Cinderella

All nagging thoughts and worries were blotted out from my mind as I drank in his flawless eyes. He placed his hand on my back, my hand on his shoulder, and our free hands clasped together. As I twirled around, the full skirt of my dress flared out in a fluttering blur of sparkling blue color. He turned elegantly, his body in tune with the music. Every moment, every angle seemed to be planned in advance. I felt as if I was floating with every graceful move. Together, we danced to the music, blissfully unaware of our surroundings.

Dong! Dong! Dong! The noise pierced my reverie. Suddenly, a sense of dread rushed over me. My dress would be reduced to rags when the clock struck twelve! How could I be so forgetful of my godmother’s warning? With one look of regret, I broke away from Prince Gabriel’s arms.

“Uhh, I’m very sorry; nice dancing with you.” But it was too late. As soon as my arms were unlocked from his, my gown vanished. In a split second, I was clad in filthy rags.

Not even the fittest of words could describe what humiliation I felt. I watched as his tender gaze changed into a look of shock, then one of bitter contempt.

“How dare you deceive me by your mock beauty, you double-crosser! You ruined all my plans! I was going to marry you-” He spat onto my cheek, then violently punched my jaw.

I must have laid unconscious for quite a while, because everyone had left and only two paramedics by my side examined me. They lifted me onto a stretcher, and placed me inside the ambulance.

***

My kind stepmother Lady Charlotte and my stepsisters Mary and Alice helped me to a carriage. During the bumpy ride, I tried to make sense of what had happened. Surely Gabriel had gone to jail by now. Even though he had hurt me, I ached with a sense of loss. He had been my only hope of marriage.

As I settled under the blanket, my head began to ache. How could he have rejected me? Was I actually ugly? Mother had always reassured me about the opposite. I trusted her, until now. She just said that to comfort me, but it was a lie. I imagined myself in my head. That freckled face covered with acne. Those stretch marks across my chest and belly. At least I wasn’t fat like other girls at the ball. Nobody ever noticed me until today, when the godmother transformed me into a princess. Maybe Gabriel was right. I did double cross him. Every bit of beauty I had was fake. Will he ever forgive me?

I cried myself to sleep.

Eight days later, there was a knock on the door. Out of habit, I flung it open. A handsome man with stark brown eyes greeted me. He introduced himself as Gabriel’s brother, and informed me that he had been released from prison. He then told me that he invited me to his palace to talk with me. I hesitantly accepted.

***

My heart pounded furiously in my chest. I felt as if it was going to leap out at any moment. My hands were cold with sweat. A guard escorted me to the prince’s quarters. As I gazed around at the familiar halls, last night’s incident flooded my memory. As we approached the prince’s room, the door swung open.

I involuntarily gasped, my eyes wide with wonder. This bedroom was unlike anything I had ever seen. So – so magnificent – no that was not the right word for it. Everything was either covered in velvet red, or overlaid with gold. A sparkling chandelier hung overhead from the ornately carved ceiling. The air was scented with an abundance of fresh flowers. The luxurious carpet sank comfortably under my feet.

The prince summoned me to sit beside him. He seemed embarrassed because he would not look me in the eye.

“I – I really feel bad about what I did to you. You didn’t deserve it. You were only trying to look pretty. I – I’m sorry. You see – well, you don’t understand,” he faltered.

“I do understand.”

He opened his mouth to speak again, but no words came out. At last, he burst into tears. He put his head into his hands, sobbing quietly. I ventured to place my hand on his shoulder.

“My mother died when I was only three months old,” he said in between sobs. “My father became very angry. He would yell and abuse us. I remember constantly getting black eyes. As I grew older and began talking to other girls, the would laugh at my attempts to court them. Then I would become enraged and hit them. Often, I was sentenced to juvenile prison. My father then hosted a ball, and you came along -” he could not bear to go on.

“I forgive you, and you were right about my ugly appearance. You couldn’t have described it better.”

He gazed into my eyes with renewed hope.

“How – how can you be so – kind?”

“God forgave me of my sin and disobedience. So now I can forgive others.”

As I said those words, his hand enclosed mine in a seal of friendship. That was all I needed.

