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Me, Cinderella

By:Aubrey Rose

e academy has wonderful programs,” Eliot said. “Of course, with the paper you’ll be publishing soon, I’m guessing you’ll have offers from any grad school you decide to attend.”

“Paper?” My heart beat faster. It was unheard of for professors to share credit with interns.

“Of course. Did you think I was going to let you slack off in your last days here?”

I kissed his skin in response, letting my hands move freely across the raised marks on his chest. When I reached his face, he looked serious, like he had when I first saw him sitting on the bench in front of the library cafe.

“Thank you,” he said. His hands moved in small gasps along my back.

“For what?” My voice caught as his hand found the small of my back and pulled me against him.

“For helping me…to know I can live again. For helping me to find love.”

“You’re the one who found me,” I said. “Even though you didn’t know my name.”

“That’s right,” Eliot said. “I had forgotten. A temptress who runs away to hide from me. What have I gotten myself into?” He smiled.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have run.”

“I’ll just make sure to keep an eye on you.”

My gaze wandered over the room. The candlelight reflected on the windowpane, but I could almost make out the stars in the sky outside.

“I can’t believe I’m here in Hungary. Finally. After all these years.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through so much to get here. I know it’s been hard.”

“That’s the understatement of the century. But I’m here now,” I said, turning my gaze to him. “With my prince. It’s a Cinderella story after all.”

“Your life hasn’t exactly been a fairy tale.”

My hand reached out to his cheek, my fingers tracing the line of his scar. I looked deep into his eyes and saw in them the same longing for peace that was in my heart.

“Neither has yours.”

I visited my mother’s grave again that weekend. Springtime had arrived in full force, and the trees around me blossomed with white flowers. When the wind blew, the flower petals fell like snow onto the warm ground. Sitting there, I felt like every atom in the wind moved exactly the way it should. Life would move on with or without me, and I didn’t need to change myself in order to be beautiful, or happy, or worthy of love. I already was.

Forget the castle, the crown, all of the gilded trappings of royalty that shone brightly but meant nothing. Forget the glass slipper, the horse-drawn carriage. None of that mattered now. Eliot wasn’t a prince, and I wasn’t a princess. We were just two broken people, half-mended, struggling to make sense of the world as best we could.

I once thought that happily ever after was only true in books. Now, I’m beginning to see how the future might play out if my dreams continue to pale before reality. Every sentence I could think of has already been said a hundred times over, by people whose words come out perfect and beautifully formed, where mine die on the tongue or straggle out onto the page, mangled and imperfect. But my story isn’t perfect, because I’m not perfect. Nothing is perfect except maybe in math, in the line that extends forever in both directions. Math is beautiful, I have always known that, but so is life. And I have grown to accept imperfection.

I am living my own fairytale to which nobody, not even me, knows the ending. But I can imagine my life written down, all of my past and future tragedy and triumph and yes, even romance, and the book does not always end in sorrow. For the first time in my life, I can imagine the reader turning to the end, the pages already lighter for being finished, and reading the final few words that an unknown author had scrawled across the last page:

“And they lived happily ever after.”

- The End -