an excerpt of “The (Steamy) Tale of Cinderella”
by Danny Birt
From Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine, now funding on Kickstarter.
“Anne, where are your lace gloves? Beth, do something about your bustle at once!”
Sara-Bella rolled her eyes as she came up on deck. Lady Mary would probably continue chivvying her two daughters until they were on the royal yacht having their tea, and might not even stop then. And all to ‘catch a man.’ Ridiculous.
The prince’s yacht, though? Now that was worth going over to see, even if it did mean that she had to wade through this entire port-of-call’s list of eligible who’s who to get to it. Being the daughter of a shipbuilder gave Sara-Bella a keen eye for oceangoing vessels, and if this one’s design belied the secret she thought it might…
Beth paused in her primping and cast an aghast look behind Lady Mary toward the hatchway. “You must be joking!”
Anne and Lady Mary turned and displayed similar reactions.
“What?” Sara-Bella asked, hands spread wide.
“You can’t visit the Crown Prince’s royal yacht looking like that!” her stepmother said emphatically.
“Wearing sooty trousers, and those ridiculous glass shoes? Hair all full of cinders? Why, it’s unconscionable!” Lady Mary declaimed. “If you don’t know how to dress properly, at least get back to your engine room before someone sees you, Sara-Bella.”
“Yeah, Sooty Sara,” Anne snickered.
“Cinder-Bella,” Beth chimed in.
Sara-Bella gritted her teeth. Here we go again. “Trousers aren’t unconscionable, they’re practical.”
Lady Mary waved the comment away. “Princes have servants to be practical for them. Ladies are to be beautiful, and refined, and… and everything you are not.”
“Only if they’re trying to ensnare a man.” Sara-Bella snorted. “It’s not like I-“
“Sara-Bella!” Lady Mary snapped, furious.
Sara-Bella bit her tongue as her stepsisters looked at her curiously. “Look, all I’m saying is I’ll stay out of Anne and Beth’s way while they’re hunting potential husbands, alright? You know I will. They can bring home as many men as they can fit between their legs for all I care!”
“Yuck!” Anne shrilled.
“You’re disgusting,” Beth spat.
Lady Mary bristled like an affronted hedgehog. “That will be the last time you so much as hint that one of my daughters would engage in polygamy. Do you understand me?”
Drat. I should have bit my tongue harder. “Yes, stepmother.”
Giving a nod after she was sure her remonstration had sunk in, Lady Mary turned to fuss with the pleats in Beth’s dress. “This is not an engineering conference we’re attending, this is a social visit–one that will help your sisters climb in society if we can catch the right man for them. Your appearance would repel all the eligible bachelors from your sisters’ sides, which is unacceptable. You shall remain here.”
A bell sounded from the royal yacht’s gig, indicating they were ready to ferry passengers.
“I’ll keep my mouth shut,” Sara-Bella said, desperate. “Please? I just want to see the ship!”
Lady Mary gave her a hard stare. “You’ve made it quite clear that you are not fit to be in society. It’s as much for your own good as for everyone else’s. Now stay out of sight while we’re gone.” Lady Mary loaded her blood offspring over the gangplank and onto the gig without a backward glance.
Danny Birt has been a contributing author to several sci-fi, fantasy, and professional magazines, anthologies, and journals, as well as a writer for an app. Formerly, he was an editor for Flashing Swords Magazine and Ancient Tomes Press, and is now a freelance editor. Most recently, Danny’s 2014 short story To Thy Sylph Be True was recognized by Tangent Online as a Two-Starred Recommended Read. In addition to literary publication, he composes classical and filk music, such as his nonstop hour-long piano solo “Piano Petrissage,” and the ever-peculiar album “Warped Children’s Songs.” Danny’s humorous music has been featured on radio and internet programs such as The Dr. Demento Show and The Funny Music Project. He’s also performed in ensemble at Carnegie Hall.
Career hats Danny has worn other than author, editor, and composer include being a music therapist, a massage therapist, a college instructor and program director, and an on-screen actor.
Currently he lives in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with his wife and kiddo, where he owns and operates an integrative therapy business.