Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Down with Cinderella!

A modern and maybe more fair version of an annoying classic. The real names have been changed, just in case.

Modern Cinderella

I remember the first time I met Angela as if it were yesterday. Even if we were just children, it was clear that she was no ordinary human being. Her beautifully pale, porcelain skin must have never been exposed to the sun, and this always made me wonder how she could be so happy and healthy. She had big, blue, innocent eyes and golden, curly hair. You couldn't help falling in love with her.

After my father died, my mother married her filthy rich father, so my sister Corinne and I had to leave Bristol, our school and our friends to move to their pretentious house in Hampstead, London. It looked like a castle from a fairy tale. I couldn't believe such a small family needed all that space. But I loved the idea of having a big room all to myself.

Needless to say, I soon discovered that this flawless doll was the teachers' pet at school, and I won't mention all the praise she received from private piano and ballet tutors. Angela never, ever wasted her time watching TV with us and always offered to help with the house chores. Well, the latter was actually very convenient, as she ended up doing all the housework.

I was told that they were from a noble family, but at that time I didn't really understand what that meant. The only thing I remember was that life was not so fun anymore. There were a lot of strict rules to follow, boring manners to learn, and endless after-school lessons to attend.

Angela was just a couple of years younger than me, even though she looked much younger. As a teenager, she didn't go through any of the almost compulsory teenage milestones. Her perfect skin never knew what acne was. Her ivory teeth were already positioned the way they should be, so her enchanting smile was never ruined by those terrifying, painful silver braces most of us common mortals remember. No boy in the school, parish or neighbourhood failed to notice her.

I tried to love her as a sister. But I also was a young woman, and I wanted to be noticed too. My older sister Corinne craved attention even more than I did. She was very jealous when I was born and she was always competing with me. However, once we met Angela, we instinctively became best friends against a common enemy.

Things changed a lot when Angela's father died. Now our mother became the only boss in the house, and I knew already that she didn't like her step daughter. The reason was partly that she realised, with such a beauty in the house, no man would ever consider marrying her own daughters, and partly that her husband had eyes only for his own daughter, who reminded him so much of his beloved first wife. Poor mum, I felt so sorry for her. But she had married for money, and got what she wanted. Why he married her, I will never find out.

Angela suffered a lot for her father's death, but she never ceased looking like a top model. This is not an overstatement: you could wake her up in the middle of the night and her hair wouldn't even need combing, and her face wouldn't need a wash.
Maybe that is what 'noble' means.

I cannot tell when this started, but Angela became more and more humble, meek and quiet. My mother, my sister and I never did any housework anymore. Angela was put in charge of every chore, including the food shopping and gardening. Since she was full-time busy, and since my mother was often suffering with asthma and back pain, Angela agreed not to enrol at the University after high school. She spent most of her time in the house, assisting my ill mother, yet she seemed to enjoy everything she was doing.

Corinne and I were having a great time at University, because we didn't have to worry about Angela: nobody knew her at the campus.

Then it happened. I had a crush on one of my bigger sister's classmates, Rob. We met in the running club which I had joined by mistake and we spent a lot of time together. With hindsight, I can see how vain he was. He knew very well that he was drop-dead gorgeous!
This doesn't make me any less bitter about what happened though.

Rob was about to turn 21 and organised this massive birthday party in his stunning villa with a swimming pool in Richmond. He wanted his party to be memorable; he created a sort of speed-dating night, so that a lot of people would be motivated to come. For this purpose, he needed to invite as many women as possible. He organised a proper campaign, distributing flyers and sending invitations to all of us.
I had a bad feeling. I was the girl he was spending most of his time with, so I was sure he would dance with me. Still, I was worried about all the girls between 18 and 23 who would turn up. I was worried especially that Angela would find out.

You guessed it. She did find out, since she was at home when the post was delivered. And she loved the idea of going to a dancing party – she had never been to one.

My mother sensed the danger too. She did her best to pretend she was feeling awful, so that she needed Angela to take extra care of her that night. I checked Angela's wardrobe and made sure I ruined any sexy dress she had with the help of permanent inks and scissors.

I suspect Corinne was interested in Rob as well, but she would have preferred me to have success with him rather than Angela, of this I am pretty sure. So, she ground some sleeping pills into powder and slipped everything in a glass of water, thinking it was Angela's. Unfortunately, the water ended up being drunk by my mum, who peacefully fell into a sound sleep.

