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Wednesday, November 26

  1. msg Well Done! message posted Well Done! Wow! That was really well writen! You did a wonderful job! Have you every thought about becoming a …
    Well Done!
    Wow! That was really well writen! You did a wonderful job! Have you every thought about becoming a writer? AWESOME!
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Thursday, April 24

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  4. page Story edited Cinder Eloise By: Meghan Callahan Leclaire, American Lit Honors P.4 Once upon a time in a q…
    Cinder Eloise
    By: Meghan Callahan
    Leclaire, American Lit Honors P.4
    Once upon a time in a quaint little kingdom by the sea, there lived a man and his young daughter, Eloise. The man was tall and strong and fairly brave, and he loved his daughter dearly. He read her stories and sang her songs and cooked her homemade pancakes with extra butter and bananas. Sometimes, when she was sick, the man would brush her hair for her and bring his big hunting dog Thor to lie beside her at night so she would not be afraid.
    But despite all this, the man was not happy. Eloise's mother had died when she was barely able to crawl, and the man thought a wife would fill some of the empty places where echoes still knocked around in his heart. So the man began to seek out all the single ladies of the kingdom. It was not long before he found a woman who he thought could make him happy. She was as tall and as thin and as narrow as her name, Ludmilla, but she was exceedingly beautiful. The great beauty in her face, however, could not make up for the ice that lingered in her soul.
    The man was not a bad person, but he had a weak and bruised heart that only wanted to be adored. He soon thought he was in love with Ludmilla, and married her and made her mistress of his grand estate. Ludmilla had two daughters about Eloise's age, Nora and Dora, who were as thin and as sharp as she was, and almost twice as cold.
    Not long after the quick marriage, tragedy struck the new family. The man fell terribly ill, and even the banana pancakes Eloise made and Thor's wet tongue could not help him. He passed away, after ensuring a promise from his bride that she would look after Eloise as if she were one of her own daughters.
    This was an unusual sort of promise, Eloise thought, because Ludmilla did her very best not to keep it. The instant Eloise's father lay resting in the ground, Ludmilla took away all of Eloise's lovely possessions and gave them to her own daughters. Then she sent Eloise down to the kitchens to live as her servant.
    Of course, the poor girl cried quite a bit into the cook's apron, because she missed her father and all the baubles he had given her had been taken away and she had no place to go and no one to love her. But this was a silly sort of crying, and Cook soon put a stop to it.
    "Now dearie," Cook said, drying away Eloise's tears with a clean corner of her apron, "hush. I’m going to tell you something my mother told me when I was young. She said that no matter where she was, she loved me. You, my girl, have to remember wherever your father is, he loves you, and always has, and always will. Not even Ludmilla can change such love! And as for all your pretty little playthings, why, did you ever like them much anyway?"
    "Yes," Eloise sniffed, because she had loved all of her toys and books. "But I hated wearing those tight dresses.”
    "So you see!" exclaimed Cook. "No more of that now. You can wear whatever you like, trousers even!"
    Eloise laughed. "And I suppose I won't have to play tea parties with Nora and Dora any longer."
    "Certainly not. You and I and Thor will have real tea parties, and they won't be allowed to attend," Cook smiled. "And what's more is I love you, and Thor loves you, and Henry the gardener loves you and the horses love you and Betty and Sue the maids love you…"
    "And I," piped up a gangly boy with wild straw colored hair, who leaned awkwardly against the wall beside Cook.
    "And Peter the kitchen boy," Cook added. "What Ludmilla and her nasty daughters think couldn't matter less."
    And so Eloise began her new life in the kitchens.
    She wore trousers and shirts that Henry darned for her, and she helped him plant potatoes and radishes and cabbages that were as wrinkly as his kind face.
    She got dirt and ashes and mud and flour on her face and in her hair and no one cared or asked her to wash up, except for Cook when it was time for baking. Cook made sure Eloise knew all the most secret recipes that her mother had given her, and soon Eloise could cook almost as well as Cook herself.
    Betty and Sue took over Eloise's schooling, teaching her important lessons like sums and reading and how to eavesdrop on Ludmilla and her daughters and what to say to get out of work when you want to run off with a village boy. Cook didn't like that lesson very much, but Betty and Sue ensured Eloise it was the most important of all.
    Peter became Eloise's dearest friend, and they did everything together, flying kites they made out of old bedsheets and running wild in the fields and mucking out the horses' stalls and dusting and mopping and doing laundry and mending and jumping rope and, most importantly, laughing. Peter bore an uncanny resemblance to a scarecrow, all arms and legs and fly-away hair, and could talk more in one minute than most people could manage in an entire week.
    Many years passed quite joyfully in the kitchens, until Eloise had grown up into almost a real lady. Many years passed above in the chill rooms of the stepmother and daughters quite joylessly, until Nora and Dora too were ladies.
    Now, Eloise was no great beauty. She had plain green eyes and brown hair and brownish skin from being out in the sun and dirt underneath her fingernails and her nose was too small. She had a fast temper and was a stubborn sort of girl.
    But Eloise was exceedingly kind to everyone she met, and was also the most forgiving girl the servants had ever known, all despite her quick temper and stubbornness. Her loyalty to the people who had raised her as their own made her fiercely brave and hard work made her just as strong as Peter, who by now was almost a man. She was gentle and clever and well-spoken, and she stood up straight no matter what company she was in. So although Eloise was an average sort of girl with an average sort of face and not a coin in the world to her name, the beauty from within her shone through her eyes and made her look like a true lady.
    Nora and Dora, however, were another story. The two girls had tall and thin and narrow frames as their mother did, and they inherited their mothers frosted, untouchable beauty. But their faces were pinched and drawn from lack of sun or smiles, and their eyes were cold and blank. Although their mother had provided the finest governesses that her late husband's money could buy, neither girl had applied any energy to their studies. All of this could have been forgiven, of course, if they had been kind or well-mannered or patient. Tragically, all of these qualities escaped Nora and Dora completely.
