For those lovers of transgressed or refreshed fairy tales, here is a short story, a modern retelling of Cinderella.
It was my work Christmas party, and I sat alone, invisible, watching everyone laugh and talk around me. The only reason I was at the party was due to my serial hopes that I’d be noticed by a certain tall, blonde man with sapphire-blue eyes, a bronzed and broad shouldered god who set my blood pressure to overdrive. Of course he was way out of my league: I was petite with frizzy brown hair, and brown eyes that were hidden behind glasses. And I was painfully shy. It seemed as if I was destined to remain romantically challenged forever. I had asked myself so many times why I had allowed myself to live in this fantasy world, where I was Cinderella and my inexperienced heart was set on a unattainable prince.
David was a hit with all the women in the office, and he was always being romantically linked with someone different each week. But still my desiccated heart insisted on the belief that one day he would choose me: the unfashionable and awkward filing girl. This impossibility was also enhanced by the fact that I couldn’t speak to my dream man in more than just a few monosyllables, whenever we passed each other in the hallway. But the waking dream of our mystical connection continued to haunt my every step.
With my eyes glued to the door, I hoped to catch a glimpse of the man who had unknowingly stolen my heart. An hour had passed and still David hadn’t materialized. Maybe he wasn’t a fan of Christmas work parties either. I was feeling quite foolish with a half empty plate balanced on my knee and an empty plastic cup in my hand, while the raucous crowd of party-goers who were getting ready for Karaoke surrounded me buzzing excitedly like a hive of bees.
But just like it had always transpired in my dream, the crowd suddenly parted, and the ‘man with the sapphire-blue eyes’ towered over me with a brooding expression.
“Hello,” he said, tentatively.
My mind was screaming at me to say something – anything – just speak!!!
With a deep breath I said “Hi!” trying to sound nonchalant, but I dropped my plate and the remains of my lunch crashed onto the carpet.
Thankfully he hadn’t noticed as he was looking with an amused expression at some of the staff members who were now singing in high pitched voices, I Wanna Know What Love Is by Foreigner.
He glanced down at me. “Not a fan of Karaoke then?” he asked.
“No.” I shook my head.
He sat down next to me. “Hi, my name’s David, what’s yours?”
I blushed bright red. “Mia,” I replied softly. I looked up at him briefly. His eyes were darting around the room. A stab of misery pierced my heart and tears began to cloud my vision. He was only sitting here until he found someone more interesting than me to talk to. I was such a fool. Clutching my empty cup in my hands, I started to get up.
He reached out and touched my arm. “Leaving already? Why don’t you keep me company? I’m not fan of parties, but this is a good excuse to get away from work.”
“OK,” I said. I couldn’t think of anything more to say.
He was looking directly at me now. “So, you’ve worked here a while then?”
I nodded. “I’m a temp.”
“Oh really, so which agency are you with?”
Such banal chatter was another warning in my heart.
I was about to reply when a shadow was cast over our very awkward tête-à-tête A woman had moved quickly to sit on the other side of David. My chest constricted: it was Rae; the office goddess. The rumor mill of the office was always kept running with constant gossip about David and Rae. Apparently it had been love at first sight, and they had dated a few times, but there was no consensus on whether they were still together. I glanced over at Rae, trying to act like her presence didn’t bother me. Her vivid green eyes were fixed on me, and her left hand was on David’s right knee, like she was indicating her sole possession rights. I heard him sigh and I assumed that it was a sigh of pleasure, but his eyes shifted briefly to mine, and just for a second I thought I saw a flash in those blue eyes. A thrill rippled through my heart. Maybe it was possible that I had a little magic of my own and could still elicit a romantic response, frizzy brown hair, glasses and all.
Rae was chatting away about the weekend and how they could take her father’s yacht out on the harbor. I thought it was best to leave them alone, so I got up to leave once more, but David grabbed my hand. “Where are you going?” His mesmerizing eyes had a kind of imploring look.
I could feel Rae’s eyes boring into me as I stood there unsure: should I flee to the safety of my desk or stay and fight. I chose the latter and sat back down.
David shifted in his seat to look at me, his back turned towards Rae. “I’ve wanted to talk to you for ages, but I was always too nervous, or I never had the right opportunity.” “
“Me too,” I replied in a small voice. Great! He probably thinks I’m an idiot.
Before either of us could say another word, Rae jumped up and stood directly in front of David. I could see that she had made a special effort for the party, instead of wearing her normal office garb, black skirt, matching black jacket, a white business-style blouse and medium heeled black shoes, and her fiery red hair in a elegant chignon, she wore a bright green dress that was so tight I wondered how she could walk and her plunging neckline left nothing to the imagination. Her dark green satin heels were staggeringly high. I knew she caught the train to work, and images of her teetering along the platform as she raced to catch the train, and then catching her heel and pitching forward into a packed carriage of startled men, had me almost in giggles. In reality she had probably got changed into the gaudy party dress and shoes at work. But I enjoyed my scenario better.
As if she could read my thoughts she glared down at me contemptuously. “What are you smirking about?” she snapped.
I shrunk back into my seat. “Nothing really. I was just thinking of something funny,” I muttered.
Her eyes narrowed, but her attention was quickly directed back to her prey. “Darling, shall I get us a drink?” Her tone was now seductive and smooth.
David’s response not only surprised me but Rae as well.
He ignored her and leaned towards me. “Why don’t we get out of here and grab a coffee?”
The sensation of his warm breath on my cheek sent tingles along the surface of my skin. The sounds of the party faded away.
I whispered back, “I would love to!”