Previously on THE REAL CINDERELLA STORY…
Drusilla moved determinedly to the chair from which her sister had just been forcefully evicted. Her eyes glinted with malice and something else—hope, perhaps. She sat on the chair and rudely ordered the pageboy to put the shoe on her foot. Behind her, her mother espied Cindy watching from behind a curtain. Her flashing eyes sent the poor girl scuttling back to the kitchen.
The pageboy lifted Drusilla’s foot and placed it inside the shoe. Invisible to the ordinary eye, the shoe rippled and changed sizes. Inch by inch, her foot slipped in until it was entirely encased.
Drusilla gasped in shock. Her mother gasped in shock. The Colonel gasped in shock. His aide gasped in shock. In fact, everybody gasped in shock. But none was more surprised than Fairy Godmother, who hovered invisibly above them all.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” she exclaimed. “What just happened? Could it be an otumokpo malfunction?”
“Ewooo! Mummy, have you seen? It fits!” Drusilla crowed. “It fits! It fits! It fits!” she screamed with utter delight, pumping her arms up and down with glee.
Fairy Godmother checked the settings on her wand, ready to commence a preemptive round of Jeneti incantations. There was no way that tart was marrying the prince. She hit the wand against her palm and pointed it at Drusilla. Nothing happened.
Annoyed and disappointed, the Colonel addressed Madam Teremena.
“Madam,” he said, barely able to conceal his dislike, “it appears your daughter has passed the first test. If she passes the second test, then we know for sure that she’s the one whom the prince is searching for.”
Except for the Colonel, everyone else ‘what-ted’ simultaneously and for different reasons. Drusilla and her mother ‘what-ted’ because they’d smelt victory and now it was about to be snatched away. Fairy Godmother ‘what-ted’ because she’d thought this was the end and her darling Cindy was going to lose after all, in spite of their careful planning. The aide-de-camp ‘what-ted’ because he’d not known there was a second round in the search. In her hiding place, Cinderella ‘what-ted’ in unbelief. Could this be her chance?
FLASHBACK: SATURDAY — 9: 35 A.M. — TWO DAYS BEFORE — PRINCE OGHENEKEVBE’S PRIVATE CHAMBERS.
The first day, they toured the northern part of the country and couldn’t find her. The second day, he summoned the head of the committee to his princely chambers.
“How far?” asked the Amanyanabo.
“Sir, we’re on top of the situation. The investigation is ongoing and I am full of hope that we’ll find her soon,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Effiong Onicha Sanusi.
The prince sighed in disappointment. Why hadn’t he asked the damsel where she lived? It would have cut this search short. Well, there was no use crying over spilled kunu. So his people went back to upturning every stone in the kingdom.
Colonel Effiong executed a smart salute and turned to walk out of the Amanyanabo’s room.
“One more thing, Colonel,” the prince said, halting him in his tracks.
“What is it, Your Highness?”
“I am not stupid—I know many women are going to claim the shoe is theirs. Some may even cut their feet if it means being my wife. So I have something that’ll ensure you return with the right girl.”
“And what’s this secret weapon, my lord?”
“The girl and I, we discussed at length. Among the many topics we touched on, was something that made us both laugh real hard. She’s the only one who’ll know the answer to this question.”
“What question, Your Highness?”
“What does Ijebu garri remind you of?”
“That’s the question, Colonel. What does Ijebu garri remind you of? If you eventually find a girl whose foot fits into the shoe or who even has the other half of the pair, ask her this question. Only my one true love will know the answer.”
The Colonel nodded and refrained from asking what manner of weird conversation they must have had. He asked what the answer to the question was. The prince wrote it down on a slip of customized stationery and handed it to him.
“One more thing, Colonel. You must tell no one of this part of the test. Only when you find whom the shoe fits, must you ask this question, posit.”
“I understand perfectly, sir. I shall do as you’ve commanded.”
FLASHBACK FINISHED. BACK TO THE PRESENT!
“You never said anything about a second test!” cried Lady Teremena in shrill, angry voice. “Is this some form of trickery designed to keep me from my rightful place as queen mother?”
“On the contrary, madam, this is a something your daughter will know, if she’s indeed the Amanyanabo’s true love. It is a simple question only she can answer. That is if she was there that night.”
“Of course, she was!”
“So, it’ll be simple.” Turning to Drusilla, he said, “Young lady, what does Ije –”
He never made it to the end of the question, for in that instant, Drusilla let loose a loud, bloodcurdling scream, the likes which had never before been heard within the four walls of that house. Goose pimples peppered the flesh of everyone present. Her mother in particular was struck with terror.
“My baby! What is it?” she asked, breaking the silence.
