This isn't about love! It's about marriage!
Have I taught you girls nothing?
The words taste bitter on the lady's tongue, even to her, even when she is so used to everything turning so bitter. Cinderella, romantic that she is, watches her stepmother's moods, and sees it. Neither of the other girls—-neither of her true daughters-—do. Too dim.
No matter. Keep talking; show no hesitation.
Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe;
Falling in love with love is playing the fool!
She had been so foolish. Met a young widower. Not young, really, but young for a widower, and so vibrant as to seem half his age when he smiled. Mature, handsome, loving and caring, both husband and father.
She can't bear to love Ella. She has too much of her father in her eyes and her smile, that lovely smile, and too much of…well. Too much of the young romantic this bitter woman was, so little of the icy one she had learned to be. Too close, too much what she had imagined their child might be, the widower's and hers. His smile, her love of life.
What could be better?
What could be worse?
Caring too much is such a juvenile fancy!
Learning to trust is just for children in school.
The lady remembers. Her first love, though this had never turned romantic. Just a boy she loved more than a brother, who had loved her more than a sister. She had trusted him, and then gotten her first taste of betrayal.
His friends, more important than she ever could be. Laughing when she fell into the fountain, makeup ruined, her best dress ruined, her trust in everyone but her mother ruined. So she had courted, entertained, been a lady.
She had thought herself cold then. It took truly being cold to realize that she had been nothing of the sort. Back then she had been…expectant. Center still warm, hoping, waiting for someone to draw her out.
I fell in love with love one night when the moon was full
And then he came. Then he drew her, the center of her, with warm smiles that called to her own, with jokes that called back her true laugh. She remembers the first time he heard her real laugh, and he had stopped and stared at her.
"What?" she had asked, slipping back behind her mask, scared of what he might say.
"I think…" He stared at her a moment, then smiled, a smile filled with youth and, for the first time, a touch of shyness. "No. Not 'I think'. I would like to marry you."
Her breath caught. They asked her father's blessing, and he had given it. The night had been beautiful.
She was never sure if he noticed, but everything important had happened under a full moon. The first time she had realized she loved him, when he admitted he loved her and she told him, when he asked her for her hand, the wedding itself. Every time she saw a full moon, she thought of him. She had smiled, on those silver, shining nights.
I was unwise with eyes unable to see!
She could barely look at a full moon, now, pretended not to see them. It hurt no less, but the lie was the only way to keep her mask on. If she flickered, her daughters might see her waver, make her mistake. If she wavered, Cinderella might pity her.
I fell in love with love, with love ever-lasting.
For a few years, it had been beautiful…
But love fell out...with me!
He would never come back. She shut the years off, pretended none of it had happened, hoping that would make it hurt less.
She dreamt of him, sometimes, and smiled.
She woke, and wept.