 

 

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Treasure

“Pass the rum, matey!” rasped Nicholas Archer.

Groggily, I handed the rum over, the alcohol already affecting me.

“Aye, he was a good ole buccaneer. Always foolin’ around, dreamin’ ’bout all them glitterin’ jewels in that chest. All his mates feared ‘im like he was a dangerous lion! Aye, ’twas true. That young scallywag sure no one was goin’ t’ loot th’ booty away from ‘im. He snuck off th’ ship like a sly fox, ‘n sought fer th’ booty alone, wit’ all his stolen grub ‘n supplies t’ last ‘im awhile. His mates caught ‘im ‘n shot at ‘im, but he scuttled all o’ them. Ne’er found th’ precious loot, though, then he had t’ go back home fer other reasons. Swore he did, that he’d come back ‘n find it.”

I wondered who this ruthless buccaneer was. I’d never heard of him in all my sixty-two years. He was probably dead, anyway. From what Nicholas said, he had the wrong treasure map all along. I still vividly remembered the moment we laid eyes on the right one. After finding the treasure, we planned to split it eight ways. This loot would be ours, and nobody would ever dare steal it from us.

***

Overflowing with anticipation, I stepped off the ship. As I surveyed the lush island, a grown man’s scream split the air. Thud. I whirled around just to find myself face to face with a fellow mate.

“Har har, thought ye that ole buccaneer was dead? Well, ye’re mistaken.”

Nicholas’s scornful glare was the last thing I saw before the world went black.

 

 

Nightmares

I walked warily into the house, if this is what you would even call a house . Ugh, this old, abandoned thing that sends you chills every time you step on a creaky board. The high-pitched squeak that echoes off the walls is a relief from the unbearable silence. Why did my boss have to assign me to tear down this accursed place? Throughout the years, neighbors have rumored about goblins living in the attic that devour anyone who comes near them, and about ghosts of murdered construction workers who tried demolishing this house. I prayed they wouldn’t be true.

Tiptoeing, I made my way to what once was an infant’s room. The crib still sat in tact, corroded with rust. A baby doll lay on the mattress. A spotlessly clean doll, as if it was brand new…  I froze, breaking into a cold sweat. Someone must have placed it there very recently. Finally, I began to inch toward the crib. But I couldn’t move, no matter how hard I tried. I gasped as cold, fleshy fingers enclosed around my neck. Crying for help, I mustered all my strength to punch the attacker. But I still couldn’t move. The grip suddenly tightened, and I writhed in agony, struggling to break free. My lungs screamed for air. Abruptly, the grip relaxed.

I awoke, breathing heavily.

 

Happiness in Hardship


“Oh, Hamlet, what a fall from grace this is!” whispered Walter after he struggled to his feet.

Wincing from the pain in my shoulder, I picked myself from the ground. Our faces cherry red from embarrassment, we turned to Mr. Hobkins, the ringmaster and our dear friend. Repressing a laugh, he strode over to examine if we were injured or not. I had an enormous bruise on my shoulder from when Walter accidentally collided into me while doing a back flip. He himself was somewhat bruised and shaken, but appeared to be fine. Mr. Hobkins then announced that the performance would continue later. The crowd’s guffaws still rang in my ears as I iced my ugly bruise. After tending to our minor injuries, we changed into our everyday clothes and strolled to a nearby deli for lunch.

Walter (my brother) and I are circus acrobats. We aren’t too bad, but we’re not quite like those professional contortionist or trapeze artists. Our home rests on a narrow street half a mile from the busy city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Every day from nine to ten in the morning and two to three in the afternoon, we perform simple stunts outside in front of a modest crowd. Our paycheck is just enough to provide us the basic necessities of life, plus one or two luxuries – like once in a while a vacation to get away from the hustle and bustle of life.

When we arrived home, I turned on the T.V. The aftermath of the bombing yesterday in Delaware was the first thing that popped up on the screen. The gruesome display of the ruins sickened me. Which city was to be bombed next? Already three attacks had been made on major cities within the last week. I struggled to digest the whirlwind of events that had taken place. Our beloved country had rapidly fallen into the clutches of terrorism.

