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“What is it?”
“I thought I heard a sound. A cry like that of a wounded animal.” Thomas jumped to his feet and reached out. “The lantern?” Charlotte held the object out to him. He drew his sword with his right hand, and held the lantern in his left. “Please, wait here until I return.”
“I shall do no such thing!” she objected. “Perhaps I can help.”
Thomas picked up speed as he ambled along the embankment, and Charlotte struggled to keep up.
“Wait for me! If the animal is injured, it may snap!”
Thomas was already on his knees in the shallow water though, paying her no heed. When he spoke at last, his words were barely intelligible. “Charlotte, this is no animal.”
Charlotte gasped as she rushed into the water beside Thomas and tried to help him turn a man from his side. The man’s head was scarcely above water; the rest of him, submerged.
“Avert your eyes.” Thomas directed, then he swore softly as he dropped the lantern into the stream and sheathed his sword. “He is barely alive, and gravely wounded.”
“I have assisted my father many times in his work, Thomas. If he is…”
“Give me your shawl!” Thomas commanded, in a tone completely out of character. Charlotte responded by doing as he asked, and Thomas wrapped the fabric around the man’s head so only one side of his face was visible in the pale, last light of day.
What Charlotte could see was that thBe man had been beaten until those features visible were distorted, but that was not the extent of his injuries, only the beginning.
“We must hurry and get him to your father,” Thomas said, ripping the sleeves from his shirt and using them to tie off wounds to the man’s arm and leg. “If this poor soul has any hope of salvation, whatever has befallen him, it will be in your father’s care.” He hoisted the man up onto his shoulder with a groan, and staggered for a moment before finding his footing. “Hurry, Charlotte,” he called, not waiting for her to fall into step beside him. “He has very little time.”
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I wanted, at first, just to put a spin on the traditional Cinderella story. Something different, swapping out the centuries-old heroine for another girl who would take the spotlight, without ever setting out, at first, to do it.
Then, the characters made themselves known to me, and I had the thought that the ‘retelling’ could be so much more than just that if I listened to them closely and wrote what was in my heart.
We live in a world that is so judgmental of people based upon their bodies: their outward appearance, and their physical strength and abilities. We glorify athletes and actors and models and worship them as the epitome of all that is desirable. We are taught from a young age that beauty equates to good in a person. Think about it; how often do you see a truly beautiful, truly evil villain? Usually if they are beautiful, in the end they are redeemable; and so not truly evil at all.
On the other side of the coin, those who are less than perfectly beautiful in these stories are often cast aside or worse, cast as weak and to be pitied, despised, or abused.
In this life there is so much more to people than just their outsides, and there is, or should be in my view, more to ‘fairy tales’ than just magic.
So I set about writing a story and when I was done I had something that was different: a Cinderella tale without a hint of supernatural magic (and this from a writer who previously wrote two novels all about the lives of modern fairy godparents!)
The “magic” in UPON A TIME exists in the hearts of its heroes, in the way that they selflessly come together to save a man’s life, not knowing at first the importance he had to all of theirs. The magic is there again when you see how that man takes to the new challenges that he must face, and rises above them.
I hope that this story will shine a new light on the people we imagine to be heroes, in stories and in everyday life.
If UPON A TIME makes just one person feel less self-conscious about their physical challenges or their appearance, then it will have been worth writing and going through the process of getting it out into the world. If it makes one person think about how they view others, it is worth it.
The true measure of a man—or woman—lies within their heart, not in the condition of their exterior shell; and the truest love and noblest souls can dwell within bodies that come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of physical ability.