Ella sat by the window; moonlight cast a silvery glow over the snow-covered ground and the smooth surface of the frozen lake. Stars scintillated in the heavens, and Ella marveled at how bright they seemed despite the moon’s radiant glow. The wind crooned through the window and picked up stray flurries that glittered like fluttering grains of sugar. Frost settled over the snow and froze the powdery fluff so that moonbeams caught the individual crystals here and there, sparkling like diamonds on the soft ground; a mirror image of the twinkling stars in the sky. An owl hooted nearby, and the sound seemed to cast a spell over the shimmering landscape.
There must be magic tonight, Ella thought, good magic, as the world seems sprinkled with sugar, like icing on a cake.
Ella pulled her cream-colored flannel robe over her paisley blue pajamas and turned away from the window. She glanced at her bed with its purple flowered bedspread and the one teddy bear she had not yet parted with leaning against the pillow. Over the last few months, she had exchanged her toys for posters of cute boy bands and celebrities. Necklaces and bracelets now dangled from the corners of her vanity’s mirror, and a jewelry box had replaced the Barbie dolls sitting atop the dresser.
She reached into the pocket of her robe, and, smiling, took out her brand-new lipstick. She had cajoled her mother into buying it for her. It was her very first, and it was a soft pink hue, though she had tried to convince her mother the bright red “Cadillac Heart” shade suited her better.
“No baloney, Miss Mahoney,” her mother had put her foot down and glared.
Beside the jewelry box stood the bottle of her first perfume, which her beloved aunt gave her as a birthday gift. It had started the transformation inside her.
Facing the mirror, Ella traced the lipstick over her lips, marveling at how the paint changed their appearance. She pressed her lips together to even out the color—like her aunt taught her — then puckered them and beamed at herself, giggling.
Ella sighed and returned her gaze to the sugary cake-world outside her window. A glimmer in the sky caught her eye, and the thought she should wish upon that star flashed, but her new grown-up mind stifled that spark.
“You’re too old to believe in fairytales,” she chided herself; the owl hooted once, as if disagreeing.
The star, one of many, flickered again and, unbidden, the wish for a handsome prince blossomed in her mind. Feeling silly, Ella slid her feet off the window-seat.
She was turning away when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She fixed her gaze on the frozen lake. Her heart pounded as a figure floated across the ice. In the moonlight, she discerned someone approaching her house.
She gulped; was it possible her wish was coming true? She wondered whether to call her parents, who were watching TV in the living room; the muffled sound of the program seeped through the otherwise silent home. Yet something kept her rooted to the spot. Awe, perhaps, mingled with a tad of apprehension.
The figure neared and crossed the property boundary into the backyard. Ella grinned; the moonlight shone on the figure of a young man about her age. He was handsome, like the boy celebrities plastered on her wall. He glided with a cool swagger and, as he reached her window, a smile lit up his face.
Ella and the shimmering prince gazed at one another through the frost-lined pane. The prince reached out his hand and placed it on the glass, beaming his royal smile.
“Let me in,” his mellifluous voice broke the frozen silence, “I’m cold.”
Ella contemplated his beautiful eyes as her hand edged towards the latch. Her fingers closed around it.
She blushed at the boy’s adoring gaze, while her brain instructed her wrist to turn the latch and open the window.
An instant later, Ella gasped and yanked her hand back, shaking her head. She had caught the flash of malice in the prince’s eyes. Her heart thundered in her ears and chills crawled up her spine.
The prince scowled, and his whole countenance darkened.
“Let me in,” he demanded, but Ella shook her head.
She opened her mouth to scream, but terror caught in her throat as the glass splintered where the prince’s fingers still rested upon it.
“Let me in,” he growled, but Ella refused.
Help me, she thought, her mind racing as she noticed the fiery-red glare of the prince’s pupils. They burned into her like hot, furious coals.
“Let me in,” he snarled and gnashed his teeth.
“No,” she whimpered.
Someone help me, please, she implored.
The prince-demon balled his talon-fingers into a fist. Ella felt her heart would burst out of her chest. The prince-demon drew back the fist and was about to smash the window, when a Snowy Owl swooped down upon him. Amid the flutter of blinding white and bloodcurdling screeches, Ella shrieked as the prince-demon shattered into a thousand glowing cinders that dissipated into the night.