AN: I realized that Dimitri was chapter SEVEN. HERP DERP.

Anyways, so I set ALL the other stories in-progress aside so I can just concentrate on this one large story. I have a feeling it'll hold more personal value than anything else so I'd like to do this one; before I die anyway. I forgot to ask last chapter: wish me luck and pray for me, 'cause I might kill myself working on this. XD

Well, a couple things to mention.

1. I got permission to take the characters on my own path from quite a few people so I'm going to continue piecing it together. I already have a few 'snippets' done and kinda know what I want but I'm still trying to find places of where and when characters join in. Above all, the characters are my main concern, NOT the plot, so if it feels like the story is lagging (once I start posting the story up) I apologize in advance.

2. HOWEVER, of course, character chapters ARE continuing. Everyone needs a spot in the limelight so everyone will eventually come up, despite me being slooooow. ;D

3. When I start uploading the 'story' chapters, it won't mess the order of 'character' chapters. It'll make sense once I start doing this since it'll be visual.

I can't find the emails that were sent to notify me who is following and who reviewed so I can't thank you all properly. D'8

But I do remember destinydeceived saying she liked the Sinbad/Dimitri chappie. Dearie, I wasn't a fan of slash either until THEY came along. XD

Okey-dokey, so Cinderella was auditioned by three people but I chose the one by xworldApocalypsex since she'd gone beyond the audition and, also, the power suits what I want to do later in the actual storyline.

Okay, I'm done bugging you! Here's Cindy. :3

DISCLAIMER: NO OWN. –cries-

Cinderella

"I apologize for his behavior," said a woman with red tresses, an amused smile toying her lips.

"Not at all," a gentleman responded, a laugh brightly echoing in the room, "I'm just glad you and your son could make it. Wouldn't you agree Tremaine?"

Tremaine stiffly smiled.

A boy with soot colored hair peeked from behind his mother, taking comfort in the rose and lilac scented soap she uses. The man—a friend of his parents—appeared genuinely kind and had offered him treats as soon as he entered the door, but the woman named Tremaine frightened him a little, her face hawk-like, the unusual green eyes burning into his skin. His fist tightened on his mother's dress.

Rebecca glanced down at her son, bending down slightly, "Charming, sweetheart, it's all right."

The little boy continued to cover his face in the fabric of her dress.

Rebecca turned to her friend and his wife, "Charming is not usually this shy. Normally Luis and I have to try and stop him before he hurts himself in whatever he's doing. He's rather rambunctious!"

Tremaine quirked a brow, "You named your son 'Charming?'"

Rebecca lifted a dainty hand to laugh behind, "Yes, when he was born the first word that left my husband's mouth and mine was 'charming' and his name stuck."

Tremaine held back a derisive sneer, "Well it's rather… peculiar. And I've yet to see how exactly the child is 'charming.'"

Rebecca's hand remained to cover her mouth from spewing the insult in her mind: And who names their daughter Drizella?

Tremaine's husband sighed, "Darling…"

The woman sighed in exasperation and excused herself, walking out of the parlor and up the stairs in a hurriedly annoyed pace she did not bother to hide. Once she was gone, Rebecca turned to her friend. "She's not very friendly. Why on earth did you ever marry her Charles?" Charming emerged a little to hear the answer; the devil-lady had gone.

Charles heaved a weary sigh, "I understand that. Tremaine has her faults but there isn't a person alive who is perfect. She can be rather kind and considerate."

"When she wants something I wager."

"Rebecca…"

The woman tossed a curl of fire behind her shoulder, taking Charming under the arms and placing him onto her lap, "I know I'm being rude Charles but there was no reason to insult my son."

"And I apologize on her behalf Rebecca. I believe it to fits your son quite well—he does have a certain charm," Charles remarked, winking at the boy and was delighted to see the boy grin.

"How is Ella adjusting to it?" asked Rebecca.

"She is taking it well, surprisingly. But you know Ella—she takes after her mother."

Rebecca smiled fondly of Charles' former wife, Ilene. She had loved Ilene dearly as one would a sister and she and her husband Luis grieved for losing such a remarkable woman. Charles and they had worried over how it might affect little Ella so it was relieving to hear that she was taking it well. But even children knew how to lie.

"That is wonderful to hear. But is she really faring well?"

"Yes she is. Ella would have told me something by now if she was not getting along with her step-sisters and Tremaine."

