Conversations with Christopher: Ariella

Christopher sits facing an angular, yet elegant young woman, sleek in her midnight blue evening gown with matches her eyes. She has dark hair caught in a twist which emphasizes the graceful strength in the arch of her neck. 

Christopher: You appear to be dressed up for a ball. Is this the same ball Cinders spoke of?

Ariella: (a playful smile twitching at her generous mouth) Mmm, I can’t say. 

Christopher: All right, I’ll ask something else. How are you enjoying the changes to the book?

Ariella: I’m not exactly enjoying them but they do express our story more fully. (Her smile vanishes.) Not only Cinders’s, but my mother’s and mine. 

Christopher: Not exactly a kind stepmother, was she?

Ariella: In denial about being a stepmother at all and more than willing to make Cinders suffer for it. 

Christopher: Did she hurt Cinders?

Ariella: More than she ever should have. It was almost frightening, my mother’s fear of this pretty girl who’d never done anything to harm her. 

Christopher: You think your mother was afraid of Cinders?

Ariella: My mother always feared the man, the evil uncle who robbed his niece of her chateaux centuries ago. He and his descendents became monsters in her mind, yet she was willing to marry one of these monsters to reclaim what was rightfully hers. 

Christopher: The chateaux. 

Ariella: The chateaux. It was the focus of all of her hopes and dreams, the fairytale palace which was rightfully hers. Only it wasn’t a palace. Just a drafty ancestral home, something Cinders knew only too well growing up there. 

Christopher: Your mother must have been disappointed. 

Ariella: That’s putting it lightly. I’ll say this for my mother. She took responsibility for the chateaux. She looked after Cinders’s father, putting up with him for all his feather-headed behavior. 

Christopher: Feather-headed?

Ariella: He’d spend money, or gamble away his ancestral valuables on hobbies he couldn’t afford. If Mother and I hadn’t paid off some of those debts, he and Cinders would have lost the chateaux. 

Christopher: Instead they were able to keep it. 

Ariella: Yes. Mother got exactly what she always wanted and it was a huge disappointment. I just wish she wouldn’t take her disappointment out on Cinders. 

Christopher: Does she take that disappointment out on Cinders’s father?

Ariella: She was ready to, but Cinders’s father, my stepfather was very good at distacting my mother from her rage. He often acted as if he was feeble, staying in bed for long hours, saying the light hurt his eyes, our voices were too loud, and somehow wheedling someone else into taking on his duties as lord of the estate. 

Christopher: Maybe he wasn’t so feather-brained. Maybe he just wanted someone else to do his work for him. 

Ariella: I sometimes wonder. I think Cinders received all of the frustration and fury my mother never got to vent on him. Plus she was convinced that Cinders was trying to seduce me. 

Christopher: Was she?

Ariella: Not at all. I was the one who did all the flirting. If anyone was the seductress, it was me. Only Mother blamed Cinders for the whole thing. 

Christopher: Why?

Ariella: (raising an eyebrow and speaking with dramatic sarcasm) Because I was her daughter destined for a grand marriage to a prince. Cinders, like her ancestor before her, would do everything she could to keep me from that destiny. Never mind the fact that I’m doing everything I can to avoid that destiny.

Christopher: (chuckles) Like flirting with your pretty stepsister?

Ariella: (smiles) I don’t regard Cinders as my sister, but for very different reasons than my stepmother. 

Christopher: It sounds like your stepmother picked up on some of that. 

Ariella: Alas, yes. Only Cinders found a very clever way to distract my stepmother from her suspicion…and her rage. 

Christopher: What?

Ariella: By sitting in the cinders. My mother is distracted by surface appearances. Once Cinders became smudged and dirty, my mother could no longer see the other Ariella, the young lady from a rival bloodline with a chance of seducing me away from her ambitions. 

Christopher: Ah, yes, I keep forgetting Cinders’s name is actually Ariella. 

Ariella: The irony is she prefers the nickname. My name is Ariella, my mother’s name is Ariella. There are a lot of Ariellas around. Mother takes so much excessive pride in the name, saw it as an affront that Cinders possessed it as well. 

