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What If Cinderella Didn't Make It?
Author's note: I am SUCH Disney kid. I luv the Disney movies and Cinderella is in my top five (Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Prince of Eygpt, Beauty & the Beast). So writing based on her is pretty fun for me.
We all know the story, right? We all know about Cinderella and her magical night that changes her whole life?
Oh, you know! Cinderella, the poor young girl living under the presence if her wretched stepmother and stepsisters? Cinderella, the poor young girl that found her fairy godmother that transformed her into a knockout just in time for the prince’s ball? Cinderella is that poor young girl that had to flee from the ball at the stroke of midnight so she wouldn’t get revealed as the fortuneless maid that she really was! Yes, now the bells are ringing!
Yes, it was such a lovely story, indeed. She saw the experienced the most magical things that night – mice turning into horses, a magical fairy godmother, riding in a pumpkin carriage to a ball! Who wouldn’t get excited about that? Oh, and to make it all perfect, she danced the night away with the prince! But everyone knows that all good things come to an end at one point and this night had an expiry date – midnight and it was over.
So of course, in all her bliss, Cinderella lost track of time and at midnight – uh-oh – she was still at the ball. What did she do? She fled! In all her haste, her glass slipper fell off. She couldn’t turn back, though. She needed to get out of there and fast!
And the rest is known fairytale history – the prince went in search of his love, looking for the perfect foot that would fit the slipper that belonged to his beautiful mystery woman. Blah, blah, blah, he found Cinderella and they all lived happily ever after.
What a nice bedtime story to read and believe that life is fair and everything can turn into a nice little fairytale like Cinderella’s. But, come on, let’s get real. In reality, anything can happen. So I ask you, what would happen if Cinderella didn’t make it out in time?
This is the story of Cinderella in modern day situations, so that means no plump magic ladies or mice-horse animals – nada.
This is my story, and I’m telling you right now, plain and clear: there is no happily-ever-after ending guaranteed.
To me, a dream is like a wish – a pleasant wish that saunters through your mind at your most relaxed state in time. So, like a wish, if you tell someone your wish, or if they know your wish, it won’t come true. It’s not even a matter of wishful thinking or being superstitious: it is a fact and my life backs up very well.
“I would like my nails done this year!”
“Where is my drink? I need it now!”
“Hurry up with those dishes!”
I raced from outside, to inside, and back outside again. It was a mission swerving past the many beauty products spread out across the floor, making a trail from my bedroom. I didn’t use any of them, of course; my room was just storage for the useless junk because the rooms of my two stepsisters and stepmother were full of all their other ‘important’ things and huge egos.
My wish was to be free from this ‘lifestyle’. I wasn’t born an overworked servant and I wanted to get out and be free like I was before. Of course, my ‘masters’ know this – my wish, my dream – and so therefore, it won’t come true. It’s sad, it’s unfair, but it’s life, not a dream. There’s a big difference.
In one hand I held a plate of everything I needed to get the perfect nails for my imperfect stepsister, Ella – a brush for her course hands, nail polish remover, lotion, and nail polishes in the newest and pinkest shade of pink.
I ran it over to where Ella was lying lazily on her personalized lawn chair that was sitting on the perfectly cut grass by – none other than – me this morning at 7 a.m. I placed the spa-like platter on the table beside the chair and assured her that I’d be right back.
She simply responded with a scowl and head toss.
Using the very little balance I had, I carried a huge glass of iced tea with extra ice over to Anna, managing to successfully do so without spilling it on her, the grass, or me.
“It took you long enough!” she snapped at me, making a grab for the glass. I noticed that her nails could use some fixing up too, but didn’t say anything – I didn’t need another chore to deal with.
Anna peered into her glass, wrinkled upturned nose, knit her oddly plucked brunette eyebrows, and pursed her pale lips into her signature scowl. “Do you want me to choke on this?”
“Please do,” I muttered, waiting for her to go on complaining.
“A little less ice, and a little more tea!” she ordered, pushing the drink back at me. “Go!”
With a kick to the back of my knees, she sent me in a lurch to the ground. I glared up at her. “Anna!”
“What?” she asked, smirking down at me and creating enormous amounts of sweat to make a wet home on me from the sunlight. “You were going slowly! Get another glass.”
I picked myself up with her spilled glass of iced tea that had too much ice and stomped back to the kitchen. I groaned at the growing pile of dished in the sink that I would have to get finished within the next half hour. Having to refill another glass of perfect juice for Anna along with a manicure for Ella was annoying enough without the dishes added to my burden. Also list of things that I had to do before dinner were the two textbooks that were waiting in my room – I mean, my family’s storage closet – to be cracked open and studied for the upcoming tests this week.
“CINDY!” Ella hollered from the yard. “MY NAILS AREN’T GETTING ANY BETTER!”’
I couldn’t argue with her there.
As quickly and carefully as I could, I whipped up another tall glass of iced tea (with less ice) and carried it out to Anna who was singing and off-key version of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’.
“Oh, finally!” she said, stopping in the middle of an ear-murdering chorus. After seven seconds of looking around in her drink and me holding my breath, she took a sip. After a curt nod of satisfaction, I relaxed and was foolish enough to not stay on my guard while I was in public view of the three most critical and judgemental eyes in all of Canada.
“Don’t slouch, Cindy!” snapped Lady Mai, my stepmother.
She seems to always appear out of nowhere, catching me when I was doing the things she hated most – yawning, coughing, sneezing, leaning, breathing heavily…living.
“And how about those dishes???” she practically screeched in my ears. “How many meals do I have to deprive you of before you actually do something around here?”
“Sorry, Lady Mai,” I mumbled, straightening up my back as I walked over to Ella, finally ready to get onto her nails. “I’ll do it as soon as I’m finished with Ella.”
She nodded with her infamous squinty-eyed, stony stare and turned on her heel to head back into the house.
“I swear, Cindy, you’re slower than Chore,” Ella huffed as I started with her fingers. I made a face at the dead skin peeling off her long fingers and swallowed my spit as I continued.
“Chore isn’t slow, he’s just…cautious,” I said, wincing at how stupid that sounded.
Chore was very slow and everyone knew it. He was by far the most delayed, lazy, undisciplined, and inactive out horse we owned – so, with that being said and determined, he was mine. Why we even had him, I did not know. What I do know is that his name is what he is known for – a chore. Taking care of him is horrible because all he does is eat, demand hay for his long sleeps, and trudges through the most mud in our farm field during his daily “run”, making me have a hassle for horse-show cleaning.
Honestly, how books and movies portray having horses seem amazing: you can ride whenever you want and spend time with your best friend, but with Chore – no way. Taking care of Chore and being his owner is about as stressful as running errands for Lady Mai, Ella, and Anna.
“That means be attentive of your surroundings and act carefully,” I said to her as I did my best to fix one of her hangnails. I couldn’t help it! Sometimes Ella honestly didn’t understand the words I used and treating her appropriately – like a slow-learning toddler – was both productive and amusing.
“I know what it means!” she snapped at me.
I gasped mockingly. “Really?”
Ella did not approve. She opened her big mouth wider than I thought was possible and shrieked, “Mother! Cindy called me stupid!”
In an instant, Lady Mai was strutting her way over to us (though I really didn’t know why; she really had nothing to flaunt) with an happy evil smile on her face – now she actually had a good reason to punish me.
“Cindy, Cindy, Cindy,” she said, clicking her tongue and shaking her head, “is it really all that hard to respect you sisters?”
“Stepsisters!” I muttered quietly as she closed her eyes dramatically.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to add cleaning after Lucy when you’re finished with Chore today,” she said, sounding delighted by the idea.
Lucy is our cat with an attitude and pride as big as my stepsisters. He was always walking around the house and barn as if he owned the place, when he was one of the smallest. His huge head balances on his neck, held high up in the air, leading his big body around as if a supermodel – Just. Like. Lady Mai.
Lady Mai inspected my work on two of Ella’s nails. “Beautiful, darling!” she droned to her, completely ignoring the fact that I had suffered and had to touch them. But then again, when had she ever noticed, or at least showed any source of appreciation to me?
Ella snickered as soon as her mother’s back was turned and stuck her tongue out at me. “Serves you right!”
I ignored her complaining and gloating the rest of the half hour it took me to take care of her chipped nails and poorly moisturized hands. Finally, after waiting another five minutes of Ella debating over hot pink or pale pink, I applied the bottle closest to me and was put out of that misery.
“Oh, and Cindy?” she called after me as I hurried away.
It took a lot of my well practiced will power to not whip my head around crazily and shriek, “WHAT?” at Ella like the spoiled brat she was after one of the rare moments when she couldn’t get what she wanted.
“Next time, try not to squeeze my hand to much,” she said, surveying them carefully. Getting her ‘Something-Isn’t-Right’ face on, she pursed her lips and arched her eyebrows. “If I’m not mistaken, it was like you were trying to hurt me…”
I modelled a fake smile that didn’t give away my exact intention. “I wouldn’t think of it.”
Finally, now I can get started on the dishes and –
“Cindy?” came Anna’s agitating voice rang suddenly. “More juice?”
– add another thing to my list of burdens to finish.
“Oh, and me!” Ella chimed. “Except I want lemonade instead… The pink kind! …No, the normal one…wait, what if you mix those to together…?”
I groaned as I trudged back into my house. My books would stay untouched on my poor excuse for a desk in my hopeless excuse for a room for a long time.
