Chapter 6: The car just had to break down.
~ When she ran down the stairs, her left slipper stuck in the pitch. The prince picked it up. ~
The band nodded furiously at Peyton’s request to have Cindy sing for them. Why was everyone always so eager to please him?
Mystery Girl grabbed the guitar that was left abandoned when the lead singer walked off stage and turned to the band members. “Play a mixture of the backbeat of that last song you sang and the guitar chords from the Peyton Charming song, Work of Art. Take it a little up tempo and try to follow along.”
Peyton admired this girl’s fire, but didn’t know whether she’d be able to pull it off.
“Umm . . .” she tapped the mike. “I’ll be singing the next song. It’s a little something I made myself, I hope you like it.” The crowd stared blankly back at her.
Peyton was seriously starting to regret his decision to let the girl play.
But then the band started to play and she sang
She sang and belted out lyrics that Peyton wished were his own. His first thoughts had been, man, this girl can sing!
He listened to the tune and lyrics and had a crazy idea. And then, as soon as she got to the reprise of the chorus, he started to sing along with her.
She was so surprised at his intrusion that she almost tripped over her own words.
Some people in the crowd immediately recognized his voice and started to jump up and down in excitement. Somehow a girl who looked like Evelyn’s found him from the crowd and gave him a death glare.
Okay, maybe singing with the Mystery Girl while his crazy ex-girlfriend probably sat in the crowd with razor sharp claws was not the best decision.
The crowd hooted and cheered as he sang along. By the time they got to the third reprise of the chorus, the whole crowd was jumping around and singing along. Peyton was smiling and was suddenly happy for the first time in his life. He’d never done something so sudden and exciting before. He’d only ever followed his father’s rules, which never let him do anything like this.
It was also then that his Mystery Girl slipped on a small marble and fell to the ground. Her hand smacked his face as she went down, causing his mask to fly off into the crowd.
The band stopped playing and someone in the crowd laughed. He looked to the ground and saw marbles covering the stage. Out into the crowd he saw the girl who looked strangely like Evelyn Queen smirking only a couple feet from the edge of the stage.
Leave it to people like her to ruin his chances with anyone that wasn’t themselves.
“Are you alright?”
The girl looked up and gasped. His mask was off and she knew who he was.
Well, shit. There goes someone liking him for who he was on the inside.
“I - I’m fine.” She managed to stammer.
He heard the bong of a clock and the girl turned to the wall opposite to them, where a large grandfather clock was currently showing that it was midnight.
Mystery Girl hurriedly got to her feet and jumped off of the stage.
“Wait, where are you going?!” Peyton yelled.
She still ran. Peyton cursed under his breath and went to follow after her.
He had to push through tons of excited fans until he caught up to her in the middle of the grand staircase. He grabbed her hand and spun her around.
Peyton knew that either this girl really hated him as Peyton Charming, or the clock striking Midnight was extremely important to her. So he did the most logical thing that came to his mind.
He kissed her.
Now, kissing someone you just formally met should’ve been a shock to anyone, but the girl actually kissed back. All he could think of was that her lips tasted like chocolate and that butterflies were fluttering in his stomach.
She pulled away from him after a moment and looked into his eyes. Her own were wide and flustered. She turned away and had to yank her hand from Peyton’s ironclad grip.
Something on her wrist clanged to the floor, but the girl barely noticed. She was too busy escaping through the front doors.
Peyton stood on the steps of the giant staircase, his mind flying wild.
He had just kissed the girl in the golden dress. He had just kissed a complete stranger. Not to mention in front of the entire student body as well.
What had he been thinking?
Peyton must’ve stood on the steps for what felt like hours, but was really only a couple seconds. He turned his gaze away from the door, where the girl’s receding figure finally passed through the doors and looked down - surprised to find a charm bracelet on the floor. He vaguely remembered the girl wearing it throughout the night. He also remembered it falling off of her arm as she ripped her arm out of his hands.
He picked up the bracelet and turned it over. He was surprised to find that the charms were old looking, like they had been through years of wear and tear.
He suddenly knew that this was his ticket to finding the girl again. She would obviously need this bracelet back, seeing as it was old enough to have been worn by the girl for many years.
“Hey man, who was that chick?” Duncan asked, coming up to stand next to his friend.
“I don’t know.” Peyton replied. “But I intend to find out.”
Cindy ran up the stairs and out the front doors, Peyton no longer following her. She ran all the way to the parking lot, where Fanny was already waiting for her.
“Start the car! Tracy and the two step-devils will be home any minute!”
Fanny started the car just as Cindy jumped in. Cindy took it in herself to relax as they pulled out of the lot. She would make it on time. She wouldn’t be punished for going to the dance because Tracy didn’t know that she went.
Tracy wouldn’t know.
“You idiot!” Fanny suddenly screamed at Cindy.
Cindy was taken aback. “What?”