Christopher: Cinders doesn’t feel that way at all. 

Ariella: No, she doesn’t. She thought it was a lot of bother and confusion, everyone having the same name. Those who really wanted it were welcome to have it. 

Christopher: Did she actually say that to your stepmother?

Ariella: She said it to me. She tried to avoid my mother after my mother hit her and I did what I could to see that my mother never hit her again. Once Cinders started sitting in the hearth, becoming grimier, my mother’s anger vanished. She started seeing Cinders as one of the servants, a charity case, not someone who could engage my affections. The more fool her. 

Christopher: The cinders didn’t bother you.

Ariella: It bothered me that Cinders felt she had to hide from my mother in her own home. It bothers me that I had to hide my feelings for her. Not Cinders sees herself as hiding. She claims to like sitting in the cinders. She says it’s the warmest part of the house. 

Christopher: You don’t believe her?

Ariella: Well, the chateaux is drafty. Cinders is a pretty girl, though. I’m sorry my mother compelled her to hide this. I want to give her a chance to show off her beauty, let it shine.

Christopher: Is that what you’re up to now?

Ariella: Shh. (puts a finger to her lips and smiles mysteriously)

#RainbowSnippets: At Her Service

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a variety of samples from different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

For mine, I’m picking up where I left off last week in At Her Service, which I’m rewriting and expanding from its original form…this is a little longer than six sentences, forgive me…

“You will address her as the Lady Ariella.” The lady of the chateaux spoke in an icy tone as flat as her eyes. “This is not your home, not any more. You may no longer dance around as if you owned it.”

“Mother…” Ariella began, but her mother cut her off. 

“This is our ancestral estate, the Lady Ariella’s and mine.” She advanced upon me. I half expected her to draw a dagger. “Even if your ancestor managed to steal it from ours, we have taken it back.”

Wednesday Words: Paula’s Prompts

On November 18, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving cheese, a sore foot, and regrets.

This poem was the result…

My foot is sore

I shouldn’t have eaten so much

I’ve gotten heavier, so it’s harder to walk

It’s hard to resist the cheese

I should only eat a little

It’s so easy to overindulge

Have a little more with a little more wine

Wine, chocolate, cheese, it’s so hard to devour them

Gobbling down larger quanties than I should

Drinking enough so I’m left fuzz-brained

Carrying around the other in lumps of unused energy

Together they increase my overall lumpiness

Making my whole body harder to move

A bigger burden for my sore feet

Yet sometimes the world feels like it’s throwing misery at me

2020 left me feeling especially doomed

It feels like the end so why hold back?

It’s hard not to reach for the cheese or the chocolate

Now I’m heavier than I’ve been in a long time

I regret the sore feet

I regret the clothes which no longer fit

Even as I suffer the consequences of my gluttony

I cannot bring myself to regret the cheese. 

Conversations with Christopher: Cinders

Christopher sits facing a young woman dressed in a long green gown tapering in at the waist and flowing out into full skirts, her golden-brown hair arranged naturally with a few beryl pins which most of it to fall over her shoulders in shining waves. Upon her feet are a pair of glass slippers which fit perfectly. 

Christopher: Cinders…you look beautiful.

Cinders: I’m guessing you never would have recognized the girl who left smudges everywhere. Sorry about that. Welcome back to the Cauldron. 

Christopher: Thank you. It’s good to be back. How is At Her Service coming along?

Cinders: It may have happened before in earlier editions, but I never cease to marvel at how my fairy godmother makes all my cinders disappear in an instant, leaving me clean and wearing this dress.

Christopher: Plus your mistress’s glass slippers. 

Cinders: I know. I’m not comfortable at that myself. (glances down at her feet) I’d better clean them when I return from the ball. 

Christopher: Are you in the middle of the ball?

Cinders: Yes, but the scribbler stopped in the middle of the dance when I revealed something which happened in the past. This made her go back and make it part of the beginning of At Her Service. It’s a something which makes me wish I was dancing with my mistress, not the mysterious prince. No matter how handsome and charming he might be. 

Christopher: What was this something in your past? Or is it too much of a spoiler to ask about?

