Cinder


Cinder had thin pink lips that never really parted and a penchant for pastels which his Father despised. A quiet, overlooked child with ivory colored skin, he was the youngest of three and the only boy. His Father was one of the most sought after plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills with a $1,000 tablet computer crammed full of PDF files littered with (confidential) celebrity client information. He shared a practice with his best friend, the godfather of his children.

Father doted on his two girls, attending tea parties and renting petting zoo ponies; key ingredients for making platinum blonde princesses. Their tiffany blue eyes would light up with every new English Weather cashmere hippo and Ralph Lauren lustrous taffeta dress, while Cinder’s mud colored features blended into the background.

Bleached hair, pinched noses, breasts imitating blimps, lips ready to burst, colored contacts, and fake tans that aimed for a shimmering bronze but fell short, landing somewhere between burnt orange and what the fuck were you thinkinhg? clouded his adolescence. Cinder had grown up watching these people come and go from his Father’s office, thirsting to be unforgettable but really, settling for unrecognizable.

Late nights, he’d open his bedroom windows to let the admiral and emperor butterflies in and he’d whisper to them about the living cocoons he had seen and how his Father transformed them into the most beautiful creatures he could ever imagine. Cinder would talk until his eyelids were heavy and images of (angels) pearl colored teeth and glowing skin consumed his dreams.

At five a glint ignited within him. Entranced by a buxom blonde goddess sailing across sapphire carpet and anchoring near tight faced receptionists scheduling appointments for new slabs of tortured meat. Last summer, this time, she was a rail sized brunette but his Father’s magic had solved that. Dowdy presence and dumpy posture were replaced with vivacity and a plump, high sitting ass.

“Mother,” Cinder would ask “Can Father use his magic wand on me?”

“Magic wand?”

“Uh-huh. I saw it. It’s silver and shiny and sharp on one end.”

“The only magic you’ll ever need is here,” She’d say, placing her finger on his head.

At twelve, that glint had become the nucleus of a blaze he attempted to stifle. He wrapped it up in striped Ann Demeulemeester oversized tank tops, cascading with every subtle motion. Forme D’Expression vests draped over its shoulders, nearly touching the ground, with shawl collars and asymmetrical hemlines. Valentino and Burberry lined its closets and Aubercy shoes studded with diamonds adorned its feet. But still, this was not enough. He did not feel like that gliding goddess with the platinum locks and his Father still paid him little mind.

“Mother,” Cinder would ask “Can Father use his beauty scepter on me?”

“Beauty scepter?”

“Uh-huh. I saw it. It’s cold and metallic with a blade on one end.”

“The only beauty you’ll ever need is here,” She’d say, placing her finger on his heart.

At fourteen, that blaze had swirled into a wildfire in the depths of his stomach and he could feel it rise, blackening his heart, searing his throat. He’d watch his sisters stand in front of full length mirrors, hips swaying, stuffed inside of multi-colored print dresses, their dainty feet being lacerated by the baroque cut-outs in their metallic gold leather Rupert Sanderson stilettos.

Golden brown beauties.Their natural sandy blonde tendrils were luscious as they cackled and mocked his flat, chestnut hair. Iridescent eyeshadow caused tiffany blue eyes to pop out of their heart shaped heads, fanning the flames, making his brown irises burn jade.

At fifteen Cinder was on fire. He’d sneer at his sisters, stealing their clothes when they weren’t home, trying to shove his feet into fire engine red flats and eggplant purple platform sandals that were three sizes too small.

“Mother,” Cinder would ask “Can Father use his scalpel on me?”

“Scalpel?”

“Uh-huh. I saw it. It’s hard and it slices and perfects God’s imperfections.”

She paused before saying “Why can’t you be happy with yourself? Why can’t you be more like your sisters?”

An obsidian sky devoured Beverly Hills and the only stars visible were starving in five star restaurants, standing on blood carpets, hidden behind beautiful masks, and snorting their six figure paychecks in nightclub restrooms. Cinder’s parents had a banquet to attend that evening and his sisters were stuck at home with food poisoning.

