- Seducing the Seducer -
Chapter three: The Aftermath
Logan wiped the dirt off the surface of the golden key with his thumb and stared into the reflection of a tiresome face. For a moment, he didn't recognise who it was, until it dawned on him that it was his own reflection—gazing right back at him from the glass-like exterior of the keys. Her keys.
He sighed for the tenth time that morning and pushed a strand of dark hair out of his eyes. A ghost of a smile crept on to his face as he slid a finger over the pink Elmo figure, which was dangling loosely on the key ring, before examining it closely. It lay helplessly on his palm, smiling up at him with the famous Sesame Street smile. One of its bendable arms was twisted into a 'Come Hither' motion and Logan couldn't help but let out a soft chuckle.
Who was she? Every part of this girl had drawn Logan into amusement and wonder. No one had done that before. Ever.
A giggle from behind suddenly chilled his back. In a jiggled mess he quickly pocketed the keys as two slender arms wrapped themselves around his shoulders in a seductive manner. He could smell the strong scent of perfume, but, for some unknown reason, he wasn't particularly aroused.
"Baby." The brunette behind him pouted. "What are you looking at, can I see?"
"It's nothing, Kat." He said smoothly, forcing up a smile. "Nothing in comparison with you beside me."
Kat giggled feverishly before snuggling up closer to his form. He wrapped his arms around her before delving into a half-hearted kiss. But it was passionless and dull. Juvenile in comparison to what he had experienced the night before…
Logan inwardly banged his head on the wall. He didn't want to think about her. He had probably hooked up with Kat near the end of the party as a form of consolation, as a form of rebound since he was turned down by someone who he had truly wanted for the first time in a long while. He had chosen Kat solely because he was in a state of complete and utter drunkenness and maybe, just maybe it was because of the sole fact that she had brown hair… just like her.
Logan closed his eyes as Kat nuzzled his neck in affection, but his mind was not with his newest girlfriend anymore. No, instead he was dwelling in the reminiscent of a particular brown-haired girl in a grandiose crimson dress and white jeweled mask…
What was so special about her anyway? He asked himself with renewed resolution. She was just like any other girl he'd met in any other parties. No big deal. He'd probably forget her by tomorrow for all he knows.
But deep down inside of him, he knew that she wasn't just any other girl he had met before—and it would certainly take a great deal of time just to get her out of his head; let alone entirely forget her.
Too bad the magic of karma was cruel… but not so that it would let a cliché hang in the air, unfurled, like this one.
-- ♠ --
Ignoring the deafening screeches emitted from just one floor below her, Isabelle slid a slender finger over the slivery and icy surface of the keys in her hands. A cold smoothness met her skin, but strangely, her fingertips felt oddly warm… almost as if she still had Logan by her side.
Logan… His name sounded almost surreal; as if what had happened yesterday night was a fairytale, a dream too good to be true. But clichés never happened to Isabelle; Cinderella might have her glass slipper and Snow White may have her kiss-to-end-all kiss, but never Isabelle. Her fairytale had ceased to be and withered away ever since the gloomy day she sat at her mother's funeral, almost four years ago. Her life was a downwards spiral from that day onwards, and things couldn't get worst until her dad readopted her and took her away from her grandmother's care. Then karma proved that nightmares really do come true.
Bet that Logan had probably already forgotten me by now, she mused with dry bitterness.
But she had had the school's most popular guy all to herself for a night, any girl would kill to be in her place; who was she to complain?
Sighing, Isabelle slipped the key back into her little treasure box and positioned it carefully at the back of her wardrobe, along with the rest of her little valuables.
"Coming!" She yelled before standing up and hurrying down the stairs.
It was shear luck and miracle that had saved her from getting caught of actually going to the secret rendezvous last night.
After a long while of contemplation at the front doorstep, Isabelle had decided to let herself into Claus's house—which was only a few blocks away—with the hidden key under the front door mat. While his parents were still not home, Dean still at the party and Claus, himself, snoring on his bed as good as dead, she changed into a set of Claus's clothes from his wardrobe and hid her dress and mask in a corner before returning to her own house; where she waited for a good few hours until her stepsister's arrival.
