From the Back Cover

She’s running from her title and a man she doesn’t love.
He’s just a farm boy who dreams of becoming more.
She has all the luxuries in the world but is never truly happy.
He is forced to sleep in a barn and treated like a slave.
She just wants to be invisible; he just wants to be seen
When their two worlds collide, can they really live out their perfect dream?
Throw in a hint of magic, a glass slipper and a ball.
Add two nasty stepbrothers and then just maybe, love can conquer all.

*This is not for children. It has some adult content/ language.

Genre: Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Mythology and Folk Tales

Excerpt

Below you can read the first 10 pages of Cinderfella, by Kristy Brown

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 Before Magic.

“Come on Gus, drink your milk, or you won’t grow big and strong.”

The tiny pot-bellied pig gives me a sideways glance and turns its snout up.

    I sigh, taking the bottle away. The door rattles, I jump. Who could be knocking at this time of night? Checking my watch, it’s almost midnight. It rattles again.

 

   “Who’s there?” If it were my brothers, they’d stroll right in. So, whoever this is, they’re out in the middle of nowhere, looking for trouble perhaps, or worse? Waiting a few seconds in silence, before scrabbling to my feet. My heart’s thumping. I grab a hay rake and head to the door.

   “I’ll ask one more time, who’s there?” I pull my torch from my back pocket.

   “It’s me,” a voice chuckles.

   “Me, who?” Raising my rake, I yank the door open. My brothers are probably playing a prank on me. I’m not in the mood for their crap. “Come on then! You want some?” I growl, looking out into the night. My eyes lower, grazing the top of a shiny, bald head.

   “Do I want some?” The old fella smiles up at me. Flicking the torch on, I’d place him in his late seventies at least. He looks like my old science teacher in his brown tweed suit and a red dickie bow. “Maybe?” He shrugs.

   “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” I lower the rake.

   “You didn’t. I’ve faced actual dragons you know.” He wiggles his bushy grey brows.

   “Do you need help? Are you lost?”    

   “I’m not lost.” He crosses his arms. “Are you?”

   “What? Look, it’s late. I’m tired. What can I do for you?”

   “More like, what can I do for you?” Taking off his little round glasses, he rubs them on his sleeve, before putting them back on. “That’s better, I can see you now. My, you are handsome…pity you hide yourself away back here.”

  “Shall I call someone for you? Come in for a minute, I’ll get you a warm drink.” Stepping back to let him pass. “You’re miles from anywhere and it’s freezing tonight.”

   “Fiddlesticks.” He waves away my offer. “I do need help with my car though. The old girl’s broken down again. I was hoping, since you’re good with engines, you’d come take a look-see?”

   “Tractor engines maybe…but… how did you know that? And, why didn’t you knock at the house? Why come around the back to an empty barn?”

   “But it isn’t empty is it? You’re here. Besides, I knew those idiots up at the house would be of no use to me, or I to them.”

   “You’re strange… Sorry, that was rude.”

   “Strange but worth helping?” His brows raise. “You look like a sturdy young man. I remember when I was your age. I had muscles like a sailor.”

   “You are so…” I feel uneasy, like I’m the punch line to some bizarre joke.

   “I am, right? My Nancy used to say that to me all the time.”

   “Your wife? Did she die?” Is this guy just seeking out company? Maybe we aren’t so different after all. I mean, what harm could it do to help him? The poor guy’s probably escaped from an old folk’s home or something.

   “Oh yes, for a while now. She’s gone up with the butterflies. But I’ll see her soon.”

    “Sorry to hear that.”  I grab my toolbox from the table. “Gus be good whilst I’m gone.” Bending down, I cover him in a blanket, carefully tucking it in to the sides of his box. He opens one eye before going back to sleep.

   “Come on, let’s take a look at this car of yours.” Flinging my coat on, I stride across the fields toward the road as he struggles to keep up. It’s cold and I’m exhausted, as usual. The sooner I fix his car, the sooner I can sleep.

   “So,” I break the silence. “What’s your name?”

   “Gerry.”

