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.
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.
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.
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)