Breakfast with the Charmings
by Sara Cleto
“I want to see other people,” Prince Charming said as he shook out and refolded his paper.
Cinderella dropped the platter of pancakes she’d made for him—fluffy, six inches across, spiced lightly with pumpkin. Porcelain shards broke the pattern in the tiled kitchen floor, obscuring the geometric repeat they had selected, after much consideration, when they refinished the house directly after their marriage. Syrup spilled across the floor like blood.
“You ruined my shoes,” he chided gently. He removed his loafers and carried them to the sink where he carefully mopped the excess syrup with a paper towel.
“I don’t understand,” she quavered.
Prince Charming sighed and threw the soiled towel in the trash. “This isn’t what I wanted. I thought it was, but it isn’t.”
She knelt, tried to gather the bits of broken porcelain, just to have a task around which to orient herself—old habits die hard.
“I wanted to travel after university. I was going to join the Peace Corps! I’d applied and everything, and they’d assigned me to Mongolia. Mongolia, can you imagine?”
She couldn’t. He required freshly brewed coffee, the beans ground moments before they were placed in the filter, poured into a heated mug and set beside his plate. He preferred the dishware matched, the blue-rimmed mug with the blue-rimmed plate, or the Japanese-inspired floral wears placed side by side. All of this had been explained, meticulously, by his housekeeper when Cinderella entered his home for the first time.
“But my father swore I’d never be the CEO after him if I did something so impetuous.”
That she could imagine.
“He said he’d bar me from the company, and cut me off to boot! So I said I’d stay, and he threw me a party, and there you were.” He looked at her for the first time that morning. “You had such tiny feet.”
Cinderella reached for another shard, a long and sickle-shaped, but her shaking hand slipped. The point of the porcelain shard pricked her finger, and a single drop of blood welled up.
A curious sensation began to build in Cinderella’s chest. She was conscious, for the first time in years, of her heartbeat. It swelled and echoed through her body like a rising tide. Her face felt hot, and her hands still shook but with a different emotion than fear or loss, one she hadn’t felt since she’d slid those exquisite glass pumps on her feet all those years ago.
Cinderella felt… awake.
And she felt angry.
“You married me for my feet?” she howled.
A week later, using the proceeds from the sale of her glass slippers, she moved into a bright, tiny apartment in Brooklyn and sent Parson’s a portfolio of her best shoe designs. Her neighbor, a graduate student in sociology, complimented her smile and invited her out for drinks. She slipped on a pair of flats and raced him down the stairs.
Image by Margaret Evans Price.
* * *
Sara Cleto received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania
where she majored in English Literature, and she is currently pursuing
her Master's degree in Folklore and Literature at George Mason
University. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia but has lived in England,
Ireland, and Peru in addition to many locations in the US.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
I'm particularly inspired by fairy tales and folklore, the stories
that you hear over and over and sometimes take for granted. I love
taking those familiar shapes and warping them to create something
unexpected and empowering. I wonder about the silenced or marginalized
characters in the stories, what they might like to say or do, and
that's when a new story creeps up on me.