This is a story I started writing in one of my notebooks, and then continued it by typing it out. I have to now type/edit the story and move it to my computer before I can upload the other chapters. After I've finished that, I can work on finishing the story. I will try to update as fast as possible, but I'm a bit busy right now with a wake and filling in for a friend's job.

This is new for me. I got the idea while playing a video game. Talk about oddities. Anyway, this is just the first chapter, which I never found quite up to my usual standards. Tell me what you think. I'm working on typing up the rest of the story currently. I think I might just finish it. It is my summer project, so I hope you enjoy!


Chapter One

I was four when I first realized my stepmother was evil.

My dad was away yet again on some business venture. He hadn't gone on these much before he'd remarried, but now he was almost always gone. So once again, it was just Dannika and me in the house, finishing up dinner. I didn't know her that well, as the wedding had been only the month before, but she had distanced herself from me until that moment.

After the spaghetti was in our bellies, she had looked down at me. "Isabeaux, wash the dishes." It wasn't a request, and I thought that her green eyes glowed faintly, like a snake's.

This wasn't, in itself, a terrible request to make of someone, however, I was four, and I had no idea how to do cleaning of any type. I couldn't even speak properly. I informed her of this.

"Then you'll learn. I won't have a spoiled brat for a stepdaughter."

I cried and cried and wished my daddy was home, but I did as she asked, because I wanted her to love me.

When I was finished, Dannika inspected my work inch by inch while I held my breath, hoping for some sign of approval. The salad bowl had cheese stuck to it still and the saucepan was greasy. She hit me, hard, and I cried out and fell to the ground. Tears coursed down my cheeks. Was this what mommies did? At the time, I thought so.

"Do you not see the terrible job you've done on these, you worthless whore's child?" Her voice never rose above the normal, bell-like tones she used but it had frightened me all the same. It seemed more dangerous than yelling ever had. "Now you'll have to wash them again until you get it right."

I continued to cry as I washed the dishes. In the end it took me three tries to get it right, and she slapped me, hard, every time I messed up even a little bit.

She told me that if my father ever found out, she'd kill me.

I screamed and started to run from her, but she caught me and pulled me downstairs, where a closet—more like a cupboard—that was dark and soggy was located. She pushed me in the closet and shut the door, locking me in there, screaming, for hours.

That was how it was from then on out. She ordered me about, I either obeyed and she somehow found something wrong with it, or I disobeyed and she locked me in the closet, usually putting huge, hairy spiders or snakes in with me. Once it was a jar of black ants, and by the time she let me out, I was so covered in bites that I felt like a swollen balloon.

I had gone to school. By law in the state of Washington she couldn't prevent that. It was my few hours of respite every day, but I always came home. I graduated, but barely, never having time for homework except for the late night hours. After that I'd gotten a job, hoping that someday I'd be able to pay for college. But the stepmonster had found out easily enough and took all my money. It was either give it to her or spend a week in the closet with the worst things she could come up with. This terrified me as nothing else did, and so most of my paychecks went to her. However, in rebellion, I managed to squirrel away the tips I received. I had a little over a thousand dollars, which was enough to buy my books for two semesters.

Approaching the time I turned twenty, I was still rebellious, but I pretended to be timid and introversive. The only way I could get by without getting in too much trouble was to pretend as if I were obedient with no will of my own. She still punished me in the most frightening ways, but I didn't go mad with terror. My greatest hindrance and her greatest aid was my fear. It fed her cruelty, and I did my best to squelch such an emotion.

But I defied her in every way I could. When I weeded her flower beds, I salted the ground. She couldn't get flowers to grow anywhere, and though she blamed it on me, she couldn't figure out how I'd done it. When I changed her sheets, I gave her the pilliest, scratchiest, most uncomfortable ones. She thought she had broken me, but in truth I retained my soul.

All the while, my dad had been going on longer and longer trips. Sometimes, Dannika would stay home and watch me as I worked, but mostly, she left a list of things for me to do—impossible in length—and left to do whatever it was she spent her time doing, and she came back later that night to find that I had done everything she requested. She would then inspect my work, and if she found a single speck of dust on the shelves or a smear on the counter, she locked me in the closet. I spent those moments in fear.

One day she left before I woke up, the list sitting on the counter. It looked about a mile long. It would take me a while, but I knew that if I prioritized, I'd be able to finish in time.

I turned the radio on to a classic rock station and flipped between that and country all day as I vacuumed, dusted, mopped, scrubbed, and polished every already-clean thing in the house. Then I went outside to weed the flowerbeds for a bit (and sprinkle salt), and moved back inside to finish everything up.

I had only one thing left on the list before I was finished when the greatest song of all time came on. I knew Dannika wouldn't be back for two or more hours so I sang and danced to the upbeat tune, and did a little salsa step.

As I passed the hall mirror I stopped and looked into it. My long, curly black hair was tucked into a spiky bun atop my head to keep it out of the way. I was a tall, slender girl, with a thin nose, pale skin and freckles. Faint bruises dotted my face and shadows smudged under my eyes.

