This week Words, Pauses, Noises is proud to bring you a short story from Canadian author Emily Andrews. This is a heart-warming tale of a struggling family who one day receive a gift that changes their fortunes in an unexpected way. It has the simple language and charming content of a fairy tale.
Good Be Good
I wouldn’t say they lived in squalor, but it was not the best life. A mother who ran out to find happiness and a poor father left to tend the farm and take care of his twelve daughters.
I took pity but stayed back for the longest time. I could see the girls helping each other out, mending clothes and boiling a turnip for the family to eat in the evening. They never asked for anything (not that they would have gotten it) but they gave what they could to each other.
My favourite time of day was the afternoons where I could sit back and watch them have fun. Four of them would sing while the others danced in their bare feet. Oh, how they danced! Nothing put larger smiles on their faces.
These twelve little princesses, living in this room, deserved some token. They needed to know their gentle natures were not going unnoticed by the outside world. As they lay sleeping, I placed at their feet one of the most beautiful, sparkly pairs of dancing shoes I could find. Though I could only bring one lowly pair, I infused them with a bit of magic so they would fit any foot placed inside.
When they awoke, the smallest of the twelve saw the shoes first. She stared and took a tentative step closer. She looked up at her oldest sister for guidance while gazing with her beautiful wide eyes at the gift. I hear a squeal as the others gazed in wonderment.
“Did daddy bring those?” one asked.
“They are beautiful!” the little twins cried together.
“How did daddy get in without us knowing?” another said.
“Put on?” the youngest asked.
“No, me first!” the two sitting on the floor said.
“I never get to go first!” the one who just woke up said.
“I love sparkles,” the littlest feet of the bunch said.
“Oh, can we dance?” the other two begged in unison.
I was afraid. Did I bring something that would break up this brood?
“Girls! We have things to do. We will come back to these later.” The oldest, as usual, took charge and ushered the others outside.
Later that afternoon, they sat in a circle in their bed and placed the shoes in the middle. One tried them on, then another, one after the other, until they all realized the shoes were for all of them. Every foot became a little daintier and their toes tapped a little more. One little princess stood up with the shoes on. The other girls took the cue and began singing in merriment.
It was just as I had imagined! The one with the shoes danced while the others danced around her. Then, she would give up her shoes to another sister who would continue the dance. They jumped and swayed more than I had ever seen!
Just then, their father walked in.
“Oh Daddy! Thank you! Thank you!” The girls cried.
The father chuckled. “It’s just a turnip, as always.”
“No! For the shoes!”
“What? Those weren’t from me. Did you find them on the street?”
“No! Beside our bed! Dance for us, please!”
The father chuckled again and held the precious shoes in his hand. Just to make his daughters happy, he pushed into the shoes, thinking he would stretch them. Low and behold, they fit him too! The girls started all singing together while the old man tapped his way around the room with delight.
There was a royal procession outside as the king rode through town. The house was bursting with joy over my simple gift and they paid no mind to what was happening outside.
The king could not help but hear the family and decided to investigate what would make his subjects so happy. He had to knock several times before the father went to the door. As soon as he saw the king, he bowed down in honour.
“What are those?” The king boomed.
That was when the girls’ father realized he was still wearing the sparkly dancing shoes. As he tried to explain, he could not help but laugh, which brought a smile to the king’s face.
“We have soldiers who were wounded in battle and more come every day. We could use some joviality. Your whole family can come and live in the palace. We will give you lavish robes and so many pairs of dancing shoes you will not be able to wear them all.”
The father thought for a moment. He turned around and looked in his daughters’ eyes. The oldest stood up and talked.
“Sire, we would be happy to help, but other than eating at your table and a warm blanket, we don’t require anything else. These shoes have made us happier than we’ve been in forever and this is how we would like to bring smiles to the soldiers’ faces.”
“Don’t forget Alfred!” the littlest one cried. She grabbed me and snuggled tight while I purred in her arms.
“Of course!” the king said.
The princesses and their father were much beloved in the town and I was still able to sit back with a saucer of milk and watch them dance.
I don’t know about you, but I grinned at the end when it was revealed that the narrator and giver of magical dancing shoes was the family cat. What did you think of that twist? Let us know in the comments! And please return next week for another amazing piece. If you would like to submit your own work to be published on Words, Pauses, Noises, please check out our Submission Guidelines.