    Nora kicked the cat every morning just to hear it yowl and Dora trapped butterflies and kept them in jars, where they would have died if not for Eloise's quick rescues. Nora refused to move from her huge four-poster bed if an ounce of work was expected from her, and Dora callously used pages from the spectacular books in the library to light fires whenever she felt a little chilly. The sisters fought tooth and nail with each other, up to the point where the postman would deliver letters through the back door into the washtub for fear of being hit with a stray punch or flailing arm. Cook had to fish the envelopes out like strange aquatic animals, hanging them to dry by the fire, before presenting them to Ludmilla. Often, during Nora and Dora's fiercest battles, Ludmilla herself would get involved in an effort to separate the girls, adding her shrill shrieks to the fight. At these times, Peter and Eloise would find an excuse to go out in the fields or down the road into the nearby town as fast as they possibly could. And so the time passed, until one morning it was Eloise's seventeenth birthday.
    The day started off as it always did. Eloise squirmed out from her nest of blankets next to the hearth where it was warm, brushing the ashes off of her worn trousers. She stumbled a bit over the big book she used as a pillow: a book of fairy tales that she had loved as a little girl. Eloise had always enjoyed stories of the princesses and the damsels in distress who were saved by a dashing prince, and still read one or two every evening before she went to bed. She wished every night that maybe she could be rescued too, saved from her awful stepfamily and brought to a big castle by a handsome prince who loved her.
    She stepped over the snoring Peter who was curled up near her, yawned, and made her way over to the door and into the yard. Thor, huge grey body bent and whitening with age, ambled over to greet her and licked her fingers. Eloise scratched his ears and walked over to the well, throwing down the pail and twisting up some water, whistling. After she hauled out the heavy pail from the well, she gave Thor a drink from her cupped hands before slipping back into the house, and putting the water to heat on the stove. She crept into Cook's small room and took the chicken feed from the end of her bed. Cook snorted in her sleep, and Eloise smiled down on her fondly, pulling the blanket back over her shoulders from where it had fallen away from her graying hair.
    The water had heated, and Eloise poured it into the washtub, jumping in quickly to wash herself before it got cold, and then pulling on more clothes, shivering. She quickly dumped the water out of doors, seizing another pail to heat, and scrambled back under her blankets beside Peter. He snuffled a little, and Eloise ran a hand through her damp hair and lightly touched the end of his nose. He sneezed, and Eloise could not help but laugh.
    Peter rolled over, opening one eye, before yawning widely in her face. "Watsthematter?" he murmured sleepily.
    "Good morning," said Eloise, sitting up to light a match against the side of the stove, sticking it within to set the wood ablaze.
    Groaning, Peter pulled her back down beside him. "'S practically midnight. Go back to bed, El."
    Eloise pushed his messy, straw-like hair away from his sky blue eyes, closed stubbornly against her. Then she grabbed the chicken feed and made her way once more to the yard. After feeding the drowsy, puffed up birds, Eloise watered the horses and waved to Henry, who had awoken and was weeding his vegetables. She pulled the water off the stove and threw the dirty laundry from the day before into the washtub with a fistful of soap and returned once more to the kitchen holding the clean clothes for folding. Cook was awake as well, stirring together a thick pancake mix and humming softly to herself. Peter was slowly peeling bananas, the shadows of sleep still hanging from his eyelashes.
    "Pancakes, Cook?" Eloise said, dumping the clothes on the table and beginning to fold one of Nora's dresses. "What mischief are you up to?"
    Cook shook her head in exasperation. "Oh Eloise, my girl, do you not even know what day it is?"
    "Thursday?" Eloise guessed, dropping one of Ludmilla's underthings with distaste upon the folded pile.
    "Your birthday, idiot," Peter mumbled around a mouthful of banana, gangly arms and legs sticking out at all directions from the stool where he perched.
    "Oh!" Eloise smiled. "How lovely. I had forgotten. Thank you, Cook. Thank you Peter. You needn't have gone to all this trouble…"
    "Hush dearie, it's the least we can do for you. Lord knows you do right by us. Oh, and before you bring those crows their unmentionables, look over there on the mantle. Henry's left you some flowers." Cook began stirring the pancake mix again with vigor at the bird-like reference to Ludmilla, Nora, and Dora, double chins wobbling a bit with her aggression.
    Eloise picked up the sprig of bluebells Henry had left her, sniffing them warmly before placing them behind one ear, and carried the laundry off to wake her stepmother and stepsisters. Peter attempted to trip her on her way out, and she kicked him sharply in the knee, laughing, before ascending the stairs up to the main part of the home.
    The main hall was wide and when her father had been alive, Eloise had found it warm and inviting. It had been primarily decorated in gold, purple, green, and every other shade of the sky, with spreading rugs and fireplaces and paintings and large comfortable furniture, and in the summer he had opened all the windows so the sea breezes could blow in. Ludmilla had put most of the old furnishings in the attic, replacing the comfort and the gentle attitude of the hall with thin, chill, rickety furniture and dreary colors, and often refused to let in the outdoor air. Even the wooden floors felt like ice beneath Eloise's feet. She moved silently up the spreading staircase, and slipped into Nora's room.
    Nora was asleep and snoring uproariously in a heap, pale blond hair tangled over her pale blond face, twisted up against some unpleasant dream. Eloise quietly deposited the folded clothes on the arm of a chair in the corner, and pulled open the curtains before beginning to the light the fire. Elbow-deep in ashes, the first notice Eloise had of Nora's awakening was her complaints.
    "Ellllllllllloooooooooouuuuuuiiiiiiiiissssssseeeeeeeee," Nora whined, "it's too bright!"
    "That'll stop in a minute, Nora," Eloise assured her, with a roll of her eyes towards the pile of ashes she had scraped away, as she did every morning. "Just wake up a bit and you'll see what a pretty day it is out."
    "Shut up," Nora scowled in reply, as she did every morning, and flung herself back beneath the sheets with a dramatic flounce.