My mom died of some sort of sickness when I was barely three so I barely knew her. My dad had to raise me. I had grown used to the idea of not having mother and could depend on my dad for anything at anytime.
He worked at home all the time, managing our home farm and teaching me how to, too. It was fun coming home from school and being able to get down to business of feeding the goats and then milking them, shaving the sheep and storing their wool, caring after the baby animals, and watching over the old, tired ones. The feeling of love was mutual between the animals we had – horses, cows, goats, chickens, and that unusual duck.
It was nice that way. We had a nice, cozy, pleasant life. That is, until my dad lost his mind and actually took a liking to another woman – a deranged woman. He started showing actual affection for Mai Cremaine, who he called his special angel when they were dating. My nine-year-old self was scarred. Mai and her daughters would act nice to me in front of Dad for show, but would reveal their absolute witch-like selves when he was up to ten feet away and out of earshot. I knew they were bad news and would have to deal with their bullying. I wanted them to go away and never come back. But of course, nothing can stop two people from falling in ‘love’ (though I could barely call Mai taking a liking to our famous farm and the publicity and money it gets us love), so they got married and – poof, like magic – I had a hideous stepmother and two equally hideous stepsisters apart of my family.
I’d always considered my dad as a smart man, but now, after I found out that he was actually going to go through with marrying that fallen angel, I’d had second thoughts… Sure out loud, I accepted that Mai Cremaine was now my step-mom, but inside, she’d be the old witch that was lucky enough to snag my dad. So legally, she became Mai Rella – she took my last name. Well, no, no, no! I was not going to accept that! When she told me in confidence to never call her ‘Mom’, ‘Mother’, ‘Mommy’, or ‘Ma’, she gave me permission for Lady Rella. Well, you can imagine what I did – I laughed right in her face. She was no Lady Rella and never would be. Even though I didn’t really know my mom, she would be the only ‘Lady Rella’ in my heart, not some manipulative wannabe trying to be the queen of our farm. So for me, it was either Lady Mai or – my preference – Ugly Toad (privately, of course)
Anyway, when I was eleven, Dad went on one of his runs to do a massive errand in Toronto. He would usually let me come with him, but this time he didn’t because it was getting a little gray and chilly outside. Dad didn’t want to take me out on the wet roads so he made me stay home with my ‘new family’ that hated me as much as I hated them.
I was counting down until Dad came back to put me out of my misery. It would usually take him between 45 and 60 minutes to get there, go through his shopping list, add extra sweets, and get back. It was supposed to be the regular old routine. Dad left at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, but by 4:30, he was back.
Just a few minutes late, I told myself, no biggie.
But by 5:00, he still wasn’t back and I was getting worried – so worried, in fact, that I went to talk to Ugly Toad about it.
“Calm down!” she snapped as she flipped through some bills. “He’ll be back soon enough.”
But he never was.
We found out later that he had been in a car accident and hadn’t survived. I was – and still am – heartbroken. Ella and Anna were a little upset that they wouldn’t have another personal slave to wait on them like how their mother did, but other than that, they didn’t show any sympathy.
If Lady Mai felt anything in her heart, she didn’t show it. I had to beg her, convince her, complain to her, and threaten her to help me organize of funeral for my father and I was eleven.
Now I’m fourteen and treated worse than before because I was fatherless and no one even cared. My only source of true happiness was my old dog, Bruno. He was smart, though, and spent most of his time in the barn with the other animals for fear of coming in contact with Lady Mai, and the sassy sisters. He also steered clear of Lucy because he knew that if he did anything to him (which he really wanted to since she was always pestering him), he would be out of the picture faster than my father.
It was a shame that I was a lone prisoner stuck in this house. My only escape was the barn, which was smelly enough, so I pretty much had to wait it out in here and –
“Where’s my breakfast?” Anna demanded in the morning just as I got downstairs.
I rubbed my temples, already feeling a headache coming on. I had barely gotten four hours of sleep, studying and finishing up my homework. Now, the first thing I got when I came downstairs after a cold shower was the most irritating voice a girl could be given screeching at me for breakfast. What ticked me off the most was that she was literally a foot away from the refrigerator. Anna was leaning on the kitchen counter, waiting for me in front of the source of her food that would fatten her up even more, to fix her something satisfying.
“I just got down here, Anna,” I said, opening the fridge and peeking inside.
“I know!” Anna said with a narrow-eyed head shake. “Lazy, lazy, lazy! How can I get down here before you?”
I pulled out some milk and a bowl from the cupboard. “Cheerios or Frosted Flakes?”
She looked thoughtful. “Waffles.”
I sighed sharply and rammed the milk back into its pocket in the fridge and took out the box of waffles. “One or two?”
“Is it possible for you to stop eating?” I mumbled to myself as I got out the orange juice I knew she’d demand for later.
Anna hummed happily to herself as I fixed her breakfast up for her. She stopped a few times to comment on what a nice, long, interruption-free sleep she got and I found myself slumping forward with my eyelids pulling my head to the ground quite a few times.
“Here you are,” I said, pushing the plate of waffles into her hands.
Ella skipped into the kitchen and greeted Anna good morning. She turned to me with greedy eyes after spotting Anna’s good-looking breakfast. “I want that.”
“Of course you do.”
“What was that?” Ella asked, her ear twitching slightly.
In ten minutes, I had five pancakes ready for Ella’s never-resting stomach and served her. In less than ten seconds, the plate was shoved back at me and Ella made a disgusted face. “Never mind. I’ll take cereal.”
“What? Why?” I demanded, grabbing the plate from her angrily.
Ella pouted a bit. “I don’t feel like waffles anymore.”
“Here.” Anna’s empty plate got shoved into my hands, too. “Do what you do. Get rid of it. I’ll be working on my tan.”
Don’t you mean your sunburn? I thought bitterly.
I rolled my eyes and dumped her dish in the sink as she took her orange juice from the table without a thank you or any sign or recognition that I was the source of her morning nutrition.
This was basically how all my weekday morning was. It was quite sad, how they depended on me for everything. I would pay to see the day that they did something that had to do with a real working effort by themselves. That would be an opposite day. Imaging Ella and Anna doing their own homework and cleaning their own rooms was just too much for me to handle. It seemed so painfully real, like maybe one day, when I finally ran away or got kicked out of the house, it would actually come to that resolution.
But that was just fantasy. And from my experience, fantasies are just a waste of time – it was just useless time wasted when I could be finding ways to deal with my painful reality.
“Uh, cereal?” Ella prompted, pulling me out of my in-between fantasy stage. “Now?”
I blinked at her and tried not to snap her wrist that was moving around as she waited for me with attitude to comply. “Cheerios or Frosted Flakes?”
“Sorry!” a girl said after she had bumped into me in the halls. “Didn’t see you there.” She hurried ahead in the hallway to join a group of her friends that were giggling and whispering about a boy that was down the hall from them.
That was normal for me, though. My presence at school didn’t really sink into the minds of my classmates because I just blended in… Or rather…didn’t.
I didn’t really belong to a specific group of people so I didn’t have title like Cheerleader or Nerd or Artist. I’m just sort of… In The Middle. I’m not an idiot, but I’m not really smart in all academics at all. In the toughest subject for me (French), I have a 77% average, but in my best subject (science), I have a 96%. And for other subjects, it really just depends on the mood I’m in. If it’s a horrid day where Lady Mai makes me make her breakfast and scrub her feet on a day of a Math quiz, I’ll barely pass, but if it’s a better day where Ella and Anna fight over which one is getting their schoolwork organized first, I’ll probably get an A on my English test.
Today, after having to make Ella’s cereal five times until perfection and assuring Lady Mai that I had helped Anna study for her history test, and guaranteeing her at least a B+, I was feeling okay. I did have science class first period, so that was at least good.
“If I fail that test, Cindy, it’s on your head,” Anna said to me as she past her locker on her way to class with Ella and four of their other friends.
“It’s not like my life will have a difference,” I said to myself as I dug around my locker for my science binder.
Finding it in its usual spot on the top shelf, I stood on the tips of my toes to retrieve it. When I hopped down off the ledge of my locker that I was standing on, I got slammed right back into my locker. The blow took me by such surprise that I couldn’t even make a sound as I twisted and heard a loud crunch as I accidentally stomped on my pencil case.
“Aw, come on!” I groaned as I pushed on my locker door that was holding me captive. But when I pushed up against the door, it wouldn’t open. I pushed harder and harder. I even jumped against the door.
I am not getting out of here, I realized with a pathetic growl.
I squirmed in the small space and took in the limited air I was having mixed with the gross, distinct smell of gym clothes. I regretted not taking them home this weekend for my laundry round now.
I pounded on the door loudly but I could still hear the buzz of kids in the hall running around and going crazy in the hallway. “Hello? Can someone get me out of here?”
But the noise went on for at least a minute more. Then, RIIIING, the bell went and the daily sounds of the halls momentarily got louder while all the late people made their final turns to class and teachers slammed doors closed.
They it was silent and I was alone.
“Uhhhh!” I groaned as I half-heartedly pounded on the door. “Can someone. Please get. Me out. Of here.”
My glow-in-the-dark watch said 9:04. Great, now I’m late for class.
I knew who had done this. It must’ve been Ella. It was probably still payback for yesterday since I insulted her and called her stupid. Or maybe she got someone to do this for me since I had given her ‘attitude’ when serving her breakfast this morning. Or it easily could’ve been because I had pushed her off the swing one time when we were nine and we had just met (I had hated her right away when she said my dress was ugly). Who knew? Ella was the master of holding grudges and getting revenge.