That evening Walter and I set aside a few minutes to pour our hearts out to God for our country. We then spent a few hours talking about what could happen in the future. I trusted that God was in control of what was happening. Satisfied with that reassurance, I tucked myself into bed.

***

BOOM! A deafening explosion jolted me out of my deep sleep. My heart thumping wildly, I pulled up the shades. Not far away, a brilliant light illuminated the pitch black city, making it bright as day. Then I saw bright orange flames shooting up from the houses. Jerking my head to where Walter slept, I stared in horror at the empty bed. My mind raced as I thought of what might have happened to him. Waves of relief washed over me as Walter came out of the bathroom and dashed to my bedside to look out the window. Thick clouds of acrid smoke billowed from the wrecked houses. A few seconds ticked by. My ears strained to hear the faint wails of sirens that became louder and louder. I numbly stared as my hometown disintegrated slowly.

My eyelids fluttered open, then closed as blinding rays of morning sunlight filtered through the blinds. I thought hard for a moment, trying to recall what happened. Oh, now I remember. The fire and explosions. I sat up groggily and gazed out the window. Scattered debris everywhere. Hollowed out houses looking as if going to collapse any second.

Immediately, I grabbed the phone and called the ringmaster to see if he was alright. Ring after ring. No answer. My heart sank. I got ready as fast as I possible and walked to the circus. All evidence of its existence was buried under mounds of rubble. Picking my way through it as fast as I could, I made my way to the ringmaster’s house. When I arrived, I scanned the front yard. To my horror, a blood soaked hand protruded from underneath a detached boulder. Leaping to one side, I rolled off the boulder. Nothing else but the ghastly hand lay still. Suddenly nauseous, I vomited over the hand.

Unaware of an approaching helicopter, I continued vomiting. I gradually stooped down to sit, clutching my stomach. My keen ears detected the whup-whup-whup of a helicopter. As I stared upward, it began to land. A few minutes later, a rescue team dashed up to me and frantically asked if I was alright. I explained everything. They kindly offered to fly me and Walter to an unaffected area for us to stay. Afterwards, they would help anyone else in the vicinity who needed to be rescued. Gratefully, I accepted their offer.

Forty-five minutes later, Walter and I were seated comfortably as the helicopter flew a few miles west. We had never flown in any type of aircraft before. I gazed down at the ruined city below. Walter gazed in awe at the radiant, pink horizon with the sun’s magnificent rays of light piercing the smoky air. Even though I was exhausted, this brilliant view captured my attention the whole flight.

***

Walter and I rested contentedly on a comfy bed eating a hot breakfast. We thanked God for giving us a comfortable place to stay. As we said “amen”, the telephone rang. As the person spoke, I immediately recognized him as the ringmaster! I let out a whoop of joy. He explained how he worried about us and that he was staying in the same building! After we rode the elevator to his floor, he welcomed us in, overwhelmed with joy. It felt so good to see a familiar face. Laughter filled the room when Walter cracked a joke. In the midst of trouble and catastrophe, we could still be happy – together.

 

 

 

 

Saturday

  If he snores one more time, I will literally kill myself. I lay on my bed, drenched with sweat. I clapped my hands over my ears trying to drown out the incessant sound, but to no avail. I stared outside at the unfriendly world threatening to my day even worse. Though it was dawn, it was black as night. The sky was filled with tumultuous, dark clouds that seemed as if they were about release a sudden outpour of rain. Another one of these days. At least I don’t have school today. I turned to look at the other side of our bedroom, where my little brother Colton was still snoring as noisily as ever. Uggh. Siblings. How many times have I begged Mom and Dad to let me have my own room. I’m old enough. I deserve to be more independent. I deserve to have more privacy. Maybe I should search the internet to learn how to convince my parents. Why do they restrict me on so many other things too, such as choosing what clothes I’m allowed to wear, setting a curfew for being on my phone, etc. I feel like rebelling, but I know it’s wrong to. Uggh, this is impossible. My parents never listen to me. I tried to go back to sleep, but my bitter thoughts and the heat made it impossible. 

