Title: The Search for Cinderella
Summary: After escaping from her evil stepmother Jade must dress up as a boy to find a respectable job. She ends up working for the Prince who needs help searching for his one and only true love.
"That's it," Jade shook her fist. "I am never coming back to this forsaken place ever again!"
"Good, I was beginning to think you were going to be a permanent fixture in this house like that poison ivy on the east wall," Permelia nonchalantly observed her nails.
"You're the poison ivy in this house. You cling to things that rightfully belong to me," Jade untamed hair shook wildly.
"Little girl, your dead father left me this estate in his will so you can me badger all you want but I own this place now," Permelia's green eyes flashed dangerously.
"I know you switched wills when the lawyer wasn't looking; I just know it," Jade muttered. Her eyes were narrowed on her stepmother as she picked her rucksack up. She turned to leave but Permelia stopped her.
"I know you have that necklace with you. I would suggest you give it back to me, now," Permeila purred and Jade shuddered as thought about what was wrong with her father when he thought about marrying a woman like that.
Jade feigned ignorance, "What necklace?"
"The one with the Burmese ruby. It was named in the will as well so I would suggest you put it back or I shall have to report you to the magistrate," Permelia stood up, the train of her gown swishing behind her.
"It belonged to my mother! Father gave it to her for their wedding," Jade whispered now frightened that the only thing she had that was ever her mother's was going to be taken away from her.
"When your father died he was married to me. Think of it as a late wedding present."
"Fine! Take it. You've already taken everything from me," Jade pulled out a green emerald box from her rucksack and threw it at her stepmother's feet.
"Tsk, tsk, you have such abominable manners. I wonder what your mother would say if she were alive."
"Don't talk about my mother," Jade warned quietly.
"And you'll do what?" Permelia smirked, "Now, shoo, I have a party to organize and looking at your face gives me headache."
Jade felt her hands shake with rage but she controlled herself. Ripping out the woman's hair was something that would surely wipe that smirk off her stepmother's face but it would also get her into trouble and she didn't have any money left that would bail her out out.
Jade turned away and walked towards the door. She looked around the hallway and was hit by a ton of memories of sliding down the banister and running to and fro from the garden. She opened the solid oak door and walked on a path that led towards the main gate. The carriage path was surrounded by large dark green ferns. She looked towards her left and was saddened to see her rundown tree house. The frayed, roped ladder was still hanging, waiting for its former mistress to jump back in to play tea party with her friends. She tried to remember when precisely the tree house had been abandoned for more adventurous pursuits but she couldn't pinpoint a specific time.
Clouds rumbled in the distance hinting at a storm in the future.
"Perfect," she muttered.
Jade was almost out of the gate when she heard someone rushing behind her.
"Miss, miss," Ambrose called out. Her father's coach driver wheezed as he tried to catch his breath.
"I heard you were leaving, Miss," Ambrose spoke mournfully.
Jade tried to put a brave smile one her face, "I have finally decided it's time to branch out on my own."
"Miss Jade, I would be honoured if you could stay at my house. My wife and children would be happy to accommodate you. A highborn lady like yourself would be easy prey on the streets."
Jade was tempted by the offer but knew Ambrose would be at a greater risk than he realized.
"No, Ambrose. I can't put you in this situation. Do you honestly think Permelia won't find out? And when she does you will lose your livelihood. I can't let you sacrifice yourself for me."
"I owe your father everything that I have. I owe it to him to help you," Ambrose spoke morosely.
"Then tell me where I can find the nearest, cheapest inn. That would be the best kind of help."
"Even the cheapest inns cost money. Have you any savings?"
Jade shook her head, "I don't for now, but I am confident I shall be able to earn something soon enough."
"Will you seek employment?" Ambrose was amazed.
"Why not, I can read, write, handle arithmetic. I can deal with horses as well as my trainer can. I think that should be good enough," Jade was optimistic.
"But… Miss, I don't think you can earn anything with those credentials."
