I've found a Driver, and that's a Start!
"Um, excuse me?" John whispered. He inched a little closer to the weeping maiden and tapped her shoulder. "You there? Hello? Could I bother you for a bit? If you don't mind, that is?"
The girl looked up at John and flinched. "Bugger me! Who the hell are you?"
"I'm your godfather," he said. "I mean…your fairy godfather, that is."
She scrunched up her tear-stained face and glared at him. "I've never heard of a fairy godfather. I thought there were only fairy godmothers."
"Well, there needs to be fairy godfathers if there are fairy godmothers!" John replied indignantly. "I mean, how else do you expect fairy godbabies to come about? We don't clone them, you know!"
The girl wiped her cheeks and leaned back in her hard wooden chair, checking her balance just in time to stop herself from falling into the fireplace. "I suppose you're right," she admitted begrudgingly. "But what are you doing here?"
"My wife sent me," John confessed. "Actually, she's your proper fairy godmother. I'm really more of an apprentice fairy god-stepparent. But she was busy this evening."
"Busy doing what?" the maiden asked.
"She's presenting a numerology lecture at the Hobgoblin Academy," he explained. "She's quite the expert on all things mystical, I'll have you know. Astral projection, aura interpretation, tea leaf reading, astrology, you name it, she knows it."
"I don't want my tea leaves read," the girl whined. "I just want to go to the prince's ball!" She slumped back down, buried her face in her hands, and started sobbing afresh.
"Oh, please don't do that, miss," John begged, wringing his hands. "I hate when girls cry. I always feel at such a loss in these situations."
The girl's large black-and-tan dog rested a kindly paw on her foot, then looked up at John and snarled.
"Hey now, we'll have none of that!" John admonished the animal. "I've got a wand, and I'm not afraid to use it on bad dogs!"
The maiden looked back at John. "Georgie isn't a bad dog! He's my friend! He's my best friend in the whole world!"
"Well, tell the wanker to stop growling at me," John said. He stepped backwards and bumped into a spinning wheel, knocking it to the floor. "Fuck," he mumbled as he picked it up. "That's all I need. Getting mixed up in two fairy tales at once!" He turned back towards the girl and forced a weak half-smile. "Listen, love. I've come to get you ready for that dance you're pining for. But we haven't got all night. Guests are arriving at the palace as we speak!"
"You've come to take me to the ball?" she asked, her face aglow with a burst of hope.
"Don't be daft," John replied. "I just told you, I'm already married. And I'm far too old to date the likes of you, anyhow. I'm just here to send you on your way, Miss…Miss…damn! What did my missus say your name was?"
"It's Cinderella," the girl replied. She stood up from her chair, wiped the ashes off her much-mended skirt, and scrutinized John's bedraggled appearance. The earpieces of his wire-rimmed glasses were attached to their hinges with tape. His long, stringy hair was tied back in a messy ponytail, and his bushy beard was dotted with bits of torn leaves. He was wearing a multi-colored robe adorned with patches, and his feet were shod in mismatched shoes. "And you are…?"
"I'm your fairy godfather! I already said so, you silly cow," John blustered. "Oh, wait, did you just ask for my name? Sorry. I'm not used to conversing with earthly maidens such as yourself."
He cleared his throat. "My name is Johannes Ivan Jean Sean Giovanni Ján Juan Johnson. But you can call me John. Everyone does."
"I can see why," Cinderella replied.
"Right," John agreed. He glanced at the grandfather clock in the far corner of the room. "Bullocks! We'd best get a move on. So, first things first. You'll be wanting a nicer dress, I reckon?"
He slipped his hand into the pocket of his robe, pulled out a crooked wand, and waved it over her. A shimmer of sparkles descended upon her. When the fairy dust settled, Cinderella was wearing a tight-fitting, black-and-white checked mini dress and a pair of white, patent-leather go-go boots with zippers running up the front. Her hair was arranged in a sky-high beehive.
"Sweet!" John said, standing back and admiring his work. "You look fit."
Cinderella looked down at her outfit and frowned. George the dog noticed her disapproval, raised his snout towards John and barred his teeth menacingly.
