A/N: Okay this is the first part of the epic One-shot I was using to get back into practice of writing. The beginning is a little, blah I think, but it picks up. Some of the characters do not behave as they do in canon, which is pretty much the norm for me when I write now that I think about it... Anyway, the second part will be out next weekend maybe.
I also wrote this to help encourage people to write more for this pairing... And I thought the plotline was amusing, it just came to me, and I definitely haven't seen someone else do it, not with this pairing.
Review if you like, Favorite if you really like, and follow if you can't wait to check for Part 2. There will only be 2 parts, so no worries on that. This was a one-shot after all, just got to long for me, had to break it up.
Of Pumpkins and Glass Slippers
Once upon a time, in a time and land much different from our own, there lived a young girl named Isabella. Isabella had long mahogany colored hair, chocolate colored eyes and pale skin that belied the amount of time the young girl spent outdoors. As a daughter of a lesser lord in the kingdom, Isabella lived a simple, but more well off, life on her father's country estate. Their country estate was modest but plentiful, adequately sized for the small family and a handful of servants that worked the grounds. Isabella occasionally assisted the housekeeper, Sue and her two children with the small vegetable garden that was just outside of the kitchen.
Isabella did not have many friends growing up on the estate. Sue and her children were her only friends, but they lived closer into town since Sue's husband was one of the local bakers. Despite this, Isabella was a happy, if somewhat quiet child, spending all morning in lessons with her mother in the library and her afternoons outdoors exploring the grounds. Lord Charles and Lady Renee did not spoil their child, but provided her with what she needed in order to grow into an intelligent young woman. However, tragedy soon struck the small family when Isabella was still a small child of barely six years. Lady Renee soon became ill and died, leaving Isabella in the care of Lord Charles, who had grown distant with the illness and death of his wife. The middle-aged man cared for Isabella as best as he could, with the assistance of the housekeeper. His trade business continued to grow however, and he soon realized that neither he nor his housekeeper could educate Isabella in the ways of a proper court lady.
On one of his trips through the kingdom for his trade business, Lord Charles met the recently widowed wife of one of his fellow lords. Lord Aro was accused of treason against the King and Queen and executed, his lands seized, leaving his wife and two daughters homeless. Lady Sulpicia saw that Lord Charles was looking for a wife to take care of his household while he was away in other kingdoms for business as well as raising his small child. She made it known that she was the best candidate for the position, especially with her own two daughters close to Isabella's age. Lord Charles promptly arranged to marry the woman, hoping to provide Isabella with a mother she needed and sisters who could be her friends.
At first, Isabella was ecstatic to have a new mother and two sisters to play with. However, as Lord Charles secluded himself more and more from his home and from memories of happier times with his beloved wife, Lady Sulpicia and her daughters' true nature began to show. The older daughter initially treated Isabella with indifference, but warmed up to her away from her mother and sister's influence. However, Lady Sulpicia and her younger daughter, who was a few months younger than Isabella, treated the young girl as a servant. When Lord Charles's business started to grow more demanding, he decided to leave the house and Isabella in the hands of his second wife, oblivious to the treatment his daughter had to endure under Sulpicia's care. He departed for a kingdom in the Far East, stating he would be gone for some years. After this day, Isabella's life was drastically changed under the rule of her stepmother.
Bella groaned as a shaft of light filtered across her face, creeping into the confines of her dreams and pulling her awake. Turning away from the offending beam, she rolled over on her simple straw bed in front of the fireplace and blearily blinked her eyes open. She sighed as she saw the embers of the fire from the previous night were dimming, signaling that it was time to get up unless she wanted grief about the house being too cold. The beginning rays of dawn were peeking through the kitchen window as Bella pushed herself off her straw mat, removing the quilt she used as a covering at night. Stretching slightly, Bella opened the closet that served as her dressing room and quickly changed from her nightclothes into her day outfit. She slipped on a pair of shoes that sat by the kitchen door and walked out to the well and hauled in a bucket of water. Bella poured part of the water into the pot that sat over the embers and more into the larger pot that sat directly on the fire. What was left in the bucket, the young woman used to wash the soot and dirt from her face as best as she could. When she finished, the brunette went back to her closet and pulled the small handheld mirror that Sue had gotten her for her 18th birthday a few months ago. She still had soot and dirt smeared in some areas on her face, but Bella did not have time to try to wipe them off as she hastily ran her fingers through her hair and started making breakfast.
Nearly ten years ago when her father, Lord Charles, retreated to the east to manage his growing business from abroad, her stepmother, Lady Sulpicia, seized all of her things and gave them to her own daughters. Bella's room was given to her oldest stepsister Rosalie, who accepted it reluctantly having come to like the younger girl, while the brunette's jewelry and clothes were given to her younger stepsister, Alice. Most of the treasures in the house, including her late mother's jewelry and possessions were locked away in her father's rooms and study, inaccessible to her stepmother. Sulpicia provided her stepdaughter garments befitting the station of a servant, forcing the girl to sleep in front of the fire, as a nicer room couldn't be spare for a "mere servant." Sulpicia and Alice took to calling her Cinderella due to the longhaired brunette being constantly covered in cinders and ashes from the fire. Bella just rolled her eyes at their pettiness, not letting their behavior get to her.
The shrill ringing of a bell broke Bella out of her thoughts and she sighed when she heard it. "Time to feed the harpy," the brunette murmured to herself as she finished placing a pot of tea, croissants and fruit on a tray, complete with teacups and plates before heading upstairs.
