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When I heard about the wedding plans—Cinderella and my brother—I couldn’t contain my excitement. I made a lot of noise in the hallway, jumping up and down with the letter in my hand.
I hadn’t heard from him since my father sent me away to school. Don’t get me wrong—I love learning. I love it so much that the only thing stopping me from packing my bags and going myself was this: you can’t leave two men to take charge of an entire kingdom. It never ends well.
The king—my father, the most stubborn yet loving man in the whole entire world—declared that he was sending me away because of how I was always getting in the way of everything. I gave him all of my excuses, of course: all I wanted was to help. And then he brought up how I always used to sneak out of the castle when no one was paying attention, so I could go visit Cinderella. My brother packed my bags.
That’s right—I was a rebel princess, a temporary disgrace to all of the little girls all throughout the land who would have given anything to be me. Well there’s just something wrong about stuffing an innocent little girl in pink fluffy dresses and sparkly tiaras; that’s what people never understood about me. So I snuck out one night, climbed over the palace wall without anyone seeing me, and explored the outside world. The first person I saw, of course, was Cinderella.
She was carrying a bucket of water, struggling, really. So I thought it would be the right thing to do to offer to help her carry the load. She was a little hesitant; she didn’t think it would be proper to let a princess carry something for a peasant like her. I told her I wasn’t a princess anymore; we became instant friends—“secret” friends.
I was there with her through everything, even her father passing away and a noticeable and negative change in her stepmother’s attitude toward her existence. I would visit her every afternoon while my tutor was fully convinced I was studying my lessons. I helped Cinderella do all of her horrible chores, and we talked and laughed. One day she told me I was the best friend she’d ever had—the only friend she’d ever had at all. That same day, I got caught.
I was never allowed to see my best friend again, and I stayed angry about it for a long time. I spent all of my time in my room, concentrating on my lessons and telling my big brother to leave me alone. Whenever the cook criticized me for being a hermit and never making friends with other princesses, I told him it was because of my father.
Eventually I got over it—we both did, I guess. There were more important things to do than visit people I could never remain friends with anyway. So life went on, day after day, until I tried to take on royal responsibilities that were never meant for me. I would do things for my brother without anyone else knowing, in exchange for introducing him to all of the princess friends my father thought I was making. Somehow my father found out about this, too, and instead of scolding my brother for it, he weighted the punishment heavily and completely on me. It wasn’t really a punishment, since learning was the most fun I ever really had inside the castle anymore. But still, leaving was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
The letter came from my brother just several months later. He told me everything, of course, which made me skip to the end to see what his point was (he’d never been good at getting to that quick enough). I’d already heard about the mystery girl at the ball, and the left-behind slipper: everyone at school had. Many of them rushed home to see if they could pass themselves off as the girl my brother wished to marry. I stayed ahead on my homework.
Never in my life had I thought that the girl my brother would choose would be someone I particularly liked. No one had known where she came from—a sparkling golden carriage, a beautiful horse? Even I hadn’t had one of my own growing up. But his letter to me confirmed it: she was the one. I packed my bags as quickly as I could and got back home even faster.
When we met again, after years and years of our friendship being torn apart by my father, it was unbelievable. We sat locked away for hours upon hours, catching up and crying and laughing the whole time. She told me about all of the terrible things her stepmother and sisters had said and done ever since I’d stopped coming to visit. And then she told me about the ball, about a fairy godmother giving her everything she needed to look beautiful for my brother. I didn’t exactly believe the part about the fairy godmother—this wasn’t a fairytale, after all. But she told me all about the glass slipper, and how she and my brother had found each other again, all because of it. It was a better story than I’d ever read in a book.
I went through my things right then and there and gave Cinderella the book she’d given me during one of our secret visits when we were small. It was right after her father died when she slipped it into my hands, saying it was his and that if anyone else in the house ever found it, they would destroy it. I’d promised then to keep it safe for her as long as she needed me to. It was safe now, and in her hands.
She went into another room inside the castle and came back with the famous glass slipper in her hands. She said she didn’t need it anymore, that its purpose for her had already been fulfilled. She said it had helped her find my brother, the prince, her true love, and that it was my turn to find someone to love me with the help of leftover magic (whatever that meant). She gave it to me, and I took it.
Guess what? It works.