Once upon a time there lived a gentleman, whom by his first wife had a daughter. The young girl was so good and so gentle that she promised to grow up into the loving image of her dead mother. The gentleman soon grew lonely and remarried, his second wife a widow with two grown-up daughters. Shortly after the wedding the stepmother began to show her true colours. So opposite were she and her daughters to the young Tara that she forced the quiet girl into doing the meanest household work making their clothes and therefore saving money by not having to hire a seamstress. Tara was made to scrub the floors, polish the tables, iron the linen, darn the stockings, and whilst her sisters had their own apartments with full length mirrors and elegantly carved beds, she herself slept at the top of the house upon a straw mattress.
The gentleman, where once he would hug and cherish his daughter, was now so completely under his new wife's influence that Tara no longer felt that she could speak to him, even when she was called - for the laziness of her sisters knew no bounds - to tie a simple ribbon and was met with nothing but abuse, nothing could she say.
One day an invitation arrived through the door stating that the King's son and daughter were giving a ball and the two sisters, whose names where Anya and Hallie, were invited. This just caused more worry for Tara as it meant that she would have to help them dress, iron their linen and pleat their wristbands.
During the preparations Anya turned to Tara and said, "Would you not like to be going to the ball?"
To which Tara replied, "Alas, it is not for the likes of me to be there."
Hallie, not content to sit idly by offered, "You're right. Folks would definitely not want to see your kind there, you wouldn't even have anything to wear!"
Now normal folk, like you or I, would have pinned on their hats askew or pushed in the pins just a little carelessly. Not Tara, she was born without malice in her, she dressed her sisters as she would want to be dressed herself. To perfection, and all without thanks or one ounce of gratitude. They were ready a full two hours before the coach arrived for them, and once they were on their way Tara followed the sight with her eyes for as long as she could before the tears rose up and blinded them.
Alone now Tara made her way to her dear chimney corner in the kitchen and wept. Suddenly, between sobs, she looked up, a strange blue glow having caught her attention. Looking over she saw what she thought was an angel, with curly blonde hair and a dress like nothing she had ever seen before. In her hand the stranger held a wand, which held a bluish-green flame at its end.
"Good evening dear" said the stranger. "You seem upset, what is the matter?"
"I w-w..." Tara stuttered, her fear and tears getting the better of her. "I wish-" she tried, only to begin weeping again.
"You wish to go to the ball, am I right?"
"Yes" Tara said with a sigh.
"Well then, dry your tears, dear, and we'll see what we can do about that. I'm Joyce, your Fairy Godmother."
"My what?" Tara blurted before she could stop herself.
"Don't worry about that now, um, do you happen to have any pumpkins in the garden?" Joyce asked.
Tara thought this was an odd question. She told her Godmother that there was a whole bed of them in the garden, even though she couldn't see what pumpkins had to do with going to a ball.
Out into the dark garden they went and over to the pumpkin patch. Pointing to the finest of all with her wand, Joyce commanded, "Pick that one."
Tara picked it and handed it to her Godmother who scooped out the inside of the fruit until only the rind was left. Then she tapped it with her wand and before Tara's astonished eyes, it transformed into a beautiful golden coach.
"Next we must have horses," said her Godmother, "do you have any mice?"
Tara ran to her mousetrap and found six mice inside. As they were freed, Joyce tapped each one with her wand and they turned into beautiful white horses.
Now the trouble was to find a coachman.
Tara, who by this time had dried her tears and was beginning to enjoy herself, went to the rattrap where she found a large rat that was soon turned into a fat coachman.
"Go to the end of the garden, dear, and in the corner of the wall behind the watering-pot, unless I'm mistaken of course, you will find six lizards. Bring them to me."
As soon as Tara had brought them over then her Godmother had changed them into six footmen, who at once climbed up behind the coach as though they had been doing it forever.
"Now child, you shall go to the ball."
"But how?" answered Tara. "I only have these horrid clothes!"
"Ah, yes. I had thought of that. Close your eyes"
Tara closed her eyes as her Godmother touched her with her wand. Instantly her rags were turned into a beautiful ball gown and her hair began to curl and raise, arranging itself about her head.
"Now there's something missing," said the Fairy Godmother, as she looked Tara up and down. "Oh, of course, shoes." From behind her back she produced a pair of glass slippers and helped Tara to place them on her feet. As far as glass slippers went, these, Tara decided, were pretty comfy.
Helping her into the coach, her Godmother had but one word of warning. "Whilst I have the power to send you to the ball, it will only last until midnight, therefore you must not stay beyond the stroke of twelve as your coach will once again become a pumpkin, your horses will once again be mice and your dress will turn back into the rags I found you in."
Promising that she would remember, Tara thanked her Fairy Godmother and waved goodbye as she started her journey towards the palace.