This story contains mature themes along the lines of: domestic abuse, alcoholism, childhood maltreatment, suicide, and obsessive partners. If you are sensitive to any of the above, please refrain from reading.
How poor is the life of the modern day Cinderella. Born to a simple name, Ashley, her story is anything but. This is a tale not of how she became Cinderella, but rather of how she was forced to abandon the role. Mind you, for as fantastic as this story is, it’s not pure fiction. Ashley may not exist by name, but her mindset is, unfortunately, not unique. The ghost of Cinderella continues to haunt people everywhere.
In the dead of night, Ashley sits alone on her bed, staring out the open window at the night sky. A freezing wind blows through her room, but she doesn’t move an inch. She’s used to this by now. She never had a blanket since she was a child, so the cold doesn’t bother her anymore. It’s the same with food, friends, and even love. Starve the body and it will learn to live with small amounts of nutrients. Deprive the mind and it will learn to live in solitude. Close off the heart and it will learn not to love. Unfortunately, before she had learned any of this, the seed of Cinderella had been planted already: a worrisome tale of a hard-working girl, her life weathered by her wretched family, made weak in the knees by a wealthy prince on a white horse who longed to wed her. Therefore, closed off as she may seem, her heart is still vulnerable and hoping for someone to take her away.
“Mom,” Ashley says meekly, “can I go to prom?”
“Prom?” her mom responds with a bite. “Why would you go to prom?”
“Well, it’s my last year of college and everything. So, you know- I think it would be really nice if-”
“You don’t even have a boyfriend,” Ashley’s sister says, cutting in, “Besides, no one there wants to look at your ugly face. Try and think of someone other than yourself.”
“I just want to-”
“Forget about it. It’s a waste of time.” her mother says dismissively.
“Oh, I get it. Little Miss Cinderella wants to go find her Prince Charming, right?” Her sister’s voice drips with mockery. “Cut that fairy tale crap out and sit in your room twiddling your thumbs like you normally do.”
That was how the conversation went, with Ashley barely getting any word in. That was how it always went, and she never did anything to actively change it. Throughout her life, she would obey her mother and sister and nothing more without their permission. She would accept all the hatred from them in stride.
“You killed dad. You being born drove him to alcoholism.”
No matter the words they said-
“You killed your father. I wish you had never been born.”
She would accept it.
This one time, and only this time ever, she thought, would be different. With guilt on her mind and an apology ready to give, she prepared her clothes for the prom. A beautiful dress of glittering gold and dazzling diamonds it was not, but it was all she had. There was no fairy to grant her a wish, so then why did she think a miracle awaited her? The poor girl.
When the time was right, Ashley snuck out in her dress and made her way to the prom. Over the years, she had been quite the wallflower. She was never allowed out without good reason and clubs or hanging out with friends didn’t constitute the aforementioned. As such, she didn’t know of many people who were attending. This excited her more than not, thrilled to see who would be there. Eventually, she did arrive and lo and behold, everyone she saw looked positively stunning, man and woman alike. The clean suits of the men and glowing dresses of the women gave an impression similar to royalty. But where was her Prince Charming?
Years of being passive prevented her from talking to anyone and so she relegated herself to a table near the outside edge of the prom. She sipped a glass of punch, gotten with all the strength she could muster, before she sunk back out of the limelight. She waited. And waited. And waited. Her Prince Charming would surely come. And sure enough-
Ashley is taken aback, taking a second to respond. He has actually come.
“Yes?” she asks, her voice quiet.
There stands before her a well-dressed boy around her age. It’s as the stories describe: a white suit with gold trimmings, worn by the finest man with golden blonde hair and sapphire blue eyes. She didn’t know that those eyes were in actuality an abyssal blue that sought to drag her into a deep darkness. Or perhaps they were apparent, but she was so blinded by the ghost of Cinderella that she went along anyway.
“Do you not have anyone to dance with?” he inquires curiously. “It’s a shame that someone as beautiful as you is all alone on a day like this. At the least, take this.”
In his hand is a beautiful corsage that he offers to Ashley that she inevitably takes.
“Oh, thank you.” she responds, already hopelessly stricken.
