Her fairy godmother looked back at her, eye to eye, and said nothing. She could see Cinderella’s heart and mind were both completely made up. So, she snuck out her magic wand, and chanted:
Hunting and ridden
The girl’s suffered wrong
By heart’s love still bidden
She’ll answer with song
One last time, the little fairy bells tinkled as Cinderella shrank from a massive horse to a snip of a bird in the wink of an eye.
Cinderella looked up at her fairy godmother, and again the sweet, old lady had grown to the size of house. Being a horse did not prepare her for her new vision, but she was getting used to it changing now. Her fairy godmother was easy to see in some ways, and fuzzy in others, but mostly she was just a rainbow of color. As a horse, she noticed only her blue shawl. As a bird Cinderella could see that her fairy godmother was wearing a hundred colors. There were shades of green and pink on her she had never distinguished before. As a bird, the whole world was a rainbow. There were even colors she had never seen before.
And none of it mattered.
Her prince was gone, and she could do nothing. She flew up to her fairy godmother’s shoulder, crying just a little. As she cried, her voice astounded even her. The nightingale is famous as the world’s most beautiful, and the saddest, singer but Cinderella’s song was sadder and more beautiful than any nightingale had ever sung. The chew, chew, chew of most nightingales was sung by Cinderella with a soaring and fading lilt. The long tweet trailed off into a sad, sweet silence no caring soul could ignore. Her fairy godmother turned her head to look at this tiny gray beauty on her shoulder, and could not stop the tears from slipping down her cheek.
Cinderella had said all she could, and she could not bear a long goodbye. She gave her fairy godmother a little peck on the check, and her fairy godmother gave her a little kiss on the head. Then she was airborne.
It took her a second to learn to fly again as a small bird. A falcon soared. A nightingale flitted. She flapped her wings a hundred times faster, and changed direction whenever she felt like it. Mostly, though, she just watched the ground below and the air above her. She needed to find a little food, and she needed to stay clear of falcons!
Eventually she found a little marshy area with some other birds her size, and found that there were quite a number of little bugs there. She dined on little insects, and berries, and wondered what it would be like to die in this little bog after years of living right next to her prince without him knowing.
Eventually, night came and all the other birds tucked themselves into quiet little places, put their heads under their wings, and went to sleep. Cinderella, though, was not even a bit sleepy. She didn’t just sing from her heart. She sang her heart out into the night. She sang her broken little song, and waited for daylight.
She never knew when the sun actually rose. One minute she was singing, and the next the sun was out, and she was ravenously hungry. Being as hungry as a raven was really funny, of course, because she was a nightingale, not a raven, but hungry is hungry. As a horse, she had stopped eating when she was so sad. As a bird, that was not possible. Her little body demanded food, and it demanded it now.
So, she rose up, and started scouring limbs and puddles near her for more of those little yum-yum bugs.
She found them and once she had eaten her fill, she went back to sleep. All day, she went back and forth between eating and sleeping, and singing in between.
If it sounds boring, it was.
As a falcon, and as a horse, she spent her days training to serve her prince. As a nightingale, there was just eating, sleeping, and singing. Life without a purpose was even worse than life as an animal. She suddenly knew if she didn’t come up with something to do, she was going to go nuts. A nightingale lives almost 4 years, and she would never survive 4 years of this!
She thought long and hard, and suddenly it came to her. She would sing for her prince. She knew where his bedroom was, and she knew he could hear everything happening outside his open window all summer long. She would spend her nights up there, and sing her prince to sleep every night.
Now that she had a plan, everything seemed brighter, and she was ready to face the rest of the day. She started playing little bird games, and followed them while they flew between the trees as fast as they could and tried to catch really quick bugs in the air.
When night came, she went to find her prince’s window. She was wrong; she didn’t know where it was. Everything looked different from outside and way up in the air, but with careful thinking, she figured out it was in the center building of the castle, up near the top of one of the small towers.
The prince did not arrive in his room until she had been practicing her singing for fully two hours. It was completely dark before he arrived, but candles had been lit for him. It had only been two days, but it seemed like a month, and her heart soared when she saw him. In the candlelight, with her newest set of eyes, the prince seemed to glow with color and life.
She was getting ready to start in on the song she had been practicing for him when she noticed she was already singing! She had probably started singing the moment she saw him, and as she listened to her song, it spoke perfectly of everything she thought about him. It soared and tittered. It was fast and happy. It was warm, just like she felt right now, as she looked at the one she loved. She poured herself into her song.
The prince chuckled, and looked at her. “Ah. Such a ray of sunshine comes to me on this bright day. First the most beautiful girl in the world gives me a second chance at her hand and at a piece of her father’s kingdom, then you come to brighten my night with song.” He went about his business, preparing himself for bed, and grinning to himself.
Cinderella’s song was broken.
He called Danielle the most beautiful girl in the world.
It was not just her song; it was her heart that had broken. She had only been gone a few weeks, and already another woman was her prince’s most beautiful in the world. That had been her a month ago. Someday that woman would be here in this room with her prince while she sung to him. It was too much to bear.
Cinderella stared out at the stars out there with her in the cold of the night. She could see so many more, and they were colored so beautifully, but like her each one was alone. They could bear being alone, though. They didn’t have hearts.