"Although you said so yourself Charles—Ella takes after her mother. Ilene would suffer silently if it meant making someone happy. Checking on her would not hurt."

Charles nodded at his companion's reasoning. "No, I reckon not."

"Who is Ella?" inquired Charming.

The adults blinked and Rebecca smiled as Charles grinned and rose to fetch her, "Ella is his young daughter. She and you are the same age actually."

"She's six too?"

"Yes, darling; would you like to meet her? She's very nice."

The little boy nodded. Hopefully she was nice as his mother said.

Charles returned a couple of moments later, perplexed, and Rebecca inquired as to what. Charles explained that he could not find Ella anywhere.

"Are you sure?"

Charles nodded. "Quite. Normally she is in her room reading or practicing sewing but she could be playing outside with the dog and the horse."

Charming perked up, "Can I play with the animals, Mama?"

Rebecca turned to Charles for permission. At his yes, she acquiesced but said, "Let's look for little Ella first. She can't be far and when we find her, we'll find the animals."

Charming darted outside into the garden, excited at the prospect of riding a horse. Rebecca and Charles tagged along at a slower pace, though Charming paid no mind and continued to search, peeking past bushes and darting around the vast veranda.

He halted when he heard a neigh and leapt over to the noise. There beside a massive gray beast was a small little girl, gently stroking the horse's muzzle. He walked over to her and chirruped a friendly, "Hello!"

Ella jumped, her hair whipping her face. "Oh! Hello. Are you the son of Papa's friend?"

"Yes,"

"I'm Ella," she said, sticking her hand out in the mannerism she'd seen grown-up men do, though she was supposed to curtsy.

"I'm Charming," he said, taking her hand and kissing it—the way he'd been taught to do.

Ella squeaked in surprise and giggled out a, "Gross!"

From a distance away, Rebecca and Charles beamed and the man turned towards her, "You didn't name your son—fate did."

Rebecca shrugged. "Luis and I take some influence. If neither of us could speak, Fate would've named him 'mute' and that would be even worse than 'Drizella.'"

This time Charles didn't hold back the eye roll and chuckle.

XXX

"What do you like to do?"

Ella looked up from her novel, touched her chin thoughtfully. "Hmm… well, I enjoy all sorts of things I suppose. There's reading, cooking, riding horses, gathering flowers. Many things can be fun. What about you?"

"I like thinking up different names for me."

"Oh, really? You don't like your name."

Charming shook his head, sticking out his tongue in a cheeky response. "Nope!"

Frowning, Ella scanned through her novel and was silent for a moment. "Why don't you want to keep it?"

"Well, you've heard my name, Ella: Charming. What kind of kid has that name?"

"I like it."

"Of course you would—you're a girl. You like silly, frilly names."

Ella stiffened, "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean that I like everything 'silly' and 'frilly.' You're only stereotyping. Next thing I know you're going to say girls belong in the kitchen."

Charming shook his head, "Why would I say that?" the boy asked, wrinkling his nose in distaste, "My mom doesn't do that. She's pretty bad at cooking,"

"You shouldn't say mean things about your mom; she's a wonderful lady."

Charming shrugged and grinned, "I know—my mom is the best in the world. But I'm not going to lie about her not being able to cook. Even she said she is bad at it. She likes taking me into the kitchen, though, and asks the chefs there to show me how they sauté and such. She then tells me, "Be very, very happy that we have these lovely people to serve us meals. Otherwise, you and your father wouldn't have a chance by now."

My mom isn't great at cooking but she's really good at putting flowers together in vases. She says it's like painting but it smells better. There was this one time when my mom and dad went out to town and my mom had on this hat with large, decorative flowers. A couple of bees decided to try and get the nectar out of them and my father had to run around with her as she tried to avoid them. My mom had to throw the hat behind her because she didn't want to deal with them anymore! It was really funny seeing them run around!" Charming began to chuckle uncontrollably, his face a bright pink from recalling it.

Ella had listened quietly to Charming talk about his mother, an unbelievable envy rising into her chest, tightening her throat. "So even though she and you do all these things together, you still want to change your name?"

Rolling his dark eyes, Charming nodded, "Why are you so upset about that? It's not even your name, it's mine."

"I just think that if your mother named you that then you should keep it and be grateful about it."

"Ella, you're my best friend, but you really need to lighten up."

"You should be happy that your mother is alive and gave you a name as adorable as 'Charming!' Why won't you keep it, huh? What exactly is wrong with it?"

