DISCLAIMER: The history and ownership of Cinderella and her prince is too convoluted and complex for a simple disclaimer. Needless to say I didn't invent them.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
After the Glass Slipper
Cinderella looked up from admiring her glass slippers and let out another in a long line of sighs. She had been sitting there, bored out of her not-so-tiny mind, for almost an hour waiting for her prince to join her and conjugate their marriage. Or was it their verbs? She was so bored her brain had finally gone to sleep and the rest of her was eager to follow suit.
"Cinderella, my sweet, how I've longed for this moment," warbled the prince as he flounced into the bedroom, his ruby-red pyjamas flowing daintily around his legs and giving him a strangely ethereal quality.
"My Darling," Cinderella gushed, having forgotten his name. "I thought you would never come."
The prince draped himself elegantly across the bed, his manly chin resting in his hands as he looked across at his bride in abject wonder. "Oh, my, Cinderella, you are positively enchanting."
"Oh, husband, you spoil me with your praise."
"I speak nothing but the truth," he countered in his courtly manner, that was both extravagant and slightly annoying. "How do I look?" he probed.
Like an elongated tomato, Cinderella thought but she restricted her answer to a simple, "Divine."
"Alastair, my tailor, tried to talk me into wearing a navy blue satin print but I told him, 'Ally, darling, you don't wear a print on your wedding night, no matter how chic the designer' and that shut him right up, I can tell you."
The subject of their night attire exhausted, at least on Cinderella's end, they fell into a mutual silence.
As the minutes dragged on Cinderella began to wish she was back in her stepmother's house being ordered around and made to feel like she was inferior. At least at home she wasn't forced to sit around a perfumed boudoir and watch her husband preen and pout into the mirror above the bed. She had thought, once she'd been rescued from her life of drudgery, that everything would be wonderful but staring at her prince she was beginning to think she'd made a big mistake.
"Do you want children?" Cinderella asked, more to break the silence than anything else.
"Children?" He looked troubled. "I'd have to ask mummy."
The prospect that she'd married a mother's boy would have been bad enough but Cinderella distinctly remembered the prince telling her that his mother had died the previous summer. "I thought she'd croaked?"
The prince gasped and scurried to the head of the bed, tears welling in his eyes.
"Sorry," Cinderella apologised. "I didn't mean -"
"She was an angel," he gasped. "An angel."
Silence once again descended.
"We should probably get undressed," the prince suggested, once his tears had dried, "and get this over with."
"Get it over with?" She knew marrying the first prince who admired her shoes was a stupid idea but that bloody Fairy Godmother had promised it would be for the best. "Aren't you even the slightest bit attracted to me?"
"You're a vision of loveliness, my angel."
"That's not what I asked." She kicked off her glass slippers and knelt on the bed to better glare at her prince. "Are you attracted to me?"
"I..." He looked decidedly uncomfortable. "I'm sorry."
"I knew I should have stayed at home. My stepsisters might have been monsters but at least they knew how to show me a good time." Cinderella sniffed, as she began removing her clothes.
"What are you doing?" the prince demanded.
Cinderella tried very hard not to roll her eyes but a fleeting view of the ceiling informed her that she'd been unsuccessful in her attempt. "I'm getting undressed."
"Where else would you suggest?" In fact, Cinderella thought, my stepsisters could be positively romantic in comparison to my husband. "This is our wedding night."
The colour had drained from his face but he tried his best to maintain a look of princely courtesy. "Of course, my angel, where else?" The last two words formed a strangled plea but Cinderella ignored him and continued to disrobe. "Don't you need a maid to help you with that?"
"I've been dressing and undressing myself since..."
"Henrietta is very skilled."
Cinderella paused in her efforts as she remembered being introduced to the former queen's personal maid. A pretty young thing with midnight black hair and a pert little bosom that practically jumped out of her dress to greet you.
"I could use a hand," Cinderella agreed, "thank you, husband."
The prince practically ran from the room, his silk pyjamas flapping in his wake and producing a rather unfortunate sound.
Cinderella slumped back onto the bed, her petticoats fanning out around her, as she took a moment to reconsider her options. She had married, ostensibly, to get away from her family and experience the pleasures and luxuries of being a princess. The lavish wedding, clothes and twenty-eight course meal served at the reception had all evidenced the wisdom of her choice but as she lay there, ruffled but unsatisfied, she was beginning to have serious doubts.
Even secluded away in the kitchens of her father's house she had heard the rumours of the prince's fondness for finery and the company of his young soldiers. But, as she'd overheard her stepmother pronounce, boys would be boys and as soon as he took a wife things would be different. Only he'd taken a wife and things weren't different.
It wasn't as if she'd been looking forward to her wedding night. In fact the prospect had so alarmed her she'd sneaked a couple of her Fairy Godmother's mushrooms to help build up her courage. But that didn't in any way lesson the hurt she felt at her husband's so obvious disinterest.
"I really must learn his name," she muttered.
"Whose name, my lady?"
Cinderella screamed and promptly rolled off the bed, to lay in a heap of petticoats on the floor, her dignity in tatters even though her knickers were not.
"I'm so sorry, my lady, I didn't mean to cause offence." Henrietta scurried around the bed and quickly began herding her mistress's petticoats into order before offering the downed princess her hand. "Ma'am?"
Mortified, Cinderella quickly regained her footing, the sight of a heavy breathing Henrietta doing little to appease her displeasure, despite the riveting view it afforded. She was a princess, for heaven's sake, and yet she was being made to feel like a buffoon.
"Don't sneak up on me like that," she chastised.
Henrietta curtseyed, her cheeks scarlet. "I'm sorry, Ma'am, it will never happen again."
