When it came to fairytale kisses, Snow had them all beat. She had been in a coma until her prince leaned in for a closer look and accidentally brushed his lips against hers. That was the truth of it, no matter what the storybooks say. It had been an accident. But it is true that kiss woke her from eternal slumber and became THE KISS, the one smooch by which all others were judged.
When it came to swords, there was the mighty Excalibur. Hair was Rapunzel’s thing and you couldn’t think of a little prick without thinking of Sleeping Beauty. But when it came to shoes, there was where the waters grew murky, the ocean, by the way, belonged to Ariel.
Cinderella had her glass slippers, and while they were beautiful and considered THE SHOES by nearly everyone, there was another pair, belonging to another girl in a faraway land. Cinderella had long heard tales of the ruby slippers and the girl who clicked her heels incessantly.
There were days when Cinderella could think of nothing else. She hated sharing the spotlight. If shoes were to be her thing, than they should be hers alone. She shouldn’t have to share the glory with some farm girl. Shoe envy can be an ugly thing.
So troubled was Cinderella, that she’d summoned her fairy Godmother, who arrived, as usual, in a giant bubble, which floated through the air propelled by the soft flutter of hundreds of bluebirds all flapping their wings. As the bubble landed softly in the courtyard, the birds began dropping onto the grass, their tiny chests huffing and puffing.
Glinda stepped through the slick transparent wall with a loud pop as the bubble burst. She made her way up the path to the castle, gingerly stepping around the passed out birds on the ground.
“Cindy!” She squealed as Cinderella appeared in that doorway.
Cinderella ran down the hill toward her fairy Godmother. “Glinda!”
They embraced and made fake kissy noises in each other’s ears.
“I’m so happy you could come,” Cinderella said as they walked up the hill, the heels of her glass slippers sinking ungracefully into the soft hillside. Heels on a slipper, who does that? “It has been such a long time.”
“Well, how could I resist your note.” Glinda smiled. Clearing her throat she recited, “Glinda, come at once. It involves shoes. Love, Cindy.”
Smiling, Cinderella said, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist.”
“I’m a girl aren’t I? Shoes are like men. You can’t have just one pair.”
Behind her, the bluebirds were recovering and beginning to flutter around in circles.
Cinderella led her fairy godmother into the castle, explaining her situation. They plopped down on Cindy’s bed and stared at the ceiling. “Those ruby slippers should be mine, they’re too fancy for a farm girl to wear when slopping the hogs. I must have them.”
“Be careful, dear. The last girl to say that melted.”
Cindy pouted. “There must be some way.”
“Well,” Glinda said. “I could ask Dorothy to give them to you. But I doubt she would.”
“You…you know her?”
“Of course, dear. I‘m her fairy Godmother too.”
Cinderella sat up in the bed. “All this time I thought you were mine.”
“I am, Dear,” Glinda said.
“No,” Cindy responded. “ONLY mine. I didn’t know I had to share you.”
“You should know something else,” Glinda touched Cinderella on the cheek. “I gave Dorothy the ruby slippers. They were a gift after she dealt with a certain unpleasantness in Oz. I give all my girls shoes.”
“How many of us are there?” Cinderella asked.
“Oh, too many to count, Dear.”
Cinderella jumped up. “You can ask for them back!”
Glinda shook her head. “No, I couldn’t do that. A gift, once given, is forever.”
“But, I’d give you back my glass slippers if you asked me.”
Glinda smiled, patting Cindy lightly on the arm. “I’m sure of that, Dear. But Dorothy is a sportier type of girl…made of heartier stock. She is stubborn and self-righteous, and she holds on to what is hers. She does have a bit of a gambling problem though. Can’t resist a bet. It’s how the wizard got her to steal the witch’s broom.”
Cinderella slumped back onto the bed. “Isn’t there any way?”
Glinda thought for a moment and smiled. “Perhaps there is something.”
A bet was offered and accepted, and word soon spread across the land. A dance-off between Dorothy of Oz and Cinderella of The Kingdom was set. Many people travelled great distances to watch the winner-take-all match. The fields around the castle filled with commoners and hucksters alike. Those with no money, and those who wanted it.
Winner of the dance-off got the shoes. Both pairs. Glass and ruby slippers both. For three days the crowd waited and on the fourth a great cheer began to rise. Dorothy had arrived, but she had not come alone. Walking beside her were the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow.
Together, they approached the massive door to Cinderella’s castle.
“I’m having déjà vu,” said the Tin Man
“It sure does feel like we’ve done this before,” agreed the Scarecrow.
Dorothy said nothing. Her face was a mask of determination and she clutched her handbag and her little dog too.
The door swung open as they approached and Cinderella stepped out. Her eyes darted to the girl’s shoes before rising to look at the girl herself. She was a plain girl with hard eyes, and really, who wore pigtails anymore these days?
Dorothy curtsied. “Hello ma’am. I’m very pleased to meet you.”
Cinderella pasted a smile to her lips. “The pleasure is mine, Dorothy. Welcome to my kingdom.” With a sweep of her arm, she said, “Please come in.”