   “Hi Gerry. I’m Ash.” I stop and offer my hand, which he shakes eagerly.

   “It’s so nice to meet you, finally.” Squeezing my hand in his, but I pull away.

   “O-okay.” I pick up the pace. “Have my brothers put you up to this? ‘Cos if they have, they’re not paying you enough.” I stop walking. “Are they luring me away to steal my pig?” I turn ready to run back.

   “No!” He grabs my arm, he’s surprisingly strong. “I promise, your pig is safe. He likes his milk much warmer by the way. Look there’s my car.”

   “Okay.” I follow. “But if I get back and Gus is gone…let’s just say, I won’t be so nice.”

   “Got it.”

   “Right, let’s have a look.” Pulling up the hood, it creaks with annoyance.

   “I think you woke her. She can be ever so cranky.” Gerry pats the rusty Mini.

   “Know the feeling.” Grabbing a torch from the toolbox, I poke around the engine.

   “So, what do you do, Ash?”

   “Don’t you know already?” I laugh, keeping my eyes on the job at hand.

   “You work your father’s farm. They treat you like a dog, by the way.”

   “What?” I drop my spanner and it clashes against the engine.

   “You have a dream. What is it?” He leans against the car.

   “I do, huh? Don’t you know that too?”

   “Humour me.”

   “I want to be a doctor someday and help people. That’s all.”

   “So, why do you stay?”

   “Family duties.”

   “You don’t even like them, not now your poor mother’s gone.”

  My jaw clenches. “There’s the problem. Looks like someone’s disconnected this wire.”

   “Strange.” His eyes widen.

   “Very.” I reconnect it, pushing the hood back down.

    “So, you were saying about your mother?”

   “I wasn’t. Look, I don’t know what this is, what game you’re playing or why…but you’re freaking me out.” I step away from him. “Who the hell are you?”

   “I told you. I’m Gerry.”

   “And what do you do, Gerry? Besides roaming the countryside in the middle of the night?”

   “Well I’m a fff…”

   “You’re a fff?”

   “I’m a fancy-dress shop owner.”

   “Okay.” I shrug. “Get in and try her now.”  He turns the key, the engine splutters to life.

   “You’re amazing!” He sticks his head out of the window. “Thank you so much!”

   “No worries.” I remove my tool kit from the car roof, stepping back from the road.

   “How much do I owe you?”

   “Don’t worry about it. You just get on home to bed.”

   “You really are a prince.” He beams, and I have a crazy urge to hug him goodbye, but don’t.

   “Yeah, that’s me, prince of pigswill.”

   “Ash.” He looks serious, the smile in his eyes disappears.

   “Yeah?”

  “When fate knocks again, don’t pitch fork it in the face, okay?”

  “Okay.” Frowning, rubbing away the sudden goose bumps rushing down my arms. This guy’s clearly off his rocker. In a way, I sort of like him, crazy or not, I’ll look back on this night with a smile. And it was sort of nice for someone to be interested in me for a change. Guess it was just nice to have a visitor.

   “Bye then young man… see you soon.” He winds his window up and drives away. The night’s so quiet. I long to fill it with voices and laughter, again. I take a slow walk back to the barn and think over all the strange things he said.

1: Ash

 

   BANG!

     Bolting upright, I’ve must’ve fallen asleep. The rickety wooden door bangs relentlessly against the frame. Rain explodes furiously above me on the old rotten roof. Gus grunts. I lean over and pat him.

   “It’s okay boy. It’s just a storm. Go back to sleep.”

   CRASH!

There it is again. Shit, something’s in here! Carefully, I rise to my feet. Grabbing my weapon, I tiptoe closer to the sound. It’s dark, but I have the advantage; knowing this place like the back of my hand. My heart’s hammering against my chest, but I’ve taken on enough wild animals and brothers in my life, so I don’t know why I’m feeling so anxious. Whatever this is, it shouldn’t have chosen my barn to raid. A shadow catches my eye as it drunkenly stumbles about knocking buckets over. The figure’s cloaked, with its back to me.

