He couldn't help but stare at her. She was breathtaking. Her face quickly scanned the crowd, she looked nervous as she hurried along. Her clothes were a mess, but he was captivated by her. She turned her head, as if sensing somebody was watching her. His eyes met hers as he lifted up his camera and took a picture. She weaved in and out of the crowd and just as quickly as she was there, she was gone.
''I need you to go out there and find me that girl'' He said once he was back at home and handed over the picture to his right hand man. ''My debut takes place tomorrow. Find this girl and make sure she is present.''
''You are odd!'' Jane stood with her head down as the woman in front of her screeched at her. ''You are simply quite a strange specimen.''
Jane stared at herself in the mirror. She turned from one angle to the next.
''Yes,'' She nodded in agreement. ''I am odd.''
She mopped the floor and swept the stairs, cleaned the kitchen and took out the rubbish. On her way back in closing the door a letter fell through the letter box, she reached to pick it up.
''Give me that you mongrel,'' The woman snatched the letter away. ''Your big eyes, you need to go and see the Doctor about them dear, maybe he can fix it.''
Jane stared at her eyes in the mirror. They seemed too far apart, and one was slightly bigger than the other, just slightly, enough for her to notice.
''Yes,'' she nodded in agreement. ''My eyes, they are too big.''
The woman read the letter and crooned as her two daughters clapped gleefully as they stood by her side.
"You have been cordially invited to the ball!'' The woman screeched as she read the letter and kissed her daughters. 'We've been waiting for this!'
''Am I invited too?'' Jane asked.
''Look at your eyebrows!'' The two daughters shrieked. ''They meet together in the middle. Off course not you!''
Jane stared in the mirror, and could only agree. Her eyebrows were bushy and set at a strange angle.
''And what is the matter with your cheekbones?'' The woman shrilled. ''Soon people will be telling me I neglect you.''
Jane turned and peered. Yes, her cheek bones were too high, giving the impression of one that ate too little.
"What is going on? The Wicked Witch meets Dumbo?'' The two girls swatted Jane across her head.
Her chin was pointed and her ears stuck out.
She took a step back and viewed her full profile. She squinted at the sight before her.
Her arms were too long almost as long her thin gangly legs and she was far too tall. Her dress was a dirty brown and the apron she wore was an off white. Her shoes had holes in them and her long blonde hair was tied up in a messy bun.
''I'm a disgrace'' was the words that escaped her lips.
Jane sighed as she finished washing the windows and got ready to go out to buy the daily food supplies.
"Hurry up and get yourselves prepared girls" The woman clapped her hands together as she addressed her daughters, "We don't have long, we've only just received the letter and the ball is tonight, goodness knows I've been waiting long enough for it! Come now, hurry along!"
''Bye Plain Jane!'' The two girls trilled as they ran off to get ready for the ball.
Jane stared at the long list her Step Mother had given her as she set off to the market.
Out and about, she noticed people were staring again. Eyes would look at her, women seemed to sneer. It was always the same.
She walked quickly, her head down, not wanting to meet the stares of others. She tried to smooth out her worn out clothes.
''Am I that bad?'' Jane thought. People staring, whispers behind gloved hands.
A man had even taken a picture of her yesterday, no doubt he was enthralled by her ugliness. After all her Stepmother and two step sisters constantly reminded her of what she was everyday.
''I need to hide away.'' Jane cried out as she ran into in alley forgetting about buying the food supplies. The short cut would take her back home quickly.
She was surprised when she heard the screeching of car tyres and was stopped by a long sleek black car that suddenly swerved in front of her blocking her way. The doors opened and out climbed a man with a regal stance, his words rapid, falling over each other.
"Ma Belle". The man spoke out in a strong Parisian accent. He held a photo in his hands as he clapped them together in excitement.
''You are exquisite,'' He breathed. ''You are ze one! Your stature, so tall and aristocratic" He took her hand and twirled her around.
"Sorry, I-I think you have the wrong person" Jane stammered. He couldn't possibly be talking about her.
''Non, mon amie, it iz you. Your eyes, so perfectly set apart, yes, yes, a mystery I see there" He stared deeply.
''Your cheekbones, so highly defined, your chin, set to perfection" The strange man pinched her chin. "I see why he is so intrigued.'' He took a step back.
"Who? Jane replied, "What's going on?" she stammered.
''Ma cherie'' he said ''Please, come wiz me''
She stared at him. Was he mad? Was he out of his mind?
"Please let me go" Jane snatched her hand away. "I cannot speak to strangers, I have to go".
''Ma belle'' The man with the picture sighed his shoulders lifted and fell in exaggeration.
''You do not see what I see?'' He seemed confused.
Jane stared back. Her eyes were afraid.
''Please do no not be afraid Ma Belle"' He saw the look in her eyes. "Please take this, it delights me to give you one''.
Jane stared at the invitation.
''The Ball?'' She asked. ''An invitation for me? Yes, my family are getting ready for this right now as we speak. I, however, was not invited.''
The man with the picture stared at her.