Crossing the threshold, the cowardly lion looked all around and sighed, “Here we go again.”
The royal atrium at the castle’s center began to fill as the wealthiest among them bought their way inside. Stadium seats had been constructed by the royal masons along all four walls for the best view of the battle. Mutton vendors walked among the seated crowds where two pence bought a slab of meat and goblet of ale to wash it down.
High above, a skylight illuminated a royal pedestal draped in royal cloth at the center of the royal dance floor. Off to one side, a royal band of minstrels tuned their instruments.
Presently a stout man with facial hair so long, it nearly hid his short, round torso waddled to the center of the floor and stood near the pedestal. He held his hands up to the crowd for silence and after several minutes the room was quiet.
From somewhere beneath his beard, the stout man produced a scroll and unrolled it with a flourish. “Hear ye, Hear ye,” he proclaimed. “Let it be known that on this day there will be a great contest. Cinderella of the Kingdom challenges Dorothy of Oz to a dance-off. A winner-take-all competition for…” and here he paused to examine the scroll for a moment. “…for…uh…shoes.”
The crowd, made up almost entirely of women, erupted in a tumultuous cheer. The few men in attendance, presumably there to witness a catfight, applauded discreetly.
The stout man rolled the scroll tightly and muttered, “That’s how I roll,” before slipping it back beneath his beard. He reached out a hand and snatched the royal cloth off the pedestal to reveal two pair of slippers, one made entirely of glass and the other encrusted with rubies. The crowd gasped collectively, and one man in the front row suddenly leapt to his feet in excitement. Presently, the minstrels began to play.
From the east entrance, Cinderella entered the arena, and from the west came Dorothy. They were both barefoot. They stood side-by-side at the center of the room while the crowd bellowed, and turned to face the spectators along each of the four walls.
The stout man held his arms up again and the crowd grew instantly silent. There was a great flutter of wings from above as Glinda’s bubble descended through the skylight surrounded by hundreds of bluebirds. She drifted slowly down until her bubble burst on the floor. The bluebirds collapsed all around as she walked to each girl and hugged them. “How exciting,” she said.
“The battle will consist of three rounds,” announced the stout man. “Each lady will perform a dance of their choosing and Glinda will be the sole judge. She will declare the winner and award the shoes to that person. Her decision will be final and we shall all abide by her verdict.” The crowd erupted again, and the man in the front row nearly fainted.
“As this is Cinderella’s home, Dorothy of Oz shall go first.” The stout man lifted the pedestal and carried it off the dance floor, gently pushing exhausted bluebirds out of his way with the toe of his boot.
The minstrels resumed as Glinda and Cinderella left the dance floor, picking up bluebirds along the way.
Dorothy of Oz raised her arms above her head, and brought them down dramatically with a heavy strum of the mandolin. She leapt and twirled and mesmerized the crowd who had never seen such movement. Spinning faster and faster as the music swelled, Dorothy leapt high in the air and landed in the splits.
The crowd jumped to their feet and the man in the front row actually ran from the room in his excitement. They cheered for a full three minutes and only calmed down when Dorothy walked off.
The music started again, slow and melodic, as Cinderella entered from the opposite side of the room. She began her dance with a curtsy to the crowd and then twirled and danced with an elegance and grace rarely seen outside the castle walls. While Dorothy’s dance had been filled with an angry sort of beauty, Cinderella’s commanded the room with its simple sophistication. As the music faded, she finished as she had begun, with a curtsy. The crowd sat in stunned silence trying to catch their collective breath. They’d witnessed a magical performance.
Dorothy erupted onto the stage for her second dance with her hair flowing free around her face, no longer retrained by pigtails. She performed a strange dance full of jerky half movements and angry screams that left the audience stunned.
Cinderella followed with a dance where she was carried by servants for most of it to give the appearance of flying.
For their final performance, they shared the stage and battled head-to-head to a fast number played by the minstrels. Spinning madly and flipping her hair around, Cinderella twirled in a spirited tribal dance from the farthest reaches of the kingdom, while Dorothy laid some woven mat on the floor and spun on her hips and back, legs in the air. The dance was intense and both girls were out of breath at the end of it.
As the crowd applauded, Glinda rolled inside her bubble across the floor, her bluebirds still recovering, and stepped out.
“My, that was exhilarating.” Glinda motioned for both girls to stand next to her. “I don’t know how I will ever choose, you both deserve to be crowned the winner.” She sighed. “But choose I must and so the winner of this dance-off is…”
A scream cut her off mid-sentence and a hand maiden rushed out. “Milady,” she curtsied to Glinda. “The shoes, they’re missing!”
“What!?” shouted Cinderella.
The maiden handed her a note and Cindy unfolded and it read.
Royal Order of Repossession.
By order of the royal credit bureau, both pairs of shoes have been repossessed. Glinda and her shoe habit have grown out of control and until payment can be made in full, said shoes shall remain unavailable.
Cinderella glanced to the empty chair in the front row where the excited little man had been and then at Glinda, who only shrugged.