26 December 2019

Ever After by Helen Hollick - A Story Inspired By A Song


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Guess the Song
here's a clue...
Table, Vintage, Folding, Furniture

“Swap you that pork pie for this chicken drumstick,” the well-dressed older lady said to the  young woman sitting next to her on one of the provided benches, and waving a napkin-wrapped offering which she had extracted from the small wicker hamper at her feet. "My cook is a dear lady, but she does tend to think that food like a common pork pie is somewhat beneath my status." She smiled, almost a grin, but that would have been a little too unladylike for her to manage. She touched her large hat, a wild concoction of feathers and silk flowers, "I was born and raised in Leicestershire, not far from Mr Adcock's bakery and his famous pies. Mind, since marrying my dear Sir George and coming to live here in London, those childhood days have had to be put behind me." She almost managed a second grin, said in a pronounced country dialect, "Along with my Leicestershire accent."
The young woman smiled and pushed back the tendrils of her black hair escaping her more modestly decorated straw bonnet as she nodded in agreement to the suggested swap. Did not let on that she had not tasted chicken for many a month. Even this pork pie and her meagre picnic fare was an exceptionally rare treat.  Unlike the well-to-do ladies and gentlemen waiting patiently in this roped-off special seating area  accessed by ticket-holders only  she was dressed plainly, but immaculate and practical for a potential long wait until the procession passed by.
“They have a good day for it, at least,” the older woman said, munching the pie and scattering pastry crumbs all over her skirt. She nodded towards the bunting and flags fluttering in the stiff breeze that also herded a few puffed, white clouds across the sapphire blue sky. “A bit blowy, perhaps, but no sign of rain.”


Drop Of Water, Inject, Water, Drip, Wet

“It poured at his first wedding,” another woman sitting behind them said. “I got soaked to the bone, but it was worth it. The processions, then, were wonderful, and she – well the bride was the prettiest little thing I had ever set eyes on. I swear that her hair was spun  gold. They say this second wedding is to be less extravagant, the essentials only."
The young woman suppressed a scornful snort. Less extravagant? Was that likely? Not with the Prince's penchant for opulent public display!
"Well we have to show our appreciation for his new bride, do we not?" the older woman's companion said, leaning forward and scattering raisins from her slab of fruit-cake everywhere. The wild birds would be having a feast once everyone had gone home. "After all, she will be our next queen when the king passes, God bless him."
The first woman discretely crossed herself. "He is getting quite frail, they say, poor man; but the Prince will make a fine king when his time comes. Such a shame what happened, though." She pursed her lips then tutted a couple of times, while wiping her fingers on a linen napkin. "His first wife was more suited to the role than this new little maid. She seems to be such a quiet mouse. Though dutiful, I hear tell."
“Aye,” said another woman, joining in the conversation, “It is a great sadness that the first dear girl passed away so young.”
“Such a wicked accident   to break her neck falling down the stairs like that,” said the first woman.
“Tripped, they say.”
“I heard,” the young woman interrupted, discretely wiping her own greasy fingers on an old, but clean, cotton square, “that he pushed her.”
The elder women looked at her, wide-eyed, open -mouthed. Quite askance. Then they all spoke at once.
“No!" 
"He would not do such a thing!" 
"You are treading near treason my girl!"
"He is the most charming, pleasant young man!" 
"Kind, courteous, thoughtful …"
"He would never do such a thing!”
The young woman let the outrage subside. “All that is his public face, the stories you read in the news-sheets. He is entirely different behind closed palace doors. He pushed her, and got away with it because he is the heir to the throne.” Did not add, And a manipulative little bastard.
Several tuts of disapproval.
“And just how,” challenged one of the women, “would you be knowing all this? Know someone inside the palace, do you?” It was meant as crushing sarcasm.
The young girl smiled, bit into a crunchy green apple, chewed, swallowed. “As it happens, yes, I do. I used to be there.”


