My step-sister, Cinderella, is tall, has golden hair and narrow feet, whereas I am small, dark, and large-boned. When I am old, I shall have a toothless grin; I’ll look like my mother, who died last week. Cinderella and I have both lost our mothers, and I feel her sadness now as my own.
She is the older sister, but she never took care of me. I suppose I should understand how difficult it is for a girl to look after her younger sister when she wants to play ball with her fiends, excuse me, friends. Or when she wants to gather berries in the forest, or maybe kill a pig.
Each of us has been given a few chickens to watch, but she is not good at that, so I do it for her. And still she does not love me: she wants to go to dances, to eat white bread, to dress up in gauzy gowns, to ride in a gilded coach with four horses. What will become of her?
Perhaps she will move in with me when I marry. Donald has proposed marriage. He is only a little stupid. He’s hard-working, kind, owns a farm, wants to stay here always. I am happy to stay here and take care of Father, whose cough is worse. Cinderella yearns to travel to cities and palaces. I wish I wanted more, but I’m a homespun girl, whereas she is silk and roses. She rapped on my bedroom door this morning and brought me a violet for my hair. I was embroidering a pillowcase with flowers and the motto “Forever Love.” She begged me not to tell Father that she was walking into town, where she was going to dance with a charming boy.
I heard Father coughing. Perhaps he caught what Mother had. I decided to make a soup for him, carried up potatoes and carrots from our cellar; I would slice them later. I would kill a chicken and make a broth.
I was barefoot and stumbled as I chased my smallest chicken. I should never have named her Goldie; now it’s harder. I decided to use an ax because I did not want to touch Goldie to wring her neck. I placed her small body on the stump in our yard, and I held her with my foot, while I brought the ax down on the neck. Goldie squawked and trembled, and my ax chopped off my little toe.
I howled to the deep forest, but it did not answer. I fell to the ground and wrapped my foot in leaves. I hobbled into the house. My father woke up and embraced me. He said he would rush to get the herbal woman to come look at my wound. I joked that now I would fit into Cinderella’s narrow shoes. The tears streamed down his face. He shook his head and patted my cheek. He really does love me.
Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Monkeybicycle, Wigleaf, and New York Tyrant, among others. One of her flashes was included in Wigleaf's Top 50. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University. Her website is http://magicmasterminds.com/cezarija/