Authors: Avril Sabine
The Ugly Stepsister Copyright © 2014 by Avril Petersen (Cover art by Caitlyn Petersen).
For my own stepfather, who thankfully, was not the stereotypical wicked stepparent and welcomed us into his family.
Ellie likes her life just the way it is. So it’s not perfect. Whose life is? Not to mention she could easily name a dozen girls from her school that would love to swap places with her. But then, they don’t know her carefully guarded secret and she’s going to make certain they never do.
This novel was written by an Australian author using Australian spelling.
Ellie leaned close to the mirror as she reapplied her lipstick, the sound of music barely muted by the bathroom door. Once the lipstick was capped she dropped it into her makeup bag and critically surveyed her face. Her silvery blue eye shadow was several shades lighter than her blue eyes, her long gold fringe curved across her right cheek and was pushed behind her ear on the left. She added more mascara and leaned back, smiling in satisfaction. Perfect. He wasn’t about to say no. Although with the amount of alcohol she’d encouraged him to drink ‘no’ had probably been removed from his vocabulary.
Once again she pushed aside her doubts. What choice did she have? She shuddered when she thought of the past two weekends. None. Absolutely none.
After she shoved her makeup bag inside her oversized, fake leather handbag, she straightened her short black dress and slung her bag on so the strap crossed her chest. Her mobile phone beeped and she pulled it out of the small zip up pocket on the outside of her handbag and read the message.
He’s leaving. Front door. Will stall. Hurry.
Ellie swore when she read the message from Lauren, returned her phone to its pocket and unlocked the bathroom door. The sounds of the party rushed in around her and she nearly stumbled over the handful of people waiting to use the bathroom. Pushing through the crowd, she spotted Lauren near the front door. She wore a similar black dress to Ellie’s and had a mixture of black and white chunky plastic bracelets on her wrists. Her hair was dark brown with white-blonde streaks through it that made the brown look black in comparison. Around her neck she wore three bead necklaces made entirely of large white beads, each strand larger than the last.
Lauren spotted Ellie and grinned, waving her over. Her other hand clutched the arm of a boy with curly brown hair who looked barely thirteen. Ellie knew he was sixteen. He went to the same school as her and Lauren.
“Sam’s about to go. He’s already called a taxi,” Lauren said.
“You weren’t going to leave without me, were you?” Ellie linked her arm through Sam’s. Although they were in the same grade, they weren’t in any classes together. Nor had she spoken to him before today. The few times she’d seen Sam had been during the lunch hour when she was in the library, frantically doing last minute research for an assignment.
“N… no.” Sam shook his head and stumbled with the sudden movement.
Lauren and Ellie’s eyes met and they smiled. Ellie was starting to believe that this weekend might be different from the last two. When someone bumped into her, Ellie turned with a glare. It was another boy from school. “Watch it, David.”
“Ell-ieeee!” David’s words were a little slurred as he draped an arm around her shoulders, drawing her name out. “How’ve you been?” He noticed Sam and peered closer at him. “Hey, what’re you doing with Baby Face? You’re not going home with him are you? Don’t tell me you’re that desperate.”
“How about I give you a call if I ever get desperate.” Ellie grinned as she shrugged David’s arm off. Maybe she’d gotten her hopes up too soon. She refused to let her smile falter even though she was mentally begging David not to ask her more questions.
David laughed. “I might be about.” He turned when someone called his name. “See you at school Monday.” He waved over his shoulder as he wandered off.
Relived, Ellie turned back to Lauren. “I’ll let you know where he lives when I get there.” She glanced towards Sam.
Lauren threw an arm around her. “Take care. I wish my mum wasn’t such a bitch. It’s so unfair that I’m not allowed to have you over ever again.”
“Don’t worry about it. At least we had fun before we were caught.” Lauren’s mum had been livid. She’d never seen her that angry before. Yet another memory she pushed away, determined not to focus on it.
Lauren giggled. “Yeah, we did.” She paused to listen. “Hey! My song. Take care.” She waved before she disappeared into the crowd, her plastic bracelets bouncing.
Ellie frowned at Sam who swayed beside her. She guessed they should head outside before the taxi arrived and thought they no longer needed a lift. Sam willingly let her lead him out of the crowded house, stumbling several times. Ellie wondered if she’d encouraged him to drink too much. She pushed that thought aside. His problem if he didn’t have the backbone to say no. She’d just have to keep an eye on him so she could move out of the way if he was going to be sick. Guilt tried to creep back in. She refused to allow it. It wasn’t like she was hurting him. So maybe he’d have a headache in the morning, but that’d pass.
The taxi pulled up and she pushed aside her worries, helping Sam into the backseat. She nudged him. “What’s your address?”
It took Sam several attempts to get the words out. The taxi driver pulled out onto the road with a shake of his head. Ellie bit back a smile at his expression. Sam slumped beside her, half asleep. She sighed heavily. Up until three weeks ago her weekends had been different. She’d spent every weekend at Lauren’s house for the past two years, probably longer. She wasn’t exactly sure when the ritual had started. Everything had changed when Lauren’s mum had caught them sneaking back into the house after going to a party she’d said they couldn’t go to. It hadn’t been fair for her to say no. She just hadn’t understood that everyone would be at the party. And that they’d had to go.