   “Jack? Is that you?” I whisper, expecting him to turn and laugh in my face. I often catch him hanging around. The figure is still, which is unnerving. I don’t think this is Jack. “Show yourself!” I demand, trying to hide the shake in my voice. The figure straightens up. I relax a little, as I’m at least a foot taller than him. Walking forward, rake up, ready to attack. “I said…show yourself.” I point my weapon at its hooded head. “Show yourself or I’ll be forced to…”

   “Put the rake down.”

   “A girl?” I lower the rake slightly, but not fully. This could be a trick. She may have a gang waiting outside. There’s talk about town, of gangs looting local farms. “You’re a girl?”

   “That’s right. Now put it down before I put you down,” she hisses.

   “Feisty. I like that.” I reach in my back pocket for my torch.

   “No sudden moves…I mean it.” She’s well spoken; possibly trying to disguise her voice.

   “Did my brothers put you up to this?”

   “If you don’t back off …you’ll be sorry.” I can’t help but laugh. “I’m not joking you…you great lug!” 

   “Funny.” I go for my torch again.

 Before I can blink, the rake is snatched away. Pain streaks across the backs of my knees as my own weapon works against me.  In a blur, my feet go over my head. Then comes a crashing bolt of pain when my arse hits the floor.

   “What the hell?” I wince.

   “I told you,” she says, throwing the rake at the ground. Jumping to my feet, I grab her arm. “Please. Don’t.”

   “Now you’re scared? I’ve had enough for one night. So, what? You’ve come in to my home to what? Attack me? Steal from me?”

   “This is your home?”

  I grab her arm tighter. “Have they sent you in as a decoy?”

   “Back off. I mean it.”

   “Say please.”

   “Please.” She pulls her arm away. “Good. I don’t want to hurt you again.”

   “Oh please.” I laugh, “That was pure luck.”

    “Really?”

   “Really.” I flick my torch on. “Take your hood down.”

   “Look, I meant no harm.” Her hands go up defensively.

   “Take it down.”

   “I just needed somewhere to rest.” She pulls her hood down. White blonde hair tumbles over her shoulders. Her eyes are a deep green, yet so sad. My breath catches, and I don’t know if it’s because I was expecting a street girl, or that she’s so striking. 

I lower my torch down her body. Under her cloak there’s a fancy ball gown, which looks like a year’s salary at least. I go back to focus on her face.

   “You’re…”

   “I’m?”

   “You’re…” I want to say beautiful, but don’t. Sounding like some cheesy pervert who sleeps with pigs, would only scare her off. And I don’t want her to leave yet. For some reason, I feel more awake, more alive in the past five minutes than I have in years. Was it possible to have a connection with someone so instantly? I never believed in all that flaky romance crap before. Love at first sight only happens in romance novels… Plus this girl has some major anger issues. So why aren’t I throwing her out?

   “I’m?” she asks again, her almond shaped eyes widen.  I’m staring at her like a total dumb ass.

   “You’re…”

   “I’m what? Familiar? Do you know me?”

   “Should I?” Surely, if we’d met before, I’d remember…that face…those breathtakingly sad eyes…

   “So,” she breaks me from my trance. “Do you know who I am?”

   “No. It’s late. Is there something you need?”

   “You’ve never seen me before?” She frowns, “Not even on television?”

   “Are you one of those reality stars or something?”

   “Or something.”

   “Sorry, I don’t really have time for all that. I’m sure you’re great, but I haven’t a clue who you are.”

   “No, that’s great actually.” She winces.

   “What’s wrong?”

   “It’s nothing…I hurt my foot.”

   “Let me see.” I offer her my hand.

  “Why would you help me? Do you expect something in return?”

   “No. Why?”

   “People usually want something.”

   “I don’t. So?” I offer my hand again.

   “Err.” She puts her hand out, then retracts it.

   “If I was going to hurt you, I already would’ve.”

   “You could try.” She almost smiles. “Will you get that torch out of my face…please?”

   “I know a bit about injuries. I promise not to touch you without your permission.”  Gesturing the light towards a hay bale, so she can sit. Limping a little, I can tell she’s holding in the tears. Taking her elbow, I wait for her approval. She nods, and I let her lean on me as I help her sit.

