“ELLA!” her step sister cried. “Have you finished the laundry yet?! I don’t have anything suitable to wear today!”
“Ella, I need help with this. Where do I put my fingers . . .” said her other step sister, who was struggling with her flute lessons. She was trying to ‘self-teach’ herself, but it wasn’t going so well.
“Is breakfast ready yet? I TOLD YOU I wanted tea with it; how long does it take to boil water? Those eggs better be perfect!” Scolded her stepmother from around the corner. At least she pretends to bother with me, Ella thought. It could be worse. At least she somewhat tries to be civil enough. Ella’s father was a wealthy businessman who had remarried Harriet and taken in her two daughters. The 3 had been nice enough to Ella while her father was alive, but it was obvious that the majority of Harriet’s love was aimed solely towards her father. Remarkably, Harriet hadn’t married Ella’s father for the money, but because she genuinely liked him. However, when her father had a heart attack a year ago, everyone had been stricken with grief. Harriet, upset that her second husband had died as well, vowed not to get married again. She also vowed, silently, that she wouldn’t love Ella anymore. Ella herself looked and acted too much like her late father, and it was more than her step family could bare. Harriet resolved to make life miserable for her, as did her eldest daughter, Drisa. Ana, the youngest of the two, also kept her distance from Ella for the first couple months, but she had come around. That doesn’t change the fact that she is still hopeless at flute, though . . . Ella thought, the smallest of smiles beginning to grace her face.
“I just asked you about breakfast, Ella! I have to leave for a meeting in 5, and I need you to get the food packed up already. And again, don’t forget the tea!” Harriet shouted once more. The smile that had been about to spread dropped from her lips.
“I’ll help you out, I guess,” said Ana, putting down her flute and coming over to the kitchen. “I know that you hate cooking, and that they only ask you to prepare breakfast to spite you. I’m sorry for that. They don’t mean it, you know. They’ll get over it, I’m sure.”
Ella sighed. “You know that they won’t, right? They never will let it go like you did.”
“ELLA! MY CLOTHES!” shouted Drisa.
“Well, maybe not,” resolved Ana. “But don’t give up hope just yet.” Just then, Harriet walked into the kitchen.
“Where are my -”
“Right here! Have a great day, mom!” said Ana in a sing-song voice as she pushed the bag filled with food into her mother’s hands and shoved her into the garage.
“Thanks again, Ana,” said Ella, gratefully. “I owe you one.”
“Nah, I owe you; I truly am awful at the flute,” she smirked.
“I’ll say this again. WHERE. IS. MY. LAUNDRY?!” Drisa screamed. Ella groaned.
“I’m coming, Dris!”
- later that afternoon -
“There’s a spring formal! I can’t wait to go! When do you think someone will ask me out, Ana? I mean, not that you’ll have been asked so soon, but . . .” Drisa trailed off.
“Actually, I have been asked out. But I said no.” replied Ana.
“Yep. I said I wouldn’t go unless my sisters were going.”
“But I do plan on going, Ana!” Drisa pouted. “Why did you decline?”
“All of my sisters, Dris. Ella isn’t a deadweight. I won’t go unless she goes, too.”
“And I know that you wouldn’t go alone.” Ana said triumphantly.
“Fine. I guess . . . she . . . can go with us . . .” Drisa muttered after a moment.
“THANK YOU!” squealed Ana, throwing her arms around her sister’s neck.
“I’m doing this for you. Because you want her there. But ONLY because you want her there. I still don’t like Ella, anymore,” Drisa mumbled, her head buried in her sister’s shirt.
- 6 days later -
The spring formal arrived, and Ella was allowed to come as well. Drisa made a point to stop ordering Ella around for the week, if only to appease her sister. However, Ella still helped Drisa out with the laundry, cooking, and cleaning, even after everything Drisa had done to her. Drisa was starting to wonder if she had been wrong to go along with her mother for the past year.