Again, Cinderella began to think about what to sing, and again she noticed she had been singing the whole time she was thinking. She thought back on what she had sung, and realized that it was even sadder than the songs she had sung yesterday.
She glanced back into the room, and her prince was sitting on the edge of his bed, with his face in his hands, sobbing gently. The song had been too much for him, and it touched his heart strings in all the softest places.
It was a sad thing, of course, for her prince to be weeping, but it cheered her heart immediately. This time, when her song cheered up along with her heart, she noticed. In a few seconds, her prince noticed too. He looked up at her, and just shook his head. Her song grew even happier. As the prince sat there on their bed, with tears on his cheeks, and goofy little grin on his face, she fell in love all over again.
He said, “Hey little one, you are going to have to warn me if you are going to sing songs that sad.”
With that, he got up, and began going about his business again. As he worked, she sang to him with all her heart. They were strange little songs happy and sad at the same time, but sometimes that’s just the way it is.
He looked up at her again, and said, “Your happy songs are the happiest I’ve ever heard, too. You can be the chirpiest little thing.” He grew quiet for a second, and so did Cinderella. The prince had always called Cinderella Chirpy when he was in a good mood.
Just as the prince was ready for bed, he came over to the window. She had seen him come to that window to pray before sleeping every night for a year, but still it scared her. She flew away, but only to the next window. She could not see him any more, but she could still hear him. As he prayed, she learned what he was really thinking. She was still in his prayers, and the witch’s woman did not have his heart yet.
Her heart was put at ease, and she flew off into the night to let her heart rest and to get some sleep.
When Cinderella awoke the next morning, the sun was already showing its face over the horizon. She flew straight up to her prince’s window, but he was long gone, and back to work. She spent the day following other nightingales around, learning new tricks about how to find the best food and water in the world of birds.
She was amazed to find some of the best treats were to be found in her own castle. There were old ladies in all corners of the castle who left out morsels for their little friends. She also learned that while you are enjoying little morsels, you had best keep your eyes open for cats! Cat lovers and bird lovers should never live next door to each other.
The woods offered different treats. Instead of little pieces of bread and cake, there were insects and berries. They were harder to find, but a little less dangerous.
She wiled the hours away in this fashion until the evening came. As soon as she could, she hurried back up to her favorite window and sang for him again, until he began to pray, then she waited and listened very closely. The things he shared with God reminded her again why she was the luckiest woman in the kingdom.
Cinderella wanted to go and see her Anna, but that was not possible. Anna’s room was in the safest room of the castle. She was in a center room, and there were no windows through which something might come and threaten her. It was hard not to see Anna, but each night she returned to her little roost, and each night she sang to her prince. Within a few days, she began to find little bits of bread on her windowsill. After a week, she quit leaving her windowsill when he came over to it to pray. She just became very quiet, and sat next to him. It distracted him at first, but it was just too fun.
One night, she hopped up on his shoulder. Her prince chuckled and became very still, because he didn’t want to frighten his new, little friend. He went ahead and prayed, just like usual, and Cinderella was very quiet, just like usual. When he was done, though, she hopped up a little, bit his ear and flew away! She flew a couple of little circles in front of him while he laughed at her and yelled, “You be careful, Chirpy! I’m a prince, you know.”
Cinderella headed off into the night to the sound of his playful laughter.
The next night the prince wore earmuffs! Cinderella tried to get her sharp little beak up under the muffs, and instead just ended up tickling her prince into a laughing fit. It was sad to only be able to share little moments like this, with her prince, and sadder still he didn’t even know who she was, but it was precious and fun for both of them.
The next day, Cinderella was flying down to one of her favorite bug-hunting bushes for a quick snack when a funny color caught her eye. It was green, but not like any of the other greens that she knew as a bird. It looked kind of like green metal, and not like a plant at all.
She flew down to see what it was, and got the shock of her life! It was a soldier. She zipped away in fear, but then she remembered she was a bird. She could land on the soldier’s shoulder, and he wouldn’t do anything. She got in closer, and sat behind him on a convenient branch. He was a an archer, and judging by the pot of oil sitting next to him, he was going to be shooting flaming arrows when the time came. The enemies of the prince were right outside his gate, and they had flaming arrows. Somebody was planning on burning down all the houses of all the prince’s people!
She flew straight up to her prince’s bedroom window, but he was not there.
She did not know what to do now. There was not much a nightingale could do to stop an army, unless she could sing them to sleep. She spent the rest of the daylight hours flying around behind enemy lines. She saw there were archers hidden behind every stand of woods. They were all hidden just far enough away that none of the castle’s guards could possibly see them, and the prince was not sending out any scouts. She had listened as the prince poured his heart out to God every night, and she knew he was not prepared to defend the castle against an attack. She was terrified, and for good reason.
The hours passed slowly. As she circled further and further scouting out the enemy, she found a place where soldiers and horses were all grouped up and waiting. This was the real army, and it was back deep in the woods. Once the attack began, it would be these men who climbed the walls, and tried to capture the castle by storm.
She had to stop many times to eat, but by nightfall, she knew there was only one battle force. The army was all gathered in that single wood. She flew up to the prince’s window, and waited.