“I hate you Ella,” I muttered as I tried to find a comfy position in the locker. I would be in here for awhile. “I hate you and your stupid sister, Anna, and your stupid ugly mother Mai and your stupid annoying voice and stupid loud demands and your stupid –”
I shifted in my uncomfortable coffin. “Hello?!”
“Is someone there?” a voice asked. It was a boy’s.
“Yes!” I said, leaning on the door. “In this locker! Um…135!” I pounded on the door to get the stray boy’s attention.
I hear fumbling and saw the locker door shaking a little bit so I knew that the anonymous guy was at least trying to get me out. But I doubt he would be able to open it. There was obviously a lock on it, so there wouldn’t be some certain combination that he would know.
“Listen, I think you should get the janitor…whoever you are,” I called to him after a few more seconds of fumbling. “He could help.”
“Nah, it’s good,” he said. “I can get it.”
I rolled my eyes. Who was this guy, thinking that he would be able to crack the correct numbers of all the different possibilities in the world of lock combos? “Doubt it!”
The locker door swung open.
“How did you get it open?” I asked him.
“Are those doubts gone?” he asked with a smile. He swung the lock around his fingers playfully. “It’s my lock.”
His lock. Hmmm. It was his lock that had locked me in my own locker. That’s not causing any me any suspicion at all.
“Yeah, well, thanks for nothing,” I grumbled as I stepped out of the small space that was giving me cramps. “Now I’m late for class!”
The boy cocked his head. “Now, I never said that I locked you in there.”
“Then?” I asked, expecting…well, I don’t know actually. If it was his lock, he must’ve locked me in, and he must’ve been proud of himself, not willing or even thinking of apologizing.
He shrugged. “Must’ve been some of my friends.”
Uh-huh. So either he was telling the truth and was stupid enough to not notice his missing lock this whole morning or he was lying and had obeyed Ella and locked me in my locker.
I didn’t care for his reasoning. I didn’t care that he looked sorry. I didn’t even care that he was Jonathan King, the student leader of the school. Whether he was considered the coolest guy in school or not: I was angry because I was late for class and still a little sore from being kept in that confined space.
I grabbed my books again in a huff and stormed down the hall, hearing the humour in his voice as he called to me again that he was sorry and didn’t have anything to do with my capturing and sealing. I didn’t reply to Jonathan. I just kept moving toward my science class in the same half-running/half speed-walking pace, hoping that time would get turned back and I wouldn’t have to deal with the loud “You’re late!” exclamation when I got to class.
“You’re late, Cindy!” my science teacher, Mr. Bales said as soon as I entered the classroom.
I glanced at the clock: 9:13. “I know, sir,” I said slipping into the only seat left, which was up at the front of the room. “I was stuck in a –”
“Never mind that,” he said dismissively. “The point is that you’re here and ready to apply your knowledge on paper. Here’s your test.”
I nodded and was glad that I didn’t have to really explain why I had been late. I didn’t need public declaration of the embarrassing prank pulled over me. The whole eighth grade didn’t need to find out I existed by one of my stepsister’s idea of a funny joke and brilliant revenge.
Anna was sitting right beside me and she snickered as I hastily pulled out two pencils and an eraser from my broken pencil case. Mr. Bales may be the teacher of my favourite and best subject, but he was still tough and he made hard test – one that I only have approximately 45 minutes left to write.
“Good luck…” Anna cooed quietly with a smirk. I glanced over at her paper and saw crazy circles around the letter options. I looked down at my paper, and started circling my answers: none of Anna’s answers were the same as mine. She was going to fail and she knew it.
I would need good luck to get out of my upcoming punishment. Because if Anna or Ella failed, the revenge fell, and it wouldn’t lessen until a sudden prevail. Knowing that wouldn’t happen, I tried to block out what would greet me home the day Anna got her test back.
“How did your test go, sweetheart?” Lady Mai asked Anna as she pushed past me to get into the house.
I snorted: sweetheart. Yeah, right!
“It was a toughie!” she said, nodding vigorously. “So if I get a bad mark, it isn’t my fault, right? Mr. Bales thinks we’re all some sort of geniuses!”
I snorted again to myself as I dropped my bag on the floor. No, not all geniuses…
“Anyway,” Anna said. “It’s either his fault or Cindy’s. Neither are good teachers.”
Lady Mai’s hand rested on my shoulders and I felt the slight prick of her too-long fingernails. “You had better have been satisfactory for Anna.”
“I am!” I said, offended. Science was my ball game! If Anna’s tiny brain could process my teaching, it wasn’t my fault.
Lady Mai eyed me as if I dared to say anything more that was on my mind. I kept my mouth shut so I wouldn’t end up with double-duty dishes.
I moved my bag up to my room and sighed when I saw the state in which it was in – uncontrollably messy again. Pushing some of Lady Mai’s stuff to the corner of my room, I was able to make a path to my bed and flop on top of it.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “if I can just get half my math done –”
“CINDY!” Ella hollered from downstairs.
I groaned and buried my face in my pillow to try to block the sound out. It was no use, though. If the princesses wanted something, they would get it. My life was like a terrible TV show, and today was the beginning of the most annoying re-run.
I heard the distant sound of pattering rain and felt a few drops freefall onto my forehead. Blinking away the fuzziness of sleep, I looked up ruefully at the small opening in my ceiling: another thing I would have to fix – or at least try to fix.
Snores from down the hall erupted. Now I really wasn’t going to get any sleep. I slipped on my run down slippers from beside my bed and climbed out of bed.
I can at least finish the math homework I could never get to, I thought as I grabbed my math stuff and padded down the smooth staircase steps. I flicked the kitchen light on and sat down at the table ready to get absorbed in the crazy and confusing world of numbers and operations.
Tap, tap, tap…tap, TAP, TAP! The rain hit the window as if its mind wasn’t made up on how fast or hard it would like to fall – it kind of reminded me of the day my father went out and never returned. It was times like this where I really missed my dad and wondered how big a difference would be made on my life. I at least knew that I wouldn’t be the servant girl of three witches.
I felt a small prick on my foot and looked down quickly. Lucy was looking up at me with disgust; as if I didn’t belong here. Well, I guess I didn’t, because it was 2 a.m. in the morning and Lucy was known for prowling around more at the dark hours. In a way, I was in her turf now even though she had invaded my house with Lady Mai, Anna, and Ella.
That was another thing: if my dad was still alive, I’m sure that we wouldn’t have Lucy because my dad was not a cat person at all. Lucy had been brought into our ‘family’ after my dad died and we’d hated each other immediately. Either I wasn’t a cat person, either, or Lucy was just a horrible one (my guess was the second): she led my stepsisters to me when I wasn’t fulfilling their demands right away, getting me in more trouble; she left her…business all over the floor as soon as I was done my giant floor clean; she scratched outside my door when it was obvious that I was very tired, just to keep me up, and…well, you get the gist of it. Lucy is evil – the equivalent of Lucifer from that movie Cinderella. Except, you now, Lucy is a girl, and she doesn’t trap my mice friends in cups; she tries to eat them up right away.
Honestly, I’d think that if a cat could inherit the genes from his owners as if she was born from them, Lucy would – she even had that same annoying ring to his meow that the Cremaines had to their voice and the same projected ugliness on her face and in her heart.
“Stop it, Lucy,” I said, pushing her away with my foot and writing down my sentence answer. There. I have one question finished.
Lucy meowed and ran against my ankles, to purposely make me feel uncomfortable. Unlike other cats, her fur was not a soothing soft. It was rough and uneven as if she was shaven badly – and I suppose she was, because Ella is always up for experimenting without question or caution.
Focussing my attention on my math homework and not Lucy, I was able to finish in half and hour more. It was nearly 3 a.m. and I knew I wouldn’t be getting to sleep, so I looked out the window by the kitchen that had a view of the perfect endless dirt road to pass the time. It was something I did quite often: when I looked through my window, I saw anything. One day, I’d see a parade of soldiers, marching to break me out of prison, and another I would imagine a parade of boys jogging to take me out.
Another thing to add to my list of great things that would have been great if Dad hadn’t died: my social life. I used to have friends. I used to have plenty ‘play dates’ with my girls when I was younger and run around with all the other girls and boys at recess. I remember it being fun and I remember even having a best friend and a crush. My former best friend was Stephanie (or Stephy for short) and we used to play with the chickens in the farm house. But after my dad passed, we drifted apart: I isolated myself from people for fear of getting close to someone and having them ripped apart from me again. I only found personal relationships in the safety and loyalty of animals (specifically Bruno, my old beagle dog).
Oh, and my crush? Well, of course I had one before the accident: I was nine, after all. Well, I can’t out it off much longer – it was Jonathan King. Yes, the annoying boy from the hallway was the one I used to fantasize about all day and night. But again, I separated myself from him even though we weren’t very close to begin with, and left all my nine-year-old-feelings of him behind.
I tried, at least. But trying to forget someone that you were obsessed with when you were younger is hard. For me, I actually have to really want to forget him, and I wish that I really could. That being said, and my wishes never really coming true, I couldn’t forget about Jonathan.
It’s not like it mattered anyway. I’m pretty sure Jonathan can’t even remember that we went to elementary together. He never talks to me like we’ve known each other for half our lives – but then again, neither do any of my other former classmates.