"Hey, bulldog! Mind your manners!" John said, backing off once more. "So, it's a no-no on the Mary Quant then, is it? Well, how about a little Christian Lacroix?" He waved his wand at Cinderella and transformed her mod outfit into an elaborate, hot-pink, satin cocktail dress with a too-tight bodice, an enormous puffed skirt, and leg-of-mutton sleeves. Her white boots reshaped themselves into five-inch-high stilettos. Her hair fell out of its heavily sprayed beehive and tousled itself back up into a huge cloud of blown-out curls.
George looked at Cinderella, then rested his face on the floor, covered his big, brown eyes with his paws, and started whining. Cinderella pouted.
"Well, shite, love, I'm hardly a fashionista!" John groused. "I mean, look at what I'm wearing, will you? If you have a little input on your frock, it would be much appreciated!"
Cinderella ran to a cupboard by the fireplace as fast as her stilettos would carry her, and pulled out a sketchbook. "Here," she said, flipping to a drawing. "I designed this gown myself, when I heard Prince Paul was hosting a ball. I thought I would look dreamy in it."
John examined the sketch and frowned, then forced a fake smile. "Whatever you want, little girl." He waved his wand over Cinderella once more. Her hot pink dress melted into a shimmering, pale blue, sleeveless ball gown with a full skirt of layered chiffon and a princess neckline. He waved his wand again, and her permed and blown-dried coiffure straightened itself into a tasteful French chignon.
Cinderella squealed with delight. "Ooh, this is just perfect!" She danced around in a circle, then started to lose her balance.
"Oops, sorry," John apologized. He waved his wand once more and transformed her hot pink Louboutins into delicate, clear slippers with kitten heels.
"Are these glass?" Cinderella asked, raising her feet to inspect the shoes.
"Don't be a pillock!" John replied. "You can't dance in glass footwear! Those shoes are made of a clear, synthetic rubber. They're animal-friendly and safe, and porous as well, so your feet can breathe. They should also put a little bounce in your step, when you're boogie-ing across the dancefloor."
"Oh my my!" Cinderella cooed appreciatively.
"Now, how do I get you to the palace?" John wondered aloud. "Mother mentioned something about a pumpkin…"
"Your mother mentioned something?" Cinderella asked.
"No, no, stupid me!" John laughed awkwardly. "I meant my missus. I call her Mother. Don't ask me why. It's complicated."
"Okay," Cinderella said. "We have some pumpkins growing in our garden. Will they do?"
"Hhmm," John mumbled. "I suppose I could turn a pumpkin into a carriage, then transform some mice into horses. Do you have any mice?"
"I should think not!" Cinderella protested. "I keep a clean house! That's my job, I'll have you know. I shoo away all vermin that ventures into my stepmother's home."
"Right," John said. "Good for you. Though actually, come to think of it, I don't think the horse and carriage idea will do the trick. You're going to have to leave King Richard's castle by midnight, and I doubt the horses could even get you there before eleven o'clock."
"By midnight?" Cinderella whined. "But it's half past nine already!"
"Yeah, I know," John agreed. He walked to the window and spied a wheelbarrow leaning against the garden shed. "Let's step outside and see what I can do with that."
He led Cinderella out of the house. George followed protectively at her heels.
"Stand back," John warned his protégé. He zapped the wheelbarrow with his wand while he chanted, "Fibbity, Fobbity, Formula One!" A cloud of grey smoke descended upon the wheelbarrow. When it lifted, a bright red Lamborghini was parked beside the shed.
"What's that?" Cinderella gasped.
"It's called a motor car, and it's got a V12 engine," John replied. "It should get you to the dance in no time." He stepped to the driver's side and opened the door for her. "You can drive a stick, can't you?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Cinderella said.
"Bugger," John cursed. He looked down at the dog. George was gazing at the car with a yearning expression. "Right, then. You'll need a chauffeur, Cyn. Step away from your pooch for a moment now, would you?"
Cinderella did as directed. John aimed his wand at the dog. A stream of sparkles encircled George, then lifted him into the air. When the sparkles dissolved, the dog had transformed into a man dressed in a dapper chauffeur's uniform. He fell to the ground on his backside with a loud thump.
"Damn!" George cursed at John. "Don't let me down like that! You could have broken my tail bone!"
John shrugged and threw George an unapologetic grin.
George looked away from John, lifted his gloved hand to his head, and tipped his chauffeur's cap at Cinderella. "At your service, Ella," he announced.
Cinderella squealed with excitement.
George opened the passenger door of the Lamborghini. Cinderella slipped into the car, then leaned out the open door and shouted at John. "How can I ever thank you?"
