Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cinderella style: “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” alternate ending

This is the original ending for “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” I don’t like it quite as well as the one that made it into book – I wasn’t quite as good at juggling multiple people in the same scene when I wrote this, so certain characters were kind of shuffled off to the side – but it’s an interesting look at the different ways you can take a scene. The beginning and ending of the chapter will be very familiar to those who have read the book, but the middle plays out quite differently.

Chapter 26: Heroes and Fairy Godmothers
            Even though she’d known it was coming, Kate couldn’t help but tense at the word “arrest.” The hand that wasn’t holding John’s reached into her pocket, fingers curling around the vial that she’d slid in there at the last minute. She trusted John absolutely, but he of all people would approve of having an emergency backup plan.
The queen, however, was having none of it. She’d shot up out of her throne, face blazing with royal fury. “How dare you speak that way of a princess-to-be?” John had teased her about hiding under the stairs when his mother had come by earlier, but Kate had known that it would be a lot easier for the queen to defend her son’s sweetheart if she hadn’t actually met her yet. “You’re the one who should be arrested!”
            Bubbles swung her gaze back to the queen, suddenly dipping into a low bow as her instincts for dealing with upper management finally started to take over. “You don’t want this woman as a daughter-in-law, Your Majesty. She’s an employee of Fairy Godmothers, Inc. who has stolen valuable company property.” Her gaze slid back over to Kate for a second, rage flickering in the depths of her eyes. “Let me take care of the problem for you.”
            The queen’s brow lowered as she looked at her son. “I’m not particularly concerned with this ridiculous stealing business, Jonathan, but I warned you about marrying a Fairy Godmother.” She looked over at Kate, looking oddly regretful. “I’m sorry, my dear, but a princess can’t very well be employed by the people she’ll outrank.”
            Hesitantly, Kate raised her hand. “Actually, I quit, which means that I’m technically not a Fairy Godmother anymore.” She pushed the cloak off her shoulders, stretching her wings out briefly in sheer relief. “I’m just a fairy.”
            John grinned over at her. “And after she marries me, she’ll be a fairy princess.”
            The queen’s face cleared instantly. “Oh how fabulous. I’ve never had the chance to accessorize wings before.” Before Kate had a chance to get nervous over that last thought, the queen was glaring at Bubbles again. “I’m still upset with you, peasant.”
            Bubbles glared right back. “She broke the law, Your Majesty,” she said through clenched teeth. “You don’t want that kind of embarrassment.”
            “What’s to be embarrassed about?” John’s voice was easy, but pitched just right to catch the entire crowd’s attention. When they turned to him, he stepped forward and gently tugged Kate with him. “Her true love was being tormented by the effects of a wicked spell, and she stole the item needed to set me free. It’s a nearly textbook definition of a quest, and as such everything Kate did in the last 48 hours is covered by questing law.” He smiled, and Kate tried to look as relaxed and confident as he was. “The fact that the shoe fit merely confirms that she is, indeed, my true love.”
            Both the king and queen were now staring at John with lowered brows. “Why didn’t you tell me you were under a wicked spell?” the queen asked, warning in her voice. She turned to her husband. “Did he tell *you* he was under a wicked spell?”
            “There. Was. No. Wicked. Spell,” Bubbles insisted, glaring at John’s parents as if she could make them agree with her by sheer force of will. “It was merely a misunder—“
            The queen’s gaze snapped away from her husband, the righteous indignation rising again in her expression as she glared right back at Bubbles. “I should think my son can be trusted to know whether or not he was under a wicked spell!”
            Bubbles grit her teeth, a muscle visibly working in her jaw by the time she turned back to John. “So you’re going to continue with this ridiculous claim? That a simple business tool was some sort of terrible villainy you had to be freed from?”
            “Your ‘business tool’ held my mind hostage.” The room fell silent at the quiet intensity in John’s voice. “It kept trying to steal my free will and turn me into your little puppet.” Kate could hear the tension building with each word, and she squeezed his hand in an attempt to offer comfort. He glanced over at her, expression softening briefly as he gave her a return squeeze. “It tried to make me betray the people I care about most.”
            Bubbles’ glare only deepened, and Kate suddenly knew for certain that management had known exactly what happened to the people who didn’t accept the True Love.
            John smiled slowly at Bubbles, the expression remarkably similar to what Kate imagined a dragon would look like just before it decided to swallow the knight. “Which means that you, and by extension Fairy Godmothers, Inc., have a decision to make. You can walk out of here right now, cancel any and all contracts you might have on anyone in this room, and do your best to forget that Kate or any of the rest of us even exist. Or you can explain to all of those royal families whose sons and daughters married people they didn’t really approve of that you drugged them into thinking they’d fallen in love.”
            Bubbles eyes went wide. “You wouldn’t—” Her mouth instantly snapped closed, as if she’d realized how ridiculous the words were.
John’s smile merely widened. “I wonder what percentage of Fairy Godmother-created marriages would suddenly explode in messy, scandalous divorces. And the lawsuits …. The company’s reputation would be destroyed in a matter of what, days?”