Charming held his hands up in defense, frightened by the look of anger on her face, "Ella—"

"I think it's pretty stupid of you to want to change your name just because people like to make fun of it. Can't you just ignore them? If I can deal with my father loving another woman every day, a woman that doesn't like me at all, then why is a name that hard to handle? Are you that big of a baby?"

"Ella, calm down! You're being irrational and I don't think you should be getting mad at me! I didn't do anything to you."

The young girl huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, tears of fury stinging her eyes and she hurriedly wiped them away, ashamed of having acted out of place. Sniffling, Ella brushed her hair back behind her ear, murmuring a quiet sorry.

Charming awkwardly scratched the back of his neck, nervous about whether or not a hug was appropriate at the moment. His father would tell him he is eleven, becoming a man, and should be encouraging or comforting anyone who is upset. His mother would say the same thing, but both would say to be mindful of a woman in tears. Even so, he tentatively inched closer and laid an arm about her shoulders. He hoped her step-sisters wouldn't barge in on them—they would not only ever let them live it down; they would squawk it to the whole world, starting with their mother.

Even after all these years, Lady Tremaine was still frightening.

Ella's fists tightened and she further buried her face into her arms, wanting to tell Charming to leave her be and also wanting him to stay. She couldn't go to her father—to be a bother to him even further would not be good for either of them. He had so much to do all the time; he doted affection and love with every fiber of his being, but she grew worried that he was absorbed in his work because he was still not over the death of her mother.

Ella sighed heavily, sinking more into her arms and tried to hold back the tears.

XXX

An illness had spread throughout the country with tremendous force, settling into the bodies of rich and poor, a heavy ghost that sat on the now frail, thin chests and suffocated them.

Ella watched in dismay as her father's chest rose miniscule by miniscule, his ragged breathing filling the air. She hated this—he was dying right before her eyes and she was helpless to do anything about it. Oh, what was she to do! But she couldn't be showering only herself with pity. Charming's mother had contracted the similar sickness around the same time many individuals had begun to fall and die. Several doctors had hypothesized the beginning of a new disease, or the rebirthing of the Bubonic Plague, but that was impossible: fleas had not been giving that disease for centuries.

Charles' sudden shuddery gasp caught Ella's attention and she gripped his hand tighter, "Papa…" she croaked through the tears, "Papa, please don't go to Mama yet… I need you here with me. What will I do without you?"

Smiling through the pain, Charles lifted a pale hand and brushed it lightly atop her head before resting it there, "Oh, my sweet little girl… it will be all right,"

"No, no it won't, Papa, and you know it. How… how can I make it without you? I… don't like my step-mother or step-sisters. They're so awful, terribly awful…" she didn't know why she was spilling out her filthiest feelings of hatred now; did she have to do it now? While her father was lying sick and dying in this bed that he once shared with her mother? Could she not let him die in peace? Did she have to be selfish and irrevocably human now?

But Charles did not appear to care and smiled gently at her, "Child, I know they can be difficult… but we—" he coughed violently, then breathed in a terribly shaky intake of air; she wept harder at the sight of red that now stained the corner of his mouth, "We… we have to love them, despite their nature. Your mother was like that; she taught me to be like that. I only wish I could have spent more time with you… teach you things…"

Ella's heart froze; did he regret not being closer to her? Or did he regret not having made her perfect? She loved him dearly—was this his subtle way of telling her there was something wrong with her? She wasn't sure and the confusion made her mind spin, caused her heart to hurt.

"Ella, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that… I mean to insult or demean you… believe me daughter, it is nothing like that. You're my special little angel, my precious baby girl. Don't let anyone… tell you anything different."

"Papa…" she cried softly, the tears warm, contrasting the chill she felt spread along her skin, "Papa… I'm sorry… I'm sorry for unloading my feelings… on your very deathbed…!"

"Shh…" he murmured, cupping her face, a weak but sincere grin on his face, "Be strong Ella. You're special. I know it. Be strong…"

His hand began to slip…

"Papa? Papa? Don't go now—please! I can't bear it—not yet!"

Charles gave her a wider smile and closed his eyes, "Be strong, my Ella."

"Papa! Papa!" she knew she was screaming at a corpse, but she wanted his eyes to open, she wanted her voice to bring him back. At that moment, she never felt more alone.

XXX

The funeral for both her father and Charming's mother had been an elegant, quiet and brief affair. She felt numb throughout the eulogies and the condolences, the prayers and the weeping. The only part of her that felt anything was her back: the eyes of her step-family, the pecking of ravens upon carrion.

