Hello! A lot of readers have been asking me when the sequel to The Ugly Stepsister will be out. I’ve been working on the book, but I’m a painfully slow writer - The Ugly Stepsister took me a year and a half to finish. Even with six books under my belt, the process doesn’t look like it’s getting any easier! >.< Anyway, this is what I can say for now:
“And they lived happily ever after.”
A happy, content sigh rose from the baby goblin girl. She was sprawled on the floor, face upturned; her large, yellow, cat-like eyes shining with joy. Next to her sat a middle-aged goblin wearing spectacles, a book propped on his legs, the binding creased and the pages worn. Except for the sparkling golden crown sitting askew on his head, he looked rather ordinary.
“How many children did they have, Daddy?”
“The book doesn’t tell us, sweetie. It just ends with their wedding.”
“But what about Kat’s family in her human world? Did she ever see them again?”
“Of course she did. She returned to the human world once she completed her mission.”
The child gave a horrified gasp. “So she just left Edward standing at the altar like that?”
“He wasn’t left alone, pumpkin. The original Katriona returned to her body, so he still has a bride. Edward arranged it so that no one would suspect Kat switched places with the storybook Katriona. And Kat remembers nothing about her life in the fairy tale, so she is spared the pain of losing her true love. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”
Said pretty little head was now shaking in pure outrage. “That’s not a happy ending, Daddy! You lied to me! You lied!”
“Pippi!” The goblin king exclaimed. He tried to calm her down by ruffling her hair, but she let loose with a prolonged wail. “You’re such a meanie! I’m never trusting you again!”
Barthelius’s fingers grew tangled in her mountain of extraordinarily curly hair—hair that reminded him of that corkscrew-shaped pasta that humans called fusilli. “Do stop bawling, angel. Really, there’s no need to be so distressed about the ending. Let’s read another story together, shall we? Or do you want to see the new doll Daddy got for you?”
He looked around at his court, helpless and pathetic, silently pleading for one of them to offer a helping hand. Unfortunately for him, it was the goblins’ nature to take pleasure in another’s misfortune. Most of them only shrugged innocently or tried to mask their grins behind knobby hands.
Barthelius had no choice but to exert his absolute power as king.
“Krev!” he barked. A long-suffering goblin slunk slowly to his side. “Take the princess down to the nursery. Give her another book or toy or candy—it doesn’t matter. When I come back, I want to see her pacified.”
A goblin stepped out reluctantly. He had a face that looked as though he were squashed and ironed as a baby.
“It’s all your fault,” Barthelius muttered. “You should have united the real Cinderella together with the prince, instead of letting Katherine Wilson continue interacting with him.”
“Who, me?” Krev raised one thick, worm-like eyebrow. “Your Majesty was the one most amused when the plot went awry. We were all taking bets every time I had a new report to make. Why, Her Majesty even won a purse of gold!”
“That was before I could anticipate this— ” Barthelius jerked his thumb at the spectacle on the floor beside him: his daughter was now rolling across the floor, her wails filling the air. “I had no idea she would be so fixated on that damn book. It’s been how many—what?—six human years?”
“Hmph. It seems like only yesterday that we witnessed the completion of that book.”
“Can’t we rip up The Ugly Stepsister instead?”
Barthelius raised his eyebrows and jabbed a finger at Krev’s chest. “To borrow a human phrase: You. Are. Nuts. First, how are you going to track down Katherine Wilson after so many years? Second, how is she going to tear up the book when it’s only seven years old? Third, even if she re-entered the book, do you honestly believe she could bring the prince and Cinderella together? Look how she blundered on her first attempt; no matter how hard she tried. Neither can you simply find another human to do the job. You can’t compel a human to act unless through forbidden magic. You know the rules.”
Krev heaved a sigh. His ears and shoulders drooped. “Come along, Your Highness,” he called to the little goblin princess. “Want to hear a secret story of Kat and Edward—one that didn’t appear in the book?”
Pippi asked so many questions that Krev suspected that were she living in the human world, she’d be one of those diehard fans who created book trailers and wrote fanfiction and dressed up as characters in the story. He pictured her wearing a ball gown and acting out a court presentation to the queen…no. The dumpy figure of a typical goblin was simply unsuited for huge frilly dresses.
“Why is your face all scrunched up, Krev?” Pippi asked, her eyes alight with curiosity. “You look like you’ve swallowed a lemon.”
Like a child being caught stealing from a jar of cookies, Krev tried to look innocent instead. Most goblins would have declared him a poor actor, but fortunately the little princess wasn’t that perceptive. Yet. “Nothing, Your Highness.”
Pippi hugged the book close to her chest. Of all the books Barthelius had created, it was this messed-up version of Cinderella that she enjoyed most. She belonged to the post-office—or wait, was it post-modern?—category of readers that preferred their heroines strong and feisty. The damsel-in-distress was a thing of the past.
“Did you actually see Kat return to her family?”
Krev scratched his head. A couple long, mottled-green hairs fell off. Dang, his premature baldness was speeding to the finish line.
“Well…yes. There wasn’t anything we could do about it. The spell works autonomously. Once she fulfilled the happily-ever-after requirement, she was compelled to leave. She had no choice but to return to her mother and sister in the human world.”
“But why couldn’t she go back for a while to say goodbye, and then come back? Oh, the poor prince! You can’t leave him stuck with a girl he doesn’t love!”
Krev heaved yet another a sigh. He lost count of how many times he sighed when talking to Pippi. Really, it was entirely Barthelius and Morag’s fault for spoiling her and giving her whatever she wanted when she wanted it. “Once the book is completed, it stays that way forever. It’s permanent.”
Pippi banged on the table with a fist. A crack appeared on the surface. Krev made a private note to mention to the king that the princess’s strength is showing early. “You’ve got to get them back together! It’s so UNFAIR to keep them apart!”
“Your Highness, unfortunately, the spell doesn’t work that way…”
“I don’t care! I want a happy ending for Kat and Edward! I want it NOOOOOOOW!”