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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Happily Ever After, Ltd. - 17. Whatever Your Heart Desires

Behind the castle, Ryan and Cinderella were climbing down the jagged rocks towards the water. Ryan was struggling to drag a heavy old rowboat that they had lifted out of the castle moat. Halfway down the rocks, Ryan was beginning to realise that he had probably made a terrible, irreversible mistake. He was not the only one having doubts.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea, Your Highness!” Cinderella cried for the tenth time. “The wedding is about to start!”

Ryan had interrupted Cinderella in the middle of her preparations. She had been sitting in front of a mirror while ladies slathered paint over her face. Most of her face had been painted white, but there were pink circles on her cheeks and dark red over her lips. Once again, Ryan had tricked the ladies into leaving them alone and told Cinderella what they were going to do. She was shocked, but compliant.

Now, as she tried to manoeuvre across the rocks, the hem of her under-dress ripped and became streaked with dirt. With her torn dress, her unbrushed hair, and ghost-white face, she was starting to look more like a banshee than a bride.

“We’re supposed to get married,” she went on, “and live happily ever—”

“No, we were supposed to fall in love and then get married. But we haven’t fallen in love, have we? There’s no chemistry.”

“Chemistry, your highness?”

“You know, like romance. We’ve been over this.”

Cinderella sighed. “Well, I suppose you must be right. After all, you are a man.”

“Maybe we’ll be able to move faster if we both carry the boat,” Ryan said. “Do you think you can lift the other side?”

“I think so,” she said. “I’m quite accustomed to heavy lifting. Some mornings, when my stepmother was too lazy to go to the chamber pot herself, I had to carry her over my shoulder like she was a sack of turnips.”

They finally managed to get the boat down to the water where the waves were slapping against the rocks.

“Not so fast!” A bone-chilling scream split through the air.

Standing at the top of the rocks was the stepmother herself, an imposing figure even at a distance. Her daughters appeared behind her, Lucille limping on her thickly-bandaged foot.

“Oh no!” Cinderella said.

“Quick, get in,” Ryan said, helping her into the boat. She over-balanced and it nearly capsized.

The stepmother and stepsisters began to climb down the rocks. Lucille was particularly agile, despite her recent amputations.

“Give me the shoe!” Lucille screamed. “I have a legal right to try on the shoe!”

“No, you cheated!” Ryan shouted, as he climbed into the boat. He dug the thin oar into the water and pushed but the onslaught of waves kept them pinned back against the rocks.

“You are breaking the laws of the land!” the stepmother said. “It is your Royal Duty to get married!”

“But we don’t want to get married!” Ryan shouted. “We’re not in love!”

“I don’t care!” the Stepmother said. “You made your bed, you lie in it!”

“You could’ve had me!” Lucille said, already halfway down the rocks. “Instead of that bag of bones!”

“Back off!” Ryan shouted, digging the oar into the water. “I command you! I’ll have you thrown in prison!”

The Stepmother cackled. “You are the ones who will be in prison! After this fiasco, the King will never trust you again. He’ll keep you both under lock and key for the rest of your lives!”

By the time Lucille reached the water, Ryan had only managed to get the boat a few yards out from the shore. It was almost impossible with the little oar and the sea hurling them backwards. Lucille waded into the water, bandages and all. Her fingers closed around the edge of the boat.

“Let go, you nutcase!” Ryan shouted.

Lucille began rocking the boat violently, nearly flipping it over completely. Water splashed over the sides and began pooling around their feet.

Suddenly, Cinderella came to life. She ripped the oar out of Ryan’s hand and swung it at Lucille. It connected with a satisfying crack against Lucille’s head. Lucille fell lifelessly back into the water, blood streaming down her forehead.

“Yes!” Ryan shouted triumphantly. “Nice work, Cindy!”

Cinderella looked horrified at what she’d done but there was no time for Ryan to reassure her. He snatched the oar back and, with strength that he didn’t have, he pushed it back into the water.


Dorothy was staring motionless at the Core Book, the shock having blown her mind completely clear.