Now Angela had no reason to stay home, but she found soon that had no decent clothes. Her big, warm heart didn't even let her suspect that someone sabotaged her wardrobe. I thought and hoped that I could finally see her cry for having to give up her plan for the night, but then the door bell rang. It was Claire, one of our neighbours, a 20-year-old woman I barely knew. Claire came to thank Angela for the home-baked lemon drizzle cake she had sent her when she had a cold, and to ask her if she would go with her to the biggest birthday party ever.

I was about to scream. As soon as Claire realised that Angela didn't have anything to wear, she said she could borrow anything she liked. That was too much. If I hadn't destroyed Angela's dresses, she would have worn something from Primark or M&S. But Claire's clothes were all by Prada and Versace.

In spite of everything, I rushed to the party with Corinne, hoping to arrive earlier than Angela and to get Rob's attention. I did, and those were the happiest moments of my life. Then Angela entered the house and for a moment I thought I saw Moses parting the water.

I won't bother you describing the obvious rest of the evening. Rob got badly drunk, and so did Angela who never had alcohol before. Even when she was drunk she kept her dignity and impeccable manners. She wore stilettos all night and I bet her tiny, princess feet never had any bruises or blisters. The two of them stuck together like magnets, dancing effortlessly all night.

At 12:00 my mother called me on the mobile phone. She had awoken, throwing up as a reaction to something she ate. I decided not to tell her what I thought the reason was. She was very upset, and we all started blaming Angela for leaving her alone in those conditions.

Angela was visibly sorry. She explained to Rob that she had to hurry home. Both were unable to drive – even though I bet Angela would have been a perfect driver even with litres of alcohol in her body. However, Rob arranged for his personal chauffeur to take her home in his father's limousine.

In spite of being unable to complete a sentence, Rob managed to exchange mobile phone numbers with Angela and become friends on Facebook.

Angela lost one of Claire's stilettos somewhere that night, but she didn't need to worry as Rob bought both her and Claire the most stunning Prada shoes from the internet.

As soon as Rob graduated, he and Angela celebrated with a trip to Las Vegas where they got married. I am only glad that they moved to the US and I haven't heard from them since.

Also, I don't think getting married at 19 is necessarily a happy ending.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Nishikawa

Today's post is dedicated to my old friend Cristina Fabian, who is living the dream and is now in Italy to launch "Nishikawa", her first book written together with Sonia Matteodo.

The story is set in 2004 in Japan.
Takaya Nishikawa is a drop-dead gorgeous, half-Spanish and half-Japanese womaniser. He works for the Japanese Secret Services, training young women to become secret agents, merciless killers but also cunning seductresses able to deceive Yakuza bosses.
Irene Fortefiore, a sexy, stubborn 16-year-old Italian girl, wants to become a secret agent at any cost. She is boxing-clever and has incredible shooting skills, a perfect candidate to intrude in Yakuza affairs. She is not aware of her sex-appeal yet, but Nishikawa will teach her how to make use of her beautiful body - guess how...
But are the Yakuza the real and only enemy? Or do the Japanese Secret Services have some hidden plans?

Nishikawa

Cristina, like me, grew up with a serious obsession for Japanese anime, which in Italy were extremely popular since the 80s.
She learnt cartooning from Luca Boschi when she was 12.
Together with Elena Liberati (famous among the Lady Oscar fandom for her stunning fan art and fan fiction) she wrote the first chapter of the book.
Then thanks to another friend of hers, Chiara Chiarini, who studied theatre and scenography, other 6 chapters were drafted.
In 1995 Cristina borrowed a computer from a friend, and typed those first 7 chapters of the book.
Then she escaped from her parents and went to France, where she had manga stories published in monthly magazines, and where she met Dennis Hoffmann, who will become the translator of "Nishikawa", French version.
Cristina moved back to Italy, where she continued drawing with Isil Cassaresi and Valentina Ghelli and then finally settled in London, where she completed the book.
10 years later, in Lonson she met Sonia Matteodo, very talented poet and Italian teacher (and lovely lady I also had the pleasure to meet!).
September 2012. The "Nishikawa" is finally available for you to read!

More info at the Nishikawa Facebook Page.