"Just don't get into any trouble at the dance," John called back. "Otherwise, Mother will hang me by my balls for sure!"
George held out his hand to John.
John shook it enthusiastically. "Good boy. You still remember how to shake paws! Now drive carefully! And keep an eye on Cyn. Make sure she comes to no harm."
"I'm asking you for keys to the car," George replied smugly.
"Oh, right," John snickered. He spied a rusty skeleton key hanging on a nail by the shed's door. He plucked it up, said an incantation over it, and handed it to George. "Just lay this in the space between the two seats so the sensor can read it, then push the silver button by the steering wheel to engage the ignition. It should start fine."
George nodded and slipped into the car. He started the engine and drove off with a roar like thunder.
John smiled wistfully as he watched the Lamborghini drive over a hill and disappear into the horizon.
"Well, that seemed to go reasonably well," he said. "Let's just hope I didn't fuck anything up this time."
- o – o – o -
George turned into the castle's parking area, slid the Lamborghini into a narrow slot between two barouches, and killed the engine. The horses standing to either side of the car whinnied in disapproval.
He climbed out of his seat and opened Cinderella's door. "May I escort you to the palace gate, ma'am?"
"Oh, Georgie, don't call me 'ma'am'!" she protested as she tucked her hand inside the crook of his elbow. "After all the silly names I've called you when we lay together by the fireside, why should we start acting formal now?"
"Because we're on the castle grounds, not at your stepmother's house," George reminded her. "People are supposed to follow the rules of etiquette here."
"Well, let's hold off doing that until you announce me at the gate, shall we, Georgie-Porgie?" she replied.
He smiled shyly and led her away from the car. When they reached the palace gate, he introduced her to the guard at the door, then released her hand.
"This one's called Lady Sita Janaki," the guard told the castle's herald, who wrote down the name on a slip of paper so he could announce it to the assembly.
Cinderella looked back at George. "Why did give him that name?"
"We can't have your stepmother or stepsisters knowing that you're here now, can we, Ella?" he replied. "I gave you a sobriquet: Sita and Janaki are two of the human incarnations of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of feminine power and virtue. She survived a trial by fire with her chastity intact. I wish the same good fortune for you."
"Whenever did you learn that?" she giggled. "You're just a dog!"
"You'd be surprised at the things I've picked up over the years," he replied.
A footman dressed in fine livery took Cinderella's arm and led her into the palace. She looked over her shoulder at George as she stepped further and further away from him, and wondered for a brief moment if she might not be happier just running back to him and zooming over the hills of the kingdom in their Lamborghini until John's spell wore off. But it was too late now.
"Lady Sita Janaki!" the herald shouted into the ballroom as the footman left Cinderella at the top of a long flight of marble stairs.
The crowd looked up as the unusual name was announced. Cinderella blushed at the unfamiliar attention, then lifted the front of her skirt to keep herself from tripping as she made her way down the enormous staircase. When she reached the bottom, she made an immediate beeline to the women's privy so she could check her make-up in the mirror. She wasn't entirely certain that John had magicked it on properly. A quick glance at the looking glass assuaged her fears, and she returned to the ballroom just as King Richard was beginning a speech.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, aristocrats and commoners, lend me your ears!" he began, speaking loudly in a thick Northern accent that Cinderella could just barely understand. "Thank you all for coming here tonight to help me celebrate the twenty-fifth birthday of my son, Prince Paul!"
The crowd cheered as the handsome prince stood up from his velvet chair and bowed at the waist.
"Now some of you might know my son by his reputation as a ladies' man!" the king continued. The assembled knights and barons laughed heartily at the remark, while the ladies on the dancefloor responded with a collective, high-pitched, swoony sigh.
"But I think it's time that our Paul put a stop to his wild ways and settled down," King Richard continued. "And to tempt him on this quest, I have decided to make him an offer." He held up his two hands, displaying his heavily bejeweled fingers to the crowd, then slipped the royal signet ring off his left index finger and raised it aloft. "I will give this ring to my son as soon as he takes a bride, so that he may rule the kingdom in my place, while I dedicate myself to spreading the message of Peace and Love to all of our neighboring kingdoms and principalities!"
The crowd tittered in astonishment, then broke into cries of protest.
"Don't retire, Your Majesty!" an earl called out. "Your kingdom still needs you!"
Cheers of "And-so-say-all-of-us!" and "Here-Here!" echoed the remark.
