Simon Says

There was once a King who reined as ruler of a large land that had once been called Promised.

Now it was called Enslaved.

The people that lived in this land had no agency. Every command their king said was followed without hesitation.

For some reason that no one understood, King Simon had the strange capability to force others under his will.

There seemed to be no limits, as he was able to control a family across the world without even blinking an eye at the age of 12, and that was just the start.

He would simply say, “Simon Says…” and whatever he said next would come to pass.

To ensure that no one else would take his throne, he forced any other men named Simon to kill themselves.

He then controlled other rulers, carefully closing loopholes and blocking countries from protecting themselves, and then, without any bloodshed or battle, he would be their new monarch.

Within ten years the entire planet Earth was under his power. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Or so Simon thought.

As time went by and decades passed, the world slowed almost to a halt. Science was all but forgotten, schools were few, and it was not unusual for everyone to suddenly freeze in place, no matter what they were doing, just on a whim from King Simon.

Any activities considered even remotely dangerous were abandoned in the fear that they – the people – be stopped mid-action and harmed or even killed. Swimming, for example. Only a few brave souls still felt free to dive into the water, and even then only with proper equipment, as there was no telling when they might be forced to freeze in place, unable to go back to the surface for oxygen.

Strange occurrences were not unusual, and the only person who ever seemed happy was Simon himself.

But as he got older, he soon realized that he needed to find an heir that would carry on his legacy. As he had never been married and had no children he trusted, he decided to look to other ex-leaders.

So many of his fellow Monarchs or Presidents had been assassinated in his rise to power that there were few left to choose from.

Instead, he turned to his assassins and secret police and other ‘silent’ leaders.

Hundreds of influential people auditioned before him, but no one was satisfactory. Then one day, a young, fragile looking woman walked into the great throne room. She was wearing simple clothes and had her dark hair braided into a thousand tiny strands. She certainly didn’t look like a ruler.

“Hi. I’m Symone.” She smiled.

King Simon leaned forwards in his chair. “Symone? Is that so?”

“Indeed it is. I am here to take the throne.” She stated simply.

Simon laughed, “Sure you are.” He raised a hand, indicating for the guards to escort her to the next room.

But as they moved to capture, her gaze hardened and her voice suddenly grew much stronger, louder, and more commanding. “Simon, King of the Planet Earth, I control you now. I will be placed at your side and reign as Queen until the day you die. Then, I will take your place as sole ruler of this planet. Am I clear?”

The guards laughed and seized her arms roughly, but Simon spoke up.

“Stop,” He ordered them, and to Symone, “I understand and agree to your terms.” His eyes seemed glazed, but suddenly they cleared, and as Symone walked forwards he began yelling.

“How dare you? How can you? What sorcery is this? Begone!”

Symone grinned. “Oh, but darling, I’ve only just gotten here.” She turned, snapping her fingers. “I need a chair. A nice one, cushioned preferably.” The guards hesitated, looking to King Simon for approval.

His face was twisted into an unhappy grimace, but as Symone looked towards him haughtily, he nodded. “Bring it to her.” The guards limbs instantly obeyed this time.

“How?” Simon asked simply, as he sent everyone else from the chamber.

“When my mother was pregnant with me, my parents planned to name me Simon but keep me hidden from you until I was old enough to command you and remove you from your tyrannical position. They did everything they could to ensure a strong, healthy baby, exposing my mother to crystals and incense and herbs…  when I was born a girl, they named me Symone instead.” The King frowned.

“So, you have the same power I do? Because of your name?” He asked.

“Oh no. But what I do have is the power to control you. The whole time my parents raised me, I was trained to stop your tyrannical rule over my country.” She smiled innocently. “See, you rule over the world, and I rule over you.” Her tone became brisk and businesslike. “Now, first things first. I , Queen Symone of Planet Earth, declare that you, King Simon, will nevermore have any power over me. You cannot command me or force me to do anything against my will.”

The king froze for a moment, took a deep breath, and lowered his head. “As you wish.”

From that day on, Symone ruled through her new companion.

Soon, agency was restored to the many citizens under the royalty’s jurisdiction. Simon was no longer able to control them with a flick of his wrist, and schools, science, and other ways for the masses to gain knowledge were encouraged greatly, construction was started within a few months of Symone’s coronation, and children happily skipped off to school rather than to factories.

Within another five years, Symone had created a new, clean regime. She made states out of continents, and placed trusted citizens as Mentors to maintain Freedom.

And yet, no matter how hard she tried, Simon still had a lot of power, and he was still a tyrant.

One week, on their two year anniversary, he tongue tied her through a loophole in her commands, and she was unable to speak for almost a month before she found her own loophole to get past the curse.

After that Symone doubled her efforts to learn how Simon had such power, and how she had power over him. She studied through books and the internet and consulted experts on all things strange, and yet it was all to no avail, and she ended up more confused than she had started.

As science progressed after having been halted for so long under King Simon’s rule, she turned to a friend who worked with NASA.

“Alex, help me, please. I have to learn how to destroy this, no one should be able to do things like this to other humans.”

Alex adjusted his glasses. “I’m sorry Symone, but I don’t know anything about that.”

Symone took out her frustration on the piece of paper she was holding, tearing it up into tiny pieces.

“That was kind of important…” Alex looked at the floor, scuffing his shoe across a spot of paint.

Symone looked down at the mess in her hands. “Oh. Sorry about that.”

Alex cleared his throat nervously, “It’s fine, um, so I was wondering if maybe I could do some more research and then we could get lunch sometime and and I’ll tell you what I find….If you want…Maybe….”

“Sure, that sounds fun.” The Queen grabbed her purse and coat. “I’ll see you Tuesday, meet me at Au’ Bon Pain over your lunch break.” She left.

Alex took a deep breath, and turned back to his desk, knocking over a jar of pencils on accident as he went. As he bent down to gather them, he heard a loud, consistent beeping. He jerked his head up, and lunged towards his screens in shocked eagerness.

Colors and numbers and codes flashed across in patterns only he understood. His eyes got wider and wider, and he pulled off his glasses, leaning in, writing quickly on sticky notes. His pencil broke and he grabbed the next closest thing, a ruler, and attempted continuing his notes with that for a minute before realizing his mistake.

“Symone! Symone, come back! You have to see this!” He shouted over his shoulder, but she was already long gone.So instead Alex focused on his work, and for the rest of the weekend he barely moved from his chair, studying in old dusty books, and unraveling complicated, alien codes.

Tuesday couldn’t come fast enough. He was in the cafe almost a half hour early, tapping out a loud tattoo on the table with his hands.

Finally, she stepped inside, accompanied by her ever-present, ever-silent bodyguards, who had muscles that always made Alex rather self-conscious about his small frame.

“Your Highness!” He jumped up and helped pull her slide into hr seat. “I found something.”

Her deep blue eyes glinted excitedly. “What is it?” They leaned towards each other, and Symone waved her guards away to a nearby table.

“Well?”

“I received a transmission. From an unknown part of space.”

Symone frowned, pushing herslef away from him in disbelief.. “Are you sure? It wasn’t just the Domino’s guy letting you know he had your combo ready?”

Alex shook his head. “Of course I’m sure, I wouldn’t be telling the Queen of my planet if I wasn’t.”

Symone still seemed unconvinced. “What did it say?”

“You should read it for yourself. Come to my office tonight at eight, I’ll make sure the buildings empty so we can talk more openly.” Alex stood up. “Enjoy your lunch, Your Highness. Give my regards to your husband, long live King Simon.” He walked out of the cafe, leaving the Queen uncertain.

She wanted badly to believe him but it seemed so unlikely…her guards walked over.

“Ma’am, are you ready to leave?”

She nodded. “As soon as I order my Broccoli Cheese soup.”

The two bulky men squeezed into the booth across from her and waved over a waitress.

Symone smiled and ordered, as a thousand thoughts raced through her head. She was so close to knowing the answers she’d been looking for for so long…

 

 

 

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A Fly’s Death

Bonjour!

