Recap of part 1: Ella Dubois’s father is sick with a mysterious disease while her stepmother (Darla) calls the shots and burdens Ella with all the chores. Her father is being manipulated by Darla, and took her side when Ella finally told him after being forced to stay away due to disease, but her father took his wife’s side. Ella had decided to give him one last chance to take her side after she finds a way to explain everything. Ella also found an injured delivery bird in the woods with a ruined package of shoes. She treated the bird, Coco, and sent her back on her with new shoes she made.
Two weeks later, Coco healed and headed out with a note and a gorgeous pair of silver heels with a detailed rose on the side. With a heavy heart, Ella said goodbye for what she thought would be the last she’ll see of her new friend.
But, two days later, Coco returned—and with a note of her own.
Dear mysterious stranger,
Thank you for treating my messenger bird and for the new shoes. She seems to have taken a liking to you, by the way. Coco couldn’t stop squawking when I told her I’d be writing you back.
The heels you made are absolutely fabulous and my new favorite pair. I’ve been wearing them everything—which hasn’t exactly been easy considering how bad I’m at walking in heels. I’ve fallen into three people so far.
You sound like such a kind soul from your letter. I absolutely love them and would love to meet you sometime soon and thank you in person, but unfortunately I will be out of the country for the next few weeks. I guess I’ve just have to settle for letters now.
Ella blushed as she read the letter. “She liked my heels,” she squealed. “Oh my god, this is the first time I’ve shared my fashion with someone and they really, truly liked it!” Ella rolled over on her bed with glee.
Blue chirped next to her. “You’re right, I need to write back. Let’s see…”
I’m ecstatic to hear you liked the heels! They’re the first time I’ve shared anything I’ve made with a non-blood-related person. My mother always said I had a fine taste for fashion and I’ve been making dresses since I was five with her. The shoes were a first for me and I had to use a pair of my own ones for a base. I can’t believe we’re the same size since it’s the smallest size possible—what are the chances? I’m so glad they turned out well. I’ve love to meet you too, though the thought of exchanging letters makes me joyous as well.
And so, that’s how the next couple of weeks went. Each letter became longer with more to share and each wait became more longing.
By the time the twenty-seventh letter came, Ella’s heart had been set a flutter by the mere sight of it. Before sending one back, she collapsed on her bed with her arm over her eyes. “Is this ridiculous, Blue? To fall for someone I’ve never even met?” She held the letter in her hand.
You will be delighted to know am I finally back from my family trip! It seemed to last forever, with how dreadfully boring it was. Though it was labelled as a ‘family trip’, it was basically all business. To be honest, your letters are the only thing that got me through it. They’ve been the highlight of my day every time I get them. Also, I adore the last dress you sent me. How is it you know so well what will complete me even though we’ve never met? You have a serious gift. I’m jealous.
Anyway, now that I’m back, I was wondering if we could meet like we originally said? Just name the time and place and I’ll be there--no matter what.
I truly hope I get to see your face. A girl can only imagine how sparkly your eyes must be.
That didn’t sound weird, did it?
Oh god, it totally did.
This is written in ink, so just imagine that last part, okay?
“CJ’s back in the country. And she’s close to here. She wants to meet. What should I tell her?” Ella sat up, staring at her dirty servant’s outfit. Darla had started selling household possessions. The family fortune seemed practically gone now. “What if she doesn't like what she seems? I don’t know if I could handle it.”
Coco chirped beside her, shaking her head. “Trust you?” Ella said. “You want me to meet her? Are you sure?”
Coco nodded eagerly. “I feel like I should be more worried about the fact that I’m taking life advice from a bird, but what the heck.” She signed her fate in black ink. “Let’s meet.”
Several days later, there was a knock at the mansion’s front door. They had a visitor. A royal visitor. “Princess Celeste. Wh—what a surprise,” Darla stammered and curtsied. “What brings you here--if you don’t mind my inquiry, your Royal Highness?”
“I’m looking for Ella?” The princess answered with a star-dazed look in her eye.
“Ella… Ella… Ella… you know, I don’t think that name rings a bell.” Darla blocked the doorway with her body. Her mind went wild as she tried to imagine what a princess wanted to do with her filthy step-daughter.
“I know she’s here.” Princess Celeste answered. “We’ve been exchanging letters and are meeting today. Here.”
A few of Princess Celeste’s royal guards sensed the tension and placed a hand on their swords. Darla got the message.
“You know what… haha… I guess remembered, she wasn’t here earlier—went to town—but she just got back. I’ll go get here.”
Darla scurred into the mansion as she discreetly summoned her daughters as the royal entourage waited for Ella. Whispering in their ears as the scheme part of Darla’s brain ticked, she told them, “Alright, listen, Princess Celeste is here to see Cinderella. I’m not entirely sure why or why she cares about that peasant; she said something about letters, but I didn’t quite get it. All I know is that I know an opportunity when I see one, so she will never meet Ella.
“Marcy, you pretend to be Ella. Get close with the princess so I—er, we—can “get close” with her fortune. You get what I’m saying? I’ve almost dried my pathetic husband for all he’s worth and we’re gonna need a new cash cow. Well, ladies, the perfect royal one just walked through the front door. Meanwhile, Lucy, lock Cinderella in her room. Don’t let her ruin this for me—er, us.”