"Good morning Alice," Bella greeted the slim, pixie looking girl as she entered her room.
"Hello Cinderella," Alice responded, her face crinkling when she saw her stepsister, "I would insist that you wear better clothes when you bring me food so I don't have to be exposed to such horrid clothing, but that would probably be too much to ask of you."
"Yes Alice," Bella complied, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at Alice's shallowness. Alice was only a few months younger than Bella, and she was completely entranced with all things clothing related. Much of the money that the elder's father sent back every month went to feed Alice's shopping addiction. When they were younger, Alice forced Bella to play dress up with her, always dressing her in uncomfortable and sometimes, inappropriate clothing. It made her uncomfortable, but Bella couldn't say anything to make her stop. As Sulpicia started to regulate more of the household chores and duties to her stepdaughter, letting all of the staff go but Sue, Bella didn't have any time for Alice's whims. It's probably the only thing the young woman was grateful for her stepmother basically making her a servant.
The brunette quickly left the room before the younger girl could cake makeup on her face, or test out a new color combination on her. Bella glanced towards the door next to Alice's room and decided to save it for last, choosing instead to head down the hallway towards her stepmother's room. She set one of the plates of food and teacups on the table in the hall and proceeded into Sulpicia's room. "Good morning Stepmother," Bella forced out, greeting the older woman still reclining in bed.
"Come in Cinderella, quickly," Sulpicia responded, gesturing for the girl to poor her tea for her.
"Yes Stepmother," Bella complied, setting her breakfast down on her bedside table and pouring the older woman her tea.
Sulpicia reached out with one delicate hand to grab the offered tea while using her other hand to brush her thick dark blonde hair over her shoulder. "I've left a list of today's chores by the door Cinderella, please see that they're done." Bella nodded and moved towards the door, picking up the list as she went. "Oh and Cinderella," Sulpicia's voice stopped her just before she left the room, "Do try not to trip today, just makes more work for you dear."
Bella really wanted to yell that if her idiotic youngest daughter would quit leaving her crap all over the house then she wouldn't be so prone to accidents, but she held it in, knowing it would do more harm than good. The brunette sighed and leaned against the wall next to the room, rubbing her face a few times to try and relieve the frustration welling up within her. "This can't be my entire life," Bella whispered sadly, staring at the long list of chores in my hand.
Picking the last tray of food back up, Bella headed back up the hall towards what used to be her room. She nudged the door open and a small smile graced her face when Bella saw the occupant of the room: her other stepsister Rosalie. She was two years older than Bella with long blonde hair, deep blue eyes and womanly curves, extremely different from Alice who resembled a prepubescent boy on most days. While Rosalie never defended Bella against the actions of her mother and sister, she did everything that she could to make her life just a little bit easier.
"Good morning Rosalie," Bella said with much more enthusiasm than when she walked in Alice or Sulpicia's rooms.
"Hello Ella," Rosalie replied as she brushed her hair. "Rough start to the day?" She asked, her eyes meeting Bella's in the mirror.
"You could say that," the brunette said, setting Rosalie's food on her nightstand and bringing the blonde her tea.
The blonde woman gratefully accepted the tea and peered at her stepsister's face for a few moments. "Here," Rosalie said, lifting up a small piece of cloth, "You have soot smears on your face again."
Bella took the cloth from Rosalie's hand and dipped it briefly in the washbasin placed in the room the night before. This has become part of their daily ritual. When Bella would bring her breakfast, Rosalie would give the other girl a washcloth so she could better wash her face and a brush to get the persistent tangles out of her hair. Bella cleaned and straightened herself up the best as she could while Rosalie ate her breakfast, neither of them talking. To Bella, it was a welcome relief from the constant blathering of Alice or Sulpicia's nagging.
"Let me see your list," the blonde ordered once Bella had finished brushing her long mahogany colored hair.
Bella handed the list to Rosalie who then promptly crossed a few items off the list. Any protest died in her throat when she shot Bella a glare that could've frozen fire. "The things I marked off," she said, handing the brunette back the list, "Are things I can do for myself. You don't need to clean my room, or fix my clothes, and while I can't keep you from doing my laundry, I can fold my clothes myself."
"Thank you Rosalie," Bella murmured, carefully taking the list.
Not replying, Rosalie returned to her vanity to continue getting ready for the day. Bella slowly exited the room and returned to the kitchen. By that time, Sue had arrived and was starting the preparations for the midday and evening meals.
"Hello Sue," Bella greeted tiredly as she wiped off the serving tray.
"Good morning Bella," the woman returned, her face displaying proof of her age as she smiled, "Done delivering breakfast then?"
"Yup," the younger woman answered, "Getting ready to start on my list of things to do today."
Sue frowned at the length of the list. "Bella," she started with a tone that Bella was all too familiar with, "I really wish you would reconsider coming to live with Leah, Seth and Me. You would have a real bed and you wouldn't have to serve those three witches."
"Rosalie is not that bad," the brunette protested, "And I've told you before, I won't let Sulpicia and Alice chase me out of my own home. Besides, if I leave to go live with you, you'll lose your job here for sure and how would you guys make ends meet?"
"Sam makes enough money to provide for Leah and Seth," Sue insisted, referring to Leah's husband, "And I'm sure that I would be able to find work somewhere else what with living so close to town and all."
"No Sue," Bella persisted, "I'll be alright. I imagine my father will come back at some point, and until then I can manage well enough."