    "Will you want your breakfast up here, or will you be coming downstairs to…"
    "Shut…up!" Nora repeated, voice muffled now by the cover the comforter offered from the sun. Eloise scooped the ashes into the ash pail and moved away from the fire, which was now burning brightly, and slipped out the door, making a mental note that Nora would likely take her breakfast in bed.
    Dora's greeting was slightly better; she simply chucked her pillow at Eloise's head with a string of oaths. Eloise nimbly stepped aside, avoiding the projectile, opened the curtains, and again began to light the fire. After her initial outburst, Dora managed to sit up and toss her tresses of black hair out of her face.
    "Good morning, Dora," Eloise said brightly.
    Dora blew a loud, wet raspberry in reply.
    Eloise took it as a positive sign, and she went on talking. "You should see the vegetable garden today, Dora. It's lovely, all blooming. We'll have some ripe tomatoes soon, Henry says…"
    "As if I care what that old oaf says about anything," Dora laughed, cruelly, and leaned over the end of her bed to look down at Eloise. "Good heavens, just look at you! Ashes and cinders all over your clothes!"
    Eloise looked down obligingly at herself, and was inclined to agree, but she knew Dora didn't expect a reply, so she simply dumped the ashes into the bucket and lit the fire.
    "Cindereloise, Cindereloise…" Dora sang in an awful, screechy soprano voice, jeers that followed Eloise out and into the hallway.
    Only one more room left…Ludmilla's, at that. Eloise opened the huge double doors as softly as she could, deposited the folded clothes at the foot of the bed, and opened the curtains slowly. The metal rings screeched against the pole as she pulled back the thick velvet, and Eloise winced. Sunlight fell in the dusty room, illuminating a giant thick wooden bed, and in it, sitting with her arms crossed, was Ludmilla.
    "Good morning, stepmother," Eloise said, attempting a smile. She moved over to the fireplace.
    "Good morning," Ludmilla replied coolly. "If you are inclined to call it that. I, myself, find it to be quite a foul morning, having been awoken a full ten minutes later than I expected. But as long as you are happy, I suppose the morning is grand…"
    Eloise bit her lip, and lit the fire, standing up quickly to exit the room. But then…
    "Come here, girl."
    Eloise did as she was bidden, moving into the sunbeams where Ludmilla could see her.
    "How old are you now?" she asked, staring haughtily down at her stepdaughter.
    "Seventeen, ma'am, today." Eloise answered.
    "Ah." A half-smile spread across Ludmilla's lined face.
    Eloise answered it eagerly with a grin of her own.
    "And you don't look much different than that fool of a stable boy you associate with." Eloise's grin faded at her stepmother's harsh words. "The state of your hair! And your clothing, heaven forbid any of my daughters be seen in such a state! I always knew you weren't a pretty girl, but really, wildflowers? And ashes? I am disappointed in you, Eloise."
    Hardly knowing how to reply, and with unshed tears stinging her eyes, Eloise answered as best as she could. "I…I apologize, stepmother."
    "Very well," Ludmilla said, smile spreading even wider at Eloise's misery. She settled back against her pillows and flicked a finger towards the door. "Off with you now. My daughters and I have a breakfast invitation out, so I expect them to be ready in two hours. That will be all."
    Eloise fled the room and didn't stop until she was behind the long curtains at the huge bay window in the hall, where no one could see her tears. She looked out the huge window towards the north, where the very far left side of the huge white castle on the horizon could be seen. The turrets had brightly colored flags fluttering flying high in the breeze, and from a distance, the castle appeared to be almost a jewel. Eloise sighed deeply, wiped her face, and slipped out from the curtains to go back to her chores.
    When she returned to her stepsisters' bedrooms, a bit red in the face but fairly composed, Dora and Nora had engaged the maids in an epic battle. Betty was trying to lace Dora into her corset without losing her eyes, long red scratches scoring her cheeks, while Sue was working on stuffing Nora's body into a dress, completely overwhelmed by lace and frills.
    "Thank goodness you're here, Eloise," Betty grunted, giving another tug at Dora's corset strings. Dora howled and Betty winced, making a face at Eloise. "If you don't suck in Dora, this isn't going to do you any good!"
    Eloise grabbed Dora's dress and as Betty gave one last pull on the corset, she threw it over Dora's head. "Come on Dora, you don't want to be late for your breakfast invitation."
    Dora finally stopped struggling, panting with exhaustion, and allowed Eloise to button up her dress as Betty attacked her hair. "Yes I do," she said huffily, crossing her arms. "Lord William's son is so revolting."
    "I'm sure his spots will clear up when he gets older. Besides, he's very nice," Eloise pointed out.
    Sue, who was brushing Nora's hair, spoke over the eldest girl's continual, high pitched wail at the yanking of her tangles, agreed, "Nice boy, giant manor."
    "Psh, he can't get more gold a year than we do," Dora whined, burrowing down into her chest of jewels past thick strands of pearls, red rubies, emeralds, and amethysts, before finding a gaudy string of amber beads which she draped around her neck.
    "Is gold really all that matters?" Eloise sighed.
    Dora froze, and even Nora ceased her screeching, staring up at Eloise in shock. "What's the matter with you?" Nora asked. "Of course it is all that matters!" And, standing up as though she had not been throwing a tantrum two moments before, flounced out of the room, tossing her hair back in Eloise's face. "Just because you don't have a gold piece to your name…"
    Laughing shrilly, Dora followed her sister down the stairs.
    "Eloise, that's not fair!" Sue cried, dropping the hair brush and hurrying to her friend's side, gentle eyes filled with concern.
    "All your father's money and possessions should have been yours, El! If it wasn't for that selfish witch of a stepmother…" Betty also moved to Eloise's side, seizing her arm.