I’m Franny. You might remember the other message I left, right after I died…no? Well, it’s called A Fly’s Life, and you’re going to want to read it before you continue with this.

Have you read it yet?

Well, I’m going to pretend that you have.

Anyways, I’m Francis Pope John Paul Ringo George the Third. As stated before, you may call me Franny.

Now, in my last message I told you all about Dave.

Oh Dave, kind, sweet, nonjudgmental Dave… he really is such an inspiration to me. I’ve been keeping an eye on him from beyond the grave, and guess what! He really did find happiness. He adopted a cute little Pit Bull, sweetest thing.

I mean, he did tear down the drapes, and spill his water, and chew Dave’s shoes, but he’s just a puppy who needs training.

And he makes Dave happy, which is the most important thing in the world.

As for me, I’m having a great time. There are so many of my relations down here in the afterlife.

Like, really, there are trillions of my cousins and ancestors that I didn’t even know about. Or wanted to know.

Some of the other insects down here aren’t flies though.

Like Eleanor…

fly3

Eleanor was the prettiest Lady Bug I’d ever known. She was also the only lady bug I’d ever known, but I’m still sure she was the prettiest of them all.

We first met a couple days after I’d gotten into the Other Place. She had just died, actually in a similar way  I had. Eleanor had been stomped on, while a rude spider watched on, without so much as lifting one of his unnecessarily long eight legs to help.

Spiders. What good do they do anyways that they have a right to walk on this planet? We should make a rocket and send them all to Mars. Or that one planet where it rains glass sideways. Maybe they’ll all get impaled and we won’t have to worry about them anymore.

But I digress. Eleanor had died, and I happened to see her being led past me by a welcoming committee.

Intrigued,  I followed them. Did you know that a group of lady bugs is called a Loveliness?

After getting to know Eleanor I understand why.

They ended up near the rose patch, and that’s where I made my move.

“Excuse me, but I believe there’s a new arrival waiting for you, I can take it from here ladies.” I bowed courteously to the Welcoming Workers.

“We aren’t ladies.” One of them muttered as he flew back towards the gates. “Why does everyone assume I’m a girl?”

Eleanor cleared her throat. I grinned, and she smiled back, and I knew immediately that she was just as in love as I was and we were going to get married and live happily ever after in the Other World and never be alone again!

“I’m trying to find someone, can you help me?” She asked shyly. “His name is Henry the 333rd.”

“Oh, that’s so cool that you have a brother!” I nodded enthusiastically. She laughed as if I had made a joke…I still am not sure what that was about.

And so off we went to find her brother, calling his name as we flew in between thorns and rose hips. She called him ‘Sweetie’ and ‘Babe’ and ‘Honey’ too, but I restrained myself, as I hadn’t even met the guy yet.

Finally she saw him. She squealed and dove towards where he was basking on a leaf.

fly2

“Henryyyy!!!” She yelled.

“Eleanorrrr!!!” He replied, as they flew into each other.

“Frannyyyy!!!” I screamed as I hugged myself.

It was a bonding moment.

You might wonder why I choose to tell this of all stories. Well, I haven’t seen or talked to her since then (this all happened about three hours ago by my estimate), but I am sure we are meant to be.

There is no doubt in my mind that when I propose to her tomorrow she will say yes and everything will work out perfectly.

I just want to make sure that her brother, who is likely going to be very protective, understands what’s going on.

Hey, maybe Henry could be my best man! After all, I have no other friends to speak of, and who better for the job than the Bride’s family?

You know what, I think I should just go talk to Henry now. Maybe he can direct me towards a good jeweler to buy a ring.

I’ll make sure to send you an invitation to the wedding.

Eleanor, here comes your Prince Charming!

 

 

Cyber-Ella #008

Huge, white and golden gates loomed up in front of them.

“Wow…” Cristi and Ella whispered together.

They slowed to a stop as the cars in front of them braked, waiting patiently in line for their turn to hand the guards their invitation and be waved through the gates.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Cristi inched forwards until they were stopped again by a guard who bent down, blue-gloved hand extended.

“Invitation please.” His deep voice rumbled. Ella handed it to him and he waved a scanner over the top of it. The scanner beeped green, he handed the paper back and sent them through the fence and into a parking lot beyond.

More assistants were waiting to show them to a parking place where Cristi said goodbye and started her trip back out of the maze of sparkling clean cars.

As Ella walked up to the Palace steps, she noticed that all the cars around her seemed to be much newer models or in way nicer condition that Cristi’s had been.

She also realized that the outfit that had made her feels so extraordinary at her house was common place in this crowd of elegant people, twittering quietly amongst themselves as they made their way to the massive oak doors, which gaped slightly open, welcoming its visitors.

Yet more guards stood, once more scanning invitations as people passed through.

Ella was given her paper back as the guard called “Next!” to the person behind her. She was then ushered into a magnificent welcoming hall, where, even as people were being sent through to the courtyard below, hors d’oeuvres were being passed out by girls in white aprons and gloves.

The ceiling was hard to see without craning your neck, and stained glass windows cast colorful lighting on all who were below them.

A balcony was next, marble stairs leading to a huge courtyard below. Gowns and suits, lights and music and laughter were all that could be seen. Ella started towards it eagerly but was stopped by another guard.

“Invitation please, miss.” She complied, wondering how many times throughout the evening this was going to happen.

“Excuse me, please step this way Miss.” He placed a gentle hand on her back and led her into a separate room where a couple dozen others were waiting.

“What’s going on?” She asked in bewilderment.

“All of the Royal Family’s personal guests are going to be announced fifteen minutes after the ball starts. Drinks and food are provided until then, enjoy yourself.” He left.

Everyone who had turned to look at her when she’d walked in was now going back to what they had been doing. It was much quieter and calmer in here rather than out with the big crowd.

Ella looked up at a large clock on the wall which had carvings of inspirational quotes all around it, one for each hour. It was nearly seven now and Ella giggled at the quote beside the small clocks’ needle.

“Everything is Figureoutable…” She repeated to herself. She was suddenly startled by a familiar voice next to her.

“I’m not sure if that’s really a word.” Turning, she saw Prince Frederick was standing near her shoulder, a grin on his face.

“I’m glad you came.” He took her hand, kissing it lightly as he bowed.

“Um. I am too…” She said awkwardly. He tilted his head back some, laughing.

A few other people were coming up to him now to say hi, but most were staying in a group around whom Ella supposed must be his parents, although she couldn’t really see them through the throng.

She tried to slip aside, not wanting to get in other’s way, but he caught her arm, “It’ll just be a minute, hang on.”

But ten minutes later, he was still being bombarded with questions, comments and concerns by the critics around him.

Before he had gotten a chance to give her any more thought, the same guard who had showed Ella in stepped inside and raised a hand for quiet. When that didn’t work, he grabbed a goblet and knife from a  passing waiter and clanged them together a few times. The crowd fell silent.

“We will be announcing the Royal Family, followed by their guests, in just 5 minutes. Thank you.” He closed the door behind him and everyone quickly grabbed clutches, checked their dresses and jewelry, and made sure they were presentable.

Now that the group had dispersed, Fred turned back to Ella. He opened his mouth to say something but then his father, the King, had placed a hand on his shoulder.

“So this must be your lovely date.” He boomed.

“What?” Ella and Fred said at the same time.

The Queen joined him. “It’s very nice to meet you dear. Now, come with us, you’ll be introduced alongside Fred so they’ll want your name in advance.”

The four of them were moved to the doors where none other than Maurice was standing to greet them.

“Your Majesty’s.” He bowed low, although with his height it merely made him closer to the King’s short stature. “It will be just a moment, I apologize for any delay. Now,” He turned towards Frederick and Ella, “Who is your- Well, well, well. Miss Ella.”

The royals looked confused. “You know each other?” Fred asked.

“He delivered my step-family’s invitations.” Ella explained.

Maurice straightened up and fixed his lapel. “It’s time.”