"All right Bella," Sue sighed, "There's no changing your mind at this point." Just then the bell from Sulpicia's room rang. "I'll go see what the harpy wants, you better go get started on your list."
"Thanks Sue," the brunette said, pulling her outdoor shoes on, "I'll be back in to help with the midday meal."
The older woman nodded and left the room. Bella looked at the first few tasks on her list. "Right, chickens, cows, stalls and garden," she murmured, heading out the back door.
"Princess…" A voice called from behind a large, closed door, trying to wake the occupant of the room.
A low groan was issued from the lump on the giant King sized canopy bed and a strawberry blonde head emerged from underneath the covers. "What is it?" The figure yelled, voice still heavy with sleep.
"Your parents and uncle would like to see you, your highness," the voice called again, "Shall I send for a maid to help you dress?"
"No!" The princess answered, "I can dress myself, tell my parents that I'll be down in a minute."
"Of course your highness," the voice complied, and accompanying footsteps signaled that the person had left.
The princess sighed and crawled out of bed. "What to wear today…" She murmured to herself, opening her closet. Disregarding the dresses that she would normally be forced into, the princess pulled out a pair of riding breeches and a men's dress shirt tailored to fit her body.
Briefly running her fingers through her long hair, the princess exited the room and headed down towards the throne room where her parents were no doubt waiting for her.
"Mother, father," the princess greeted upon entering the room, seeing the two monarchs on their thrones, "Where is uncle? I was told he would be here as well."
"Good morning Tanya," the King replied, "Carlisle will be back momentarily; he was waiting for his son."
Tanya rolled her crystal blue eyes at the mention of her cousin Edward, the whiny drama queen. The 17-year-old boy always seemed to need constant attention, which her uncle, the Grand Duke, and his wife never seemed to tire of giving the child. Besides the fact that he constantly looked down on the fact that she, the crown princess, was a woman, and thus someone whom he considered less than himself. Tanya was about to make another remark, when the door to the great hall opened and a blond haired man entered followed by an egotistical copper headed boy.
"King Marcus, Queen Didyme, Princess Tanya," Carlisle greeted, bowing slightly at the three royals. Tanya nodded her own greeting and took her seat on her father's right hand.
"Carlisle, Edward," Marcus intoned, smiling lightly at his younger brother and nephew, "Why have you asked for this meeting?"
"Well, as you know," Carlisle began, motioning towards Tanya, "The Princess has turned 21 and the coronation is fast approaching, only a few months away."
"Yes," the King said, grinning broadly at first his daughter, before turning his gaze towards his wife, "Didyme and I couldn't be happier that Tanya is stepping up and taking the reigns, gives us time to travel as we wished and remove ourselves from political life."
"Indeed, we are all pleased," Carlisle agreed, while Edward crossed his arms and huffed quietly, "But Tanya is not yet married and has turned away multiple suitors. We must think about what the public will say about this."
"Yes," Didyme agreed, "We too have been worried about this."
"Mother!" Tanya protested, "I have not yet met the one that I want to marry, that is all!"
"And how will you ever meet someone since you spend all of your time gallivanting around on your horse, or with the guards sword fighting," Marcus returned before turning back to the grand duke, "And what do propose to help solve this matter? You know as well as I that Tanya won't agree to an arranged marriage." Tanya snorted in agreement before glancing at Carlisle, waiting to see how he would proceed.
"No of course not," Carlisle answered hastily, "But as you know, my son Edward here is approaching marrying age and is looking for a betrothed, so I suggest we tackle both issues at once."
Tanya stifled back a snicker at the thought of the boy getting betrothed to anyone, particularly a woman. "And what is your suggestion?" Marcus asked, mirth dancing in his eyes.
"I suggest we arrange a ball, in one week's time, inviting all of the available young men and women in the kingdom," the grand duke answered.
The princess perked up slightly at this suggestion, all of the available men and women of the kingdom? Perhaps I might find someone after all. "I'll agree to this ball," Tanya said, startling the adults, "If it is a masquerade ball, the guests having the choice to wear masks or elaborate costumes if they so desired."
"And why such a stipulation darling?" Didyme asked, leaning around her husband to look at her daughter.
Tanya shrugged, trying to look innocent, "Just figured it would be more fun."
Didyme shot her daughter a knowing look, before sending a subtle wink towards her husband who bit back a grin. "We will agree to this ball," Marcus said, "Alert the kingdom; send out invitations to all households. The ball will be held in exactly one week."
An excited gleam entered Edward and Carlisle's eyes and they bowed to the royals before exiting the room. "Well, if that is all that is required of me, I'll just be going…" Tanya started, standing up from her throne.
"Actually Tanya," Didyme interrupted, "If you would stay a few moments, your father and I would like to talk to you."
"Okay…" Tanya said, slowly sitting back down.
Marcus and Didyme looked at each other for a moment before looking at their only child. "Tanya," Marcus began, "Your mother and I, well, we want you to know that, um…" The King looked decidedly uncomfortable with the conversation, so his wife took pity on him.
"What your father is trying to say," Didyme said, moving to be near her daughter, "That if you do meet your true love at the ball, that we will love and support you no matter what."
Tanya looked at her parents questioningly, "Okay, well that's always nice to know."
Didyme nudged Marcus's arm, and the King finally got control of his voice. "Yes, yes, and when you do find your true love, we can't wait to meet her."