She rose and walked to anywhere and nowhere. She just felt so empty.

Upon reaching the shade of a tall tree, she sank with a loud thud on the grass and lay on the earth. Cerulean orbs watched as a tiny little ladybug flew up into the air. She vaguely realized she was glad and relieved it was sunny—her father never liked overcast days. They always set him in a gloomy mood. What a terrible day that would have been to be buried on…

"Ella?"

She didn't respond.

Charming walked over to her, sullen and weak-willed. Without thinking of it, he flopped down beside her, staring up into the leafy umbrella that filtered shafts of light. At the moment, they were two lost children, barely close to thirteen, caught up in a surreal environment where nothing and everything made sense.

People live and die. That was the cycle of nature.

But it didn't mean that they had to like it. Death was not unwelcome to those who moved on; they were dead: what was there to worry? Yes, death caused hurt and grievance to those who had been left behind on this physical terrain. Death of loved ones hurt the living more than any doubled-edged sword or gun.

There was nothing they could do to reverse the effects of it.

Charming turned to look at Ella, eyes closed as though she were sleeping; the gentle rise and fall of her back gave the only indication that she was still alive. He rolled over onto his side and absentmindedly stroked her cheek.

Her eyes opened, glassy and painfully unaware of her worldly surroundings, an internal conflict occurring within.

"Ella, I'm sorry."

The tears began again, and she sat up slowly, a hand clenched tightly into a fist on the dress she wore. She had refused to adorn the traditional black—her mother and father had never particularly cared for that color. She honored that distaste for such a mournful shade with a bright viridian dress. She had resisted pinning onto the dress her mother's favorite crest: an amethyst butterfly with diamond bedecked wings. Instead, a few nights after her father had passed; she collected his and her mother's valuables and hid them way down in the cellar.

She would try to love her step-family—she promised herself, for her father's sake, that she would.

But she would die a thousand deaths before she allowed them to wear her mother's jewels.

She didn't know how to respond, her mouth quivering in silent despair; she knew, deep in her heart, she should be caring for him too—he was hurting just as badly—but she couldn't. She didn't know how.

Lost, she merely set her head down, a valence of soft flaxen tangles covering her face. Ella felt the tentative touch of his arm around her shoulders.

For a long time, they were silent—two friends that felt as though the world betrayed them and laughed a high pitched cackle. "We'll be strong together, Ella, I promise."

The words cracked her heart further and she began to bawl, face red and blotchy. Charming held her tighter and he cried with her; neither knew what else to do but weep. Just weep.

XXX

"Make sure to clean out the stables and air out the curtains in the morning,"

I just did that today.

"Don't forget that you have to mend the hem on Anastasia's dress and you also need to clean out Drizella's wardrobe. Oh, and do not forget that the east hall needs to be dusted for the party that we are going to throw the day after tomorrow. It's absolutely filthy—the whole place is dirty! It's a wonder that we are not up to our knees in vermin."

Ella nodded, "Yes, Stepmother."

"Good," Lady Tremaine replied. She gave a curt nod to her stepdaughter before turning around to climb up the flight of stairs. She was getting rather annoyed of having to go all the way down this drafty place; perhaps it was time to move the girl to the tower. There, she won't be as much a problem, and she could avoid the coldness of the cellar.

Yes, she might just move her stepdaughter.

"Goodnight Stepmother."

No reply but the shutting of the door.

Ella sighed and groped in the darkness for her lantern. Finding the metallic handle, she felt around for a matchstick and, finding one, promptly lit it up and it flickered in the black. Not wanting to be wasteful of the oil in the lantern, she kept it at the dimmest tone and set it gently on the stone floor. Crawling over to the fireplace, Ella curled up in the still warm cinders, a shuddery sigh of relief escaping her lips. Thank goodness, it was still somewhat warm…

A heavy sleep was about to blanket her weary mind when she heard the faint drumming of fingers upon wood. She opened her eyes, wondering what was happening.

Charming!

He normally came to visit her once she headed for the cellar. Since the death of her father, Tremaine had forbidden her to speak to any man, even the son as someone as wealthy as Charming's father. She had her daughters attempt several times to gain his affection, all of them downright pathetic methods, and Tremaine had never bothered again since.

Taking hold of the lantern, she lifted it to the opening that went to the outside. Tremaine had set a lock upon the outside years ago but she hadn't the faintest clue that the chain links were red from rust and became brittle enough to be filed through.

