Riley woke feeling like her eyes were all grainy. She rubbed her eyes and looked up. Her sister was shaking her awake.
“Riley, you have to get up,” Liz said, “Mr. Jameson said he wants you to do actual work today. I’m sorry. I told him I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him anymore and he has been taking it out on everyone else.”
Liz pulled her up and helped her get dressed. Riley trudged into the kitchen where Mrs. White handed her a cup of coffee. Riley sat down and sipped from the mug. Mrs. White put a plate in front of her.
“I know you’re hurting right now, honey, but you need to eat before you take the food into the entertainment room,” Mrs. White said with a frown. Riley frowned and forced down a couple of bites. She pushed the cart into the entertainment room, taking a deep breath and plastering on the best smile she could muster, she opened the door and walked in.
“Morning, Princess,” Syd said taking a cup of coffee from her and giving her a warm smile.
“Don’t talk to the help, Syd,” Chris said glaring at her with a sneer on his face, “They’re nothing but backstabbers and thieves.”
“Chris, she works for her money,” Syd said frowning at Chris, “Stop being a prick.”
They were quiet as Riley passed out their plates and mugs. Evan smiled sadly at her as she handed him his plate. Riley smiled back at him.
“Does that mean she’s not dancing with us?” Evan asked.
“The help are not allowed at the party,” Chris said glaring at Riley, “We have caterers for that. I’d rather not have to see that filth there.”
“Chris!” Syd yelled, “Seriously! Stop being a douche! You might not think of Riley as a friend, but she is still our friend.”
Riley touched Syd’s arm and smiled weakly at him before leaving the room. She went about the chores by dusting the library and sun room. She turned and saw Chris open the door.
“Slave, you forgot to take the cart back,” he said.
“Chris, I’m not a slave. Your father pays me to work here. I don’t work for free,” Riley said walking past him.
“Whatever, slave,” Chris said following her back to the entertainment room. Riley turned and glared at him. Chris made Riley get things for him and then changed his mind when she went to hand them to him. He constantly referred to her as a slave throughout the day. By the day of the ball Riley had just about had enough. Mr. Jameson wasn’t much nicer. He didn’t correct Chris when Chris called her a slave in front of his dad. Riley watched the caterers go back and forth from the kitchen to the garden. She looked out at the garden remembering the way Chris had danced with her, the way his lips had felt on hers. The pain was already subsiding and she had started to hate Chris. She couldn’t believe she ever thought he was nice. She knew he felt betrayed but he was going beyond taking it out on her.
Riley remembered that they were going to leave in a few days for the island of Damon’s. Riley was seriously contemplating not going but she had already calculated the cost of her college and the dorms and knew it was the only option to pay for all of that. She would just have to grin and bear it for one more week. Riley took a deep breath and went back to work. She pushed the cart into the sunroom and handed out the plates.
“It’s about time you got here, slave girl,” Chris said with a sneer, “We were getting hungry.”
Syd glared at Chris. He continued to stick up for Riley and hated when Chris called her a slave. Rex and Evan glared at Chris as well. Evan smiled to Riley as she handed him his plate. He winked at her and took a bite of the food. Riley turned to leave.
“Slave girl, you will not go anywhere near the party this evening. If I see you there you will be instantly fired,” Chris said. Riley nodded and left to get her chores done. She spotted Liz walking down the hall, who looked as weary as she did. Riley touched her hand as she passed and continued on her way to get the chores done. Chris stomped into the bathroom Riley was mopping and yelled at her to get the cart. He left muddy footprints all over the freshly cleaned floor. Riley sighed and went to do what he said before going back and re-mopping the bathroom floor. Riley served them an early dinner before the guests arrived. She was exhausted from all the work she had to do.
Chris made things worse by making her do them twice. He always knew when she was going to mop and would walk out in the garden and then walk in wherever she was. If she didn’t answer his demands right away he would come back and make her mop a third time. Riley never hated anyone more in her life. Chris had turned into full bully mode and Riley resented him. She no longer had any love for the jerk he had become. She wanted to leave but she was still friends with the others and didn’t want to abandon them to eat bad fish.