Tanya nearly toppled over in shock at the gendered pronoun that left her father's lips while Didyme softly smacked her husband on the back of his head. "You were supposed to break it to her gently," the Queen hissed, glaring at the man.
"That was gently," Marcus protested.
"Wait, wait, you guys knew?" Tanya sputtered, getting control of herself, "How long have you known?"
"You're our only child dear," Didyme answered, "We've had 21 years to figure you out. There isn't much we don't know. It's also why we've been subtly dropping marriage hints and key words around Carlisle and Edward, so that an excuse could be made for gathering all of the eligible young ladies in the kingdom together, for you to find true love."
"I almost feel bad for the young men coming," Marcus said as an after thought, "coming to attract a princess and there won't be one to find. Don't think we didn't notice why you requested a masquerade ball, so that you could wear your preferred attire."
Tanya gaped at how well her parents knew her, but then her eyes filled with tears at the lengths they went to make her happy. "I love you both," the strawberry blonde murmured, embracing her parents.
"We love you too darling, so much," Didyme replied, her husband agreeing as well in the family embrace. "Now," the Queen said as they pulled back, "We must find you a particularly dashing attire for the ball. A proper Prince Charming to find a beautiful Princess."
The princess shot her father a look of horror as she was pulled out of the room by her mother, trailing helplessly after the woman. The aging monarch just shook his head ruefully, and waved encouragements after his daughter.
"A ball!" Emmett exclaimed later that day when Tanya told him the news. The bear of a man was a castle guard, training to be a knight. He and Tanya became good friends as they went through sword and archery training together. The burly man was probably the princess's best friend and the only one (so she thought) that knew she preferred the fairer sex.
"Y'up," Tanya replied, releasing the arrow she was holding, allowing it to fly towards its target, "A masquerade ball. Mother spent all morning trying to help me find a proper costume before deciding that she needed to have the castle tailor prepare one especially for the ball."
The large man hummed, before releasing his own arrow. "So your parents know about your, um, preference?"
Tanya nodded, "Looks like they always knew. I don't know why I was so worried about telling them."
"Probably just scared," Emmett put down his bow and clapped Tanya on her back, "But now you can find a lovely lady at the ball and I can be your wingman."
Tanya rolled her eyes at that, "What about you? Aren't you going to be looking for a 'lovely lady' at the ball?"
Emmett shot the strawberry blonde a conspiratorial look combined with a wiggle of his eyebrows. "Actually," he started, "I've already met one."
"What? And you didn't tell me? I thought we were best friends?"
"We are, we are," Emmett said hastily, "I would've told you sooner if I could, but there are complications with me and my lady love."
"Well, when we met it was like love at first sight," Emmett sighed, "We've been seeing each other for a few months ya see, and we want to get married."
"I'm sensing a but coming…"
"But she said that her mother would never allow it, and her stepfather is out of the kingdom right now, so we're stuck in a bind."
Tanya grimaced, "Yeah, for the King to bless a marriage, one or both of the parents must agree to the union… You guys could always get married in a neighboring kingdom if it comes down to it."
"Yeah, we know," Emmett said, "That's our back up plan if her stepfather doesn't come home soon, and I kind of want you to stand up with me on my big day ya know, can't do that in a different kingdom."
"You'll figure something out Em," Tanya replied as she returned her bow and quiver to the practice shed.
"Something will work out, but in the mean time, I know she's going to be at the ball; her mother will definitely make her attend."
"You'll have to introduce me then."
"Count on it!" Emmett laughed, "But don't get any ideas, she's a looker, but she's mine, got it?"
Tanya rolled her eyes and the behemoth and flinched when she heard her mother yelling for her. "Back to the tailor's for me I guess," she sighed, slowly trudging away to Emmett's laughter.
3 Days Later
"Whoah," Bella said as she observed the hustle and bustle in town. The brunette young woman hustled through the busy streets, aiming for her best friend's bakery. "Yikes it is busy out there," she sighed as she entered the store despite the closed sign in the window. "Leah," Bella yelled once entering the shop, "Why is it so busy outside, and why are you closed?"
"Bella!" A slightly older voice cried out from the back of the shop and another young woman appeared. Leah's dark hair was pulled up in a bun while her tanned skin was dusted lightly with flour, "Haven't you heard, about the masquerade ball being held by the King and Queen? Supposedly it is for the princess and the grand duke's son, so all of the eligible young people in the kingdom are invited."
"Wow," Bella whistled, looking back outside, "All of this for a ball? Must be pretty important."
"Well the King and Queen hold nothing back when it comes to the princess, they even requested Sam and I to bake the bread and pastries for the ball!" Leah squealed in excitement.
Bella squealed as well and embraced her best friend, "I am so happy for you! This will be great for your business!"
"I know!" Leah cried, "I mean, we only got this job because the other bakery in town is tied up working on the cakes for the ball, but we're not looking a gift horse in the mouth. This will help us out considerably, maybe enough to finally convince you to come live with us and get away from your awful stepmother."
"Leah," Bella shot her friend a look indicating that that particular subject was not up for discussion.
The older girl shrugged and walked back into the kitchen with the younger girl following closely. "By the way, how did you not know about the ball? It's been the talk of the town since it was announced, and invitations were sent out to all of the households of the nobles in the kingdom."
"The invitation probably hadn't come yet before I left this morning, you know it is like a two hour walk to get here from the estate," Bella replied.
Leah nodded, "That is true, it's why I'm glad that Seth takes Mom out in the buggy in the morning when he makes his runs, and picks her up at night too. Do you want Sam to give you a ride back?"