Now she thought Ellie was a bad influence and Lauren wasn’t allowed to have anything to do with her. Luckily Lauren didn’t agree. She didn’t know what she’d do without her best friend. Ellie yawned, hoping it wouldn’t be too much longer before they reached Sam’s house. She didn’t have a clue where it was.
The taxi finally pulled up and Ellie peered out the window. They were parked in front of a house that still had the outside light on. The neighbours’ houses were completely dark. A short verandah protected the front door, one side of the verandah interrupted by a room that jutted out level with it and on the other a double garage. The front yard had several shady trees, tidy shrubs and immaculate flowerbeds. To the right of the garage was a two metre high wooden fence with a gate.
Ellie nudged Sam when the taxi driver told her the cost of the ride.
“Huh?” Sam squinted at her.
“You’re home. Driver’s waiting to be paid.” Ellie nodded towards the front of the taxi.
“Hmm.” Sam struggled to pull his wallet out of a pocket of his jeans.
Ellie took the wallet from him, paid the driver and helped Sam out of the taxi. She staggered as he stumbled against her, then tried to lead him to the front door. Sam pulled away, shaking his head. If Ellie hadn’t caught him, he would have ended up sitting on the concrete driveway.
Maybe this hadn’t been the best idea. “What are you trying to do, Sam?”
Sam pointed to the wooden fence. “Th… that…”
“Okay,” Ellie interrupted. She didn’t want to spend all night waiting for him to get an entire sentence out. She sighed. It wasn’t really Sam that she was annoyed with. It was the entire situation.
Helping him to the gate, she slipped her hand inside the waist high circle, cut in the timber, to slide back the bolt. While she closed the gate, Sam staggered down the flight of concrete steps. They ended at a timber door set in a lower level of the house. When she joined him, his head rested against the door and his eyes were closed. He hadn’t gone to sleep had he? She hoped not. She carefully shook his shoulder, worried he might fall over.
“Huh? Wha?” Sam looked around blearily.
“Ohh.” Sam reached into the neck of his shirt and pulled out a key on a chain.
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Ellie pulled the long chain over Sam’s head and unlocked the door. “I hope you’re not planning to wear your car keys around your neck when you get your licence.”
She was glad Sam ignored her to stumble into the room. Again she reminded herself it wasn’t Sam’s fault. Why did Lauren’s mum have to come up with such an extreme punishment?
Ellie ran her hand along the doorframe as she listened to Sam run into things in the dark room. She found the switch and flicked it on. Light flooded the area and she stepped into a lounge room. To her left was a door leading into a bathroom. In the wall across from her in the right hand corner was a closed door that Sam aimed for. She guessed it must be his bedroom. On the wall to her right were another two closed doors. She locked the entrance door behind her and opened the door closest to Sam’s room. It hid a set of steps. Closing it, she carefully opened the next door. It was an ‘L’ shaped bedroom. She walked further into the room when she realised no one was in it. The room was lit by the glow of a bedside lamp sitting on a chest of drawers next to a queen-sized bed at the far end of the room. A noise made Ellie quickly close the door and follow Sam.
He was face down on his single-sized bed, the lamp knocked off his bedside drawers. Dropping his wallet and key onto the drawers, she picked up the lamp, turning it on so she could see where it was safe to walk. One of his shoes lay near the door while he still wore the other one. A computer sat on a desk in one corner of the room, the rest of the wall taken up by a large bookcase that was haphazardly filled with books, computer games and action figures. A beanbag was at the foot of the bed and the floor had a scattering of books, computer games, crockery and clothes.
Ellie grinned when Sam started to snore. Maybe this was going to be easier than she’d thought. Hopefully the rest of the weekend would go as planned. Her eyes rested on the beanbag. Not the best option, but it was far better than the first weekend she hadn’t been able to stay at Lauren’s.
Ellie shuddered as she remembered spending most of that weekend at a train station. Again she pushed the memory away. Last weekend hadn’t been great either. Ellie shied away from thinking of that disaster. Instead she headed back into the lounge room and crossed the room to the bathroom, locking herself in. Now for the next step in her plans. No way was she going to risk a repeat of last weekend. Her handbag was quickly opened. She pulled out her makeup bag and a bottle of baby oil, placing them on the vanity. Her dress and high heels were changed for baggy long pants, an old football jumper two sizes too big and combat boots. Her handbag looked nearly empty now. As soon as her makeup was cleaned off, Ellie used a pale foundation, black lipstick and black eyeliner. She poured baby oil into her hand and grimaced as she turned her golden blond hair into an oily, stringy mess. She grinned at the ghastly image of herself in the mirror. No one would recognise her. As soon as her gear was back in her handbag she slung it over her shoulder and opened the bathroom door.
She jumped back when she saw a young man in front of her, hand raised to open the door. She barely managed to smother the scream that threatened to break free.