Here’s the final part 🙂 Enjoy reading and I’ll have something up soon after. Again the comments are appreciated 🙂
Ella and Kody arrive home around one in the morning. I hear them come in, laughing and chattering as usual. They’re surprised to see me still awake, and even more surprised when they see me baking cookies. Ella twirls a strand of blond hair around her finger as she steps closer to the counter, her tongue sticking out of her mouth just a tiny bit. She eyes the cookies greedily and glances up at me. “These are for me, right? Me and Kody?”
“No. They’re for me,” I reply.
Ella raises an eyebrow and takes a cookie, shoving it right into her huge mouth. “Oops.”
Anger boils up inside of me. “Alright, fine. You take them. You take all of them. Make yourself happy. You deserve to eat as much as you want,” I say, walking out of the kitchen. “You can just do what you do best: be a pig.”
I don’t even turn around to see her face, I keep walking toward my room and slam my newly replaced door shut. I lean against it and steady my breathing. I’m not angry, I tell myself. I’m completely calm. I nod to myself and pad over to my bed, sitting down on the edge. Ella’s going to get me back for the pig comment. But for some reason, I’m not scared of her anymore. Okay, I am, but I shove the fear to the back of my head. I’m not in the mood to be scared of her. I’ll be scared later. Right now, I just want to cry my eyes out and whine about how pointless everything is.
I want to run out of the house and see Ari. I want to say I’m sorry. I want to hear him say he’s sorry. I want to push Ella and Kody the way they’ve pushed me for all these years. I want to go home, but I am home, at least in the physical sense. I haven’t felt at home anywhere since Dad died, except maybe at Ari’s house.
I hear Ella and Kody talking, their voices low. Probably plotting again, I think sourly, laying down on my bed. I glance at a picture of me and Ari from last summer. We’re at his parents’ cottage along the nearby lake. We’re happy. I sigh and wish I could transport myself back in time to that moment. Then my eyes close and I fall asleep, one last tiny worry slipping out: Ari might be crying right now, because of me.
The dance at Tyler’s place is on Saturday, today. I wake up around nine and stagger to my dresser, barely thinking as I grab jeans and a T-shirt. I have to talk to Ari. I hurry to the shower and finish in record time, nearly falling over as I try to quickly pull on my jeans. I dash back into my bedroom and grab my phone. A new text.
hey, i’m sorry. can we talk? It’s from Ari.
My fingers find the keyboard and I begin to text back, then my bedroom door is thrown open. I jump and glare. “No barging in, Ella! Remember the rules?” I say angrily.
Ella moves her hand off the door and says, “Sorry. Mom’s not here and those rules are rather old, don’t you think?”
Kody is right behind her, carrying something. They enter my room and shut the door behind themselves. My heart starts pounding in my chest. Whatever they’re planning, isn’t good. I turn my attention back to my phone, hoping to alert Ari before they do anything. Ella snatches my phone and asks, “Oh, what do we have here? Your boyfriend again?”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I protest, reaching for the phone.
Ella, being taller, holds it out of reach and grins. “Really? Then what’s he apologizing about?”
“We had an argument,” I admit. “We’re friends, Ella. Just friends.”
This time Kody says, “Are you sure about that? You two have been spending an awful amount of time together. Plus I’ve caught him looking at you, at school, behind Nina’s back. If I remember, he followed you into the girl’s bathroom! He’s not just your friend, Lu.”
I take a moment to glare at her. Kody smiles back. “Don’t you want to see what we got you? We got you a dress for the dance, it suits you very well,” she says, unfolding the dress in her arms.
My heart sinks. It’s the worst sort of dress. A murky green fabric sits on top of an unflattering orange, a horrible design covering the top fabric. It looks like it would reach my knees and the sleeves are just beyond awful.
Kody holds it out and Ella grins. “It does suit you,” Ella says.
“I’m not wearing that,” I snarl, glowering at each of them.
Ella shrugs. “Then you aren’t going to the ball, are you, Cinderella?” she teases.
