Category Archives: Short Stories

Siesta

Typically our house is full of sound.

Typically my little brother can be heard playing Rock Band anywhere in the house. He likes to turn the volume up loud. He sings along to Paramore’s That’s What You Get, his prepubescent voice still able to go up the extra octave. It’s his favorite song in the game. Lately he’s been singing it nonstop. Yesterday my abuelo threatened to throw the game away if he didn’t quit singing during dinner.

Typically the sound of arguing tumbles down the staircase as my abuelos yell at my mother, telling her how badly she’s messed up with us. Being a young single mother is never easy, especially in a world where women aren’t supposed to be alone. It would be different if her husband had died. That would at least be respectable. But being an unwed, teenage mother – no matter how long ago it was – is still shameful.

Typically there’s me and my baby sister playing cards at the kitchen table. Uno. Her new favorite game. We play it over and over again, and I became bored with it ages ago, but I keep playing because that’s what big sisters do. She sings and dances each time she wins a round. She cheats. I used to call her out on it, but now I just let her win.

But not today. It’s summer now. And today everything is silent. Everything is still.

Today my brother and sister are asleep in the next room, sharing hammock but doing everything they can not to touch one another. On a day like today, one touch of another human being could set your skin on fire.

Today my mother and abuelo sit on opposite ends of the sofa, not looking at one another for fear a spark may ignite. My abuela, no longer able to keep working in the stifling kitchen, exhausted in more ways than one, is sitting motionless at the table, her eyes focusing on nothing in particular. The glass of water sitting in front of her has already become too warm to be refreshing.

Today I lay in my hammock, the fan above me slowly slicing through the thick, hot air, moving it around, washing me in a warm breeze that only adds to my discomfort. The air coming in through the open window is even heavier than the air already in the room. I should get up and close it, but I don’t. Like everything else in the house, I stay perfectly still. I do everything I can not to disturb the heat that has settled in around me. To do so would only make it worse. I can feel beads of water starting to form on my forehead, but I know better than to try to brush them away. The effort it would take to raise my arm to my head would cause me to break out in a full sweat.

Even the animals know better than to try to move at midday in the summer. The dogs that usually crowd the streets have disappeared in search of shade. Not even the insects are out while the sun blazes above.

I know why the siesta was invented. It was invented for days like today. Days when it’s too hot to move. Days when there is nothing to do but lie and wait for night to fall. Once the oppressive sun goes down, the earth will finally begin to cool and then my world will awake and come to life once more.

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Seeking Salvation

Marcus leaned casually against the doorframe as he waited just inside the back door of the church, jingling the coins in his pocket, doing his best to appear cool and disinterested. At least, as cool and disinterested as a twelve-year-old could manage. Jimmy was late as usual. It wasn’t really his fault though. Mr. Floyd had never been great about being on time going anywhere. Marcus wasn’t worried. He’d show up soon enough. He always did.

Marcus rubbed the coins in his pocket together between his thumb and forefinger. His father had given him fifty cents that morning before dropping him off at the door. Marcus figured it would be just enough for…

His thoughts were interrupted by the pounding of footsteps down the hall. Two sets: one pounding with a steady, heavy thud; the other scurrying lightly ahead. Marcus craned his neck slightly to see Jimmy and his father coming his direction.

“That money’s for the offering box, Jimmy,” Mr. Floyd was yelling after his son. “I find out anything else happened to it and I’m gonna beat your ass. You hear me? That goes for you too, Marone.” Mr. Floyd pointed an accusatory finger in Marcus’ direction with his final statement.

“Ah, come on, Mr. Floyd,” Marcus said, putting on his best airs of I don’t know what you’re talking about. “What do you take me for? What kind of boy would I have to be to steal from the church?”

“You two may have your mothers fooled, but don’t think your pop and I don’t know what’s going on. Don’t think neither of us have noticed those absences on your grade cards from Catechism class. Now get yourselves to class!”

“Yes, sir,” the boys responded. Marcus grabbed Jimmy around the upper arm and nearly had to drag him through the set of double doors leading into the classrooms that occupied the back side of the church. But Marcus didn’t take more than two steps inside the door before stopping and checking that the coast was clear. Mr. Floyd may have been right about his pop knowing what was going on – it was true his pop wasn’t half as easy to fool about missing attendances on his Sunday school glade card as his mom was, his pop didn’t trust him like his mom did – but as long as he still hadn’t been caught, he was sticking to his plan.