I sighed and leaned on the windowsill. Remembrance of all the confusion and drama of having a social life in school was coming back to me. I had to admit that at times I missed it. At times, I wanted to have people to talk to and share the pain that I was going through, but what’re you gonna do? I couldn’t help wondering what Jonathan was up to these days – you know, other than locking me in lockers and lying about it after.
The sky was still black as I looked out into the night (or very early morning) and searched for a good spot to rest my eyes on and think. I thought about how nice it would be to go to one of the parties Jonathan always threw that were talked about at school all the time and at home by Ella and Anna, who always got invited and for some reason thought that he was in love with them.
It must be fun getting recognized by him, at least, I thought. Even when we were talking in the hallway, Jonathan looked at me as if I was just some new student instead of the girl that was in every class with him since grade one and used to gaze at him from her window seat during lunch.
My mind drifted to how his upcoming Halloween party would turn out. All the kids were talking about it already and it was still two weeks away. But in high school, exciting news and gossip spread like wildfire and Jonathan King was always the dry spot that started the tiny spark and turned it into something huge.
Apparently, there would be a costume contest and more – a few tricked out scary rooms that would get kids to wet their pants, bobbing for apples, candy corn, and of course, scary story telling. It sounded like fun, I had to admit, but I didn’t have to admit that I wanted to go because I didn’t. I didn’t even know him anymore and I never really did. I wasn’t his friend so I wouldn’t show up at his house party as if I was one…even if it did sound like a night of amusing scary joy.
I was a loner and that was how it always would be.
I wasn’t invited to the party and that was how it would always be.
I was Cindy: unpopular; and that was how it would always be.
Despite my dreary mood at 3 a.m. this morning, I managed to get through school without feel miserable or terrible about myself. I skipped into the barn, greeted by the animals except the other three horses that weren’t allowed to acknowledge me because they belonged to the Terrible Trio.
I bent down to pat Bruno and let two mice scamper onto my other hand, up my arm, and onto my shoulder; their favourite resting place. “Good to see you too!”
I let the three big goats out and free, and watched with a smile on my face as the smallest one followed them out into the outdoor pen where they liked to be the best.
The chickens clucked excitedly when I walked by their pen because I actually let them out to run wild for a bit. There was no reason to confine them just because I couldn’t really be free either.
“Five minutes, all right?” I said, unlocking their small pen. Eleven of them ran out happily and did their crazy chicken dance, while one of them, Klucky, stayed by my side. Ironically, he was the quietest of the bunch, which was actually quite nice since he was always around me. I would probably have headaches everyday if he was as noisy as the others.
Chore whined from his place to get my attention. Here we go.
“Hello, Chore,” I said, patting his big neck. “I suppose you want your second lunch now.”
Chore shook his head and sent a little bit of spit on my face. His typical answer: he was dying for his second lunch. With the two mice still on my shoulders, Klucky at my heels, and Bruno bounding around me, I filled a bucket of water for Chore and brought a bag of his favourite food to pour into his manger.
When Chore saw me coming closer with his food, he grew excited and stomped by the swinging door that held him back from attacking our whole year’s worth of food.
“No, no, no!” I said, waving the bag of food around. “Wait patiently for this or it’ll have to wait.”
The last time I made the mistake of giving Chore food when he was very excited, he mistook my blonde hair for hay and started chewing until I shrieked and hollered. With the help of Bruno, I got him to let go of me and realize I wasn’t his snack. Now I wear my hair in a bun every time I’m in the barn just in case.
Chore slumped and bleated, then stepped away from the door so I could get inside. I poured the horse feed into Chore’s beaten up manger slowly, and before I could even finish, his mouth was down in deep, tickling my fingers and having a race against himself to finish his food in record time.
I back away for safety and let Chore bask in his nutritious glory. “You’re welcome, Chore!” Of course, no answer came, but that was okay. I didn’t need a sputtering answer of food just for recognition.
I quickly gave out the food to Prince, Princess, and Queen, the horses that belonged to Anna, Ella, and Lady Mai, and got back to the animals that enjoyed my presence.
I lay down in a pile of hay that was used just for me when I’d have a late night in the barn and would just fall asleep there. Bruno, some chickens (including Klucky), one little goat, and a few mice joined me. It was times like this, my animals and me so comfy and happy, that made a genuine smile appear on my face when I was at home.
“How about our song?” I asked them with the smile.
Bruno barked, the chickens clucked (including Klucky, this time), and the mice squeaked: it was unanimous then!
I started my own version of Old McDonald that I had taught to my buddies the first time I thought of it.
“Cindy Rella had a farm: E-I-E-O,
and on that farm she had a dog: E-I-E-O!
With a –”
Bruno barked in time throughout his whole part perfectly. It even sounded like he was in the right key, too. My dog had talent!
“Cindy Rella had a farm: E-I-E-O,
and on that farm she had some mice: E-I-E-O!
With a –”
The mice came in perfectly too, squeaking and scampering and jumping around happily for getting their well-earned exclusive parts.
It was time for my baby goat now:
“Cindy Rella had a farm: E-I-E-O,
and on that farm she had some mice: E-I-E-O!
With a –”
My goat croaked her solo in triumph and excitement. I scratched her under her chin and felt the soft fur and smiled. That feeling would never get old.
I turned to my chicken friends. “Okay, it’s your turn, now. Make me proud!
“Cindy Rella had a farm: E-I-E-O,
and on that farm she had some chickens: E-I-E-O,
with a –”
That did not come from my chickens and they were not happy that their part had been taken away. They squawked in protest and flapped their wings crazily.
“Hush, now!” I said, catching another one, Elli, before she bumped right into Klucky who was jumping off my lap. “Hush!” I looked up to see the cause of the pandemonium and gasped lightly to myself: Jonathan King.
Elli squirmed in my hands, clucking and scaring Klucky. He cowered up behind me and pecked at my back.
“Ow! Klucky!” I dropped Elli back on the hay and picked him up. I made eye contact with Klucky. “No. Calm down!”
Jonathan laughed from the entrance of the farm. “Are you doing okay, there?”
“I was before you came along,” I said, getting up and dusting myself off. I added, “And before you interrupted our song.”
Jonathan took a closer a look at me. “They’re chickens.”
“I’m well aware of that!” I snapped, letting Klucky go off with his friends. I reached into my barn apron pocket and sprinkled some food for them, leading a trail to their pen. In twenty seconds, they were all in and I locked the door. I sighed and leaned against the door and turned to Jonathan. “Now what do you want?"
Jonathan looked down at his feet when he started to speak which was good in a way, and irritating in another. Since he was looking down, I couldn’t see his cute face, so that was good. But when he was looking down, I couldn’t see his cute face, and that was terrible!
“You have a nice voice – singing voice, I mean. Not when you're muttering or shouting that you hate your Ella and Anna…”
Of course he’d bring up the locker incident – another moment to bask in glory of his hilarious prank.
“I doubt you’d think getting shoved into a locker was so funny if you were the one stuck,” I said to him.
His eyes flashed over from the horse stalls to me and I remembered why I had liked him so much before…
“Doesn’t seem like fun,” Jonathan said with a shrug, “that’s why I didn’t do it.”
This again! He did, he didn’t do it! He did it, he didn’t do it! How was I supposed to know if he was lying or not? …Why did I even care?
“It was your lock on my locker,” I pointed out to him. I glanced into Chore’s stall to see his manger empty and his hooves stomping again. “Ugh…”
I took my hair out and retied it in a tighter bun as I walked across the barn to get more food for my greedy horse.
“Doesn’t mean it was me,” Jonathan said. He smiled at me in a sort of hopeful way. “Come on. You know me. Would I really do that?”
I stopped in my tracks in surprise. ‘You know me.’ Did he really say that? How could I know him if I hadn’t had a real conversation with him for three years?
At my sudden detour, Chore whinnied to get my attention and I made my way to him again. “Last batch, Chore!” I warned before turning back to Jonathan.
“Well, I know you, at least,” Jonathan said when I didn’t give an answer to his last statement. “And you were never this serious before.”
I laughed hysterically in my head. Was this some sort of joke? He was acting as if he paid attention to me when we were younger! All I could do was chuckled outside of my head and shake my head. “You don’t know me, Jonathan.”
Jonathan looked stumped for a few seconds. Then he looked up at me again. “Can I get to know you?”
What was that one supposed to mean? He was confusing me with his questions and looks and insinuated statements. Finally, I decided on something that I could say back that would not answer the question, but cause him to think about it.
“I don’t know,” I said, glancing up at him. “Can you?”
Jonathan gave up. I could tell because he got a different look on his face and started up differently. He stopped leaning on the doorframe to the entrance and walked inside, looking around. He scuffed his black sneakers on the floor, leaving no mark but irritancy on me. After a few more seconds, he turned back to me with curious brown eyes. “So do you live in here?"
Okay, not the answer I was expecting…
“No,” I said, summoning Bruno to me, “I live in a house.”
“Really?” he said, looking even more curious. It felt as if the whole first part of the conversation had disappeared into thin air and he had only just arrived.
“Ella and Anna said you don’t live with them – you just take care of them.”
So Ella and Anna had been speaking lies about me? Well, that part didn’t surprise me as much. But they were speaking these lies to Jonathan King?
I decided that it wouldn’t matter. If I wanted to forget about him, I had to not care what he thought. I was vague. “Well, I don’t. Is that what you wanted?”
He shook his head and his messy brown hair followed. “Nah. Just came to give you this. You and Ella and Anna, I mean.”