Kody giggles and Ella smiles. Kody lays the dress on my bed and turns to the door, waiting as Ella walks so close to me that her face is inches from mine. “You aren’t going to get the prince this time. You wear that, or nothing at all. We’ll be waiting in the car,” she hisses. “Please do tell us if you decide not to go. Otherwise, don’t be late.”
“I’m not wearing that,” I say, pointing at the dress.
“Okay. We’ll need baths prepared for when we get home, oh and, more cookies,” Ella says, grinning at me and patting my cheek.
Kody laughs and the two of them leave, closing the door behind themselves. Most people would be thinking about escape right now. Not me. I know Ella and Kody. They’re going to lock up the house in a way that I can’t go to the dance wearing anything other than the dress they gave me or the clothes I’m currently dressed in. I sit down, hard, on my bed, scowling at the horrendous dress laying beside me. I’m in the story of Cinderella, but I don’t have a fairy godmother to whisk me off to the ball where I’ll meet my prince. Not that I really want to. Ari knew what he was talking about with Tyler, I should trust his judgement. Despite this, I still want to go, just to make sure Tyler is what Ari makes him out to be and doesn’t just act like that around Ari.
I hear the car start and the noise of the engine fade away. I lay back and think, Now I’m officially stuck at home with nothing to do. I sigh and get up, walking to my bedroom door. The door opens and I step out into the hallway. Their doors will be locked, as usual, I think to myself. I continue down the hall and pass through the kitchen, going to the living room. I plop onto the couch just as I hear a car pull up.
I jump to my feet and race to the front door. Ari came to save me, is my only thought as I thrust open the door. But it isn’t his car sitting in the driveway, nor is he the slim woman climbing out. Mom, I think, my heart dropping.
She ambles up to the house, tottering on three-inch high heels, and smiles at me. “Hey, Lucinda,” she greets. She’s the only person who ever calls me by my full name anymore.
“Hey, Mom,” I reply, stepping aside to let her in the house.
Her braided brown hair sways with each step. She sets her bag down in the kitchen and kicks off her heels, letting out a relieved sigh. Mom then goes straight for the fridge, grabbing a yogurt container, snatching a spoon from the drawer, and stalking to the living room. I follow her to the doorway of the living room, but I don’t go any further. Instead, I lean against the doorway and ask, “Did you know Ella and Kody hid all my dresses and skirts?”
Mom shovels a spoonful of yogurt into her mouth before answering. “No.”
“Well, they did,” I say, angrily. “And gave me a crappy dress in return.”
“Do you know why?” Mom asks, mildly.
Mom looks up, her brown eyes wide.
I continue, “They don’t want me to go to this party. They’re getting me back because I called Ella a pig.”
Mom blinks at me for a second, then she laughs. “You called her a pig? Oh, that is too funny!” she gasps, trying to catch her breath from laughing. She calms herself and asks, “Do you want to go to this party, honey?”
I hesitate. “Well, sort of. The whole school’s going, most of it anyway. I just thought I’d get to know a few more of the kids,” I reply, shifting uneasily.
“Like a boy?” Mom asks, raising her eyebrows.
“No!” I say, too forcefully. “Well, yeah. But I just wanted to meet him myself. I don’t want to go off of what other people say. You know how much I don’t like doing that.”
Mom nods. “So you don’t like this boy.”
“I’m not sure. He seemed to be nice the one time I did talk to him, but I want to see him again to confirm that. Or to confirm what Ari has told me.”
“Oh, Ari told you? Honey, Ari is a boy. I’m sure he knows a thing or two about them. If he told you this boy was bad, then I’d say he was too,” Mom says, walking toward me.
I frown at her. “Ari could be wrong.”
Mom rolls her eyes and says, “I see this is a useless argument. Would you like to glimpse my dresses, honey? I’m sure I have some that would pass in this century.”
A smile tugs at my lips and Mom beams, leading me away to her room. Her room is neat, like a hotel room. The bed is expertly tucked and fluffed, the blues and greens giving off an air of comfort. Mom’s windows are curtained by thick purple fabrics, designs outlined in beads. The soft carpet cushions my feet, a much different feeling to the wooden flooring everywhere else.