Her daughters nodded and rushed off.
In the parlor room, Marcy greeted the princess with a smile. “It’s so good to finally meet you in person, Your Majesty. I am Ella.”
Princess Celeste eyed her large feet. Suspicion grew in her trusted gut. “Uh-huh. Then you wouldn’t mind if you proved it.”
Marcy’s eyes widened. “Prove what now?”
She glanced at her mother for help as Princess Celeste slipped over her silver heels. “These are the shoes you made me. Since we’re the same size, you wouldn’t mind slipping them on, now would you?”
Marcy gulped as she took the shoes. “No—not at all.”
She tried to jam the shoes in nine different ways as her mother took a trip to the kitchen, but no luck. “Here,” Darla placed something cold and sharp in her daughter’s hands. “Cut off your heels to fit into the shoe and all your dreams will come true.”
Marcy nodded and hid her foot behind the couch as she readied her knife. “One second, please.”
The instant before she went through with it, one of the guards spotted the knife and tackled her. “No weapons near the princess!”
Princess Celeste stood as she pieced two and two together. “Were you about to cut off your own heel to fit inside the shoe?!”
“No—well maybe,” Marcy answered.
“This is ridiculous. Where is Ella?” Princess Celeste demanded.
Darla swooped in. “You must mean my other daughter. I named them both Ella since I love the name that much. I’ll get her right now.”
Five minutes later, Darla came back with Lucy. “Here is Ella.”
Princess Celeste took one look at her feet and scoffed, “I’m not falling for the same thing twice. Since you refuse to be of any help…” Princess Celeste snapped her fingers and called Coco to her side. “You’ve met Ella. Find her.”
Coco took off, flying outside the mansion as Princess Celeste followed and watched. Climbing up to the very top of the building, she landed on the open windowsill of Ella’s bedroom. She cawed and pointed inside with her wing as Ella came to the window and peered out at the princess below.
Princess Celeste cupped her hands over her mouth and called out, “Hello? Ella? It’s me, CJ.”
“Princess Celeste?” Ella replied.
“Well, most people do know me as Princess Celeste Junior, named after my mother, but my friends call me CJ. Anyway, I wanted to ask you something, but the letters weren’t the right way.”
“What is it?”
Princess Celeste sucked in a deep breath for courage. This was the moment. “Will you be my girlfriend?”
A pause. Ella had to scream into her pillow with happiness. “YES!”
“Can I ask you something else?”
“Can I kiss you?”
“Ah, I’m kind of stuck here at the moment, but when I get down yes.”
Princess Celeste held her arms out and said with unearned confidence. “Jump into my arms!”
Like seriously, girl? I know you skip arm day. I’m the narrator; I know e v e r y t h i n g.
“I’m like three stories up,” Ella rationed.
I’m so glad this relationship has at least one functioning brain cell.
“Maybe take the stairs then.”
“I’m also locked in.”
With a frown, the princess spun back to the nervous Darla. “By royal decree, I demand you free my—” Princess Celeste giggled. “Girlfriend.”
Begrudgingly, Darla almost didn’t—even the princess’s guards showed her how shiny their swords were.
Moments later, the princess was united with her true love. “I take it you wouldn’t want to stay here with the women that locked you in a room and impersonated you? Just a hunch.” Princess Celeste asked. “Would you like to go away with me? I can give you a grand life in the palace. You can start your own fashion boutique. It’d be like a dream.
“I’d be glad to leave them behind,” Ella said. “But there’s someone I can’t leave without: my father.”
Holding hands and wearing masks, the couple approached Ella’s sick father. “Father,” Ella greeted. “My—” she giggled with glee and cleared her throat, “—girlfriend has offered us quarters at the palace. There, the best doctors in the country can tend to you.”
“That sounds lovely,” Darla chirped. “When do we leave?”
“Father and I will leave immediately. Just Father and I. You and your cruel daughters are not welcome,” Ella sternly said.
“I can’t just leave your stepmother,” Mr. Dubois said. “She’s been so good to us. Why are you being so unreasonable?”
“I’m unreasonable?” Ella’s voice cracked a little. Months of pain came boiling to the surface as things got heated. “I’m the one who’s been taking care of the entire mansion while you’ve been sick while Darla spends the servants’ old salaries on dresses. I’ve been working day and night to keep your old contacts for business while she sells family heirlooms to buy jewels. She cares for no one but herself and encourages her daughters to harass me on a daily basis. I’ve only stuck around so long for you, even though you’ve already chosen her side once. So, I’m giving you this one, final chance after I’ve explained my side of the story. Now, you can choose who you believe. Your daughter whom you’ve known for eighteen years or a woman you’ve known for a handful of months, because she’s not coming with me. I’ve had enough of her abuse. Do you, alone, want to come with me or not?”
“We’re a package deal,” Darla answered cockily. She crossed her arms, confidently thinking that Ella wouldn’t leave him behind. He had the sick card.
Ella held her head up high. Her mind was made up. “Then I guess that’s a package I won’t be ordering any time soon.”
With that, they left and cut contact as the second hush fell over the town. A hush that knew the truth and shamed Mr. Dubois and his wretched wife for it.