“Aw, come on, Marcus,” Jimmy pleaded when he saw Marcus scouting the area. “One day of Sunday school ain’t gonna kill us. Maybe we should just go to class for a while ‘til my pop calms down. I think he’s serious about beating me, ya know. He and my mom decided to quiz me the other day, just to make sure I wasn’t gonna embarrass them or nothing during the Confirmation ceremony, and I screwed up real bad.”

Marcus just snorted offhandedly at Jimmy’s concern. “They probably just asked you some impossible question to make their point. They’re trying to scare you into being good. What’d they ask you anyway?”

Jimmy lowered his head, his cheeks turning red before he even spoke. “They asked me to name the Trinity,” he said, shame coloring his voice. “I didn’t know what the answer was and I just got to stuttering and nothing else would come out.”

Marcus stared at his friend in disbelief. “Damn, Jimmy! How stupid can you be?

Jimmy cringed at Marcus’ reply. “I just got nervous, that’s all,” he said in his own defense. “Besides, you shouldn’t be swearing in the church. You’re gonna go to Hell or something.”

Marcus rolled his eyes. It was going to take a lot more to get him into Hell than just swearing. But he didn’t feel like talking about that with Jimmy. “How much did they give ya?” he asked instead, changing the subject.

“Fifty cents,” Jimmy said. “But it’s supposed to go to the offering, Marcus. My pop told me—“

Marcus cut him off, throwing his arm around Jimmy’s shoulder as he spoke. “Are you really that afraid of your old man?” he challenged. “They don’t know what we’re up to. They’re just trying to scare us. Trust me. They ain’t got a clue. If they did, they wouldn’t have left us alone down here in the first place. You and me are getting out of this scot free, you just watch.”

Marcus let go of Jimmy and gently pushed the door that led back into the hallway open just enough to peek through. Mr. Floyd was no longer out there. The coast was clear. Perfect.

The boys had discovered a brief pocket in the time that it too for their pops to get to the adult Bible study and the start of their own Sunday school class. It didn’t always work out, but when it did, the boys had just enough time to slip out the back door of the church without having to worry about being noticed.

Marcus turned back to Jimmy.

“If we’re gonna do this, we got to go now. If we don’t leave before Father Walters shows up, you know we’re done for. Now, come on.”  He grabbed Jimmy’s arm and pulled him out of the building into the half full parking lot.

“I guess you’re right,” Jimmy said, shaking free of his friend. “Who needs Sunday school anyways. I don’t remember Jesus saying nothing about it. So where we headed?”

Marcus couldn’t help but think maybe Jimmy should be going to class after all. Did he not listen to anything each week during mass? But he decided not to say anything. He didn’t want Jimmy’s ignorance to ruin the morning he had planned. “I was thinking we should go pay Mr. Potter a visit down at the bakery. I figure fifty cents each is enough to get us both a jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee. We could have ourselves a snack and be back to the church before our pops show up to take us back home. It’ll be good.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Jimmy said. So the two of them set off in the direction of Potter’s Bakery.

Marcus and Jimmy had discovered during the last year that skipping Sunday school was a lot easier than it should have been, and there were so many things around town that they could do during the hour they were supposed to be in class. Two weeks ago they had gone down to the high school football field and practiced for their upcoming Pop Warner game (which they won). One time last month they had ventured all the way down to the river and looked out at the city skyline rising up toward the sky on the opposite side. As they sat there, Marcus couldn’t help but feel he was going to be somebody important one day and have a fancy job in a building just like those.

Even with all the fun they had, Jimmy still needed to be coaxed week after week to continue skipping. The first couple of times it had been new and exciting. Both of the boys had jumped at the opportunity for just an hour of freedom with no one telling them what to do. But now that newness was starting to wear off and Jimmy was starting to wimp out as the possibility of getting caught was becoming more likely. Marcus felt it was his duty to remind Jimmy every week that the neighborhood was much more interesting than the possibility of getting caught was likely. There was no way for their pops to really figure out what they were doing. Sunday school was at the same time as the men’s Bible study group that their mothers insisted their fathers attend. Every Sunday after mass, the men and boys went to Sunday school while the mothers and sisters went home to cook Sunday dinner. For some reason the women felt the men needed to be asking for a lot more forgiveness than they did.