The heavy door opened from the outside, pulled by its sentinels. Maurice walked out, followed by the King and Queen and trailing in the back were Fred and Ella.

Fred linked his ram through hers, leading the way to the balcony. “I’m sorry for the confusion.” He whispered.

She nodded back, to nervous to say anything. They stopped on the balcony, still in their pairs. The crowd below was turned to them, cheering.

Maurice raised his arms and they quieted. He was handed a microphone into which he spoke, “Introducing, His Majesty, King Daniel the Third, and the Lovely Queen Demitri the Sixth.” Screams of approval from below welcomed them as they waved and smiled easily.

They stepped to the side and Ella made to follow them, but Fred gently pushed her the other way. Maurice smiled down with his lips, but his eyes were cold.

“Introducing His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Frederick, and his Guest of Honor, Miss Ella Bonds.” Everyone cheered loudly as Ella followed Fred’s example and waved at them below.

The crowd hushed more quickly this time, as the spotlight that was shining brightly down on the balcony caught Ella’s metal hand as she waved it.

A short silence followed, before the King cleared his throat and Maurice spoke up again.

“Yes, now, let the dancing commence!” He shouted, and the music started up once more.

Ella was breathing heavily. Fred guided her to the stairs, and they followed his parents into the crowd below where, instead of being suffocated by fans as Ella had expected, they were given plenty of space and even bowed to as they passed.

Jealous girls frowned at Ella, and some others backed up hurriedly when they saw her hand hanging at her side.

“Let’s dance.” Fred said once they got to the middle of the floor. They assumed the Waltz closed position and she counted the beats of the music as he swept her into a turning box step. He spun her and her skirt swirled pleasantly about her legs.

EPSON MFP image

They glided around, the only ones dancing so far. After a minute the King and Queen joined, and soon many couples were spinning across the floor, although plenty of space was still given to the Royals and Ella.

For the next while they laughed and talked, dancing and eating and truly enjoying themselves. They learned quite a bit about each other, and Ella noticed that what London had said about him was all true.

“Do you like horses?” He asked her randomly.

“Yes, I love them why?” She responded.

“Well, I was just thinking, I have access to quite a few, and wonderful riding grounds, and if you would like, perhaps you could come with me sometime?” He glanced sideways at her.

She smiled, “I would love to.”

Looking relieved, he offered her his arm once more. “May I have this dance?”

Ella let him lead her onto the dance floor, and they began a smooth samba.

About halfway through the song Ella saw a very familiar, very angry face watching her from the crowd.

She could feel the color drain from her face.

“What’s wrong?” Fred asked concernedly. “Are you done with the dance?”

“Adri.” She gasped, freezing in place, although she wanted badly to run.

 

His eyes followed hers and he frowned. “Is that your step mother?” He asked as Adri swept towards them looking livid.

“May I have a moment alone with Ella, please?” She asked through gritted teeth.

Fred slipped a protective arm around his partner. “No you may not.”

Adri looked upset but quickly tried to hide it. She curtsied slightly as she apologized to Fred, “I’m sorry for the intrusion, but this girl is under my jurisdiction and not supposed to be here.”

“Your jurisdiction? What’s that supposed to mean?” Ella asked harshly.

Adri stared at her, eyes squinted in anger. “How dare you leave without my permission,” she whispered.

“She had mine.” Fred stated simply.

Ella saw a pair of guards making their way towards Fred, noticing the disturbance. “Where are the twins?” She asked, deciding she should keep Adri occupied until the soldiers could intervene.

“Dancing. They met a couple of…Dukes.” She said, wrinkling her nose on the last word.

“Well, I’m sure they won’t miss you much.” Ella said as a guard caught Adri’s elbow.

“Get off of me!” She squealed, surprised to see someone so much taller than her.

“Your Highness.” The guard looked to Fred. He waved his hand and  the guards marched Adri away, as she shouted obscenities at them.

“Thank you, sir!” Ella called after them.

“I believe we should have your sisters found as well and-”

Ella cut them off. “And I should take them home.”

Fred was shocked, but masked it. “Are you sure you want to leave?” He asked uncertainly.

“I need to take care of them. She’s hurt them too. In fact, I pity them, she starved them and stuffed them in tiny clothes and trained them to obey like pets instead of children. Adri used them to her advantage. I’m trying to be a shoulder for them to cry on lately.”

Fred nodded. “Let’s find them, I’ll have a car take you home.” He paused. “Do you mind if I come with you? I don’t really want to be here alone.” He glanced pointedly at a group of young teenage girls that had been staring at him for some time.

“Sure. But our place is nothing like yours.” They laughed, and with the help of a few servants, had soon found the twins. They explained the situation, although the girls seemed to be having trouble paying attention while the Prince was standing there.

Fred arranged for a car and his bodyguard followed them in a separate, ordinary looking vehicle.

They got to the apartment, and once inside the twins started sniffling. “What’s going to happen to our mom?” They asked.

“She’ll be charged with harassment and abusing you three.” Fred answered bluntly.

The twins sobbed louder, and Ella threw him a look as she wrapped her arms around them. “You two will be fine. I’ll take care of you, don’t worry.”

Fred volunteered to make dinner while Ella got the twins into more comfortable clothes. Then the two of them sat the other two down on the couch and within a few minutes, all four were sprawled across it eating Chinese takeout (which Fred had ordered instead of attempting to cook) and watching a cheesy chick flick that Paris had picked.

And even though they all knew it wasn’t going to be easy, they did all know that eventually, their kindness to each other would help get them through whatever challenges lied ahead.

It was like Ella’s mother, Emilie, had said, “Have Courage, and Be Kind.”

Ella’s father had repeated the phrase often since his wife’s death, and Ella had never payed to much attention until now.

But in that moment, as she lied on an old couch with her little sisters and the Prince, who was wrinkling his fancy suit, an arm around each of the twins to comfort them, having courage and being kind seemed to be the most important thing in the world.

 

 

 

 

Cyber-Ella #007

Ella and Mori ran – well, jogged – all the way back to the apartment before she remembered she’d forgotten her keys. She pounded on the door, Mori howling beside her.

A minute later Paris opened the door. They pushed in past her excitedly, yelling for everyone to come to the living room. London ran down the hall, worried that something was wrong. Adri came huffing behind her.

“What happened? What is it?” They asked.

“You’ll never believe…I met him…”Ella panted, her run catching up to her as the adrenaline wore off.

“Met who?” Paris was intrigued.

“The Prince, Frederick.”

Silence. They all stared at her in shock, mouths slowly opening. And then a storm of questions and exclamations.

“Really?! Are you sure? What was he like? Did he talk to you? Tell us everything!” The twins screamed.

“And start from the beginning,” Adri reminded sharply.

And so she told them the whole ordeal, explaining her wit helping him escape from the mob and how gentlemanly he was in both the elevator and the little shop they’d hid in.

Adri stopped her partway through. “But you said he came to deliver your invitation. We didn’t hear a knock at the door. Explain that.”

Ella thought for a moment. “Oh!” She jumped up and opened the front door. There, laying on the ground in front of the welcoming mat, was a small envelope just like the one that had been for Adri, except thinner.

“It must have fallen out of the door without me noticing when I was coming in.”

“But why didn’t he just knock? I would have loved to meet him.” London looked disappointed.

“Well, probably for exactly that reason. He didn’t want a crowd around him like what happened in the street.” Ella explained.

Adri looked mildly impressed. “So it’s true? You really did meet His Grace.” Ella nodded. “Well that’s settled then. You can’t go to the ball.”

“What?!” Not just Ella but all three girls shouted angrily.

“You will ruin Paris’ and London’s chances of getting him as a husband. You will be too much of a distraction.” Adri stood from where she’d been sitting for the tale. “I’m sorry you’ll have to miss the party, we’ll take pictures to show you.”

“But I have to go! He personally invited me as his guest!” Ella pleaded.