My eyes—those were the only interesting things about me, and interesting wasn't a very good description. Scary was more like it. They were a bright, golden yellow that somehow faded to molten gold. They tended to throw people off, so when I was in public, I usually wore sunglasses, as unusual as that was for Washington weather.

These oddities I assumed I inherited from my real mother. I didn't know what happened to her. One day she was here, and the next, she was gone. Dad never spoke about her, when he was around. Almost as soon as she had disappeared, however, he came home with a new mother for me, one who didn't turn out to be much of a mother.

My only memory of her, my real mother, is of her voice. A beautiful voice, singing a lullaby.

The song ended. I shook myself from my reverie and got back to work sweeping. When I finished, I'd move on to the bathrooms.

My house was huge. It was three stories and it spread over half an acre of land. Cleaning it took forever, but I did that on a daily basis. I often thought that if only I had evil stepsisters on top of the stepmonster I could be a modern Cinderella, and maybe my Prince Charming would whisk me away into a life of happiness.

A bright tanager flew past my window and I smiled, admiring the beautiful sunset of the little bird in flight. Its wings—such beautiful wings—dipped and fluttered as it darted around the lone apple tree in my front yard. I often wondered what I would do if I had wings such as those. Fly somewhere far away, like Australia, probably.

The front door slammed open. I whirled about, forgetting all about birds and wings and Australia in my fear. I stayed rooted to the spot, as unable to move as a tree. Sure enough, there was the stepmonster. She looked livid.

"I leave you a few simple tasks—," overstatement of the year "—and I return to find you staring out the window like a drooling idiot while the house cleaning is unfinished. Why haven't you finished?"

With Dannika, it wasn't the anger that frightened me. It was what she would do with it. When she was angry with me—which was often—I tended to keep quiet and hope she didn't put me in the closet. This time, however, I'd had enough. I was going to leave, and that was it.

"If they're such simple chores, do them yourself. I'm not your slave and you're not my mother!"

Her eyes glittered and I cursed my quick temper. I was in for it now. I wondered if I could make a run for it.

She grabbed my ear before I could even make up my mind and yanked. The pain made me yelp, and I wondered how Van Gough had managed to cut off his own ear. I would have chickened out way before actually getting around to it. She pulled me to the basement. As soon as I figured out where we were going I tried to jerk out of her grip but she only pulled harder, causing tears to spring up.

"Please," I whispered. I'd never begged, but I couldn't go in there again.

She barely glanced at me. "You'll learn to do as your told. And if you ever speak to me like that again, you'll find it's the last thing you do."

My basement—I could never think of it as hers—was cold and uncared for. It was the only part of the house I didn't have to clean. The walls were dirty, cobwebs hung from the ceiling, and the whole place smelled like rot and mildew.

The basement closet was a tiny space. There was room for me to sit on an overturned bucket but not much else. Dannika forcefully shoved me into the claustrophobic hole.

I tried to scramble past her but it was no use. For a tiny woman, she was sure strong. She slammed the door shut and clicked the lock ominously. Immediately the dark began to suffocate.

Before the stepmonster, dark had never bothered me, nor had enclosed spaces. Now they terrified me.

A peephole opened. Green eyes glared through and I imagined I saw slits. The eyes disappeared and were replaced with the top of a jar.

"Oh no," I moaned. "No, no, NO!" I thrust my hands at the opening.

Too late. The contents of the jar spilled into the closet with me. Giant, hairy spiders—several of them—instantly began crawling on me. And I was wearing shorts.

I screamed as their hairy legs tickled their way up my arms and I tried to shake them off to no avail. The stepmonster laughed and shut the little opening, cutting off what little light it provided. I was left alone in the dark with the spiders.

I continued screaming for what felt like hours, until my voice was completely gone and I was exhausted. Tears and snot ran down my face but I was too filled with terror to move.

It was a long night. I couldn't sleep. Fear combined with cold and hunger jerked me awake any time I tried.

I started singing songs, then making up stories in a shaky, hoarse voice. It didn't do much to distract me. Most of my stories inadvertently turned disastrous for the hero or heroine. I shuddered when I realized I was saying that one died by suffocation from spider webs.

Distantly I heard a rooster crow. It must be morning. Where was Dannika? She hadn't ever left me in the closet this long before.

More hours went by. I could feel the dark closing in on me so I closed my eyes.

The spiders finally crept off to their own corners, or through tiny holes in the wall. I still didn't move, afraid that if I did, they would come back out and start crawling all over me again, something I couldn't handle.

Eventually an uncomfortable sensation in my bladder forced me into movement. A while back, after the stepmonster had started leaving me in the closet for longer periods of time, I had cut a hole in the bucket for just such an emergency. I used this to relieve myself.

Was that her? Even though my fear I felt embarrassment at being caught peeing in a bucket. Hurriedly, I pulled my shorts back up. I strained my ears but the sound I must have imagined didn't come again.