In their drunken states, she had no problem persuading them she had locked herself out while throwing out the rubbish. It never even occurred to them that the rubbish bin was still as full as ever and that Isabelle was wearing a jumper three size bigger than her normal size.
They didn't even bother to question her or pile her with their usual idiotic remarks that she found it slightly unnerving, yet relieving at the same time.
And so, she had skidded back into the house unnoticed, scarcely escaping the wrath of her stepfamily.
"ISABELLE! COME HERE THIS INSTANT!"
"Yes! I heard you the first time. Gosh, you really should learn to grow some patience." She grumbled and practically tumbled down the flight of stairs in a fast scurry.
Turning the corner, Isabelle skidded to a halt at the wide opened doorway of Beverly's room. And placing a hand on the threshold, she quirked an inquisitive brow at her stepsister, who was still curled up in the warmth of her bed—even though it was already two in the afternoon.
"Yea? You were calling me?"
"What took you so long?" Beverly shrieked, her head poking out of the blankets like a demented bird in a nest, "Never mind, just get me a cup of water; I'm, like, dying of thirst here." She fanned herself and stuck out her tongue in emphasis.
"You probably won't be, if you haven't been screaming my name for the past fifteen minutes or so."
Beverly instantly furrowed her brows, "Are you mocking me? Gosh, I swear, talking to you is like a waste of my breath. Just fetch me the water."
"And why should I?" Isabelle instantly crossed her arms, temper rising.
"Because I'm thirsty and I have a major hangover, duh." Her lack of rationality to detect a rhetorical question astounded Isabelle, but did little to retain her ire.
"If you want a drink, go get it yourself; it's not my fault that your legs are born handicapped—or so they seem, considering their diminutiveness," There was a pause, "Length-wise anyway."
With that last remark, which left Beverly's mouth ajar in indignation, she riveted out of the room. Deciding that there were better ways to waste time than conversing with her pig of a stepsister, Isabelle stomped down the corridor, but only to be halted again by a chilling and unnaturally chipped voice which resounded from behind. The hair on her back immediately straightened.
"Ouch, that was harsh…" The words were sickly sweet with venom.
Reluctantly, she turned to face her older stepsister. "Carol."
Carol's smile widened at the cold greeting. This was exactly what Isabelle hated about her. Unlike Beverly, who was just plain dumb and bossy, Carol was on a whole different scale of bitchiness. She would appear to be nice on first meeting, and then turn around to backstab you until you tumble on to the ground begging for mercy. She would search around for a weakness then use it against you and manipulate you.
And this was exactly why Isabelle was so terrified of her. Carol knew of her deepest secret; she discerned the part of Isabelle's past which the latter had tried so hard to forget.
Isabelle was anxious that, one day, her stepsister might get tired of baiting her with the knowledge of her history, or, of her mother's intricately dark background to be exact. If Carol ever let slip of that little arcanum, Isabelle's status of invisibility would be utterly ruined. She would be scandalized by the whole school, no, make it the entire town. And the few friends she had aquatinted with would turn their backs on her, along with the rest of the discriminative crowd.
…Just like what had happened years ago, right after her mother's death, when the truth finally broke out in the old neighbourhood where she was raised.
Although Isabelle was intuitively strong and endurable, there was only that much a girl could take before she breaks. Living this life of misery, she was already on the verge of folding, and the least she wanted right now was an outbreak of a scandal about her mother's past deeds.
"I couldn't help but hear your little dispute back there…" Carol voiced out, tapping her lips, "Why so mean to Bev, Isabelle? After all, we did keep our mouths shut about your mom. So why don't you be a darling and just do what you are told?" There was so much contempt as she said that word 'mom' that Isabelle tried her hardest not to wince outwardly.
Teeth gritting and face red in suppressed anger, Isabelle nodded mechanically before swiveling around from the scene and stormed into the kitchen. Behind her, she could hear the annoyingly high-pitched sniggers from Beverly, who was probably still pigging around in the warmth of her bed.
Tapping on her chin, she maneuvered herself to the cupboard and took out an empty glass. Maybe I should give her boiling hot water, she mused, trying the hardest to bend the rules of their game.