“Well he’ll just be disappointed.” Adri replied coldly. “Come girls, let’s go over the schedule for tomorrow.” She grabbed the twins’ hands and pulled them unwillingly down the hall.

Ella stayed on the couch, shocked. Moriarty barked from he bedroom and she wandered in to let him out of his kennel and onto her lap.

A plan began to form in her head. She would still go, she had an invitation of her own, a ride- oh wait, her ride was coming early, how would she be able to convince Adri that she wasn’t going and still slip out past her?

That night she stayed up late, writing her plan on paper. When London came in to check if she wanted dinner, she quickly hid her notebook and declined the Orange Tofu and Miso dinner, yummy as it sounded, she could get some later.

The next day passed uneventfully, Ella was forced to clean the house until it shone and was not allowed to talk to the twins. But when she got a break and went back in her room a little while before dinner, she found a small piece of dainty lilac stationary that had been slid under her door by Paris.

On it was a note saying that Paris was going to leave a dress hanging on her door and that Ella was to get it once Adri had gone to bed. It also had Ella’s escape plan folded neatly inside it, and she assumed that Paris had found it while feeding Mori earlier. She should have guessed, it was unlike Paris to volunteer to do anything.

During a tense and uncomfortable dinner, Ella glanced up and winked at Paris with a small smile. She looked back down quickly before Adri could notice anything. London had seen though, and now it was she who felt slightly misplaced out of the three of them, unaccustomed as she was to not knowing what her twin was up to.

Ella couldn’t sleep that night, so she ended up watching Netflix until almost one in the morning which was when she grabbed the dress, still in it’s plastic bag, off of Paris’ door.

When she did fall asleep she had odd dreams of things going bizarrely wrong at the ball, such as her showing up without any clothes at all, or messing up her dancing so bad that the entire crowd laughed.

Needless to say, she was rather tired the next morning, and ended up oversleeping. Adri woke her around 10 shouting about how she was going to ruin the evening for her family as well if she didn’t get up and help the girls get ready.

“But the ball isn’t even for another,” She checked her alarm clock, “like, nine hours.”

“And?” Adri spun on her heel and hurried down the hall, calling for her daughters to start getting dressed as she went.

Ella groaned and rolled out of bed, her blankets and sweats tangled around her legs. Mori opened one eye lazily before falling back asleep with a loud puppy snore.

The girls were in hysterics.

London was sobbing because her mother wouldn’t let her have breakfast. “But it’s the most important meal of the day!” She pleaded.

“Hush!” Adri turned back to meticulously yanking each of Paris’ strands of hair into place.

Ella watched the miserable sight for a moment before speaking up. “What do you need help with, London?” She asked her youngest sister.

London sniffed. “I need to get my dress on and then do my makeup.”

“Won’t it have rubbed off by the time the ball starts?” Ella grabbed London’s ballgown out of the closet. “Here.” she helped her into it as London replied.

“I’ll reapply when it’s time.”

Ella was still finding problems with their plan. “What if you spill something on your while eating lunch or whatever? Or tear it or something?”

“The girls won’t be eating today.” Adri shoved the last pin into Paris’ scalp as she yelped. “Posture, etiquette, and dancing will be all that they do until our limo arrives. And you will be helping them with that, along with running any errands for me that I may need done.”

“Wow.” Ella breathed in disbelief. It was shocking how extremely important this dance was, more so for the mother than even the girls who it should have had more importance too.

But, to Adri’s wishes, dancing and etiquette and prancing back and forth around the house balancing things on their heads was what consumed the girls’ day. Around five, after Ella had snagged a quick dinner last night’s leftovers, Adri called her down the hall.

Ella obeyed and found her step-mother standing in front of Ella’s open bedroom door. Moriarty was sitting just inside, looking up at Adri with a snarl. Adri growled back and he slunk away back to Ella’s bed.

“Yes?” Ella asked, hiding the chocolate bar she was holding behind her back.

“You’ve done enough, thank you. Please stay in your room for the rest of the evening.”

Ella was surprised. “But won’t you need help up until you get out the door?”

Adri looked haughty, “I’m perfectly capable of getting my daughters and I ready.”

Ella shrugged. “Sounds good to me.” She stepped in her room, and then turned back. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Adri smiled and closed the door.

“Wait,” Ella called.

The lock clicked. She was stuck.

Adri had had a lock installed solely for the purpose of keeping Ella in when she was grounded for some silly thing, but now it was stopping Ella’s plan in it’s tracks.

Ella pounded on the door, yelling for help even though she knew it was no use.

Finally she gave up, sliding to the ground, her back to the door, hands over her face.

Her hand. She looked at it, the metal glinting in the light like it always did.

She’d read somewhere that humans are capable of great strength, but their mind blocks them from using it to protect themselves. If that was true, then maybe this hand would let her break the door down…

Standing, she turned and looked at the door. Right by the handle there was a chunk of wood missing from once when Adri had locked her in here for two days and three nights straight. Ella had used her switchblade finger attachment to try digging around so she could unlock the door. Of course, that failed spectacularly. But maybe it had weakened the wood just enough that she could…

Punch it.

It was a good thing her hand didn’t have much feeling, but her arm still tingled and felt more like a limp noodle than an arm.

So, maybe that wasn’t going to work. Mori had started barking, now she shushed him and turned back, analyzing the problem ahead of her.

After a half hour of failed attempts, her eyes fell on the top corner of her door and she felt like a colossal idiot.

Hinges. She walked over and grabbed her chair and toolbox. Carefully, she unscrewed the door from the frame but left it leaning up against it until she was ready to leave.

Adri and the twins could be heard down the hall in Paris’ room, chattering about who knows what. Ella turned back and grabbed the dress from the bag. A few minutes she stood in a long flowing blue piece. She stared at herself in the mirror for a moment.

She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt this beautiful. The skirt swished around her legs with every step, the small waistline complimented her figure and although it had looked like it would be too small, with the help of a corset that had been left in the bag, she fit comfortably.

She grabbed her slippers off the bed, they were just small tan heeled dance shoes from her ballroom class but they would work perfectly.

She snatched up her gloves and some tights and leggings but paused, and after a moment, tossed the leggings back onto the bed.

She had gotten a pear of nude leggings to hide her leg on important occasions, but she strangely didn’t feel like she needed to. The prince hadn’t minded it, why should she?

Sliding on her tights covered the shine of the metal a little but it was still rather obvious. She smiled at herself in the mirror and dropped her gloves on her floor. Ella wouldn’t be ashamed of herself anymore. This was her body, and she was proud of the way it looked.

She glanced at the clock. Her ride would be here in twenty minutes. She quickly brushed her long, gold, slightly curly hair and let it flow down her back. She usually kept it up in a pony tail, but this looked nice.

Next for makeup. She pulled out the little bit that she had and frowned. But then she simply applied a little mascara and some soft pink lipstick. She wouldn’t hide her face from the world. Besides, Fred had met her when she was only wearing mascara, this way he would recognize her.

She turned to Moriarty, who had been watching with interest.

“Now, I have a ball to get to.” She brushed a kiss across his head and grabbed her purse (which didn’t in any way match her dress) and, shoving her phone, keys and lipstick into it, she slipped out of her room, checking the coast was clear before dodging down the hall. She opened the front door and made sure to close it quietly behind her.

Fortunately, the elevator was waiting on her level, but it wasn’t until she was out the door and sitting on the apartment’s front step that she calmed some.

Ella still kept glancing over her shoulder, afraid Adri would come running after her.

A car honked in front of her, and turning she saw and jumped into Cristi’s car.

“Thanks for the ride.”

“You look incredible!” Cristi gave her a small side hug as she pulled out onto the road.

Ella looked over her shoulder one last time, but no angry step-mother was waiting for her. Breathing deeply, Ella leaned back, smiling.

She was going to Fred’s ball.

 

 

 

 

Cyber-Ella #006

It was Friday the fifth of July, the ball was in two days.For the last week Ella and her sisters had become closer than they’d been in a long time.

