Cinderella rarely spoke, her mask firmly in place as she went around her daily chores. Barely ever looking up, gaze as low as her position; the one that was dictated to her, not chosen. She wasn’t built up or taught to see how amazing she could be, instead told that she was worthless and did everything wrong. Constantly lashed by bitter words, she felt she absorbed daily. Her scars weren’t visible but over time her mind was becoming like that of a wounded soldier.
Her life wasn’t always like this, it once was surrounded by love and support. She loved that life, but lost it the day she lost her father. She lost everything that day. Moving in with her step mother and two step sisters made her hide deep inside. They didn’t understand, take the time to understand or ever accept her, they never saw her like her father did, the unmasked authentic Cinderella.
Cinderella wanted a life much bigger than the one she had. She wanted to feel free. Her house now felt more like a prison than a home. However, one day that began to change. It was a chance encounter with a kind stranger, someone who could see her more clearly than anyone.
It didn’t take her long to fall in love, he was different, he didn’t try to define her by his life. In fact he appreciated everything that was different about her and adored her for it. It was something truly genuine that they both felt almost instantly. They would spin hours into minutes, sitting in nature just being together. An effortlessness that neither had ever experienced before; it was like their hearts spoke the same language, even when they didn’t speak.
She felt so comfortable with him, hoping so deeply that she could hold on to these moments forever. Unbeknown to her family, and his for that matter he gave her an invitation to his upcoming birthday, slipping it in her basket one day when out together on a walk. She loved him, she had absolutely no doubt, but she wasn’t ready for this.
Two weeks passed, she couldn’t face him, avoiding all their usual meeting spots for fear of running into him. He was a prince, that wasn’t something she was prepared for. Her life had been empty when it came to people for some time, as rare to her as a good meal was. The thought of being in his life was now absolutely terrifying. Her love hadn’t changed but she couldn’t see how they could have a life together.
One day when washing clothes by the riverbank he rode by, turning back the moment he saw her. It took understanding and compassion but he understood. Holding her tightly, offering to keep her safe he asked if she would go just for him. That she shouldn’t worry about how others saw her because he did, very clearly and would always love her. To help her feel more comfortable he put her in touch with a close friend. A fashion blogger called “fairly cool godmother“, she was sweet and made Cinderella feel empowered. A few weeks passed as Cinderella and her godmother got ready for the prince’s birthday ball. The two of them got on really well. However, Cinderella couldn’t explain what it was like to have sensory processing difficulties. To feel your clothes tighten against your own neck. Eventually they reached a compromise but it wasn’t what Cinderella would have chosen to wear. Glass slippers for example, its hardly practical, if it was her choice she would have gone barefoot.
She had the horse drawn carriage, all the trimmings and looked just the part for such an event. What was going on in her mind was a different matter. Step by step she made her way from the carriage and towards the grand building in front of her, already surrounded by people and hit by a wall of sound before even going through the door. She hated being her but didn’t want to let him down. Her heart was pounding and felt like backing away every time someone get close to her. She stayed and had one dance but that was as much as she could handle.
Running off without saying anything she went to see her new-found godmother. Cinderella was shaking with only one slipper on her feet. There was no doubt how much of an ordeal it had been. Cinderella talked, about everything. Her life as she lived it, was laid bare for the first time. Saying nothing she got up and held Cinderella, reassuring her that she understood. Cinderella had never met an autistic person before, someone like her. They talked every day and became really close friends in no time at all.
Cinderella forgot about her prince because she was quite sure he had forgotten about her. One day a letter was waiting for her when she woke, left in the flowerbed directly outside her window. It was from her friend, asking her to meet for lunch by the waterfront. All excited she got dressed in comfortable clothing and left so that she wasn’t late. She was often first person to arrive to anything so didn’t think anything about the fact she was alone. But it wasn’t the friend she expected who turned up. He was no longer a prince, but simply a man in love, ready to start a life together. One that they got to shape together and both got to create their own version of happily ever after.
All our best and love
Ross Fraser and Jeni Dern
In association with Service Graphics and Birchcroft Hideaway, Dorset.
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