A modern twist on a classic story
[At a house in a more fashionable part of Washington DC]
“We are going to the President’s Inauguration Ball next week. I saw we, but naturally a non-entity like yourself won’t be going of course but we will make sure that you don’t sit down while we are out,” said my sister Sapphire with a smirk on her face.
The ‘non-entity’ is me, Trevor De Vries. I am the runt of the family, an accident and hated by my three sisters because our Mother died due to the cancer that was diagnosed while she was pregnant, before I was 6 months old. She had refused any treatment until after my birth but by then it was to late.
Sapphire and her siblings, Ruby and Emerald ran the ‘Three Women’ Realty. I, on the other-hand was their servant. I looked after the home where we’d all grown up and now lived. The good news was that I was on my own for most of the day. The bad news was that I had to do all the cleaning, ironing and housework for the three ogres.
I say ogres because they hated my very existence so I was made to pay for having the temerity to live. Nothing I did was ever good enough but I’d become accustomed to being told off almost every day. There were many, many times when one of them would really lose it and actually hit me. I dared not retaliate because not only did I have nowhere to go but they made sure that I had no money. Every penny that they gave me to get groceries and things had to be accounted for. I spent hours recording everything in the ledger that Ruby examined in fine detail every week. Even the slightest mistake such as entering ‘87’ instead of ‘78’ would end up with me getting a beating.
I’d recently turned eighteen but none of my sisters had remembered my coming of age. It meant that if I left they could no longer haul me back and make me pay dearly for escaping their grasp. I am not ashamed to say that I have considered doing away with them on many occasions but sanity got the better of me every time and I have never done anything about it.
Our home is spacious and in a very desirable suburb of DC. Every room is fitted with a CCTV camera apart from my bedroom. As Emerald put it, they didn’t want to soil themselves by seeing me ‘jack off’ every day. It is not something I’ve ever done but I am thankful for having one place where they can’t follow my every move.
Yes, every move. I never knew when one or more of them is not checking in on me from their office or smartphone. If I did slack off, then I soon get a phone call that was followed by a string of verbal insults that challenged my very being such was their hatred of me.
If all this sounds like a re-run of the old ‘Cinderella’ story with the three ugly sisters then yes, it does but from where I stand, there is no princess charming coming to take me away to a life of luxury although I would like one to come knocking at my door.
[back to reality]
This day was really no different from a thousand others that had preceded it. My dearly beloved sisters had left for work leaving me a long list of chores to be done by the time they returned that evening.
I had not expected to return early that day but return she did. As she entered the house, I could see that something was up. Normally that meant that I was in for a rollicking.
“We are going to the Inauguration Ball next week. I saw we, but naturally a non-entity like yourself won’t be going of course but we will make sure that you don’t sit down while we are out,” said my sister Sapphire.
“We will want to make an impression on the re-elected President. We are hoping that many of the new people in his team will want to use our services when they come looking for a new home. Despite him being a second term president, he is bringing a good number of new people to DC to be on his team. He called it a mid-term refresher. There is money to be made and you will just be an embarrassment to us.”
I didn’t want to disappoint her but most of them had already found somewhere to live, at least that was what the Radio was saying. I listened to the radio in my room because they said that having a TV would distract me from my work of keeping the house running. I did watch the TV while I was working but I could never stop work for more than a few minutes because I could not risk one of them seeing me over the CCTV system.
“We will be wanting to look our best naturally so we will be bringing in consultants to help us dress for the event. You are to keep them fed and watered during the day. This place is a mess. You have two days to clean it from top to bottom. Understand?”
“Yes. I understand.”
Then I added,
“May I ask a question?”
“Well, if you have to. What is it? I don’t have all day.”
“If the house is that dirty, why don’t you get a team of cleaners? They will be able to make the whole place spotless in no time at all.”
“And what would you be doing while all this is going on? Not sitting down doing nothing I hope?”
“No. It wasn’t that. I would be supervising and making sure that they didn’t steal anything.”
Her expression turned angry.
“It is your job to make sure that this house is clean. More than clean, spotless as if we were going to sell it tomorrow. There is no money for fripperies like a cleaning service. Just get off your fat backside and get cleaning.”