She was just about to heat up the stove when the abrupt ruffling of papers and a sharp cough prompted her to swivel around.
Condescending, frozen blue orbs met her gaze and she hastily cringed. This was so not her day.
"Janet." Isabelle quickly greeted her stepmother before ensuing to act busy with sorting out the pots. She wasn't too keen with the horrific prospect of bonding with her stepfamily, especially when her dad was away on a business trip for the week.
Janet threw back her artificial blonde curls; her lips pursed in a line straight line and sighed very loudly and audibly. This was usually the sign which meant for attention. Rolling her eyes and cursing under her breathe, Isabelle twisted around to face her stepmother again. "Yes?" One brow was lifted in inquiry.
Janet was sitting at the dining table with a stack of fashion magazine strewn across the surface and a cup of tea at hand. Irritably, she looked at Isabelle as if she had just chipped a nail. "I was just thinking, since you have been using up a large portion of our household expenditure for your schooling fee and other needs. It's time for you to start repaying our family and our vast hospitality."
"For your information, I am on a full scholarship and I work two jobs at once while juggling to do triple amount of homework we get at school… I pay for my own food and I pay for the rent of my room, is that not enough?" Exasperated, Isabelle crossed her arms and gazed at her stepmother challengingly.
"A proud one aren't you, Isabelle." Janet seemed thoroughly annoyed. "But don't forget if it weren't for us, you wouldn't have anywhere to go."
That, she had to give credit for. It was true. Isabelle's grandmother had lost custody of her due to the shear fact that she was too old and lived in an old folk's home; lack of financial and general support, the lawyer had said. So until Isabelle was eighteen, and a legal adult, she would have to deal with a father who didn't even love her and a stepfamily which practically made her everyday a living hell.
Isabelle gave up, there was nothing to argue about, she would never win; her shoulders slumped in renounce. "What do you want me to do?"
There was a quick flash of a look of victory on Janet's face before she threw a piece of note on to the table.
The crumpled piece of paper bore a single address and nothing else.
Isabelle picked it up. "What is this?"
"There was a recruitment of a new part-time helper on the news. The salary is pretty high." There was a pause as Janet smiled at her incredulous look. "So I called them up, and got you a new job."
"You want me to be a maid?" Isabelle's eyes widened, she couldn't believe her ears. "What about school work and the other two jobs I have on the tow?"
"That's your problem, not mine. Job starts today and I'll be expecting your first salary on my desk this evening. And by that, I mean all of it. Try keeping even a dollar and… you know what'll happen." Nonchalantly, Janet took a small sip from her cup and flipped open another page of Marie Claire's, seemingly ignorant of her stepdaughter's presence.
Like mother, like daughter. Threats, threats and more threats. Seething in anger, Isabelle stomped back into the kitchen and heatedly poured water into the pot on the stove, spilling liquid all over the counter. "You know what'll happen." She irately mimed under her breathe. Oh yes, she knew perfectly what was going to happen. Her grandmother was going to get kicked out of old folk's home—that was what. Her father had been supporting her grandma's health care out of kindness; he didn't have to as they were in no ways related anymore, but he did. But now, his courtesy acted as a kind of threat to Isabelle. "One wrong move and your grandma is going out on to the streets." Janet had said that at least a thousand times.
Glaring daggers at the floor board and turning the fire on the stove on full, Isabelle waited as bubbles began to form.
Swirling and swelling… swelling and doubling… doubling, then bursting.
-- ♠ --
Isabelle stared down at the address one more time before lifting her head to meet the golden bars of a majestic gate. Black steel laced up the two-storey high entrance like lianas and branched out delicately, creating a pattern of a crown.
"Wow." She sighed in wonder as she glanced out of the car window.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" Claus was rubbing the steering wheel anxiously.
Isabelle smoothened out the crumpled piece of paper and nodded. "If Janet isn't trying out anything smart, then yea, I guess this is it."
Hesitantly, she clicked open the car door and stepped out into the blazing sun. Through the bars of the gate, she could make out what seemed to be the faint silhouette of a castle-like mansion. Glass windows compassed most of the building's exterior, showing the convoluted trail of stairs, tracing through the manor like vines and wisteria on palace walls.