Liam finally spoke. “We are in completely unchartered territory. At this stage, every character is programmed to ensure the wedding goes ahead at all costs. That’s why the decoy was so effective. It distracted almost everyone in the story.”

“But not the Steps?” Maria said.

“No, the Steps are more devious than the others, at least until Cinderella forgives them in the final scene. Which doesn’t look too hopeful at this stage.”

“So,” Dorothy spoke in a hoarse voice that belonged to someone else, “Ryan and Cinderella have made a commitment not to marry, while every other character is out to make sure that they do marry?”

“Correct,” said Liam.

“But,” Dorothy said, “unless Ryan and Cinderella escape, there is no hope of a happily ever after?”

“Also correct,” Liam said.

“But the guards will find them in the next few minutes. How can they possibly escape? They’ve got no chance.”

“Actually,” Maria said, “I’ve got an idea.”


Ryan had gotten the boat nearly twenty yards out from the shore. His bicepless arms were burning with the effort and he vowed that if he ever made it out of this, he would finally agree to join Doug’s gym. Behind them, the Stepmother and Katrine had pulled Lucille back onto the rocks, but the blow had not incapacitated her for long. She was back up on her eight toes within minutes, blood congealing against her face.

“I’ll fit that shoe if I have to cut my foot off and turn it into mince meat!” Lucille screamed. She plunged headfirst back under the water and began powering back towards the boat.

“Um, she can swim quite fast,” Ryan noticed.

“Oh, yes,” Cinderella said. “When we were younger, she was a champion swimmer. She swam all the way around the castle moat when she was six years old. The Queen presented her with a ribbon for it.”

Then, up at the castle, there was an enormous roar.

“Oh, look,” Cinderella said.

The guards had found them. They came around the corner of the castle in single file, a never-ending line. They fanned out across the rocks, all armed with bows and arrows.

“Guards, we tried to stop them!” the Stepmother cried. “But His Highness assaulted my daughter!”

“How the hell did they find us so quickly?” Ryan said.

“The fat girl,” Cinderella said. “She must’ve squealed like a pig.”

“Blanche is like, what, a size fourteen? That’s not even really considered fat in the real world. And you shouldn’t refer to people by their physical appearance or their weight. Her name is Blanche. Just use her name and I’ll know who you’re talking about—”

The first spray of arrows fell, hitting the water with a whistling splash. Cinderella screamed.

“They can’t fire arrows at us!” Ryan shouted. “I’m the prince!”

Another set of arrows fell, puncturing the wooden floor of the boat. Water began bubbling up through the holes.

“Your Highness,” cried Cinderella. “We’re sinking!”

“Scoop out the water!”

“I haven’t anything to use!”

“Use your hands!”

“I can’t! We’re sinking too quickly!”

At that moment, Lucille burst over the edge of the boat, her face bloody and her mouth twisted in a scream.


“That’s a terrible idea,” Dorothy said, when Maria had told everyone what she was thinking.

“I don’t think we have any other option at this point,” Liam said quietly.

“And in a general sense, it does fit into the story,” Maria pointed out.

“But the Fairy Godmother’s role is very specific,” Dorothy said. “She is there to deal with a very specific situation.”

“Not really,” Liam said. “Her function, broadly speaking, is to grant one request made internally, once per cycle. If we dispatch her now, and they input the right request, it could work. We could still get to a happy ending.”

Dorothy considered it. It was lazy storytelling, of course, a deus ex machina, but that wasn’t the only reason why Dorothy didn’t like the idea.

“If we do that,” Dorothy said, “it won’t be the same story anymore.”

At once she heard how feeble and childish she sounded.

“We’re long past that,” Liam said. “We’ve got no choice. Ryan and Cinderella are the main characters and they have made it clear that they do not want to marry. The only chance we’ve got for a happy ending is to help them get out of there.”

Dorothy knew that this was rock bottom. She had nothing to lose.

“Fine,” she said. “Let’s do it.”

As she uttered those words, she knew her career was over.


Lucille crawled into the rapidly sinking rowboat, screaming and clawing at Cinderella. All around them, arrows kept hitting the water.

“You silly pig,” Lucille screamed at Cinderella. “When we get back to land, I’m going to cut your toes off and make you eat them!”