“GET IT OFF! PLEASE! I beg you. Get it off! It hurts!!! AARRGGHH!”
Two glass windows upstairs shattered from the impact of Drusilla’s screams, which had the force of an electromagnetic pulse. A couple of men collapsed from the pain. Three of the maidservants fainted. Everyone else pressed their hands to their ears, real tight.
Did I mention earlier that if the shoe had been able to, it would have laughed? Well, it couldn’t, but it was having its fun. It was the least it could do, after all the stinky feet that had gone inside it in the last three days. This time, it’d decided to have its revenge, by deliberately allowing the girl’s foot to completely enter inside. Then it recalibrated and tightened itself little by little around Drusilla’s foot. When she’d begun to feel the pinch, Drusilla had said nothing, not willing to ruin her chances at being queen. The shoe had squeezed more and more. Soon, she couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Why are you all standing there for? I said GET IT OFF!” Drusilla screeched.
Fairy Godmother bent over, rocking with laughter. She laughed and laughed, holding her sides, tears streaming from the corner of her eyes. Her goddaughter, who’d heard the caterwauling and come running from the kitchen, was also in stitches. Not even the shove from Anastasia stemmed her mirth.
A pageboy rushed to the screaming girl. But in a haste to end her agony, Drusilla raised her foot and smashed it hard against carpeted floor. The glass slipper shattered, shards of it slicing her foot. She yelped in pain. Her action was followed by deafening silence. Teremena knew what would happen next; they’d want to use the other shoe. Quick as lightening, she raised it high, and let it go.
Everything that happened next was in slow motion. Chinda saw the shoe heading for the floor. Her godmother’s words came to her again. No look Uche face. With the soundtrack from Mission Impossible playing in her head, she raced towards her stepmother, shouting, “Noooooo…”
The aide, who’d been watching everyone ,saw the woman let go of the shoe and dove for her too, shouting, “Nooooooo…”
The pageboy, who’d been kneeling in front of Drusilla, saw the shoe making its descent. He dove for Mrs. Teremena, sliding to a stop at her slippered feet.
The shoe missed the aide’s outstretched hand, like Argentina’s goalkeeper missed Kanu’s winning shot at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics football finals. It landed with a thud on the stomach of the pageboy who’d slid into place in the nick of time. Then it bounced off, rising in the air and landed in the cupped hands of Colonel Effiong.
“Arrest her!” the Colonel thundered, beside himself with rage. “Arrest her and her lying daughters!”
The Royal Guards soldiers snapped into action, cuffing the protesting Teremena, Drusilla of the bleeding leg and Anastasia with the iroko tree feet.
Cupping the glass shoe in his hand, Colonel Effiong noticed the servant girl who’d tried to stop the evil woman.
“Come here, young lady. What’s your name?” he asked.
“Chinda Ella Babalola, sir. My friends call me Cinderella.”
“You are the Cinderella? Why didn’t you come forward?” he asked, perplexed.
The girl glanced at her stepmother and back at him. It was a sufficient answer. Her eyes were open and honest and something told him she was the one they’d been searching for.
“Well, come and sit down, my dear. It’s your turn.”
Weak with relief, Cinderella gingerly picked her way through the small crowd to the shoe-sizing chair. The pageboy shook the cushion free of broken glass, carefully raised Cindy’s left foot and put it on the cushion. Collecting the shoe from the Colonel, he slipped it on Cinderella’s foot. It was a perfect fit.
“You know it fit the other young lady before things went awry,” said the colonel. “So we have to ask you the question. If you answer, then we’ll know you’re the one.”
Cindy nodded. “What’s the question, sir?”
“It’s about something you and the prince discussed during the ball. What does Ijebu garri remind you of?”
“It reminds me of the poem, Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.”
“In what way?”
“I told the prince that if Ijebu garri were to recite that poem, it would say something like:
‘When you soak me in water, I rise.
‘Before you can get the sugar and milk, I rise.
‘You may rush to get these things, hoping that I won’t swell—but still I rise.
‘Does my swellingness upset you?
‘Let it not bother you. For even after I’ve reached your belly, there I go, rising.’”
The room was quiet for some seconds. Then they all erupted in applause and laughter, their cheers rising higher and higher. A fresh batch of tears came to Fairy Godmother’s eyes—tears of joy. The Colonel grinned from ear to ear, satisfied that his Ultimate Search had come to an end. In the spirit world, otherwise known as obio ekpo, Cinderella’s parents danced all the dances in alphabetical order, from Alanta to Zouk. Their baby was safe at last!
With joy and much celebration, pomp and pageantry, timber and caliber, fanfare and fiesta, Cinderella was escorted to the Presidential Villa.
And they lived happily ever after.