"No it's fine," the brunette replied, "The walk does me some good, and keeps me out of the house for longer."
Just then, a large man entered through the back door of the shop carrying a few packages of flour. "Bella!" Sam greeted, hugging the younger girl, lifting her slightly off the floor.
"Sam! Put me down!" Bella laughed, embracing the man anyway.
Sam chuckled, "Alright squirt, alright, I'll set you down." The large man set her down, hearing his wife barely suppressing her giggles. "What brings you to town anyway?" Sam asked once Bella was settled back with two feet on the ground.
"Oh, well Sulpicia wanted me to get some bread and pastries, but since you guys are busy, I'll just go home and tell her I couldn't get them," Bella replied, straightening her clothing from Sam's embrace.
"Nonsense Bella, you're practically family," Leah said, "We can give you some of the stuff that we've been testing for the ball, or aren't up to royal standards."
"How generous of you Leah," Bella retorted, smiling at the older girl.
"That's just how I am," the older girl laughed, wrapping some bread and pastries up for Bella and placing them in her pack.
"Thanks Leah," the brunette replied, getting ready to head back home.
Leah shot Sam a look, and the large man nodded, heading back to the table to work on preparing dough for bread. "Bella, why don't you stay for a while longer, have some tea so we can catch up. I feel like I only see you when that witch sends you here to get bread."
"I know," Bella sighed, "I'm not really given time off, ever, and when I do find some free time, it takes too long to get here."
"Well then stay and have tea with me now. There's no rush for you to get home is there? Your stepmother will probably be occupied with the ball invitation," Leah responded, urging the girl to sit down at the table on the other side of the kitchen from Sam.
Bella looked at the offered seat and smiled slightly at Leah. "All right, I guess I can stay for a little while."
"Where have you been?" Sulpicia demanded when Bella finally got home.
"Um, in town at Leah and Sam's bakery," the brunette replied, showing her stepmother the bag of goods she got.
"Why did it take you so long?"
"The town was super busy today," Bella offered as an explanation, "Something about a ball?"
"Ah yes," Sulpicia's eyes glazed over, "The ball, a masquerade ball, but still a ball. I hear that the princess and the grand duke's son will be looking for suitors at the ball, which is why I need your help getting Alice and Rosalie ready to attract suitable husbands, maybe even the duke's son!"
"From what I heard, the invitation for the ball was for all eligible young men and women of the kingdom, so that means that I can go too," the brunette said, wanting to go to the ball. Not to find true love, but just to have some fun for once.
"You," Alice said laughing, "What would you wear to the ball?"
"No Alice, Cinderella here is right," Sulpicia said, smirking at Bella, "If you finish all of your chores over the next few days, and manage to fix yourself an outfit, you may go to the ball."
"Really stepmother?" Bella asked, unbelievingly.
"Mother!" Alice protested.
"Yes Cinderella, but I must tell you that I've given Sue the next few days off so she could help her daughter and son-in-law since she told me of the great honor they were given. This means that you must do Sue's work as well as your own," Sulpicia said, "That won't be any problem will it?"
"No stepmother," Bella said, clenching her fists, "Of course not."
"I thought not, you are dismissed."
Bella walked back to the kitchen where Sue was packing to leave for the night. "Bella," Sue said when the girl walked into the room, "Sulpicia has given me a few days off, but I won't take them. You need me here."
"No Sue, don't worry about it, I can get everything done. Leah and Sam need you more, especially since they have the palace work on top of their regular orders that Seth delivers," Bella replied, "Is he going to the ball?"
"Oh no, he's only 15, far to young for the ball. No, but he, Leah and Sam are going to be helping serving, so they will be there. If I take the days off to help them, will you have time to find a dress for the ball?"
Bella sighed, "Probably not, I'm going to try though, I've got to at least try."
"If you need anything, anything at all, just send word and I'll come down," Sue told her, "You're like a second daughter to me Bella, I care about you just as much as I do Leah."
"Thanks Sue," the brunette said, tears pooling in her eyes, "I'll be okay for a few days." With those parting words, Sue exited the door to wait for Seth, who would be driving by any minute now. Bella sighed and took a moments respite to enjoy the silence, but her stepmother bellowing her name throughout the manor broke her out of her meditation.
"Coming stepmother," Bella sighed, exiting the kitchen.
The day of the Ball
"Rosalie, your dress looks amazing," Bella told her favorite stepsister as she looked over the gorgeous crimson dress and accompanying black-feathered mask. The dress had off the shoulder sleeves with lacey black accents across the bodice, and on the skirt, creating a beautiful combination.
"Thanks Ella," Rosalie replied, carefully fingering the dress still laid out on her bed, "I wish you could come to the ball, I could really use your help."
"With what?" Bella asked, turning towards the blonde.
Rosalie glanced towards the closed door then back towards the younger woman. She waved Bella over closer to her, and made a gesture for her to keep her voice down. "I'm engaged," the blonde whispered, shocking the brunette.
"What?!" Bella tried to yell, but Rosalie clamped a hand over her mouth, stopping the noise from escaping. "What?" The brunette whispered out once the blonde had removed her hand, "What about all this effort to ensnare the grand duke's son?"
The blonde rolled her eyes. "He's like 3 years younger than me, and such a drama queen. No, my fiancé is a castle guard training to be a knight. He's kind of a dork, but I love him." Rosalie adopted a faraway look in her eyes, thinking about her fiancé.