Noble, Castle, Hofburg Imperial Palace

    There were a couple of gasps and an eager moving forward to hear better. The tickets for this special area had cost several shillings and a chance of any bonus gossip for additional value for money was pounced upon.
“He might be a prince,” the young woman went on, in between mouthfuls of apple, “but he  is also an arrogant prig. He wants – no demands –  his own way in everything.” She paused, looked meaningfully at the women, one by one, “and I mean everything. Oh, he appears to be charming, romantic and caring whenever he is in public, but in private he is cruel and unkind. For his poor bride, once he owned her, he controlled everything she did. He demanded that his every wish was to be instantly obeyed, and if it is was not he lashed out with his tongue, hand, fist or boot. Most of the servants, the female ones anyway, are terrified of him.” She lowered her voice, "The male staff ensure, as much as possible, that the younger female servants are always chaperoned when in his presence. Even down to the lowest scullery maids going about their duties. Though, fortunately, the prince is rarely from his bed before noon, so the servants get as much done before then as they can."
More gasps of astonishment.
The young woman tucked the apple core neatly into the piece of cloth and put both into her holdall, buckled the clasp and nodded her head. “He ordered his wife what to eat or not to eat; what to  wear, what to do. Who she could or could not see. He would not permit her to retain contact with any of her friends or family. He had the last say in everything. Oh he was charming before the wedding, but his gentlemanly behaviour when in public is all a play-act. Once the wedding band was on her finger he had got what he wanted ... to own her ... and  proceeded to make her life an utter misery.”
The pork pie woman shook her head. “I do not believe it.”
“He even beat her if she did not comply.”
“No!”
“Never!”
The young woman nodded her head again firmly. "I saw the bruises. The welts across her back. He used his riding crop on her more than once."
Another woman joined in, her voice deliberately low as she whispered, “I think it is true. Do you not remember a bruise on her cheek that time they went to the opera? A few weeks before she died? It was mentioned in all the news-sheets. The palace said she had 'suffered an unfortunate accident with a cupboard door'.”
The young woman snorted, said, “Soon after, she 'fell' down the stairs and broke her neck.”
The elder women tutted or pursed their lips and nodded sagely. 
One said: “The funeral was such a sad occasion. I was here in this same spot, watched the cortege pass by. We all wept when the prince walked so solemnly behind the casket. His tears streamed down his face. I remember it well."


Woman, Victorian, English, Wealthy

   “Crocodile tears,” said the young woman. “He did not mourn for long after the funeral did he?”
“That is true,” someone else agreed.
“What else can you tell us?” Pork Pie woman asked, eagerly.
The young woman shrugged. “I do not know anything else. I  left the palace soon after the 'accident'.”

Des Moines, Iowa, State Capitol

Any further curiosity or questions were cut short by the sound of approaching hooves and blaring trumpets. There was a general rustling and getting to feet throughout the crowds thronging each side of the main thoroughfare leading to the cathedral. Picnic hampers were hastily shoved aside, to be replaced by little flags on wooden sticks, the waiting spectators eagerly surging forward, cheers hurling into the air along with tossed flowers and a variety of shouted good wishes.


Horse, Carriage, Coach, Transport

The glass wedding coach rumbled past, flanked by smart soldiers dressed in their best uniforms. The woman inside, a petite, demure lass who looked more like a girl than a woman grown, waved and smiled shyly at the well-wishers lining the route.
She was gone, a sigh of satisfaction swept through the crowd.
“Did you see her?”
“So pretty!”
“Looked like a lot of lace on that bodice.”
“The diamonds in that tiara!”
“Aye, and did you catch a glimpse of the necklace?”
“I wonder how long her veil and train will be.”
“What is the dress  like? It looked like silk.”
“I cannot wait to read all about it  in the news-sheets tomorrow.”