“You were just onstage with the Peyton Charming! You sang with the equivalent of our generation’s royalty. And he kissed you. You know how many girls would want to be in your shoes right about now?”
Cindy sighed. “That’s just the thing, Fanny. I’m no one special to a guy like him.”
“He kissed you!”
“Yes, I thought we got past that.”
Fanny laughed. “You don’t understand, do you? Do you know how many tabloids will be talking about this tomorrow morning? You’ll be famous!”
“He never saw my face, Fanny.” She sighed. “It won’t be me who’s famous, it will be his mystery girl at the dance.”
“He kissed a complete stranger?”
“Well,” Cindy reminisced the night, “we were talking out in the garden. I didn’t know who he was, but that was okay at the time. He just seemed so perfect! He liked the fact that I wasn’t a salad or a Big Mac girl. He didn’t hate on me when I said that I didn’t really care for Peyton Charming . . . Oh my god. I just straight out told him that I didn’t like him . . . to his face!”
Fanny smiled over at Cindy. “Maybe he liked that, and maybe that’s why he didn’t tell you who he was.”
And that was when Fanny’s old, beaten down car finally broke down.
You had to be kidding me, Cindy thought.
They were still half a mile from her house, too far. She knew what she had to do.
Cindy jumped out of the car, much to Fanny’s dismay, and ran down the street.
That was also when it had started to rain.
Cindy had no time to stop and wonder why the universe took great pride in finding the best ways to ruin her life. It was like it thought, hey, whose life could I ruin today? And the first name that came to mind, Cindy Ella Freakin’ Woods.
Cindy ran, makeup running down her face and dress weighing down with the added weight of the rainwater. Her heels were a nightmare to run in, she cursed Fanny for a moment for convincing her to wear the stupid things.
It was like they were made out of glass or something.
She made it to the house just as a limo pulled into the driveway.
Her sisters and Tracy stepped out.
Cindy cursed silently and ran around back. There was a small window that she could use to enter her room by the back of the house, but there was no way she’d be able to get in without hurting the dress.
Cindy sighed and braced herself. She got on her hands and knees and opened the small window. She was able to push herself halfway through the window when she heard the first signs of her step-family entering the house.
“Ugh! Who even was that girl? She ruined the dance!”
“I know! Mother, she stole Peyton right under our noses.”
“He refused to choose anyone but that stupid wrench!”
“Girls,” Tracy’s voice sifted through their complaining, “If she did run away like you said she did, then she probably has no chance with the guy anyways. You’ll still get your chance, trust me.”
It sickened Cindy how Tracy was obsessed with getting her two daughters to be famous one day, whether it was by association to her horrible band or to an international pop star, she didn’t care. In Cindy’s opinion, neither would happen anytime soon.
“Hey, where’s Cindy?”
Oh shit. Cindy thought as she tugged the last of her feet into the room.
She heard Tracy as she headed down the hall to her basement. Her feet sounded like thunder from an oncoming rainstorm.
“Oh, Cindy!” Tracy sang (quite terribly Cindy might like to add) “Where are you?”
Cindy was able to curl herself up in her blankets right as Tracy entered the room, the cat, Lucy, circling Tracy’s feet in a menacing manner.
“What are you doing down here? The twins need help with their dresses. And why is your hair wet?”
Cindy’s voice faltered. She had forgotten that the rain from outside had made her hair wet. “I was . . . taking a shower.”
“At night? Gosh, you are a strange creature, aren’t you? I should’ve just sent you into foster care when your father died. You can’t even stay up late enough to help your dear sisters.”
Cindy held back tears. She hated whenever Tracy talked about her and her father like this, like they’d both been just small annoyances stuck in her thumb.
Lucy stared her down, as if she could see that she was still wearing the beautiful gold and silver dress and that the makeup running down her face was more than usual.
“Well, be ready in the morning. Your sisters have to get ready for church choir.”
Tracy left the room with a literal bang as she slammed the door closed.
She sighed and threw off her covers. She tore off the dress and laid it in her closet. She knew that there was no hope in saving it, but she couldn’t bring it in herself to throw it away.
There was something about what happened that night.
Ahh, yes. She believed that particular feeling was confusion.
She had met a nice stranger who didn’t care that she wasn’t wearing a small or revealing dress. Someone who didn’t shy away when she told him she wasn’t popular or memorable. Someone who didn’t even know her name.
Then he turned out to be Peyton Charming.
Cindy let out a strangled sigh. The first decent guy she’s met in a while and he probably won’t even remember her tomorrow. People like Peyton didn’t like people like her.
Peyton would forget the girl in the golden dress just as easily as he would a random fan asking for an autograph. She wasn’t anything special.
Cindy cleaned off her ruined makeup and put on a big T-shirt to sleep in. She definitely wasn’t going to be some star struck teen waiting out on him.
Cindy would try and forget the experience just as she was certain he had.
She would fight fire with fire.