Everyone wants happy ever after. Especially for Cinderella. People don’t like hearing about the divorce—or me, her attorney. It’s not the script people expect. But look, Prince Charming was like plenty of other guys: when the magic ended, he changed his mind. If you’re pining for a prince, or if you’re dreaming of romance, or, especially, if you’re two-timing royalty—listen up. You need to hear my story.
You all know Cinderella’s story, but you may not remember me. I was the rat, the one who became the fat, jolly coachman with the smartest whiskers ever. (Oh, don’t be so surprised. Most lawyers start out worse.)
When the fairy godmother turned me into the driver, I found out I liked being human. Steering the coach was exciting. As we passed people on the street, I listened to them talk. It was the big reveal for me, realizing that, hey, this language stuff could be useful. Lead to things, you know?
I drove the coach, swung into the long circular drive, and stopped at the bottom of a grand stairway leading up to the castle. Cindy got out, listened to the curfew rules, and then clink-clink-clinked up to the ball. Glass slippers, yeah—product liability lawsuit in the making, you ask me. But Cindy, what a girl! She made a beautiful entrance. After that, though—nothing. We had hours to kill outside the ball waiting for her. I’m no slouch. I used the time to talk with FG, Cindy’s fairy godmother.
I remember getting down from the coach. The music was drifting on the air; the castle was illuminated with pink, blue, and emerald lights, the colors of romance; the stars were blazing. There was even a shooting star.
FG was sitting on a marble bench, examining her wand. “So, hey, thanks for the transform,” I said, walking over.
“Yeah, sure.” She laid out a cloth and started disassembling her wand. Like a soldier fieldstripping her rifle.
“You fixed the girl up good. Killer gown. Great entrance.” FG looked up at me, eyes narrowed, head tilted. Your basic “what the heck happened here?” expression. I backed up a step. “Sorry, guess us props shouldn’t talk.”
She shrugged. “It’s… fine. We have a few hours, we do.”
“This being-human thing is neat. What’s a guy got to do to stay this way?”
“Oh my. It never goes like that. Cindy leaves at the last minute, we race back, and you become a rat again.” She shook her head. “Sorry, but that is tradition.”
I changed the topic. “Is this a steady gig? You do it a lot?”
She looked sad. “It’s not like the olden days, no.”
“When it was stories told fresh, the oral tradition, business was great. Cindy and I got to re-enact it, every night, for thousands of girls all around the world.”
I nodded. “Go on.”
“Then that darned Charles Perrault wrote it down. We went through it once for him and he made us into a commodity, a book. Now, people read the book and don’t need me and Cindy to act it out each time. Parents and girls are happy, the publishers are rich, and I’m left scrounging for bit parts in young adult fantasy novels.”
“The publishers are rich?”
“And the lawyers. Don’t get me started. Each reprint, the contract specifies what color robes, how many pleats. Would you believe they even make me supply my own pumpkin? It’s become even worse, now that there are movies. It’s hard being a working girl.”
“Sounds like you need a lawyer,” I said, pausing.
“But where would I…?”
I looked her in the eyes until I saw them light up. “Oh!” she said.
I smiled. “Keep me human, send me to law school.”
“Okay, here’s what you do. After the ball, when you’re racing to her house, the coach and horses will start to change back. Jump off, twirl around three times before they finish transforming, and hide in the woods. I’ll find you.”
* * *
Three years and some months later found me out of law school and just passed the bar. I buttoned my blazer, trudged the two blocks from my coworking office space, and entered the courtroom. Soon, I was listening to Prince Charming’s attorney examine Cinderella.
“Now, Cinderella,” the opposing counsel intoned, “do you always wear see-through slippers when trolling for royalty?”
“Objection, your honor.”
All told, the trial went well. Prince Charming’s lawyer tried to paint Cindy as a gold digger who tricked a gullible prince into marriage. He claimed our petition for divorce was merely her attempt to cash in, to milk the Prince while freeing her to stalk her next royal victim. But I’d told Cindy to dress demurely, yet well. She didn’t look like a gold digger. But she didn’t look like some scullery maid you could push around either. The Prince dressed like he always did—the spitting image of a dashing, eligible bachelor heading to the ballroom. Bad optics for him.
When it was my turn, I called Prince Charming to the stand.
“Your Highness,” I said, leaning in, “would you please describe your relationship with Sleeping Beauty?”
“The poor girl was under a curse. I had to kiss her.”
“Once, perhaps,” I nodded. “But seventy-three times?”
They settled, of course. Cindy got a castle in Avignon and a mansion in Topanga Canyon. Most importantly, she and her new manager, FG, got the rights to play herself and all the other movie princesses. And equal pay. None of this pay-women-less crap with me as your lawyer.
Turns out, there are all types of happy-ever-after endings. If you’re not a two-timing prince. And if you have a rat for a lawyer. A jolly one with whiskers, like me.
Ted Macaluso is the author of Vincent, Theo and the Fox, a children’s book about Vincent van Gogh and growing up. His short story, “The Recall,” was a winner in The Washington City Paper’s 2018 Fiction Contest. He lives in Northern Virginia and blogs at www.tedmacaluso.com.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Happy Ever After”:
How can you not love a new take on a fairy tale like this wonderful piece by author Ted Macaluso? Readers of our magazine will note that we have published alternate-retellings of fairy-tale pieces in the past (most recently in our September 2019 issue with “Way to a Wolf”). We love such nicely done imaginative pieces, especially when they contain humor like this one.