by Amber Kelley, Age 17, USA
The fiction prompt of the month for April was “revamped fairytales.”
My eyes darted toward the clocktower. Fifteen minutes until midnight. Fifteen minutes to save Ella. I sprinted up the palace stairs and shoved my way past royal guards. Fortunately, my princely disguise kept them from resisting me too much. A nervous, rabbit-like doorman swung the gates open without a word.
Hundreds of nobles milled about the courtyard, their fine silks and jewels flashing in the flickering lamplight. How could I possibly find Ella in such a large crowd? I was running out of time.
If only that stupid fairy godmother hadn’t agreed to grant Ella’s three thoughtless birthday wishes: First, to go to the royal ball as a princess. Second, to dance in slippers of glass. Third, to capture Prince Edmund’s heart by the stroke of midnight.
Part of me could understand Ella’s whimsical desires. She was the unwanted stepdaughter, the mockable stepsister, the unseen servant. She had been neglected and abused for more than half of her life. But in all her wishing, she had forgotten the one person who loved her. She had forgotten me.
Trumpets blared as I pushed my way through the merry aristocrats.
“Announcing Prince Edmund Wilmunt, accompanied by Lady Ella Linwood!” a deep voice cried.
The two of them stepped out onto a balcony situated high above the courtyard. My stomach churned as I bowed. The prince was gazing at her as if she were a prize.
I wondered if Ella knew of his reputation of cruelty.
I lurched upward. “Ella!” I shouted. “Come down! Let’s go home!”
Ella’s expression clouded. She turned away from the prince, but two royal guards seized her arms. Guards moved rapidly toward me as well.
“Help!” Ella shrieked. “Don’t let them take me, Philip!”
Prince Edmund forced a wad of cloth into her mouth. The fairy godmother’s words of warning ran through my mind.
You will ensnare the prince’s heart,
His priceless, flawless piece of art.
Think slowly ere you take the risk.
Some hearts are cold, some kindness missed.
But Ella had insisted that her godmother grant her wishes, and the fairy’s spell had worked all too well. The prince would do anything he could to keep Ella in his possession.
“Unhand her!” My voice rose above the low hum of confusion. I dodged to and fro in the crowd, avoiding the guards. I knew I didn’t have much time; five minutes at the most. Then the magic would be irrevocable.
I watched as Ella struggled against the guards. She managed to shake one loose. Then she closed her fist and hit the prince on the cheek. While he cradled his jaw, she snatched a dagger from his belt and aimed it menacingly at the second guard. He raised his hands and backed away, allowing her to climb over the balcony railing and descend an elegant rose trellis.
I lumbered toward her through the crowd. As she stepped to the ground, I took her hand and we raced breathlessly to the palace gates.
The odds were insurmountable. We were fighting both our future monarch and magic. Still we ran, nobles pressing against us on every side.
Royal guards stood at the gates, weapons readied. We were trapped. Ella choked back a sob.
I racked my brain for a solution. What was it the fairy godmother had said?
Until the stroke of midnight’s past,
Escape is hidden in the glass.
The price of magic is too high.
Remember this and take your flight.
“Ella!” I exclaimed. “The glass! Your slippers! Hand one to me!”
She thrust a slipper into my hand, and I threw it to the ground. The shattered pieces flew up like sparks and fell like dying embers. Before I could breathe, the world around us froze. The guards stood like statues made of stone. Cries of bewilderment were replaced with eerie silence. Even the flames that had been dancing in the lamps at the edges of the courtyard stood still.
We ran for the forest.
Amber says: “I have been writing for as long as I can remember; before I could even write my mom would help me make little storybooks about my pets. She and I drew the pictures together, and she would write whatever I asked her to. As I got older, I began writing simple stories and poems, but within the past few years I have begun taking my writing more seriously. So far, I have been published in Creative Communication’s “Celebration of Poets” Spring 2015 and Fall 2015 anthologies.”