Story by Christine Linh Nguyen

By the time the fairy arrives at the manor, Ella’s already stripped herself of the dress her stepsisters had ruined and changed into a sensible tunic and pants. The fairy’s flabbergasted by Ella’s choice of attire, while Ella, on the other hand, is unperturbed at the sight of the elderly woman swathed in a silk cloak dripping sparkles all over the floor Ella had just scrubbed earlier that morning.

“May I help you?” Ella asks.

“Dear, dear, Cinderella! I am your fairy godmother and I am here to make your dreams come true.” The fairy waves her wand, releasing more glitter and Ella inwardly wishes the insipid creature would get to the point already.

“That’s nice,” Ella says. “But I can take care of myself, thank you very much.” With that, Ella turns on her heel and begins packing for her journey. Since her father’s death, Ella has stored what few valuables she could squirrel away without her step-family noticing beneath a loose brick by the fireplace. Now that she’s eighteen and a full-fledged adult, she thinks she’s amassed enough money and just worldly enough to be able to survive on her own.

“Er, but don’t you want to go to the prince’s ball, dearie?”

“Oh no, that was just a diversion,” Ella snorts. “I never expected Stepmother to allow me to go.”

“Well, dear, I can help you get there! I’ll give you a gown, and a coach, and shoes, and soon enough, you’ll be off to your own happily-ever-after, Cinderella!”

“No thanks,” Ella replies. “I’m going into the village to see Ruby, the blacksmith’s daughter. We’ve been courting for a few years now and her father’s agreed to take me on as his apprentice. And if that doesn’t work out, Ruby’s mother is the baker, and I’m plenty good with food, considering how I have to cook all the meals in this house.”

“Dear, dear, Cinderella,” the fairy says, her wings fluttering up a dust storm of sparkles behind her. “You can’t possibly want a life like that! Don’t you want to leave all the ashes behind? If you marry the prince, you’ll be taken care of the rest of your life. Don’t you want a happily-ever-after?”

“I’ll pass, thanks.” Ella swings her pack onto her back and heads for the door. “I don’t need an ending. I just need a new start.” She pulls out a matchbook from her pocket and glances back at the fairy, who wilts under her gaze. “And by the way, my name is Ella.”

She lights the house on fire before she leaves to make her own happiness.