It took the boys ten minutes to reach the bakery. The bakery was just a few blocks from the church, but the boys took their time getting there, walking at a leisurely pace, soaking in the crisp autumn air. Once they reached their destination, they pushed the door open, a bell announcing their arrival to Mr. Potter. He turned to face them as they approached the counter.

Marcus strutted up to the counter, exuding his best airs of importance. “I’ll take a strawberry filled jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee, black,” Marcus said as he put his coins down on the counter. “And my friend here will have the same.”

“Well if it ain’t Marone and Floyd,” Mr. Potter said, shaking his head. “I know you’re not supposed to be here this time of day on a Sunday. Your pops are gonna beat you if they find you in here.”

“Ain’t gonna happen, Mr. Potter,” Marcus said. “See, my pop sent me down here this morning ‘cause my mom didn’t have time to make me breakfast. She’s too busy cooking for all the family coming over for dinner today.”

“You’re lying through your teeth, boy,” Mr. Potter said with a chuckle. “You boys go sit down. I’ll get you your coffee and jelly doughnuts.”

Marcus and Jimmy sat down at a booth far from the window. They decided that even though they weren’t at any risk of getting caught, it would be best not to advertise their presence by sitting next to the window. Just in case.

“What if he turns us in?” Jimmy asked Marcus in a nervous whisper after they had been given their coffee and doughnuts.

“Don’t worry about it,” Marcus informed him. “Mr. Potter’s a good man. He won’t turn us in. Besides,” he added with an air of smugness, “he owes me a favor.”

Though Marcus knew Jimmy wouldn’t believe he actually had a deal with the baker, he saw his friend relax a bit all the same. For the first time that morning, they were able to start enjoying themselves.

As they continued to make their way through their doughnuts and coffee, the boys grew louder and more outspoken with their surroundings. In here, for the time being, they didn’t have to be boys, they could be men. They puffed out their chests and sat tall in their seats, working to disguise their preadolescence while only accentuating it. Here they could curse if they wanted to and not get in trouble. They could whistle at the women who came through the bakery getting bread at cakes for their families in a way they thought was charming, not harassing. They continued to sip their coffee in the way grown-ups did, as if they didn’t even notice the bitter taste, unmuted by cream or sugar.

Lost in their game of playing adults, the boys had no reason to be alerted by the bell that announced the arrival of two new customers. It was another thirty seconds before Jimmy looked up to see the backs of two broad figures sit down at the counter. He froze mid-whistle.

Marcus watched the color drain from Jimmy’s face. “What the hell’s the matter with you? You look like you seen a ghost.”

“P-p-p-p-p” was all that Jimmy could manage to stutter as he pointed past Marcus toward the figures at the counter.

Marcus turned in his seat to see what had gotten Jimmy all tongue-tied. When his eyes fell on the two men, it only took seconds for his face to turn as white as Jimmy’s. He sunk low into his seat, hoping to avoid being spotted. But it was too late. Jimmy’s sputtering had already attracted the men’s attention.

Mr. Floyd and Mr. Marone stood up from the counter and walked over to the booth where their sons were cowering against their seats. Marcus caught a glimpse of the expression on his pop’s face and found himself wondering if that was what Hell might look like.

“Jimmy,” Mr. Floyd said.

Jimmy stuttered in response, unable to form real words.

“Marcus,” Mr. Marone said.

Marcus tried to be strong, tried to stand up for himself. He didn’t like getting pushed around. He was going to face his pop man to man.

“Hey, Pop,” he squeaked in a voice that suddenly sounded very much like a little boy’s.

All manner of civility dissipated as Mr. Floyd’s rage surfaced. He grabbed Jimmy by the back of his collar and dragged him outside, turned the corner, and headed in the direction of the church. Marcus had no time to feel sorry for his friend because his pop’s hand was wrapped around his ear before he had time to process what had happened to Jimmy. Marcus screamed as he was pulled through the bakery and into his pop’s car which was waiting for them on the side of the street. As he was pulled out the door, he saw Mr. Potter laugh at the scene that was taking place in his shop.

Bastard, Marcus thought as he watched the man’s amusement at his suffering. This would be the last time he ever trusted Potter.