"We love you, Ringo!" a duchess shouted above the fray, using the affectionate nickname the loyal subjects had given their jewelry-loving king. "Oh yes we do!"
The ball-goers fell into song, chanting,
"We love you, Ringo! Oh yes we do!
We love you, Ringo, and we'll be true!
When you're not near us, we're blue!
Oh Ringo, we love you!"
The king smiled at the crowd, then lowered his hands in a shushing gesture. When the singing finally stopped, he continued with his speech.
"I don't ask for much, I only want your trust. And you know, it don't come easy. But this love of mine keeps growing all the time, and you know, it just ain't easy!"
"Nothing is easy without you, King Richard!" an elderly marquis shouted back in objection. "You've led us through so many years of struggle and hardship!"
A chorus of "Long live the king!" formed in the back of the assembly, then spread throughout the ballroom. King Richard put his fingers to his mouth and whistled loudly to silence the chanting.
"Forget about the past and all your sorrows!" he chided the crowd. "The future won't last! It will soon by your tomorrow! So open up your hearts, let's come together. Use a little love, and we will make it work out better!"
He stepped away from his throne, clasped his son's hand and raised their two arms together. "Let's give a cheer for my heir apparent! Put your trust in him, so that I might go about my quest!"
Prince Paul smiled sheepishly as his father commanded the crowd to offer three cheers of "Hip-hip-hooray!" on his behalf. Then the king called, "Play a reel!" to the royal minstrels, and shouted to the women on the dancefloor, "Line up! Line up for the Mystery Dance! My son is waiting to take one of you away!"
After much bustling and pushing, all the single ladies positioned themselves into two long lines facing each other. Prince Paul approached the maiden on the far end of the left-hand row, then nodded to the maestro. The musicians started playing a lively tune. Paul clasped hands with the girl, then skipped with her through the middle of the two lines. When he reached the end, he released his dance partner with a flourish, flinging her back into the crowd, then clasped hands with the last woman on the right-hand row, and skipped with her to the beginning of the two lines. He repeated his steps over and over, until he had whittled the bevy of maidens down to one: Cinderella.
King Richard cheered and called to the musicians, "A waltz! Strike up a waltz!"
"No, a slow dance!" panted the prince. "I have no breath left to perform another quickstep!"
The king smiled indulgently at his son and nodded to the maestro. The band started playing a slow, romantic ballad.
Prince Paul put his arms around Cinderella and clasped her to his breast. He started swaying back and forth with her over the now-emptied parquet floor, shuffling his feet slowly, not even trying to keep pace with the song's glacial beat. Cinderella rested her head against his chest and listened while his rapid heartbeat slowly receded into a more normal pulse. When the song ended, the king led the crowd in cheering for the couple.
Paul raised Cinderella's hand aloft, then announced that he was stepping outside for some fresh air. The men in the assembly started snickering, while the ladies released another collective sigh.
Paul led Cinderella onto the grand terrace that overlooked the castle's enormous garden. "Damn that man," he cursed under his breath. "Putting me on the spot like that! Can you believe his gall?"
Cinderella flinched. "Do you mean His Majesty, Your Highness?"
"Oh, fuck the titles!" Paul groused. "I've had enough of my father's pomp and pageantry! I never asked to be a prince, now, did I? I just want to enjoy being young, like any other bloke. And when I find the right girl, then yeah, maybe I'll settle down with her and raise a family. But I sure as hell don't want to rule a kingdom anytime soon! Christ! What do I know about politics and warcraft and shit like that? I just want to have fun!"
"Didn't you study those topics in school?" Cinderella asked. "Or with a tutor?"
"Yeah, but I didn't learn anything!" he insisted. "The teachers that taught me weren't cool. So I got some stupid minister's son to take my tests for me."
"Gosh," Cinderella murmured. "So you haven't learned anything about statecraft?"
"I've learned courtly manners," Paul replied with a sneer. He extended his arm towards the manicured lawns, lit softly by the moonlight, and assumed a practiced, clipped accent as he proclaimed:
"Miles and miles of English garden stretching past the willow tree.
Lines of hollyhocks and roses listen most attentively."
He clasped her hands and stared into her eyes as he continued his posh charade:
"Would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?
Very twee, very me, any sunny morning…"
He laughed bitterly, then turned his head and spat at one of the marble statues that lined the perimeter of the terrace.
