Chapter 16: Happy Never After
~ The stepsister cut off her toe, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the prince. ~
Was it actually going to work? Cindy thought to herself. Were they going to be able to pull it off successfully?
If you asked any normal person, they might’ve said that they had absolutely no chance, but Peyton was desperate and Cindy was hopeful.
The festival was in one week, and Cindy was in no way prepared.
Peyton wanted her to perform the song that she did at the dance, but she was doubtful. She would be one of the only contestants performing an original song, and she didn’t want that decisions to backfire.
She’d practiced it enough times with Peyton and Fanny that she was almost getting tired of the tune.
But it would all be worth it in the end. In one week, she could finally be with Peyton without worrying about Evelyn finding out. She would finally be able to be with a guy who liked her because of who she was (and not to mention one who had an incredible voice).
All she had to do was sing her song onstage and the people would recognize it immediately. Brian was in charge of damage control. He would release the video of Evelyn threatening Peyton that revealed her true nature and that Cindy was the real Mystery Girl.
There was absolutely no way that they could fail.
Well, until then, Cindy was still a slave to her step-family.
“Coming!” She yelled back.
When she got to the top of the stairs, Ana and Drew were standing at the top with smug smiles on their faces.
“What do you need?”
Drew grinned. “We need you to water the plants out front.”
“Yeah.” Ana smiled as well.
Cindy gave them suspicious looks. “But it rained just last night.”
“We need to be careful, you never know when the next drought may come by.” Drew said.
“The weather for the next few days is supposed to be rainstorm after rainstorm. I’d only be drowning the poor plants.” Cindy reasoned.
“Just go water them!” Ana screeched.
“Okay, okay.” Cindy muttered, making her way outside.
When she closed the door, she found a note taped on the outside. Curious, she ripped it off and read the contents.
Come meet me tonight at my house at midnight, I have some good news to share with you about the festival. I’ll leave the backdoor open, just come straight up to my room.
Cindy smiled to herself. Of course Peyton would be the type of guy to leave her a handwritten note instead of a quick text message.
She folded the note and hid it in her pocket, certain that if Tracy or her daughters caught her, she’d surely be punished. They didn’t know that Peyton and she had been meeting in secret. They still thought that Evelyn was victorious.
Oh, they didn’t know how wrong they were.
Cindy grinned like a madwoman and headed to the side of the house to get a hose. Maybe tonight would be fun.
Peyton was doing something big without letting Duncan know, which was kind of a first ever since coming back to school.
Peyton was going to attempt to make a sort of peace treaty with Evelyn.
He asked her the day before, making sure she would come alone. The last thing he needed was Cindy’s step-sisters spreading some rumor that he and Evelyn were actually still into each other.
Well, it was perfectly reasonable to think that somewhere very deep inside Evelyn, she might still like him, but if there was anything left, it was a twisted need to latch off of his fame and nothing more. Peyton most definitely lost his desire for her after he found at she lied to him about being his mystery girl.
Sometimes he feels that he should’ve known that she’d been lying. Maybe he had always known. Maybe he had just been clinging to this idea of his mystery girl and it put a shroud over his eyes and he only saw the parts of Evelyn that he wanted to see.
Okay, he was probably seeing a little too deep into his own problems.
Evelyn was supposed to be there by now – it was what was getting him so nervous. She could’ve chosen to not come just to spite him. Or-
His phone rang. It was Charleston, the security guard stationed out front.
“Peyton, I’ve got a woman by the name of Evelyn Queen trying to get inside the house.”
He heard Evelyn’s voice in the background, she was obviously annoyed. “Just let me in, you creep. Do you know who I am? I’m-“
Peyton sighed. “She’s my girlfriend, Charleston. Let her in.”
He decided to stay in his room, not wanting to face Charleston’s judgmental gaze at his choice in women. Or, at least his father’s choice in women for him.
“Hey, Peyton.” Evelyn smirked as she walked into his room like she owned the place.
“You can sit anywhere or-” She ignored him and sat right next to him on his bed. “You can just sit there” he finished under his breath in an annoyed tone.
“So, Peyton.” She smiled with a glint in her eyes. “Why did you call me over? Did you realize how ridiculous fawning over that Cinders girl is? Are you admitting defeat, baby?”
Peyton awkwardly shifted over on the bed, away from her. “Not really. I want to give you the chance to stand down.”
She tilted her head. “Stand down? What do you mean?” she said, inching closer to him.
Peyton coughed nervously. This was not how he expected the night to go, not at all. “Evelyn, you know what I mean. I want to make a deal. I want you to leave Cindy out of this, she did nothing wrong.”
