Chapter 11: The search for the real Cinderella
~He turned his horse around and took the false bride home again, saying that she was not the right one~
Two months after the dance, Cindy still hadn’t told Peyton the truth.
She knew that she probably should have told him by now, but who was he to believe her? It wasn’t like she could convince the lovesick puppy that his girlfriend was a life-sucking monster with no soul.
And, yes, they were also still dating.
Cindy wondered how on earth he hadn’t gotten suspicious. Evelyn Queen wasn’t exactly a sweetheart.
Tracy still had Cindy’s freedom locked down. Even though nothing real had happened between Cindy and Peyton, Tracy was convinced that she was out to ruin Evelyn’s relationship with him.
Which, in all retrospect, Cindy should’ve tried.
But, even as their lovey dovey stares cut her to the bone, she did nothing. She was convinced that he would eventually see through the fog.
“Here’s your black coffee.” She placed a bleak mug in front of her last customer for the night.
If no more people walked through the door, she would be free early. Maybe she could have some time to study for the end of year finals. Good grades could help give her the scholarships that she desperately needed.
“Oh, you are just too funny, Peyton!”
Evelyn walked in the coffee shop, practically hanging on Peyton Charming. They took a corner booth without waiting for someone to seat them. Which wasn’t so bad because they were the only other people in the place.
Why people liked to go to coffee shops in the dead of night? Cindy would never know.
Since she was the only waitress left in the place, she’d have to unwillingly wait on them. All the other waitresses and waiters were let off before the night shift. Cindy thought that was some sort of punishment from Tracy for almost endangering her daughter’s futures with Evelyn’s parent’s record company.
“Umm . . . waiter!”
Cindy walked over, her notepad handy. “You two ready to order?”
Peyton looked up and smiled. “Hey, Cindy.”
“Yes, ‘hey’” Evelyn said with obvious distaste. Peyton was oblivious.
Peyton ordered one of their specialty coffees and a triple chocolate chip muffin while Evelyn ordered their gluten free wheat muffin.
Cindy gave the orders to Mandy, the woman in charge of all the pastries. Mandy was a little on the large size with a heart the size of the sun and graying hair that was always in a bun. She was one of the only employees that Tracy kept after Cindy’s dad died.
“So, the ‘Evil Queen’ and ‘Mr. Prince Charming’ are at it again?” Mandy asked under her breath.
Mandy had seen all of Evelyn’s antics throughout the years and dubbed her The Evil Queen. And she knew that Peyton was a pop star, so it was like he was a prince. It helped that their last names matched their alter ego’s perfectly.
“You wouldn’t believe it.”
She chuckled. “Try me, Cinderella.”
Mandy sighed. “Never mind.”
While Cindy waited for the coffee to be made, she listened in on Peyton and Evelyn’s conversation. It wasn’t hard because there were only three customers in the place.
“. . . But, Honey Bear! Why not?” Evelyn whined.
Peyton sighed. “At the dance you said-“
“Enough about the dance. Why are you always mentioning it anyways?”
“Because it’s the reason we even got back together. Without the dance and my stupid contest, I would have never seen how much you’ve changed.”
Evelyn huffed. “But I want you to take me to that new Salad Star place down the street tomorrow. All the stars go there, and you are a pop star, Peyton.”
“But why should my career have any influence on where I eat? I thought you didn’t care about my fame.”
Evelyn recovered quickly with an offhand smile. “Why, of course I don’t. I was just making an observation.”
Cindy walked over at that exact moment to give the two their order.
Peyton seemed not to have heard her. “Evelyn, would you rather have a salad or a Big Mac?”
Evelyn was caught off guard, but she immediately turned to Cindy for an answer. “What do you think, waitress?”
Cindy was now the one caught off guard. She answered too quickly, without enough time to think of the consequences of her actions.
“Neither. I’d rather have some wings, right Evelyn?”
Cindy might’ve wanted Peyton to find out that Evelyn was a fake, but not in a way that would make it look like Cindy herself had told him the truth. Which meant that Evelyn’s answer should’ve been the same.
“Yeah.” She said through clenched teeth. “Totally.”
Peyton looked delighted. “Great, then why don’t we just get wings at the new fusion place near the school?”
Evelyn gave Cindy a death stare. “Sure, Peyton. You can leave now, Cindy.”
Cindy’s shoulders slumped but a smile spread across her face as she walked away. If Evelyn really wanted to be his Mystery Girl, she’d have to be more like Cindy. Which meant eating wings instead of salad and not caring so much about how famous Peyton was.
Mandy handed Cindy a wash cloth as soon as she walked over. “Now that your table is served, time to help your favorite coworker clean the place up.”
Cindy started scrubbing the tables, but her mind was already running wild.
Evelyn had blown him off.
Of course, it wasn’t so much of a bad thing as it was a strange thing.
Evelyn always jumped at the chance to hang with him. She especially liked to go anywhere public with him. Which is why all the current magazines still had paparazzi photos of the two of them and their ‘fairy tale romance’.
Well, Peyton could tell you right now that it wasn’t as much of a fairy tale as it was a nightmare.
Evelyn was acting different than the night at the dance. She was more like her old self than he’d liked to admit. The only times that she’d even remotely say something like she did that day was when she got back from the Woods’s house. The residence of her two best friends. He had no idea what the attraction of those two girls were. They were almost as shallow as the old Evelyn was.
After last night at Tracy’s coffee shop, he figured that Evelyn would want a comfort from her friends. He’d badgered her with questions about the dance. He wasn’t sure what had come over him, but something hadn’t been right.