“You look great!” smiled Ana, bouncing on her heels. Drisa was wearing a bright pink dress, as if she was trying to stand out. Then Ella walked into the room, the complete opposite. “You both look great.” Ella was wearing a faded blue dress, as if she was trying not to be noticed. She hated dances, but was going for Ana’s sake.
“I know i’m underdressed, but this is going to be as good as it gets, okay?” she began.
“No, it’s alright. You look fine, honest,” said Ana. “I’m just glad both of you are going to be there at all!”
“Yeah . . .” replied Ella, who was fussing with her dress again. “It’ll be . . . fun, I guess . . .”
“Fun. Rigghhhtttt . . .” muttered Drisa. “More like awkward.”
- 30 minutes later -
“Wow!” exclaimed Ella. “This thing is awesome!” They were riding in a limo with Drisa’s date. Ana hadn’t been asked out again, but she didn’t mind. Just sitting there with her siblings was enough.
“Yep!” Drisa laughed, agreeing with Ella for once. “The limo is pretty cool.”
“My sisters, bonding!” Ana cooed, teasingly. “It’s a miracle!”
“Yeah . . . bonding . . .” whispered Ella nervously. “Sure . . .”
- at the dance -
Ella and Ana were having fun so far. Drisa and Ella had gotten along rather well up until about 15 minutes ago, when Dria had gone off to the other room with her date.
“I’m gonna go get some punch, alright!?” screamed Ana over the loud party music.
“Okay! I’m going to the bathroom!” Ella replied at the same volume. “See you in 10!” On her way to the bathroom, she tripped on a shoe. What? she thought. It kinda looks like . . . wait a second . . . As she turned the corner, shoe in hand, Ella found Drisa crying on the floor. “Oh!” she said before proceeding to comfort the crying girl.
“Apparently my date just asked me out because I was ‘an easy target’, I guess. My loss for thinking someone liked me . . .” she explained through sniffles. “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?”
“Not at all,” Ella replied softly. “Don’t feel bad. I’m sure he wasn’t worth it.” And, with that, she slipped the shoe back onto her step sister’s foot. “You’ll get over it.”
“Thanks, I needed that . . .” Drisa uttered, a watery smile gracing her face. Just then, Ana rounded the corner.
“I thought I’d find you here, Drisa! Let’s go back in and find . . . oh! Ella, you’re out here, too!” Never mind the last part, then!” Ana chattered, excitedly, oblivious to her sister’s melt down. “What are you doing here, though?” Drisa looked at her step sister with pleading eyes; she didn’t want Ana to worry about her.
“Nothing. I just . . . came out this way because I wanted to see if there were any activities in this other hall! Yep. That’s totally what I was doing,” Ella felt bad for lying (and lying terribly, at that) to Ana, but the relief on Drisa’s face was worth it.
“Should we rejoin the party?” asked Ana, excitement glistening in her eyes.
“No!” yelped Ella. When Ana looked at her step sister questioningly, she blushed and replied, “It’s getting late. It’s almost midnight, and we should be getting home. Besides, who’s to say that we can’t just stay up and watch movies and stuff there? It’ll be like an unofficial slumber party - you know, sorta . . .” She looked at Drisa, who looked back at her with understanding. Ella had made an excuse for them all to leave, and now Drisa had to decide whether or not to take it.
“That sounds great; I’m in!” laughed Drisa, shakily.
“Great!” Ana beamed. “I just knew that you two would come around! My sisters, agreeing on something for once. Who would have thought?”
“Not me, but that’s alright. This will be fun,” Ella awkwardly mumbled, but with traces of sincerity. “For real this time. I want to try being your sister again, Dris.” A small smile blossomed on Drisa’s face.“I would like that, I think,” she said slowly. Then, a little faster this time, she repeated, “I would like that a lot.” As the girls boarded their bikes, which they had left at the school that afternoon so they they could ride them back home, Ella looked at her stepsisters - no, her sisters - and she grinned. Maybe they could become real siblings again after all.