who knew?”
Estelle loved seeing her daughter so happy, even if it wasn’t what she had in mind. “If you turn this crank, you can point it anywhere in the sky. And this one makes it zoom in and out.”
“Oh! I love it!” Cinderella hugged her mother. “I just wish Josephine and Genevieve were here like when we were children.”
“But don’t you find Genevieve kind of mean?”
“She wasn’t always mean. When we were children, the three of us would look up at the sky for hours. That constellation over there is the 'Three Princesses.' Genevieve named it after us…”
Estelle spread a blanket on the ground, and the two of them gazed up at the sky watching stars fly by. Just before Estelle said “I have to go now.”
You may be wondering how Genevieve and Josephine are doing at the ball. Genevieve danced almost every dance with the dashing Prince Darien and was picturing the wedding that was sure to be when a mysterious young woman entered the room. She wasn’t exceptionally beautiful, but the prince, ever polite, danced with her as he did all of the guests at some point. As the young stranger spent more time with the prince, Genevieve could see her future slipping away and excused herself to find Josephine.
When Josephine saw the look on her sister’s face, she inquired whether she were ill and escorted her back to the carriage. It wasn’t quite . Genevieve cried all the way home.
Upon entering their own home and seeing how it sparkled, Josephine said to her sister cheerfully, “Look Genny, it’s sure to be a lucky year for all of us. I’ll go make us some tea.”
Just as she passed the window, a shooting star flew by. “Genevieve, come look!”
The sisters stared out the window at their cousin and the enormous telescope.
They went out and joined her on the blanket. After some time Genevieve pointed to the sky, and said “Look, The Three Princesses.”
Bio: Penny Jo McAllister is a US-based writer. She enjoys stargazing, but someone else can do the cleaning.
Vintage Image by Edith Ballinger Price.