Hmm. What could he possibly want to give me that also had to do with Anna and Ella?
He fished something out of his jeans pockets and gave me a black piece of paper. “Here.”
Deciding that it was nothing that would necessarily concern me, I tucked into my jeans pockets and shrugged. “I’ll give it to them when they get back.”
Jonathan looked momentarily surprised. “It’s for you too, I said.”
I knelt down to pick up a mouse – Jack – that was trying to scamper up my jeans. “Yea, but they’d probably not approve of it being opened before they are here.”
“How much do you get paid?” Jonathan asked me.
“Yeah,” he said, bending down to pat Bruno who was walking in circles around our legs. “You follow all of their orders. You must get paid well.”
I guess it could have been an honest mistake… Or it could be a really good insult. Me getting paid! Phew! That was a good one! I was literally broke with no more than a few quarters being carried around in my white sac – I mean, wallet.
Then again, he was the one that had caused me a tiny back pain for the rest of that day when he locked me in my locker and tried to act as if he had just stumbled on my problem.
“You can leave now.”
Jonathan frowned slightly. “What? What did I say?”
“Jonathan!” a shrill voice sounded. I saw Jonathan flinch. “How long does it take to deliver a simple –?” A tall lady with the same features as Jonathan, but more feminized stopped and stared at me. “Oh. Hello.”
She looked me up and down as I stroked Jack’s fur slowly. “You must be the –”
“This is Cindy Rella,” Jonathan interrupted his mom, I guessed, with a stern look.
“Oh. Right. Sidney.” She looked around and wrinkled her nose. I guessed that it was because of the big present Chore had just left for me. “So. Is your mother in?”
Now I flinched. I hated when people dared to call Lady Mai my mother. It was disgusting punishment to be related to her. I stepped forward shaking my head. “No, Lady Mai, and her daughters are out right now.”
Mrs. King took one last look around before making eye contact with me. “Okay, then. Come Jonathan. We have plenty stops to make.”
Jonathan gave me a pathetic little wave before he turned and left with his mother.
What was that all about?
Ignoring the letter that was in my pocket and burning a huge hole of curiosity, I unlocked the chickens from their pen and led them back to the hay so we could finish our song.
“Young, young, Cindy, had a farm: E-I-E-O…”
“Jonathan stopped by,” I said to Ella and Anna as they came inside with their mother and enormous amounts of shopping bags. “Gave this to me to pass onto you.”
Ella snatched it from my hands without a word and showed it to her sister. “It’s an invite to his Halloween party!”
Anna squealed with delight. “Eee! Read it then, Ella!”
“‘Come on out and celebrate Halloween with us!’” Ella read. I had to give her credit, she was reading up to the speed of a fifth grader now. “‘There will be plenty to eat and do. Make sure to bring out your best costume ever and prepare to have fun.’” Ella started reading the date and time and address stuff while I balanced the shopping bags Lady Mai was shoving into my arms. “‘Can’t wait to see you there, Ella, Anna, and…Cindy Rella.’”
I dropped the bags on the floor. “‘Cindy?’”
When Jonathan came by I didn’t think he actually meant it! …Well, I guess I did know, but I didn’t think it’d actually be official in writing! Plus I’d kinda forgotten about that part since the whole first part of our conversation was interesting, annoying, and weird.
“Cindy,” Lady Mai said with a disapproving look.
Oh, great. And suddenly this was my fault! Here it comes…
“Why is Jonathan King inviting you to his party?” Anna asked me, forgetting about the fact that her bags were now at my feet on the stairs.
“I don’t know.” And I really didn’t. Thinking back to the number of times I’ve talked to him since the accident when I tore myself away from socializing at school, I noticed that there were few times. Other than the locker incident at school and what happened in the barn, we barely spoke full sentence to each other. Irregardless of that, I felt an urge inside me and I really wanted to go now. Jonathan’s word’s echoed in my mind: ‘Can I get to know you?’
But a single glance at Ugly Toad’s face made me get second thoughts on whether I really could make an appearance at Jonathan’s party.
“Cindy, you cannot just slack on your responsibilities!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms up in frustration as if it’d been done a dozen times.
“On Halloween you need to decorate the house, give out candy, clean the girls rooms – you know how seriously they take their costumes!” Lady Mai said, ticking off the chores. “Including all your regular work with the sweeping and the mopping and the wiping and washing. I’m sorry but you simply won’t be able to attend!”
Ella and Anna clapped with glee. Ugly Toad stood with pride. I slumped up to my room: as usual, my wish didn’t come true.
As I flipped through my textbook upstairs, I heard Lady Mai getting ready to take the girls out for more shopping for their costumes, and I made another wish: I wished that I’d stop wishing so the wishes I wished for wouldn’t end up whisking away wishes away.
“Ouch!” I wagged my finger back and forth to let the air sink into the new bump I had just caused with my reckless tool using. To avoid getting hurt like me, there are two things you should know:
1) fixing a ceiling hole that gets bigger by the day is hard
2) only use a hammer to fix these holes if you have a First Aid kit on standby.
I suppose waiting a week and a half before doing any work on the hole in my ceiling was foolish, but there just weren’t enough hours in the day for me to catch up!
I wrapped my index finger in a cold cloth and put a bandage over it before I started up again. Just as I was about to pound again, a shriek stopped me from flattening my thumb.
“CINDY!!!!! COME CHECK ON MY BEAUTIFUL COSTUME!”
I hopped off my bed, actually a little bit happy to have an excuse to stop working on hitting all my fingers.
“Ella?” I said when I entered her room slowly. As usual, it was a mess. I noticed a few moments after that I was subconsciously creating a cleaning plan in my head. I shook the crazy out of me and focussed on what she was wearing. “What are you?”
Ella twirled around in her costume happily. “Isn’t it gorgeous?”
I could think of other adjectives to describe her…dress, I think. It was some sort of cross between a jade green and the green that came out of her nose when it was allergy season. If I didn’t know that Ella had an irrational fear of bats, I’d guess that she had pried the wings of a giant one and stitched to the collar of her dress. And maybe the…dress would’ve looked decent if it found a way to cover most of her face which was painted worse than a clown’s.
“Um…pretty,” I lied to her. “You make a great…”
“Wicked witch!” she exclaimed.
And suddenly it all made sense.
“A perfect wicked witch!” I assured her as I backed out if the room.
A wicked witch to all her mirrors…
“Oh, Cindy!” Anna sang from her bedroom. “Come envy me in my outfit!”
I prepared my eyes for the horrible sight I was about to see and slowly entered Anna’s bedroom. “Let’s see it,” I said, wanting to get it over with it (though I wasn’t sure my eyes were on the same page with me).
Anna jumped into view and I jumped back with a squeak. “Whoa!”
Anna draped a long hideously shaded orange shawl around her bare shoulders. “Lovely, isn’t it?”
“What world are you living in?” I muttered to myself as she skipped around her room in her even worse dress. It was puffing out at the bottom and least half a meter away from her in pink platform shoes. I wanted to see if I could guess what she was supposed to be because it would be quite an accomplishment.
A cross between a butterfly and a human…
Oh, I knew! An ugly evil stepsister!
“If you hadn’t already noticed,” Anna drawled, circling me with her bright coloured ‘gorgeous costume,’ “I’m the Wicked Witch!”
Lucy strutted into the room and examined Ella as she circled her. She stuck her nose up really high before running out of the room. I laughed despite my eyes yelling at me to close and my brain begging me to run from the room. I was actually in agreement with Lucy for once! Studying Anna’s heavily covered and made up face was …interesting. The amateur job hadn’t made a difference really: if she was going for someone who couldn’t decide which style to use for her face, she needn’t use any effort because she always looked like that in the morning. Even I can’t fix a disaster that bad.
“What?” Anna demanded. “What is it? Why are you laughing?”
“Cindy! Come help me add accessories!” Ella yelled, barging into the room. She gasped dramatically when she saw Anna’s costume and staggered back. “You stole my costume idea!”
I didn’t even know how they could identify what they were each going for because it wasn’t easy, trust me on that. It was probably a twin thing they shared, I decided as I backed away to the wall to watch the fun unfold before my eyes.
Anna wagged her finger in Ella’s face. “No, no, no, Ella! This was my idea first!”
Ella shook her head like a maniac. “Noooooo! Mother bought me this dress first and she was there with me! You were in a different store!”
Whoa, whoa, whoa! My ears were still processing. It was possible to get a dress that ugly in a store???? Two questions: how and why?
Anna stuck her chin out so far I swear it was about to hit Ella in the face. “She gave me money beforehand so HA! I got it first! Now you have to return it! I’m the Wicked Witch!”
“No, I’m the Wicked Witch!” Ella said, stomping. “I’m going to win that costume contest and Jonathan’s party this weekend!”
As they argued, my mind wandered to Jonathan’s party. I wondered how it would be. It sounded even more fun as people talked about it in the halls everyday. It was maddening to know that Jonathan had been paying attention to me, and was inviting me to his party but I couldn’t even go! The work just piled up as the party drew nearer – the barn mysteriously turned upside down after ‘someone’ let Chore loose with bags of his food was scattered everywhere, the kitchen was constantly getting herded by the chickens that ‘escaped’ their pen, the twins’ rooms always looked like a tornado hit, and Lady Mai was claiming that our farm sales are slow so I needed to start making more of our products better and faster.