Mom takes me through the room to a back door, which she opens to reveal a smaller room: a walk-in closet. I gape at the amount of clothes. I didn’t know my mom had this many things to wear, probably because she was never home. She murmurs to herself as she fingers through the clothes, her eyes flitting from piece to piece. Finally, she pulls something out and I turn my attention to her. Mom holds it out expectantly and I ask, “You want me to wear that?”
The dress is beautiful. The complete opposite of the dress lying on my bed. This one is a dark blue strapless ball gown like, knee-length dress. I take it from Mom and notice there’s a layer underneath the blue that’s black. It peeks through where the blue is pinned up and away from the hem. I glance at Mom and mumble, “Thank you, Mom.”
She grins. “I just want to see my baby girl all dressed up and happy. Put it on.”
I don’t bother with being embarrassed around my mom. She’d bathed me as a child for goodness sakes. I slip into the dress and Mom helps me zip the back. She has me spin around and says, “Hair.” then she disappears into her bathroom which also connects to her bedroom. I follow her, a smile plastered to my face. Ella and Kody would be so jealous and angry, especially since Mom’s the one helping me out.
I enter the bathroom and immediately find my hair being seized by Mom. She furiously brushes it, rinsing the brush in the sink so as to wet my hair. She mutters something about my hair curling naturally when it’s wet and how pretty it looks. Mom’s brushing takes only a couple of minutes and she drags me to her mirror, beaming over my shoulder as I examine myself. I am beautiful, I think happily.
“Thank you so much, Mom,” I say, turning and hugging her tight.
“No worries, honey. You go show those sisters how amazing their baby sister is. I only wish I could’ve raised them better,” she sighs.
I kiss her cheek. “You can’t help that now,” I say. “Now you have to help me find some shoes.”
Mom jumps a little. “Oh!” she exclaims, running back into the closet. She emerges a moment later, dark blue one-inch heels in hand. She slips them onto my feet and says, “I’ll drive you there, but I want you home by midnight, young lady. No late nights. You’ll be tired anyhow.”
I nod and she shoos me out of her bedroom. “I have to change before we go.”
The door closes and the smile on my face spreads. I’m Cinderella and I’m going to the ball. Then I hear knocking at the front door. Curious, I click my way over to the door and open it. Ari stands there, panting, his dirty blond hair messy and his brown eyes wild. As he takes in my dress, I stand there in shock. I’d thought Ari would come for me, but I’d almost forgotten and had begun to expect him not to. He stares at me and gasps, “You’re beautiful, Lu.”
My heart leaps at his words and an uncomfortable heat fills my face. I find my voice and say, “My mom let me borrow it. Ella and Kody–”
“Hey, Ari!” my mom greets cheerfully from behind me. “How are you?”
He seems taken aback at the sight of her, but he quickly answers, “Oh, fine, Mrs Woods.”
My mom puts a hand on my bare shoulder and asks, “Since you’re here, why don’t you drive Lucinda to the party? I assume you’re going there too, right?”
Ari nods and my mom says, “Great. See you two later. Remember, midnight.”
I walk outside and the door shuts. Ari seems to have recovered from the shock and says, “Well, um, let’s go then.”
He hurries to his car and I feel a burn of embarrassment flood my body. I bite my lip and walk in his wake, slipping into the passenger side of the car. It’s old, Ari’s dad’s, so it takes a moment to start up. Ari’s nervous, his hands trembling and he keeps avoiding my gaze.
The ride to Tyler’s house is quiet. Ari keeps his eyes on the road, but I notice him straining to do so. Ari pulls into a rather long driveway, an iron gate and all. He stops behind a dark green car and turns off his car, glancing again at me. He gets out of the car and hurries to my side. I roll my eyes at his insistence on manners and climb out of the car by myself. Ari stares at me and stammers, “I was going to…”
I smile at him. “It’s fine, Ari. I can handle it. I’m a big girl, remember?”
I pat his arm and walk up the drive, weaving around countless cars of all shapes, sizes and ages. I hear Ari hurrying after me, but my attention is taken by the house that comes into view. It’s like a dream house, no, mansion. It’s styled exactly as a fairytale palace might look, scaled down somewhat, but still extravagant.