"O-kaaay?" Cinderella said nervously. "So I gather you don't want to be a prince or a king. What do you want to be?"
Paul looked back at her with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "I want to be a singer! Or better still a minstrel, so I can accompany myself while I sing. I want to play my guitar and entertain crowds! I've done that sometimes, you know. When I'm off with my mates visiting country pubs, far away from my father's eye, I'll pull out my guitar and sing for everyone while they drink their beer. And whenever I do that, I just feel so…so..."
His voice trailed off. He looked down at the ground and mumbled, "I just feel so happy."
Cinderella squeezed his hands. "Have you ever talked to your dad about that? About what you want?"
Paul let go of her hands and turned back towards the palace. The minstrels had started playing a quadrille. Through the tall glass windows, he spied the king dancing with his sister, the duchess. The prince looked back at Cinderella.
"Dad doesn't care about what I want," he groused. "All he cares about are his own dreams. He wants to travel around the world, preaching love and peace and ice lollies and daffodils and all that crap."
"Well, he did lead the country through some terrible times," Cinderella pointed out. "Two wars, and a deep recession too! And he took over the kingdom when he was only a teenager himself, after his father died in battle. He probably thinks he deserves a little 'me-time' now."
Paul scowled at her. "What do you know about battles and poverty? Look at you in your gorgeous gown and fancy hair! You're dressed like a princess, for fuck's sake!"
Cinderella's voice grew tense. "My mum died in the first war, and my dad died in the second. I live with my stepmother now, who treats me like a servant. The only reason I have this dress is because I…"
She hesitated, not knowing if she should reveal her secret.
"You stole it?" Paul guessed. He flashed her a hard look. "So you're a phony, then, aren't you? A tarted-up pretender to the throne!"
"How dare you!" Cinderella exclaimed. "You know nothing about me!"
Paul rolled his eyes and laughed derisively. "I know everything I need to know. You're a teenaged bint with a crush on a prince, and you've dreamed about dancing with me ever since you were a little girl. You didn't know a thing about me either before we had this conversation, but that didn't stop you from fanaticizing about me, or using any means at your disposal to sneak into my father's ball in a dress that doesn't even belong to you!"
"That's enough!" shouted an angry voice.
Paul and Cinderella looked towards the source of the disturbance and saw George step out from behind the statue which Paul had just spat upon.
"What are you doing here, you bloody bastard?" Paul swore at George.
"Were you spying on me?" Cinderella exclaimed, her face flushed with indignation.
"I was given strict instructions to keep an eye on you," George explained to Cinderella. "And I think it's about time the two of us left this cursed castle."
"I think it's past time the two of you left!" Paul said with a sneer, locking eyes with George. "I think you were supposed to have left quite a long time ago, as a matter of fact!"
George grabbed Cinderella's hand. "I'm parked right over there. C'mon! If we run through the garden, we can avoid all those piggies in their starched white shirts dancing in the ballroom."
"Who are you calling a pig, you dirty dog?!" Paul shouted at him.
Cinderella squared her shoulders. "Nobody calls my chauffeur a dog!" she shouted. She lifted her left foot, ripped off her clear rubber shoe, and threw it at the prince. Then she turned towards George and smiled gamely. "Race you to the car!"
They leapt over the terrace's fence, then dashed across the yard, dodging the guards who were stationed along the palace wall. As soon as they jumped inside the car, George started the ignition. He backed down the cobblestone path onto the road, setting off a chorus of loud neighs from the frightened horses as he rushed past them with his engine roaring.
Once they hit the open byway, Cinderella and George released ecstatic whoops of joy.
"Faster than a bullet from a gun, I am faster then everyone!" George boasted.
"Quicker than a blinking of an eye, like a flash they'll all miss you going by!" Cinderella replied.
"No-one knows quite how I do it, but it's true, I say!" George laughed. "I'm the master of going faster!"
Cinderella cast a quick glance at the glowing clock on the Lamborghini's dashboard. "It's only eleven!" she exclaimed. "We can drive for another hour!"
George nodded, slipped the engine into a more powerful gear, and pushed the accelerator to the floor.
"This is so much more fun that hanging out with those stuck-up royals in that weird palace," Cinderella added with a smile.
George stole a glance at her and smiled back. "It's all up to what you value, in your motor car," he agreed.