    "It's all right, girls," Eloise said, brushing off the remarks with as much grace as she could muster. "Maybe someday…when Ludmilla remarries, or Nora or Dora…"
    "Or you!" Sue cried, pushing Eloise's hair out of her eyes. "Maybe someday you will be the one to leave them, El! Don't let them get into your heart."
    "I'll do my best," Eloise tried to smile, but the words of her stepfamily had hurt her deeply. "Come on; let's go eat my birthday pancakes."
    Cook and Peter had finished the rest of Eloise's morning chores, right down to sweeping the kitchen, and had places a thick candle in the middle of a giant stack of banana pancakes. The maids and Henry joined their two friends to sing a rousing 'Happy Birthday' as best as they could, while Eloise beamed at them. And after all the pancakes were devoured, Eloise's friends brought her their presents.
    Cook presented Eloise with a book of recipes. All were recorded in Cook's slanted, curly writing on old seed packages, with hints and ideas scrawled into the margins.
    Betty and Sue had pooled their pennies and bought Eloise a set of hair ribbons, in lavender, sky blue, pink, and green. And, most impressively, a second-hand pair of shoes that looked just as new as the day they were made, crafted out of glass.
    Henry had found the very rarest flower seeds, delphiniums and daisies and even a deep blue sort of wild vine rose, all organized into little folds of parchment paper with tiny sketches the blooming flower.
    But just as Peter was about to hand his clumsily wrapped package to Eloise, a sharp knock rang out from the back door.
    "I'll get it," Eloise flashed a smile at Peter and slipped off her stool to open the door.
    The postman, leaning against the doorframe in his dusty blue suite, quickly straightened himself when Eloise opened the door. Snuffling a little through his droopy grey mustache, he tipped his cap. "Good morning, Eloise. Hope I find you well."
    "Yes sir, quite well, thank you," Eloise smiled. "Can I help you with anything?"
    "Why yes, miss. Letter for the household, you know. S'posed to deliver it in person, I was told." He offered Eloise a letter, which had obviously been twisted around in distracted hands and dropped more than once.
    Eloise took it, and the postman waved two fingers in a sort of farewell salute, ambling off through the chickens and back around the house towards the road. Laughing a little to herself, Eloise turned the letter around. It read her address and the simple direction "To All Single Women in the Household" in a spiky hand she didn't recognize. And in the upper corner…
    Eloise sat down within the doorway with a bump, frightening away a curious chicken and knocking her knees painfully against the frame. The image stamped in the upper corner in red was a huge jeweled crown: the royal seal from the Prince's castle.
    "El? Everything all right?" Peter poked his head around the corner, and saw Eloise slumped in the doorway. "Eloise! Are you okay?" He squatted down besides her seizing her wrist.
    Eloise wordlessly shoved the letter at him.
    "What? Oh…a royal letter. Well, that's nice. Are you coming back in the kitchen?"
    "Peter!" Eloise managed. "It's…it…the royal seal!"
    Peter looked more closely at the envelope. "Do you want to open it? It is addressed to you, after all…unless you have a secret husband you haven't mentioned yet…"
    Eloise shook her head, wordlessly, and only grabbed Peter's hand.
    "Oh all right. I guess I can do it for you." Peter crossed his legs and leaned back against the wall near his friend. He slipped his thumb into the folds of the envelope and ripped it open, extracting a golden-rimmed piece of paper. "All right…'The Royal Household cordially invites all single women of this household to the Prince's Ball the evening of the full moon.' That's tomorrow, Eloise," Peter interjected. "'All eligible women are compelled to attend because the Prince will select his bride, and the future queen, from the attendees."
    "Peter!" Eloise squealed, seizing his shoulders. "Peter, do you realize what this means?!"
    "The…the Prince is having a ball?" Peter spluttered.
    "This could be my chance, Peter! This could be my way to escape Ludmilla! If the Prince fell in love with me…my whole life could change! I would have money, and a new place to live…and I would never have to see any of my stepfamily ever again!"
    "Oh." Peter said, and Eloise released him, clasping her hands together joyously. Peter rolled his shoulders, wincing. "Ow. That hurt, El."
    Eloise had nothing further to say to her friend. She threw her arms around his neck, squeezing the life out of him once again in a crushing hug, and snatched the letter from his hand, stampeding into the kitchen.
    Cook, Betty, Sue, and Henry were beside themselves with happiness when they learned about the ball. They understood at once how much the opportunity to escape her awful family meant to Eloise, and listened patiently to all her raptures over how wonderful she imagined the Prince would be. After all, Eloise reasoned, he was royalty, and therefore must be handsome and kind and brave and unselfish and all the things a good man should be. Betty and Sue regretted that they would have no chance to go to the ball themselves, but both were extremely happy in their romantic lives; Betty had a beau, a butler in a nearby manor, who she loved very much, and Sue took the opportunity to once again show off the pretty ring her fiancé had presented her with last week. And Cook only laughed at the idea of going to a ball herself, asserting no young prince would want her as a bride and that she would much rather stay in the kitchen. Henry, who was most certainly not a lady, simply stroked Eloise's hair fondly, and Peter took the liberty of licking up pancake crumbs from the empty plate in the bustle.
    But the happiness was broken by Ludmilla's cold voice. "Eloise? Eloise!"
    Eloise took the letter and ran up the stairs to the main hall where her stepmother was waiting, arms folded, with her two daughters. "Yes, stepmother?"
    "Eloise, we are going out. When we return, we expect all the floors moped, the dishes done and supper prepared. Also, be sure and mend the laundry we have left out for you and muck out the animals' stalls."
    "Yes stepmother, but look…" Eloise handed the letter to Ludmilla, and Nora and Dora craned their long necks around to try and read it around their mother's shoulders.
    "What is this, girl? Oh…a ball for the Prince!" Ludmilla turned to her daughters. "Girls! We must go shopping immediately after our engagement with Lord William! You both need new dresses, new jewels, baubles for your hair…"
    "Why?" Dora pouted.
    "To make the Prince fall in love with you, of course! Don't you want to be Queen?"