"Why haven't you told anyone?" Bella asked.
"We can't get married, not yet," Rosalie whispered sadly.
"Wha…" Bella almost said before the realities of the situation filtered into her mind. "You can't get anyone to bless the marriage, not with Dad out of town."
Rosalie nodded, "Mother would never consent to me marrying a 'lowly' castle guard, not when she believes that I can catch the grand duke's son, or some other nobleman's son."
"What about Alice?"
"Mother is pushing for an engagement between her and Lord Caius's son Jasper."
Bella looked confused for a moment, "Aren't you guys cousins or something?"
"Second cousins," Rosalie confirmed, "Mother doesn't care. I doubt the arrangement will work out though. I heard from Jasper's younger sister Jane that he is completely besotted with a barkeep in town who is well endowed. Apparently Jane and Alec followed him one time and saw them together."
"They must be talking about Heidi," Bella said, thinking about the friendly, flirtatious woman in town she met a few years ago through Leah.
"You know her?"
"Yeah, she's a friend," Bella nodded, "She used to be a huge flirt, but she's tamed it down in the past few months and I wondered why, guess now I know. Oh, if you ever need a place to visit Emmett in secret or just to get away, her tavern is the place. If you let her know that I sent you, she'll take care of you."
"See Ella? This is why I need you at the ball tonight," Rosalie said, smiling at the younger girl.
"No, just sneak off with your guard, I'm sure Stepmother will be too busy rubbing elbows to notice, and Alice too busy trying to attract the Duke's son, or any guy that looks her way really."
Rosalie smiled, "That's true." The blonde looked down for a moment before looking back at Bella, "Ella, you know that I tried to get you something when we were at the shop, but Mother was watching too closely."
"It's alright Rosalie, I'll be fine not going."
"But don't you want to meet a nice guy, who will sweep you off your feet? The ball will be filled with a ton of them tonight."
"I don't need anyone to save me Rose. If I truly wanted to leave, I would, and not even Stepmother could stop me, but she will not chase me out of my own home. Someone has to make sure that she doesn't try to mess with my father or mother's things," Bella said fiercely, "And you know she would. I don't think she knows that I've noticed the scuff marks on the door lock."
Rosalie looked at Bella appreciatively, "You know, I didn't really like you when I first came, because it seemed like you just took the abuse that Mother heaped on you, but I see now that it just makes you stronger, not weaker."
Bella blushed bright red at that statement from the blonde and was about to stutter a response, when the door was flung open. "Bella!" Alice came in whining, "I need you to fix my dress!" The brunette sighed and followed after the shorter girl, Rosalie stifling her laughter behind her. Bella spent the rest of the day assisting Alice and Sulpicia with their dresses until finally, coachmen from the palace arrived just after sundown to escort them to the ball.
"Now Cinderella," Sulpicia said as she glided into the coach, "We probably won't be back until early tomorrow morning, especially if all goes well, so I expect you to be up when we get home to assist us."
"Yes Stepmother," Bella answered, fighting an eye roll.
"So sorry you can't come Cinderella," Alice giggled as she flounced to the carriage in a hideous olive green frock.
"Bye Ella," Rosalie murmured, briefly sending me a sad look before entering the carriage.
Bella watched them leave in the carriage and walked around to the back of the manor towards the garden. "I know that I said that I didn't care if I could go to the ball," the brunette sighed, "but I really would like to go."
Suddenly, a bright light emerged from the center of the garden, causing Bella to shield her eyes. The light eventually dimmed, revealing two beautiful women clothed in beautiful dresses of white and light blue.
"Gah, Irina! Why did you tag along?!" One of the women demanded, sending a furious glare at the other.
"Because Kate, this is your first assignment with your charge and I wanted to make sure that you do it correctly!" Irina stated.
The taller woman, identified as Kate, looked like she was ready to blow up again but Bella interrupted them. "Hey, hi, um, who are you guys?" The brunette asked the two platinum blondes, drawing their attention.
"Oh," Kate perked up, "Are you Isabella, aka Bella, aka Cinderella, aka Ella… Girl, you have too many names."
"Yes, I'm Bella," the brunette answered, stopping the other woman from continuing.
"Right, of course you are," Kate smiled, "So, I'm Kate, and I'm your fairy godmother." Irina coughed and Kate huffed, "And this is Irina, my supervisor, we're here to help you."
"Fairy godmother…" Bella murmured, "Okay, I'll bite, how are you going to help me exactly?"
"Well, we're going to help you get to the ball my dear," Irina said, smiling at the girl.
"Yes, go to the ball, meet your true love, fall in love, etc.," Kate emphasized, wiggling her eyebrows at the brunette.
"My true love is at the ball?" Bella asked.
"That, my dear Bella, is entirely up to you. True love isn't something that is predetermined, it's decided by the parties involved after all," Irina commented, pulling out a wand, "Although, I do have a good feeling about this ball, and about who you might meet there."
"Who?" Kate asked, shooting a confused look towards the other woman. Irina just gave her a calm, patient gaze and Kate's eyes lit up, "Ooh, I know who, this'll be good."
"Um, guys," Bella said, "The ball, remember?"
"Right, Kate, you take care of Bella's outfit, and I'll work on transportation," Irina ordered, glancing around the garden.
