I think I can safely say that the highlight of my career was when I almost succeeded in killing him.
Actually, no – I'm sure I've come close on some occasions (perhaps when I stuck that scorpion in his bed when I was seven) but the whole Sniper Incident was definitely my most successful failure yet. I'd be disappointed if it wasn't – smuggling the firearm into a heavily-guarded ballroom had been doubly difficult when I had to stuff it up my ball gown.
Don't misjudge me – I'm not a bad person. He tried to kill me first.
I was four and he was about seven when what I have dubbed the Sandbox Incident occurred. The world is a simple place to a seven year-old and I remember the sun and the colours dancing off the whitest, purist sand crystals you could ever hope to see, as expected from a prince's personal sandbox. I was happily building whatever children try to build with saliva and dirt, wearing my best gown (for you should always look your best for a prince, Mother would say) but ruining it all the while.
I don't know what possessed him to do what he did, though I suppose he thought it'd be funny. I don't expect for an ickle prince-ling like him to have many limits, so it surprised no one when he decided to stuff sand down my throat for the fun of it.
All the other children laughed, for which I have no qualms as I probably would have done the same. "Children's antics," the adults had cooed, and the stupid little prince lorded over my coughing, writhing body with pride, a smirk on his girlish mouth and snot dribbling from his snub nose. Everyone had thought it was jolly good fun until they either realised that he wasn't going to stop shoving in more sand anytime soon or that I had probably stopped breathing by that point.
They revived me, of course, and, with the new strength a person near-strangled with a God-knows-where-that's-been substance possesses, I grabbed a metal pail and ditched it at his head. I'm proud to say that I gave him a concussion, putting him in a week-long coma, and the back left-side of his head is still missing a patch of urine-coloured hair from the scars.
I'd thought it was all jolly good fun until they thought it fitting to charge me with treason.
My family ended up being stripped of its noble title. My poor mother died of shame, though I suspect it was more the mushrooms she had found and put in the soup than emotional trauma. I never was able to forgive Prince Charming.
After fifteen years (and a hefty number of failed assassination attempts), Father decided that he, too, would follow my mother down her mushroomed path. He did, however, manage to restore our fortune by remarrying a rich and conveniently widowed marchioness with two spoilt daughters before leaving cruel existence. Unfortunately, because I could never bring attention to myself (they're still looKing for the person who gilded the prince's entire library's collection of books with contact poison) I had to allow them to mistreat me. Absurdly impossible chores, abuse, jealousy – anything you can expect from a household thriving with oestrogen.
My sisters had actually been here at the ball tonight, which brings me back to the matter at hand. I was very glad that the event had been a masked ball. If they'd recognised me, I'd probably have had to kill them as well, and I've always been against animal cruelty.
The ballroom was beautiful; a vision of sparkling white and dancing brides with smiling grooms. Pale, fluttering streamers hung from the ceilings, from which suspended sugared white roses. Moonlight poured in from the floor-length windows framed in snowy, silk curtains. Minstrels orchestrated white instruments near the throne-platform. There the monarchs had sat, caked in jewels, gold and white velvet.
"Excellent," I muttered to myself. "Royal blood stains much better on white."
This was to be my masterpiece. Charming would meet his end at the ball thrown in his honour, from which he would have chosen his wife. (I knew this was because no one else would marry him, though they'd said he'd needed an heir since some charming, beautiful and gifted maniac kept maKing attempts on his life).
I thanked whatever holy deity existed for giving me silly monarchs who allowed weapons of serious consequence to be available to their sweet, nineteen-year-old, law-abiding citizens. And also for my balcony – it was the perfect vantage point.
I wrapped my own white gown around my knees and made myself comfortable. I wanted to enjoy this moment, when Charming would go down, clutching at his death-wound and writhing on the floor like he was tasting excrement and germ filled sand. I would smirk down at him, a vision in white, turning my own snub nose against his (though without the snot)…
And so it was with these thoughts in my head that I took aim and fired my first shot.