            Bubbles stared at him, unable to speak for a moment, but the situation had collapsed too fast and she was beyond horror. Kate understood exactly what that felt like, which was why she wasn’t at all surprised when her former boss simply redirected her glare towards Kate. “It’s utterly beyond me how these people could be interested in anyone as irrelevant as you are, but for the good of the company it seems as though you’ll temporarily escape the consequences of your actions. Undoubtedly the royal family will come to regret making such a powerful enemy in the long run—”
            “No.” It took Kate a second to realize that she’d actually said the word out loud, but her voice was sure and steady as she slid her hand out of John’s hold and headed down the stairs towards Bubbles. “No more last-minute bluster. I may have started this mess, but I refuse to let anyone I care about have to keep worrying about you.”
            Kate stopped only a few inches away from her former boss, close enough that the older woman was forced to look up slightly to glare at her properly. “What do you think you’re going to do?” Bubbles sneered. “The only part in this entire escapade you haven’t managed to fail at completely is theft.”
            “True Love, however, never fails.” Kate pulled out her company issued bottle, undoing the spray top and holding it up directly in front of Bubbles’ eyes. “Maybe we should see what your romantic destiny is.”
            Bubbles actually paled. “You wouldn’t dare.”
            “Oh, but I’m pretty sure I would.” Kate smiled, feeling more than a little like a dragon herself. “You did it to John, after all. And I want to make sure that you’re really persuasive when you explain everything he just told you to management.”
            Bubbles’ eyes narrowed. “I won’t pursue the contract, but I am not going to tell—”
            Kate shook the bottle slightly. “I wouldn’t want to bespell any of the poor men behind you.” The four security guards that had followed Bubbles in immediately backed away in unison. “But I’m sure one of the palace guards would be happy to lose a boot to the greater good. Or maybe we should keep things simple and have you fall in love with the company uniform you’re wearing. I’m sure the two of you would be very happy together.”
            Bubbles teeth clenched. “How dare you think you get to be the hero in all this!” she hissed.
            “Actually, he’s the hero,” Kate said softly, tilting her head back towards John. She put the spray cap back on the True Love, dropping it into her pocket as she took a step back. “I’m just the Fairy Godmother.”
            There was a heartbeat of total silence, then the room broke into wild applause. At a gesture from John the guards dragged Bubbles and the men she’d arrived with out of the building, and everyone immediately swarmed together with cheers and congratulations.
Kate just watched it all for a minute, still reeling from the realization that everything had actually worked out like they’d hoped it would, until Rellie appeared and threw her arms around her. “That was so cool!” she laughed, squeezing tight until Kate had the good sense to hug her back. “You and John totally have to start that company so I can be a Fairy Godmother just like you are!”
Then Ned was there, and Rellie immediately launched herself into his arms. Over her shoulder, Ned grinned at Kate. “You did good, Boss.”
Kate grinned back. “So did you.” The shock had given way to sheer relief, and when Lawton’s hand touched her shoulder she impulsively hugged him as well. “Sorry you didn’t get any of the good lines, Lawton.”
He chuckled as they pulled away. “As long as my sacrifice is duly noted.”
A moment later she felt a hand, warm and gentle, on the small of her back. “Doesn’t the hero get a hug?” Without a word she turned and threw herself into John’s arms, pressing her face against his neck and holding onto her happy ending for all she was worth.
She didn’t let go even when she saw John’s mother approach, still looking royal despite the chaos that surrounded her. The queen gave both of them a long, carefully evaluating look, then sighed. “As much as I appreciate the way you and Jonathan verbally decimated that peasant, I do ask that you remember to use the term fairy princess instead of Fairy Godmother. When can we start your fitting for the wedding gown?”
“Actually, we’re planning on an extended engagement,” John said quickly, and Kate decided that it was close enough to the truth not to argue. “You’ll still be seeing her around the palace, but I’ll be giving her some kind of managerial title until she’s officially a princess.” Ned would be hired on as her assistant, they’d decided, and Kate would do what she could to distract Rellie (and John, probably) from the idea of a brand-new Fairy Godmother company.
The queen looked appalled. “You can’t hire your future bride! It’s just not done!”
“Okay.” John shrugged, then grinned at Kate. “You have to help me run the kingdom and keep my sanity out of the goodness of your heart, but you get free run of the treasury.”
Kate nearly had a heart attack at the words “free run of the treasury,” but it was very hard not to be okay when John had his arms around her. “Sounds fair.”
The queen opened her mouth again, clearly not feeling similarly settled about the matter, when a little girl suddenly appeared from between two people and dove beneath the edge of her skirt. The queen jumped, frantically trying to lift the layers of fabric hiding the child from view. “Jonathan, I’m certain I didn’t approve my gown being used as play equipment!”
Kate and John grinned at each other, then she pulled out of his arms to crouch down in front of the queen. “If I may, Your Majesty?” She lifted several layers of skirt just far enough to reveal the curly-haired child, who giggled at being discovered.
John leaned forward. “Hide and seek, I presume?”
Just as the girl nodded, a much taller figure burst through the crowd. “Lucy, I told you you’re not supposed to go ….” The voice trailed off, and the little girl dashed off again as everyone else looked up at the suddenly frozen Rupert.
He stared at his mother. “Um … hi?”
The queen’s eyes widened with delight. “You’re back from questing! Oh darling, this is wonderful! I have so much to talk to you about ….”
Panicked, Rupert glanced over at John, then sketched a quick bow to his mother before turning and disappearing back into the crowd.
The queen’s eyes narrowed again as she whirled on her youngest son. “Jonathan, explain.”

John sighed, and Kate smothered a laugh as she put a consoling arm around his shoulders. “It’s a long story.”

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