It was on the day that everyone on tv started barking like dogs that I knew that my pony was never coming home. First I blamed myself, then I blamed you, then I blamed the pony. And finally I bought a metal stick and blamed it. The nights were cold that winter but my metal stick warmed my heart….
The glass slipper shattered as she stepped into it, cutting her feet.
“Again,” said her mother, coldly.
“I bleed,” she said, or whimpered.
“A princess steps so lightly she can dance on glass,” her mother said. “As I did. Again.”
The next pair was formed of bright sapphire glass that gleamed in the candlelight. She let her fingers trace their icy smoothness before she slid in her toes, then her feet, feeling the cold glass encase her feet and her now ripped silk stockings, watching the blood from her feet stain the glass. She stood. The glass held. Lightly, lightly, she thought to herself, and planned her next step carefully, gracefully, placing the toe first, then the heel, stepping so slowly, so slowly. And again, lightly, softly gracefully.
“Now dance,” said her mother. “Dance.”
And she took another step, and another, cracking the glass beneath her, her feet dancing from the pain, her toes twitching again, until that pair, too, shattered. Lightly, she told herself. Lightly. Lighter than air. Lighter than blood. “I bleed,” she said aloud.
“We have more,” said her mother, inexorably. She thought she could see a tear in her mother’s eye, but when she looked again, she saw she was mistaken. Her mother did not cry; could never cry. “Again,” her mother said.
And she took another pair of shoes.
“You will learn,” said her mother. “As I did. As I did. Now dance. Dance.”
And so she danced, on slippers, on shattered glass on marble floors, dancing, dancing, her feet twitching, learning to step lightly, so lightly, lighter than air, more lightly than glass, dancing, wondering if these shattered slippers might one day hurt her prince, wondering when it would be her time to ride upon a pumpkin.
Mari Ness worships chocolate, words and music, in no particular order. Her work has recently appeared in Fantasy Magazine, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Fictitious Force, Coyote Wild, and the anthology Desolate Places. She keeps a blog at mariness.livejournal.com.