After throwing Marcus into the passenger seat of the car and slamming the door shut behind him, Mr. Marone got behind the wheel and started the engine. Marcus’ father didn’t say a word as he pulled out onto the street. He didn’t even look at Marcus; his eyes were focused past the windshield with a look Marcus recognized all too well. It was the look that meant is pop was pissed. The look that meant he wasn’t looking at him because he couldn’t because if he did, he just might kill him. Any eye contact at this point would be a death sentence, so Marcus kept his head down, staring at the floorboards as he and his pop rode in silence. Once or twice, Marcus risked looking over at Mr. Marone, trying to get some read off of him to gauge just how much trouble he was in, but his pop was staring straight at the road, his face set in a deep, unchanging frown. Marcus could tell he was concentrating hard on whatever it was that was going through his mind, but Marcus was too afraid to ask what it might be. Therefore, the silence was left unbroken and Marcus’ mind was left to wonder about the many punishments his pop might be coming up with to be carried out once they arrived home.

It seemed like ages before they pulled into the drive. Mr. Marone turned off the engine but didn’t move to get out of the car. He just sat there, his eyes staying fixed on the windshield. Marcus kept his head down, unsure what was going to happen next. He could feel the tension between him and his pop so thick he could hardly swallow. The silence, now magnified by the stillness of the car motor, pressed down on Marcus for a few moments longer before it was finally broken by Mr. Marone.

Without taking his eyes from the windshield, Mr. Marone said, “This is the way it’s gonna be. As long as you keep quiet about what happened today, I will save your mom the embarrassment of know what you did. Capice?

Marcus raised his gaze to stare at the side of his pop’s face, a look of confusion spread over his face. Really? That was it? No death sentence? No punishment at all? Was he really going to get off that easy? This had to be a trick.

It wasn’t until Marcus’ mom stepped out onto the stoop to shout at them, “Tommy, Marcus, what are you doing back so early? Did your classes get cut short” that Marcus realized what had actually happened that day. His pop never should have been able to catch him at Potter’s Bakery because while he was skipping Sunday school Mr. Marone was supposed to have been in the men’s Bible study class. Which could only mean Mr. Marone had been caught skipping church too. But as long as he was willing and able to keep his mouth shut, Marcus and his pop would both be able to walk away from this situation scot free.

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Some Sort of Fairy Tale

If this were a happy story it might begin ‘once upon a time.’ But it’s not, and so it won’t.

The whole mess began after a particularly bad incident at the coffee shop where I worked after school. I was already in a bad mood because of an earlier encounter with my ugly step-sister, Marisa. Well, ugly might be a bit too strong of a word. Marisa had always been more beautiful than I was – everybody always said so – and she was always kind and courteous to everybody she met. More than that, she was absolutely, without a doubt, the favorite of both our parents. That’s right, even my own mother enjoyed her company more than mine.

My day began with a dispute in class which stemmed from the fact that I was incredibly tired of Marisa. She hadn’t done anything particularly annoying that day to spark my anger, other than eagerly volunteering to help my mother with her new in-home cosmetics company that morning at breakfast. And listening to her now, chatting sociably with the other girls in the locker room, just sort of irked me and made me act out. We were in PE. I thought it would be exceptionally funny to watch Marisa make a fool of herself in front of the other girls – that was just the kind of mood I was in – and dodgeball presents one with the perfect opportunity to catch someone unaware. A carefully calculated release of the ball enabled it to roll across the floor with extreme precision and get tangled between Marisa’s legs. She let out a short yelp before tumbling to the ground. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the sight of her splay out on the floor.

The coach blew her whistle and within seconds, all the other girls in the class were at Marisa’s side, helping to her feet and asking her if she was alright. Not exactly the response I had been hoping for. To make it worse, the PE coach had come to stand in front of me. She started to yell at me, lecturing me on the ideas of good sportsmanship and fair play. Marisa interrupted her.

“Don’t be too hard on Reina, coach,” she said. “I know it was simply an accident. I’ll be fine.”

Marisa’s sickeningly sweet voice made me fume.

My foul mood followed me to my afterschool job at the coffee shop. But as bad as I thought school had been that day, what happened at work was even worse. I was minding my own business, dealing the best I could with the afternoon rush, when he walked in.

Prince. He was the king of the high school. He was the captain of the baseball team, president of the Honor Society, and in his spare time he volunteered with an organization that provided tutoring for underprivileged children. He was perfect in every way, and his royal presence on at school would be publicly recognized in less than a month when he would undoubtedly be named Prom King at the upcoming dance. I wanted nothing more than to be the girl on his arm when he walked into the gym that night. It would be magical.