The ickle prince was shamelessly flirting with some poor, unsuspecting girl when the gunshot rang out. Screams and shouts, arms flailing, bodies jumping to the ground – I held my breath.
"Damn." It had just grazed the right side of his neck. The bullet did, however, ricochet off the pearly white marble floors and sever the prince's head from the rest of his life-sized ice sculpture. The real prince stood there stupidly, the ballroom ringing with silence – pure, white silence that matched the décor. His mouth was gaping and he could only stare, in shock, as his ice sculpture's head smashed on the marble floor.
I mourned for the human race. Could he make this any easier?
I fired my second shot as he began to slowly stumble towards the sculpture. I'm sure I would have hit him had the oaf not slipped on the ice chips now splayed on the floor. I cursed as the bullet flew through one of the magnificent windows. (I pray he slips on glass next and cuts his scrawny throat).
He lay spread-eagle on the floor as the other guests screamed and tried to crawl away from him, tripping on the over-polished marble. I was just taKing aim again when the royal guards finally decided to show up, shielding the prince with their own bodies.
Now, I've professed to the art of assassination for fifteen long years and, although quite unsuccessful, I have done my research. To those who will wonder how this next sequence would ever occur, let me ask, if your prince could be replaced with a warthog without anyone's notice, why should his personal guard be of any greater value?
I aimed at the elaborate glass chandelier hanging from the high ceiling and shot the rope that held it up. It fell and smashed in the middle of the empty dance floor in a spectacle of colour and sparkle, the magnificent crash mingling with the guests' screams. At the jarring noise, the guards bolted – exactly as I'd predicted.
I smirked and took the final aim at Charming's head. This was the moment – my moment. This was more than just years of pent-up aggression. This was more than revenge, for my parents, my honour and my name. This was more than just a petty childhood grudge. No.
This was also seeing Charming's brain splatter across the pretty marble, and so I almost cackled as I applied pressure onto the trigger–
The shock made me flinch, and so instead of piercing the prince, the bullet shattered his ice sculpture with bravado and broke another window. Charming's saving grace ran to and shielded him, footsteps echoing through the tinkle of falling ice and glass. With a brief flurry of rich, white velvet, jewels and fur, I recognised him – the King.
"Wait!" he repeated, face red and streaming with sweat. His black beard was streaked with white and his crown tilted perilously on his head, depending a bit too heavily on his left ear to remain suspended. His arms flailed about and he looked up at me with such beautiful, sad blue eyes that I felt pity and lowered the weapon an inch in a sign of co-operation. Besides, it wasn't entirely his fault that he had fathered a worm.
"I… I have a proposition, Miss…?" He paused in question and glanced about for help – from guards or his court, or even his son. He found none – this now depended entirely on the King's words.
"Cinderella," I provided, cautiously aiming my weapon.
"Miss Cinderella," he said in a stream of panicked words, "It seems we have found our assassin and, based on the number of attempts you have made on my son's life in the past few years, I judge you are not going to stop soon." He hesitated, eyeing his son warily, who just stared up at me, his own pretty blue eyes revealing none of the intelligence of his father.
The King sighed in resignation, and seemed to make a decision. "If you will spare my son's life, I will permit you to marry him and become queen when he reigns!"
Gasps, exclamations, shock – but none filled with more emotion than me.
"What?" I spluttered, along with the prince and several other guests.
The King just nodded gravely. "Yes. And on my honour, I will not have you harmed."
After a flurry of confusion and questioning hateful glances, I glared down at the prince. He was beautiful, he was rich, and he could offer me an escape from my life and from the inevitable consequences that would follow if I did succeed in killing him. Even with these superficial thoughts fluttering through my head, other more important thoughts burned into my mind and conscience. He had ruined me, ruined me and my family, the murderous little brat. He had spat on my name and my pride, reducing me to slavery.
But, on the other hand…
"All right," I said to the King with resolution, to the shock of the room's inhabitants. "I agree."
After all, there is a certain allure to killing him on our wedding night.