Biting her lips, Isabelle harrumphed before pressing the black button on the side of the barricade. There was a slight buzzing, but no reply; so she pressed again.
This time, there was a strong hissing as the sophisticated-looking camera on the right of the gate twisted mechanically to her direction.
"Who is this?" An annoyed voice of a man greeted her through the speaker, and she took a small step backwards.
"It's Isabelle… I'm the new part-time maid."
There was a small grunt before the screeching of metal informed her that the steel gate was rolling apart for her entry. Taking a few step backwards, she quickly hopped back on to Claus's car.
As soon as the door closed behind her, they drove forward through the entrance, passing through what seemed to be like a mile of carefully maintained plantation and arrived at the front porch, which was held up by two pillars imposingly. A fountain with a statue of three dolphins and a figure of Neptune riding on top was splashing and splattering. The front door was a double door of amber. Another embodiment of a crown was embodied on to door, which stood tightly shut in an unwelcoming manner.
"Well… I'll see you after work then." Claus said at last, patting the steering wheel.
Isabelle grinned; it was hard to believe that this rational and cogent boy was the same person who had been utterly incoherent and drunk out of his mind just yesterday at the party. "Yea, thanks for the ride, buddy."
"No problem." He shook his head. "I still can't believe that evilus number one actually had the nerve to sign you up as a maid. That's gotta be her ultimate low."
"Don't worry about it, I—"
Her speech was cut short by a loud and deliberate tapping on the car window. Startled, she quickly rolled down the window as the face of an aged woman of about fifty glared at her mercilessly with sharp brown eyes.
"Are you done chatting with your boyfriend or can we start your job already?" The woman's English accent was enunciated by the resentment in her voice. Without waiting for a reply, she turned and hurried back into the house with her apron swishing after every step.
Bidding Claus a quick goodbye, Isabelle hurriedly stumbled out of the car and scurried after the old maid, who was unexpectedly short, probably only reaching up to Isabelle's chin. However, her pace was surprisingly fast and Isabelle had a hard time trying to catching up.
Without turning, the woman spoke, "I am the head of all servants in this house and you will address me as Madam Margaret, is that clear?"
Isabelle nodded before realising that Madam Margaret couldn't see her and uttered a quick yes.
There was a moment of silence until they reached a small door at the back of the mansion. The small maid pressed a code onto the number pad and the door automatically clicked open. They both slid in through the doorway and were met by the incessant clinging and clanging of utensils, pots and bowls. With marvel, Isabelle realised she was in a kitchen—a gigantic kitchen ten times the size of her room in the attic.
"All servants are to enter through the back door. I cannot give you the code to the door as you are only a part-time servant, you will just have to use the speaker every time you wish to enter." Madam Margaret paced over to a wooden cupboard and took out a set of uniform. Handing the dress and apron over to Isabelle, she eyed the latter with a critical eye. "Unfortunately, we do have a dress code. Our sir is a big fan of homogeny."
Isabelle only had time to nod before she was piled up again with a pair of glove and a duster.
"I will be expecting your presence every weekend from eight in the morning until past supper, and I do not tolerate tardiness or indolence. Am I clear?"
Isabelle gulped. "As crystal."
"Good." Madam Margaret gave her a small smile before her cold demenour hardened again. "Now get yourself dressed and I will show you where your work starts."
Without further indication, Isabelle was pushed into what seemed to be the servant's bathroom. Clicking the door shut, she sighed and began to undress.
This all seemed almost too surreal. She concluded while unbuttoning her blouse.
After zipping up, she realised that her dress was a bit too big for her slender form, but she was able to retain some of her waist after tying up the apron around her. The extra fabric made her seemed a bit bulgy but it was comfortable and she really couldn't care less about her appearance. After all, she was only a maid, nothing much could happen, right?
After tying her hair in a bun, Isabelle slipped into her white gloves before sauntering out.
An impatient Madam Margaret was tapping away on the counter top with her fingers. Her wrinkly face was stretched into a frown. "What too you so long, girl?" she demanded.