"Okay, okay, costume," Kate said gleefully, rubbing her hands together, "Spin around slow Bella so I can get a good look at you." Bella complied and twirled slowly, almost feeling the tendrils of magic slicking around her form, measuring her. "Alright, I'm thinking white and gold for the colors, with a white feathered mask, which will look lovely with some dark eye makeup. Now hold still Bella, and let the magic work its, well, magic." The brunette closed her eyes as she really felt the magic washing over her this time, swirling around her in a haze.
"How do I look?" Bella asked once she felt the magic finish.
Kate conjured a mirror for Bella. "Take a look for yourself," she said, motioning towards the reflective glass. The brunette gasped as she saw herself in the mirror. Her dress appeared to be spun from liquid gold and hugged her form until it flared out around the waist in a gorgeous skirt. The neckline was low cut, revealing much of her ample cleavage with lace, off the shoulder sleeves draped along her upper arms, serving no functional purpose, but adding an air of mystery and appeal. On her face was a white mask with white feathers tipped with gold, and her hair was pulled into a loose braid and slung over her left shoulder.
"Damn, I look good," Bella murmured, brushing her hand over the silky fabric.
"Check out the shoes too girl," Kate urged, looking down at Bella's feet.
Bella looked down and on her feet were crystal slippers, expertly crafted. "These are beautiful," she murmured, "And comfy despite being made of crystal."
"That's magic for you dear," her fairy godmother replied. Bella opened her mouth to say something else when Irina returned.
"Oh good, you're dressed, I've got the carriage and everything for you," Irina motioned for Bella and Kate to follow her to the road where a white and gold carriage with four white horses sat in front of the house. A driver sat in front of the magical carriage and two footmen stood ready in front of the door. "Now Bella, there are limitations on this magic," Irina warned, "While the dress and everything that goes with it are yours because they were given to you as gifts by your fairy godmother, the carriage and horses will disappear on the stroke of midnight."
"Why?" Bella asked.
"Because Bella, as your fairy godmother, I can give you gifts, but only one gift at a time," Kate replied sadly, "Your costume, while it has multiple parts, is still only one gift, you needed two tonight. I see now that that is why Irina came with me."
"So go," Irina said, "Have fun at the ball, but keep track of the time, you only have a few hours until midnight."
Bella nodded and stepped over to the carriage, entering with the assistance of the footmen. "Thank you both so much," she said to the magical women, "How can I ever repay you?"
"It was our pleasure Bella, now go meet your true love," Irina replied softly.
"But if your conscious does get to you, I hear that Kate or Katrina is a good name for a little girl," Kate said winking.
The brunette laughed as Irina smacked the back of Kate's head and the two disappeared in a swirl of light as the carriage left for the ball.
"Think this outfit will fool all those men out there looking to attract a princess?" Tanya asked Emmett, straightening her waistcoat. Her strawberry blonde's hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, a few wisps falling in her face over her smooth black mask.
"You look hot dude," Emmett boomed, clapping Tanya on her back, "Though you still look rather feminine, I'm guessing that is why the Queen requested a specially made costume?"
"Yeah, Mother requested that I at least be truthful with who I am as a woman if I wasn't going to be truthful with who I am as a princess," she replied, tugging at her suit coat, fidgeting due to nerves.
The two finished getting ready and entered the grand ballroom unseen. "I see that Edward is attending without a mask," Emmett said as he spotted Tanya's cousin at the front of a long line of young women.
"Well, he did want everyone to know that the ball was to be done so that he could find a bride," Tanya returned, "Wouldn't be good if people couldn't recognize him."
Emmett was about to say something else when he caught sight of a blonde woman with a black mask clad in a gorgeous crimson dress. "If you would excuse me man, I've just spotted my lady love without her family and I must not keep her waiting."
Tanya watched as her best friend strode off towards a beautiful blonde and led her away from the line of people greeting the grand duke and his son. The princess smiled at her best friend before turning her attention back to the women in line. Soon the greetings were ended as the dancing began. Tanya saw Emmett twirling his love as she assessed the women present. None of them sparked any interested within the princess, all of them simpering, attempting to attract the eye of her cousin. She could also see many of the young men glancing around, presumably looking for her, which caused her to chuckle.
Soon enough, Emmett approached the strawberry blonde with his own blonde on his arm. "Tanya, this is my fiancée Rosalie, Rosalie, this is my best friend Tanya," he introduced, gesturing between the two women.
"Tanya as in…?" Rosalie silently questioned.
"Yes, as in…" Tanya confirmed, "But I would be extremely grateful if you didn't mention it right now."
"Of course," the blonde smiled, "Emmett has told me much about you."
"And you," Tanya returned, "I look forward to being able to stand up with Emmett on your wedding day."
Rosalie gave Emmett a soft smile and Tanya resigned herself to spend time with the both of them in between the different dances until a flash at the top of the grand staircase drew her attention. Tanya's breath was instantly stolen by a vision clothed in liquid gold descending the stairs. However, the princess was not so unaware that she didn't notice that many of the other men in the room were equally as enchanted by the young woman, as well as her cousin Edward. Moving quickly to beat her cousin to the beautiful vision, Tanya glided effortlessly in front of the gold clad young woman. Crystal blue eyes met eyes of the smoothest of chocolates. "Would you care to dance?" Tanya asked, holding out her hand towards the young woman.
Tanya felt the woman's gaze sweeping across her body as if assessing her, sizing her up. The princess held her breath and brown eyes met blue once more. "I'd love to," the woman answered, taken the offered hand. Tanya smiled widely and led the woman out onto the dance for, barely suppressing a triumphant smirk as she passed her fuming cousin.