Opening the cellar's entrance, she grinned up at the face of Charming, "Hello,"

Charming forced a smile. "Good thing I brought this," he told her, pulling out several thick woolen blankets. Ella's eyes lit up in relief and she took them gratefully. She hadn't noticed that she'd been shaking violently until she felt something of actual warmth.

Charming quietly closed the cellar doors, took one of the blankets and wrapped it about her shoulders. He took one of her hands, as cold as ice, and he began to rub it, trying hard to warm her fingers. He swore that the next time he came to 'visit' she may not have any left.

Charming gently stroked his thumb against her cheek, blackening the tip with soot and ash, "Well, it's no wonder those witches call you Cinderella."

Ella just nodded.

"I don't understand why you don't just stand up to them."

"How can I?" Ella inquired, watching him try to warm up her hands; she felt only the slightest degree of heat.

"Run away; plenty of girls would in this situation."

"It's not the same. Those girls probably had no obligation; I do."

"Ella—"

"No, Charming; I mean this."

"Your father would not to see you being mistreated like this,"

"No… he probably would not. But…" She had to be like him, be like mother: doting and forgiving.

Sighing, Charming took her by the hand and glanced at her; black marred her normally porcelain complexion, the natural blush of her cheeks diminished by the cold that bit into their skin and her hair, which always reminded him of spring in bloom—sunrays highlighting darker shades of red and brown. Brushing a few strands of titian that fell into her eyes, muddled from lack of sleep yet clear from the tears that threatened to fall, he pulled her into his chest.

"Marry me." He murmured.

Ella pulled back, shock on her features. "What?"

"Marry me."

Ella stood, gripping the blankets tightly around her shoulders, "Marry you? H-How can we—?"

Charming gazed up at her intently, "Simple. You run away and that's that."

"There's more to these sorts of things than simply running away! I…" she made a promise. "How can I turn my back on them?"

"They treat you worse than a slave and you're still willing to take care of them? Isn't there a part of you that demands for your humanity to be returned to you?"

"You know there is a part of me that longs for freedom—that's all I can dream about. But you didn't have your flesh and blood plead to you as he lay dying to look after the ones who wronged me! What do you know about this?"

"I know that your father wouldn't want you to be wallowing away in filth while your stepfamily abuses your inheritance. They're cruel, terrible people Ella!"

"You think I don't know that?" she harshly whispered, but her voice cracked, wanting to rise, "There have been days when I wish I didn't have that promise over my head! There were countless times when I prayed God would take their free will and change them for me, days when I wish they opened their hearts, days when the darkest part of me desired something so terrible to happen to them it'd leave me shaking. You… I'm scared of my mind."

Standing to full height, Charming pulled her into his embrace, stroking her hair as she cried into his shoulder, "That's why I'm saying you should marry me. I can take you from here—you won't have to deal with them anymore. I know you promised your father, and it means a lot to you to keep that promise, but there's a difference to being a slave to them and accepting that they're simply like that. Please… you have to see reason. Don't you?"

Ella sniffled, wiping her eyes. She knew he had made a point, but how could she leave the home where she was born in, took her first tentative steps? This mansion held so many memories: the garden where she and her mother would tend to the animals and plants; the spacious and elaborate library where her father would read to her; how can she leave it all to people who she knew wouldn't take care of it?

Charming rested a hand upon her cheek and smiled sincerely, pressing his forehead against hers. He wanted her to know this offer wasn't here just because she was his dearest friend, or that he pitied her. A love for her had taken place in his heart throughout the years, stubborn and blooming into a tender sweetness. He knew Ella knew that and he desperately wanted her to accept—he was her only means of escape, but aside from that, it made his heart swell with joy at the thought of marrying the woman he loved.

Ella's hand was gently resting on his forearm, understanding what he wanted to say, what he wanted her to say. A deep part within her wanted her to say 'yes' to his proposal. The little voice in her mind, the one that's always tripped her with threads of guilt, told her she was merely using him. But she knew the voice was lying—she wanted to be with him for the rest of her life.

It was time to think of herself.

"I do," she whispered, rising on her toes and brushed her lips on his.

XXX

Leaving proved more than difficult. They waited a week so nothing would seem suspicious. Ella crept about in the cellar, waiting until she felt that the entire household was asleep. Charming would be waiting by the entrance into the mansion about now in the early hours of the morning.

