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An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story

By:Krista Lakes

Chapter 1


My ID badge didn't scan. Instead of the pleasant chirp and green light I  was expecting, there was a loud angry beep and a red light. I swiped it  again, but the light just stayed red.

"Ma'am?" The security guard walked up to the building's turnstiles and raised his eyebrows at me.

I held up my badge, showing him that it was real. I really was supposed  to be in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. I was an  aide here to Senator Glenn. I had been for the last three weeks.

"I don't know why it's not working," I told the guard as he took it from me. "It was fine yesterday."

The guard shrugged, and turned it in his hands, inspecting it from every angle. "You're probably fired."

I took a step back. Being a senator's aide was my dream job and I was really good at it.

"There's no way that's what happened," I informed the guard. "If you can  contact Senator Glenn's office, they'll tell you I'm supposed to be  here."

The guard didn't return my badge and he didn't move to call anyone. He  just motioned me out of line, my badge still in his hands. This was  going to be a long day.         

     
 

"Aria? What are you doing here?" A familiar voice called out. I sighed with relief.

"That's Thomas, he's my boss," I told the security guard, pointing  across the check-in area to a man walking across the lobby. "He'll vouch  for me."

I watched as Thomas hurried over to the security check point, a frown on  his face deepening the closer he got. He was in his forties and thin  with messy brown hair that always seemed to need a trim.

"What are you doing here, Aria? You aren't supposed to be here."

I quickly did a mental calendar check. Today was a Tuesday, it wasn't a  national holiday, I hadn't requested any vacation time, and I was sure I  was supposed to be in the office researching a tax proposal for Senator  Glenn today.

"What do you mean?" I asked when I couldn't come up with a good reason for not being at work.

Thomas sighed and his shoulders fell. "She didn't tell you, did she?"

"Who? Tell me what?" I tried to smile and keep the mood light, but my  heart was already sinking. Nothing good ever came from a sentence like  that.

"Come with me. I'll explain in my office," Thomas said. He waved to the  guard and I was allowed to pass. The guard didn't give me back my ID  badge, though.

I followed Thomas up to his small office. He had pictures of his wife  and kids on his desk. The calendar hanging on the wall said April, even  though we were already in the first week of May. I wondered if he'd  remember to change it in time for June, or if he just liked the picture  for April better.

"Have a seat," Thomas said, motioning to a small folding chair to the  side of the room. He sat on the front of his desk and crossed his arms. I  sat down, carefully keeping my messenger bag on my lap like a shield  against bad news.

"What's going on?" I asked. I hoped this was just some sort of  misunderstanding. I hoped that I'd simply forgotten that I'd asked for a  day to go to the dentist. Or that it was actually a federal holiday and  I'd just missed it.

The sick twisting feeling deep in my stomach told me it was none of those things. Something bad was about to happen.

"Your mother was supposed to explain all of this to you," Thomas said.  He sighed and looked like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world  rather than here, telling me this.

"My mother is dead," I corrected him, feeling the small surge of  irritation that always followed my stepmother's interference. "You must  mean my stepmother. And no, she didn't tell me anything. She never  does."

"She was supposed to." Thomas sighed and looked apologetic.

"And what exactly was Audrey supposed to tell me?" I asked him, trying  to keep my voice calm. Maybe it wasn't that bad. Maybe she'd asked to  give me the day off for a chance at some mother-daughter bonding.

Yeah, right.

"Your sister will be taking over your position as an aide to Senator  Glenn," Thomas stated. He shrugged and held up his hands to show he had  no power in the decision. "You've been replaced."

For a moment, I thought this had to be a bad joke. This couldn't be happening.

"Replaced?" I asked, repeating, but not really understanding. "But this  is my job. I've worked so hard to get here. I'm good at this."

"You are good at this." Thomas sounded like he meant it. "You've been  the best we've had in years, and I don't want you to go. But it wasn't  my decision. I'm sorry."

I swallowed back tears. "Where am I going to go?" I asked. "I don't have another job lined up."

Not to mention that no one wanted to hire me because of my family ties. Yet another reason I had to thank my stepmother.

"You have a job," Thomas assured me. "She was supposed to tell you that too."

I looked at him, hoping for the best.

"The USTR," Thomas explained. "When Deputy Director Wilson heard you  were available, he hired you on the spot. You're a records  transcriptionist now."

"I'm a records transcriptionist at the office of the United States Trade  Representative," I murmured, shaking my head. I looked up at Thomas,  not believing what I was hearing. "You're telling me that I'm back to  the job I had when I was eighteen?"

Thomas opened his mouth but didn't have anything to say. What could he  say? I was just demoted back in life by eight years. It didn't matter  that I had a degree and experience. It didn't matter that I was grossly  overqualified for this new job. This was politics and it was out of my  power.

Audrey Verna, my evil stepmother, wanted me to work for the USTR, so I  was now working for them. She had kicked me out of my senator aide  position, something I'd worked years for, and sent me back to the  beginning of my career. All without telling me a word.         

     



 

I couldn't believe this was happening. There had to be a way around this.

"And Senator Glenn has approved this?" I asked Thomas, crossing my arms.  I hoped that the big boss was fighting this. I had a brief vision of  Senator Glenn marching into my tiny office at the USTR and telling me  this was all a big mistake and that she wanted me back.

But Thomas nodded. "She's the one who arranged it."

I deflated slightly.

"Maybe I can talk to her," I said. "This has to be some sort of misunderstanding. Is she in her office?"

Thomas grimaced. "She's in a meeting."

"I can wait," I told him. "This is my job on the line."

"She's in a meeting with your mother. I mean, stepmother," Thomas explained.

"Oh." All visions of the Senator coming to my rescue like a white knight vanished. I really was fired.

"I'm really sorry, Aria," Thomas repeated. He ran a hand through his hair and shrugged.

I sat there for a moment, trying to come up with a plan, but not finding  one. I didn't come prepared to fight my stepmother for my job today. I  needed time to regroup. There wasn't anything I could do right at this  moment, except maybe cry.

"Thank you for your time," I said, rising to my feet. I wasn't sure what  else to say. It wasn't Thomas' fault that I was fired. It wasn't fair  to yell at him, even though I wanted to. It wouldn't accomplish anything  except make poor Thomas have an even worse day.

"I'm going to need your notes," Thomas said, pointing to my messenger bag. "I'm really sorry, Aria."

I sighed and opened up my bag. I pulled out the two manila folders and a  flash drive with my work. I'd worked so hard on these files for two  weeks. I held them in my hands for a moment.

The files were simply research for an upcoming bill Senator Glenn and  some others in her party were working on. It was a small thing, but for  me, it represented how I was going to change the world. I was supposed  to take this aide position and learn the ropes. I'd move up the ladder  until I could make real change. I was going to help the United States be  everything I knew it could be.

Except, I wasn't anymore. I was back at square one in my old job that  wasn't even in the field I wanted to work in. I wanted to be in the  Senate, not scanning memos. This was as far from being able to change  the world as I could get.

"You said they're replacing me with my stepsister?" I asked, handing over my work. "Good luck."

Thomas frowned. "What do you mean? I was assured she's very competent."

"By the same woman who promised to tell me I didn't have a job anymore,  right?" I smiled at him, but there was no joy. "Audrey Verna makes her  living from lying to people. She's very good at it."

"How bad is your stepsister?" Thomas asked, sounding like he could feel a headache coming on.

"Anastasia thinks that a main job of Congress is to make sure that Conga  lines continue," I informed him. I closed my bag and snapped it shut.  "I'm not sure how much help she's going to be researching the precedents  for non-dance moves."

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