I stood there somewhat nonplussed.
“Well, what are you waiting for you lazy bastard!” screamed my Sister.
There was nothing for it but to get cleaning. There was money for their consultants or whatever but nothing for me. Situation normal then?
I cleaned the house more thoroughly than I’d ever done in a little under three days yet I still received a few earfuls from my Sisters. One of the rollicking was because a table was an inch out of place. I’d moved it to polish the legs and didn’t quite return it to the proper position.
The day of the ball arrived and my sisters went into overdrive as soon as their ‘consultants’ arrived. Emerald was fretting because her latest session with the botox needle had left her with a solid face.
I tried to hide my pleasure at her discomfort. They’d all spent lots and lots of money trying to outdo each other with nips and tucks and enhancements. The fact that they had not been bad looking to begin with made it all the sadder.
I was sent to my room early in the getting ready saga. To be honest, I was glad to get out of their way as I had something planned for my evening that they would most certainly not agree with so the less they knew about it the better. As I was next to invisible they’d probably forgotten about me already. All three had said many, many times that they were hoping to get a dance with the president’s son, James who was by all accounts the most eligible bachelor this side of the Mississippi.
A little before 8:00pm, the house went silent and I watched as the three hired limos drove out of the drive carrying my oh so lovable sisters. The words, ‘no money for fripperies’ seemed to resonate with me. Why did they need three stretched limos if money was so tight?
I stood there watching the tail lights of their Limo’s disappear into the distance. I waited just a bit just in case one of them decided to return for some reason. I was about to turn away when another Limo arrived. I watched it stop outside and four people emerged. I was sure that they’d come to the wrong address so somewhat reluctantly I went downstairs to see what they wanted.
“Hello?” I said as I opened the front door, “Can I help you?”
My unexpected visitors consisted of an older man and three women a bit older than me.
“No Trevor, it is us who can help you. I’m your lawyer, John Travers. We are here to let you go to the Ball tonight. I’m from Slater, Roberts and Glenn in Georgetown. We have been sending letters here concerning your coming of age for the last six months but never received any replies.”
I remembered the letters. They had all been addressed to Sapphire.
“Now you are pulling a fast one Mr Travers. My name is not Cinderella you know!”
“No but you do like to be yourself from time to time and be the woman you should have been.”
“Eh? How do you know?”
“We engaged a private eye to investigate what was going on here when our letters went unanswered. When we received his report a few days ago, we knew there and then that something had to be done. What those women have done to you is Criminal. “
Then he added,
“May we come in? It is freezing out here and we don’t have a lot of time if we are to get you to the Ball.”
“I can’t. There are CCTV Cameras everywhere. Everything is recorded and my Sisters are always looking for an excuse to give me more work to do.”
“Ah yes. I need to talk to you about that.”
Then he clicked his fingers. Out of the darkness a man appeared.
“Charles, see to the CCTV if you please.”
“My pleasure Mr Travers,” said the man as he went past me and disappeared into the Study where the CCTV System was setup,
Less than a minute later, he returned.
“All set. The cameras will record the same scene for the next five hours or until this control is triggered,” said Charles
Somewhat reluctantly, I let the party enter my home.
Mr Travers sent the three women upstairs to my bedroom. He took me into the kitchen and he showed me some documents.
“This is the document that was agreed and signed by your mother shortly before she died. This appoints me as your lawyer but it also gives your guardianship to your sisters until you reach Eighteen. As you are of age, I am now free to represent you. I guess from your reaction you have never read the letters I have sent you over the years. The document requires me to manage your estate. Thomas, you are a very wealthy person in your own right. This house is actually yours along with a sizeable land not that far from Camp David. In short, you are a rich young lady.”
“Eh? I’m not a lady.”
Mr Travers grinned and produced another document.
“This is a medical report that was compiled just after you were three months old. It says something very different.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start with this,” I replied puzzled.
“Very well and being very brief, it says that you were born with both male and female genitalia. Your mother intended to sanction the removal of the male bits but died before she could sign the consent. Your sisters refused saying that it was not natural for a boy to become a girl.”