“It must have been something you ate.” Cinder guessed.

“Clearly! Rosa shouldn’t have let you help her cook!” His oldest sister exclaimed

“Do you want some more of mother’s cyclobenzaprine?”

“Yes! Hurry up with them!” The middle sister demanded.

He watched the two gobble the tiny yellowish tablets like addicts, two at a time, washing them down with bottles of Aquadecco spring water before collapsing in their beds and slipping into drug-induced comatose states.

While they lay like corpses, Cinder galavanted through their wardrobes, tossing Stella McCartney and Oscar De La Renta gowns to the floor. Leaving trails of leather biker shorts, and coated lace pullovers on Pietra Firma jewel encrusted tiles before finally, he found what he was looking for.

His parents pulled up to their mansion as the west wing was burning to the ground. Police officers held them back as they desperately reached out to the fire, crinkling their fingers, clawing at nothingness.

“My children!” Mother yelled “My children are inside!”

“Mother!”

Glassy eyes of a traumatized woman turned to the sound of what had been her name for almost twenty-two years. Mother. Thick charcoal eyeliner and smeared ruby lipstick was all she could see as, what seemed to be a ghost, crept nearer. Trudging barefoot towards her were raccoon eyes and a clown mouth bandaged up in a billowy, bone-colored chiffon dress, slouching off of broad shoulders and dragging against hard cement.

“Cinder?”

“Diane Von Furstenberg…It’s a Diane Von Furstenberg dress, mother.”

Pounds slipped from her body as hair strands broke from her scalp and Cinder’s mother died three short months after the loss of her daughters. The fire was ruled accidental and once his wife took up residency in a mausoleum, Cinder’s Father sold his mansion and moved himself and his excuse for a son into a spacious beach house  in Malibu.

Over the course of several months his Father had fallen for one of the hired help and before the close of the year he was remarried. She moved in and with her came two gigantic teenage sons and heightened hostility on Cinder’s part.

One winter day Cinder’s Father gathered his newly configured family and explained to them that he would be going to New York City to be the lead surgeon on a reality television show and shortly after, he was gone, leaving his new wife in charge.

The stepmother and her sons wasted no time lavishing themselves in riches they could now afford. Plasma screen televisions, name brand clothing they could not pronounce, and the most gaudy jewelry Harry Winston and Cartier had to offer. Cinder’s credit cards and bank accounts were soon revoked. He spoke less and less to his Father and was  eventually withdrawn from school under the false pretense that he’d be learning at home.

By spring, his closet was nearly barren, his hair hadn’t been cut in months, and without his jaunts to cosmetic stores and day spas he swore his once taut skin had become sallow and loose. He remembered his mother’s words, that beauty was in his heart and magic in his head and one evening he wished upon a star.

The next day his stepbrothers forced him to live in their two car garage because the family needed his room for storage. It didn’t take long for Cinder to realize he’d be having roommates. California mantes, squirrels, and salamanders seemed to have made this their home, hiding from red-tailed hawks and foxes, predators which they feared more than anything…until they met Cinder, who did not hesitate to crush them beneath his wide foot or douse them in bottles of car oil.

“If you want to stay here, you do as I say.”

And they did. Sneaking him protein bars and dieting pills, little pieces of his stepmother’s jewelry and his stepbrothers’ cocaine and stolen barbiturates.

“Listen here, vermin,” He stated, one night when the moon was full, swallowing a handful of rohypnol “You’re going to help me with my happily ever after. You’re some lucky squirrels and mantes…Pray you don’t fuck up.”

Cinder lay flat on the cold garage floor and shut his eyes. Start! He demanded and so they did. The mantes crawled on top of him, claws shaking as they sliced into his lips and carved horizontal lines beneath his nipples before raising the flesh. Squirrels had gathered the seagulls that swooped down and hobbled into the crowded garage, slipping jellyfish into the gaping holes in his chest. Sleek salamanders sacrificed themselves as they squirmed into the small openings on both corners of his lips before being stitched inside.