There were still many snide remarks and rude comments exchanged of course, and Adri was still biased and cruel, but at least they were able to talk to each other now.

Take that morning for example. Tension in the house had gotten almost unbearable. Emotions were prone to go back and forth to extremes. London was still being forced to diet, and Paris was having to exercise for at least two hours every day because her mom said her legs were too weak for a night of dancing and she was probably right.

Speaking of which, all three of them were now in a beginning ballroom dance class. It was just after one of those painful mornings of spins and triple steps and under the arm turns and who knows what else, the three girls stumbled through their apartment door and threw themselves on the couch. Dainty, high heeled shoes were tossed off onto the carpet along with a heavy metal leg, and Moriarty had to be shooed away before he chewed on them.

They lied there complaining about their strict tutor while watching Dance Moms. But when keys could be heard in the door, shoes were snatched up, a leg was refastened, the TV was turned off and Moriarty was shooed down the hall in record time. Adri came in sighing loudly.

“What are you all doing?” She asked accusingly. “Why are you just sitting around? You should be getting ready for the ball.”

“We just got back from dance class, we have our outfits chosen, back-up outfits in case a tragedy happens before we get to the palace, hair appointments tomorrow, and meals in the freezer for food that day so you can focus on the ball and not worry about anything else.” Ella rattled off reassuringly.

For once, Adri seemed pleased. “Well done, ladies. Now just work on your dancing and one of you will be sure to snag the prince.”

Ella grabbed London. “Did you hear that? Did she actually compliment us or was I dreaming?” London giggled, and Paris glanced over her shoulder, unaccustomed to being left out of anything.

It was nice to have friends in her house again. That hadn’t happened much since her father had died.

“Ella, as an outside opinion, who of the two of us do you think is most likely to end up with Prince Frederick?” Paris asked, one eyebrow raised mischievously.

The twins stared her down while Ella tried to think of a way to answer that would keep both of them happily.

“Well…let’s see…Paris, you have a great sense of humor and you’re very witty, so you’re words might be flattering enough to catch his eye an-”

“Mother has told me not to make jokes as it will make me look silly. He’s two years older than me, I have to appear mature,” Paris shot her down.

“That’s crap. Guys like girls who will laugh, just be yourself.” Ella gave her a small side hug. “And London, you really are gorgeous. You have a sweet air about you, you just seem nice.”

The girls smiled. “Thanks, Ella.” Turning arm in arm, they wandered down towards their rooms.

“Hey, where are you going?” Ella started to follow them.

“We were going to play a game, do you want to join us?” London asked kindly.

Ella grinned. It was nice to be included, but “No thanks. I’m going to take Moriarty for a walk. Have fun.” She whistled and her dog came running, skidding on the carpets like he always did.

“Hey boy! Wanna go for a walk? Yeah? Yes you do, my good boy…” She spoke to him while struggling to attach his leash. Finally she got it on. “Okay, let’s go!”

Out the door and across the hall they went. In front of the elevator Ella reached to push the button, but the doors began opening before she could. Quickly stepping back to let three people past her, she said hi to an elderly couple she knew from down the hall.

The last one out was a younger guy who looked vaguely familiar, and curiously enough, he was holding a thick manila envelope that couldn’t even close fully because of its contents. They nodded at each other, and Ella began to step into the elevator.

The boy put his hand up and held the door for her. She saw him glance down at her leg, and she tugged at her shorts some, painfully aware of her extremities.

“Have a nice day.” He said quietly as he turned down the hall.

“You too,” she called, but the door had already closed.

The elevator stopped three times to pick up passengers and when they finally got to the ground level, Ella and Moriarty gladly stepped out into the warm air just outside the building. Ella took a deep breath and led Mori to the right.

Being outside was nice, and here people didn’t know her as well, so they were less likely to care about her metal parts. She waved at everyone with her right hand happily, Mori had his tongue lolling and he barked at cats in the alleys of streets they passed.

After about an hour they had made a u-turn and were getting close to their apartment again.

“Hey, isn’t that the guy from the elevator?” Ella raised her hand in salute, but something odd was happening. A group of girls had crowded around him and try as he might to duck away, more people surrounded him, leaving no room for escape.

She caught a glimpse of his face and he seemed very uncomfortable, searching for a way out.

Ella jogged up to the mob and picked up Mori. Together they started pushing to the center where he was. People gave her space, probably disgusted by her leg and hand. Finally she caught hold of his sleeve, and his face lit up in recognition. “Help,” he begged.

She could hear everyone’s conversations around him. They were calling him Fred and Frederick, Prince Frederick. Suddenly she understood the situation. She started shouting until people started turning towards her.

“Everyone, please, back up!”

Some guy in the crowd yelled back “Not until I get his autograph!”

“Oh, I see, you all think he’s the Prince don’t you?” She shook her head with a smile. “No, you see, this is my cousin. He’s a look-a-like, he gets this all the time…”

“So he’s not the Prince?” One girl asked, disappointed.

“No, he’s not, I’m sorry,” And so, with a hand out in front of her, she pulled him along behind her until they were able to dodge into a store, leaving the crowd behind.

“Woah..thank you, so much.” He was breathing heavily still, but he stuck out his hand to shake.

She shook with her metal hand, and for the first time there was a person who didn’t flinch when they touched her. In fact, he grasped her hand, examining it with an intrigued look on his face.

She cleared her throat awkwardly and he backed up. “I’m sorry. That was rude.” He bowed. “Please accept my most humble apology.”

She laughed. “You’re all good.” They looked at each other for a moment. “So, are you really, you know, Prince Frederick?”

He grinned, his smile slightly lopsided. “Fred is fine.”

“I should be the one bowing then.” Ella said, hand on her hip. “I won’t though.” Quickly she added, “I mean, because people would notice and bombard you again, not out of disrespect…”

“I know what you mean.”

“Why are you here anyways? I mean, why were you in my building?” She asked.

“Oh, I wanted out of the palace, and there was an invitation for my coronation ball I decided to deliver.” He glanced at her, “I don’t suppose you would want to come? To the ball, I mean.”

“Um, thanks, but I’m actually already coming…” She smiled, but he looked confused.

“You are?” He paused, but then understanding spread across his face. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Ella. Ella Bonds.”

He straightened up and laughed. “I was bringing the invitation for you. See, we found out that the Tremaine’s had been invited, but a step-daughter was unfortunately missed on the invite list.”

“Wait, so you are personally inviting me to your ball?” Ella clarified. He nodded. “Well, I’ll definitely be coming, there’s no way Adri can stop me now.”

“Why would she stop you?”

“We aren’t all that close.” Mori barked, and a shopkeeper looked up and frowned. “Oh crap, Mori shouldn’t be in here, I have to go, I’m sorry…”

Fred walked with her to the door and out onto the street. “I’ll see you Friday, then.”

“Friday it is. Goodbye, Your Highn- Fred.” She caught herself.

“Bye Ella.”

 

 

 

 

 

Cyber-Ella #005

Ella was persistent in her quest to get an invitation to the ball.Over the next few days she was on her best behavior, enduring relentless squeals of excitement from the twins and snarky comments from her step-mother without even one sassy reply.

She also called in a favor from an old friend whom she’d set up on a blind date three years ago. Her friend, Cristi, was still with the guy, and rumor was they were soon to be engaged.

Using her leverage as the instigator of a successful relationship, Ella called and asked for a ride.

“We’d love to take you! But we’ll have to bring you about a half an hour early, because I have a work meeting that evening. Is that alright?” Cristi asked over the phone.

“That’s perfect! Thank you so much.” They chatted for a short while longer before hanging up. Triumphant, Ella called down the hall to see if Adri was still home.

What?” A harsh voice came in reply.

Ella danced into Adri’s room. “I have a ride for the ball. All I need is the ticket in.”

“And a dress. And something to hide your… deformities. And a list of completed chores. Not to mention my permission.” Adri listed, sounding bored, and without looking up from the novel she was reading.

Biting back an angry retort, Ella took a deep breath. “I will find a dress. I’ll do the chores. You know I can.”