There was no way I was going to Jonathan’s party and I knew it, but something was tugging at the back of my mind for me to find a way – anyway to get there because really, who was I kidding? I still liked Jonathan (still unsure about the locker situation because of how he acted in the barn) and if he had said he wanted to know me better, that was great because I felt the same way.
But how???? That was the question. How in the world would I get all my work done between now – Thursday – and the party? It was this Saturday on Halloween, and I had literally no time.
“Cindy!” Lady Mai scolded, all up in my face.
I took frightful steps back – Lady Mai was not a great sight to see when she was angry and within less than a foot than your face. Actually, she wasn’t a very good sight wherever she was.
“You’re sisters are fighting and you stand there giggling?” she scolded. “Shame, shame, shame: what a shame you are to be in my house!”
My house, mind you!
“Out into the barn! Now!” Lady Mai ordered, pointing her long pointy finger that matched her up-turned nose. “Go take Chore out for some exercise!”
And so the punishment went on.
“What are you going as to Jonathan’s party?”
It was the question going around at every corner I turned and I was getting sick of it. I wanted out! I was on the verge of sticking ear plugs in my ear because it just wasn’t fair that Ella and Anna got to go, but I didn’t! And why I couldn’t go – because I had work that needed to be finished. This was just another wish that would not come true for me; the story of my life; a tell-all predictable in detailed dialogue about how things like this would only ever happen to me, Cindy Rella, the most unfortunate girl at St. Ingrid High School.
Someone tapped on my shoulder. “Found the locker culprit.”
Before I even turned around, I knew by the voice, that it was Jonathan King. I had to compose myself before I turned around because, by now, my wish to forget about him and stop liking him had gone down the drain.
I turned around, trying to look neutral about the fact that he was talking to me. He was holding two hands on a guy a little bit taller than me and had a hopeful smile on his face.
I looked at the guy. “You locked me in my locker?”
He rolled his eyes, probably irritated that he was forced to be answering to me. “Yup. Ella paid me five bucks and I needed lunch.”
Well. That was good enough, I suppose. “Okay.”
I nodded at him. “Okay.”
He nodded too. “Okay” He turned to Jonathan. “Am I free now?”
Jonathan didn’t look happy about it but he let his friend go. He looked after him as he went and turned to me right away after he was out of sight. “What was that about?”
“What was what about?” I asked him as I started to gather my stuff for my Friday morning classes.
“That!” he exclaimed. “You were so ticked when you thought it was me but now that you know it was Harman, you’re all, ‘Okay.’”
I honestly didn’t think it was that big a deal anymore. Seeing as the thing I was currently ticked about concerned him, and he looked especially cute today, I had other things on my mind.
I shrugged. “I was mad then. I’m not now.”
“That’s it?” Jonathan said.
I nodded. “That’s it.”
That was it. I didn’t have anything left to say even though I really wanted to keep talking to him. I wondered if he felt the same way. Well, he had said that he wanted to know me better… Okay, so he didn’t exactly say that, but he asked if he could know me which was basically the same thing, right? Right?!?! …Maybe I’m just over-thinking this whole thing again… Or maybe by thinking that I’m over-thinking this, I’m really just under-thinking it…
He blew out some air and ran his hand through his shaggy hair. “You are something, Cindy.”
I would have been somewhat offended on other days, but he said it in a cute way, and he looked up and smiled at me too after he said it so it was just a joke.
Oops, over-thinking again! Or maybe I’m just under-thinking…
I was so busy over-thinking and under-thinking that I hadn’t even noticed Jonathan say goodbye and leave my view. But that was all right for now because I was blissfully thinking about being ‘really something’ to Jonathan King, the guy I had wished and yet failed to forget about.
The annoying feeling was back again –the feeling of something so close in your reach, yet so far away. Being ‘really something’ to Jonathan was only good enough to last me until lunch, where I ate outside like an outsider (ha-ha, get it?) in silence until the bell and period four rolled around.
“We need a plan.”
I looked up quickly and shaded my eyes from the bright whiteness of the clouds that were covering up the blue sky that was struggling to take a peek at the world.
“Stephy?” I got up from the grass quickly, managing not to spill over my lunch and blushed. “I mean, Stephanie! I… Um…what?”
Stephanie, the girl that was practically my sister and former best friend smiled at me. “We need a plan. We have to get you at Jonathan’s party this Saturday.”
Stephanie sat down beside the spot that I was previously sitting and motioned for me to sit down next to her. I sat and waited. I’m pretty sure I was waiting up to full minutes by the time Stephanie spoke again.
“Are you thinking?” she asked me.
“About how to get to Jonathan’s party this Saturday!” she exclaimed, making her head of tiny black and brown braids go wild. Her dark brown eyes bore into me like I was the crazy one.
This was just bizarre. Why was Stephanie trying to get me to a party that was impossible to get to? Why was she even talking to me at all?
“Uh, not to be rude or anything…” I said slowly. “But…why are you talking to me?”
Stephanie looked at me like I was stupid. “So we can figure out how to get you to Jonathan’s party. What is that, like the fiftieth time?”
“Stephanie, we haven’t talked since we were eleven,” I said slowly. “So …why? Other than the reason that you’ve repeated only three times.”
Stephanie ripped the grass out of the ground as she spoke. “Come on, Cindy. You’ve liked Jonathan King forever and –”
“Not forever,” I grumbled.
“– And now he’s invited you to his party and you aren’t going?” Stephanie continued. “What are you thinking?”
I sighed. So she really was only coming over here because of Jonathan and his party, not because she missed me and she wanted to be friends. Sure, I could admit that I missed her too, because I did. I just wish that she missed me too for once. I know I’d left her side and isolated myself, but friends could be nice, even though I can totally and completely survive on the company of animals.
Even so, some human company would be nice, so I answered her question: “I want to go, but I can’t. …Too much work.”
“Too much work?” Stephanie repeated. “It’s Halloween, Cindy! Trick or treat! Why don’t you relax?”
If it were only that easy…
“It’s not my choice,” I said to her. “Lady Mai is making me work. I have too many things that need to be done so I have to miss the party. Whatever.” I shrugged to make her think it was no big deal to me, but of course, after years of being joined to me at the hip, she knew I was hiding the truth.
“The witch is making you work, huh?” Stephanie mused as she toyed with some braids. “Don’t worry, I can work on that.”
I had to sneak Stephanie into the barn because I wasn’t positive if having visitors was A-OK with Ugly Toad. The situation had never come up so I had never bothered asking the question and Lady Mai had never bothered yelling the answer.
“It’s not usually this messy,” I said as I saw some more contents spilled on the floor.
“Uh-huh…” Stephanie settled on the hay stack in the corner. “So right down to business? You’re forbidden to go to Jonathan’s party because you must do work, correct?”
I didn’t know what was with all the formality but I nodded. “Yes, that’s right.”
“Will Lady Mai be in on Saturday?”
I didn’t see how that was relevant, but I thought back a bit. What would be Lady Mai doing on the night where everyone but me would be having a good time.
“No,” I said, remembering, “she’s going to some conference but will be home by half past twelve because she picking the twins up at midnight.”
Stephanie giggled excitedly. “Perfect!”
I didn’t even know what I said. “What’s perfect?”
Stephanie looked up at me excitedly. “I’ve got it! I can get you at Jonathan’s party!”
I raised my eyebrows. Not disbelieving in the surprised way, but disbelieving in the way that means that whatever her plan was, it would never work. Whatever Stephanie had come up with, I was pretty certain would never work. She didn’t know Lady Mai; whenever the Ugly Toad wanted me to be miserable, it would happen – she was just that determined and that evil.
“If all you have to do is clean by the time she gets back from the stupid conference, then we can deal with that!” Stephanie said confidently.
“What, you’ll hire housekeeping for me?” I asked her sceptically. Cleaning would be tough. Which reminded me, I needed to get started on the barn right away. I started packing away Chore’s spilled food as I spoke. “I appreciate your optimistic attitude and hand for help, but I can’t go, period.”
“It’s just a simple comma,” Stephanie assured me, as the wheel is her head spun. “You can’t go to Jonathan’s party unless the house is clean by midnight, so I’ll do it.”
It took me an extra second to grasp what she was saying. I straightened up my back and tossed a huge bag back onto the weakening shelves. “Beg pardon?”
“I’ll do it,” Stephanie offered. “I’ll stay and clean the house and you’ll go to Jonathan’s party. Easy and done: your problem is solved and you are welcome.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Would Stephanie really do that for me after I’d pushed her out for three years of my life? After three seconds in a daze of actually considering the possibilities, I took hold of the logical part of my mind again. This was Stephanie! She loved to party and she was even kinda sorta friends with Jonathan, too. She couldn’t stay here while I went.
“Stephanie, you can’t stay here and clean this big house,” I said, waving my hands around. “It’s huge and it’s my responsibility.”
“Yes, but if we do half now, there will be less to clean up later,” Stephanie insisted, getting up off the hay and brushing nothing off her jeans.
“That’s not all,” I said, turning from my work. “You can’t miss the party! You can’t be stuck in here on Halloween!”
Stephanie shrugged as if the thought didn’t bother her at all. “Sure I can. I’ve been to most of his other parties so I know what to expect. Plus, I didn’t come up with a good costume idea so what’s the point?”
She was right. She had been to handful of Jonathan King parties for three years. Maybe…
“But I don’t have a costume either!” I insisted when I came up for another seemingly impossible obstacle for Stephanie to get past. “Stephanie, I can’t go. You can’t stay. Just drop it.”
