About the Author
SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novels Cinderella's Dress, (Summer 2014) and Cinderella's Shoes (Fall 2015) published by Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.
Read an Excerpt
By Shonna Slayton, Stacy Abrams, Lydia Sharp
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Shonna Slayton
All rights reserved.
New York City, 1947
The Memorial Hospital looked like a small castle plucked out of a fairy tale and dropped smack in the middle of New York City. Originally built for cancer patients as a kind of wonder-building, it had been a disappointment, not a cure for cancer at all, and had since opened up to patients with other ailments.
Kate Allen thought it was the prettiest building in the city with its classic red brick turrets and arched windows, but that was only on the outside. Inside, there was no hiding the sickness of the patients, despite all the flowers Princess Kolodenko had ordered up for the special day.
The visiting princess had purchased every last arrangement from the neighborhood florists, from white carnations and pink roses to the more exotic calla lilies and purple orchids. Caught up in the excitement, the nurses buzzed about the circular room, setting out vases stuffed with bouquets amid the patients in the tower. The flowers' heady scent covered up the sterile smell, making the room as close to a mountain meadow as Princess Kolodenko could transform it.
Kate sat with her aunt, Elsie, watching the fuss being made for them. Elsie's mind was clear at the moment, for which Kate was grateful. Over the years, dementia had been taking over her aunt's memories, and no one was ever sure who Elsie would be when they visited her. But today was an important day, one that they hoped Elsie could enjoy with them.
"Are you nervous?" Aunt Elsie focused her attention on Kate.
Nestled in the hospital bed, Aunt Elsie looked so frail, though her white hair was beautifully done up in a bun with a white orchid pinned to the side. "Not about the ceremony. It's what comes after that I'm worried about."
Kate's gaze followed Princess Kolodenko making rounds to the patients, like they were her subjects and she was comforting them. The circular rooms were specially built to help the nurses see to each patient, and the center ventilation tube was supposed to help keep the air fresh, but the layout didn't leave much room for privacy. The princess looked like an old-time movie star, so elegant and full of life, even though she was as old as Elsie.
Kate nervously chewed her lip. Just how does one serve a royal family?
Elsie reached out to hold Kate's hand. "You will lack for nothing. The Kolodenkos are generous. And most of the time, the job is quiet. No fuss. Every so often the stepsisters' family tries to take what is not theirs, and that makes for excitement."
Even though the descendants of the stepsisters, the Burgosovs, were in jail, Kate felt a tingle run down her spine. The brothers, acting on a mission from their mother, had tried to trick her into giving them Cinderella's ball gown in exchange for information that might lead to finding her father, who was missing in action. They'd planted the idea that the glass slippers could help Kate find her dad just like they had helped the prince find Kopciuszek, the Polish Cinderella.
The Burgosovs had been lying, though. They didn't have the magical glass slippers at all. But now Kate couldn't let the idea go. Could it be possible? Could the glass slippers be used to find a loved one? Could they be used to find her dad?
Aunt Elsie continued, unaware of Kate's musings. "It will be different now, a Keeper living in America. Perhaps one day you will go to Poland? You look like a Polish girl. Tall and pretty and your hair is a lovely shade of brown. Or in future, one of your daughters will go?"
Unwillingly, Kate blushed. Her thoughts immediately flew to her boyfriend, Johnny, as they so often did. Her aunt and uncle both assumed she and Johnny would marry soon, despite her protests that she was too young to be seriously considering such a thing. During the war all kinds of girls got married right out of school, but now that the war was over, they didn't have to rush. Besides, the Kopciuszek dresses had so overshadowed everything in her life these past few months, she was still waiting for the new normal to feel normal. In light of the war's ending, and then Kate becoming Keeper, even graduation had come and gone with her hardly realizing it.
"Perhaps Poland one day," she answered. A safe answer.
The ceremony today would help. It would make Kate the official Keeper of the Wardrobe for the Kolodenko royal family, taking over from Aunt Elsie. The role had evolved from the medieval tradition of a servant overseeing care of the royal clothing and accessories, to the preservation of three particularly important dresses. The Kopciuszek dresses.
"If we were in Poland, we could have ceremony in a beautiful garden." Elsie gave an apologetic smile.
Kate shook her head. "If you had stayed in Poland, who knows what would have become of the dresses? And the Keeper role would have gone to someone else."
Princess Kolodenko made one last visit, speaking with an elderly woman sunk deep into a hospital bed, before returning to Kate and Elsie. She looked around, frustration etched on her face. "Where is that granddaughter of mine? Nessa must be here so she will know what to do when it is her turn."