"So what is your name angel?" Tanya asked, once the dance had begun, "Or shall I just call you beautiful all night?"
A delightful blush appeared on the other woman's cheeks at Tanya's words, "Isabella, though if it is your desire to call me beautiful, who am I to say no? Although, I have to say, that you are very beautiful as well, or would you prefer handsome?"
"Ah, so you did notice that I am indeed a woman," Tanya laughed, "And yet you still agreed to dance?"
"Gender doesn't matter to me that much, the person is what is important, and you intrigue me," Isabella replied.
"I'm not sure, something about your eyes just drew me in," Isabella admitted blushing slightly, "And I don't think I ever got your name."
"If the night goes well, I might just tell you," Tanya smirked, drawing a peal of laughter from the brunette.
Once the song ended, Tanya bowed slightly to the brunette woman. "Care to join me outside?" She asked, "I would hate for our time together to be interrupted by others requesting a dance from you, though I wouldn't deny you the pleasure of more dance partners for the evening."
"That is kind of you, but I think I've found my favorite dance partner of the evening, but don't you want to dance with other young women?"
"You're the only one to catch my attention," Tanya answered truthfully, eliciting another smile from the brunette.
"So then, where shall we go from here?"
"Well if you would be so kind as to take my hand beautiful, the gardens here are quite lovely. Not as lovely as you of course, but they are satisfactory enough."
With that, Tanya took Isabella's hand, and led her out towards the gardens. Emmett and Rosalie watched them as the two left the dance floor and retreated outside. "Looks like my best friend is smitten, you think it's true love?" The bulky man asked.
"Not yet, but definitely love at first sight," Rosalie smiled before a thoughtful look crossed her face.
"What's wrong?" Emmett inquired.
"I'm not sure, but the woman seems familiar," the blonde scrunched her face up for a brief moment, "I can't place her though."
"Well, we'll just have to find out if Tanya decides to relinquish her attention for a moment later on," Emmett smirked, looking forward to knowing the woman who has entranced his best friend.
A few hours later, just before midnight, Tanya and Isabella were still in the garden, deep in discussion. The two found they had many things in common, such as a love for books and the outdoors, but while Tanya loved action and adventure books, Isabella loved fantasy and romance with a little bit of mystery. Both of the women enjoyed horseback riding, but while Tanya loved swordplay and archery, Isabella preferred gardening though her father did try to teach her to use a sword when she was younger.
"I was too uncoordinated for sword fighting, I would literally trip over air and almost impale myself with the sword," Isabella told a laughing Tanya, "I'm not as uncoordinated now, but the memories are just too much for me to be able learn swordplay properly."
"You must be joking?" Tanya gasped out in between peals of laughter.
"No, no joke, a doctor was pretty much on call at my house all the time when I was younger," Isabella replied, smiling at the older woman. They both lost themselves in laughter, enjoying the sound of each other's laughter.
Once they got control of themselves, they sat quietly and simply stared at each other, relishing the silence. "Do you believe in true love?" Tanya asked, staring into liquid chocolate.
Isabella snorted and rolled her eyes, "I read romance novels, of course I believe in true love."
"What about love at first sight?"
The brunette studied the strawberry blond for a moment and lifted her hand to ghost her fingertips across the older woman's face, the part not covered by a mask anyway. "I'm starting to," Isabella whispered, moving forward to capture the pink lips in front of her.
Tanya felt she should have been surprised by Isabella's actions, but she wasn't. This had been building between them since the moment their eyes met in the ballroom, and Tanya was not about to let the opportunity slip from her. She moved forward, wrapping one arm around Isabella's waist and bringing her other hand up to cup the young woman's face. Isabella's arms wound around Tanya's neck, pulling the strawberry blonde closer. Tanya opened and closed her mouth over the brunette's, capturing her bottom lip between her teeth and soothing it with her tongue.
Moaning at the feeling, Isabella opened her mouth, allowing the other woman's tongue to sneak in, entwining with her own. The two dueled and danced, moving the words they didn't speak between their mouths, creating a new type of conversation, transcending language itself.
"Oh I definitely believe in love at first sight," Isabella whispered once they broke apart, breathing heavily.
"Me too," Tanya replied smiling.
They both sat there with goofy grins on their faces until the distance chime of the clock tower in town drew their attention. "Half an hour until midnight," Isabella said, regret lacing her voice. She turned back to Tanya and gave her a sad smile, "I'm so sorry, but I have to go. I have to get home."
"So soon?" Tanya asked, "The ball doesn't end until later."
"I have to get home before my family does. They wouldn't be happy if they returned and I wasn't there," Isabella replied, standing up.
"Please don't go," Tanya pleaded, her hand catching Isabella's arms.
"I'm sorry," the brunette replied, her eyes full of regret before rushing out of the garden.
Tanya sat there for a minute before shaking her. "I'm so stupid," she murmured before standing up to give chase. She caught sight of Isabella leaving the castle in a golden carriage. "I'm too late," Tanya cried, staring down at the ground in defeat. Something sparkled further down on the stairs and caught her attention. Stepping down the stairs, Tanya bent down and found that it was one of Isabella's crystal slippers. "I will find you my love," Tanya murmured, staring determinedly after the disappearing carriage.
A/N: Review if you like, also if you would like to see more fairy tale renditions using Bella and different characters, just drop a line and I'll see what I can do. It's kind of amusing for me, and they make good short stories, despite what the writers of Once Upon a Time think, fairy tales are short for a reason...