“Ella! I need more wine!” Carmen’s shrill voice echoed into the kitchen.
“Coming Miss. Carmen!” I grabbed a chilling bottle of Pino Grigio from the wine fridge and ran out to the deck. Carmen and her friends were sitting in their designer clothes. All of them were trophy wives with too much Botox and lip injections in their face to make genuine expressions. Carmen held out her wine glass to me without a word.
“You are so sweet for taking in such an unpleasant child.” Carmen’s friend Fleur gestured to me with a disgusted look on her face. I clenched my hands and continued pouring the wine.
“I owe it to my dear Harvey to make sure his little girl has some kind of values. I just hope she can learn some skills to help her.” Carmen glanced at me with a smirk on her face. I tried not to roll my eyes as I continued to pour wine. I wished I could be anywhere else. Yet here I was stuck living with Carmen until I can finally get out of here.
“Her clothes. God. They are so un-lady-like. How will she ever get a good husband?” Her friend Ginger chimed in.
I don’t want a husband. I want to get far away from all of this. Still, I hold my tongue. I say nothing. I just pour wine and go back inside to prepare the dinner. As I stood in the kitchen the evil twins walked in. Each of them were following in their mother’s footsteps with overly plumped lips and gaudy designer clothing.
Drew dumped an armful of dirty clothing onto the clean counters. I stifled a cringe knowing I would have to clean the counter again. “Ella. I need this washed and ironed for tomorrow.”
“And I need my car washed. A bird shit on my car and I cannot be driving around in a dirty car.” Anna chimed in.
Fuck my life. Instead of telling them to fuck off like I wanted to, I just smiled at them. “Okay. I just need to finish serving dinner to Miss. Carmen and her friends.”
Drew scoffed and rolled her eyes, “Just make sure that everything is done before we leave for school.”
“I will,” I replied. The two of them cackled as they left the kitchen. I clenched my hands, letting my nails dig into my palms until I felt a sting in my hands. I focused on the pain as I took in a deep breath. Keep calm and stay alive.
I continued cooking, trying not to let the tears fall. I will not allow them to humiliate me. They might get to order me around. Force me to drop out of school. Torment me every moment I spend in this house but they will never break me. I will get out here.
“Ella! Where is my dinner? I told you to have it ready for 6 o’clock sharp. Why can’t you do anything right?” Carmen yelled from the patio.
“Just bringing it out now Miss. Carmen.” I ran outside with my arms laden with plates. I hoped that Carmen would have mercy on me in front of her friends but I should have known she’d want to impress them.
“Inside now.” My heart dropped in my chest at her cold voice. She couldn’t hurt me in front of them. They had to know I was being reprimanded but would never see her lay a finger on me. Despite all her faults, she was smart. She’d never be caught doing anything obviously illegal.
“You dare embarrass me in front of my friends! You ungrateful little shit! I should make you sleep outside with the dogs! The state of this kitchen too! Covered in dirty clothes and filth. I expect this place to be spotless by the time dinner is finished!” Her hand tangled in my long white blonde hair, yanking me down. I stifled a yelp, trying to keep her calm.
“Yes, Miss. Carmen. Sorry, Miss. Carmen.” I blinked back tears as she pushed my head away, letting go of my hand.
“Get to work. You’re a pitiful excuse of a woman.” She spat on the floor as she left. I just knelt on the ground with my eyes down until I heard her leave.
Immediately I began to clean up the kitchen. I put the clothes in the washer, careful to make sure it was properly sorted. I scrubbed the entire kitchen making sure the entire place was spotless with everything put away so that it looked like a model home. At the same time, I routinely checked in to make sure Carmen and her friends were taken care of. By the time they had gone home, I was in the garage cleaning all the cars.
The garage was the one place Carmen and the twins rarely bother me. They don’t like to enter unless they were going to their car. This is I truly get some peace. I have music playing at a low level so I don’t get in trouble while being able to hear it.