Lost in my fantasy I didn’t immediately realize that he had come up to the counter to place his order. He cleared his throat loudly to get my attention. I blushed as I came out of my haze and realized that I had kept him waiting.

“What can I get for you?” I asked in the friendliest voice I could muster.

“A tall coffee and one of those muffins,” he said, handing me his credit card – yet another sign of his royal wealth.

Prince took his seat across the room, and I set to work preparing his order. I was careful to do everything with precision and care. This was my shot to bring up the dance with him, and I wanted everything to be perfect when I did so. Certain that everything was in place, I picked up his order to hand deliver it to him at his table. There was no way he wouldn’t ask me to be his date after this.

Looking back on the situation, I can now see that this is where I made my mistake. What I should have done was this: I should have called him over to the counter to pick his order up. Then, as he approached, I could lean against the countertop, looking cool and suave and confident, and strike up a conversation about his baseball season (considering the team had been doing exceptionally well). He would have been excited that I had noticed and everything would have moved forward from there in a steady, fluid motion.

But instead, I decided to deliver his order to him. I was nearly to his table, keeping my nerves in check surprisingly well, when something unexpected happened. Apparently some previous customer had spilled his drink on the floor and had thought it would be cool not to tell anybody. I really do hate people sometimes. When my foot hit the puddle on the floor, I slipped and fell to the ground, my arms extending in a wide flailing motion. If that had been all, the situation might have been saved – Prince might have felt sorry for me and come to my rescue. But that was not all. In the next moment, I heard Prince let out a painful scream as his scalding hot cup of coffee fell into his lap.

Prince jumped up from his seat and was gone before I had time to react to anything that had happened. I simply sat there on the floor, stunned, and unable to move. How could such a perfectly conceived plan have gone so wrong?

I don’t know how long I sat there; nobody came to help me up. The people in the café simply went about their daily business as if I wasn’t even there.

That evening when I got home, I decided to skip eating dinner with the rest of my family. Instead, I went straight up to my bedroom and started to cry. I’ve found that some days can be so horrible that, by the end, crying is the only thing left for you to do, and this was definitely one of those days.

Once my tears finally began to dry, I found myself with an inexplicable urge to go look out the window. When I did, I noticed a brightly shining star that seemed to stand out against everything else in the night sky. I was reminded of that song, the one that goes ‘when you wish upon a star…’ and so that is what I did. I made a wish. I closed my eyes and wished with all my might that there might be some force in this universe that could undo all the bad things that had occurred that day and make everything the way it should be.

I will warn you that I was not prepared for what happened next. When I opened my eyes back up, the star that had been shining so brightly seemed to be growing larger. I continued to stare at it for several moments before realizing that the reason it seemed to be growing larger was because it was falling out of the sky. Not only that, but it appeared to be falling straight for my house. I let out a sharp cry and dove to the floor, throwing my hands over my head for protection, just as the falling star crashed through the window, shattering the glass in the process.

I slowly stood up and looked around the room, assessing the damage and trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. But my day had not yet finished being strange. There, sprawled out on my bed face down was the star that had caused this mess. I could now see, though, that it wasn’t a star at all; it was a small woman with wild white hair and fantastic clothing. She began to stir. I remained still, unsure yet about whether or not I wanted her to see me standing there. She rolled over onto her back, her eye closed in an expression of pain, and put her hand to her head.

“Bloody hell!” she exclaimed. “That was unexpected.”

She opened her eyes and surveyed her surroundings as if trying to make sense of what had just happened to her. Her eyes eventually came to fall on me, and when they did her entire body seemed to slump just a bit. “Oh,” she said. “It’s you.”

She stood up on the bed and brushed herself off, halfheartedly trying to make herself presentable. She then bent over and picked up a small pair of cat-like glasses that must have been knocked off during her spectacular entrance. She placed the glasses on her face, spending a few moments to straighten them until they balanced just right on her nose. Once satisfied, she turned to face me once again.

In the meantime, I simply stood there. What else could I do? Believe me, unless you’ve had a falling star-person crash through your window before, you are completely unprepared for how to deal with the situation.

“Well then,” the small woman prompted me, “what will it be?”

I said the first thing that came to my mind. “What are you?”

She eyed me suspiciously, as if we didn’t trust the sincerity of my question. Then, having decided that I was, in fact, completely clueless, she let out an exasperated sigh, throwing her arms down to her sides as she did so. “Well don’t just stand there looking so stupid,” she exclaimed. “I’m your fairy godmother. Apparently, you’ve called me down here to deal with you during your time of distress.”