    Nora and Dora at last understood, and dissolved into screams of rapture and almost swooned on the floor. Over the clamor, Eloise turned to Ludmilla again. "Stepmother? Might I come shopping, too?"
    Ludmilla almost laughed, looking Eloise over from her dirty feet to her tangled hair. "Why?"
    "Well, the invitation is for all single women of the house…and I…"
    "Oh. Oh." Ludmilla raised her eyebrows. "How would you purchase anything, Eloise? Do you have any money?"
    "No," Eloise said. "But…could I…may I attend the ball, at least?"
    Ludmilla was silent for a long moment, which was filled by Nora and Dora's hyperventilating sighs and howls. "If," she said at last, "if you can find something suitable to wear, and if you finish all your chores tomorrow…then yes, I can see no reason why not."
    And after Nora and Dora had left the household and after Ludmilla had swept out as well, leaving the letter in Eloise's hands, Eloise, too, allowed herself one hysterical scream.
    The day flew by, and Eloise finished all her chores faster than she ever had before, telling all the horses about how wonderful the Prince would be, dancing through the hallways with her mop, singing while doing the dishes, and once the dinner was baking in the oven, she sat down to mend with Cook.
    "Well, dearie, it seems like you have a pass to the ball!" Cook smiled, pulling her heavy glasses up on to her nose and going cross-eyed while trying to thread the needle.
    "Sort of, Cook. I can't go dressed like this…but I don't exactly have a heap of dresses stowed away!" Eloise took the needle from her friend's gnarled hands and threaded it easily before returning it.
    Peter waltzed into the room, chomping a thick green apple with evident enjoyment. "What's this about dresses?" he mumbled around a mouthful of the fruit.
    "We're planning your next birthday present," Eloise teased.
    Peter offered her the unbitten side of her apple, and she chomped on it appreciatively. "Lovely," he laughed. "As much as I would like a silken gown…"
    "Eloise has nothing to wear to the ball," Cook explained, cutting the thread with her teeth and laying aside Ludmilla's dress.
    "Oh," said Peter, taking another thoughtful bite of his apple. "Well…what's wrong with this?"
    "Peter," Eloise sighed, "You are such a boy."
    "No really!" Peter insisted, gesturing widely. "I've always thought you were…well…you know…" he pointedly avoided either woman's face, instead examining his dirty boots, "rather…erm…right nice, and whatnot."
    Eloise blushed in pleasure, but had nothing to say, and Cook wisely pretended to see nothing, only pointed out again it would be a shame for Eloise to appear at a ball without a dress.
    "An' you really want to go to this, right?" Peter asked.
    "Yes!" Eloise cried. "It's always been my dream! The music, and the dancing, and the Prince…and…"
    "All right, all right, I understand," Peter laughed. "Then, how about we get you a dress?"
    "Unless you have a fairy godmother up your sleeve, Peter…"
    Peter laughed again. "No, El, we live in the real world, after all. But I do have something better." And he disappeared out of the kitchen, tossing his apple core behind him at Eloise, who caught it as best she could, and bit off the last piece, which he had left for her.
    Two minutes later, the farm boy returned, with Betty, Sue, and Henry in tow and a whole mess of each of their old garments bundled in his arms. All the servants set to work, drawing their ideas for a beautiful gown on the tabletop in a burnt stick, correcting angles here and there. Eloise was a little smaller than Betty, and so one of Betty's old, stained maid dresses was decided as the base of the gown. Once all the gaudy lace and the apron that Ludmilla insisted on were ripped off, it left a creamy sort of shell. Pieces from one of Sue's maid dresses matched the color, and Henry, who was fine with a needle and thread, took it upon himself to begin sewing pieces together to the shell to create a long, ruffle piece that attached at the bottom to make it a pretty, floor length gown. Peter ripped up some of his older working shirts, shades of deep green, black, off-white, and even a dark one that had worn down to almost a purple shade, and Betty and Sue directed the placement of such pieces so that the bodice and the back of the gown were sufficiently and stylishly decorated. They all agreed that sleeves would be unnecessary, and with darning and re-darning the dress was cut down again and again.
    By very late evening, with beeswax candles burning low in every corner, Eloise stood in the center of the kitchen in her dress, nervously waiting for her friends' opinions.
    Henry smiled fondly, face dissolving into a mess of wrinkles, and nodded his approval.
    Betty and Sue gushed out praise for everything, from Henry's handiwork to Cook's insistence on avoiding too much decoration to Eloise's figure and how pretty she looked in the dress.
    Peter, for once in his life, was at a loss for words, and could only stare at his friend with eyes that spoke of how beautiful he found her.
    And Cook, dear Cook, who had practically raised Eloise, simply wiped a tear from her eye.
    The dress was absolutely perfect, and as Eloise lay down to sleep that evening, next to the stove in the pile of rags with a book of fairy tales for her pillow, she knew tomorrow's ball would be the best event in all her life.
    Peter's voice came out of the warm darkness beside her, and with the dieing flames of the stove she could make out the dim outline of his shoulder. "El? Are you still awake?"
    Eloise rolled over to look at him. "Yes."
    "Well…I never got to give you your birthday present earlier. So. Uh. Here you go." He handed her a small, hastily wrapped package, tied with twine.
    Taking it and leaning towards the stove to see a bit better, Eloise unwrapped it carefully, paper sounding as loud as a symphony in the quietness of the night. Within the package was a silvery necklace made from a long pretty braided string, and as Eloise lifted it out of the confines of the paper, she saw that it was strung with beads shaped from bright rocks, and sparkly pieces of smooth glass and seashells from the nearby shore and a long golden feather from what must have been a massive bird and wooden toggles and even a few buttons that she recognized as having been formerly attached to some of her father's shirts, which she hadn't seen in years upon years. Eloise could say nothing.
    "D'you…d'you like it?" Peter said shyly at last.
