Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Phuong Nguyen

I once thought that once upon a time meant that I would get a happily ever after. That no matter what happens—that whatever crap lands in my hellhole of a life— somehow things will all turn out for the better.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t come to the ball, Cinderella,” Anastasia said with a triumphant sneer. “The prince couldn’t keep his eyes off of me.”

Stepmother pinched her thin cheek and beamed with pride. “I just know he’ll come calling on you soon.”

“Of course. He has to return my shoe after all.”

I stumbled backwards in a blurry haze. “I’ll get you your tea.”

No, this wasn’t supposed to happy. I was supposed to go to the ball and meet the prince. To fall in love. This was supposed to be my reward for being kind all my life. She wasn’t supposed to charm the prince. She wasn’t supposed to live out my dream.

Yet somehow, in some way, she did. She will.

It wasn’t until then that I knew happily ever’s don’t come for free. I’d have to work for my dream, my future.

It took me a few minutes to prepare their tea. Only a second to pour in the arsenic.

Later, I hummed a little tune to myself as I washed the dishes. A dream is a wish your heart makes. When you’re fast asleep…

Thud. The first thump came from the directly above my head. I didn’t even look up, still continuing with my chores. After I wiped my hands on my tattered apron, I picked up Anastasia’s sparkling blue mask and brushed at the invisible dust. Thud. Another one. This time from the bedroom above the dining hall. Barely noticing, I fastened the mask on and brushed a few blond tendrils off my face. It fit perfectly.

Thud. The final thump was the loudest of them all.

Finally I allowed myself to smile and settled on the wooden with the glass slipper in my lap. Now I’d just have to wait for my prince to come.