Of course, Stephanie ignored my protests and reasoning to focus on my excuse. “Costume? Well, what do you have in mind?”
“I dunno. Maybe a…”
“I know!” Stephanie exclaimed. “I know exactly what you want to be and I bet I can get you it!”
I looked at myself in the mirror as Stephanie flattened out the creases in my dress.
“Are you sure?”
“Do I ever do so much work in something I’m not determined in?” Stephanie asked as she inspected me with a look of commitment.
The answer was no.
Stephanie had taken me to her house and had immediately thrown the dress I was wearing into my arms saying that it was perfect. I guess it was rather pretty: it was just above my knees and was a nice pale pink colour with fancy creases along the side of it and sparkles here and there. I had argued with her that it didn’t look like I was going to a Halloween party at all, so she added a white cape to the back of it to make me a “Superhero of Beauty” or something lame like that.
“But Ella and Anna!” I said suddenly, turning around frantically. “They’ll see me and I’ll be busted! Stephy, I can’t do this!”
As the time went by on the walk to Stephanie’s house, we seemed to get more comfortable and things seemed normal again. It felt good to have Stephanie back in my life – even of it was just to help me with this party catastrophe-in-the-making as a one-time thing.
Stephanie muttered to herself as she started flinging junk from her box of junk. In a few seconds, she was behind me again, fixing me up again, in the mirror. I closed my eyes as she pulled something over them.
A mask! Brilliant! It was white and silver and covered the outside of my eyes and my forehead, making me unidentifiable. It would be perfect…if I was going…which I wasn’t.
“You’re going!” Stephanie said right away. “You look great and our plan is foolproof! What do you say?”
I really wanted to go and Stephanie really wanted to help me but… Why did I feel really guilty and like something really bad would happen tomorrow night? Was it just my anxiety making an appearance or was I really having thoughts that I really shouldn’t make an appearance (even if no one could tell it was me) at Jonathan’s party.
But I smiled and spun around in Stephanie’s dress. “Okay. I’ll go.”
Stephanie smiled excitedly at me through the mirror and squeezed my shoulders. “Great! Honestly, what could go wrong?”
Hopefully, I thought to myself with a final happy spin, nothing.
“Have fun tidying up!” Anna called to me as she tried to walk down the stairs grandly in her hideous costume.
Ella came up behind her, looking equally bad with a sickening smile. “It’s a shame really. Too bad, though, huh?”
Yeah, right! I straightened up and ignored them as I swept the last corner of the front hallway. There! One less room for Stephanie to clean! It took a lot of power to not burst out laughing and boast to Anna and Ella that I would be at the party that they’d been bragging about for hours. Luckily, I was able to control myself. I would have to if I wanted to have fun at the party and actually go. I would just have to avoid the Calamitous Clones the whole night, and nothing should go wrong. And anyway, they wouldn’t be that hard to spot because their get ups would be easy to see from anywhere.
Lady Mai descended down the stairs last with a superior look on face. “Good work, Cindy. I see you’ve finished with the girls’ room. That’s nice. But you still have the basement, the attic, and of course the barn. I think someone fed Chore a little too much again… Have fun.”
Lucy padded into the room, surveying the scene. She gave me a dirty look like I was the one on four-legs and looked up innocently at her masters. They all gave her quick affectionate pats before they left the house in a fit of evil giggles. I childishly stuck my tongue out at their proud backbones. I hated them so much.
“Finally!” I exclaimed, rushing to the window and ignoring Lucy. What could she do? Tell Lady Mai that I was sneaking out? I didn’t think so! I watched their car drive down the dirt road. I counted to thirty and after seeing no sign that they were going to turn around and come back, I left Lucy downstairs to deal with herself and ran upstairs into my room where Stephanie was hiding. “All clear!”
She burst out of my tiny closet and gasped. “There is no air in there!”
“Trust me,” I said, taking my dress out of its safety bag from under my pillow, “I know.” I quickly changed into my dress and spun around in a circle again like I’d done at Stephanie’s house. The only difference was that there wasn’t a mirror in the room to examine myself in.
“You look great,” Stephanie told me with a smile as she handed me the mask. “Final touches.”
I took the mask from her and as I put it on, she fixed my cape on. I thanked her again for the billionth time since I’d agreed to her ridiculous charade I was pulling. “This is so great of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you soooo much!”
“You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!” she said, with a laugh. “You don’t have to say it anymore. I think I get it.”
But I don’t think she actually did. She was doing me a huge favour. I would be able to spend the whole night with Jonathan, talking to him, laughing with him, finding out more about him, and (hopefully) dancing with him.
Now you’re probably how I got there, right? Well, first; Jonathan’s house was merely a ten minute drive from my house, so it wasn’t hard to get a taxi to drop me off. Of course, since I earn no money, Stephanie went through all the trouble to get me more than enough money by searching through her house couches before she came over here. She is without a doubt, the best (ex) friend a girl could have.
As Stephanie saw me off to the door I was giddy with delight and on the verge of hurling with anxiety. It was such a shame that my long blonde hair usually used for covering up my face, was now tied in an elegantly curled ponytail behind my head. Now my face was visible and – worst of all – readable of all my emotions. Stephanie knew what was racing through my mind, stomach, and arms.
“Don’t be nervous,” she said as we waited for the taxi driver as she spun her broom around absent-mindedly, “you look great, the plan is great, and I feel great about it. Nothing can fail.”
She was looking completely relaxed about me leaving the house for a social outing outside of school for the first time in five years while I was...well, not.
“You pretty much jinxed this whole night,” I said, half jokingly and half seriously.
“Is that you’re sad attempt of making a joke to not seem nervous?”
“How do I know you so well?” Stephanie said, shaking her head with a smile. I noticed the smile falter a little bit as her eyes dropped with a small bit of sadness. But as sudden as it came, it was gone and Stephanie tried to shoo me out of the house when we saw the taxi pull up.
She gave me a reassuring smile and I tried to summon one up too, but it was a pathetic try. “Have fun!” she said, trying to sound annoyed at me. She pushed me out the door and gave me hug. That simple hug sent a warm shock through my body and suddenly, I didn’t feel like upchucking on the grass.
We smiled when we pulled away from each other after I nice memory-jerking embrace.
“Now go wow Jonathan!” Stephanie ordered me.
“I’ll try!” I said as I jogged to the taxi and hopped inside. I told the driver the address to Jonathan’s house when he asked for it and as he drove away, I gave Stephanie a final wave goodbye.
Time to go wow Jonathan...
I’m stuck in a closet.
It wasn’t like at school though, where Harman was to blame for me being trapped in my locker. There was a huge difference in my current situation – this one was entirely Jonathan’s fault.
He didn’t exactly stick me in the closet physically, but it was still all him. As soon as I walked in, I blended in with the crowd that was a quarter of unrecognizable people because of masks or really great decked out makeup.
Anyway, as soon I had spotted Jonathan I had freaked. A bunch of paranoia questions zoomed into my head: What do I say to him? What if he doesn’t care that I showed up? What if he randomly lost interest in my existence?
Oh, and he also looked very cute, as usual. He was dressed a prince, no doubt – a cute prince that wasn’t dressed as nearly as good as the king. I found that cutely ironic since he was, after all, Jonathan King.
So anyway, I saw him, I freaked, and I hid in the closet. And now I can’t even come out because if someone sees me, a random girl stepping out of a closet...well, it wouldn’t be the most embarrassing thing ever, but I’m already nervous enough after getting a glimpse of Jonathan. How could I go and talk to him now???
Breathe, Cindy, breathe! I thought as I got into another mental fight with myself. What would Stephanie say and do if she knew what you were doing?
“She would kill me!” I said to myself. I needed to get out there. I could not be wasting away the night like this! I came to have fun! Plus, someone would eventually open the door anyway and I’d be exposed.
So I took a step out of the closet, hoping no one was near to see me come out of my lame hiding place, and walked aimlessly through the hall, weaving through my peers. I should have been more relaxed because no one could tell who I was through my mask, but I couldn’t help it. It was Jonathan King’s Halloween party that I, Cindy Rella, was actually at! Excuse me for getting worked up for –
I spun around quickly at the sound of Jonathan’s soothing voice, my cape whipping someone in the face. The person didn’t mind though; he was in a Darth Vader mask didn’t notice. I focussed my attention on Jonathan, though. “Hi.”
Jonathan looked surprised. “It is you. You came. …Cool.”
He didn’t exactly sound over-the-top excited, but that was fine. If he did, I would have been as beet red as Ella and Anna would be if they saw me talking to him. But then again, they shouldn’t be able to tell it was me. But then…how did Jonathan?
“It’s just…Ella and Anna said some stuff…” Jonathan rambled on. He started to look at his feet. Why did he always do that when we talked? And why wouldn’t Ella and Anna shut up?
“So!” Jonathan said a little loudly, jerking me out of my thoughts. “What’s up with the farm?” He blushed a little after that, I noticed, and looked back down at his feet again.
“The chickens hate you.”
Jonathan lost interest in his shoes – that I just noticed had thrown the costume off (he was wearing his usual black Chuck Taylors) – and looked up quickly with slight alarm.
I smiled and lifted a shoulder. “You took their solo.”
Jonathan broke out into a grin.
So far so good.
Stephanie was always the one that got the attention of others around her. She’d bounce around and everyone would want to play and talk with her. Her gleaming smile and friendly eyes were people-magnets. They’d want to accompany her and be her best friend. I had always been proud because that slot was already filled by me.