''Vaat!?'' He screeched. ''Everyone is invited! And above all you Ma Cherie''. He clicked his hands and immediately his assistants came climbing from the car.
Jane was spun and twirled and turned and measured from head to toe. Swirls and swirls of ivory material spun around her as she blew her hair out of her eye, as she was made to impress adorned in an exquisite Yves St Laurent design.
''Now you are ready Ma Cherie" Her new found friend cried.
'Now we must go' He said.
"Go where?" Jane cried, taken aback by the strange happenings that were taking place.
The Parisian man clicked his fingers and there she stood at the front doors of the Royal palace.
''Oh My!" Jane gasped. Her eyes had never seen such splendour. "I am at the ball?" She asked as she slowly walked in. "My eyes,'' she cried, ''and my chin, and my legs. I am all wrong. I am not one to be here!''
Her new friend clicked his tongue and gently pushed her forward.
''Silence, and stop the nonsense talk. Look over there" he pointed. Jane turned to see her reflection in the glass walls that adorned the palace. She gasped. She looked incredible. Her dress was of an ivory satin mixed with lace. Upon her head was a tiara and her hands wore long ivory gloves. On her shoes were perfectly fitted glass slippers.
She stared back at the reflection that could not possibly have been her.
"Why, all the mirrors at home" she stammered, "they make me look awful. How can this be me?"
"There is nothing, Ma belle" The man said tapping her softly on the nose "that a little hair and makeup cannot fix. Your beauty iz natural anyway, I did not have to do much".
He pushed her further on as he pointed to a man dressed in fine attire who stood staring at her amongst a crowd of beautifully dressed people.
"Go, he is waiting for you. Be sure to be back out here by 12 midnight" Her new friend whispered in her ear. "The car will be waiting for you outside".
"Please wait!" Jane cried out to him, but he had disappeared. She stood at the top of a majestic set of stairs covered in a deep red plush covering. She was aware that eyes were staring at her, as people whispered behind their hands as they watched her walk slowly down the stairs.
What on earth am I doing here, Jane thought to herself. Surely, off course, this must be a dream.
She stood face to face with the handsome young man who had been staring at her since she walked in. His face seemed familiar.
She muttered, and stumbled and turned to run away, but the one finely clothed held her in his grasp.
"I have seen you in the crowds" he whispered. "I was taken by your beauty. I even took your picture. It was at my request that you be here".
'Yes! It was you!' Jane exclaimed. 'I remember...the man with the camera." She thought of the picture her Parisian friend had been holding and that man that had taken the picture just yesterday in the market.
"You are a Prince?" Jane asked.
He laughed. "You do not know? Everyone knows".
Jane smiled, embarrassed and shook her head.
"Relax". The Prince smiled as he held her in his arms.
They danced, they twirled, she smiled, he smiled. People moved out of their way as the Prince lead Jane around the ball room.
"If this is a dream, I wish I may never wake up" she laughed.
"This is not a dream" The Prince replied. He looked at her knowing he would never forget her laugh.
She was startled to hear the chime of the Palace clock as it struck midnight.
''Oh, I must go!'' Jane cried. ''I lost track of time!''. She pulled away from the prince and turned and ran. She ran and ran, weaving through the crowd.
''I must hurry!'' She sobbed.
She tripped and stumbled as her shoe fell off. She did not even try to reach for it, she knew there was no time. She did not see the Prince run after, only to be left standing holding her shoe in his hand.
''Ma Cherie'' Her Parisian friend smiled at Jane as she ran inside the waiting car. ''You are just in time''. Jane looked down at her dirty brown dress and off white apron that now replaced her beautiful ivory dress. She touched her hair, to find the tiara gone and her hair back in it's usual messy bun.The car drove off and dropped her back at the alley exactly where she had been met.
Jane was in bed as her Stepmother and Stepsisters waltzed in. Her heart was racing. It hadn't taken her long to run the short distance from the alley back home.
''The ball was amazing'' One stepsister said. ''But who was that thing that dared to dance with the Prince in that way?''
"Yes how dare she!'' their Mother replied. "Ugly good for nothing, and the way she just ran off suddenly, you would have thought she had an appointment with death!".
"Mother" the youngest daughter replied. "You know she was not ugly. She was the beautifulest woman at the ball!".
"You dare to contradict me?!" Her mother yelled. "Not one of you even got close enough to dance with the Prince, what chance would you have now? Instead you stood sniveling and giggling like little feeble school girls the moment he passed by as you let someone else take what belongs to you!"
"Mother, we're sorry" they both replied.
"Enough!" She cut them off. "Just get to bed!"
"You fool!" The Prince cried to his assistant.
''How could you have met with the one I was seeking after, yet you never found out her name or where she lives?"
"I am sorry Sir" His Parisian right hand man bowed his head low. "I made a big miztake".
"Indeed you did" The Prince replied sharply, aggravated and frustrated. "But I have a plan.'' he said as he held a glass slipper in his hand. ''I know what will lead me back to my true maiden. Here is what we will do...."