Chapter 1 – Sh*t Hit The Fan
Cinderella smiled as she looked at the heaping horse shit she was shoveling out of their animal yard. Used to the stench and the filth, she leaned down and grabbed a massive handful. She walked into the house that used to belong to her father and headed towards the screeching of her stepsisters.
They were practicing their “angelic singing” in the drawing room. A singing teacher stood in the room and nodded as if she were completely satisfied with their performance. However, Cinderella had previously seen the teacher pull out a wad of cotton from her ears as she left the estate.
Although she wasn’t sure how much her stepmother, Lady Beatrice Ingram, was paying the singing instructor, Cinderella believed it was far too much. The girls had been tone deaf all their lives, and no amount of teaching would change that.
On such a hot summer day, their screeching got on the last of Cinderellas nerves. She was already miserable and sweating from doing chores all over the house and yard. The sounds of cats in heat would be more preferable to their caterwauling.
The drawing room of the house had the windows open and an automatic fan powered by a magic stone struggled to move the humid air around the room. Angela, the eldest stepsister, and Bertrise, the younger stepsister, had their backs to the door, and Cinderella could see the singing instructor was actually nodding off since she couldn’t hear the audible torture.
Cinderella tossed the handful of horse shit onto the automatic fan and continued on to the kitchen. She beamed as she heard the tone of the screeches change.
“Now that sounds angelic to me,” she muttered as she washed her hands.
Finished with the outside chores, Cinderella now had to work in the kitchen. There were no servants left in the house. They couldn’t afford to pay or house them. Since Cinderella’s mother and father were from the merchant class, and her step-sisters were from an aristocratic lineage, Lady Ingram happily sent Cinderella off to do the chores.
Ever since Father, a successful head merchant of a trading company, had died, her step-family continued to spend money at the rate Father would have earned it. However, since Cinderella was not old enough to take over the trading company, her stepmother was left in charge, despite being from a noble family which looked down un the merchant class. Lady Ingram had no idea what she was doing, and she ended up leaving all of the decisions to the managers of the company.
If Lady Ingram had listened to the top managers that Father left in place, the company would have been fine. However, when the trading company took a hit due to the loss of a ship at sea, the managers told her that she wouldn’t be able to have as much money to spend that month.
She threw a hissy-fit and fired them. She then promoted the lower level managers who flattered her and gave her free reign with the company’s money. Lady Ingram did not care to think about the consequences of her actions and continued to spend money like water.
As a result, the company continued to bleed money to Lady Ingram’s blind spending habits, and then the managers who had been promoted realized that the company was in danger and began siphoning off money into their own pockets, rapidly depleting the rest of the money in the company coffers before suddenly resigning. Cinderella’s stepmother repeatedly promoted only the people who flattered her and allowed her to use excessive amounts of money, who then embezzled more money before leaving.
Cinderella managed to meet the old managers for secret discussions about what could be done. Unfortunately, not much could be done at the moment. Since she was under age, she was unable to take over the running of the business. Additionally, it was rare for women to run trading companies as they were required to meet often with men who were unfamiliar to them, thereby damaging their reputation and making then unable to find marriage partners easily.
And in the meanwhile, Cinderella worried about when the company would finally collapse and if their estate would be reclaimed when they failed to pay taxes. The times when Cinderella brought this issue up to her Step-Mother, she would receive a slap to the face and then a few days later a bill for new clothing or jewels.
Lady Ingram expected her own daughters to marry men who were either extremely rich or noble. She herself was a member of a fallen noble household. Her first husband had been a baron, which solidified her expectations that nobles should marry other nobles. However, when he passed away, she realized his estate didn’t have anything but debts.
In her grief, Lady Ingram happened to shop frequently at Father’s trading company, and she saw he was sympathetic to her plight.
Cinderella wasn’t sure exactly how their relationship started, but she did overhear her father apologizing to her mother’s tombstone one year. The gist of his apology was that he didn’t remember an evening when he was drunk, but he felt responsible for the actions he’d taken.
Suspicious, Cinderella had tried to get her father to investigate whether anything untoward had actually happened, but her father refused to do so and forbid her from looking into the matter on her own. That was how she came to receive a new stepmother and two stepsisters.
She tried to set aside her doubts for the few years they all lived together as a family, but when her father passed away, her step-mother’s actions just solidified her disgust and distrust. Cinderella even wondered if her step-mother’s pattern of behavior was extended to more than just the deceased Baron and her father.
But Cinderella decided to bide her time. She was determined to investigate not only her step-mother’s behavior, but the accidental deaths of her father and the Baron.
“Cinderella! Cinderella! Oh, where is that filthy girl?”
Lady Ingram raged as she quickly made her way down the hallway. Cinderella could hear the sound of her heels advancing towards the kitchen. However, the footsteps stopped just outside the kitchen entrance.
Lady Ingram would never enter the kitchen if at all possible. After all, she carried the blood of an aristocratic household and she could not bear to expose herself to a location meant for the lower classes.
Cinderella continued to prepare the vegetables intended for the vegetable stew. She began humming as she worked, knowing that it annoyed her stepmother to hear Cinderella exhibit her musical talents when her own daughters were so obviously lacking in that area.
“Cinderella! Come here! Come here and clean this mess up!”
“Mother? Is something wrong?” Cinderella pretended she had no idea what the problem was.
“As if you don’t know! You’re the only one in this household that would be so audacious!”
Cinderella came to the entrance of the kitchen, but she still had a potato and a peeling knife in her hand, silently showing she was diligently working on a task. Lady Ingram’s face showed her displeasure, a flush of rage showing through the makeup which covered her no-longer-youthful face. And although she tried to keep her face composed, frown lines creased the makeup in between her perfectly quaffed eyebrows and around her tight lips.
“You threw that,” she paused to inhale, “mess in the drawing room.”
“Mess? What mess? I thought the girls were taking singing lessons in the drawing room?”
Lady Ingram snarled, which wasn’t very ladylike, and snapped open her hand fan in front of her face. She ordered Cinderella to help the other girls change their clothes and then clean both the drawing room itself and the clothes.
“Would you like me to do that now? If I don’t finish -”
Lady Ingram interrupted with a wave of her fan, dismissing Cinderella’s words.
“I don’t want to hear your excuses! My girls are covered in that mess! You go get them cleaned up immediately! And I want that drawing room cleaned up quickly! Before it stains everything it touches! All of your other tasks can wait!”
“As you wish,” Cinderella bowed her head to hide her smirk.