Cecilly in Cinderland
After her wish for adventure goes awry, can Cecilly stitch her family back together and help a prince unite Havenshire?
Cecilly and her stepsisters journey to a land of geysers and dragons, where a race of magical beings are eager to grant their wish for adventure. However the more wishes they make, the faster their fragile family ties dissolve. With only the help of a prickly stable hand and a depressed ghost, can an ordinary seamstress mend a man’s broken heart, heal a divided city, and escape Cinderland before her stepsisters are lost to her forever?
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|Middle Grade / Teens|
“Mother’s stories said if the fairies accept your wish, it won’t be shot up with the water.”
Cecilly shushed her. “The wish was make-believe. The geyser’s real and it hasn’t gone off in so long. Can’t we enjoy this in peace?”
The water climbed easily twenty feet in the air. Its column bounced as sheets of water fell back on the stream shooting up. Tiny droplets leapt from the column into the air. They glittered like diamonds in the sunset and made a pleasing pitter-patter as they hit the ground.
Mesmerized, Cecilly stopped, remembering when Father had stood at her side watching this same event. The Fairy’s Kiss hadn’t changed. She fell back a step, one foot in the past with Father and the other with Rose and Violet. She could smell the lavender in Father’s vest and almost feel the callus on his pointer finger against her palm. Vi bounced with excitement under her other hand and Rose hugged herself and twirled in a circle.
Cecilly’s soul soared like the water droplets, exploding free from the doubt and worry she’d been pressed under since becoming an orphan. She didn’t enjoy the feeling for long. Rose took off running toward the fountain, shattering her tranquility.
“Rose. What are you doing?”
“It’s going down,” the girl cried. “We’ve got to watch it go down.”
Cecilly ran after her, screaming for all she was worth. “Come back!”
“Don’t leave me!” Vi cried, her little footsteps coming from behind.
The Fairy’s Kiss shrank. Trickling streams of dusty water ran off the cone like veins on a pale face. Rose hopped over them, right to the Kiss itself. Cecilly paused to sling Violet up into her arms, away from the water, and made a final leap to Rose’s side.
She clamped a hand on Rose’s shoulder and shook her a little. “There’s a reason the councilmen put a fence around this thing, you know.”
Rose said nothing, only pointed at the Kiss.
“Steps,” Vi murmured, and nuzzled into Cecilly’s neck.
Cecilly pushed down the white curls tickling her nose and looked inside the geyser. As the water drained, steps appeared, leading down into the vent.
Rose appealed for permission to descend the stairs with an unbreakable stare. In her surprise, Cecilly’s lips wouldn’t part to answer, like they’d been sewn shut.
“Come on, Cess. You wanted an adventure. Here it is.”
With every nerve screaming in protest, she nodded to Rose and took her by the hand.
“We have to hurry,” Rose whispered. “Before the vent refills and we lose our chance.”
Cecilly nodded again, held tighter to Vi and took the slippery narrow stairs at a run before she changed her mind. Rose bumped into them every time her foot slipped on the slick steps.
When the opening of the Kiss diminished to the size of an orange above their heads, the stairs ended at a stone platform. If Cecilly didn’t know they were underground she would have thought she stood in a barren field at midnight, surrounded by a cloud of fireflies. The rock emitted a patchy green glow it cast onto Rose and Vi. The heavy air seeped into their clothes and weighed them down. Cecilly sweated, unable to catch her breath in the restricted space.
At the edge of the platform lapped a pool of water. She couldn’t tell how big it was in the faint light, especially with the thick steam spiraling around them. Each slap against the platform brought it closer until it almost splashed onto Cecilly’s toes.
“Now what,” Rose said, turning around. “Where are the fairies?”
“I don’t know, but if we don’t move soon, we’ll drown or burn alive or...or both.” She climbed one step as she said this.
“That way.” Vi pointed straight at the fuzzy light to the right of the platform.
It looked more concentrated, like the dots were closer together. Cecilly reached out to touch the wall and her hand hit nothing but air. “It’s another tunnel. Rose, stay right behind me, okay?”
“Cessy,” Vi said, trying to climb higher up Cecilly’s dress. “Help.”
The water crested the platform, snaking its way to their feet.
Two voices shouted at each other in Cecilly’s head. Her practical side screamed at her to run back up the stairs, while the adventurous one shrieked at her to follow the eerily lit tunnel. She missed that voice. Rose was right. She’d forgotten how to have fun.
Cecilly jumped first, with Rose close behind. They landed safely inside the entrance of another tunnel, one that slanted up at an angle, away from the water. They ran on, not pausing to see if the rising pool followed them. Yards later, with lungs burning from exertion, Cecilly sank to the ground and dropped Violet in a heap at her feet.
“You’re getting so heavy,” she said, panting. She wiped the streams of sweat pouring down her cheeks. “Whew. It’s hot down here.”
Rose held her side, chest heaving. “I can’t breathe.”
“The walls...” Rose said, her voice shrill.
Cecilly pulled Rose close. “It’s okay.”
The little dots of light had grown closer together and more dense as they had run up the tunnel. Now the bowed walls glowed green, as if the girls were trapped inside the belly of a gigantic glowworm.
Cecilly covered Rose’s eyes. “Listen to my voice,” she whispered. “We wished that we wouldn’t be hurt, remember? And the fairies must be answering because they’ve led us here. So although the cave is small, it’s not going to hurt us.”
Or at least I hope so, she thought. She couldn’t let her younger sisters see how nervous the close walls really made her.
Rose relaxed in her arms. “Okay.”
“Ready to find them?”
Cecilly pulled the girls to their feet. She couldn’t see the entrance of the tunnel behind, but the sound of water echoed against the walls. Putting her back to the echo, she reached for her sisters’ hands and led them on.
The floor leveled out for a while and then dove down at a sharp angle. After sliding down into the earth’s belly for what seemed like hours, Cecilly began to doubt the fairies had really brought them here to grant a wish. Maybe they found it amusing to watch helpless humans wander around until they died.
“Where are they?” Rose said, pounding the wall in panic. “I want out of here. I want Mother.”
Violet chimed in, “I want Mama, too.”
Cecilly rubbed her eyes. Even closed she still saw a green glow. “Oh, you don’t even remember what she looks like,” she snapped.
Violet cried, sounding like The Council House bell as her sobs shot off the walls.
“Welcome. Welcome,” came a high-pitched echo back at them.
Violet plunged into the folds of Cecilly’s skirts and her cries eventually faded, subdued by the voice that squeaked again.
“Come Cecilly, Rose, and Violet. Expecting you.”
“The fairies,” Rose wheezed, and ran ahead.