    Eloise slipped it on to her neck, where it slid under her shirt near her heart, and laid back beside Peter. She took his hand wordlessly, and Peter thought he felt a teardrop land on his thumb. Eloise fell asleep a while later, still clutching Peter's hand, but Peter did not sleep for a long time. Instead, he sat up in the dark beside his friend, running his free hand through her hair whenever she murmered uneasily in her sleep, and stared at the stars through the kitchen window
    The next morning dawned, as it always did. Cook mentioned a word or two of admiration of Eloise's necklace when the girl came in from the washroom with clean clothes for folding, and noticed, without a comment, that Peter and Eloise skirted each other strangely, with an awkwardness that had seemed to sprout up out of nowhere.
    Ludmilla gave Eloise the longest list of chores she had ever had to endure, making it clear that she wanted the girl no where even near the ball. She had to wax and polish the floors, do all the dusting, clean out and whitewash the cellar, grease all the hinges of all the doors in the house, weed the entire yard, repaint the shutters, purchase new iron candlesticks, beat every carpet clean of dust and grime, repair the chicken coop, wash Nora and Dora's ball gowns by hand, help them prepare for the ball, and keep the house in perfect order. It was an impossible list, but Eloise did not complain, because complaining never does any good anyhow. She went to her friends, who were only too glad to help.
    By four in the evening, Eloise had waxed and polished the floors, dusted, purchased candlesticks, and beaten the carpets, and was clinging for dear life to the front of the house, repainting the shutters. Henry was still weeding the yard, finished by now with the chicken coop. Betty and Sue, meanwhile, were busy with the whitewash in the cellar, and Cook was carefully tending to the gowns. Peter, who had finished greasing the doors and had assisted Henry with the chicken coop, was the one holding the rope tied to Eloise's waist as she tried to paint, scarecrow arms and legs flying all directions as he held to her for dear life.
    "Peter," Eloise cried at last. "Peter, I think we're done!"
    Peter yanked hard on the rope, pulling Eloise back into the house half by her dress and half by her arm, landing in a heap with her on the floor. Both got to their feet quickly, avoiding the other's eye.
    "Thank you." Eloise said.
    "You're welcome," Peter replied.
    Silence stretched.
    "Uh…I'll…the cellar'll be dry by now. I'll just go help organize." Peter said at last.
    "Oh! Right. Yes. And I'll go see to Nora and Dora," Eloise agreed.
    Silence stretched again, until at last they realized they had said all there was to say, and rushed to different parts of the house with hasty goodbyes, each of their faces a shade redder than normal.
    Nora and Dora were in a fine mood when Eloise came upon them. Realizing for the first time that both of them had a chance to win over the Prince, they were engaged in the most epic fight Eloise had ever witnessed. Feathers from pillows littered their respective rooms and the hall, and that entire wing of the house was torn apart. Eloise found them at last on one of Nora's armchairs, destroyed now. Nora had Dora by the hair, but Dora was clutching Nora's nose with her fist, and neither would be the first to let go. After long pleading, persuading, cajoling, and the occasional threat, Eloise managed to usher them each into their separate washtubs, then fell to repairing the rooms in despair. The mess was catastrophic, and it was truly beyond human power to clean if she had had a week until the ball, but what choice did she have? Eloise bravely fell to.
    Her years of servitude under her cruel stepmother had served her well. By the time Nora and Dora were cleaned, polished, puffed, and perfumed, the rooms were in some semblance of order. Betty and Sue arrived from whitewashing to help Eloise shove the two girls into their gowns, which proved to be gaudy and brilliantly colored. They placed every garish jewel and flashy ribbon they owned into their appearance, until one could not look directly at them, but was forced to look away instead, wincing. After many whispered urgings from Betty and Sue, Eloise managed to extract herself and slip down to the kitchens to get ready herself.
    Eloise had only simple soap and normal means, but she was clean, and with Cook's help, she pushed her hair up into a beautifully crafted high bun on her head. The gown was just as beautiful as it had been the night before, and as Cook helped her tie it up, Eloise threw on the glass shoes Betty and Sue had given her for her birthday. The final touch of her outfit was the necklace Peter had given her, which she meant never to take off again.
    It was at that moment Peter came down into the kitchens, whistling, holding a bundle of junk that had been in the cellar. He dropped it all with a resounding clatter at the sight of Eloise, and his mumbled excuses and Eloise's confused agreements added to the nonsense until…
    "Eloise!" It was Ludmilla's voice.
    Eloise gave Cook and Peter a frightened look. Cook nodded proudly, and Peter gently punched her on the arm, grinning as best he could, forgetting to be awkward with the nervousness of the situation. Eloise returned the punch, and slowly ascended the stairs to join her stepmother.
    Despite all her words, Ludmilla had always figured Eloise was a fine girl in the way of beauty. She was not gorgeous, but her spirit had made her looks enchanting, and when she came into the main hall in her gown, Ludmilla could barely swallow her gasp. Her stepdaughter was stunning.
    "Where did you get that gown?" Ludmilla managed.
    "I…that is, we, made it," Eloise explained, standing tall.
    "Ah," was all Ludmilla could find to say, and Nora and Dora came bursting into the hall, ready for the ball, and saw her there too. Both girls were equally surprised as their mother had been, and began an immediate uproar.
    "Mother, why aren't our gowns like that one?'
    "Mother, what's she doing out here?"
    "Mother, you aren't honestly going to let her go!"
    "Girls, girls, girls," Ludmilla silenced them with a glare. "Now, we made a deal. If Eloise could find something suitable to wear and if her chores were done, she could come to the ball.
    Nora and Dora began whining again, their protests reaching a shrill howl, and Ludmilla's mind spun for ideas. She had always hated Eloise for the love her father showed her and for the inherent goodness and kindness she possessed, and could not stand to have her own daughters upstaged now, at this, the most important of all balls. Then Ludmilla did a very desperate thing. She carefully and deliberately stepped backwards to the front door, where all the bags of trash and heaps of dirt from the day were stacked. And Ludmilla, with what could have been a careless flourish while opening the front door, knocked over every single bag. They exploded all over the floor, a flood of grime, and Eloise's heart sunk all the way down to the tile to mingle there with it.
