An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(8)

By: Krista Lakes

“My stepmother,” I informed her as Jaqui handed me a stack of paper. It was heavier than I remembered.

“Ah. That makes sense. I forgot about her. I’m sorry that she put you here.” A small smile filled her face. “But, I’m not sorry that you’re back. We all missed you.”

“I missed you guys,” I said, smoothing the paperwork and making it straight. “What exactly am I going to be doing? You said something about trade documents.”

“We have a bunch of new trade negotiations going on with Paradisa, and thus all the paperwork that goes with it. Their monarchs are going to arrive next month for the official trade treaty signing, but all the preliminary work is going on now. We’re backlogged with all of it. Paradisa has a lot of natural resources for being a small island country. You’re going to be scanning it all in.”

Great. I was going to scan documents all day. I was leaving work that I enjoyed and cared about to scan boring paperwork. It was salt on the wound.

“So my old job, then?” I replied, looking at the work forms in my hands. I could feel my future slipping away from me.

Jaqui nodded. “Yup.”

I sighed as Jaqui handed me a pen and then I started to fill out the paperwork.

Due to the complexities of government work, it took me hours to fill out all the paperwork despite having worked for this office before. I ate a lunch out of the vending machines, knowing that if I left, I might not come back. The forms were typical government bureaucracy at its best. The sun already crept ominously toward the horizon as I left the office and headed to the rich area of town.

It was time to see my stepmother about today.

It took a metro train and a bus to get to her house, but I made it there just as the sun crested the horizon. Long dark shadows filled the streets. It would be a long ride home into the city, but I knew my stepmother wasn’t going to have this conversation over the phone.

My stepmother lived in a nice neighborhood with good schools and beautiful churches. The homes regularly went for well over six million, due to the proximity to downtown DC. It was a very affluent and politically important area.

My father had never lived here. This was the house she bought with his money after he died. I knew that she did well as an information broker, especially in a information hungry area like Washington, but I didn’t think she did well enough to afford living here. Apparently, selling secrets was a lucrative business.

I walked along the comfortable sidewalks under green leafy trees and watched as kids on bicycles peddled past. It looked suburban and comfortable, but I knew that it was too close to politics and power not to have a dark underbelly.

Besides, my stepmother and stepsister lived here, so obviously it was a dark place.

Warm yellow light spilled out the windows of their house as I walked up the driveway. The garage door was open and I could only see one car inside, which was strange. The Jaguar was missing. I wondered if my stepmother had let her daughter borrow it, but that seemed strange as well.

Audrey Verna didn’t like anyone touching her things.

I took a deep breath. I’d come all this way and I wasn’t going to back down now. I knew my stepmother was going to bully me. She would spin the conversation so that losing my job was somehow my fault and it was only through her good graces that I had a new job at all.

I knew it wasn’t true, but the woman was a masterful liar and manipulator.

I marched up the stairs to the front door and rang the doorbell. Anger clenched in my fists and tried to escape through nervous taps of my feet.

I waited for what felt like an eternity before hearing footsteps. I wondered if Audrey’s housekeeper was sick. She was usually very quick to get the door, unless Audrey wanted them to wait. I sighed, figuring out the game. Audrey wanted me to wait to put me at a disadvantage.

“I wondered when you would get here,” my stepmother said, opening the door herself. “I expected you hours ago.”

“I hope I kept you waiting,” I replied, walking inside. “Where’s Anastasia?”

“She’s upstairs celebrating her new job,” Audrey replied. “My daughter is so very pleased to be working in the Senate.”

I bet she is, I thought coldly. I’d done all the hard work to get there. I frowned, wondering where the Jaguar was then. It didn’t matter, though. I wasn’t here to check up on my stepsister or my stepmother’s cars.

“What happened to your pants, dear?” Audrey asked, lifting her nose in the air like I smelled. I looked down and saw the grass stains from where I fell earlier. The thought of Henry made me heat up in my center.