Jacqueline Doyle

Ever After

The Eldest Princess

My feet were on fire, my soft leather shoes in tatters, soles worn through. Every night I dipped and twirled with my eleven younger sisters, laughing and spinning, and in the morning my muscles ached, my feet pulsed with pain. That is until the old soldier followed us, wrapped in his invisible cloak, and brought back the tokens from across the river that told our tale: fine twigs of silver, gold, and diamonds, a golden cup.

Confined to my room, I rub peppermint lotion on my feet, inhale the sharp scent. Night after night I dream of princes, their faces a blur, and of dancing. Diamond twigs sparkle against the midnight blue sky; the river is a ribbon of silver as we return in the boat. I dip my hand in the water and watch the ripples in our wake. I hear the hushed laughter of my sisters, the plash of the oars, relive it all.

Mornings are drab and gray when I wake. My sisters no longer laugh. Tomorrow we celebrate my marriage to the old soldier, now heir to the kingdom for his service to the King. It seems a paltry inheritance, weighed against such memories.

Ella

They called me "Cinder Ella," my sharp-tongued, homely stepsisters, but my name has always been Ella. I held my name close as I danced around the kitchen singing "Some day my prince will come," not really knowing the steps or what dancing with a partner would be like. When my fateful evening arrived, the coach was so fine, the night was so clear and cold, the stars twinkled. I'd never seen such a ball gown, such gay crowds, shimmering finery, colorful, glittering jewels, or such a prince.

Have you ever danced in glass slippers? It wasn't easy, and it's little wonder that I stumbled and left one behind. When he found me, he slipped the shoe on so gently that I was charmed. I preened in front of my stepsisters, basking in their envy. Now I live in his castle and wear glass slippers every day. They call me Queen. I tread very carefully as I make my slow rounds from the throne room to the palatial dining hall to the royal boudoir and back again. I never dance.

Snow White

First it was the dwarves, always touching me, chortling and whistling, slipping into my room to whisper obscenities in my ears as I slept. The poisoned apple was almost a relief. Then it was the coma. Confined in the glass coffin for so long, it's a wonder I survived. He wanted me, that prince passing by. He wanted the beautiful girl displayed like a jewel in a glass casket. He took me away in the coffin, never dreaming I'd revive, perhaps even hoping I would not. Instead I would lie in his chambers, encased in glass, perpetually beautiful, perpetually young. But I awoke and we did the usual thing: we married. At my wedding they gave the wicked Queen a pair of heated iron shoes, and she danced until she died, her feet on fire. The fairest in the land, I gaze in the mirror, and wonder what my fate will be.

Jacqueline Doyle's creative nonfiction and flash fiction have recently appeared in elimae, Monkeybicycle, Flashquake, Glossolalia, blossombones, River Poets Journal, LITnIMAGE, Thumbnail, Pear Noir! and numerous other journals. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches at California State University, East Bay.