Marriage, Bouquet, Happy, Dress Up

The young woman listened to the excited chatter and exchange of opinions, but did not join in. Instead, she clutched her home-made patchwork rag-bag to her chest and kept her thoughts to herself. The young bride was indeed shy and demure, and more important, well trained in compliance and duty. She was not the type to naysay the prince, would be breeding as soon as may be and devote herself to the dozen or so children that she would have. A little mouse, the complete opposite to that first, unfortunate, wife who had held her own mind and who had refused to bow to the whims of a bully. Even if he were a royal prince.
The couple, once married and joined one to the other, would be returning to the palace via a different route. Many in the crowds began to push and squirm their way to a new vantage point, but the young woman had seen all she had wanted to see. She walked with a light step across the grass of the park, and headed for the less wealthy part of the city.


Ally, Street, Urban, City, Street Art

    It was a long walk. Her rented home was one of a terraced row of old houses. Two up, two down, the only thing different for each, the extent of the worn, flaking paint on the doors and grimed window panes. The narrow street was shabby, not a slum, but not affluent either. Grubby curtains twitched as, head erect, she walked by. She and her husband were regarded as outsiders. Each morning he went off to work in a modest button maker's shop near St James; she busied herself with dressmaking and kept her house spotlessly clean. She took the  door key from where it nestled securely inside her coat pocket and let herself into the house.
The front door led straight into the living room. Beyond, a tiny but neat kitchen. Upstairs one larger bedroom and another the size of a cupboard. She smiled, there was a posy of fresh flowers in what served as a glass vase on the dining table. A white linen cloth, exquisitely embroidered with little blue and red flowers hid the scratches that were gouged into the old wood. She could hear her husband out in the kitchen putting the kettle on to boil on the wood-burner stove. He appeared through the curtain that served as a door, wiping his wet hands with a towel.
“I’ve done the washing up,” he said as he walked across the faded, worn carpet to kiss her on the cheek and take her bonnet and coat, which he hung on a peg beside the front door. “Was it good to watch?”
She sat in one of the two shabby armchairs and removed her shoes. Her feet were aching from the walk. “I talked to some nice ladies, we swapped picnics.”
“Did you see his new bride?”
“Oh yes. From what I know of her she will not gainsay him. Good luck to her, I say. She’ll breed him lots of children and relish being a doting mama with no mind of her own beyond her brood of spoilt sons and daughters.”
Her partner – he was not her husband, although not one of the neighbours knew this – sat on the arm of the chair and took her hand in his, kissed the gold-plaited band on her finger that sat there for propriety’s sake. “You do not envy her then?” he asked.
The young woman looked up at him, her blue eyes wide with laughter. She tossed back a wisp of her dyed hair, some of the original blonde was showing through at the roots.
“What? Not in the slightest. I pity her. I had a lucky escape, got out before it was too late.”
She nodded towards one of the drawers in the sideboard, a large ugly old thing that, like the table and armchairs, had come with the house. “I think,” she said slowly, “we have kept our heads down long enough. It is time we moved on. The tale of my death is accepted, no one knows of the secret annulment or that the funeral was nothing but an arranged sham. All evidence of the truth has been destroyed, he has seen to that." She snorted contempt, "He strutted around wearing his widower's weeds with false solemnity and doesn’t want me to reappear into his life any more than I want to. We’ve enough squirrelled away in that drawer from the money he paid me to disappear and keep quiet. It's time we started a new life somewhere far, far away from here. The Colonies perhaps?”
She smiled at the man beside her, rose from the chair and removed the posy of flowers from their unusual holder. She picked it up, her smile a combination of amusement, satisfaction and malice, then hurled it towards the tiny brick fireplace where the glass shattered into a myriad of pieces. She picked up its twin and hurled that too, enjoying the sound of shattering destruction. 


Shoes, Bokeh, Fashion, Walking

"I promised myself," she said to the man she had always loved (but had not realised it until it was too late) "that on the day I was truly set free of my mistake of a marriage, I would smash those bloody awful, bloody uncomfortable, fancy glass slippers that the control-freak b*strd prince made me wear!"
Buttons, as her husband was nicknamed, smiled, kissed her. "I love you Cindy. Love you lots and lots."