“Hmm…Perhaps you can go, but under one circumstance.”

“Another one?” Ella blurted out, exasperated.

Adri raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. You are not to talk to or act as though you know in any way, me or your sisters. Stay far away from us. And don’t mention our names to anyone.”

“Easily.” Ella replied dryly.

Adri made a shooing motion with her hand. Leaving hurriedly, Ella had to suppress her own squeal of delight as she headed into the living room. Paris and London were playing checkers, laying on the floor in jeans and t-shirts, a rare thing for those two.

“How’s the game, girls?” She surprised them as she plopped onto the couch, her feet rather near their heads.

“It’s fine.” Paris smiled at her.

“No, it’s awful.” London frowned.

“Oh, is Paris winning then?” The girl’s faces made it clear she had been right. “Well, how about the three of us play a game of Monopoly when you’re done?”

The twins looked at each other. “Why?” They asked in unison.

“Because, when you guys were little, I used to play with you all the time. Don’t you remember?” The twins were only one year younger than Ella, but maturity-wise it seemed much more than that.

“Well, it does sound kind of fun…” Paris looked over at the game cupboard, contemplating her options.

“Ya, not so bad…” London’s usually pessimistic attitude seemed to change a little bit, inclined towards the game as she was. “I’m pretty good at Mono.”

Now it was Paris and Ella who spoke in unison. “Mono?” They asked, concernedly.

“Yeah, it’s slang for monopoly, isn’t it?”

They shook their heads no. “Definitely not.”

The twins finished their checkers while Ella prepared the next game. When they were all about half way around the board in their third roll of the dice, Adri’s heels could be heard down the hall.

Ella seized her leg, which she had taken off for comfort purposes, and shoved it under a blanket, knowing that Adri usually wasn’t all that pleased with body parts lying around her living room.

In came the old hag, peering down her nose as usual. Her mouth dropped open in surprise. “Girls! What are you wearing?”

The twins looked ashamed of themselves. Ella laughed nervously, “They’re just jeans, Adri, what’s wrong with some denim?”

“Nothing. Except I just bought them new pantsuits yesterday, and it seems my money was wasted if they’re just going to disrespect me in that way.” She moaned dramatically and covered her eyes with her hands.

The twins stood up. “We’ll go change. We’re sorry Mother,” Paris almost whispered. They gave Adri a brief hug before scurrying down the hall to their rooms.

Ella shook her head ever so slightly and looked down at the game board.

“So what should I be expecting for dinner tonight?”

“Probably leftovers, since you haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while.” Ella replied coolly.

“So I’m the reason we have to eat sub-par again tonight?” Adri feigned wounded innocence. “I thought I could trust you to make a simple meal for three.”

“You mean four?” Ella reminded her, ignoring her first sentence.

“No, I most certainly meant only three. You see, London hasn’t been watching her waist as well as she should be, so she will get a meal substitute bar for dinner tonight.”

“You’re starving your own daughter?” Ella asked incredulously. “That’s barbaric!”

Adri sighed heavily. “It’s in her best interest. She’ll be lucky to catch a simple Duke’s eye the way she looks lately.”

“Cruelty, thy name is Adri.” Ella quipped.

“Clean up that mess and get cooking already. London’s bar is in the top right cupboard, over the pantry.” With one last sweeping glance over the mess of game pieces on her floor, Adri stalked out of the room haughtily.

The twins slipped past her back into the room, now in matching lavender and grey pant suits. Seeing Ella scooping up the cards and play money stopped them in their tracks.

“What are you doing?” Paris asked, sounding hurt.

“Your mom wants me to start cooking dinner. I’m sorry girls.”

They sunk onto the couch whispering to each other while she cleaned. After attaching her leg back onto her thigh Ella made her way to the kitchen and began the search for ingredients for a soup.

She couldn’t believe how Adri treated her own daughters sometimes. Like they were simply social tools to help her get where she wanted to be. That was when Ella decided that for the next year, her last one in this miserable house, she would be her step-sisters guardian angel. She would give them extra food and make sure they were able to get the individual and sincere attention that was necessary for their healthy human growth.

Whenever Adri wasn’t in the house, the girls would be cuddled and talked to and helped. They would be shown that it’s okay to be imperfect. They would be taught kindness. And hopefully they would show Ella the same generosity.

About an hour into the soup simmering away on the stove, Ella was sitting at the kitchen table, cocoa in hand and her favorite book in front of her. Her peace was disrupted when Adri came swooshing down the hall, black and white fur coat over her shoulders and purse in hand.

“Never mind, you’ll only need to make dinner for yourself and Paris tonight, Maurice has asked me out last minute. Goodnight, expect me back late.”

Rebelliously, Ella still set the table for three and sat down the twins at the table.

“My mom doesn’t want me to eat this.” London said sadly, looking into her steaming bowl of broth.

“Yeah well, what she doesn’t know won’t kill her.” And so, after checking the ingredients of the meal replacement bar, they fed it to a very pleased Moriarty and the three of them enjoyed their first pleasant meal together since before their teenage years.

 

Cyber-Ella #004

The next day she confronted Adri about the ball.

“Adri. I’ve been wondering, since you are all allowed to bring a guest with you to the ball, if I could come as one of them?” She bit her lip, fingers crossed for luck behind her back.

Adri looked shocked. “You? Why on this great green earth would I invite you to come with us to the Prince’s ball?”

“Oh I dunno, maybe because I clean your house, cook your food, practically raised your daughters, and am your legal daughter?” Ella replied sarcastically.

Adri straightened up to her ridiculous height of at least 6 feet. “So, you believe that that merits a place at the coronation ball?”

“Well, doesn’t it?” Ella asked almost desperately.

“It would,” Adri surprised her, “But,” Oh yes, here it came, Ella thought, “But, how do you plan on coming? You don’t have a ride, you don’t have a dress, all you do have are those monstrosities for limbs, and goodness girl, no one wants to see those at a nice gathering.”

Ella fought back tears. A monstrosity, was she? Searching for a way to come, “Why can’t I ride with you three?”

“Oh dear, we’re riding in a royal limousine. Do you honestly think the Prince wants a metal creature like you climbing out of a VIP carriage?” Adri sneered.

“I’m not a piece of metal to be treated like garbage.”

“But that’s exactly what you are! You’re literally half made from scrap metal. You are garbage, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. And you think that me and my perfectly respectable daughters want our reputation damaged by something like you coming to such a prestigious event with us?” She took a deep breath. “No, we do not.”

Ella sobbed, and quickly attempted to cover her mouth before anything more could escape. Now, for the first time, Adri had fully came out about how she felt towards Ella. She had never treated her fairly, but she’d been tolerated. Now though, Ella couldn’t help her tears from flowing freely. She turned and ran to her room. She tripped and her metal ankle joint twisted, sending her sprawling.

Adri laughed behind her, a cruel, cold laugh with no remorse for what she had done to a lonely teenage girl.

Ella grabbed her foot, and turned it back into place. She walked the rest of the way to her bed, slamming the door to her room hard behind her. Moriarty jumped up and started barking.

“It’s just me, Mori.” She scooped him up and lied on her bed, tears streaming down her cheeks as the dog tried to catch them with his tongue. “Why does she hate me so, Mori? What have I done?” Adri’s words echoed around her skull, “You’re scrap metal. You are garbage, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”  Was that it, then? After all the work she’d done in the house, after taking care of Paris and London while their mother drank away her own sorrows after her husbands death, was it Ella’s fate to be hated simply for her own body?

She stared at her metal hand, turning it this way and that. The light glinted off of her knuckle on her ring finger. She reached out with her left hand and pressed a small switch that was tucked inside of the joint. Her finger fell onto the bed. Peering inside of the small cavity on her hand, she could see a tiny circle of velvet fabric that she’d placed there.

Lifting the cloth carefully, she could feel the hard lump in it. Unfolded it revealed a small gold ring inlaid with an emerald, diamond, and ruby. Tiny, tucked carefully in a triangle formation, the gems and gold made up the only thing Ella had of her real mother.

