April 14, 2008

Cinderella Runs Into Snow White After Therapy One Afternoon

by Luc Reid

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line kindly provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex, Dan, David, Edd, and Kat have handled the challenge, and tune in tomorrow to see what Rudi Dornemann comes up with...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists' waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. It had been a slow afternoon, but he heard Dr. Rumplestiltskin's door open and readied an unsettling comment for the next one--a looker he'd just glimpsed on her way in, some kind of divorced royal.

"Man, up until now it was all pretty girls coming out of these appointments," said Zoli. Cinderella, roiling with thoughts about Charming and his perfect little dwarfess girlfriend, kicked Zoli solidly in the nuts. Zoli keeled over with a squeaking noise.

"Get some therapy of your own already," Cinderella said as she pushed open the door to the street.

The kick hadn't improved her mood; actually, she felt guilty. In her head, she hadn't been kicking Zoli: she'd been kicking Charming. She was inexpressibly angry at him, and yet she couldn't even kick him vicariously in the nuts and get any satisfaction out of it. What was wrong with her?

"Ella! Hey, girl!" someone shouted, and Cinderella looked up to spot Snow White hiking up her skirts and hustling toward her. There were at least 50 yards of empty cobblestone on every side; escape was not an option.

Catching up, Snow White linked arms with Cinderella and bent over to whisper in her ear. "Come to the farmer's market with me. There are a pair appleseller brothers there who'll take your breath away."

"You've got a perfectly good prince at home. Why are you ogling applesellers?" protested Cinderella.

"What, I'm supposed to close my eyes every time I buy an apple?" Snow White said, grinning. "So why do you look so down, anyway? Still moping about Charming? I don't know what you have to mope about, having that woodcutter all to yourself."

"I know," Cinderella said. "Hansel's wonderful. His family is wonderful."

"Well, you weren't satisfied with charming, and now you're not satisfied with wonderful. What do you want, abusive?"

"I guess perfect men don't make me happy," said Cinderella. "They should, though, shouldn't they?"

"Maybe you're one of those people who has to do something."

"I don't do things," said Cinderella. "I'm a princess, for God's sake."

"I'm just saying, maybe you have a greater purpose."

"Like what? What purpose could there possibly be for an aging beauty whose only skills are housework and animal relations?"

"Well, I guess that's the question," Snow White dropped her voice to a whisper. "This is the apple cart! Act nonchalant."

And as Snow White reached for an apple, Cinderella began to think that maybe she'd been angry about the wrong things.

November 19, 2007

Cinderella and Prince Charming Have a Post-Divorce Meeting to Discuss Some Financial Matters

by Luc Reid

"A dwarf, Charming!" Cinderella said. "Seriously, a dwarf. Why? Is this some kind of bizarre plea for attention?"

"Cindy, I thought you of all people would understand. We're in love. What other justification do we need?

"If you remember, we were in love once," Cinderella said. "And look how that turned out." She had planned not to drink anything, to keep the meeting as short and businesslike as possible, but now she poured herself some sangria out of the carafe after all and drank a long swallow from it, not looking at Charming the whole time.

"Well," said Charming, and with the warmth he put into that one word it was as though he had said Well, and even though it didn't last forever, our love was amazing while it lasted, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. To give the devil his due, he could be very charming.

"I admit," Charming said, "I wouldn't have looked for a dwarfess if I hadn't literally stumbled on Gloina. But she's so constant, and she practically glows with happiness the whole time we're together ... and the sex! My God, the things that little woman can do! Have you ever been with a dwarf?"

"I think you're confusing me with that whore Snow White."

"Not that again. Why do people keep repeating that rumor?"

"Oh come on, you're a man. You should get it."

Charming pushed his glass aside and leaned toward Cinderella across the glass surface of the table. "We don't have to argue. We're not married any more! What about you? I heard you're seeing someone. Tell me about him."

"What, Hansel?" He's a woodcutter, she could have told him. He lives in the forest in a small cottage with his sister, Gretl, and her husband and three happy but really filthy children.

Charming was looking at her, waiting.

"He's in forest products," she said finally.


"Nearly," she said. And then she didn't say: And he smells like ginger and cloves, and sometimes when I'm with him I forget who I am. Last week I cleaned his house from top to bottom, and the forest creatures actually turned out to help me.

"All right," said Charming, as though she had asked him for something.