Despite herself Cinderella found Henrietta's subservience rather appealing and she was about to chastise her further, and hopefully witness more blushes, when she was reminded of the way her stepmother had harped on her own, imagined, failings and how she'd sworn she'd never do the same herself. Somewhat ashamed, Cinderella motioned for the maid to lift her head, then promptly began issuing orders for the removal of her clothing.
"You want me to take off my dress?"
Cinderella blinked, the suggestion definitely appealing, although it hadn't been quite what she meant. "Actually, I was thinking that you could help me with my dress."
The colour burned in Henrietta's cheeks but she gave no other indication of her feelings on the subject and quickly began the arduous task of removing Cinderella from her multi-layered gown.
Twenty minutes later Henrietta had succeeded in dismantling the wedding dress and reducing Cinderella to her underwear. The young maid was particularly skilled at her job but for some, inexplicable, reason she had been unable to reach most of the ties and buttons without brushing against some of the more delicate areas of her mistress's anatomy. Her fellow maids would have tutted at the shoddy work but the princess didn't appear to mind.
"My angel?" The prince poked his head around the door only to immediately retreat when he caught sight of an uncovered ankle. "Are you," he gulped, "ready for me?"
Cinderella took pity on the man. "Not yet, my husband," she called, "why don't you go visit your friend, the captain of the guard, and I'll send for you when I am properly prepared?"
Footsteps clattered, hurriedly, down the hallway, only to reverse their path and rush back to the bedroom a second later. "If you insist," the prince wheezed.
"I do," Cinderella assured him.
As the sound of his retreat echoed through the hallways, Cinderella turned to the waiting maid, who was busily folding her wedding gown and ignoring the royal couple and their wedding night banter. For a moment Cinderella wondered what the young woman made of their strange behaviour and, indeed, whether it was that strange to the occupants of the castle. She knew that her own family had exhibited some rather outlandish ways, leading them to be easy fodder for the gossip mongers and mischief makers in the village, but to them it had seemed almost normal; degrading and bad for her nails, but normal all the same.
"You used to be the Queen's maid?" Cinderella asked.
Henrietta curtsied once more, although the effect was somewhat diminished by her avid appreciation of Cinderella's cleavage. "Yes, my lady."
"I don't suppose she ever mentioned the courtly rules of consummation?"
"Never mind." Cinderella knew she should have contacted her second cousin, Snow White, before she agreed to the marriage. Rumour had it that her sable haired relative had not only landed herself a dashing prince but she'd retained the services of seven, diminutive, lovers to help her wile away the hours while Charming, her husband, cavorted with the boys and local maidens. "I don't suppose telephones have been invented yet?"
"No, my lady." Henrietta stuffed the last of the petticoats into the dresser and turned her attentions to Cinderella's remaining apparel. With an ease born of practice, she untied the various laces holding the undergarments together, and whisked it from her mistress's body in less time than it takes to say 'hello'. "That's better."
Cinderella's eyes went wide and she desperately tried to cover her modesty, only to have her maid snatch the remaining clothes out of her reach. The twinkle in Henrietta's eyes informing her mistress of exactly how much she was enjoying the free show.
"I'm naked," Cinderella pointed out in what might very well have been the most pointless remark of the evening. "What if my husband was to walk in?"
"No fear of that, my lady, he's too busy with the guards." Henrietta pulled back the covers on the bed and playfully patted the mattress beneath. "Hop in, you've a busy night ahead of you."
Cinderella gulped and took an involuntary step back. "I -" She had thought herself immune to the realities of the situation but standing there, naked, with the cool confines of the bed on display, all she wanted to do was run. "I think I've made a terrible mistake."
Henrietta's smile wasn't very sympathetic and, if the circumstances weren't so dire, Cinderella thought she'd like to tan her backside.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing, my lady." In an effort to hide her smile Henrietta turned to straighten the already straight pillows. "Would you like me to stay," she asked, "and keep you company until morning?"
I've fallen into a den of voyeurs, Cinderella thought, as she once again tried to shield her nakedness from her maid's eyes. "I'm not sure my husband, the prince, would appreciate you looming over us as we -" she shuddered "express our love and devotion."
"As you wish." Henrietta's curtsey was little more than a bob of the head. "But courtly ritual does require that you spend the night with someone, my lady, and I very much doubt the prince will return before the 'morrow."
"He's really not coming back?"
"Ritual," Henrietta mumbled.
"What did you say?"
"It's all part of the ritual, as interpreted by the former Queen, my lady." Henrietta slumped onto the bed, her servile demeanour having disappeared the second she was informed that her services would no longer be required. "To seal the union the married couple must make love on their wedding night."
"I know all about that but how in the happily ever after are we supposed to make love if we're not even in the same room?"
"You wish to make love to your husband?" Henrietta looked appalled.
Cinderella couldn't quite bring herself to say 'yes' so she settled for a, "Who else?"
Henrietta batted her eyes. "That's up to you, my lady." She thrust out her chest in a manner guaranteed to strain the stitching of her gown. "By royal decree you have your choice of anyone in the castle."
"Anyone?" Cinderella would have been shocked but she was too busy jumping into bed to properly express the emotion. "And you're sure my husband won't return?"
"With a battalion full of soldiers and half the navy on layover I'd be surprised if you saw him again this side of the new year."
Cinderella thought it likely that she'd eaten one too many of her Fairy Godmother's mushrooms but, in the vague hope that she wasn't hallucinating, she thought it best she take full advantage of the crazy kingdom's rules and regulations. She patted the spot beside her on the bed, the first genuine smile of the night gracing her lips. "Hop in," she said, "you've a very busy night ahead of you."
Henrietta didn't need telling twice and, as the sun lowered on Cinderella's first day as a married woman, both she and her husband made love with the person who would come to mean more to them than life itself.
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