The late Mrs. Emilie Bonds had been a beautiful, kind, and rather intelligent woman. Or so Ella had been told. An apartment fire, a year after Ella had been born, had killed her and destroyed almost everything that might have been kept as a reminder of her, including pictures, clothes…everything except for her wedding ring.

By some good fortune, Mr. Bonds had decided to take the ring to the jewelers to get it polished and try to find a matching necklace for his wife’s second anniversary present. Taking Ella with him so that his wife could sleep, he’s given Emilie a kiss on the cheek and called his goodbye over his shoulder as he went out the door, chasing little Ella as she crawled down the hall towards the stairs. Little did he know that he would never see his wife alive again.

When Ella was 8 years old he had given her the ring and Adri the matching necklace. That was the year he married his second wife. 3 years later he died from a rare bone cancer.

Ella was pretty sure that Adri had sold the necklace soon after his death, but the ring remained on Ella’s person at all times.

“Mom, if you can hear me from wherever you are now, can you help me?” Ella looked towards the ceiling, as if she would see her mothers spirit appear there. “I don’t need advice. I just need comforting. I just need to know that things really will get better…”

Closing her eyes to try and focus on some small, happy warmth within her, she woke up from an unexpected nap three hours later when Paris shouted in her ear.

“Get up! We need your help, get up you lazy thing!” Spinning, she flounced out of the room as Ella wiped her eyes groggily. “And hurry!” Paris shouted over her shoulder.

“Ugghhhunn…” Ella pushed herself up. Wandering into the other room, she leaned in the doorway. Paris and London had brought almost their entire wardrobes into Paris’ room where there was better lighting from a large window. Ella could still remember the fight for the room, Paris had won through a violent game of rock paper scissors, in which London remains sure she cheated.

Dresses lay across the bed, draped over chairs, hanging in front of the window, turning the light in the room hues of pink, green, purple and white.

“What’s going on in here?” Ella asked, bemused.

London looked at her like she was an idiot. “We have to find dresses for the ball, duh!”

“Yes, get in here and help zip me up!” Paris squealed. Ella moved towards her, but Adri cut her off.

“I’ll do it, you help London get her corset on.” She pushed her the other direction.

“Corset? Is the ball’s theme the 18th century?” Laughing, she pulled on the strings for London’s already-tiny waistlines. “Or are they just trying to look anorexic?”

“They’re going to look beautiful,” Adri stated proudly.

“Having an eating disorder isn’t beauty, Adri.”

Ignoring her, Adri turned back to Paris. “Spin, darling, I want to see the flow of that skirt.

Paris obeyed her, and everyone gasped.

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“Yes… perfect…now for you, London…” Adri picked up a couple dresses, tossing them carelessly aside before nodding in approval of one. “Ella put this on her.”

A few minutes later, London posed in her new gown.

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“Whoa.” Ella sighed under her breath.

“Wow indeed, ladies. You’ll be sure to blow the Prince away in these.” Adri tugged at the hem of their dresses, measuring what length of heel would be needed.

“Prince?” Ella laughed.

All three of them froze and turned to her with frowns. “Why are you laughing?” London demanded.

Ella scoffed. “It’s a ball. And you think you’ll walk in and then just magically, one of you will be engaged to a huge political figurehead without another word?”

“…And?” Paris asked.

“And it’s ridiculous! You only want to marry him for his status and money,” Ella argued.

“Don’t forget looks!” London giggled.

“But you don’t even know him!” she protested.

“What else is there to know?” Adri asked as she tip toed through the clothes on the floor over to Paris’ vanity. “How about summer roses, love?” She held up a small pink perfume bottle.

“What else?! You must be joking! What about his hobbies, likes and dislikes, political views, what he thinks of animals or children…what about those?”

“He loves horseback riding and gardening. He likes swimming and hates bad hair days. No political status yet. He loves children and dogs and birds but thinks cats are evil.” London laughed at Ella’s surprised look. “I’ve done my research, watched every interview, practically memorized his Wiki page. Trust me, we know what kind of guy we’re getting.”

“Wow.” Ella said again.

Adri looked at her small silver watch. “Time for you to make dinner, girl. And don’t forget, they have to look their best, so only gluten and sugar free food for the week. Preferably vegetarian as well. Chop chop, we must keep to a tight eating schedule for their metabolisms!”

Sighing, Ella left the mess she knew she would have to clean later to go make some sort of painfully disgusting – but healthy!- dinner for her step-sisters.

 

 

Cyber-Ella #003

A few days later, another knock was at the door. This one from a tall, leering man with bad teeth and breath who almost mockingly hunched over to hand Ella a letter. It was heavy, on thick fancy paper, embossed with flowery gold designs.

“Please give this to the esteemed Lady Adri and her daughters, Miss Paris and Miss London.” He paused for a moment. “And which of these lovely ladies are you?”

“None. I’m Ella, Adri’s step-daughter. Its nice to meet you.” She stuck out her cyborg hand to shake, but he ignored it, straightening up again with a sneer.

“Now I remember her mentioning an- er, Ella…” A sharpness came to his voice as he continued, “Be sure to give that to your mistress, understand?” Without waiting for an answer he spun on his heel and marched down the hall, his heeled boots clicking on the hardwood floors to the elevator.

“Nice guy.” Ella muttered to Moriarty as she pushed the door closed. The dog stuck out his tongue and rolled onto his back happily, completely oblivious to the odd vibes that the man had left in the home.

The letter was textured yet smooth in Ella’s fingers. She wondered if she ought to just open it like Adri had her do so often with mail or if she should wait and see if it interested her. Shrugging, she clicked open a small switchblade on her right index finger and slit the top of the envelope open. Out fell three thin pieces of sky blue paper rather than one thick one that Ella had been expecting. Scooping one up off the floor,her eyes widened as she saw the royal insignia pressed onto the back of the page in silver filigree.

“Maybe this is more of a personal, important matter,” Ella thought as she started reading anyways.

Miz. Adri Tremaine,

You are formally invited to Prince Frederick’s Coronation Ball.

It will be held in the Palace Courtyard on the 7th of July, commencing at Sunset.

You may bring a guest if you so desire.

Formal Dress. You will need your invitation to get in for security reasons. 

Then, below that, in scrawled handwriting,

Adri, I eagerly anticipate your arrival. If necessary, I will gladly send a carriage to bring you and your daughters to ensure you are able to come on time. You are a wonderful woman, and it would be a miserable date indeed if you did not come. Yours Truly, Maurice

“Maurice? Isn’t that the guy that Adri’s been slipping out to see all the time? How’d he get hold of her invit- oh ew was he the tall dude that delivered this?” She held the note away from her a bit.

Dropping it on the counter, she picked up the one addressed to London. “A ball, huh…Prince Frederick, oohh…the twins will be excited about this!”

“Excited about what?” London was standing just behind her, having sneaked up in slippered feet without Ella noticing. Deciding to just pretend as though she hadn’t just been caught red-handed, she stuck out the letter.

“This. It just came.” London snatched it away eagerly as Ella continued. “Hand delivered, actually. It’s from the palace.”

London let out a huge breath. “It is…wow…Prince..Frederick…PARIS! COME QUICKLY!” she shouted over her shoulder. Then turning sharply back to Ella she demanded more than asked, “Well, where’s her’s?”

Paris skidded into the room, much louder than London had entered. “What? What’s happened?”

Ella picked up Adri’s note and the envelope and slipped away to put it in her step-mother’s room while the twins squealed excitedly, jumping up and down like little kids on Christmas morning.

Moriarty followed, nails clickity-clacking on the tile. But, Ella couldn’t help wondering, if the rest of the family’s invites had come all together, where was hers?

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Later when Adri had returned from her office, the screaming that had only just stopped started up again as the twins eagerly told her about what had happened.  Ella and Moriarty slipped into their room seeking quiet.