“Of course. It looks great on you. I doubt anyone would look as good with that on. “
A blush is her only response.
“I never got your name.”
“Ashley.” he repeats with a smile. “My name’s Nathan. Ashley, would you like to dance?”
“That would be nice. It’d be my pleasure.”
And they did. They took to the floor to dance and all eyes fell upon them. Lights flickered and the music roared, all voices swept away in the night. The speakers’ bass shook the ground like an earthquake and there wasn’t a single person not entertained. She was truly living the tale of Cinderella, she continued to tell herself. What a shame. What a sham. What a fake he was.
The clock struck midnight and the party continued even louder than before. At the offset there was punch in the bowl, now it’s something with a bit more kick. Ashley, tempted as she was to stay, knew her limits. If she didn’t return soon, her family’s fury would be endless.
“Where are you going?”
“I need to get home. My mom doesn’t want me out late so- Oh, let me get your number first.”
He grabs her arm saying plainly, “You don’t need to go yet. It’s not that late.”
“Um, no. I really do. Could you-”
His grips tightens.
“You don’t need to go. Stay here and dance. We’re having fun, aren’t we?”
“Yes- Yes, but-”
His suit does little to hide the gnashing teeth of the wolf within anymore. Even Cinderella’s ghost has turned away.
“Let me go!” she demands, pulling her arm away. “I’m leaving. Now.”
She storms out of the party, but he isn’t quick to give up. A minute. Two minutes. Three. He continues walking, calling out to her to come back.
“Hey! Come back here!” he shouts with a tinge of anger, his voice cutting through the now silent air.
She quickens her pace and throws off the corsage.
“Hey! What the hell?! Put this back on! It’s for you! Only for you! You’re the only one! Come here!!!”
She’s in a full sprint now, running through backyards and over hedges in an attempt to lose him. Twigs and branches leave rips and tears in her dress, but she doesn’t care. She only wants to get away. In time, Nathan’s voice can no longer be heard, fading away in the distance. Finally, she’s at the front door of her home.
“You’re back? Good. We just finished packing your stuff.” Ashley’s sister says dryly, holding a small duffel bag which she throws towards her feet. “Hope you had fun. Gave us a great window to get rid of your junk. You’re old enough now. Leave.”
“Wait! What are you talking about?!”
“Mom’s kicking you out. We don’t want you here anymore.”
“Let me talk to mom!”
“To do what? Cry at her? Give me a break. What? You didn’t find your Prince Charming? Can’t stay in his palace or something? Big surprise.”
“This is the real world, Ash. Grow up, for your sake.”
Those are her last words as she enters the house and slams the door behind her.
So too are those the last words of this story. The ending is unsatisfactory, abrupt, and lacks any flair, but there’s no helping it. The ghost of Cinderella which possessed Ashley died and there no was no death cry. There was no bang. Only a sad whimper. That is the cold reality. Obedience to authority brought her nowhere but to a standstill. Her ideals were crushed and the weight of the world fell on her. Her Prince Charming was nothing but an obsessive man who tried to convince women that they were special and take them away to god knows where. There’s no reason to tell any more of her story because the main character is no longer Cinderella. The story of Ashley is yet unwritten.
Beware the ghost of Cinderella, she who shrouds girls with sweet dreams some never wake from.
1) The prompt for this story was a modern day Cinderella. What you read was the logical result of that.
2) The ghost of Cinderella reads like a curse that young girls suffer and that was the intention from the start. It’s based on the critique that Disney’s version of Cinderella in particular receives. That said, after I finished writing the story, I began to wonder if there was room for a full fledged horror story.
3) I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the quality of this story. It’s decent, but far from my best work. The unsatisfactory ending in particular is something I haven’t made heads or tails about. I like the sentiment that evoking emotion, whatever it may be, is an accomplishment, but… I don’t know. It’s a bit cheap I guess? Fits for the story, but don’t expect it in future works. That’s what happens when you start and finish a story in a single day. Don’t follow my example~
How do you think it worked out? Was the unsatisfactory ending “good?” How do you feel about the message of Disney’s Cinderella? Do you think it truly has such a negative effect? I’ll have another anime article on GuP and Haifuri soon!