Ella had taken her mother's and father's dearest possessions early in the day before anyone had woken up and hidden them in a hole that was at the roots of one of the trees nearest the entrance. In case someone found her leaving. She glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone was following her, her heart sick as she saw the way the moon bathed her home in silver. She couldn't afford to become distracted now! She had to leave.

The soft footfalls, the sound of her breathing, and the beat of her nervous heartbeat were all Ella heard as she made her way to the front. The sound of a twig snapping startled her and she turned around. She kept herself from inquiring who was there—maybe Charming grew worried and decided to just leave the car running. Her palms began to sweat, the cold chill of the night air causing the hairs on the back of her neck to rise.

Another footfall, but it wasn't soft and cautious—they were heavy, purposeful almost.

It can't be Charming. He'd have no reason to be fearful if it was just her.

She can't be taken back! She realized the thought abhorred her more than anything in the world—she wanted a life that was hers and hers alone.

"Cinderella!" the voice rang out sharply, cutting the tension. Oh dear God, that was her stepmother!

No, no, no… no, she can't go back…! Ella squeezed her eyes tightly, her hands fisting into her hair, shaking in the gloom. No, please, no. Inside her body, her heart began to speed within its white cage, beating against her ribs—a frantic little bird that cried out for freedom.

"Oh, child…" Lady Tremaine said her brows high in surprise, "Anastasia! What in the world are you doing out here?"

What? Ella thought, and she whirled around to face her stepmother. Anastasia? Couldn't she see her?

Tremaine's eyes narrowed in suspicion; she was certain it had been her ungrateful and spoiled stepdaughter. "Anastasia, my dear, what are you doing out here?"

Ella wondered if she was dreaming. She cleared her throat, "Oh, um, I was just—"

"Your voice is low, Anastasia. See child? You have now become ill from frolicking out here the night."

Ella cleared her throat again, trying to make her voice higher, "No, no… Mother, I thought I heard something. And while I was up, I decided to get some water since I couldn't get to sleep."

"Why did you not fetch for Cinderella? That girl is there down in the cellar—she only had to go to the kitchen."

"Well, I was already up and decided to fetch it for myself."

"Why are you outside then?"

"There was none in the pitcher and came outside. But I got distracted by how pretty tonight was and just… um… forgot…" Ella shrank under the scrutinizing beryl stare, cutting into her skin.

"Well," said Tremaine, eyeing her queerly, "Hurry back inside. I can't afford to have you or your sister ill."

"Yes, Mother."

Ella waited until Tremaine went back inside the house that she began to walk forward again, her legs stiff, stone pillars that kept her body from moving properly. She reached to tug her hair, and a scarlet curl weaved around her fingers, smooth digits that had never known hard labor.

With a newfound strength, Ella hurried over to the fountain in the garden and almost fell forward into the water, frightened by the change. Her stepsister stared back at her!

She leapt back, heart in her throat, and she fell onto her knees. Oh what happened? Why didn't she look like herself? Ella rubbed 'her' arms and shook. Slowly, she went back over to the edge and peered. Bright blue eyes stared back, her hair a light shade of reddish brown again. She was herself once more.

Ella stared at her reflection for several moments, wondering how she had done this. It felt so surreal, the inside of a dream. Touching the surface, disrupting the glass and making it ripple; Ella concentrated and made herself think of Tremaine. After what felt an eternity, she opened her eyes and there, within the crystal liquid, appeared her stepmother.

This was incredible!

Ella focused to change herself back to normal and saw her own face.

Whatever happened in her to cause this, she felt that this was an act of mercy, a gift to use to escape the living hell she succumbed to since the death of her parents. It had to be.

She murmured prayers of thanks as she hurried back to the entrance, grabbed the bundle in the tree hole, held it to her breast and ran towards where her prince waited for her. The taste of freedom overwhelmed her senses.

XXX

Then there was the taste of his skin, the beautiful sense of the removing of shackles as he enclosed his hands about her wrists, drawing her closer, the small hum of the quiet wedding ceremony in the background.

The first blessing she felt in so long; yoked to another for life yet it didn't feel as though she was losing anything—it felt freeing, to be with someone who cared for her like an actual human being.

In the darkness of their room, bound to the one who hovered above her, his breath warm in her ear, she would wonder, faintly, Oh no… what if I change? What if he sees?

Much to Ella's relief, that had yet to occur; she says 'yet' because she does not want to jinx herself.

