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?
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.