I know that if people saw me they would wonder why I don’t leave? I’m nineteen. Legally, I could leave this shitty situation. Well, the law has nothing to do with this shit.
Three years earlier
“Ella come here!” I rolled my eyes at my stepmom’s request. Still, I put down my paints and went down to the dining room wiping my hands on a rag. Carmen has been married to my dad for three months and she was getting on my nerves. I can’t wait for my dad to get home from his work trip. I can tell him all about her affair. I know she’s going to try to convince me not to tell him about the pool boy she’s fucking.
“What do you want?” I crossed my arms as Carmen stalked over to me. She liked to tower over me. I hated how small I was in moments like this.
“You should treat me with more respect,” Carmen said. I rolled my eyes wondering where her awful daughters were hiding. It’s not like them to miss out on their mom scolding me.
“Give it a rest. We both know as soon as dad comes home from his work trip you’re out on your ass.”
She gave me an evil grin as she stood up from her seat at the table. Her hand gripped my wrist and immediately it felt like her skin was burning me. I screamed trying to pull away but her other hand grabbed the other wrist. Carmen was muttering something under her breath. Tears were falling from my face as I fell to my knees. The searing pain travelled up my arms until all my nerves were alight in blinding pain.
“Please... please... AH... stop!” I screamed.
She just laughed dropping my arms and I fell to the ground. The pain had left around my wrists were two burn marks in the shapes of her hands.
“Get up,” Carmen said her voice completely cold and demanding.
As if my body was working separately from my mind, I immediately shot up. My head spun and my muscles ached but still I stood there. Tears fell from my eyes as my eyes met hers. She had this Cheshire smile on her face as she looked me over.
“Grab a knife from the kitchen,” Carmen said.
No! Why can’t I stop? My body was moving. I went to the kitchen grabbing a large carving knife. I tried to stop but my feet kept moving until I stood right in front of her.
“Please... Carmen... stop...” My voice was weak and scratchy from the screaming. Carmen just looked down at me with a gloating smile. My entire body was shaking from fear. What is happening to me?
“You’re mine now. Do you understand?”
“My dad won’t let you get away from this.” My voice got a little stronger. My dad. The strongest man I know. He’ll swoop in and save me. Make sure that Carmen never saw the light of day again.
She walked behind me grabbing my hair and yanking my head back. She lowered herself so her lips were right by my ear. “Your dad is dead. His plane went down. He’s never coming back. He will never say you.” I held in my sobs. This can’t be happening. “No one will ever save you Ella.”
“No! He-he has to come back! He-he can’t-no!” I couldn’t hold back the sobs. They wracked my entire body.
Carmen pulled my hair back even more. She chuckled as she whispered softly in my ear. “You were so overcome with grief at the loss of your father. You couldn’t help but want to join him. You take that knife and you slice your wrist. Not too deep. Just enough to draw blood. Thank goodness I was here to stop you. You will tell everyone about how I saved your miserable life today.”
I watched helplessly as my shaky hand raised the knife to my wrist. It bit down causing pain to shoot up my arm as I dragged it across. As soon as I made the cut I dropped the knife and fell to my knees. It was like my mind shut off. I could feel Carmen put a towel to my wrist. I heard the frantic call she was making. I just knelt there with tears freely falling from my eyes as I began to feel the world darken and I began to pass out.
Right before I passed out I had one single clear thought. One statement that I knew was true.
My life is over.
Three years. Three years I have been under a curse that forces me to do whatever Carmen says. The first few months were the worse. I began to learn that Carmen has to be very literal in her commands. I still can leave the property but I cannot tell anyone about her. I cannot say anything negative about her or the twins.
A couple of days later I was sent of errands by Carmen. These are my favourite days. She has no idea how long anything takes so I can usually take my time and relax. Today I had a few extra dollars saved away so I grabbed myself a coffee and decided to sit and people watch.