And as they turned to the papers they had to go over, Cinderella found herself wondering if she could cast off the princess she'd become like the old skin of an insect, and if so, what might climb out into the sunlight.

August 3, 2007

Prince Charming Comes By After the Divorce to Pick Up Some Things

by Luc Reid

He'd brought his new girlfriend, the servants told Cinderella, but he came into the Great Hall alone, wearing the robin's egg-blue tunic. His own two servants came with him, the only ones he was allowed to keep after the settlement, Dregsworthy and Pullengroin. Charming stopped short when he saw where Cinderella had put his things. She had decided to throw them all in a pile, the remaining flasks of his rosemary mead and his second-best suit of armor, the hounds from his childhood he'd had stuffed after death, his dead uncle's magical nail clippers that did nothing ("Maybe they're for clipping magical nails," Charming had once quipped) ... all of it. She had decided to toss it together without regard for denting or chipping or breaking, without regard for mead gushing out onto his favorite hunting cape or gardening tools gouging out chunks of the dead hounds' hair.

Charming stared at his possessions for a moment before he looked up, gazed into her eyes with his own robin's-egg blue ones, and said, "You're looking lovely, Cindy."

"Don't be charming," she snapped.

"Rude it is, then," he said gently. "But why did you--"

He broke off when a small woman entered. A very small woman. A dwarf woman, in fact. She took Charming's hand and kissed it unselfconsciously, her red-gold hair cascading over his wrist. She was very elegant, for a dwarf.

Charming bent down and kissed her on the head as Cinderella looked on, speechless.

"Durin's shade, you're even prettier than he told me!" said the dwarf women.

"I thought dwarf women had beards," Cinderella blurted, and the dwarf woman flushed.

"It's more convenient this way," Charming said. "They can tell them better from the men!" And he laughed easily, but the dwarf woman was still flushing, and Cinderella realized that she depilated and didn't tell Charming. In all fairness, though, who would bring that up to a new boyfriend?

"So, Cindy," said Charming, "I'd like you to meet Gloina."

Cinderella shook her head. She did not have to be social with him. "Just take your things and go," she said, and stalked out of the room, wishing she had thrown everything down after all.

Charming helped the servants take the carefully-packed crates out to his carriage. Each one was tied with a satin ribbon the color of a robin's egg.

July 9, 2007

Cinderella Begins Dating Again After a Bitter Divorce

by Luc Reid

"You look beautiful."

"Don't be charming," she snapped.

Cinderella's date took a swig of chianti to cover his confusion. A peasant's idea of a nice wine; Cinderella ignored hers. Though Charming probably wasn't drinking much better stuff these days, after the settlement. He was lucky he'd got to keep the cobwebby old chalet where he now had to live. Hell, he was lucky he got anything at all after his fling with Sleeping Beauty.

Her date smiled at her. What was his name again? Hans or Jan or something like that. He was handsome in a chunky, woodcuttery way. He smelled like ginger. That wasn't bad, ginger. It made Cinderella think of pumpkin pie.

"So, Cinderella," he said. "What do you do?"

"Do? Nothing. I used to scrub floors and have forest animals at my beck and call, but they're not welcome in the palace. Or I guess they weren't. Now they will be. If they still have any idea who I am."

"You like animals? I like animals," he said in a rush. Then his face grew red. "Sorry, that sounds desperate."

"Better than charming," she said. There was a long silence, and she tapped one foot impatiently. She grimaced. "When's the waiter going to be here with our salads?"

Hans or Jan or something sighed and stood up, dropping a few coins on the table. "Let's try again another time," he said.

Cinderella stared, uncomprehending, as Hans or Jan or something bowed awkwardly and walked to the door. What was he doing? Cinderella was beautiful, obviously rich, she had a lovely singing voice ... he was leaving, just like that?

Apparently he was: she waited for a long moment, and he didn't come back. Cinderella ran out to the parking lot, not losing her shoe because she had long since taken to wearing ones with straps.

There was nothing out there but the surrounding forest.

Cinderella looked all around her, the anger draining away. He wasn't Charming. Why had she been taking it out on him?

An ancient bluebird flapped arthritically to the ground and trilled at her, and she saw something beside it: a white stone, gleaming in the moonlight. And there was another, and another: a trail! She picked a breadcrumb off her blouse and threw it to the bird, then followed the rocks into the dark forest.

Hansel, that was his name. Hansel.