Cinderella’s Stepsister

Cezarija Abartis


My nose is crooked, from when I fell as a child. My sister pushed me. When people aren’t around, I hold and press it in the other direction. It’s still crooked. Maybe it will straighten out if I have plastic surgery. I need to save my money. I won’t inherit much from Momma, unless she marries into a wealthy household. Ha! That’s not going to happen in our hick town. Or maybe I’ll marry someone rich from another farm. Yeah. With my crooked nose.

Right now I have a cold. I’m shivering, sneezing (through my crooked nose). I’m wearing two pairs of socks and two sweaters. I’m still cold.

I bring Sister a blanket for her shoulders. She’s three years older: there was always something wrong with her. Not her nose. She stepped on, ground a spider into the dirt. Sister hears voices, tells me to kill her, that she’s in pain, that she doesn’t want to kill any more creatures, that she deserves to die, that she wants to die and be in heaven with Dad. She is, as they say, a troubled soul.

I want her to have bright things. I bring her a red maple leaf I found. Her eyes widen and shine like MooMoo’s morning milk, and she’s normal. Then she cuts herself; I rinse the blood from her dress. Momma cries when she sees that, scrubs the floor again.

There’s a widower at the grocery store. Momma says he’s nice. One young daughter, Surreala . . . Cinera. . . . Cinderella, that’s it. She has a straight, a perfect nose.

Sister wants to cut her toe off, her own toe. Can you imagine? Her feet are cold. I want to get her new slippers. She has in mind glass slippers, but what good are glass slippers in this cold? They would shatter when she danced or walked or slipped on the ice.

Fur slippers would be better, but she says she doesn’t want to kill a sheep. She doesn’t want to eat meat. She says she’s eaten too many chickens and pigs. She sits in the corner with the tattered blanket, humming. The tune has wormed into my head. I want to slap her. I want to give her a knife.

I pick up the knife from the table. It’s heavy and beautiful. I look at my foot, imagine lines of red blood in shiny bubbles speaking to me, singing. This time I put the knife down.

I’m told I have Dad’s nose. I press it to straighten it.

I offer Sister a slice of bread; she nibbles at it, rises, walks barefoot to the door, and tosses it to the birds. I’m afraid she’s dying. I’ll be alone. I want Mother to remarry, so she doesn’t have to work hard, so I don’t have to be alone with a crazy sister, maybe a dead crazy sister.

We can sing songs with words, Cinderella and I, about handsome princes and breezy springs and bright dances. No more shivering.

Cezarija Abartis has published a collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press) and stories in Bennington Review, FRiGG, matchbook, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. Recently she completed a crime novel. She lives and writes in Minnesota.