"May I come in?" asked the Prince, charming as ever. He was escorted by his steward. Cinderella bit her lip and showed them in. She lead them to the sitting room. The Baker, quickly assessing that it would be better for him to stay away from this, gestured for Jack to leave with him. As soon as the room was cleared, Chandler spoke.
"Steward, go guard the horse." After the disagreeable man left, he stared at her with an intensity.
"Darling, I hope you've learned your lesson. It is not right for you to be out here in poverty. I cannot promise I will change my ways, but I will be sure to be more faithful."
" Chan- Your Majesty." She sputtered indignantly."As far as I'm concerned, you died beneath the foot of the giant. I hope you're happy up in that castle, for I am happier here than I ever would be there with you!"
"Silly little Ella. I see you've moved on with that peasant harlot's husband. You're nothing but a-"
"Shut up!" Her sharp words pierced the air. "You were my first love. My prince. You were- you were supposed to be my ever after. I loved you with all my heart. And now…. The Baker and I are raising the children, yes, but nothing more. Now I think it's best you leave."
She stood up, shocked at how shrewd she'd been with him. They had not rowed once during their happier times, unless you count disagreeing upon a china pattern. Looking at the floor, she brought him to the door. He grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her tenderly. She wanted to break away and slap him, but she found herself under his spell again. All too soon, he broke the kiss. Brushing his lips on her forehead, he started towards the door.
"I will have the marriage annulled tomorrow, just as you wish, Cinderella."
The door slammed shut and she fell to the ground sobbing. She clutched her stomach and cursed herself for not being brave enough to tell him the news.
Dinner was an awkward affair. The sullen boy shoveled the food into his mouth without a word. Cinderella did a poor job of concealing her emotions. Rosaline and the Baker chattered a little bit to fill the silence.
As soon as they were finished, Jack dashed away to his room. Red went to the fireplace to look at a storybook. Cinderella and Baker put everything away. He wondered whether he should say something, or comfort her. He had seen the conversation. He didn't mean to eavesdrop, but something drew him to. He was glad she didn't go back to the palace with that prince. He couldn't raise his son and the two children alone. And something else wanted her to stay, though he couldn't explain it.
But he bit his lip and scrubbed dishes with her. It was nice to have someone next to him, even if it wasn't his wife. They looked nothing alike, but something in her eyes reminded him of Joanna.
At ten the little girl knocked on the door of Jack's bedroom timidly. The door swung open and there he stood, his hard gaze softening a little.
"Can I sleep here again tonight? On the floor?"
He smiled. "No, there's enough room for you in my bed. Besides, you'll be warmer that way."
And since she hadn't packed a nightgown in her suitcase ( it was full of toys and dresses and the like) he lent her a big shirt. He looked away as she put it on. She tapped him on the back when it was safe. He laughed a little when he turned around. She pouted indignantly.
"Well fine, then mister! I'm leaving!"
He grabbed her arm before she could storm off. "No, don't. I'm sorry. It just looks funny because it's almost like a dress on you. And you buttoned it crooked."
She glanced down. He was right. The hem reached till just about her knees. He was only a couple years older than her, but so much taller.
She fixed it and sat on the bed taking out her hair ribbons and such . He sat on the other end enthralled. He never had much experience with girls his age- really anyone his age- and he had always wondered what they did to look so pretty.
Rosaline felt his gaze on her. She hastened her untying and laid next to him, pulling the blanket up to her chin. She closed her eyes. A slim ray of moonlight made its way through an opening in the curtains and illuminated her face. Just before she was about to drift into slumber, her eyes suddenly fluttered open. She turned to face him.
"Jack, where did you go today? I- umm we missed you."
He inhaled. " I went to dig my mother a grave. I figured it needed to be done." He tried to hold back tears, since he didn't want to look stupid. The little girl peered up at his face and gave him a feeble smile.
"It's not bad to cry. It's okay." She wiped a single teardrop from his cheek. "It's just me."
He sobbed a little into her hair, and fell asleep. Red, no longer upset with her friend, drifted off too, feeling absolutely safe and comfortable.
In the sitting room, the adults made uneasy conversation. She'd get up every few minutes for some contrived reason, like to check on the baby or tend the fire, but they both knew it's to fill the silence.
The clock chimes eleven. The baker rose.
" I suppose I should go to bed- if you don't mind me sleeping beside you again."
She put on an unconvincing smile. "It's nice to have somebody next to you."
He paused awkwardly. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but why are you so upset?"
"My husband- well not anymore- was with… other women." she admitted, choosing to exclude the fact that his wife was among them. "And.. even though I loved him, I knew it would be better for me to leave."
He wrapped a comforting arm around her as she choked back tears. "I'm sorry. But you'll find someone else, Miss Cinderella. You're very lovely." He paused, unsure if he said the wrong thing.
"Thank you. But as much as I should move on, I fear that could be difficult."
"Why?" he puzzled.
She began to weep softly. "I think I might be with child."