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15 February 2021

Cinderella and The Cowboys by Gina Edney

Relly watches the commotion from the front of the saloon, two men on
horseback in oversized jackets create dust clouds as they approach. “Oh, look
at me I have an unreliable weapon which I can’t aim properly. Dang Cowboys.”
She mutters indignantly, her southern twang emphasising her distain.

The taller one, chewing tobacco, smiles as he reaches her. “Hi there,
pretty lady, I’m Anastasius.” He nods to his partner, “And this is Drizzy,” the
baby-faced one tilts his Stetson in greeting. “We’re looking for the man in
charge.” They confidently dismount.

Relly stays expressionless, “We don’t have a man in charge.” She
inspects them, neither look old enough to grow beards let alone command the
presence of a leader. “What’s your business?”

Anastasius stands causally. “Well, we heard of a nice little town that
might have some ranch work going.”

“How Charmin’.” Relly raises an eyebrow, “You saw the signs on your way
in…right?”

“Oh, yea! ‘Beware – visitors not welcome’ and them heads on spikes...”
Drizzy trails off nervously laughing, feigning ignorance to the town’s
reputation.

“Hmph.” She eyeballs the holsters, “We don’t do guns here.”

“You’re no threat to us.” Drizzy reassures.

“All the same, they stay outside.” she flashes a smile and pushes the
door open. The cowboys exchange a knowing look before removing their guns and
accepting the invitation inside.

Drizzy instantly catches sight of the diamond slipper atop the bar,
“Well that’s a fine piece of mineral.”

Relly looks between him and the diamond, “Yea, it’s the pride of this
town.”

“I can see why!” he walks closer to it.

“Hungry?” They both nod, Relly heads towards the kitchen, calling over
her shoulder, “Make yourselves at home.”

She reappears with some almost-stale bread and cold broth. She takes a
seat opposite them, her back to the diamond, watching Drizzy ravage the food
like a pig. She suppresses her disgust, “So, why come all this way for work?
There’s barely any farmland left…or men for that matter.”

“Where are the men…They all workin’ the mines?” Drizzy asks through
slurps.

“Somethin’ like that.” Relly nods, looking over his shoulder through the
window to the anticipative crowd of women.

“What about that curse?” he questions, immediately followed by a
loud slap as Anastasius clips his ear.

Relly appears surprised, “So, you believe the stories?”

Anastasius glares at Drizzy who busies himself finding a drink,
confirming Relly’s suspicions about their real intentions. “Would be silly not
to heed warning of disappearances on the roads.” Anastasius leans forwards, clasping
his hands on the table. “Is it true – men that venture too near vanish?”

She leans in to return the whisper, “You tell me, you’re the outsider
and…I think you’re supposed to be a man.” She fires.

 “I can handle myself, much like I think you can.” He shoots back.

Relly, tensing slightly, “…No idea what you mean.”

He leans back, catches her gaze, “Explain to me this – how does a town
with no mines, no livestock, and no men,
keep running?”

“We look after each other.” Relly states unfaltering.

“Sounds an awful lot like a cult.” He takes a sip of his drink, “With
them heads out there, you got me thinking…is this some sort of outlaw town?”

“You some kind of outlaw?” Relly narrows her eyes.

“I’m a cowboy out of work, we’re all outlaws – how else would we survive?”
His calmness unwavering as he checks to see where his partner is before
continuing, “So, this place got any need for some muscle?”

“No.” She says bluntly.

“Surely you could use a hand protecting that diamond of yours? After all
you’ve got a reputation.” he persists.

“Apparently so. But we’re doing just fine keeping it safe.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Why’s that?” They lock eyes.

“You left it unguarded.” For a second Relly feels panicked, as if this
kid with a Stetson had played her. If only he’d been smarter, he’d have
scarpered before arriving.

She composes herself and marches to the door. “I think you should be on
your way.”

“Oh, don’t worry, we’ll be leaving, just as soon as we get what we came
for.” He pulls on his jacket, sauntering to the door, “I prefer a more friendly
workplace anyway.”

Drizzy appears, placing the diamond into oversized pocket. Relly folds
her arms defiantly, “What makes you think you can leave with that?”

“You’re unarmed,” A cold barrel presses against Relly’s throat. “And
we always have backup.” Realisation spreads across her face as
she concedes. “There’s a good girl.” He sneers, pushing past her out of the
saloon. She follows, watching them mount their horses. The women encircle them,
forming a barricade.

“You’d think for a town with such a dark reputation you’d be more
intimidating.” Anastasius admits, “I was expecting better than a bunch of
defenceless women.” He scoffs.

Relly’s face has turned spiteful not fearful now, “You know…if you’re
going to try to steal something precious in a town known for defendin’ itself,
you better make damn sure you’re not playing into their hand…”
The cowboys turn to make their getaway only to find the townsfolk entrapping
them.

“I said no guns, never said we ain’t armed.” Relly smirks, flicking a
small dagger at Drizzy’s hat. The speed – or perhaps his lack of gumption –
sends him squirming to the ground. “Awh, sorry – guess I’m not as good a shot
as I thought. Lemme try again.” Relly throws a second dagger into Anastasius’
heart. The townsfolk cheer as he tumbles from his horse.

She turns to Drizzy, who is whimpering in the dirt, and launches another
dagger that connects with his eye socket. “Bullseye!” She yells, retrieving the
diamond as he collapses.

Anastasius splutters as he gasps his final breath. She leans down to
him, “That diamond is this towns heart. You really think we were gonna to let
you take it?” She pulls the dagger out of his heart and begins cleaning it. “I
warned you, we don’t take kindly to strangers, this place is called Azrael for
a reason. You boys should have known better.” 


Our Blog Theme for February is 'Genre Roulette' - retellings of tales in different genres, decided by a randomiser. For more on the process, read Assistant Facilitator Matt L.T Smith's blog post here: http://artfulscribe.co.uk/blogs/342/genre-roulette-the-new-board-game-everyone-s-playing

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