And that is how the real story of Prince Charming and Cinderella ends. 'Happy Ever After', but not together as a couple!


© Helen Hollick
(I want to make it quite clear that I am referring to Prince Charming of the Cinderella story and not any real prince!)

Did you guess the song title?
Turning Tables by Adele


Helen Hollick has written several books, fiction and non-fiction, 
and is the founder of Discovering Diamonds


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There will be another story inspired by a song tomorrow!


The Full List of Authors

December
2nd   M.J. Logue   First Love 
3rd   Richard Tearle Chips and Ice Cream
4th    Helen Hollick Promises, Promises
5th    Paul Marriner Memories
6th    Pam Webber One Door Closing
7th    Louise Adam Hurt Me Once
8th    Barbara Gaskell Denvil Sticks and Stones
9th    Judith Arnopp Secrets
10th  Erica Lainé  Silk Stockings
11th   Anna Belfrage Hold Me, Love Me, Leave Me? 
12th  Annie Whitehead Frozen
13th  Tony Riches Alas, My Love
14th  Clare Flynn, Zipless
15th  J.G. Harlond The Last Assignment
16th  Elizabeth St John Under The Clock
17th  Alison Morton Honoria’s Battle
18th  Jean Gill The Hunter
19th  Patricia Bracewell Daddy's Gift
20th Debbie Young It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas
21st   Ruth Downie  Doing It Properly
22nd Nicky Galliers What God Has Joined
23rd  Elizabeth Chadwick The Cloak
24th / 25th CHRISTMAS BREAK
26th  Helen Hollick Ever After
27th   Barbara Gaskell Denvil Just The One... Or Maybe Two
28th   Deborah Swift Just Another Day
29th   Amy Maroney What The Plague Brings
30th   Cryssa Bazos River Mud
31st  HAPPY NEW YEAR



 Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics 
but no copyright in names, titles or ideas

StorySong graphic by @Avalongraphics 
additional images via Pixabay accreditation not required

14 comments:

  1. Intriguing - love the setting and clues in the gossip but was expecting historical character so didn't guess who the young woman was until the objects were hurled and smashed :) By strange coincidence, writing 20 years later on the Cinders story has been one of my writers' workshop activities. I too mistrust Prince Charming! Love your alternative and your disclaimer reminds us nicely that real princes haven't always been trustworthy either...

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    Replies
    1. I couldn't resist a happy ever after - but one with a difference!

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  2. I, too, was trying to work out who the historical figure was, it appeared too late in time for Helen to write about plus my own lack of knowledge of much in detail beyond the Plantagenets, I was stumped.

    Hadn't got a clue about the song, but that really didn't matter - the story was wonderful - such an imaginative re-telling. Not Disney but so much more fun!

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  3. Absolutely stumped! Wondered if it might have been one Victoria's children (Jack the Ripper?). Excellent, Helen!!!

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  4. As soon as I realised, I smiled, then laughed. A very refreshing take on the 'usual' story. Neatly done!

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  5. Thank you everyone - glad I had you stumped! *laugh* (and of course, today of all days my internet had to have indigestion and a fit of the wobbles - all back and working now but hence not writing this until nearly 8pm!)

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  6. Sneaky!!! I'd gone through virtually the entire princely chronology!

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  7. Ha! I had no idea who it was until the end. Very clever!

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  8. Perfect! Was intrigued, curious, amused and surprised. Like one giant Kinder Egg of a story :)

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  9. You have certainly turned the tables on us. I had no idea who this prince was and then it all became clear. Loved it.

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Thank you for leaving a comment - it should appear soon, but due to the high rise of unsuitable nuisance spam I am now having to vet comments before they are posted. If you are having problems, contact me on author AT helenhollick DOT net and I will post your comment for you. That said ...SPAMMERS or distasteful rudeness will be stamped on, squashed, composted and very possibly cursed - if you spam my blog, next time something nasty happens to you just remember that I DID warn you...

Helen