As I approach the house, popular music drifts out through the open front door and windows. I tug on the hem of my dress as a cool breeze floats past, and look over my shoulder at Ari. He meets my eyes and immediately, his face flushes a bright red again. I grin at him and turn back to the house, walking up the front steps. I enter the house and wave to a few of my other friends, giving some hugs and wading through the crowd.
I turn toward the voice, recognizing it. It’s Nina, his hot but stupid ex-girlfriend. I frown at her as she skips to Ari, who gives me a helpless look. I sigh and turn around, heading back toward him. Before I can reach him, someone grabs my arm. “Hey,” I begin to say, but stop short. Tyler is standing there, his fingers wrapped around my bicep. He smiles, showing off pure white teeth.
“I never got your name,” he says, leaning closer to make sure I hear him.
“Lucinda,” I reply, trying to gently tug my arm out of his grip.
“That’s pretty,” he says, turning me toward him.
My heart is racing and my brain is whirling. Okay, just leave him. Ari needs you. Go to Ari. Come on. Get him off you and go help Ari. Ari is in trouble. But however hard I try to remove his hand from around my arm, he won’t let go.
“Tyler, I have to go,” I say.
“Go where?” he asks, pulling me a little closer to him.
“My friend needs me. Like, now,” I answer, getting uncomfortable with the lessening space between me and Tyler.
His face comes nearer to mine. “She can wait,” he says, his arms wrapping me in a hug.
I don’t like the look in his eyes. “Please, Tyler,” I say, not bothering to correct him. “I have to go see my friend.”
In that second, he presses his mouth to mine and I find out what sloppy kissing really is. My hand instinctively raises and slaps him hard across the face. Tyler steps back, bewildered. His cheek is red where my hand hit. I glare and snap, “Don’t ever do that again.”
Then he smiles and walks away. “Don’t plan to,” he says over his shoulder.
I wipe the back of my hand against my mouth and fling the saliva off. Gross. I turn to rescue Ari and find him still with Nina. She’s holding his face to hers, kissing him. She’s pretty strong, I think as I notice Ari pushing her away. I walk over just as she releases him and say, “He’s mine.”
Nina scowls. “And what claim do you have on his beautiful body?” she hisses.
“He’s my friend,” I reply, pushing her backward.
The other people around us let Nina fall, her friends hurrying to her side as fast as they can in high heels. They get her to her feet and Nina brushes herself off, her green eyes still staring daggers at me. “You are a know-it-all, sneaking, grabby little creep!” she gasps, trying to catch her breath.
“Well thanks,” I say, smiling. “You really don’t want to know what I think of you.”
A hand moves to my shoulder and I glance over my shoulder to see Ari. Nina spits at me and stalks off into the crowd. I turn around to face Ari and ask, “This isn’t much of a party is it?”
He shrugs. “Your sister seems to be enjoying herself.”
My eyes follow his and find Ella kissing Tyler. I turn back to Ari. “As long as she’s happy.”
Ari grins and hugs me. “What would I do without you?”
“You’d get kisses from Nina,” I say.
He laughs. “Yeah, I guess so.”
My hands act before my brain fully thinks through the action. I grab his face and press our lips together, much to Ari’s surprise. But only a moment after, his arms wrap around me. His embrace is much more gentle than Tyler’s, as is his kiss. We part, smiling.
“How does that compare to Tyler?” Ari asks, not hiding a hurt tone very well.
I bite my lip and tease him. “Hmm. A bit too good.”
Ari smiles. “Let’s go watch a movie,” he says, leading me out of the house.
“I’m all for that,” I reply. “Who likes high school parties anyhow?”
And so we did. We drove back to my house and watched movies until we both fell asleep. Ari and I dated. Here’s the moral of the story: rich guys are not always nice. Ella dated Tyler for three months before figuring out that he was seeing two other girls behind her back. This is the real story of Cinder. The one where the prince is a jerk and the real man for the job was hiding right where he’d always been, by my side. I won’t tell you if we got married or had kids. That’s up to you. You can imagine anything you want. I prefer it when someone gets to make their own story. Best wishes from me (and Ari). Go make your own story, and make it a good one.