“That’s not very nice!” Cinderella screamed back.

The water was now up around their knees and beginning to spill over the sides. The arrows were coming down thicker and faster. Ryan tried to use the oar to swat them away but it splintered apart in his hands, until it was nothing more than flotsam and jetsam.

Lucille grabbed a fistful of Cinderella’s hair, plunging her head underneath the water. Cinderella’s skinny arms flailed helplessly. Without thinking, Ryan slammed his fist into the centre of Lucille’s face. There was a loud crunching sound as her nose broke. Her eyes rolled up into her head, dark blood streamed from her nostrils, and she fell back into the sea. Ryan pulled Cinderella out of the waist-deep water. Her face-paint had washed away and her hair was now knotted with pieces of oar and arrows.

“I’m so sorry,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we’re going to get away.”

She sighed. “Well, I’ll need to get my face painted again before the wedding.”

From the dark sky, there was a lightning flash of bright purple and suddenly she was waist-deep in the water with them – the Fairy Godmother herself. She was smiling serenely. She didn’t seem to notice that her long lilac gown was submerged in water and that arrows were flying less than an inch over her white wispy hair.

“About time,” Ryan said.

“I can grant you one wish,” she said in a soft storybook voice. “Whatever your heart desires.”

“You!” Cinderella screamed at her. “Where did you go? Everything started falling apart after you vanished. I was all ready to be taken to the Ball in a beautiful pumpkin chariot, pulled along by rats! That was what I’d dreamed of, what I’d wished for! But it didn’t happen like that. He had to come fetch me himself! And from the moment I met him, it’s been one disaster after another!”

“Were you saving that for your wedding vows?” Ryan asked.

“You didn’t finish granting my first wish,” Cinderella said to her Fairy Godmother, “and that means I get to wish again! This time, I want to have an even more beautiful dress. I want my hair to be like honey being poured from a jar again. But most of all, I want to have another pair of glass slippers! He took one of the shoes you gave me and let everyone try it on! It got all sweaty inside.”

The Fairy Godmother nodded and raised her hands, which were balled into fists.

“Wait! No!” Ryan slapped her fists back down by her sides. “Now is not the time for dresses and stupid glass shoes.”

“Don’t you want me to be beautiful?” Cinderella cried.

“Who cares! If this boat sinks, we’ll die of hypothermia and you’ll turn blue and bloated!”

“Bloated?” Cinderella whispered fearfully.


Cinderella turned to the Fairy Godmother again. “Oh, do help us!”

“This is our wish,” Ryan said. “Turn this boat into a jet boat.”

“A what?” Cinderella frowned.

“A jet boat. You know, like one with a motor.”

“What an unromantic wish,” the Fairy Godmother said.

“You have to do what we say!” Ryan said. “You’re like the genie from Aladdin. You have to give us our wish! And it’s a jet boat.”

With a disappointed sigh, the Fairy Godmother threw two fistfuls of silver glitter over them. There was a loud pop and the sunken rowboat beneath their feet transformed into a sleek jet boat. The water around their knees poured back out over the edges of the boat, as it bobbed back up to sea-level. The falling arrows now bounced off the boat with metallic pings.

Cinderella looked down at the new vessel sourly. “A new dress would have been much better.”

“Next time,” Ryan said. “Thanks, Fairy Godmother!”

She opened her mouth to respond but an arrow struck her in the centre of her head and, with a loud pop, she burst like a bubble.

Cinderella sighed. “She keeps on leaving! And she forgot to give us anything to row with.”

“No, look, it’s got an engine,” Ryan said.

He realised then that he had never actually operated a jet boat on his own and this one hadn’t come with an instruction manual. He had seen his father do it a hundred times at their place on the lake, but, whenever he had asked Ryan if he wanted to have a go, he’d always been too distracted by Doug, who made frequent sport of chasing Ryan around the boat trying to push him overboard.

“I’m sure there’s nothing to it,” Ryan muttered to himself.