Kate followed the princess's gaze to the door, wondering what kind of girl Nessa was. Did she like knowing she was a direct descendant of Cinderella, or was she mad that no one had told her until recently? Ever since the Kolodenkos had arrived in New York, they hadn't spent enough time with Kate for her to know what to expect from them. First impressions suggested Nessa would be easy to be Keeper for. She was sweet and generous, though seemed prone to losing track of time.
As Keeper and Princess, Aunt Elsie and Princess Kolodenko had an almost sisterly relationship, but they had grown up together knowing the secret. Kate and Nessa had only recently learned about their families' linked history. No one had told Kate what they expected her to do when Nessa finished her schooling in America. If the princess went back to Europe — either to their current residence in Italy or their family home in Poland, would Kate have to go with her?
Nessa burst into the room just then, carrying a large bowl filled with oranges, lemons, and apples. Princess Kolodenko frowned disapprovingly at her granddaughter's lateness, but Nessa only shrugged in response. Her soft black hair and rosy cheeks made her look more like a descendant of Snow White than Cinderella. "I thought I should add my part. Since the war ended I can't get enough of this fruit. Would you be a dear?" She handed the heavy bowl to Kate before pulling a small box out of her pocket. "I also brought a special token for Kate." Since Kate was holding the fruit, Nessa opened the box for her. Inside was a silver brooch. A royal carriage. "May our friendship exceed your service to my family. Thank you for giving of your time and talents." She tilted her head regally while glancing up at her babcia.
Princess Kolodenko nodded approvingly.
"Josie helped me pick it out that day you were busy outside watching the display window." Nessa winked, the formalness gone and a secret shared.
While Nessa and Josie, Kate's best friend, had been shopping, Kate had been outside Harmon-Craig department store in front of the famous Cinderella window display talking with Johnny. Kissing Johnny, if truth be told.
"Another symbol of Kopciuszek's story," Nessa said as she pinned it to Kate's collar.
"It's beautiful," Kate said. She leaned over to show Elsie, whose expression was starting to fade. Oh no, Elsie. Hang in there a little longer.
Princess Kolodenko motioned for Nessa to wheel over the curtained dividers to give them some privacy. Then she reached out and they all held hands.
"Elsie, Kate," Princess Kolodenko began in a quiet yet commanding voice. "You represent generations of faithful servants. You seek no personal glory. No fame for yourself. Your loyalty is as solid as the Tatra Mountains in Poland. These values may seem old-fashioned in this changing world, but they are virtues you should be proud to posses."
She focused on Elsie, and the two old friends looked kindly at each other. "Thank you for your service, my friend. You have been faithful to the end. I pray the rest of your days be lived out in satisfaction that you made your family proud."
Kate swallowed down the sudden lump that formed in her throat. Poor Elsie. After years of guilt for betraying her sister, to hear these words of forgiveness — what a gift from the princess. Princess Kolodenko let go of Elsie's hand and took up Kate's, cutting Elsie out of the circle. She peered fixedly into Kate's eyes.
"Do not think of your task as trivial. By keeping these valuable items for us —" She glanced at the three bundles, lined up touching one another along the edge of Elsie's bed:
The ragged and patched servant's work dress.
The magical satin ball gown.
The glorious white and flower-accented wedding dress.
"You help us keep incessant greed out of our family. You help protect our family from destroying ourselves from within."
"What about the glass slippers?" Kate asked, hoping for a hint to their whereabouts. "Am I to keep those, too?"
The princess shook her head. "Those have been lost to our family. All the more reason we need your help in keeping these dresses safe."
"Were they lost in the war?"
"Let me finish the ceremony, dear," Princess Kolodenko said. She turned to Elsie and took the amber necklace from her thin hand. This was the necklace Kate's babcia had brought with her to America and given to Kate as a family heirloom. Until recently, Kate had no idea of the significance of the amber necklace, or that Babcia had taken it from her sister. As Fyodora clasped the necklace around Kate's neck, she whispered, "I understand you have already worn this necklace."
Kate hesitated before nodding slightly. Princess Kolodenko's kind words about loyalty and not seeking glory hadn't always been followed in this servant family.
"We've never expected perfection, Kate," Princess Kolodenko said, as if sensing Kate's thoughts. She turned Kate around and spoke directly to her. "Our family is well acquainted with greed, and the effect of the dresses on us is strong." She glanced at Nessa. "We only ask that you try to keep your heart's intention toward servanthood. Your actions will follow." She smiled widely. "Do you, Kate Allen of the line of Keepers of the Wardrobe, solemnly agree to uphold the traditions of your family in protecting the Kopciuszek dresses?"
"I agree." Her voice came out quiet, timid. As she spoke, she noticed sparkles begin to fall around her. She lifted a hand to catch one and it melted like a snowflake in her palm.
Nessa giggled, trying to catch her own sparkles. "What is this, Babcia?"