I felt like Stephanie now. Jonathan and I rarely left each other’s side. We wanted to be each other’s friends and not leave each other because we were having too much fun talking and laughing. In fact, I realized that Jonathan and I had been near the closet the whole two hours we were talking and only moved when most of the party moved to the front of the house to go out in groups to prank other houses or hang outside instead.
It was better then when it was a little quieter inside and less crazy.
But that was then. Now was now, and Ella and Anna had found Jonathan with me. They didn’t know it was ‘me’ me, but still. Me.
“You!” The twins cooed at Jonathan when he was spotted.
They paraded up to us with what I guessed were supposed to be friendly faces. I could see their eyes, though, and when they looked at me – even though they didn’t know it was ME – with dislike. They wanted Jonathan’s attention back.
Jonathan wanted to disappear. I could tell by the look that came n his face. It was pained and familiar. I remember having that face on whenever I was forced to eat all my vegetables on the huge plate Dad set up for me before I could have even a tiny teaspoon of ice cream.
The twins started a stimulating conversation about how long it too them to construct their costumes and I really I felt for Jonathan, but not bad enough to wait and listen in – especially when Ella and Anna would take turn giving me the evil eye when they weren’t speaking directly to Jonathan.
Not seeing a need to excuse myself from the fun I was hearing on Anna’s tough shoe decision, I side-stepped some pop on the floor and was about to go outside. That was, until, Jonathan made contact with me. And I mean physical contact: he held my elbow!!!!
“Hey, wait up,” Jonathan said with a smile. He nodded to Ella and Anna politely. “Ladies.” He turned to me and jerked his head upstairs. “Wanna hang up there?”
I was surprised because his hand was still on my elbow and was now lowering to my wrist and it was so close to my hand but –
“Duck!” someone yelled.
Jonathan and I didn’t duck though (but his hand left), because we were so distracted. It was pretty unlucky of us, though, because we got soaked with water. It was a sudden burst of cool water and it smelled fresh, but either way, different parts of my dress was sticking to my body.
Ella and Anna thought this was hilarious and erupted into a fit of giggles before they hurried away to avoid being targeted too – whether it was on purpose or by accident.
Jonathan looked down at his costume and then mine. He groaned. “Water balloons inside? I’m not coming to school Monday. I’ll be dead.”
“Where’s your mom?” I asked him, shaking my head to get the water off the tips of my hair.
“She’s at a business conference with your –” he stopped and coughed awkwardly “– Ella and Anna’s mom.”
A new silence passed over us, which was a little unusual because we always had something to say to each other ever since I cracked the farm joke at the beginning of the night. But I was glad Jonathan hadn’t finished his previous thought. Lady Mai would never be my mother.
I didn’t really feel like things were that weird, but Jonathan seemed to think so and he felt it, so he tried to make it become less weird than it already was. That wound up being even worse than it never was because of his rambling that was both awkward and cute to listen to.
Unfortunately, Jonathan had forgotten about previous plans of going upstairs and getting away from Ella and Anna. I guess that we didn’t need that escape route, but I was still hoping that the moment before the water balloon had interrupted would resume.
Finally, something worthwhile and better – amazing, actually – happened. The best words of the night came out of Jonathan’s King’s mouth. “Cindy? …Do you want to dance?”
I just about slipped on the water at my feet as I shifted my feet in nervousness. It would have been embarrassing if I had fallen, but I didn’t. Why not? Because Jonathan caught me, that’s why! He caught me by the arm, and his hand moved down my hand. So it had happened. Something that I wished for actually had happened! And it was also coupled with the question that I had been nagging me since the party had started.
I cursed myself, hoping that my reply didn’t come out to enthusiastic as he led me around the small coffee table in the living room where other couples were dancing to the slow-ish song.
I tried to stop myself from beaming as Jonathan’s hands came down on my waist and mine around his neck. Everything seemed to fit perfect – almost like a fairytale. That was, until I heard the worst possible thing to hear when you’re having the time of your life – the expiry reminder.
Jonathan’s clock sounded at every stroke of the hour and I looked up at the old clock over his shoulder: 12:00 A.M
I gasped. How had time snuck up on me like that? I was dead! I was so dead! I was supposed to call the taxi by quarter to, but I was still here, in Jonathan’s presence and loving it, while Stephanie’s plan fell apart on the dance floor.
“What’s wrong?” Jonathan asked me.
I pulled away from him reluctantly. “I have to go!”
“What?” he asked quickly, looking sorry, “Why?”
Because Stephanie’s brilliant plan where nothing could go wrong is going wrong! I almost said to him. Instead, out loud in the reality world, I shook my head. “I’m supposed to be home right now! I’m late! I’m so late and dead!”
I spun around, desperate to see Ella and Anna for once. Because if they were here, that meant that Lady Mai was not. And if Lady Mai was not here, I could wake up tomorrow morning.
I grabbed my purse from the table and weaved through people dangerously as I tried escaping the house. I heard a loud ripping sound as I hopped over spilled food on the floor and looked back at what had happened – the cape! Stephanie’s cape from when we were seven and went as twin superheroes was ruined! I was almost to the door, when I stopped and turned around to retrieve it. I just couldn’t leave it behind lying there on the floor.
When I bent down to pick it up quickly, I hand grasped my wrist. I looked up.
“I have to go,” I said, trying to wriggle free. “I’ll see you at school, okay?”
Jonathan looked sad that I had to leave…really sad, actually. And besides the fact that Jonathan’s high spirit was dropping, mine was lifting because his was dropping. He really wanted me here! “Come on, Cindy, you’re not really gonna abandon me here, are you?”
“I’m sorry, Jonathan, I have to go!” I ran out the door with the cape. As I did, Jonathan called out my name to stop me from leaving, but I still ran down the driveway. I pulled out Stephanie’s cell phone that she had lent because I didn’t have one of my own and started to dial the taxi company’s number.
Ella and Anna’s pestering shriek rang familiarly in my mind and made me shudder. I slowly turned around. They were standing behind Jonathan with angry expressions on their faces.
“You’re supposed to be at home!” Anna screeched. And I mean screeched! Jonathan flinched and tugged on his ear lobe as he moved out of the way of the two turbulent twins.
“What are you doing here?” Ella demanded.
They gave me a quick once-over, wrinkling their noses in disgust – I felt the same way about their facial expressions. Anna’s face contorted into this horrible evilly happy grin. “Wait till Mother hears about this!”
Ella nodded vigorously. “Yeah! You will never leave the house again!”
I don’t know what came over me but I fell to my knees. I needed to get out of the wretched house sometimes! I had Jonathan now, and I could tell he was taking a liking to me. I had Stephanie back…well, at least I think I did. I could work on it. I really could. I didn’t want to have to isolate myself. But now I would be forced to. I couldn’t let Lady Mia find out. I absolutely couldn’t!
“Anna and Ella, I am begging you!” I said at their feet. “Don’t tell Lady Mai! Pleeeeease!”
They cackled and laughed as my head pounded with each minute I had. Then a strong hand pulled me to my feet by my hands. Jonathan faced me with concerned eyes. “What’s wrong with you?”
I noticed the time on his watch said 12:02. I WAS FREAKING OUT!!!!!
“Why are you on your knees?” Jonathan asked me. “You’re better than that!”
But I wasn’t. I really, really wasn’t.
I mopped floors and cleaned up cat droppings. I cleaned the barn every single day and had permanent sweat stains on nearly all my clothes. I only had breaks from my jail work when I was getting my minimum of two hours of sleep a night. I wasn’t better than anything. I was really pathetic.
Ella and Anna ripped off my mask and stomped on it. Ella glared at Jonathan. “She’s not better than anything! She looks terrible!”
I turned back to Stephanie’s phone and selected the number for the taxi company I had called to get to Jonathan’s party, hoping that I still had a chance for freedom. I just wanted to get out of there! Maybe if I got home I could convince Lady Mai that Ella and Anna were lying and were to hyped up on Coke and other sugary foods that would make them even bigger to –
“You little wretch!”
I turned around, my worst fear being confronted.
And again, I was busted; caught in the headlights of police cars; found with my hand in the cookie jar before dinner: I was going down and we all knew it.
As Lady Mai shouted at me and the twins snickered with glee, Jonathan and his mother overlooked the whole scene going down without interruption.
I could see sadness in Jonathan’s eyes and I shared the same sadness. We knew that we’d never be together and I was still going to get punished further for actually having joy at one point in my life since the Cremaines had invaded.
Everything that I feared would happen actually happened. Stephanie’s plan that ‘couldn’t’ go wrong had failed and my wishes had been shattered. I had wished for one night – one special, flawless night – with Jonathan King where we’d talk and laugh and dance. Ella and Anna knew I liked him even though I had only ever told Stephy. They knew how much I wanted this to happen and since it was my known wish, it hadn’t happened. It was just the way things were and I had to accept that.
There would be no happily-ever-after ending for me. I wouldn’t ride off with Jonathan in the carriage. I wouldn’t leave my stepfamily behind to live with Jonathan in his palace that was really just a larger house than mine. The plans and my dreams had fallen apart. It was weird, though; I hadn’t even noticed how important they were until now. My happiness was its reason for existence. We were having a wonderful night until I had gotten forgetful and careless with my precious minutes. Time had caught up with me and I was in jail.
The jig was up.
The night was over.
My wish was gone.