Cinderella and Her Mother
by Cezarija Abartis
My mother put down her needle and thread and button and sighed as she lifted my chin. “What will become of you, Cinderella? Will you remember me?” She coughed and raised her apron up to her mouth. She closed her eyes, but I saw three drops of blood among the flowers embroidered on the apron. She leaned in and whispered, “I wanted to attend your wedding.”
She persisted in sewing my trousseau—a green wedding dress, white nightgown, and brown work dress—though I was only eight and years from getting married. She hurried to finish my work dress, pricking her fingers, losing more blood.
My father fell asleep on his chair watching over her after he shambled back from the fields. And when he woke, she was gone. My aunts washed her body, all the while humming a hymn about heaven. “You’ll see her there,” Aunt Minna said.
I stepped back. I didn’t want heaven.
The plague burned through our village, and we could not travel away from it as the lords and ladies did. We had to endure its devouring of the population. We all wished we could be lords and ladies, princes and princesses, though some of them died too.
My aunts joined their sister in heaven, and then it was just my father and I who went to church on Sunday, who ate a stew of potatoes, who brought flowers to the cemetery. Mother visited me in my dreams and promised I would have a happy and long life if I was virtuous, if I went to bed early, did not waste my time, wore my good dress to church and not to dances.
My father rubbed his forehead. “What will become of you?” He coughed and was afraid he’d die. He decided to marry a widow who had children. “We can combine families,” he said. “We’ll share the work. I’ll have three happy daughters.”
The story started in August 2013 at ShowMeYourLits.com, a writing workshop that is sadly on hiatus now. I think the prompt may have been a photograph of buttons. I revised it and submitted it to the workshop on Zoetrope and read their comments about where they were confused. I revised it and submitted it to a workshop on Fictionaut and read their comments about where they were confused.
I probably wouldn't have stuck through all the hard work of revising except for the mystery of love. My earliest memories are those of my mother telling me fairy tales in Lithuanian. Later, I loved reading the collections of the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault by myself in English. Later yet, I loved reading Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. So: I had a genre to invest my love in. When I brought home my report card from grade school, my father nodded and said I was a hard worker.
Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in FRiGG, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Lascaux Review, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. Her flash, The Writer, was selected by Dan Chaon for Wigleaf’s Top 50 online fictions of 2012. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University. Her website is