I opened my eyes. I must have fallen back to sleep. The room seemed a little brighter. I glanced at my alarm clock. 10:50 AM. Why do I still feel so tired? I then heard noises coming from downstairs, like those of clanging dishes. My family eating breakfast without me? They’d never do that. I stumbled out of bed, feeling sticky all over. When I got downstairs, I first noticed all the dirty dishes piled high in the sink. “Good morning Sweetie!” Mom greeted. “I’m sorry we’re eating without you. I didn’t want to wake you up from your deep sleep.” I grunted and poured myself a bowl of that same old bran we always ate ever since we moved in this house. Slouching in my chair, I nibbled at the tasteless stuff. I ignored my parents as they droned on and on in their boring conversations. Mom tapped me on the shoulder, distracting me from my thoughts. “I have a surprise for you later today after your piano lesson,” she said, smiling. What in the world could that be on a day like today?

After trudging back to my bedroom – more like Colton’s territory – I went for my phone on my bed. It wasn’t there. Then I knew Colton must have hid it,  just like all the other times he had. For some reason, I just couldn’t stand it this time. My pillow withstood a couple violent, aggressive punches. My hands still formed into clenched fists, I stomped down the stairs and demanded my phone back.

****

I waited in the parking lot for Mom to pick me up from my piano lesson. Normally I enjoyed learning piano each lesson, but this lesson seemed like endless torture. Maybe that’s too strong to describe it. I’m not sure how else to, though. Even before Mom entered the spacious parking lot, I could clearly see the bright smile that lit up her face like a glowing sunrise. It couldn’t help but cheer me up a tiny bit. My piano book in hand, I shuffled to the dusty van. “Ready for the surprise?” she called out. “I guess so,” I answered coldly.

Ten minutes later I still could barely contain myself as I bounced up and down on my seat in the van. YESSSS!! In three days, my family and I were going to fly to Germany to meet my pen pal Sophia! As soon as I got home, I emailed her about the wonderful news. To my surprise, she already knew. Her parents already discussed it with my parents! Immediately, I dashed to Mom and hugged her tightly. My heart was full of gratitude. Skipping merrily, I picked a suitcase and packed as fast as my ready hands would work. Twenty minutes later, I zipped up my suitcase and danced a little jig. Meanwhile, Mom had baked a chocolate cake – my favorite kind – to celebrate. As I savored every bite, my mind busily made plans for all the fun activities the two of us would enjoy together. I could just imagine the look of delight on her face, and how surprised she would be…

As I daydreamed, it came to me that I should thank God for this news. God is always the one that causes everything to happen, good or bad. Dear God, thank you for making this happen. Please help the Sophia and me to become best friends. Help me always to honor you, even in the fun times. Amen.

 

 

The Wavy War

Christian shivered as the biting wind howled around him. It was only September, and already chilly, arctic weather was descending upon them. Struggling, he willed himself to maintain his military stance as he marched, leading the brigade across the barren terrain of British Columbia. Just four days ago, they had fought to protect the beloved capital of the Empire – Olympia, Washington – from falling into the hands of the ruthless Hawaiians. The realization that they had won still shocked Christian. A new hope sprang up within him. Could it be possible that they could win the war? But how? His mind snapped back to reality as he saw one of his men stumble and fall the the ground. One of the soldiers behind the man helped him get on his feet. It seemed that they had been trudging on forever…

In 1534, King Richard the Sixth had won Washington, Oregon, Northwestern Canada, and Alaska from the French and the Russians. This was added to his ever-increasing Empire. No one afterwards had tried to invade it. Now, King Kuahana the Third of Hawaii had learned of the many valuable resources stored underground in the plains of Alaska. He also chose to take Olympia just to demonstrate how much more powerful he supposedly was than King Richard.

Twenty-four-year-old Christian Alexander Newheart had been promoted to colonel after leading a successful raid a while back. He was the second to oldest in a relatively poor family who managed to put food on the table just enough for them and their few relatives. Christian’s father Sebastian had fought as lieutenant colonel many years ago in the War of 1556. Christian deeply admired his father’s devotion and bravery; as a result, he strove to be just like him. Although Christian was born into a loving family who cherished him, he felt empty inside – an aching sense of loneliness. His two younger brothers already were married, and his older brother was in love. Every time he tried talking to girls, they would either reject him or lose interest in him. Frustrated, he often spent time alone trying to figure out what he was doing wrong.

