They’d waited until after the wedding to combine their families into one home; Sheryl, with her two daughters, and Mark, with his one. The girls all knew each other from school, but it was clear from the beginning that they would never be the best of friends.
While a pretty girl, Sheryl considered Mark’s daughter to be spoiled and entitled. Cindy had lost her mother at a young age and therefore had been doted on more than the average child.
Her own children, Geraldine and Rachel, had never known their father. They imagined him to be a Prince from a far away land, and while she had indulged this fantasy, she had been strict with all other aspects of their lives.
She was tough on home work, encouraged them to get involved in extra curriculum activities, and had banned boys from their home. Sheryl was keen to raise Cindy the same way.
Shortly after the move to their new home she told them that they would need to each do chores in order to earn pocket money. Mark wasn’t keen to have the girls work, joking that it was “hard labour”, but Sheryl convinced him that it would earn them some life experience, and likely bring the girls closer together.
It didn’t.
Instead, her daughters thought Cindy only put in half the effort that they did, and Sheryl tended to agree. Once she even caught Mark finishing Cindy’s chores!
Cindy had the worst attitude of any teenager she knew.
And it only got worse after Mark passed away. Car crash. On their one year anniversary.
Understandably, Cindy was devastated. Sheryl held it together for the family, and tried to continue on, but she found it harder and harder to relate to this young girl who locked herself away in her room.
When, at the end of the year, she heard there was going to be a Royal Ball, Sheryl saw it as an opportunity to finally unite her broken family, and bring Cindy out of her shell.
“There is to be a Royal Ball this autumn,” she announced at dinner. Her own girls grinned and started bouncing in their seats. They chatted over the top of each other about the rumours, and what sort of dress they should wear, and how to do their hair…
“However,” Sheryl interrupted them, “I have some conditions before I allow anyone to go.”
She emphasised the word ‘anyone’ and let her words hang in the air.
The bouncing stopped, and Cindy, who had simply continued eating at first, finally paused to look up.
Sheryl caught her eye before continuing. “We are to create a full list of chores, to get this house looking its best. I expect each member of this family to complete their chores if they expect to go.”
“But mum!” Geraldine protested. “Everyone over 16 is invited. We have to be there. It’s unfair if we’re not, and-“
Sheryl held up on finger to stop her talking and nodded. “If all the chores are completed, then there will be no reason for you not to go.”
Sheryl looked around the table to see that they each received the message and when she was satisfied, she retired for the night, leaving the girls to collect their thoughts, and their plates.
The days rushed by quickly, and while Sheryl saw great enthusiasm from her daughters regarding the approaching autumn celebration, she saw no such interest from Cindy.
When the big day finally arrived, there was only one person that still had chores remaining. Sheryl saw her watching from the kitchen window as the rest of them climbed into the car, heading to the Royal Ball, while Cindy stayed behind.
Geraldine and Rachel looked beautiful in their gowns. They shone more radiant than most as they danced throughout the night. Sheryl was so pleased that even though she couldn’t do any more with Cindy, at least she had two wonderful daughters instead.
She was not so pleased, however, when she saw a girl who looked a lot like Cindy enter the Royal Ball, shortly before midnight.
The dress was like silver, her hair like silk ribbons. Sheryl was not sure where Cindy had obtained help to get her looking so… so… stunning… or how she had come to be at the Royal Ball, but rules are rules, and she was determined to send her home again.
As Sheryl attempted to cross the dance floor through twirling couples and giggling teenagers, someone else got to Cindy first.
Handsome, rich, and powerful, the young man had been nicknamed Charming, and Sheryl was not sure she liked the way the two flirted together so quickly.
They began to dance before Sheryl reached them, so she watched as closely as she could instead. Did Cindy know this Charming man before tonight? And just how did she get here?
Sheryl wanted to talk to this troubled step-daughter of hers tonight. She made a second attempt to cross the dance floor, but found the man without a dance partner when she saw him next. She scanned the room but could see no sign of Cindy.
Betrayed. Lied to. Disrespected. Sheryl felt these and more as she drove her loyal daughters home. She didn’t burden Geraldine or Rachel with the tale of Cindy’s deceit, instead she complimented them on her dancing and quizzed them on the boys they had danced with.
When they returned to the house she confirmed Cindy was in her bed and decided to deal with her in the morning. However, the opportunity never came.
The young man had knocked on their front door at first light, and it seemed Cindy, for a change, was attending to her morning chores, meaning that she was the only one up.
The two had chatted for some time before Sheryl awoke and found them cosy in the living room. Cindy already had her bags packed and stuck around only long enough to say her goodbyes to them all before running off into the sunset with her Charming.
While Sheryl had loved the girl’s father with all her heart, she felt she would always remember Cinderella as her wicked step-daughter.

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