They raced through miles and miles of countryside, laughing all the way. Finally, with forty seconds to spare on the dashboard clock, George pulled the car into the yard of Cinderella's stepmother. He helped Cinderella out of the car and smiled at her fondly. She gazed into his eyes adoringly. Then, in a flash of sparkles, George turned back into a dog. Cinderella bent down so she could pet the top of his head, and noticed that the hem of her old work dress had ripped once more and needed mending.
- o – o – o -
"Open that door, you lazy oaf!" shouted Cinderella's stepmother Prunella. She turned away from the card game she was playing with her two daughters and sneered at her stepchild. "Didn't you hear? Someone's knocking at the door. Let him in!"
Cinderella dropped her damp rag in a bucket of sudsy water, then stood up, smoothed her stained skirt and walked to the door. As soon as she opened it, she was met with a huge bouquet of flowers thrust in her face.
"I'm sorry!" exclaimed Prince Paul as he peeked through a gap in the blossoms.
Cinderella gasped and stepped backwards.
Prunella glowered at her stepdaughter. "Are those flowers for me? Don't be a dolt, child. Bring them in the house before they wilt!"
"Actually, they're for her!" Paul shouted back. "For Lady Sita Janaki!"
"What utter rot!" Prunella replied. She rested her cards on the table and approached the door. Paul lowered the flowers so she could see his face. She screamed, then collapsed in a faint on top of the doormat.
"Maybe we should talk outside," Cinderella suggested. She stepped over her stepmother and stood beside Paul on the doorstep.
"Is that…?" cried Cinderella's stepsister Brunhilda, covering her mouth to stop a scream.
"It is!" cried her other stepsister Helga. She threw her cards on the table and ran to the door. Her eyes rolled behind their lids at the sight of Paul, and she collapsed on top of her mother's body.
Brunhilda gasped, then ran to the door, clutching her face. Paul smiled at her. She shrieked and passed out on top of Helga.
Paul examined the heap of unconscious women and chuckled. "So much for that lot. But no worries. I want to talk with you."
Cinderella fought back the urge to tell him to bugger off. He pushed the flowers towards her once more, but she refused to accept them.
"Hey, don't be ungracious," he chastised her. "These are a token of my apology. I'm sorry I acted like an arse the night of the ball. And I wanted to thank you, too."
"For what?" she replied, eyeing the flowers suspiciously.
"For your advice about what to do with my dad," he replied.
George stood up from the spot on the lawn where he had been sleeping and sniffed Paul's feet. He lifted his leg and started to urinate.
"Stop that, Georgie!" Cinderella admonished him.
He gazed up at her with his large brown eyes, then walked to the doorstep and stood beside her.
Paul cleared his throat. "I did what you suggested, Lady Sita. I talked to my dad about what I wanted out of life, and how I don't feel ready to assume the throne. And I listened to him when he told me how tired he was of always being in charge, and how he wanted to dedicate himself to doing good works. So we reached a compromise. He said he'd stay king for another five years and let me keep at my music, as long as I sit by his side at his meetings and learn the business of statecraft. He promised to back off about the wedding expectations too. He didn't want me to rush into an ill-thought-out marriage, just to please him."
Cinderella nodded. "That's great then. Good on you."
"There's one more thing," Paul added. He hung his head low and started to whisper. "Dad said I had to make amends with the boy who used to do my schoolwork for me."
"As well you should," Cinderella agreed.
Paul looked back up at her. "But that's harder than it sounds. You see, I…"
He rested the flowers in the dirt and sighed theatrically. "You see, I played a mean trick on him. He was going to rat on me, and tell Dad I'd been shirking my studies. So I made my fairy godfather turn him into an animal so he couldn't speak."
George lifted his head and growled at Paul.
Cinderella looked back and forth between her dog and the prince. Then a wave of recognition rushed through her. "That boy you turned into a dog is my Georgie!"
Paul nodded. "Right. But the thing is, I don't know how to change him back."
"Right. How does one summon a fairy godparent?" Cinderella asked.
"Beats me," Paul replied. "Mine just shows up at random, inopportune moments. He seems to come at the whim of his wife, whom he calls his mother."
Cinderella giggled. "I think we have the same set of fairy godparents!"
As if on cue, John stepped out from behind the shed and approached his fairy godchildren. He threw an anxious glance at the three women heaped on top of each other in the doorframe. "Do you always keep a trio of faces in a door that's ajar?"
