HindaElla found her way exhaustedly to her fireplace sleeping niche. She was asleep almost instantly, although strange visions of frogs holding lances while riding horses wafted their way into her dreams.
Early in the morning the peace of the sleeping villagers was disturbed by the sound of a royal herald trumpeting his way through town. "Hear ye, Hear ye. His Royal Highness, Prince O'mydreams, will be coming through the village today looking for his lost love. All village maidens are to hold themselves in readiness for his arrival."
HindaElla's stepsisters came squealing down the stairs. "He's coming," they yelled. "He's coming." There was a crafty look on both their faces. "Another chance to catch him."
"Look at my hair!" one screeched and headed back up the stairs for a bout with the curling rods.
"I've broken a nail!" wailed the other sister, and ran in search of an emery board.
HindaElla remained where she was, among the cinders of the fireplace. "No way I am getting into that darned dress again just because he decides that today is a good day to come looking," she thought. "Just because I was silly enough to say 'some day my prince will come' doesn't mean it has to be today."
The morning passed all too quickly for HindaElla's stepsisters and not nearly slowly enough for HindaElla. But finally the sound of the royal clarion could be heard as the Prince and his entourage stopped in front of HindaElla's house.
A quick knock on the door and then the royal party entered into the house. "My son has seen all the maidens of the village this morning. Only your daughters are left," the King told HindaElla's stepmother. "Bring forth your daughters.
The sisters had been waiting on the stairs and, pushing and shoving each other, they burst into the room. "It's me Prince!" the oldest one yelled while batting her eyelashes and tossing her newly curled hair.
"No, it's me!" the second sister countered while waving her fingers newly tipped with Pink I'm a Princess by Maybelline.
"Sorry, girls, not how it's going to go," said the King. He then withdrew from his pocket the glass shoe that was the only clue to the real princess being searched for. "If you fit this shoe then we'll talk."
Dismay was written on the sisters' faces. They glanced at their tiny little feet and at the size of the glass slipper before them. The eldest summed it up when she said, "That's going to be a mighty big shoe to fill."
From her vantage point on the fireplace ledge HindaElla gave a short little laugh. "Bigger then you think sister dear."
Try as they might, the two stepsisters could not get the shoe to stay on their foot. One tried stuffing tissues into the toe, and one tried stuffing tissues into the heel, but the clearness of the crystal showed up their tricks.
Despondent, the Prince and the King headed towards the door. "Wait," the stepmother called out. "There is one more young maiden in the house here. She is the daughter of my late husband." And with that she called loudly "HindaElla come here now!"
For just one second HindaElla debated pretending that she had not heard, but she recognized the note in her stepmother's voice that said "Don't obey and you will be very sorry." Well, they'd have to take her just as she was, and she stepped into the parlor and faced the crowd gathered there.
There was an astonished silence that greeted her. She had casually looped her hair back into a ponytail, and there were dried rose petals stuck here and there. She'd dressed for comfort in a long denim skirt and a fleece hoodie with a picture of Sir Ragamore emblazoned on the front. And there were cinders and soot on her face and her hands. She made altogether a rather unenticing picture.
The King shook his head. In no way could this be the fairy tale princess of the ball. He turned and beckoned to his son that they were leaving. As they reached the door HindaElla spoke for the first time. "They're such an interesting color of green."
The prince froze in his tracks and then spun around. In three short strides he stood in front of HindaElla. "And how did Sir Aggravain do at the last tournament?" he asked?
HindaElla shrugged her shoulders dismissively. "You mean with his lance?"
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