After six more days of walking, Christian and his men marched into the beautiful, picturesque city of White Horse, Yukon Territory. The progress they had made cheered the men onward. They caught sight of a few residents fishing on the coast of the Yukon River. Majestic, snow-capped mountains loomed around them. One foot of a mountain was covered in mist. The air felt ice-cold as they marched through a winding mountain pass. Tired as the men were, they continued onward.

After two weeks, the supplies were quickly running out. A few soldiers became frost-bitten, and some were limping. Christian tried his best to rally his men on, but he could only do so much. He himself felt fatigued, his stomach gnawed with hunger. He stopped his men to rest and eat a meager supper. As he ate, he thought of what his family might be doing at this time. They most likely were eating one of Mother’s hearty, homemade stews. He became lost in his reverie as he thought of his dear home…

________

BOOM! A deafening explosion just yards behind him jolted him off the ground. Instinctively, he dove into his trench for safety. Bullets flew above his ahead as he drew his rifle. As he ventured out of his trench, he took close aim at his opponent, a stocky man with a weather-beaten face. Eyeing the soldier fixedly, he pulled the trigger. All of a sudden a searing pain hit him, and the world around him went black.

The first thing he noticed when he regained consciousness was the dull pain in his chest that throbbed when he breathed. Then he noticed a nurse that passed by his cell wore a Hawaiian nurse uniform. His heart sank as he realized that he lay in a prison hospital a many miles from the battlefield. His thoughts then raced to his men that were still fighting without him. Were they being able to manage it without a leader? As he wondered, the door to his cell swung open. He turned his attention to the young woman standing before him. She gracefully strode to him, and he took a good look at her. She looked no older than twenty-three, and her name was Annie Hastings. It was love at first sight. She had the fairest complexion he had ever seen, and the delicate features of her face formed a sweet countenance. Her hair flowed like a glossy, stark black waterfall over her rounded shoulders. He couldn’t help but gaze at her hourglass figure. Her impeccable blue eyes looked tenderly into his. He could barely concentrate as she reported the latest news from the battle. At last, he tried to speak to her but nothing came out. She also seemed attracted to him as well, for she whispered,”No matter what, I will be with you to help you.” As Christian listened in awe, he wondered, Why does this women want get me out of  this mess? Does she serve King Richard or is she an enemy?

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading: A Door into a World of Imagination

When I was about five years old, my mom used an online program called Click ‘n Read to teach me how to read. It came easily to me. By the fortieth lesson (out of about a hundred), I could make out most easy words. My mom would buy simple story books from a local bookstore or online. Almost all the time she would be the one to pick out a new story while I stayed home playing with my younger sister. Every time my mom came home with a new story, I eagerly grabbed the precious book and read – but not quite every word. The colorfully illustrated drawings would capture my attention more than anything else did in the story. After some time, I began to read simple chapter books. As I began reading lengthier chapter books, the animated illustrations in each page gradually became fewer and fewer – until only two or three appeared in each book. I became somewhat disappointed; I had feared that would happen. 

      As I grew older, my disappointment gradually subsided as I discovered the world of illustrations stored up in the words of a good book. It was as if my comprehension of the words was a key and the words themselves a door. When the key in my brain unlocked the door, a new, enchanting realm of imagination was brought to light.  The words were a paintbrush painting vivid images and action scenes, giving me sudden clarity on what the author was trying to portray to me. As I read on, images poured into my mind, pressing me to read on as fast as I could to see what would happen next. 

     I then realized that there was no need for many illustrations, although it was still helpful to see them occasionally. At the time, I was reading The Hobbit and was well into the book. A friend from church suggested that I read it and tell him what I thought. I gladly told him it was my favorite book so far. He then suggested I read other science fiction and fantasy series Lord of the Rings, The Giver, and The Hunger Games, which is the series I am currently reading. Each time I finish each series I long to read more. Sometimes it takes some work for me to start a series or a book; but, when I do, I am happily lost in a world of fantasy…