I couldn’t run any faster from the prince’s ball with the glass slippers making my feet ache. The clock was about to chime midnight and I fled not only because I didn’t want anyone to see who I really was but also because I, quite frankly, wasn’t enjoying myself in the slightest.
When I had entered the ballroom, I felt every guests’ eyes piercing into me like I was some miraculous spectacle.
Isn’t this what I always wanted? The center of the room. The universe spinning around me. The sole source of power and beauty.
But instead it felt like scrutiny. Like they knew I didn’t belong. Like they sensed the outsider within me. Despite their stares, murmurs, and sideways glances, I continued into the room, a little put off by the elegance and grandeur of it all. Then I laid eyes on the prince.
I saw pride in his eyes when I thought I’d see affection. I saw haughtiness in his stance when I thought I’d see charm. Instead of admiring me for who I am, he looked as though he had won the prize of the ball.
Isn’t this what I always wanted? The belle of the ball. Some ounce of meaning beyond cleaning and cooking. To be looked at like I was beautiful.
We danced. And I knew I should be swept up, elated, euphoric in the arms of the most handsome man in the land. I forced myself to feel it. The attention, the thrill of it all. But it felt hollow… unlike anything I had felt before. And my life wasn’t exactly bliss.
You don’t even know me. I thought, as the prince’s eyes gazed into mine. How can you dance with me like I’m your prized possession? Tell me my name.
The room spun and for the first time I felt awkward and stiff in my corset and gown. Laced too tight. Hair pulled into an intricate design. Glass slippers I should see sparkling but all I feel is pain. We were the only two people in the room and all eyes were on us. Any other girl at this ball would swoon and be swept off her feet to be in my shoes. But I wanted out of the shoes. And out of this foreign land.
I lost track of time and gained it again when I looked at the magnificent clock looming over the staircase by the throne. Midnight was approaching. As I tried to pull away from the prince politely, as if to simply take a break from dancing, he pulled me closer into his arms. The song wasn’t over yet.
Finally I was able to detach from him. With one sweeping look around the room, all the guests baffled and confused by my actions, I took off toward the door. I couldn’t bear the stares and the looks.
Isn’t this what I always wanted? Purpose beyond that of serving my stepmother. Passion beyond the little daydreaming time I had in between chores. Grace beyond my dancing when I’m alone.
But it was too much. The prince, in all his shining glory, was nothing more than a man addicted to his title, his identity. Meanwhile, I didn’t even know what my identity was. All I knew was that everything I had ever wished for was fake. A façade, a mirage. I ran out into the cold night and down the stairs.
Stumbling down the staircase, my slipper fell off. Hurriedly, I slipped off the other and threw it in the bushes. I’d rather be barefoot.
I ran into the dark woods, breathing heavily in my ball gown, noticing how cold the night was. The clock chimed midnight, and I was finally out of sight.
My gown slowly began to fade, and beneath it, my tattered rags appeared. Worn, brown, and frayed. Yet oddly familiar. Comfortable.
Therein I decided I wouldn’t return to my stepmother’s house. My life had gone from one prison, to another more glamorous and inflated one, and I chose to go with neither. Blazing the trail into the woods, I felt whole for the first time. Ready to take on whatever the woods held for me. Wanting neither a life of servitude nor a life of pomp and circumstance.
It was time for me to take hold of my life.
And that’s what I’ve always wanted.