So he figured she was there now, with her two best friends.
And Cindy’s answer to the salad or Big Mac question kind of stunned him, but he knew that it must’ve been some sort of coincidence. Evelyn had known the charms, she was his mystery girl. There was no way that it was anyone else, even though Evelyn wasn’t acting like she had at the dance.
Peyton’s driver pulled up to Tracy’s Coffee Shop, but instinct told him to tell his driver to park down the street. For some reason, he didn’t want Evelyn to know that he was visiting her over here.
When he was about to enter the shop, he heard something strange from the alleyway. Evelyn was yelling.
“What do you mean, ‘you just spit it out’?!” Her voice boomed.
One of her friends joined in. “Yeah, you could’ve ruined everything for her.”
Then he heard a small, almost not audible voice, “It won’t happen again, Evelyn.”
“I went through all the trouble of taking your stupid dress and finding all the charms and this is how you repay me? Peyton’s better off with a girl like me anyways. He would’ve never believed you if you were man enough to tell him.”
He heard a muffled, “I know,” coming from the other girl.
“From now on, you tell me everything you two talked about at the dance. I don’t want any more surprises. Ana and Drew, I want you make sure no stone is left unturned.” There was a pause. “Oh, and Cinders? Stop talking to him in your classes. We don’t need you getting any stupid ideas. Remember, he will never love you like he loves me, okay? Guys like him love girls like me, not trailer trash like you.”
The click of Evelyn’s designer heels coming to the door knocked him out of his haze. Peyton dove behind a dumpster and disappeared just in time. Evelyn’s frame appeared through the door and she strutted down the sidewalk and into her car, driving away without a second glance at the coffee place.
Peyton was at a loss for words, and not just because he was smashed behind a dumpster. Evelyn was lying to him, which, in retrospect, he should’ve expected.
It all made sense now. She seemed different from the dance because she was a whole different person. No wonder Evelyn hadn’t really changed.
Evelyn wasn’t his mystery girl. His mystery girl was currently being bullied by Evelyn into secrecy. No wonder no one had come up to claim that Evelyn wasn’t the real mystery girl.
But for Evelyn to go through all of that trouble, just for him? There had to be something else to the story.
Peyton’s own father had wanted her to win the dating contest because he believed that it would lead to them in a real relationship again. He wanted that to fuel a merger between Charming recording studios and Queen Studios. So his father had something to gain from this.
He might as well tell him that the contest was rigged. That way he could find some other way to merge the companies and Peyton could tell the world that Evelyn lied and stole the mystery girl’s winning spot in the contest.
(Though why she didn’t come up from and tell him that she was his mystery girl back when he was searching for her, he didn’t know.)
He got in the car, slamming the door quite loudly, and asked to go to Charming Recording Studios. They were there in less than ten minutes, even in the LA traffic.
He put on a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap to avoid the small fringe of paparazzi lingering by the sidewalk, waiting for him or some other celebrity to walk in or out of the famous company.
He was able to pass through the doors unseen, but Sandy Martin, a rising star recently signed to the record company, wasn’t so lucky.
Peyton took the elevator up to the top floor, where his father’s huge office was centered.
The office was surrounded by glass on three sides, giving a wonderful view of downtown LA. A huge desk was centered directly across from the door, so no one was bound to miss it. It was, in fact, one of the only pieces of furniture in the whole room. The rest of the empty space gave the room an intimidating feeling.
Peyton’s father, Kinsley Charming, was sitting at his desk, on the phone. Peyton didn’t care and entered the office without a word with the secretary stationed outside.
“Peyton, I’m on the phone with a client.” Anthony whispered with one hand over the phone.
“Evelyn wasn’t my mystery girl.”
Kinsley sighed and took his hand off the phone. “Sandy, I’ll have to get back to you on that. I need to have a serious talk with my son.”
“You knew, didn’t you?”
Kinsley sighed louder. “Of course I knew.”
Peyton was enraged. “Is this some sort of publicity stunt? You got me back together with Evelyn, hooray for you. Was this all for the record company merge to go smoother?”
“Well, not all of it.” Kinsley said. “The media is still going crazy over this. Your mystery girl being your high school sweetheart from before your fame? Your record sales have been through the roof! With Evelyn as your girlfriend again, especially with all the fuss at the dance, the public appeal for you as increased by tenfold. This is a blessing.”
Peyton let out a fake laugh. “Oh, so because I’m getting you more money you think what you did was okay? That girl I met at the dance was amazing. And now that Evelyn has destroyed her identity, I will probably never see her again. Thanks to you, I lost the perfect girl for me.”
“Perfect for you? Peyton, she was a nobody - Evelyn told me as much. You only knew her for ten minutes anyways. What could a girl possible say in ten minutes to have you so idiotic?”
“Nothing,” he paused, “and everything. I’ll go to the media – I’ll tell them what a fake Evelyn is. I’ll-“
“You’ll what?” Kinsley sneered. “You want to ruin your image for a girl? If the world finds out that you picked the wrong girl, they’ll lose all respect for you. You have to stay with Evelyn.”
Peyton ran a hand through his messy hair, the same black hair that had teenage girls from all over the world crazy for him. Suddenly he realized that there was no way around it.
He couldn’t go to the media for now, and it was obvious that both his father and Evelyn wouldn’t tell him a thing about his real mystery girl. He would have to find her for himself.
Peyton Charming was going to find his mystery girl, no matter what his father said.