She turned on her laptop, hitting the half-hologram setting so that she could project Netflix right in front of her while lazing around on Pinterest on the flat screen. Moriarty jumped onto the bed next to her and they cuddled happily watching a cheesy chick flick and eating snacks they’d hidden in their room.

Until Adri came in, that is.

“Where is it?” She half yelled, “The envelope? Where is it?”

Ella didn’t even bother looking up. “The rubbish bin. I had to get the girls invitations out for them and I figure you wouldn’t want a ripped bit of paper lying around.”

Adri was still tense. “Well as long as you weren’t snooping…”

“On what?” Ella glanced up with wide, crystal blue eyes, the perfect portrayal of innocence.

“Absolutely nothing.” They looked at each other for a moment. “Yes, well then, I have to go over plans for that evening with my daughters, so I’ll just…” She rushed out of the room, closing the door a little too hard behind her.

Ella giggled and pulled Moriarty back over to her, as he’d fallen asleep and started slipping off the bed.

She planted a small kiss on his head and there they remained until Ella got hungry enough to shift around the old dog to go to the kitchen for some food.

A note was on the fridge in Paris’s delicate handwriting.

We are going out to find accessories for the ball. There are probably some leftovers in the fridge. Sleep tight.

“Sweet, I’ve got the house to myself tonight! Moriarty, come here boy, lets party!” She reached over and turned the radio on and the volume up. Singing along to the song, she turned on every radio in the house to the same station and played her favorite YouTubers on the TV. She pulled out three different types of food from the fridge, heated them all up, dancing while they cooked, and simply reveled in the noisy, happy, aloneness that was her existence in that moment.

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A knock at the door startled both of them to their feet once more.

“Dang it, they’re home.” Ella whispered.  “Moriarty, go back to your kennel before they see I’ve let you be on the hardwood.” The dog growled at the door as keys jingled in the lock. Clicking his kennel door shut, Ella rushed to grab her prosthetic leg off the couch.

Her step sister’s and ‘mother’s voices could be heard now as they struggled to fit their shopping bags through the door of the apartment. Spinning a screw into her thigh whilst simultaneously locking her knees joint into place, Ella only just finished attaching her leg as her step-mother turned her rather pointy nose in Ella’s direction.

“What are you doing?” She asked harshly. “Why is there rust in the sink? I thought I gave you instructions to clean, not make more of a mess.” Turning back to her daughters before Ella could answer, her voice changed to a sugared tone. “Darlings, go put your new clothes away, assuming she’s cleaned your closets.”

Chattering away in their much-too-shrill little voices, the two of them walked past Ella, being sure to take up as much space as possible so she had to move out of their way.

“I was cleaning,” Ella turned back to her step-mother. “The rust is there from cleaning the gears on those ridiculous vintage bikes that London and Paris insisted on buying.”

“London found a wonderful deal on those, and Paris was wise enough to go along with it. Are you really so uncertain in your own choices that you must laugh at those of your sisters?” She frowned down at Ella, but their was a cruel smirk hiding behind those botoxed lips.

“Wise, yes.That’s definitely the first word that comes to mind when I think of Paris.” Ignoring the snide comment about her insecurities with herself, Ella though back to last week when Paris had started crying because she couldn’t remember how to spell ‘Magic’ and forgot that Google could help her with things like that.

“Oh, shut up.” Step-mother replied lazily. “Where is that little abomination of yours?”

Ella bristled. “Moriarty, you mean? He’s in his kennel, like a good boy.” For years it had been a battle for Ella to keep Moriarty. Ever since her Father’s death 6 years previously, his widow, Adri Tremaine, had done her best to make Ella wish she’d never been born.

Now forced to clean not only her own messes, but those of her step sisters and mothers, along with any other requests Tremaine could think of to keep her busy, from sweeping to cooking to dusting to scrubbing the grime off of unnecessary vintage bikes, Ella barely had a moment to breathe. Not to mention trying to keep up with her online schooling and acting club.

“Well it appears you completed the list I left you.” Adri peered over her spectacles at the piece of paper she’d put up on the fridge. “Throw this away and then go help your lovely sisters put away their new dresses. I’ve got a date with Maurice, I’ll be back sometime late.”

Sighing, Ella crumpled up the list and walked down the hall to Paris’ room. When she got to the door, she couldn’t help but pause and take in the beautiful girl sitting in her window looking over Central Park. She was wearing what must have been one of her new dresses, an exquisite pink thing so light it seemed almost to be floating around her.

Ella held up her metal hand, flipped open a hatch, and pushed a small button that clicked as it took a picture. She wanted to make a watercolor painting of the sight later. cyberella4

Paris looked up. “What are you doing?”

Ella lowered her arm. “Just trying to get your attention. Your mother wanted me to help you put away your new dresses.”

“They’re over there.” She turned back to the window.

“Thanks for the help…” Ella muttered. A pile of dresses was on the floor by the closet door. They must have all cost a fortune. Shaking her head, in awe at the amount of precious money that her roommates wasted on trivial things, she lifted the first gown.

It was another pink, this one ruffled and shorter in the skirt.

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When she was done hanging up all 13 of Paris’ new outfits (not all of which were dresses, a couple were complete pantsuits, for why no one knew), she headed in to help London.

She had more of a taste for shorter dresses, and in a wider range of colors rather than just pastels.

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She too was wearing one of her new items, however, unlike her still sister, she pranced back and forth across the room as though she was on a catwalk.

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Both of the girls could have been models if they wanted to, with their long legs, high cheekbones, thin waists and perfect blonde hair, they were the spitting image of the dolls you saw in magazines.

Ella cleaned up everything in London’s bedroom and then finally was released from her duties. Back in the living room, she slumped back onto the couch only to jump right back up to let Moriarty out of his kennel. When Adri wasn’t around the other girls didn’t seem to mind his cuddles.

Covering her eyes with her metal hand, Ella imagined for the trillionth time what life would be like in less than a year, when she would finally be an adult and would be legally allowed to leave her guardians house. She and Moriarty could find a flat to share with a stranger who would do their own chores for once. Ella could finally get her job at the local animal shelter where Moriarty had originally come from, and continue her secret passion for art…

“Where’s my dinner?” A shriek came from London’s room. “I want my spaghetti!”

“Coming right up, your royal highness.” Ella called back mockingly.

Back to work again until the twins were asleep. Looking forward to those few blissful hours before morning, Ella went to heat up some pasta from last nights dinner.

Maybe someday she would be the one dancing in a ballgown, people waiting on her every whim. Someday she might have been royal- if she hadn’t been born daughter to a poor mortician, that is.

Ah well, maybe she’d marry a prince.

Laughing to herself, she grabbed her tablet and turned on P!nk as loud as she could. If Adri wasn’t around to tell her to turn it off, there was nothing that London and Paris could do about it.

Moriarty jumped over and cuddled her feet while she cooked, occasionally howling along to the songs lyrics. Even though she only had feeling in her left foot, she always loved having the puppy’s warmth against her.

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Cyber-Ella

Ella let the warm water run over her hands, the rust that had been stuck under her fingernails coloured the grimy sink slightly orange. She turned, grabbing a towel and carefully, painstakingly she rubbed the water from each of her metal joints.

Sighing, she turned back to her kitchen still holding the towel and dropped it on the table. A bark came from the patio door.

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Ella opened the slider and her three legged golden retriever slid across the carpet, tongue lolling out of her mouth.

“Moriarty stop th- come back here!” Ella chased him as he knocked over a table throwing papers flying through the air. But both of them ended up laying on the ground, their missing legs a bit of a disadvantage when it came to running.

Ella had been born missing both her right leg and arm. At the age of ten she had been given a shelter dog for her birthday. The dog had the same deformity n her back right leg as she did.

And so Moriarty and Ella had become a team, working through their exercises together.Now, 7 years after that first fateful meeting, they were in a nice flat in the middle of the city. Moriarty was old enough now that his fur was turning silver instead of gold, and yet he still loved to play more than most anything else.