"Magic." Princess Kolodenko smiled, then continued. "And do you solemnly agree to remain loyal to Kopciuszek's descendants, to uphold their rights and privileges with the dresses?"
Kate hesitated. Her answer would truly link her to this royal family and their wishes. She glanced at Nessa, who gave her an encouraging nod. "I agree."
Behind Princess Kolodenko, Nessa clapped excitedly. The princess raised a delicate eyebrow before continuing.
"I bestow on you the title of Keeper of the Wardrobe for the Kolodenko family. Guard our treasures well."
While Kate shared hugs all around, the churning in her stomach that she'd been pushing down all day forced its way back.
All the smiles. All the congratulations. All the confidence everyone had in her was overwhelming. She had seen the quiet times and she had seen the "every so often ..." as Elsie had put it. The stepsisters' descendants could be formidable. And they wanted the dresses more than she did.CHAPTER 2
The prop closet at Harmon-Craig department store was a mess. Kate and Johnny were tasked with going through all the boxes and inventorying every lightbulb, wire, bauble, and pillar. Their boss, Mr. G, had suddenly decided that it was past time for a master list. Although he knew exactly what he had and could generally find it within seconds, it was the other window dressers who needed a list.
"How is your aunt Elsie?" Johnny asked. His muscles flexed as he pulled down a dusty box from the top shelf. He started sorting while Kate observed his square jaw, set in concentration. That one strong feature stood for everything she loved about him. He was dependable, focused, and somewhat unreadable. Okay, maybe she didn't love that last part. She wished she could always tell what he was thinking. It would make her life so much easier.
He set aside silver balls, white garland, and plastic snowflakes. Watching his hands, she wanted to reach out and hold them. Stare into his eyes behind those new glasses of his. Brush his dark brown hair across his forehead. "Is she adjusting to living in the hospital?" he asked.
Kate blinked, embarrassed her mind had been wandering. Johnny had no idea how cute he looked in his characteristic white T-shirt and jeans. The time they had spent apart writing letters during wartime had been fun — she had a nice collection of missives showing their progression from friends to more-than-friends, but being together was way better. The butterflies in her stomach could attest to that. To think, they could have a complete conversation in one sitting instead of taking weeks to talk over something.
"She was with us through most of it, and she loved the spectacle Princess Kolodenko made for her."
Kate sat beside the Christmas box and wrote down the items Johnny was pulling out. If she kept busy with him like this, she wouldn't get caught daydreaming. He was all she wanted to think about lately.
Neil, one of the older window dressers, came in and grabbed a bolt of shimmery fabric. "Oh, hello, Kate. I-Is your mother working today?" He nervously patted the top of the bolt, shaking loose the material.
"Yes, she's here until seven o'clock. Did you need something from Women's Wear? I'll run and get it for you." She made for the door.
"No, no. I don't need anything from Women's Wear. Just wanted to talk to your mom is all." He cleared his throat. "I'll be going now." He backed out of the room and took off.
Was he blushing? Kate felt a pit in her stomach. "You don't think he's going to ask my mom on a date, do you?"
Johnny shrugged, letting out a burst of air. "He might. Do you think she'll say yes?"
"No. My dad. She wouldn't." The pit in her stomach shifted. "I don't think she would." It had never occurred to her that Mom might start dating again. "We haven't had any real confirmation about what happened to Dad. She can't start seeing anyone. Can she?" Oh, this is bad. "What if Mom starts dating and then they find Dad?"
"There comes a time when you have to move on —" Johnny started, but Kate stopped him.
"No. I don't want to talk about it. My brother is tracking down some leads. He'll find something."
"I don't mean to be disrespectful, Kate, but short of finding Cinderella's missing slippers, I don't know how your brother will find anything new. It's been —"
Kate held up her hand. "It's been too long. That's what everyone keeps saying. But Mom and I can't quite believe it. She still won't look through Dad's things that the army returned. She's still hoping ... Wait. Why would you mention the slippers?"
Johnny looked sheepish. "That's what those Burgosov men said. I know they were trying to trick you, but why would they come up with that particular lie? They didn't seem like the brightest fellows, so maybe they let the truth slip out."
Kate leaned back and stared at the ceiling. That was exactly what she had been thinking. "Did I make a mistake?"
"You followed your intuition, and it paid off. They didn't have the slippers, and they didn't know about your dad. Doesn't mean the shoes aren't real."
"I wish I could talk to them again."
"The guys in jail? You're kidding, right? Why don't you just ask Princess Kolodenko?"
"I did, but she told me the shoes were lost to the family. The Burgosovs are the only ones who can help."
Excerpted from Cinderella's Shoes by Shonna Slayton, Stacy Abrams, Lydia Sharp. Copyright © 2015 Shonna Slayton. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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