He reached down to the engine and pulled the choke – once, twice – but it didn’t start. He took a deep breath and tugged it again, hard, for a third time and to his immense relief the motor coughed into life. The boat lurched forward. Cinderella lost her balance and fell against the side, but they were finally speeding away. Behind them, the castle and kingdom grew smaller and smaller, until, eventually, they were nothing more than a cloudy blip on the horizon.


“It worked!” Maria cried, hopping up and down in front of the Core Book. “They escaped!”

Dorothy was less elated. She turned to Liam. “But what’s going to happen to them now?”

Liam pulled up a map onto the screen. “All we have is unlimited ocean, nothing else. We don’t even have anything living in the sea.”

“We need a destination,” Liam said. “Some sort of happily ever after place.”

“Oooh, yes!” Maria said enthusiastically. “Let’s create a town, a little French village or something.”

“Can you do that?” Dorothy asked Liam.

“I can’t personally,” Liam said. “That’s outside my area of expertise.”

“But didn’t you create the village?” Dorothy said.

“No, we contracted out. Someone else constructed all the buildings.”

“Really? Who?”

“I think we contracted out to a landscape designer and an architect. We’ve got the software but I don’t know the first thing about how to build the houses.”

Within moments, Dave walked into the control room, looking surprisingly calm given that Burnham’s gun was pressed into the base of his spine.

“Please hurry,” Dorothy said.

“You’re welcome,” Dave replied.


There was nothing but grey ocean and mist. Ryan had been sputtering along in the jet boat for nearly an hour and the scene hadn’t changed. Cinderella was sitting at the front of the boat, not saying a word, but looking miserable. She was shivering in her under-dress, with her hair stuck to the sides of her face in wet clumps.

“Maybe we’re just meant to sail the seven seas,” Ryan said eventually, “and live happily ever after like this.”

“So, what, we keep going?” Cinderella said. “That’s how this ends?”

“We’re riding off into the sunset,” Ryan said. “That’s a thing, isn’t it?”

“Even if you didn’t want to have the wedding,” she said, “we still could’ve done something. When I daydreamed, it wasn’t only about falling in love. It was about something happening to me while looking beautiful. It was not about me sitting in a boat going absolutely nowhere.”

“But something did happen,” Ryan said. “We tricked everyone into chasing the wrong people. We stole a boat. We escaped hundreds of guards. And you whacked your stepsister over the head. That was something. And I bet it felt good, didn’t it?”

“Sort of,” Cinderella muttered. She turned back to the immense fog ahead. Then she gasped. “Look!” she cried, wide-eyed.

“What is it?”

“It’s dry land!”

Through the mist, pictures were appearing – literally materialising – before their eyes. At first, the scene was blurry, like a low-resolution photograph. As they approached, the mist began to dissipate, and the lines and shapes became clearer. Fishing boats appeared around them, with white-bearded men hauling up nets of flapping herring, and seagulls circled overhead. Closer to the shore, enormous ships were anchored.

“I can’t believe it,” Cinderella said. “We must have reached France.”

“Really? It’s been less than an hour.”

Cinderella stood up and performed a precarious pirouette. “Oh, I have always dreamed of France! Baguettes! Bicycles! Berets!”

In the centre of the town, there was a tall building with an elegant dome, perhaps a courthouse or a town hall. At the highest point, some kind of yellow flag was fluttering in the breeze. As Ryan got nearer, however, he saw that it wasn’t a flag at all. It was a scarf. He squinted. It looked like the same yellow scarf he’d bought with Dave, but it couldn’t have been. He must’ve been going mad.

“It’s so beautiful!” Cinderella said. “But Your Highness, what will we do here?”

Ryan turned to her. “I don’t know. We’ll get jobs, I guess.”


“Well, yeah. I assume we’re going to have to make some money. I’m not a prince here, so I won’t be able to live off the taxpayers like I did before. We’ll need to work.”

“I’ve never had a job.”

“That’s because you’ve basically been a slave to your wicked stepmother and stepsisters.”

“They were quite difficult, I suppose,” Cinderella said.

“But you know how you cooked and cleaned for them? Well, here you could get paid for doing those things.”

“Really? I could?”

“Of course. What other things can you do?”

