ELLA • by S.E. Gilbey

Ella was a loud and opinionated child — but also careful and caring and never cruel.

“You’re such a difficult girl,” her mother would wail. “Why can’t you be more like your sisters? They do as they’re told.”

But while Ella’s sisters were indeed simpering sycophants — always trying to please their parents — they were also cruel. They teased and taunted Ella and they weren’t the only ones.

“She’s such a big girl,” her mother’s best friend (and rival) would marvel.

That embarrassed Ella’s mother. She tried everything she could to reduce her youngest daughter. She criticised her and punished her. She fed her tiny portions and kept a lock on the fridge. When that didn’t work (because Ella only got louder and more opinionated when she was hungry) she locked Ella in her room.

But she could not make Ella small. She could not make her invisible.

Ella’s father married her sisters off to two princes who would increase the family’s fortunes. When they visited, her sisters flaunted the jewels their husbands had given them. But neither sister was allowed a bank account. Nor were they ever paid for the work that they did and the children that they bore. They raised their sons to be entitled and tedious and their daughters to be docile and dull.

It took a long time for Ella’s father to find a prince who would marry her. This prince was different — he wanted to rescue Ella from her parents.

“And all I want in return is your love and gratitude,” he smiled.

She refused him; her parents were enraged and the prince was astonished.

“What do you mean, you don’t want me?” He couldn’t comprehend it. She didn’t care. She stole his horse and rode away, to find a life and a job where she could be loud and opinionated and she could pay her own way, with no need for a prince’s gifts.

In a land far far away from where she’d been raised, she became a teacher and taught all the children who entered her class to be loud and opinionated — but also careful and caring and never cruel.

S.E. Gilbey is a Manx woman, now living in Massachusetts. She is a classic bookworm, who likes to write stories about ghosts and dragons. She is also working on a YA fantasy novel set in an alternate version of the 1980s. More of her work can be found at: essygie.weebly.com and also on Instagram @essygie.

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