“Aschenputtel” by buttcap
She was the Cinders Girl, because they made her tend the fires. She did more than this of course.
She tended the house, she cleaned the floors, she cut the wood and she cooked the meals…
But they called her the Cinders Girl because of the black marks on her face. The black streaks, the black patches.
They looked like ash streaks, sometimes ash flakes off.
They said her hair looked strange and black, like burnt cracked wood and her eyes sometimes gleamed hot yellow, like a coal.
People avoided her when she went outside.
The Stepmother “made up” her face when she went out, but it didn’t matter.
Eventually, under the sun laboring or near the fires, growing hot…
It would melt away.
It didn’t matter the clothes they gave her, soon they would look ragged, full of burn holes and her shoes would soon disappear.
But they just didn’t understand.
She was the Cinders Girl.
When the Father wanted a child, he could not have one. The Mother was unable and soon died, but he still wanted a child.
He knew a bit of magic and he still wanted a child, so he prayed in front of his fire, he prayed to the flames.
He knew a bit of magic, but did not know its power and so his house burned down. But in the wreckage and the rubble, there was a child.
A little girl stood there, blackened skin, cracked and glowing red, when she moved she left foot prints of ashes. When she moved, cinders came off her body. She touched her hair and embers cast off in the wind.
The Father was aghast, he fled and raced away.
And she stayed there, waiting.
The only thing that had survived the fire was the fireplace, so she went there, sleeping there, hiding there, invisible, blackened and ashen…
She waited long enough and the house was rebuilt.
The Father had returned. He returned with the Stepmother and her real Daughters.
They did not expect her to be there still, especially not when she emerged from the first fire they built, her arms open and welcoming to the Father.
He said she was a slave. He said it was okay to work her, that she was a magical thing, a beast.
She did not understand these words, but that was fine. The Father had returned, he had returned to love her.
And in that moment, explaining and worried about what the Stepmother would think, she got near to him and hugged him. Hugged him tightly.
He burned up quick, he burned alive, and turned into a pile of ashes on the floor.
She turned to the Stepmother, arms out and expecting.
The woman doused her with a bucket of water.
“STAY BACK YOU DEMON!”
And even though she was afraid, she figured she could use the girl… as a slave at least.
She saw how much she had loved the father, so she threw the man’s ashes into the fireplace.
“Do not leave from here! Do not leave him!”
The Cinders Girl never would.
“It’s terrible mother… all she does is play with ashes. She’s playing with the ashes again!”
“She gets all excited and she burns off all the things we’ve given her… she turns into that thing!”
The Stepmother set her mouth in a thin line. She did not like the Cinders Girl, but she did not want to be without her slave labor. She did not like the Cinders Girl, but she did not want to let that demon loose into the world.
“I will think of something.” she told her daughters. “I will get her away from us, away from this place!”
And so the Stepmother schemed. And she plotted.
It seemed that the Princess was on a search, a search for glass slippers. She’d owned a pair, many years ago, when she’d first been betrothed to the Prince and she was looking for another pair again, hoping this item, that had caught the young man’s eyes, would win his heart again as the Prince’s heart and eyes were straying.
She knew what glass was made of and she wondered, thinking of the ashes, if she couldn’t be of some help.
She sent the Cinders Girl outside one day, to run an errand, putting her face on extra thick so she would not return early as she did when it melted off. She sent her off across town for some item she did not need and when she was gone, she collected all the ashes from the fire and left to the glass maker’s.
It took a few hours and the Stepmother worried if she might not make it home before the Girl, but when the shoes were done, she made it known to all who would hear that she had glass slippers for the Princess.
And then she returned home.
It was very late when the Cinders Girl returned, her face gone, her face cracked and red lined like a log in the fire. What was left of her dress was smoking, but she held her errand item in her hands.
It was hilariously enough a custom iron poker.
She took it to the Stepmother, looking at the shoes she had on a pillow. She stared at them and stared at them, before the woman said, “They are not yours!”
“Yes.” the Cinders Girl said, reaching for them.
“NO.” the woman said, banging her hand. She reached for a bucket of water, which she always had nearby. “BACK YOU DEMON! BACK!”
“They are mine!” she said, reaching for them.
“I said BACK!”
And then there was a knock on the door. And the sound of royal horns.
“OPEN THE DOORS CITIZEN! YOUR PRINCESS HAS ARRIVED!”
The Stepmother pointed. “Open the door!”
And the Cinders Girl went, looking over her shoulders at the shoes.
She opened the door, ignoring all the people who came in. Ignoring the talk that followed. Ignoring everything, except the shoes.
She watched the princess in the large blue gown hold the shoes and she walked towards her.
“Those are mine.” she said, her voice distressed. She cracked and popped like a healthy fire and the Princess recoiled.
“WHAT IS THIS? GUARDS!”
“No no!” The Stepmother stopped them. “This… is… a special servant. A magical servant! She can tend all the fires in a single home at once!”
The Princess looked dubious.
“This I also give you… as a gift. Take her instead of paying me for the shoes.”
The Princess curled her lip. “She will not get in my carriage.”
“She can follow behind it.” The Stepmother looked at the Cinders Girl. “She has the shoes. You go with her.”
The Cinders Girl looked at the Princess.
“They are mine!”
“Filthy thing…” she muttered, leaving the home.
She left and the Cinders Girl followed, her dress burned all the way off, her made-up face melted into thin air, her shoes non-existent.
She followed the Princess and she followed the shoes. She followed and followed, her arms out.
“They are mine.” she said, over and over.
“They are Father.” she said, over and over.
When she made it to the castle with the Princess, she was doused with water and thrown into a fire place. Bars were installed and once she was hot again, a great flame grew within the fire place, the Cinders Girl reaching out past the bars, her guards beating back her arms with royal pockers.
“They are mine!” she cried. “They are father!”
And there she remained.
The Stepmother hadn’t lied. The Cinders Girl could tend all the fires at once. Bars were installed on every fire place and the ovens were monitored. If she got out, buckets of water were handy. She was promptly doused and put back.
She appeared, skin black and smoking, lined red and orange like a fire place log, her arms out, calling and crying, “They are mine! They are Father!”
The Princess wore her glass slippers and won back her Prince.
And she lived happily ever after, her fires always warm, her bed always warm.
Her feet fashionably decorated.