At the twelfth sounding of the gong, the spell came apart.
The white-liveried coachman became a cat and the five white horses her litter of kittens.
The grand carriage went back to being a pumpkin.
The bejewelled gown gave way to one of Cinderella’s stepsisters’ old cast-off dresses, complete with the grease stains that came from cooking the day’s supper and the grime from scrubbing the floors.
I, Raton, only lately a high-heeled glass slipper, too assumed my natural form.
Within seconds, we scampered away to the safety of the scullery that Cinderella called home. Except the pumpkin, which Cinderella had to carry in her arms.
Pumpkins don’t scamper. Not even in fairy tales.
By the time the old harridan, Cinderella’s stepmother, showed up, the house was as quiet as, what is that phrase? As quiet as a mouse.
Silly phrase if you ask me. I am a mouse, but I was far from feeling quiet.
I had realised that Chuhiya, my love, was nowhere to be seen. How careless of Cinderella to lose her!
We had both been transformed into her glass slippers. Our services had enabled the Fairy Godmother to deck Cinderella out so finely. All she had to do was to return home before midnight. Was that so hard to do?
The outcome of all that Abracadabra had been good for Cinderella. She’d had a chance to waltz the night away with the Prince.
The cat family had had a good time too. What is that they say? A cat may look at a king.
And the pumpkin had come home in one piece.
But what about me? I had lost my love and I hadn’t even told her that I loved her.
Meanwhile, the one who had blighted my happiness snored gently on the scullery floor, no doubt dreaming about strolling with the Prince around some scenic pond, with maybe a lone, beautiful hibiscus flower serenely floating over the still water.
What a stupid dream! I would have dreamed about Chuhiya and me feasting on the garbage.
But that was not to be. Here I was, writhing in helpless misery, while Chuhiya was trapped in the palace? I was too agitated to think about what state she might be in.
I hoped she was still a glass slipper. The thought of her regaining her true self only to be stamped underfoot or be snared in a trap was horrifying.
It was a long, dark night for me.
* * *
The next morning, I overheard the harridan telling her daughters that the Prince had fallen in love with a glass slipper and was visiting every household in the kingdom in order to find the foot that had worn that slipper. And marry it too (The whole person, not just the foot. This language will be the death of me.).
My heart skipped a beat. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Chuhiya was alive, though trapped in a glass slipper. How would I rescue her? I had no idea. What were the odds that no other foot but Cinderella’s would fit the slipper?
All day the house was abuzz with excitement. Cinderella cooked and washed and cleaned, but there was something different about her.
I recognized the feeling. Like me, she was infected with hope.
At long last, the royal entourage showed up at our doorstep. The harridan’s two daughters tried their hand at wearing the slipper (Or should I say, tried their foot?). But neither had any luck. Desperate, the harridan tried to shove her foot in. But she had no luck either.
I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown by now.
And then the Prince wanted to know if there were others in the household. Only the maid, he was told. At the Prince’s insistence, Cinderella was summoned and ordered to try the slipper.
It was a delicate moment. Our fates hung in the balance.
In a moment, the Prince vowed eternal love to Cinderella. But what of my love?
Was I destined to prowl the trash alone? My Chuhiya entrapped in a glass slipper until the end of time?
Dejected, I shut my eyes.
The grandfather clock began sounding the hour of 12 noon. At the twelfth sounding of the gong, I heard them scream.
A shrill and horrible sound…broken by the mellifluous squeaking of my Chuhiya.
(There are numerous versions of the classic Cinderella story. I wrote this story, my own original variation, for Yeah Write # 143. Incidentally, Raton and Chuhiya are Spanish and Hindi for mouse.)