It took a moment for this to sink in. And even when it had, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not to trust this tiny person. But what other option did I have? I certainly couldn’t come up with a better explanation for her appearance.

The fairy godmother was now sitting at the foot of my bed, one leg crossed over the other, picking at her fingernails in a bored fashion. “You really did pick the worst of times you know,” she was saying. “I was having a really good time out with the girl tonight. We were right in the middle of happy hour.” She eyed me, annoyed. “Thanks for ruining the evening, by the way.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to. I mean, I didn’t even know you existed.”

“How could you not know?” the fairy godmother asked. “Don’t you read? All girls have fairy godmothers. Anyways, since you’ve pulled me down here, might as well do something. What is it you were sniveling over anyways?”

“You would not believe what a horrible day I had today,” I started as I sat down next to her.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she waved me on. “Something about a boy who never notices you and an evil step-sister who is stealing all your chances of being happy.”

“How did you know?” I asked a bit taken aback.

“It’s always the same old story,” the fairy godmother said. “What I need to know is what you want me to do about it.”

“Well,” I said. “Could you possibly make me prettier and Marisa uglier and cause Prince to fall in love with me so that he will ask me to the dance next week?”

“How did I know it would be something like that,” the fairy godmother said dryly. She pulled a magic wand from her pocket and waved it around clumsily in the air for a moment.

“Done,” she said as she put the wand back in her pocket. “Just remember, the enchantment wears off at midnight on the night of the dance. After that, you’re on your own.”

And with a poof, the fairy godmother was gone. It was only after she had left that I realized just how much the tiny woman had smelled of alcohol.

***

The next day was the worst day of my life. I woke up for school to find my face covered in zits. I had had trouble with acne in the past, but that was nothing compared to what I was facing now. No amount of makeup could do anything to hide the mess that had sprouted on my face during the night; it had become a field of puffy red sores. To my irritation, when Marisa came downstairs that morning, she was simply radiant, glowing with a beauty that was astonishing even for her. I scowled at my luck.

My day only continued to get worse from there. At school, nobody would talk to me. It was as if everybody was making a point not to come near me just in case the growth on my face was contagious. As if this weren’t bad enough, the rest of the school was spending the day finding dates to the upcoming dance. I, of course, was entirely ignored during this process.

During lunch, I was sitting alone, minding my own business, when I saw Prince enter the cafeteria. I badly wanted to jump up from my seat, run up to him, and explain the mishap that had occurred the previous day, begging for his forgiveness. But I didn’t move. Prince seemed occupied by something else as he scanned the cafeteria. And then, he seemed to melt as his eyes fell on what he had been searching for. Marisa. I couldn’t help but suspect the worst.

That night at the dinner table my nightmares were confirmed when Marisa announced to the family that she had been asked to the dance by none other than the high school Prince. Curse the fairy godmother.

I ran straight up to my bedroom, leaned out the gaping window – the glass was still missing from the previous night’s episode – and shouted, “Get down here you little witch! I have a bone to pick with you!”

“No need to shout,” said a voice from behind me. I spun around to face the fairy godmother who was sitting on my bed.

“Agh!” she screamed, jumping into the air when she saw my puss-filled face. “What the hell happened to you?”

“You happened to me!” I shouted. “Everything was fine until you came into my life and messed it up. Now I’m even uglier and Marisa’s even prettier, and Prince has fallen in love with my step-sister instead of me. This is all your fault and I hate you for it!”

The fairy godmother seemed a bit put off by my outburst, but she recovered quickly. “First of all, I just want to make it clear that things were not fine before I got here. Believe me, I’ve been watching. So this isn’t entirely my fault; you did some of it on your own. That being said,” she continued, “things do seem to have gotten a bit worse. I might not have been completely with it while casting that enchantment last night. You did call me away from happy hour, after all.”

I rolled my eyes to the ceiling and let out a sigh of frustration. “Well can you fix it?” I asked.

“I’m afraid there’s not much that can be done except wait for the enchantment to wear off at midnight on the night of the dance. After that though, your life will be back to normal, and I promise never to interfere again.”

Though it wasn’t comforting in the least, I had to face the fact that nothing more could be done until the enchantment had worn off.