"Why not?" Jade asked.
"Because a young Lady like yourself does not get employment upon these terms. Well, a lady of status does not work at all but a commoner is more likely to be employed for household chores."
Jade gulped, "Household chores."
"Cooking, cleaning, sewing," Ambrose shook his head, "Your father never did believe in traditional education selected for women and I am afraid his ideals will now be a burden on your head."
Jade sighed. "It is never too late to learn."
"I beg of you to reconsider this foolish idea. Come with me to my home or better yet find a close friend who could help you," Ambrose was frantic.
"Permelia has spread vicious rumours about me. They believe I've gone mad because of my father's death and the scene I created at his funeral would have cemented them further."
"The one where you threw the vase at your stepmother," Ambrose chuckled at the memory.
"And toppled the china cabinet. Half of my friends are married any way. They only obey their husbands and seem to have no free will. I doubt they shall be given permission to house me," Jade looked at the darkening sky again, "I should get going soon and find shelter. I fear it shall rain tonight."
Ambrose pulled out a red velvet pouch, "Here you go, Miss."
Jade accepted the offering and looked inside curiously. She was amazed to find a sizable amount of money inside.
"I- I can't accept this, Ambrose, this is your money."
"This is money that your father has given me and I find no shame giving it back to its rightful owner."
Jade tried to protest but Ambrose was firm.
"T- thank you. I shall forever be in your debt."
"I hope to hear from you as soon as you find any shelter. If you don't then here is my address," Ambrose scribbled on a piece of parchment and held it out to her, "My doors will always remain open for you."
Jade thanked him profusely and walked out of the gate. She turned back to see her house one last time through the wrought iron and was alarmed to find tears in her eyes. She turned away instantly before she sought refuge in the weakness.
Jade walked towards the middle of the street and was surprised to realize she had no idea where to go. She had never really stepped out of her house without a carriage. People from her social circle did not walk unless it was one of the capital high streets or parks. She looked at the parchment in her hand and found a name of an inn beside Ambrose's address.
She decided getting to the inn would be the best idea. She walked towards the east where she knew there were fewer residential areas. She got odd looks from the people walking on the street and for the first time in a very long time felt self-conscious. There were so few women found on the street and they were only those who were the common workers in the factories or maids in the residential areas. Jade's dress while long out of fashion was still expensive looking and she was receiving many stares because of it.
The houses started to become smaller and their gardens non-existent so Jade knew she was getting near the town center.
"Can I help you, miss," She heard a voice from her left. She was startled by it but soon recovered as she realized it was young man probably a few years younger than her. He was wearing a gentleman's suit coat and loose breeches though Jade could see a patch under a sleeve.
Jade put her rucksack down as she fumbled for that piece of parchment. She showed him the name of the inn. "Could you please tell me about this establishment?"
The boy observed it as if he were looking at a complex arithmetic question. Jade felt uncomfortable in his presence but her need to be out of the streets was more than the discomfort.
"Sorry, can't help ya," The young man grinned as if he was remembering an old joke.
Jade snorted and looked down and her rucksack was gone. She instinctively knew the man was involved in her theft.
"Hey," She cried out at his retreating back. The man turned around and laughed at her. Jade felt her blood boil and she broke out in a run.
"Stop, thief!" She tried to get some help from the public but most of them were more bewildered but a grandly dressed lady running on the streets.
The young man's eyes widened when he realized he was being chased by a competent runner. He turned around made a break for it. Jade followed him and was catching up when she tripped. She couldn't stabilize herself and fell straight on the road. Jade winced as her knee smarted but she was more worried about the mushy wetness on her hand. From the smell she realized what she had fallen into; horse excrement.
From a distance a couple of street rats were laughing at her predicament.
"I don't think this can get any worse," Jade muttered
Instantly there was a crack of thunder and rain instantly stared to pour down on her.
How was it? Good enough to continue..
Don't worry about the rest of my stories. I promise I can multi-task :p