Heating in her house always seemed to be a problem. The kitchen was warm enough but the bedrooms were always freezing. Worse yet, poor HindaElla had to share a room with her stepsisters, stepsisters who spent half the night talking and giggling about clothes and boys and what kind of furnishings they would buy when married. Not HindaElla's cup of tea at all.
When trying to fix the fireplace in the kitchen one day HindaElla discovered two important things: first, the warmest place in the house was the ledge by the fireplace, and so she determined to sleep there every night, and second, when she was all dusty from the cinders and ash from the fireplace no one seemed to comment incessantly about her looks. HindaElla was a smart girl and from then on she spent every night sleeping in the kitchen and every day covered in soot.
HindaElla's stepmother was not happy with what HindaElla was doing, but the woman was tearing her hair out trying to get her daughters married off. If HindaElla wanted to look like a street urchin then so be it, at least for now. The two sisters were older then HindaElla and took precedence. Two girls trying to find husbands at the same time was nerve wracking; three would be impossible. Days and nights were spent positioning the girls so that they would catch the right eyes. Nothing seemed to be helping, nothing.
One day there came a notice to the woodcutter's house that the King and Queen were holding a ball. The purpose of the ball was to introduce their son, the Prince, to all the eligible young ladies of the kingdom for the purpose of choosing one of them as his wife. Every eligible girl was commanded to attend the ball. The woman steeled herself for what was to come: her daughters would be overexcited until the ball came, and HindaElla would get that mutinous look in her eye and decide she wasn't going.
And so it was until fate took a turn. Into the neighborhood moved an elderly woman, by the name of Mrs. Gottenmuter. It was assumed she was a widow, for how else could she have amassed her obvious wealth and be living alone? The widow took an interest in her new neighbors, in HindaElla especially. And when news that HindaElla was balking at going to the ball reached her ears, she stepped in and took over.
What she said to HindaElla no one would ever know but there was a new light in HindaElla's eyes. The neighborhood reckoned that the widow must have used magic or witchcraft, for how else could she have persuaded HindaElla to change her ways. Clearly she must have waved a magic wand. What she waved was a platinum credit card with an unlimited balance.
The first step was a new hairstyle and makeup. Next up was a trip to a dress designer. "I can't breathe and talk at the same time in this dress!" wailed HindaElla. "It's too tight!" Mrs. Gottenmuter just told her that talking would be unnecessary and had the dressmaker pull in the bodice yet another inch. Finally was a trip to the shoemaker. "What's wrong with my boots," yelled HindaElla. "They're comfortable!" Mrs. Gottenmuter gave her just one look that quelled rebellion and then, at last, held up the perfect pair. Platform stilleto heels with an opaque crystal base. "You're joking," yelled HindaElla. Mrs. Gottenmuter glared and HindaElla gave in and put on the offending footwear. "I'm going to break my neck in these things! And if the Prince steps on my toes while dancing he's going to shatter the shoe!" Mrs. Gottenmuter was unmoved.
Finally crimped, and poked, and tinted and cinched, HindaElla caught a glimpse of herself in a full-length mirror. Her eyes opened wide. "Who is that?" she said, pointing at the mirror. "That, my dear," Mrs. Gottenmuter told her, "is the girl the Prince is going to want to marry above all others."
To Be Continued