Ella would, at times, wander about in the garden when Charming and his father would attend to business affairs during the week and practice with her gift. It had to be a gift—it helped her escape the prison that screamed of broken dreams and dry memories that cracked when she flitted a fingertip over them.

It felt good to breathe.

It felt good to feel normal.

It felt good to feel human.

Well, as human as she could get…

But that doesn't matter, does it? thought Ella as she walked lazily towards her new home. Charming is such an accepting man; now that she remembers it, he had always been thoughtful and considerate, even when it felt he wasn't but she assumed that was due to her being a naïve child.

What would he do if he were to learn the truth of her power, her gift?

Ella knew it was ridiculous to allow her mind to tread on darker paths—he'd love her no matter what.

She had a sudden desire to prove it herself, to lay her fears to rest with her past life—fear had no place in her life, not here where everything was so big and wide and bright.

I'll tell him.

XXX

"Charming?"

Her husband turned to look at her, his finger in-between the pages of his novel to keep place, "Yes?"

Ella approached him tentatively, as calm and soft as he's ever seen her. He leaned forward, giving her his full attention; it had to be serious.

"Charming… I would like you to know something about me," she paused; licked her suddenly chapped lips and murmured, "What would you say to me if I told you I was… I was different?"

Dark eyes narrowed in confusion, moving even closer till he was a hairsbreadth from her face, "What do you mean?"

"I have this… this ability, you might say, to… it's a rather strange gift. I'm able to change into whomever I've ever seen."

She didn't dare look up, see his face.

Suddenly, he chuckled, and she couldn't help her head from snapping up. "What? Ella, you're joking."

She shook her head, stunned that he wasn't taking this on a more serious note, "No. No, Charming, I'm not."

Charming stared at her for a moment, as though he were saying, Prove it.

Ella stood, took a deep breath, and concentrated, focused her mind's eye on the image of a woman with waves of gold for hair, long and lustrous with a slender form. She would do—she'd seen her once. She heard Charming's intake of air and she knew she'd done it. She opened her eyes to see his mouth agape, staring at the face of a beautiful woman that was not his wife.

"See?" she stated more than asked.

Charming looked down then back up at her, lost for words. "Hmm… yes, I do see. I see it now."

Ella made herself change back, unnerved by the silence, and left the room that had been drained of comfort.

XXX

Trembling, fear crawling along her skin, Ella crept down the hallway. Oh, why did she tell him? She wasn't expecting him to take it… well, the way he did. She forced herself not to worry so much—it would just take time for him to get used to it. After all that he and she have shared, why should it change all because of one thing, as bizarre as it may be?

But it's been a whole week…

No, no, she told herself, shaking her head, everything will be alright. All the bad things are a part of the past now.

Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that dread awaited like a gloomy veil above her head, close to obscuring her vision. Ella continued to make her way down the hallway, and paused when her peripheral vision caught the faint shine of light.

Curiosity piqued, she began to make her way and stopped. What was she thinking? Nothing was wrong—she was being paranoid for no reason. But… she didn't like the evening felt.

Soft as a specter, Ella walked to the door, the keyhole a lighthouse that drew her in like a ship lost at sea. Her emotions were tumultuous as she peered in, heart hammering wildly in her ears. She noticed her husband sitting in a chair, the side of his face to her. She'd never seen him so stoic.

"I see," he finally said, reclining in his seat.

"Of course, we'll pay you for this."

"The money is not what I'm interested in," but he was lying through his teeth.

An elderly man with skin that almost appeared gray folded his hands, moved forward and quirked a brow, "Oh, it isn't, now? Well, I disagree with that. The woman is worth quite a lot of money—she would be a useful… addition to our program."

Ella's heart stopped beating for one pulse, two, and three…

Charming lifted a hand, rested his chin in it; leaned back as though to think it over. "You have a deal then."

Ella nearly toppled backward, cerulean orbs wide, shaking. Not thinking, she burst into a sprint down the hallway. Who was that man? What was he talking about? Charming… Charming did this to her! Tears began to spill, blurring her view. She couldn't believe this—how could he do this?

She reached the top of the stairs when she heard yelling. She instinctively slid down the banister; the French doors within reach and she opened one and ran as fast as she could. The dawn would color the world soon, but, now, the world felt so bleak. She had to escape; that was all her body knew—her mind and heart were stupefied by the betrayal.