Cinders: I don’t think so. Once upon a time my mistress asked me to dance with her. We almost dance together but the lady of the chateaux’s, my mistress’s mother stopped us. Huh, I think I can sense the scribbler getting an idea for more dialogue for that scene. She’s always rewriting my beginning. 

Christopher: I know exactly how you feel. Why did your mistress’s mother stop you?

Cinders: Well, I can’t say it’s because the Lady Ariella and I are stepsisters because the lady of the chateaux has never acknowledged that. She loathed me. She loathed my family too, my very bloodline. I think she would have loathed my father but he played the feeble and helpless invalid. This made the lady decided she needed to take care of him, so she set aside her loathing. 

Christopher: She was able to do that?

Cinders: She’s a very peculiar and particular woman, the Lady Ariella’s mother. If she decides she loathes you, you’re filth. If she decides she’s going to take care of you, you’re her charge, no matter what. I’ve seen her kindness to others, such as Claude. Something about my father kindled, well, not exactly kindness but a sense of purpose. She decided she was going take care of him and his estate, no matter how much she loathed him and his bloodline. This was exactly what my father wanted since he couldn’t be bothered to take care of either.

Christopher: It sounds like your stepmother married your father for his estate while your father was more than happy to be married for it, if his wife was willing to take on his responsibilities for him. 

Cinders: Father was an invalid or pretended to be one. He fussed a lot, tried to get out of doing everything if he could. He exhausted Mother. When she died, he became worse than ever. I used to be the one who had to take care of him. I was actually relieved when he remarried. I didn’t mind the Lady Ariella’s mother assuming full authority over the chateaux and my father. It’s made me happier than I can say to live with the Lady Ariella. I just wish her mother hadn’t hated me. 

Christopher: Is this why the lady of the chateaux didn’t want you dancing with her daughter?

Cinders: The Lady Ariella’s mother had grand plans for her daughter, schemes of marrying her to a prince which Ariella herself had no interest in. My mistress’s interest in girls always annoyed the lady. She felt this interest was an unwelcome distraction from her plans. To show an interest in me, a descendent of the man who’d stolen the estate from hers was a betrayal. Never mind that the lady had married a descendent of that man herself in order to regain the chateaux she regarded as rightfully hers. 

Christopher: It sounds like this woman was as angry with her daughter as she was with you.

Cinders: Perhaps but she blamed me for the whole thing. She believed I was scheming to manipulate her daughter through her interest in me as the lady had schemed to manipulate my father. This was the first time she hit me. I haven’t danced since. I’ve been more than a little clumsy.

Christopher: Are you really clumsy? Or does the Lady Ariella’s mother agitate you to the point that you knock things overs. 

Cinders: She can’t agitate me any more. She’s dead. I’ve been awkward ever since. I trip and knock things over far too often. 

Christopher: Are you tripping a lot at the ball? 

Cinders: I did at first, but I’m getting more relaxed. The prince is an excellent dance partner. I’m started to really enjoy myself which makes me feel like a traitor.

Christopher: Why?

Cinders: My mistress hates the prince. She got so angry when she thought I wanted to go to the ball, to dance with him. To be with him instead of her. She was really hurt. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m enjoying the dance but I wish I was dancing with her. One of the reasons I’m enjoying the prince’s company is because he reminds me of her. Seeing a similarity between my beloved mistress and the prince she loathes makes me feel like even more of a traitor. I shouldn’t be enjoying myself but I am. It’s nice not tripping over my own feet. It’s nice knowing I can dance even if it’s just for one night. I just really wish I was dancing with the Lady Ariella. 

Christopher: Well, you have a fairy godmother. She might just grant your wish. 

Cinders: I hope so. 

#RainbowSnippets: At Her Service

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a variety of samples from different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

For my own, I’m going to continue where I left off last week on the expanded version of At Her Service I’m working on…

Ariella herself stiffened, turning to face its owner at the same moment as I did. Repressed violence tingled in the air. This violence frightened me. 

“Ariella was only showing me how to dance…” I began, trailing off when I saw the chill expression in the lady of the chateux’s eyes. How could she look so much like Ariella herself, yet be so different?