Cinderella rolled her eyes. "No. Now let's get down to business. Why did you turn Paul's classmate into a dog?"
"I had to," John replied sheepishly. "Mother told me I had to do whatever the prince asked. He's royal, after all."
"But that's incorrigible!" she replied. "You turn Georgie back into a human this instant!"
John cast a nervous glance at Paul. Paul nodded at him. John grimaced, then pulled his wand out of his pocket, flicked it over George, and transformed him back into a man.
George brushed the fairy dust off the shoulders of his school-issued tunic, then smiled at John. "Thanks," he said dryly. Then he turned towards Paul. "And no thanks to you."
John frowned. "Now wait just a minute there, lad. If you hadn't become a dog, you would have remained at the palace these past seven years, serving Prince Paul's every whim. But instead, you were able to run away and make the acquaintance of this beautiful maiden. I'd say your life has changed for the better because of me."
"It hasn't been easy for me," George replied. "I've also had to live with those three beastly bitches lying there, and protect them from their worst instincts. I've been working like a dog!"
"Well, now you can sleep like a log," John suggested. "You certainly deserve a rest."
George threw a glance at the wheelbarrow and sighed. "That's not half the cart it used to be."
A women's gentle voice rang out on the breeze, whispering, "John!"
John's face blanched. "Somebody's calling my name!"
"John!" the soft, high-pitched voice repeated.
"And it's starting to rain," Cinderella complained as a fat raindrop landed on her nose.
"The spirit dance is unfolding!" John exclaimed.
"Ah-bow-cowa-pussa-pussa!" sang the mysterious woman's voice.
John broke into a broad grin and started dancing for joy.
George eyed him suspiciously. "What's he all about then?"
"Haven't a clue," Paul replied.
"The darling buds of May!" John exclaimed as a white chicken strutted towards him from behind a flowering camellia bush by the shed. "It's Fung Yee Pang, my girlfriend!"
"Your girlfriend?" Cinderella challenged. "I thought you were married to my fairy godmother!"
John picked up the hen and started stroking her feathers. "It's complicated."
"You could say that again," George agreed.
"Well," Paul sighed as the rain started picking up. "I've said my piece; I'll be on my way." He walked back to his barouche, then spun around and looked at Cinderella. "Oh, before I leave, let me give you back your shoe." He reached into his carriage and tossed her the slipper she had thrown at him.
"Um, thanks?" Cinderella said. She turned towards John. "Why didn't this disappear like my other one did?"
John stopped petting Fung Yee momentarily and shrugged. "Damned if I know. I'm just an apprentice fairy godfather. I make mistakes sometimes."
"But you turned me into a dog seven years ago!" George protested. "How long does your apprenticeship last?"
"Time works differently in my realm," John replied. Fung Yee started wriggling, so John placed her gently on the ground. She ran back to the shed.
"So, is there anything else I can do for you?" John asked as Paul shouted 'gidyup' to his horse.
George looked at Cinderella, then at the shed, then back at Cinderella.
Cinderella glanced at Fung Yee, pecking at the seeds in a bucket of chicken feed beside the shed. Then she turned towards John. "So much depends upon the red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chicken," she replied.
John looked at her for a long moment with a puzzled expression. Then his face broke into a wide smile. "Stand back, love!" he called to Fung Yee. The hen darted her head at him, then ran to his side. He threw Cinderella's shoe at the wheelbarrow and shouted, "Fibbity, Fobbity, Formula One!"
Thunder rolled in the distance and a flash of lighting snaked across the sky. It zapped the wheelbarrow, transforming the cart back into a Lamborghini.
George and Cinderella stared at the car in wonder, then smiled at each other and embraced.
George kissed Cinderella. She kissed him back.
George turned towards John. "Does that magic skeleton key still work?"
John picked Fung Yee back up and started stroking her gently. "I imagine it probably does. So off with you then. What are you waiting for? Oh, right…"
He pointed his wand at the pail of chicken feed and transformed it into a bucket of gold coins. "Take that. You'll need it."
"Ta," said George. He ran to the shed and grabbed the key, then opened the passenger door for Cinderella. He popped the trunk and threw in the bucket of gold, then slipped into the driver's side, started the engine, and looked out the window at John. "I'm the master of going faster!" he exclaimed. Then he took off with a roar towards the land of happily ever after.
The Fabs lend their talents and songs to this souped-up version of the fairy tale "Cinderella."