***

The night of the dance finally arrived. My acne had begun to clear up enough by then that a thick layer of makeup would cover most of it. I ended up going to the dance alone. But despite everything that had happened, I was determined not to give up hope. There was still a chance that after the enchantment wore off at midnight Prince wouldn’t be in love with Marisa after all and I would get my shot at making him fall in love with me. With this thought keeping me going, I silently sat in the corner of the gym, sipping my punch that had undoubtedly been spiked.

As if on cue, everything in the room seemed to come to a halt as all eyes turned to watch Prince walk in, Marisa smiling at his side, her arm wrapped though his. The entire room seemed to let out an affectionate “aw!” – it was all I could do to not vomit. How dare she take my dream date from me! I just had to keep reminding myself, it would all be over soon.

As my classmates danced the night away, I stayed rooted in my corner, keeping watch on the only couple I cared about – Marisa and Prince. A slow song was on and they moved close to each other, Marisa resting her head on Prince’s shoulder as they danced. She was falling in love with him; I could tell. But what could I do except hope that he wouldn’t fall in love with her as well? That was impossible, of course, because of the enchantment the fairy godmother had failed to perform correctly. He was already in love with her. I watched as he pulled away from her just enough to look into her eyes. And then, it got even worse; he kissed her. And she kissed him back. And there they were, making out on the dance floor and there wasn’t a chaperone in sight to break them up. Well, I wasn’t going to have it.

I marched through the crowd of teenage couples until I reached my ugly step-sister. I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from Prince.

“Hey!” the two of them shouted, obviously perturbed at having been interrupted.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I asked Marisa.

“I was having a nice time with my date,” Marisa snapped at me.

“You shouldn’t be kissing him,” I said. “Up until last week you had absolutely no interest in him!”

“How could you say such a horrible thing!” Marisa exclaimed. Her eyes filled with tears. She hated being yelled at, and at the moment she hated being embarrassed in front of her date. She broke free of my grasp and ran outside before she could start crying in front of everyone.

“What’s wrong with you?” Prince snapped at me. “Can’t you see we’re in love?” He pushed passed me and ran after Marisa. Determined not to let the two of them have any time alone, I ran after them both.

When I got outside, Marisa was sitting on the street curb, her head buried in her hands as she cried. Prince was next to her, wrapping his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her. And just at that moment, the clock began to chime.

Knowing that the wretched enchantment was about to wear off, I made my move.

“Listen to me, both of you,” I said as I approached them. They stared up at me with wide-eyed looks that suggested they were confused by my presence.

“Oh, Reina,” Marisa sobbed. “Why are you so set on ruining my life?”

“It’s not me that’s ruining your life,” I protested. “Just wait. By the time this clock stops chiming Prince is going to realize that he never really loved you at all. It was all just some big, crazy mix up.”

“I would never do such a thing!” Prince insisted. “I would never do anything to hurt my beautiful Marisa!”

“Oh, Prince,” Marisa sighed. And then the two of them wrapped their arms around each other and began to kiss once more.

I turned away as I listened to the final chimes of the clock. And then silence. It was over. I turned back to Marisa and Prince. Their lips were still pressed together, but the expression on Prince’s face – one of utter confusion and discomfort – confirmed that the effects of the enchantment had finally faded.

He pulled away from Marisa and spoke. “Um, excuse me, but could you please tell me what is going on? Have I been drinking? I have a massive headache.”

“That’s because you were just released from a massive enchantment,” I informed him.

“Don’t listen to her, my love,” Marisa said, placing her hand on his face. “She’s just jealous of what we have.”

“Love?” Prince said removing Marisa’s hand. “I think you must be confused.”

“What are you talking about, my sweetheart?” Marisa asked. She sounded honestly concerned. “You said earlier—”

“I can’t love you,” Prince said as he looked down, avoiding eye contact with her. “I can love either of you.” The rush of red that flooded his face betrayed his embarrassment at having been caught in such a situation. “I’m gay.”

Marisa just sat there, stunned by what had just occurred. Prince got up when she said nothing and went back inside to search for the one he should have been at the dance with tonight. And I simply sat down beside Marisa, slightly stunned myself.

“Well, that was unexpected,” I said.

Marisa moved her mouth up and down a few times as if trying to speak, but ultimately remained silent, unable to come up with the right words to say.

So, in the end, Marisa was left stranded on the curb, Prince ended up embarrassed and without a date on his big night, and my chances of ever being with the guy of my dreams had been completely blown out of the water.

And nobody lived happily ever after.

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