    "Oh my," Ludmilla said. "What a terrible accident!" And the wind from the open door blew around the grime and dust, spreading it even more throughout the room in the most terrible mess imaginable. "Eloise, clean this up, won't you? It is part of your chores to keep the house clean, after all…"
    And Ludmilla swept out of the house with her cackling daughters behind her, into the dark and into the carriage, and then swiftly down the road to the wonderful ball at the castle. And Eloise sunk to her knees in the clean patch of tile that was left to her, and wept.
    Cook found her, a few moments later, still weeping, and surrounded by the ruined mess of the entire house. "Eloise! Dearie, what on earth---"
    "Ludmilla," Eloise managed, gesturing at the expansive mess and the scattered sack.
    "What a terrible woman!" Cook gasped.
    And Peter appeared at her shoulder, and agreed, loudly, after exclaiming a few vicious oaths at the sheer size of the mess.
    And Eloise still cried. But something very important was happening inside her. As another tear ran down her face, Eloise made some decisions. She decided, suddenly, that she did not deserve this treatment. She did not deserve to be ridiculed and forced to work and treated terribly. She did not deserve to be here, kneeling in the grime of her father's house that she could not even call her own. But most important decision Eloise made was that she could make things better, all on her own, and that she was strong enough to save herself.
    Eloise got to her feet suddenly, wiping away tears from her face and turning to face Cook and Peter. She had never seemed taller, and lights like fires burned in her eyes. "Cook! Is there any way for me to get to the ball?"
    "I---what? Eloise, what do you…"
    "Is there?" Eloise insisted.
    "Yes," Peter said suddenly. "There's the uncovered carriage, and we have three horses left. But Eloise, what are you about?"
    "This has gone on long enough!" Eloise cried. She paced towards Cook and Peter. "Living like this has reached its end! I am sick of this, sick of being treated like a worm, sick of…Ludmilla and her daughters! I am not going to let three…three…witches keep me from the ball! I am going, and when I return, I am kicking them out of my father's house forever! They have no claims, no right to this house or me, and I know the Prince will believe me when I tell him so!"
    Cook was laughing and crying, so happy she could do nothing else, and Peter's face was practically split in a grin. Eloise allowed herself one joyful smile, and then returned to her stern attitude. "Peter! Can you take me in the carriage?"
    "Yes," Peter said instantly. And with a smirk that was half-joking and half serious, he added, "yes, my lady." And he and Eloise swept down into the kitchens and out into the yard, and Cook sat down on the stairway to finish her happy tears, before beginning to sweep out the mess so that her lady would have a clean house when she returned.
    The carriage was old and rickety and uncovered, with rough wood and room for only one horse to pull. But Peter had driven it to the market many times, and soon had the horse harnessed up. Eloise started to clamber up inside, the way she always did, but Peter surprised her, reaching down for her hand and helping hand her in like a true lady. He winked at her, then pulled the reins, and the carriage went careening off into the night and down the road towards the castle.
    The castle was just as beautiful up close as Eloise had always known it would be, huge and white and gleaming in the night beneath the stars. Fine carriages of all shapes and sizes were parked around the castle, and Peter pulled right up to the grand stairs, handing Eloise out.
    "Peter," Eloise said, quite herself again and overcome with nervousness, "Peter, will you be here when I come out?"
    "Yes, to greet you as the Queen, El," Peter said softly, and although Eloise could not be sure, she thought his eyes looked sad in the starlight.
    "And you'll look after the horse?"
    "Yes."
    "And make sure you come and get me if I stay past midnight?"
    "Yes."
    "All right." Eloise turned to go, but then spun around. "Peter?"
    "Yes, what is it, El?"
    "Do I…do I look all right?" And the Eloise who stood before him was the same girl who he had grown up with and flown kites with and eaten apples right out of trees with and run barefoot in the town with and cleaned with and ran with…the exact same girl he had always known.
    "You," Peter said, decidedly, "you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen."
    And Eloise smiled and ran up the stairs to the ball, stumbling a bit, and then disappearing through the big double doors. Peter saw something slip off of Eloise's foot, and tried to yell to her, but she was already gone. He jumped nimbly out of the carriage and jogged up the steps. And there, on one huge white marble step, was one of Eloise's small glass shoes. Peter picked it up, and held it to his heart for a moment, and then walked slowly back to the carriage alone.
    The ball was as lovely and as glittering as a dream, filled with whirling couples and laughter and tinkling music. Eloise stood for a moment just within the doors, looking with wonder at everything, and then felt a light tap on her shoulder.
    "Excuse me; miss, would you like to dance?" And from his white shoes to his white suit to his white gloves to his white smile, the Prince stood before her, as elegant as his palace.
    They danced and danced and danced, and at first, Eloise was as happy as she could ever imagine being. But as they talked, she realized all the Prince had to say was pleasant chatter. She was certain he was as kind and brave and unselfish as could be, and he was undeniably handsome, but Eloise did not feel as though she knew who he was at all. There were important things, she realized, that one ought to know about a man, such as how he treats others and what he does when you are sad and how gentle he is when you are upset and whether or not he shares his apples, things that only time can teach you, things that you cannot possibly learn at a ball.
    "Miss," the Prince said at the conclusion of one dance, over all the clapping. "Miss, I quite like you."
    "And I like you," Eloise said hastily. "But Sire…I…I was mistaken in coming here tonight."
    "Oh?" said the Prince, surprised. "Why is that?"
    "If all goes as I want it," Eloise explained, smiling, "I won't be a single lady of your kingdom after this evening…it was unfair for me to make you think that you could win my heart."
    "Ah. Ah!" The Prince kissed her hand graciously. "I understand, miss. I had not really expected that a girl as wonderful as you could be single. But I would like us to be friends! Can we do that, do you suppose?"