Riley washed the dishes from dinner and heard the party start. They had completely abandoned the waltzing idea and went straight into modern party mode. Riley could hear the booming of the music from the kitchen. She could hear the people having fun, laughing and talking. Riley couldn’t stand the thought of Chris looking handsome and having a good time. She went back to the sunroom to finish dusting it. The door opened and Riley turned to see Syd, Rex, and Evan walk in.
“Listen Riley, Chris is being a real dick lately and we talked it over. I’m willing to eat the nasty fish for you. I hate seeing him treat you like that,” Syd said.
“We want to give you the money that his dad would have paid you,” Rex added, “We know it was for college.”
“You should just leave now, so you don’t have to deal with him. He should have gotten over it by now,” Evan said shaking his head, “We hate seeing you so miserable.”
Evan gave Riley a hug, “We’ll miss you, though.”
Rex handed her a check and gave her a quick hug. Then Syd hugged her and kissed her cheek.
“We have to go before the monster see’s us,” Rex said, “Sorry about him, Riley.”
They turned and left. Riley looked down at the check and smiled. They included the $5,000 for playing along. Riley didn’t want to take it but she knew for her sanity and for the sanity of her friends she had better take the money and leave. She went to Mr. Jameson’s office and gave him her resignation. Mr. Jameson pretended to be sad to see her leave earlier than planned. Riley refused to believe he was sad; he was after all the instigator. She left his office and went to pack her things. Damon came along and knocked on the door. Riley turned to see him holding a garment bag and some heels.
“Sorry I didn’t make it to say good bye, someone had to distract the snob,” Damon said.
“What are those for?” Riley asked.
“I won the first week so I get to dress you for the party,” Damon said smiling, “You might as well go to the dance, since you’re leaving anyway.”
Riley laughed, “I don’t know. I don’t think crashing your party is a good idea.”
“You promised, Princess Rose,” Damon said, “Plus you owe us since we are relieving you of your obligation.”
“Gee, thanks,” Riley replied taking the garment bag and shoes. She closed the door and changed into the light purple dress that Damon had picked out. It wasn’t a princess dress though. It was a tight form-fitting party dress that was a little low cut. Riley shrugged and put the matching heels on. She stepped out of the room and Damon put his arm around her waist.
“Oh, look here, I seem to have found my date for the ball,” Damon said with a laugh. Riley smiled at him.
“You know, Damon, you aren’t such a bad boy after all,” Riley said leaning onto his shoulder as they walked out into the garden. Riley took in the dance floor that they had rented and looked up at all the trees decorated with lights. The garden had been decorated beautifully. Riley looked up at Damon and smiled.
“It’s beautiful,” Riley said looking around at all the glittering lights. The pathways were marked with lights as well.
“Yes, you are,” Damon said guiding her down the path to where Syd and Evan stood. They smiled at her and Val gasped.
“I love that dress! The color looks good on you,” Val said with a giggle.
“Thank you,” Riley said giving Val a quick hug.
“Let’s dance!” Damon said guiding her over to the dance floor. He pulled her close and spun her around. He laughed as he made her waltz to the quick beat of the music. Riley couldn’t help but join in on the laughter. Evan snuck up and when Damon spun Riley away, Evan grabbed her and took over. Damon gave Evan a look and crossed his arms. Evan laughed and danced with her around the dance floor. They passed Rex and a girl dancing. Rex started waving his arm at Evan. Evan followed his point to see Chris dancing with some blonde girl who was barely wearing anything. Evan guided her out of Chris’ line of sight. He took her over to an empty path.
“Wow, that was close,” Evan said smiling, “We almost got caught.”
“You are a life saver, Evan. Literally,” Riley said with a laugh, “You saved me from a thief and you saved me from getting caught.”
“Oh, please, the thief already caught you before I took him down,” Evan said with a shrug.
“Either way Evan, thank you,” Riley said kissing his cheek, “I have to get going, but thanks for the dance.”
“Goodbye, Riley,” Evan said frowning, “We’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, Ev,” Riley said touching his cheek before turning and heading back into the house. Looking at the new phone she shut it off and left it on her bed. She grabbed her bags, gave Liz a quick hug goodbye and then left. She got outside and took one last look at the sprawling mansion before getting into the waiting taxi. As she left the mansion a tear fell onto her hand. She hadn’t even realized she started crying.