Food, my tired mind thought. Sleep. Food.

I drifted off. Or maybe I was just imagining things. Either way, light filled my vision, comforting me. It beat back the black. I sobbed with relief.

A face appeared. No, a full body. With wings. At least I knew I had finally fallen asleep.

The man looked startled to see me. He had a young face, but his eyes—silver—looked older, and held many secrets. He watched me in surprise. I watched him back.

He broke the silence first. "Who are you?"

He had broken dream etiquette. Everyone in my dreams already knew who I was, and I them. Seeing a clear face, that of a stranger, was new to me, and distinctly odd. Maybe hunger and fear caused you to have very vivid dreams. "I'm Beaux."

"Why are you here?" he asked curiously. Dark, curly locks curved around his ears. Black wings with silver tips sprang from his shoulder blades, and he wore—of all things—a black toga, silver belt, and black lace-up sandals. I was dreaming about an angel obsessed with matching colors, then. All that was missing was his harp.

"Oh, I'm dreaming," I replied woozily. "My stepmother locked me in a closet with spiders, and I finally fell asleep. Don't wake me up, please. I can't go back to that. I won't." Fear caused my voice to shake.

His curiosity turned to puzzlement. "Dreaming? You're in my house."

I glanced around but all I could see was light. "It's a nice place, don't get me wrong, but what house?"

He laughed. It was a nice laugh, full and deep and rich. Too bad this was just a dream.

"Well I don't know how you got here but please leave. I have things I need to do."

At his words, fear bolted through me. "Don't wake me up, please," I begged. My entire body began to shake in terror. "It's a wonderful house, I didn't mean to offend you, but please don't wake me up."

His silver eyes grew concerned and he said something but no sound came from his mouth. "What?" I squeaked. His image started to fade, and the light with it. "Oh no, oh no," I moaned. A hand grabbed my arm. Then the light was gone.

But the hand was still there. I turned my head blindly but could see no one. I began to sob. The feel of someone's hand faded, and I cried harder and harder.

I wished the dream would come back.

More time than I could keep track of passed. It may have been hours, days, or only minutes. It felt like an eternity.

This was illegal. I had put up with the stepmonster's abuse for far too long, and only because I had no money and nowhere to go. But I couldn't live like this. I resolved to leave as soon as I got out of this hell. A thousand dollars would be enough to find a place to live for long enough that I could get a job.

I don't know how long I was in there before I drifted off again. The spiders had long since left the closet so I had nothing to worry about from them, but I still had to deal with my fear of the dark. I felt cramped, and the smell emanating from beneath the bucket was overwhelming.

When I finally did fall into a semblance of sleep I dreamt again of the light room. There was no reason for me to be annoyed, because it took me away from the cloying darkness of the closet, but I was. Couldn't my dreams become more original?

The boy with wings was there again. His face was clear again, and I could tell it was the same person as last time. He didn't see me for a long time. I watched enviously as he gulped what looked like a gallon of water. My own tongue felt like paper and swallowing had become a chore. I was so hungry, my stomach rebelled at the idea of food.

I must have made some sort of raspy noise because he started and his head shot in my direction. The next thing I knew he was kneeling beside me and holding the cup to my lips, concern in his eyes.

The water was cold. It was heaven to my parched throat. I managed several healthy gulps.

"You know," I said hoarsely. "This is the weirdest, most realistic, and kindest dream I have ever had."

The winged man looked at me oddly. "This isn't a dream. You keep popping up in my house."

"That might sound a bit less ludicrous if you didn't have those pretty little feathers there."

He shrugged. "Believe what you like."

"So, um…is this what the house of an angel looks like?"

He laughed, though his silver eyes remained concerned. "An ophan, you mean. I'm not sure what you're seeing, but it's probably not what the place looks like in reality."

Now it was turning more dream-like. What next, a cat-tailed Z-fan? What on earth was an ophan?

He moved away and came back with a bottle of water. "Here, drink some of this." I took a sip with shaky hands, feeling much better for the hydration. When it hit my too-empty stomach and didn't rebel, I started gulping down the precious liquid.

Too bad it was only a dream. At least I felt better.

A sudden loud clapping noise shuddered through the "house" and the light dimmed. I shrieked.

Wing-boy's head whipped around. He had been in the process of…well, I wasn't sure, since he appeared to be staring at the wall.

"What is it?" he asked. But I could feel myself slipping into wakefulness.

"I'm—it's—it's her," I said faintly.

He gripped my arm tightly. "Listen," he breathed in my ear. "Should you ever need help, any kind, call my name, alright? Promise."

"I would," I whispered back, "but I have no idea what that is. You want me to guess?" Somewhere in me I found it amusing that even though I was in danger I could still be a smart ass.

His smile was fleeting. "Jonas." The light and his voice faded again to nothing until all that was left was the tightness of his hand gripping my arm. Then that too was gone.