Rats! Cindy could hear them scurrying into the shadows as the rising sun lit the room, showing the extent of the chaos. The after-ball party had finally ended; stepmother and the girls had roused Cindy to get the place cleaned up, and had staggered off to bed.
Hours later she was still scrubbing when she heard a knock at the door. Drying her hands on her apron and tucking back a stray lock of hair, she opened the door and was astonished to see a royal footman standing there.
“I have been sent to find the young lady who lost this shoe last night,” he said. “We believe her name is Cynthia.”
“Oh, thank you! It fell off as I got into my carriage.”
The footman frowned, thinking, “Yeah, right. This housemaid with dishpan hands has a carriage.” Aloud, he said, “I’ll have to make sure it’s yours, miss. Please try it on for me.”
Of course, it fit perfectly, once Cindy removed her work boots and wool socks. The footman bowed. “I will inform His Highness.”
A little later there was another knock, and as she approached the door, Cindy heard a voice she recognized, asking, “Are you sure this is the place? Very well. Wait at the coach.”
Cindy smoothed her hair as best she could, and opened the door to the crown prince himself. “Excuse me,” he said. “I’m here to see Lady Cynthia, who attended my ball last evening.”
“It’s just ‘Cindy’, Your Highness, and thank you so much for returning my shoe. I had a marvelous time at the ball.”
The prince stared. This couldn’t be the beautiful and elegant girl he had danced with and adored. But it must be. If the shoe fits…
“Well, uh,” he said, “I, uh, just wanted to make sure you had made it home safely. You left in such a rush, you know. I’m glad to see you’re safe. Have a good day.”
Cindy closed the door and leaned against it. “That was awkward,” she thought, “and he seemed so charming last night.”
The prince muttered, “Whew! What was in that punch last night?” He returned to his coach and ordered, “Home, James.”