Tale #102: You Don’t Have To Read This, But I Hope You Do

Dear Sir,

I thought it best to contact you by mail, considering the events of this past week. You don’t have to read this, of course – I’m sure you are very busy, after all – but I hope that you do. Perhaps it will do you good to hear an explanation of events from another point of view.

After the events of Friday night – I’m sure I don’t have to explain that in detail – it seems a vital misunderstanding of the importance of our… tryst (shall we say)… has begun to blossom in your mind. Yes, I enjoyed myself very much – as I hope did you – but I thought a man in your position would have understood, as seemed clear to me, that this was simply an enjoyable dalliance rather than the precursor of something, indeed of anything, deeper, or more personally committing.

Now, it is possible this misunderstanding arose from the manner of my departure, which I admit was in haste, and taken without the necessary politenesses which such occasions surely warrant. So please forgive me for my sudden disappearance – although I should say that the hour was exceedingly late by then, and indeed not just you but most of your guests seemed slightly worse for wear by then. Indeed, even in my haste, I did still call out a ‘goodbye’ across the room to you, but it seems that my words did not rouse you suitably from your slumber for you to recognise it as my farewell.

It seems however, that my words did, indirectly, contribute to our misunderstandings this week, as apparently you were awakened enough by them to have subsequently watched my departure through the windows of your room, catching a glimpse of me fleeing through the front gates as if pursued, and I assume this is where your belief that I had been kidnapped, or was somehow being held in servitude, was formed.

In point of fact, I was simply hurrying to catch the final carriage of the evening, for it was a cold, wet, and very long walk home for me if I endeavoured to miss it, and I was very determined not to, not least because of the clothes I was wearing – I had not even brought a coat, nor boots, and the thought of my gown being ruined by a mile or more of walking through puddles and mud made me shiver in an anxiety probably unknown to those such as yourself, who have others to worry about such mundane matters as the washing of clothes.

Now, having laid out the facts of the evening in question, and having made clear that I accept some fault for the misunderstanding that has, evidently, occurred, I would like to turn to your behaviour in the week since.

It is of course very flattering to discover that you enjoyed the evident delights of my company so much that you’ve since been searching the city to find me – or ‘save me’, as you have reportedly been putting it – but that does not give you the right to barge uninvited into my home, insult my mother, accost my sisters, and accuse all and sundry of god knows what crimes and misdemeanours against me (‘an innocent’, as you kindly put it, although innocent of what I do not know).

My mother has been in tears ever since, and is simply inconsolable. To have someone of your power and standing insult her so brazenly, and with so little foundation, was deeply upsetting for a woman of her years (and long-avowed patriotism), and was, I believe, genuinely shocking to her on a spiritual level. If even half the things she alleges you said to her are true, then, well, I too am truly lost for words.

At least, if I am to search for small mercies, with my mother you were merely verbally abusive. Yet in your overzealous attempts to save me from my own family, you inflicted, beyond the spiteful insults towards their appearances, such grievous injuries on my two sisters that I fear it will be months before they can walk again. I have never seen injuries of such severity inflicted outside of a war, and even with months of rest I am not sure they will ever fully heal.

I am truly sorry I was not here when you called, as perhaps all this upset could have been avoided, although, in my darkest hours, I fear that in fact it would have been much worse. As it was, I happened to be working when you arrived – which is what you no doubt consider my servitude, but to the rest of us is known simply as employment. Now, not only do I have to continue to support myself and my mother on my meagre earnings, but my two crippled sisters, too.

So it seems, even if after all this I somehow decided to consent to attend another one of your parties, there is much less chance of me being able to find the time to attend. I suppose I should consider that at least an amusing irony of the whole affair, and one which presumably would have made me laugh if not for the horror and harm inflicted upon those I love in service of it.

Thank you for the return of my shoe. Please do not call at my house again.

Kind Regards

Cindi

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Notes:

1. Written on October 13th, 2019
2. I wrote another Cinderella tale before
3. Almost a hundred tales ago now

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Tale #5: Lonely Isobel

In the days before even my mother was a girl, there lived a lord of these lands who was so protective of his daughter, Isobel, that he kept her locked in a room at the very top of the tallest tower in his castle, and he forbade everyone from seeing her. And so she grew up all alone.

One day, a travelling prince came to town and a huge ball was held in his honour at the lord’s castle. Noblemen and gentlewomen from across the shire came dressed for the occasion, and from her window Isobel marvelled at the extravagant beauty of the gowns the ladies wore.

“I wish, just once, that I could wear a dress of such beauty,” Isobel said, looking down in despair at the drab rags that her father insisted she wore.

Unbeknownst to Isobel, it was her 18th birthday that very night, and a passing fairy heard her plea.

“Lonely Isobel,” the fairy said as she appeared out of the thin night air. “Here is your dress.”

And in an instant Isobel was dressed in a gown more opulent than any she had seen below. Pale blue silks were adorned with exotic white furs, and all was overlain with sparkling gems of every form and colour.

“It’s beautiful,” Isobel said, and for a while she danced joyfully around the room in giddy excitement. But eventually she returned to the window and looked down at the still arriving guests.

“I wish I could go to the ball to dance with them all,” Isobel said. “Rather than be here all alone on my own.”

“Of course,” said the fairy. And as quick as that, Isobel found herself at the heart of the ball.

Even there, amongst the richest and most refined people of the land, Isobel stood out. Her radiant jewels shone brighter than the stars. The elegance of her dress made the other guests look as if their gowns were ill-fitted rags borrowed from their servants. And her joy… O, her joy!

The great prince could not fail to notice her, and soon he asked her to dance. Isobel agreed, and for the rest of the evening they could not be parted. She was the centre of all attention, and it was to her like a dream. People talked to her, listened to her, complimented her, laughed with her and danced with her. She had never before realised how silent her room was, and how still. How complete her isolation had been.

Nor how constricted she had been. She swirled around the hugeness of the hall, dancing in every corner, sweeping her dress round every pillar, sashaying past every doorway, lingering only at the windows to see each new view across the courtyards and the gardens.

And to see her tower anew, from the outside. To see it how others saw it, if they saw it at all.

The next day, the prince and all his guests left. In the dull morning light her outfit was transformed – the jewels now looked like lumps of milky quartz; the furs resembled clumps of wool; and the dress itself looked enormous and absurd as she walked awkwardly on her heels across the cobbles of the market square. The looks she received now were not of admiration but of prurient disdain.

“I wish I was back home,” Isobel said, and she found herself returned to her home, back in her rags, locked in her room at the top of her father’s tallest tower. But she could not be returned to her earlier state of solitude, unhappy as it was, for it was only now, having experienced friendship and company no matter how briefly, that Isobel would forever be cursed with true and unending loneliness.

And she finally grasped the fullness of her father’s cruelty.

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1. Originally written in October 2013, but heavily rewritten since.
2. A Cinderella variant (obviously)
3. The title comes from the Bjork song Isobel, which I always remember as saying “Lonely Isobel / Married to myself” rather than what it actually says

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