The Timeless Clock
Ella turns away from the dancing couples to face James Bond. Like clockwork, the lively country dance progresses behind her, the rhythmic beats of a dozen feet hopping, skipping, jumping on the marble floor in tandem with the claps.
“What do you want me to say, detective?” If innocence were a skin tone, hers would be translucent.
Sherlock Holmes chuckles, “My dear madam, he’s a spy, not a detective.”
“How about – I love you?” James winks. “But that can wait. First, tell me what you know about Big Ben.”
“Big Ben? Of the Great Westminster Clock?” Ella says leaning forward.
“Yes, it’s missing.” Bond’s beautiful mouth slides into a lopsided smile.
“How can a thing like that go missing?”
“Elementary madam. By magic.” Holmes says.
Mr. Darcy, who until then was as much conspicuous by his handsomeness as by his insolence at reading a book in a ball, finally looks up from his book and breaks his silence. “Do you suspect our guest, Miss Ella, to be a sorceress, Mr. Holmes?”
“Magic, not sorcery. And I suspect her fairy godmother, not her.”
“How about a simpler, more plausible explanation for the Big Ben robbery?” Bond adjusts his bow tie.
“Have you any other ideas?” Holmes tucks his black clay pipe into his mouth.
“Yup, the bell was cut by silencer-fit laser slicers and carried away through underground tunnels to the sea.”
“You’ll be serious Mr. Bond when the clock strikes. Meanwhile, why don’t you entangle Miss Ella in a tango?”
“This is a ball, and I’m afraid a ball-dance would be a different ball game for Mr. Bond.” Darcy closes his book and bows to Ella, who is examining the gold fringe and tassels of a royal blue curtain. “Shall we dance a reel?”
Ella hesitates but lets the golden tassel threads slip through her fingers.
“Miss Ella, feel flattered that though this gentleman dislikes dance, he cannot resist a beauty like yours.” Holmes says.
“Don’t heed him. I consider dance a trademark of polished societies.” Darcy retorts.
“Oh, any moron can dance.” Ella says and accepts his hand. Darcy swings her away from the two.
“Don’t you find Mr. Holmes’ deductions and suppositions a trifle annoying Miss Ella?”
“Drop the funny act.” Ella laughs, “You guys are so into this Halloween party.”
“Halloween party? You speak a strange language. Which land are you from, Princess Ella?”
Ella opens her mouth but words don’t come out. Her hand goes to her throat as if to gently squeeze the words out and fails.
“Don’t tell if you can’t,” Darcy caresses her lips with a finger.
Bing-a-Bongggg! An ear-splitting sound echoes.
“Big Ben!” shouts Bond and leaps to the balcony toward the sound. But not before he wears ear-protectors folded out from a shoe sole.
A force pushes Ella to let go of Darcy and run down the stairs.
“Miss Ella!” Darcy calls.
“The fairy godmother ensured she got both the glass slippers this time. This clock bing-bongs a bit before it strikes 12,” says Holmes at his side.
“I don’t see how…” Darcy stammers.
“Go down and throw some cheese at the horses of her carriage. You’ll see.”
“Cinder-Ella?” Darcy turns to Holmes, raised eyebrows and mouth agape. “Mr. Holmes! Can you help me trace her step-mother and pay her off?”
The sound cuts them off. They cover their ears and rush inside.
Bongggg! Ella faints on the last step, the sound too much for her to bear.
Her waist widens, belly sags, breasts droop, hair shows hints of grey. The ground beneath her turns into a bed.
Dinga-tringa-ling! The alarm goes off.
Ella gets up to help her three sons wear their fiction-figure costumes and finish their pumpkin bell sculptures in time for school.