Cinder & Ella (Cinder & Ella #1)

by Kelly Oram

The problem with fairy tales is that most of them begin with tragedy. I understand the reasoning behind it. No one likes a pampered heroine. A great character needs trials to overcome—experiences to give them depth, to make them vulnerable, relatable, and likable. Good characters need hardships to make them strong. The idea makes sense, but it still sucks if you’re the heroine.

My life had never been much like a fairy tale. I’d had no magical wishes come true, but no real tragedy, either. My dad had an affair and left Mama and me when I was eight, but other than that, I’d had it pretty good.

I’m sort of pretty—long, wavy black hair and smooth golden-brown skin, thanks to the Chilean heritage on my mother’s side. But I have my dad’s big, bright-blue eyes. I’m sort of smart—mostly A’s without ever having to study much. And I’m sort of popular—not exactly the prom queen, but never without my friends or a date on Saturday night, either.

I may have grown up without a father, but my mom was my best friend and that was good enough for me. Life, in general, was good enough. Then, last November my mom decided to surprise me with a weekend ski trip to Vermont for my birthday, and I got my first real dose of character-building tragedy.

“I booked us the full spa package so we can thaw in the Jacuzzi and get massages when we’re sore from skiing all day,” Mama confessed as we left the city of Boston behind us for the next four days.

“Wow, Mama! Not that I’m not grateful, but can we afford that?”

Mama laughed at me. I loved the sound of her laugh. It was a light, fluttery sound that made me feel as if I could float away on it. She always laughed. She was the most exuberant person I’d ever known. For her, life just couldn’t be any better.

“Listen to you, Ella. You’re turning eighteen, not forty.”

I grinned. “Like you are next month?”

“Cállate! That is our secret. If anyone asks, I will be thirty-nine for the rest of my life.”

“Sure, you will. Wait…are those…crow’s-feet?”

“Ellamara Valentina Rodriguez!” my mother gasped. “These are smile lines, and I am extremely proud of them.” She looked at me, and her bright eyes crinkled into smile lines around the edges. “With you as a daughter, I have had to work very hard to get these instead of gray hair.”

Snorting, I picked up my phone, which was dinging instant messages at me.

“You be nice to your mama, or I will embarrass you horribly in front of all the cute boys this weekend.”

I’d had a witty retort ready, but forgot it when I saw the message on my phone.

Cinder458: Your blogaversary is coming up, right?

Cinder458, or just Cinder to me, is my best friend in the whole world besides my mom, even though I’ve never met him. I’ve never even spoken to him on the phone. We’ve been e-mailing nonstop since he stumbled across my blog, Ellamara’s Words Of Wisdom, about two years ago.

My blog is a book and movie review blog. I started it when I was fifteen, and my third blogaversary was indeed coming up soon.

The name Ellamara is in honor of my favorite character in my favorite book series, The Cinder Chronicles. It’s a fantasy series written in the seventies and has become one of the most cherished stories in modern literature. Hollywood is finally making the first book, The Druid Prince, into a movie.

Ellamara is also my name. My mother read the books when she was a girl and loved them so much that she named me after the mysterious druid priestess. I was proud of the name, and of my mom for loving Ellamara best instead of liking the warrior princess Ratana like everyone else. Ellamara was a much better character.

Cinder is obviously a fan of the series, too. It was the name Ellamara, and my post on why she was the most underappreciated character in the book, that drew Cinder to my blog in the first place. He loves the books as much as I do, so I liked him instantly—even if he was writing to argue that Princess Ratana was better suited for Prince Cinder. He’s disagreed with most of my reviews ever since.

EllaTheRealHero: Do all those Hollywood friends of yours know you use words like blogaversary?

Cinder458: Of course not. I need your address. Got you a blogaversary present.

Cinder got me a gift?

My heart flipped.

Not that I was in love with my Internet best friend or anything. That would be utterly ridiculous. The boy was cocky and stubborn and argued with everything I said just to be infuriating. He also had lots of money, dated models—which meant he had to be hot—and was a closet book nerd.

Funny, rich, hot, confident, book lover. Definitely not my type. Nope. Not at all.

Yeah, okay, fine, so he wasn’t my type by default because he lived in California and I live in Massachusetts. Whatever.

Cinder458: Hello? Ella?? Address??

EllaTheRealHero: I don’t give out my address to creepy Internet stalkers.

Cinder458: I guess you don’t want this autographed first-edition hardback of The Druid Prince, then. Shame. I had it signed it to Ellamara when I met L.P. Morgan at FantasyCon last week, so I can’t try to impress any other girls with it.

I didn’t realize I was squealing until the car swerved.

“Por el amor de todo lo sagrado, Ellamara! Do not scare your poor mama like that. We’re in the middle of a snowstorm. The roads are dangerous enough without you screaming like a banshee.”

“Sorry, Mama. But Cinder said—”

“Híjole muñeca, not that boy again.” I recognized the tired voice. I was about to get one of my mom’s favorite lectures. “You do realize he is a complete stranger, right?”

I shook my head. “He’s not. I know him better than I know anyone.”

“You’ve never met him in person. For all you know, everything that he says could be lies.”

I’ll be the first to admit I’d wondered that before because Cinder’s life sounded a bit like a rockstar’s, but I’d known him long enough now that I believed he wasn’t a liar. “I really don’t think so, Mama. It’s possible he embellishes a little, but who doesn’t? And what does it matter? He’s just an Internet friend. He lives in California.”

“Exactly. So why do you waste so much time with him?”

“Because I like him. I can talk to him. He’s my best friend.”

Mama sighed again, but she smiled at me and her voice softened. “I just worry that you’ll fall for him, muñeca, and then what?”