By: Mollie Williamson
People remember me for a single item of clothing. Not the pearls dangling from my ears or skirting across my neck. Not for my hair swooped up into a tight blonde bun nor for the stunning topaz-blue dress that shone like diamonds in the candlelight. None of those items are enough to burn me into the mind of every vengeance girl in town. Rather, it was the glass slipper, one shattered and the other finally reuniting with my left foot once the prince found me. It is that damn slipper that has scorched my image into every eligible young ladies’ mind.
They all wanted a chance to be royal, to walk down the aisle on the arm of the prince; to wave at their adoring subjects while riding away into the sunset in their golden carriage. They all wanted to have a happy ending, a fairy tale of sorts. But none of them really know what that glass slipper has cursed me with.
The pressure to be perfect is now a never-ending task. The liner around my eyes must always be present so that it can hide from the numerous wrinkles now under my eyes. Gold dust must also flake on the corner of my eyes to distract the dark circles below them. My hair is now constantly being dyed to disguise the cascade of greys lurking below. It is always set in the signature bun I wore to the ball. I suspect it’s easier for my maidens to high my greys that way regardless. Everyone at the palace has a hidden motive.
When I sit at the dining table flanked by my husband and shoulder-to-shoulder with Queen, she taps my hand under the table. It is a clear and direct order to straighten my back and hold my head high the moment my shoulders grow weary. The Queen miraculously always seems present when my shoulders stoop from stress. Panic sets in when I see her lips purse into a thin disapproving line. I immediately yank my shoulders up, cracking my spine with the effort. The wrinkles at the corners of my eyes crinkle as I bow to her and scurry away.
The other thing that is a constant in my new life despite the impending sense of disapproval from nearly everyone in the palace, is the fact that I must always wear billowing gowns.
They are not like the one I wore to the prince’s ball. That dress fitted my waist like a crushing corset to accentuate my smallness. But now I am told that my clothes must be loose for it must hide the fact that the prince and I are still without a child—an heir as it were.
Every evening I slip into my wardrobe, which is an entire room in itself. I thrust aside all the gowns that wish to drown me until I find it. The dreaded slipper sits perched on a red velvet cushion. I cry at it. I scream at it. I pull my dyed hair out at it. But I never, ever throw the slipper and shatter it into a million pieces. Oh, but how I long to do so. But the slipper has its hold on me; has chained me to this new life. I drop to my knees before the glass begging it to change my life back. I would gladly return to my stepmother’s manor. I would willingly scrub dishes and floors to the end of my days. Yet, my stepmother and stepsisters have all but disappeared from society, humiliated as they were that I supposedly bested them. Now all I can see is the irony of it all.
When the slipper does nothing to alter my fate, I bow my head, resigned to my new life. My heart feels heavy and my head numb as I leave the slipper on its velvet pillow—my hidden altar as it were, until the next evening. I make sure that my eyeliner is intact before I leave my wardrobe lest any should have streaked across my face while I cried. I pinch my cheeks, though I don’t really need to from all the screaming and I plaster a smile on my face.
The image of the slipper is branded into my mind and is constantly present in my thoughts while I wander the palace now that I am shunned by my husband as well as the king and queen. I am but an ornament decorating their lonely halls. Even the servants don’t like to linger with me longer than they absolutely need to. Oh, I could order them to talk to me but what would we speak of? The glorious moment the glass slipper once again crowned my foot? That is the last thing I ever want to think of, yet it is my legacy.
Soon enough, I see one after another of those eligible young ladies from town walk around the halls I haunt. They snicker at me as they make their way to my husband’s quarters. I shout at my slipper every time I see one of those wenches walking my halls. Yet, the king and queen are sure to tell their subjects of the happy union between me and the prince and that a child is soon on the way. And when a newborn child’s screams do fill the palace walls, the whole kingdom turns up to see the heir. The problem is, the child is not mine. Yet, I stand by the prince, holding the baby at my breast, smile plastered on my face.
I don’t have to wear billowing gowns anymore now that a child is present. I still come to my glass slipper every evening. I don’t cry or scream at it anymore. I just stare at the kaleidoscope of colors dazzling from it when the jewels from my now skinny gowns reflect off it. And its memory remains in the mind of all the kingdom. But I know it is especially in the memory of the young lady who gave birth to the child.