“Hey! Is anyone sitting here?” I looked up a bit startled to see a beautiful woman in front of me pointing to the chair across from me. She had long, straight brown hair, beautiful light green eyes and tattooed forearms.
“Um, no. Go ahead.” I immediately felt weird. I don’t really talk to many people that I’m not waiting on. Carmen made me cut out all my friends. She put down a coffee and a bag with some treats.
She pulled a cookie out of the bag before offering me one, “Would you like one?”
“Oh no. I’m okay. Thanks.” I took a sip of my coffee just to do something with my hands.
“Come on. It’s chocolate chip. You can’t not like chocolate chip cookies.” She said still holding out the bag.
I gave her a small smile as I tentatively took a cookie. “Thank you.”
“No problem. My name’s Andy by the way. Well, it’s Andrea but everyone calls me Andy.”
“You’re a quiet one aren’t you?” I gave her a smile, chuckling under my breath. I really liked Andy’s energy. It was almost like the air her buzzed with positive energy. She just oozed charisma.
“I guess. I don’t really get out much.” I shrugged.
“That’s a shame. You seem like a nice girl.” Her eyes found mine, holding them captive.
“I do wish I could get out more. Unfortunately my, uh, job doesn’t allow for much free time.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. I just didn’t get paid for all the shit I do.
“So what do you do Ella?” She asked. Alright, how do I answer this? I took a bite of my cookie to stall.
“I’m a live-in housekeeper for this rich family. I spend all my time looking after this woman and her two daughters.” Not a lie but it was the closest way I could describe it.
“Are her daughters cute at least?”
“They’re teenagers who’ve never had to do anything in their entire lives.” Technically not saying anything bad about them but there is a negative connotation to my words that I can get away with.
“Got it. Spoiled rotten.” She said. I let out a little snort of laughter which caused me to blush furiously. God that’s embarrassing. She didn’t seem to mind. She just leaned in closer, “You’re cute when you blush.”
Okay if I didn’t already rival a tomato, that would have done it. I really need to get out more.
Suddenly, my phone started ringing. I felt the blood drain from my face as I saw Carmen’s name on the screen. I took a deep breath before answering knowing that she didn’t like to be kept waiting.
“Hello, Miss Carmen.”
“What are you doing?” Carmen asked. No sugar coating or niceties. Just demands.
I took a breath to steady myself. It was time for my superpower. Not exactly lying but not telling the whole truth. Loopholes are key. “I just finished at the dry cleaners. I’m going to get parts for Drew’s car next.”
“Hmph. Be home to cook dinner. I don’t want the girls eating too much takeout. Remember to stick to the nutritionists guidelines.”
“Of course Miss. Carmen.”
“Whatever. Just get it done.” Carmen hung up without another word. My hands hook as I put my phone on the table. I was just happy she didn’t ask too many questions. I could have been in serious trouble if she caught me.
“Why do you stay at that job when your boss is that awful?” Andy said. I had almost forgotten she was there. What do I say to that? I began fidgeting with my shirt sleeve as I tried to come up with a convincing lie.
“I-I-” I could feel my throat close up and pain shoot through my body as it did every time I tried to explain my situation. Carmen was very clear in her instructions on answering questions about my situation. All of a sudden, Andy’s eyes widened as she reached out grabbing my hands forcing my shirt sleeves over my wrists.
“Stop!” Her eyes flew to mine wide with horror. “You don’t need to say anything. God, I am so sorry. I have only read about these things happening but I never thought someone would actually do this to someone. Fuck. This is medieval.”
I felt tears come to my eyes. All I’ve wanted since this curse was someone who knew. Someone who wouldn’t exploit me. Someone who wouldn’t think I was crazy.
“How?” I asked.
Her eyes were filled with fear and distraught. I was lost in the pale green of her eyes taking in the golden flecks disrupting the pale green of her iris.
“Ella, I don’t know how to say this.” She cast her eyes down. She took a steadying breath before she looked up at me, “I-I’m a witch.”