I’ll be the first to admit that the Cinderella story is giving me fits. There isn’t anyone obvious who could have been “accidentally enchanted” and I didn’t want to write from the point of view of one of the stepsisters–that’s been done before. So I came up with a new character altogether, who I introduce–at a much younger age, in my free prequel, “Wish by a Hazel Tree“.
Last week, I really tore apart my story. I cut out 13,000 words, and then in a flurry of writing, I wrote another 4000 words and re-added a thousand back in from the cut. I got up to a certain point when I realized that something else had to change. So I did the wise thing. I set the whole thing aside and worked on a novel for the past week. I seem to write best when I alternate between a novel and a shorter story.
I do like the opening to my Cinderella story, so here it is. In it, I introduce both my character and the Cinderella character, plus I show the rather tenuous connection between them. Comments welcome.
The sign read, M. Petit, Pawn and Moneylender.
As Fayette opened the door for Tante Anne, she noticed another girl right behind them. Fayette recognized her—she had seen her here before. In fact, Fayette wondered if the girl had waited in order to enter in the company of Fayette and her aunt.
“You may as well go first,” Fayette whispered to the girl. “We’re only going to make him angry.”
The girl glanced at her, her eyes wide with alarm. She was quite pretty, but also young—surely no older than sixteen or eighteen. Her face was smudged with soot, and her kerchief covered most of her bright hair. There was something artificial about the soot streaks, and Fayette wondered if she had deliberately tried to make herself appear more unattractive than she was.
Fayette winked at her. With a small smile, the girl darted up the steps and through the door.
“Today is my lucky day!” Monsieur Petit said as Fayette limped in. “Mademoiselle Clermont and Mademoiselle duPre visiting at the same time. I shall pinch myself.”
Fayette eased herself into one of the hard chairs near the window. “Please let Mademoiselle go first,” she said with a nod to the ash-streaked girl. “Our business will take some time.” Fayette rubbed the bony protuberance outside her right knee.
Monsieur Petit ignored Mademoiselle Clermont and came over to Fayette. “My dear Mademoiselle, it pains me to see your knee bothering you again. It’s too bad you can’t afford a doctor.”
“There’s naught to be done for my knee, and we can afford a doctor very well.”
“I beg to differ, Mademoiselle. A doctor should be beyond your means. Your shop is still, after all … heh heh … in arrears.” He threw up his hands in a gesture of helplessness.
Fayette refused to be baited. “In any case, I have no need of a doctor. Please, Monsieur. Let Mademoiselle conduct her business, and then we shall conduct ours.”
“Hmm,” he said. He glanced at Mademoiselle Clermont, who stared at the floor. “Yes, your highness?” he said, his voice mocking.
Fayette exchanged raised brows with her aunt.
“Please, Monsieur.” The girl held out a stack of papers.
He took them and rifled through them. “More bills, I see. Dressmakers, shoemakers, jewelers, hairdressers—Madame is amassing quite a debt … on top of her existing debt.”
“She said,” the girl said with a gulp, “that you and her had already agreed upon a payment.”
“Yes. I wonder if you’re aware of what that payment is.”
The girl was silent for a moment. “No, Monsieur.”
“Hmm. Well, far be it for me to compromise client confidentiality.” Then, to Fayette’s astonishment, he reached out, grabbed Mademoiselle Clermont’s chin, and forced it up.
“Monsieur!” Fayette cried out.
Monsieur Petit glanced at Fayette and removed his hand. “Tell me, Mademoiselle,” he said to the girl, “are you going to the ball with your stepsisters?”
“Why not, pray tell?”
“Twas … twas my father’s debt, and …”
“… and you are still paying for it now that he’s dead. I see. Hmm. Well, tell Madame Clermont that I will take care of these, as agreed.”
Mademoiselle Clermont turned to leave.
“Goodbye, your highness.” Monsieur Petit called after her.
As she rushed by, Fayette noticed that her cheeks were red with embarrassment.
“Who is that girl?” Tante Anne said as soon as she left. “And why do you taunt her like that?”
I may make this a regular feature. Comments welcome. I do intend to ask a native French speaker read it before I submit it.