Cinders looked out of the carriage window at her new home. The prince, her buffoon of a husband, sat by her side. She’d been married to the fool for almost a week but it felt much longer. During that time she’d been sorely tempted to fill a bag with royal silverware and get out, but her Fairy Godmother had other ideas. She’d told Cinders to be patient, things would improve. Six months from now Cinderella would be well established as the new princess. Then, when the prince had his unfortunate accident, this house and all his money would be theirs.
Boxing Day 1956, the day I stopped being a child. I was six years old.
It began late Christmas Eve when mum came home drunk. On the way back from the Red Lion she’d fallen on the ice, breaking a heel and snagging her best stockings. She needed someone to blame and I was the obvious choice. Told me Father Christmas didn’t exist and I wouldn’t be getting any presents. Turned out she was right on both counts.
By the following Christmas, she was dead, a mixture of drink and drugs – and I’d grown into the cynic I am today.
Tree ZA34657, known locally as ‘Old Oakey’, you have been found guilty of aiding and abetting acts of obscene behaviour. On January 31st of this year, you allowed two young people of this Parish, namely Sally Mary Andrews and James Herbert Matthews, to engage in carnal activities beneath your branches. On the same day, you allowed the said James Herbert Matthews to carve a token of this wilful deed into your trunk. It is decreed you be chopped down in this place and your body dismembered and the parts scattered across the Parish and burnt. God have mercy on you.
We stood in small groups, huddled close to one another, in the forlorn hope that this might help us, and we looked up at the sky. A loud voice echoed from behind the dark clouds that were blocking the sun’s warming rays.
“Oh my children!” it cried, “Why do you ignore me?”
We dropped to our knees, hands clasped together in prayer, eyes fixed on the ground.
“I took away your moon and stars in the hope it would bring you to your senses, but still you anger me. You leave me no choice. Tomorrow I take away your sun.”