   “Thank you.”

   “No worries.” I smile, she grins, which shows off a sexy gap between her two front teeth.  Heat rushes to my cheeks. “You look a lot less constipated when you smile.” I shrug, waiting for a swift slap across the head. She reverts to scowling again. “So, can I look?”

   “Go ahead.” She pulls her muddy gown over her ankle. “Any funny business and I’ll scream.”

   “Get over yourself. Besides, no one would hear you out here. That is, one messed up foot. What’ve you been doing?”

   “I lost my shoe, running from this guy…”

   “Did he hurt you?” My muscles clench.

   “No, nothing like that. It’s my fault for wearing designer, one-of-a-kind shoes. I just didn’t have time to break them in.”

   “Oh, the busy life of a celebrity.” I smirk. “What’s so special about these shoes anyway? Isn’t a shoe just a shoe?”

   “These were unique, these were made of glass.” Her left foot pops out from under her dress, showing the remaining shoe.

    “As you can see I’m no fashion expert.” I gesture to my plaid shirt and ripped jeans, which aren’t ripped as a statement, more ripped on the wire fence on the cow field. “That looks more like a weapon than a shoe. Pretty fancy though.”

   “Fancy and impossible to dance in and totally not meant for running.”

   “So, why were you running and dressed like that?”

   “I was attending a ball…a charity ball.”

   “For a minute then, I thought you were gonna say a royal ball.” I wrinkle my nose.

   “You don’t like the royal family?”

   “Again, I have no time to like or dislike them. Haven’t really taken any notice of them for years. But if you ask me, people with their kind of money could do a whole lot more for the world than the occasional parade or street party ‘cos one of em’s farted.”

   “Oh.” She glances away.

   “I mean no offence, guess someone like you would like that kinda lifestyle.”

   “Someone like me?”

   “So, a charity ball? Guess that’s good, you ‘celebs’ doing stuff for the needy. Maybe you could auction off that shoe? It might fetch a good price for a good cause.”

   “It is beautiful, but what’s the point of breaking my neck to look pretty in a pair of shoes that no one can even see.” She kicks it off.

   “So, you think you’re pretty?” I glance up, her mouth gapes open slightly. “Okay, I’ll need to clean the blood off to see how deep the cuts are. So, you ran across miles of muddy fields in one shoe? The guy must have serious breath issues or something.”

   “Or something.”

 I get up and grab my first aid kit. “Don’t go running off now.”

   “Couldn’t if I wanted to.” 

            Kneeling at her feet, gently placing her foot in my palm and clean up the skin, it feels weirdly intimate. I’ve literally known her for ten minutes, yet it feels sort of right. She doesn’t look disgusted when I touch her. I wonder if she’d ever lower herself to be friends with someone like me. I shouldn’t care because any moment she’ll leave and none of this will even matter. She’ll go back to her famous, pampered life. I’ll just be the guy she knocked on his butt. My pride has taken a bit of a bashing, but I’ll live.

   “Let me know if this hurts.” I dab her foot carefully.

She bites down on her lip, making my insides tingle. I shake myself mentally. If I were her doctor, I would be behaving very unprofessionally. Finally, when the foot is clean, I place a few plasters on it. We are both silent. I think of things to say and then change my mind.

   “So, good news. None of the cuts are deep, you won’t need stitches. May hurt to walk on for a day or two though. The swelling should go down pretty quickly.”

   “Thank you. How do you know this stuff?”

   “I’m studying to be a doctor one day. Just an online course whilst I wait to hear back from colleges.” I shrug, knowing she’s not really bothered; she’s making small talk to be polite.

  “That’s amazing. So why are you sleeping in a barn?”

   “I have my reasons.” I say, getting to my feet. “And I don’t even know your name, so I’ll hold off on my life story.”

   “Gosh, where are my manners? I’m Ellie.”

   “Hi, Ellie.” We shake hands. “I’m Ash.” Her hand feels warm and soft like silk gloves. I pull away; mine are rough and dirty in comparison. Confusion flashes in her eyes.