Isabelle furrowed her brows, talk about temper.
Heaving a sigh, the old maid dragged her out of the kitchen. "You will be starting off by cleaning the guestroom."
They were half-way down the corridor when a young red-hair burst through the kitchen door and called out, "Madam! Madam Margaret!"
"What the heck is it now?" The old woman swiftly turned around and shouted irritably. "I am busy, as you can see."
"Andrew broke the oven again." The red-haired said, eyeing Isabelle with mild interest.
Madam Margaret groaned and covered her face with aged hands. After a long while, she resurfaced and stared down at Isabelle in annoyance. "Go up the stairs and the first room to the right is our guestroom, I will be right there when I sort out this mess."
In a flash, almost unnatural for a woman of her age, she was gone, and Isabelle was left staring helplessly at the flowing of dust particles in the air.
Go up the stairs and turn right. Up the stairs and turn right.
After clacking around for a good minute, she finally found the stairway in the middle of the hall under a great crystal chandelier. Its banister sparkled as if of pure gold.
Wearily, Isabelle hiked up the slightly spiraling flight of marbles and turned to the first room on the right. A large wooden door, painted white, stood before her. Unsure of what to do, she closed her hand around the knob of the handle…
And pushed… and nothing—not even the sound of ruffling outside the door—prepared her for what she saw next.
A pretty brunette and a dark-haired man were delving into a fervent kiss on the bed. The girl's attire was scarcely intact, with her shirt mostly unbuttoned. The man was hardly any better as he was not wearing anything to cover his torso; his blouse was thrown across the room in a messy heap along with his tuxedo jacket. Then, upon hearing the noise at the doorway, he looked up…
… And Isabelle's heart stopped.
Logan Grayson's deep blue orbs pierced her. Right through her. It stabbed her heart like an arrow… pulling deeper, deeper until her soul shattered into a million pieces and drifted into the silent and eerie air.
She was confused at first… what was he doing here? No, she didn't care. All she could focus on right now was the laughter of the girl atop of him… and the playfulness twirling in his eyes…
Isabelle actually thought that she and Logan had shared a magical moment together at the secret rendezvous, one that she would always remember. And for a moment there, she had thought that Logan had felt the same. But really, who did she think she was?
The arrow cut deeper… enveloping her, swallowing her whole.
She was nothing but another girl Logan had hanging off his arms, prizes and trophies of his charisma.
He had forgotten her. She was nobody to him. She was just like any other girl…
A tingle ran all the way to her fingers and Isabelle wanted to run, to hide but her legs refused to obey her.
The world slowed as Logan looked at her intently, a look passed his face and she feared, yet secretly wished, that he had recognized her from the day before.
But the look of awareness passed through his face in a quick instant. He restfully disentangled himself from the brunette, who pouted then stared at Isabelle in utter rage, and looked at Isabelle with interest.
"Who are you?"
A/N: One word… SORRY ALL. Alright, scratch that, two words. But erm.. I'm really sorry… I really am. I have an excuse for not updating sooner though, its because my new boarding school… yes, the one I went to this summer, blocked out all pop-ups so I wasn't able to update any of my stories, review or even answer my reviewers until I'm back home for the holidays… which, in another words, would be now.
ANYWAY, please forgive me… I didn't want this to happen. Really.
And erm... yes, you might see that this chappie lacks the passion in the first two chapters... I know, I know, I'm sad too... but really, now that I'm making this a series, I really need a plot line as well as actions. Hope you all understand :(
And yes, I am indeed digressing from the Cinderella plot. Why? Well, I am attempting to make my story more original... or else I might be accused of plagiarising the a Cinderella story which can never be a goood thing. I mean plagiarising, that is. But don't worry, all will come back together soon; I do know what I am doing ;)
Lastly, thank you, thank you to all my reviewers. I was reading through my reviews and was sooo overwhelmed that I actually kicked myself in the butt and started typing away on my laptop. So here it is. The new Chapter, hope you all are not too disappointed at the change in the plot. Or else I might be very heartbroken. Yes, very very indeed.
And oh yea, it was my birthday :) I feel all old.
x. Cashaholic (revives)