The prince didn't believe in fairy tales. He had his feet firmly on the ground and his head firmly on his shoulders. He had a kingdom to run now. He was going to be king.
Years passed and the new king matured into a good ruler – kind and benevolent, brave and wise. Little by little, he cast away all his fancies and romances and retained only the manners and thoughts dignifying a king.
Then one day as he was riding in the woods he spotted a slipper lying near a bush. He took a closer look. It was a glass slipper. "Cinderella!" He smiled bemusedly and rode on. On the way back, however, he picked it up. By the time he returned to the palace, he was laughing at his own foolishness and put it away in the corner of a closet.
That winter, at a ball held by the queen of the neighbouring kingdom, his life changed forever. It wasn't as dramatic as that of course and the prince had no idea of it at the time.
She wasn't breathtakingly beautiful or noticeably charming. But when he sat next to her at the dinner table, conversation flowed easily and without pretence. A year later he got down on his knees and asked her to marry him.
They were very happy together. Everyday, the king would wake up and look upon her face and think how lucky he was. Their love was true and strong, and would stand the test of time. In time, they became parents – of two charming boys and a delightful girl. Life was perfect.
Then one day, the queen chanced upon the glass slipper. She teased him, "And which fair maiden have you been secretly dreaming about?" He laughed, "I found that in the woods a long time ago. I was young and foolish."
"Let me try it on and see if I'm really your true love."
"Now you are being foolish."
They both laughed as she slipped her foot into the slipper.
"Oh no, my feet are too big. How can you love me now?" the queen asked, her eyes full of mischief.
"I must do the best I can, mustn't I?" the king retorted, as he took the slipper from her and put it back into the closet.
The queen linked her arm with his, and they both walked contentedly in the gardens.
That night, however, while the queen was asleep, the king sat looking at the slipper for a long time. Then he sighed, and pushed it back farther into the closet.
There was nothing you could put a finger on. But there was something different in the way the king looked at the queen now. And it made the queen sad, though she didn't know this at first. Slowly, without either of them noticing it, they laughed less and they talked less. One day, they realised they had nothing left to laugh about together and nothing to say to each other.
The queen became sick. Doctors were called in from far and wide, but they couldn't help her. The king was heartbroken.
"I still love you very much," he told her.
"You don't look at me in that way anymore."
The king wept. "I don't know how to."
She died in his arms.
The king walked up to the closet, took out the glass slipper, and flung it against the wall. It shattered into a million pieces.