   “So, what happened? This guy propose or something?” I laugh, packing my bandages away.

   “Or something,” she whispers. I turn back, she’s crying into her palms.

   “Hey.” Bending down, placing my hand on her forearm. “It’ll be okay.” I squeeze once for reassurance. She sobs harder. “You’ll wake the chickens,” I joke to no effect. “Hey, look at me.” She doesn’t, I gently prise her hands from her face. Her makeup is smeared and she’s a little snotty.

   “Don’t look at me.”

   “Why not?” I sweep a runaway hair away from her eye.

   “No one’s supposed to see me like this.” She sniffles, trying to hide her face again.

   “I’m great at being nobody.”

   “I don’t know what to do, Ash.” My stomach tightens when she says my name. She looks at me with such desperation. I put my hand in hers, hoping she doesn’t find it too beneath her.

   “Can I help?”

   “You and your hay rake?” Her thumb brushes across my palm, electric tingles race over my skin. My face heats, betraying me. I remove my hand.

   “This guy…is he a real shit? You can say no, you know. This is the twenty-first century.” I’ve made her cry even more. “I didn’t mean to upset you, Ellie. I’m sorry.” I walk over to the sink.

   “Don’t leave.”

   “I’m getting you some tissue.” Offering her it, she blows her nose. “So, what’s so bad about this guy?” I sit next to her on the hay bale.

   “I’m only nineteen. I want to live…see the world…”

   “Tell him. Surely he’ll understand?”

   “Look at you. You know exactly what you want in life. I barely know myself, never mind if I can ever be more than what I am…I don’t just want to be someone’s wife. I want to do more than look pretty and do my duty.”

   “So, you do think you’re pretty!” I grin.

  “Shut up.” She almost laughs.

   “If you don’t want to marry this guy, don’t. If your job doesn’t make you happy and you don’t want to be famous anymore, walk away.”

   “Walk away? I guess for someone like you it’s easy to do that.”

   “Someone like me? A simple farm boy?”

   “I didn’t mean it like that.”

   “It’s fine.”

   “No, I don’t know you and shouldn’t judge. You will be a great doctor one day. I know it.”

   “You only get one life, Ellie, so live it on your terms. I see you as so much more than some man’s wife.”

   “You do?”

   “Don’t you? You either love this guy or you don’t. If you do, ask him to wait.”

   “You’re right. Thanks, Ash.”

  “Do you?”

   “I…”

   “Sorry. None of my business. So, what now?”

   “No idea. Could I stay here tonight? Just to get my head straight?” She looks at me like she’s asking for the moon. I’d probably try to give her it when she’s looking at me that way.

   “Really? Sure, it’s not The Ritz, but I’d like that. No funny business, you hear? You sleep over there.” I point to my mattress.

She laughs. “Sure, I’ll try to contain myself. Where will you sleep?”

I lay a blanket on the floor. “Here’s fine.”

   “No, you can’t.”

   “Really, take the mattress it’s a bit old but it’s comfy, besides you need to rest your foot. I won’t take no for an answer.”

   “Thank you.”

   “What for?”

   “You hardly know me. I attacked you and you’re still helping me. There aren’t many good people left in the world. Not many that don’t expect something in return anyway.”

   “I don’t want anything, promise. Actually, I’d like it if you didn’t knock me on my butt again.” I laugh. 

   “Ash?”

   “Yeah?”

   “I’m sorry.”

   “It’s okay.”

   “It’s odd.” She lies down, pulling the blanket over herself. “I feel like I was supposed to come here tonight.”

   “You’re not the first visitor I’ve had.” I try to get comfy on my damp corner of floor.

  “Who else came?”

   “No one.” Smiling to myself, thinking about weird little Gerry and what he said about fate. Is this what he meant? Is this girl my fate? “Get some sleep, the morning will look much brighter.”

   “Night, Ash.”

   “Night, Ellie.” I feel her eyes still on me, even when I close mine. I hardly sleep. All I can think about is this beautiful girl who stumbled into my barn, who stumbled into my life.

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