    Eloise laughed. "Sire, you are the Prince. I suppose you can do anything at all!"
    The Prince returned her laughter. "Then I will see you soon, miss?"
    "Yes. I live at the house near Thornwilde. And please, Sire, call me Eloise!"
    "In that case," the Prince said, stepping back and bowing, "Eloise, I will call on you as soon as time allows, and I wish you luck with your young man. Let me know if there is every anything I can do for you."
    After Eloise's clumsy curtsey, the Prince disappeared back into the ball room, looking for another girl to dance with, another girl to be his wife. And Eloise turned in the exact opposite direction, and ran out the giant double doors and down the stairs.
    Peter, who had been dozing in the carriage, heard her calling his name. He jumped out, thinking she had come to get her shoe. "Eloise! It's all right, I have it!"
    Eloise stopped before him, breathless from her sprint. "What?"
    "Your shoe," Peter explained, holding it out to her.
    "My shoe. Oh. Right." Eloise said, pushing a stray piece of hair behind her ear.
    Peter crouched down. "I'll help you put it on, shall I? Your dress is massive…" and he started digging past her layer of flounce and petticoats for her foot. "Did you…did you dance with the Prince?" Peter asked, trying to sound offhand.
    "Yes," Eloise said.
    "An' was he…you know…everything you dreamed?"
    "Oh, he was handsome and charming and brave and…yes, everything I'd dreamed."
    "Oh," said Peter.
    "But I was wrong," Eloise said suddenly. "I was wrong in what I was dreaming, Peter. We were dancing, and I realized that a ball is not nearly enough time to fall in love. And that…that I would rather, much rather, not be a queen. I just want to live at our house with Cook and Betty and Sue and Henry…and…and you…"
    "Oh," Peter said, in quite a different voice. He had found her foot, and his fingers were warm and gentle and shaking a little against her skin as he slipped her shoe on. "Is that so?"
    "Yes," Eloise murmered.
    And Peter stood up, and Eloise realized for maybe the first time how tall he was, and how his straw-blond hair stuck out on his head, and how blue his eyes were…
    "Well, that's good then," said Peter softly, and his voice was a little too deep. "Because I just wanted you to be happy."
    "Is that so?" Eloise whispered. Peter's face was very close to hers now…
    "Yes. That, and I wanted you with me. I am in love with you, Eloise, and I always have been and I always will be and I know I'm no prince, but…"
    And Eloise leaned forward and kissed him, throwing her arms around his neck and nearly knocking him off his feet. Peter put a hand in her hair and all the beads and buttons and glass and feathers on her necklace clinked together and her glass shoes caught the starlight as she went up on tip-toe because he was so tall…and the tall clock on the castle struck midnight.
    And so Eloise saved herself from her awful life with her stepfamily, without needing to be rescued. She kicked Ludmilla, Nora, and Dora out of her house and on to their rumps in the street, restoring all the decorations and furniture that had been in the house when her father was alive, turning it back into a fine home for everyone.
    The Prince himself did call on Eloise, and after hearing about her earlier days, he forbade Ludmilla, Nora, or Dora from ever contacting Eloise again. Eloise asked the Prince to find them a position, because she was kind-hearted and didn't want anything terrible to happen to them, so the Prince made them kitchen maids at the palace, where they worked just as hard as Eloise had every day of her life.
    Cook was as happy as she could be cooking and cleaning for only those she loved and sleeping up in a real room as Eloise, the mistress of the house, insisted.
    Henry, too, had his own big bedroom, and because Eloise let him plant whatever he desired, he turned the garden into an even more beautiful place, filled with vegetables and giant spreading flowers.
    Betty and Sue, with their beau and fiancé, were allowed to stay as long as they pleased, and their marriages, planned for next year, would only mean more people would be added to the large rambling house. Eloise could not hear of them living anywhere else, and they stoutly agreed.
    And most wonderfully, a few months after the ball, in the wide spreading garden, Peter and Eloise were married, with all their dear friends to see them and wish them happiness. And, as Peter said, "because they lived in the real world," the wedding was not as perfect as they had dreamed.
    It was even better.
    And they all lived happily ever after, whether the real world had anything to say about it or not.

    (view changes)
    9:59 am

Thursday, December 13

  1. msg WOW girl! message posted WOW girl! I love your wiki! It's so great and this story is soooooo great! Your are so beautiful and talented…
    WOW girl!
    I love your wiki! It's so great and this story is soooooo great! Your are so beautiful and talented! Thanks for sharing that! Love ya!
    12:56 pm
  2. msg mirror picture message posted mirror picture I just wanted you to know that your picture for William Wilson is fantasic! Very lovely. :)
    mirror picture
    I just wanted you to know that your picture for William Wilson is fantasic! Very lovely. :)
    12:27 pm
  3. page Personal Philosophy Statement! edited ... Yours, The Author {http://www.anniesannuals.com/signs/s/images/sunflower_moulin_rouge_new.j…
    ...
    Yours,
    The Author
    {http://www.anniesannuals.com/signs/s/images/sunflower_moulin_rouge_new.jpg}{http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/IMAGES/Kansas/sunflower_lg-380.jpg}
    Philosophy Statement: Choice makes a person who they are. Love influences choice, and therefore what one does for love defines them.
    (view changes)
    10:20 am
  4. msg Holy Man! message posted Holy Man! This short story is amazing! You truly have a talent for writing and always have great opinions and…
    Holy Man!
    This short story is amazing! You truly have a talent for writing and always have great opinions and things to say in class.

    Great Job!!

    -Hannah =]
    10:09 am
  5. msg I would read the whole thing now but.... message posted I would read the whole thing now but.... Obviously right now we have limited class time. I would just like to say that it looks fabulous an…
    I would read the whole thing now but....
    Obviously right now we have limited class time. I would just like to say that it looks fabulous and your first little piece written in bold really makes me want to read the rest. I probably will. Good Job!!
    10:09 am

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