Dear Clarissa,

Do not be surprised to receive a letter from the stepsister you once scorned. How could I not write when I heard of the terrible reversal of your fate? As I picture you sitting in a dark, dank and cramped cell and haunted by ghosts from your past, I feel pity. Do you understand why your life has come to this?

As you await your execution, use the following questions as a light to shine into the deepest recesses of your soul. Failing to do so may send your soul to go to a place so terrifying you will long for your dungeon as you once did the palace.

Why, my dear Clarissa, did you continue calling yourself Cinderella long after we had resumed calling you by your true name? Was that your way of taunting us? Why did you continue to sleep on the ash-covered floor after we had given you a soft bed? Didn’t you understand that your exile in front of the fire was only a temporary punishment for your disrespect?

Why did you resent your father’s second marriage when our mother was such an ideal match for him? Didn’t she make him laugh and forget his sorrows? Was his happiness not worth a sacrifice?

When we came to live with you, didn’t you take too much pleasure in being the pretty one? Why did you prance around without shoes and laugh at your sisters’ big feet? Can you now admit that Drisella and I were granted a stronger foundation than you and that the one you built out of cunning has now been washed away like so much sand?

After your father died, why did you steal the attention of every suitor who visited our home? How long did it take you to invent those lies about us? Did you get a thrill from teasing the men with your mockery of love until their hearts were broken?

Wasn’t it our godmother who met you in the woods the week before the ball? Didn’t you promise her an ear with the king and all the sweets she desired if she gave you her daughter’s best dress? Did you manipulate the glassmaker too? Did you let him run his fingers over your small, fine feet?

Wasn’t the prince truly devoted to you at the beginning? When did you begin offering the king your “services”? Was he as useful as you had hoped? Didn’t you realize that when he was gone, you would have no more allies?

How could you justify keeping our mother from a physician’s treatment when pus was oozing from her sores? When you opened the palace door and saw the three of us on our knees, why did you laugh when we asked for bread? Did you enjoy throwing ashes in our faces?

Why was our cottage taken from us? Did you ever wonder how two motherless and homeless spinsters could survive on their own? Were you filled with fear when you heard that Drisella and I had entered a nunnery? Did you look up at the sky and wonder if the prayers and petitions we sent to heaven were born of hatred for you?

Do you understand how alone you are now except for your step-sisters who, through the power of God’s grace, have finally forgiven you? Are you deluded into thinking that the new king, the husband you betrayed, will overlook your treachery? Do you ever contemplate what lies beyond the executioner’s axe?

Clarissa, I will pray for you as you await your punishment, but know that deliverance is within reach. Surrender your hard, selfish heart to God by confessing all the evil you have done. Perhaps He will not only grant you entrance into his kingdom but will also ensure that future generations forgive you.


Catherine A Kelley writes from Southern California. She has had had stories published in Every Day Fiction, 805, The Frogmore Papers, East of the Web, and The Bookends Review. She practices Zen meditation, hoping it will someday help her forgive and the people who dump garbage on her street.

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