XXX

It was high afternoon with a brilliant sun warming her clammy skin that Ella heard the rumble of thunder, delivering the message of a god of wrath, the impending doom that was bound to happen soon. It reminded her of her stepmother that final night in that prison—but this was a new pursuit, one she didn't think she could avoid. No… escape was inevitable. Even if she changed into the shape of someone that was not her, they would easily take her in for questioning.

The rumbling sound grew louder, ominous and dangerous.

Ella almost cried out in frustration because there was no shelter to seek—she was out in the open.

The noise behind her continued to increase—

"No, no!" she screamed, "Not another prison!" She can't go into another!

The screeching of wheels, a banshee in broad daylight—

It was hopeless. But she had to fight—

She heard gunshots behind her, resonant in her head like her heartbeat. She continued to run, withal—better to die than become a plaything once more.

Ella slid to a sloppy halt as the car zoomed past and parked right before her, men coming out with handcuffs, glinting their twin hooked mouth maliciously. She felt herself lose footing before being jerked roughly upright, arms pressed against her back. She turned and saw Charming there, dark and still.

"Charming…!" she croaked, "I know… I know this was frightening but—"

The men tugged at her to walk.

"—I didn't mean for this. Please, I know this is hard—" she reached forward, managing to slip her delicate hands through the grips, her digits touching the back of his hand and the feel of his skin nearly tore at her heart.

Charming looked away, glaring hostilely.

The life went out of her; she followed willingly then, a lamb for slaughter.

XXX

Her desire for vengeance was too strong, much too strong.

She curled herself up in the corner of her cell, huddled like a little ghost living in a shell. The door to the cell creaked, her daily checkup. The man who came into her cell was just a guard but he had a penchant for disturbing her "rest" now and again—he found it amusing.

But tonight, she wasn't having any of that. Tucked between her arms and breasts lay a rod, thick enough to cause harm but not kill. Though she wouldn't have minded that and if need be, the guards normally have some sort of weapon on them. She could use that if the rod wasn't enough. It was difficult to sneak in but she'd managed by moving it around in other parts of the asylum.

All her fear and rage poured out of her with each blow she delivered—the rod wound up not being enough and she'd reached for his pocket to pull out his Taser. Ella decided it was only fair—he would use it whenever he pleased with her and she hated him for it.

Quickly, she tore of her pathetically torn sheet for a nightgown and put it on the guard, taking his clothes and putting them on with haste. She had been practicing in secret her transfiguring into the guards she'd seen and transforming into them was not so hard now. Ella pulled on the cap, tugged it tightly, and walked out of the cell and down the hallway. She would pretend to know where she was going. After what felt an eternity, she came across two other men and followed them out. They were too busy in their conversation to speak to her and for that she was grateful—she still couldn't mimic men very well.

Discreetly, Ella went outside and stared up into the night sky. She wondered about the girl who had escaped from this terrible place, the one the guards would sometimes talk about.

She needed to write to this Megara.

Ella also knew that her identity needed to be guarded closely. 'Ella' was out of the question—that's who everyone was looking for. But that girl was dead; she has been dead since losing her parents, then brought back briefly only to die with her heart on her sleeve.

Cinderella, however, was very much alive. She was the girl who dealt with abusive family members, breathed in ashes and stale crumbs yet still held that spark of life, clung to it and held. Not like Ella who tried to live with happiness and comfort around her like some private shawl, only to be unaware of the moth holes.

Yes, she needed to write to Megara. And she knew what she would say.

Dear Megara,

My name is Cinderella. Just like you, I have a "gift." I can turn into anyone I have ever seen. I eventually told my husband about my ability. The one man I truly trusted. Then I found out he was one of them.

I ran but they caught me.

He betrayed me. But I escaped. I'm on my way.

I will fight for our freedom… and my revenge.

AN: FINALLY, SHE'S DONE. Gah! Out of them all so far, Cinderella was definitely the hardest to write. She was fun, no doubt, but so demanding. I would do one thing and she'd go, "Nooooo…" XD

In the original version Cinderella was given her name because the girl would curl up in the cinders of the fireplace for warmth. Also, the names the parents have are for reasons: Charles is for Charles Perrault, the creator of the original Cinderella fairytale; Ilene is from Ilene Woods, the voice actress for Cinderella (who died in 2010. D'X); Luis is from the original voice actor for the King (both he and Ilene are from Disney's version); and Rebecca… well, Charming's mom in the third movie just looked like a Rebecca. XD Cinderella will be known as Cinderella, but also Ella and Cindy for nicknames (by others) 'cause I say so. LOL