Cinderella and the Colonel (Timeless Fairy Tales #3)
“If we cut it at your shoulders…two silver marks.”
Cinderella winced. It wasn’t enough. “What if you take it all?”
The barber jerked his eyes from Cinderella’s brilliant hair and gaped at her. “What?”
“How much will you give me if you take all my hair?” Cinderella asked, pushing an elbow-length lock of hair over her shoulder.
“Mademoiselle, you couldn’t want to—”
The wigmaker studied her hair again. “The extra length will mean a finer style for the wig. Five silver marks.”
Cinderella bit her lip. He was overpaying her. Her scarlet-red hair was unusual, and her hair was thick and luxurious, but even with those qualities, the best she could hope for was four silver marks and a handful of copper coins. But the chateau roof needed patching, and Cinderella could not afford to turn down such generosity. “Done,” she said.
The wigmaker wiped his scissors on a clean cloth. “You have fine hair, Mademoiselle.”
Cinderella gripped the arms of the wooden chair until they creaked when the man sheered the first lock from her head. “Thank you.”
Cinderella left several minutes later, her pockets heavier and her head lighter. Folk gave her odd looks as they darted past her on the street, staring at her shamefully short hair.
Her magnificent strawberry-colored mane was sheered in a pixie cut. She still had a red fringe of bangs that flopped into her eyes, but the rest of her hair was almost peasant-boy-short.
The hairstyle would bring looks of disapproval until it grew out, but Cinderella didn’t care. She needed the money. Aveyron needed the money.
Cinderella squared her shoulders and glanced at the sky. The sun was a thin disk, almost entirely blocked by the capital’s walls. “Home it is then,” Cinderella said, turning her feet towards her lands.
At the dolphin plaza, she ran into a squadron of Erlauf soldiers in their gray and burgundy uniforms. Their armor reminded Cinderella of dragon scales the way it overlapped and hinged together.
The lieutenant leading the squadron watched Cinderella as she walked past them, but he watched just about every Trieux city resident.
Three years ago, Erlauf invaded Trieux—Cinderella’s country—in a brutally short war and claimed it as Erlauf territory. Erlauf had taken Trieux with little pain, but dislike still brewed between citizens. There hadn’t been any violence since the takeover, but there was plenty of hate to go around.
With Trieux’s soldiers mostly killed or imported deep into the heart of Erlauf, the citizens of Trieux had no way to resist. The sheer number of soldiers present in the city was outrageously large considering the lack of rebellion.
But Erlauf was ruled by the cautious Queen Freja and her equally cautious consort, and both of them intended to keep Trieux in their clutches.
Cinderella left the capital—the Erlauf monarchs had renamed it Werra, obliterating its original Trieux name, Arroux—and followed a dirt road through the rolling farmland.
The sky was a canvas of colors when Cinderella reached her home, Aveyron Chateau. She slapped dust from her cloak and ventured into the boundaries of her buildings. She waved to one of the stable boys bringing a pair of draft horses into the stable for the night and paused to count the chickens before entering the chateau.
Gilbert, the land steward, and his daughter Jeanne, the housekeeper, were talking in the kitchen. When Cinderella entered the warm room, they fell silent. This was not unusual. In spite of her ventures, the father and daughter remained stubbornly formal with her, but the gaping looks of horror they gave her were unusual. They hadn’t been this appalled since Cinderella donned servant clothes as her everyday dress months ago.
“Mademoiselle,” Gilbert said.
Jeanne covered her mouth to stifle her gasp.
“Your, your hair—b-but—why?” Gilbert said, laying a hand on a table to balance himself.
Cinderella jingled her pocket, making the coins in it bounce. “Send for a carpenter tomorrow, please. We can afford to see that hole in the south wing ceiling patched,” Cinderella said, removing her cloak and hanging it near the fire.
“Mademoiselle,” Gilbert said in a pained voice.
“It needed to be done, Gilbert,” Cinderella said.
“Have my step-mother and step-sisters already had dinner?” Cinderella asked.
“Yes,” Gilbert said.
“Pheasant in a cream sauce, baked potatoes, and apple sauce,” Jeanne said, finding her voice.
“Any complaints?” Cinderella asked.
Jeanne shook her head.
“Good,” Cinderella said, taking a cooled baked potato and biting into it like an apple. The potato crumbled in Cinderella’s mouth and tasted creamy. “I like this potato. What kind is it?”
“Winter Red, mademoiselle,” Gilbert said.