He snapped and a raccoon trotted up, hand mirror in mouth. Clutching the handle, Cinder pulled himself up before meeting his reflection. Lips pouting like those of a spoiled Laguna Beach brat, eyes snatched so far back he could now claim he was some kind of exotic Asian, European concoction.

Fingers gripped tightly around breasts that propped up beneath his chin and he turned his head to the side, analyzing the new slope of his Pinnochio pointed nose. Nice, he said before chucking the mirror down, sending reflective blades across the ground.

“But not good enough!”

He snuck into the beach house on an evening when his wicked fake relatives were gone and called his godfather.

At eighteen Cinder had become a holocaust.

“Hello?…I need you to pick me up.”

Cinder leaned forward on the icy desk in his godfather’s office, hovering over him, lips tight and brows burrowed.

“What do you mean you can’t make my feet smaller? They do it in China!”

“Cinder, I–”

“Cinderella!”

“Y,yes, Cinderella..It’s, it’s just not medically possible. I’ve done everything else you wanted.The hairline, the chin, the ribs, even though, I, I shouldn’t have. I even did the…”

Cinderella, once Cinder, arose. Decked out in a faux wrapped grey skirt and coal black sleeveless top with a scoop neck and triple layered, twirled draped panel to the front, Cinderella adjusted wrist length, scarlet satin gloves around thick, boney fingers.

“King keeps surprising me with shoes and none of them fit! I tell him I’m a size seven when I’m really a twelve. You try finding Jimmy Choo pumps that big!…You are absolutely useless! As useless as the shoes I keep having to return!” Cinderella screeched.

“…Does it always have to be a heel?”

“Excuse me?”

He hesitated, looking down at the stilettos made of glass, pressed against titanic toes  “Why do you need to dress for a runway? Why do you need to wear such high heels?”

Gliding crimson fingers through glossy hair before being overcome with a look of pity, the response was “I wear high heels because they get me closer to God.”

“God…” He echoed.

“Since you won’t help, fairy fucking godfather, don’t mind if I excuse myself. I haven’t seen my real Father in almost two years and we have dinner reservations at Ink…and a lot to catch up on.”

Cinderella watched as Father handed his keys to the valet and walked towards the restaurant, walked right passed, walked to the entrance.

“Father!”

He turned around at the sound of a name he hadn’t been called in ages and eventually spotted the figure who yelled out, squinting his eyes as he approached. Tides of butterscotch hair poured around her face and opaque blue eyes that were much too blue for the sun-chewed skin layering her body, sliced a tremor through his chest. She towered over him in six inch heels and was drowning in diamonds and rubies and Rick Owens and Lanvin.

“…Sinclair?”

Cinderella glared “No, Father! Sinclair is dead.”

“Susan?”

“They all died in a fire! Susan is dead! Sinclair is dead! Mother is dead, it’s me–”

“Cinder?” Was heavy as he pushed it from winded lungs.

“Ella!…Cinderella, Father!” She yelled.

Cinderella stood arm in arm with a man about her height when she was not wearing nude Christian Louboutin heels or black Giuseppe Zanotti booties the size of small sports cars. The couple was surrounded by a small group of people and as Father continued to stare he could catch encroaching flashing lights from the corners of his eyes.

“This is King. King Captivate. He’s an actor,” She gushed, attempting humble nonchalance as she twisted her seventeen inch waist and flaunted a porcelain veneer smile for paparazzi “He’s up for an Oscar for his role in–”

“What…what have you done?”

Cinderella sneered, adjusting those scarlet satin gloves. Did he not see how beautiful she was? How she wore enough jewelry and overpriced labels to choke a horse? Not one of the filthy petting zoo ponies those spoiled brats had ridden years ago, but a blue ribbon winner with a glossy coat and flowing mane.

She let go of King who was absorbed in himself, basking in the intrusive bulbs and fleeting attention. Once close enough to her Father, she said “I’m dead beautiful…Everybody can see it. Everybody can see what I’ve become!”

Father slowly shook his head, his mouth still agape.

“Dead…dead, beautiful.”

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