“Oh, all sorts!” Cinderella puffed up proudly. “I can cook, and dust, and clean windows, and ovens, and fireplaces, and stables, and bedrooms, and chamber pots. Oh, but the thing I’m best at is sewing. I can sew almost anything.”

“Well, there you go. You could make dresses.”

Cinderella clapped her hands together. “Yes! I can make gowns for myself! I will feel like the most beautiful girl in the world!”

“Well, yes, but you can also make gowns for other beautiful women too.”

“What? There are other beautiful women? I don’t understand.”

“Never mind. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

The boat bumped up against the shore. Ryan lifted Cinderella out of the boat and carried her onto dry land, then he heaved the boat up onto the sand.

“We can probably sell this for a lot of money too,” Ryan said. “We’re in medieval times, so jet boat technology hasn’t even been invented yet.”

“This place is charming,” Cinderella said. “Why, look at those strong men! Aren’t they clever.” She pointed further down the beach, where burly men were hauling fish from nets into barrels.

“They’re not really my type,” Ryan said.

“Maybe one of them will marry me if you won’t.” Cinderella linked her arm through his. “Oh, smell that fresh, sea air! Oh, I feel so ... so ...” She was swaying on the spot. “I – I don’t know. I feel the most peculiar sensation – it’s all over me, it sort of tickles – I, I ... I—”

“Are you alright? You look faint. Come here, sit down. I’ll go find us something to eat.”

She dug her fingers into Ryan’s arm. “No! Wait a moment.”

“What is it?”

“Can’t you feel it? I think – I think it’s happening!”

“What? What’s happening?”

Cinderella broke into the first genuine smile Ryan had seen. Her eyes were no longer glassy and unfocussed, but full of light and colour, and for the first time he saw how young she was – she couldn’t have been older than fourteen. She let go of his arm and began spinning around, her arms outstretched, her face turned upwards to the sun, as if she was feeling its warmth for the first time. More than anything, she looked so silly that Ryan began to a laugh, a laugh that came from the deepest part of him.

This, he realised, must be what a happy ending felt like. It was quite nice.


Inside the control room, everyone gathered around the Core Book. Dorothy was holding her breath, nearly delirious, convinced that any sound, even any movement, could destroy the moment that was now tangibly close.

Maria read the words aloud as they spiralled across the page. “... and they both lived – oh my God, we’re getting it – we’re getting the words! Happily ... ever ... after!”

Dorothy turned to Liam. “Pull him out! Now!”

On his screen, a message appeared: EJECT SUBJECT NOW? and Liam clicked YES.

Copyright © 2020 Richie Tennyson; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Wow what a chapter. Ryan and Cinderella escape from the castle, after they have to punch one of the sisters out of the way. Dorothy changes the story so that the Fairy Godmother can Grant them a wish and they choose a speedboat, which they use use to use to get to get to the new land Dave builds. Just as they began to fall in love Dorothy has Ryan ejected from the story. What could possibly go wrong?

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Great chapter!  I love the yellow scarf as the flag.  I can't wait to see what happens next :) 

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So the "Happily ever after" really is more about them reaching a happy place and less about them being happy with eachother to the end of time.

Cinderella felt great about her new found freedom and all her potential new prospects, as a paid seamstress in a country she always wanted to be, and Ryan the Prince who found joy in the young girl's happiness.

The need to be in love with eachother and the requirement to be married until the end of time, were not pre-requisites at all. But the readers could make them so, as they were free to imagine what a 'happily ever after', meant for them personally.

Anyways, exeunt Ryan.

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Nothing to do with the story which is great, even if you used an anachronism so they could escape. In the narrative you write: "Ryan had gotten the boat nearly twenty yards out from the shore." American readers will notice nothing wrong with the use of - gotten, in fact they no doubt believe they invented the word. Personally I have no strong feelings one way or another, but - gotten - is not (British) English. There is (for geeky English language aficionados) a brilliant investigation into the rise and fall of - gotten - in the English language: https://stroppyeditor.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/the-us-has-gotten-this-word-back-and-the-uk-probably-will-too/  should anyone be interested.

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... And that is how the French invented motorboats. The end. :)

That was a hell of a journey! Curious to see what happens next! 

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