Her expression went dark. “Leave her out of this? She’s the one who started it all. If she hadn’t stolen you from me in the first place-”
“Stolen me? You think she stole me from you?”
Evelyn nodded. “Your father assured me that I would be chosen. The public already knew that winning one date basically meant a real relationship, and who better than your hometown girlfriend? I was promised something, and then that no good nobody – Cinders! She stole you from me. She stole my fame and my career. She is the one who really has to pay. Bringing you down would all be just for the fun.”
Peyton was shocked. He was sure something was up with Evelyn. He’d never seen her act so possessive and, quite frankly, a little mad in the head.
“Evie,” he used an old nickname, hoping to subdue her, “it was my choice. She didn’t do anything to try and win me over. In fact, she basically told me she hated me without knowing it. And her face when my mask feel off, her surprise and shock was genuine. She-”
“Yes, yes I know, but when I told you it was me, you were all so eager to accept it. You never doubted it – you wanted it to be me!”
“You knew the charms, there was no way I could’ve doubted you!” he defended.
She put her hand on his thigh and squeezed a little. “Then kiss me.”
Peyton was confused. “What? Why would I kiss you? I thought we agreed that I hated you and you were only dating me for the attention.”
She pouted. “Peyton, you can’t really mean that, can you?”
“Yes, yes I can.” He said incredulously.
Evelyn sighed. “If you kiss me, I’ll leave her alone from this moment on. Please, I just want you to see. When we kiss, there’s a real connection. Just, please?”
Peyton prided himself on being a nice guy, it was why he wanted to meet Evelyn tonight. He wanted to give her a chance. Besides, what harm could a kiss in private be?
“Alright,” He took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes. She flicked her eyes to the door for a second and smirked before closing the distance between them.
Peyton kissed back, but he didn’t feel anything. All the sparks and butterflies in his stomach that had been present when Cindy kissed him were absent. It didn’t feel good, it just felt wrong.
He heard a startled cry from the doorway and broke from the kiss to see who it was.
Cindy stood there, a hand covering her mouth in shock. Already tears were running down her eyes, streaking makeup down her face. She dropped a piece of paper on the floor and dashed down the hallway.
Peyton ran out after her, wondering how in the world she’d gotten in his house and why the universe made her come at the exact worst moment possible.
“Cindy, wait!” He called out after her.
She got down the steps to the first floor, but tripped at the bottom. Peyton immediately reached down to help, but she pushed him away.
“Don’t touch me!” She yelled and got up on her own.
“You what?” she fumed. “You want to say that didn’t just happen? I saw it, Peyton! Has this been going on this whole time? Do you even really hate her or is that the sob story you tell all your little side projects?”
“No, that’s not – you’re not a fling-”
She chuckled darkly. “Oh, yes, such a better word to call this. Now all I am is a fling? Tell me the truth, was this all just to embarrass me? What was your end game Mr. Perfect? Were you planning on some big reveal? Were you going to tell the public what a joke I was as you and Evelyn live happily ever after?
“You know what? You and Evelyn are perfect for each other.” She gestured to me. “You’re both liars and manipulative jerks. You never gave a damn about me, did you?”
Peyton was speechless. How did this go so out of hand?
“Cindy, just listen me!” He yelled, making sure she didn’t move. “I do give a damn about you. Hell, I am doing everything I can to make sure I can be with you. Cindy, I love you.” He almost whispered at the end.
Cindy stood there with a blank face. She winced and then looked down. “You’re even worse than I thought, Peyton.” Her voice was heavy, it was likely her throat was clenched from all the crying. “How could you even try that on me?” Her eyes moved up to meet his and Peyton saw the tears had already started to fall down her face again, this time harder. “Are you really that desperate to keep on hurting me?”
Peyton tried to speak, but failed when his voice caught in his throat.
She nodded, “That’s what I thought. You can’t even defend yourself – you imbecile. Just, please, get out of my life. Just leave me alone.”
Cindy slowly started to back up, but as soon as she got to the door, she made a run for it. Peyton was left standing there in the hallway, dumbstruck. He couldn’t even believe what had been said.
He’d just admitting something to her that he’d never even realized was true until it had been said – he loved her – and now she was gone from his life because of a stupid misunderstanding.
But how did she even know to come to his house at this specific time? How did she even get into his house in the first place?
He made his way back up the stairs and to his room, but stopped when he saw the piece of paper that Cindy had dropped in shock when she walked in on him and Evelyn. He picked the paper up and read through it. It was definitely something he’d never wrote, especially because it was Evelyn’s handwriting.
He walked into his room, but by then Evelyn had made her escape. She’d done all the harm she could and still got away free.
Peyton sighed in frustration and sat down on the bed with his head in his hands. How could it all go wrong so easily and so quickly?