Then he added,
“It is highly likely that your male parts are infertile but you never had the tests.”
“But… I have no breasts or anything?”
“That is probably because the male hormones are countering female ones. You are in limbo but apparently you like dressing as a woman in your own room.”
That was true.
“So, what happens next?”
Mr Travers smiled.
“Next we get you dressed and made up so that you can go to the Ball and dance with the President’s Son.”
My heart stopped beating for an instant at the thought of being close to ‘him’. He was a hunk!
“And then? Poof! It is midnight and you are gone and I’m back to living in hell?”
“That is a very good question. For the time being yes. There are some papers that you need to sign and when the court approves the documents, you will be able to tell your sisters what you think of them, and be the real you.”
“What if they fight it? From what you have said, I’ll have everything and they’ll have nothing? They won’t like that at all. No siree, not one bit all.”
“Not quite. They have their business. It is actually worth something like five million so they won’t starve.”
I stood there silent for what seemed an eternity although it was probably only a few seconds.
“Do you want the chance to see the real you?” asked Mr Travers.
“If you do then we need to get going?”
I thought for all of two seconds before I gave my answer.
"Blow it. What is there to lose apart from my sanity and my life? They will kill me for sure if they find out that it that I’d gone to the ball in direct defiance of their orders.”
Then I added,
“Ok, but I get the final say on if I go to the ball or not. Understood?”
“Perfectly,” same his reply.
“Shall we go upstairs? My assistants have a lot to do and only a short time to do it.”
The next hour was a total blur. I was prodded, poked and pampered by the assistants but in the end, I could see something great coming out of my old self.
“Well what do you think?” asked Jayne, the lead assistant.
I admired myself in the mirror of my Wardrobe. I didn’t really see myself but the person who I had wanted to be for years.
Then I laughed.
“More like fantastic.”
There were smiles all round.
“I have to break up the party but we should be going,” said Mr Travers as he tapped his watch.
After picking up the hem of my long white silk dress and gingerly walked downstairs on his arm and straight out the front door and into the Limo.
“Now remember, be here at 11:30,” he cautioned as we pulled up outside the venue.
“Otherwise I turn into a pumpkin?” I said half-jokingly.
“No but you really do have to be home before your sisters now don’t you?”
I couldn’t disagree with that.
I got out of the car and faced a barrage of flash guns. I recoiled slightly but put on a good face and headed into the Ball.
For a few seconds, I froze stiff. What should I do next? I didn’t know but I knew that I couldn’t stay where I was. I spied a waiter carrying a tray of drinks. As I reached for one I almost chickened out. I wasn’t twenty-one. Nowhere near it. Then I took it. I didn’t have an ID, let alone a fake ID but it didn’t look like anyone was doing any carding so I grabbed the flute of Champagne and with a smile in my face walking into the throng of people.
Then it hit me, I didn’t know anyone apart from my Sisters and there was no way that I was going to approach them. As I had those thoughts, I saw Sapphire trying to attract the attention of James Mason, the son of President Charles Mason.
I afforded myself a small smile as his security detail made it clear that she was not going to get a dance with him. She was older than him and like her siblings, had gone well overboard with the Botox, face lifts and other surgery.
She sulked off into the crowd and I took my chance.
At first, the security blocked me but a nod from ‘him’ and I was let through.
He took my gloved hand and gave it a light kiss.
The beaming smile on his face said everything to me. I’d forgotten what it was like to have someone smile at me.
“Would you like to dance?”
“I would but I’m not very good. More like never danced before,” I replied nervously.
“Don’t tell anyone but I have three left feet,” he whispered in my ear.
Before I knew it, we were on the dancefloor attempting to do something that looked like a waltz.
After a few turns, I realised that dozens and dozens of people were looking at us. Still, we waltzed away until the music finished.
Then ‘he’ led me off the dance floor as if I was royalty. I felt like I was on cloud nine hundred and ninety-nine.
“What do I call you?”
“Well Tanya, don’t go away, I want to dance with you before the night is over.”
I did a little curtsey and let him be whisked away to socialise with other people.
I remembered having a conversation with a few people but it all went in one ear and out the other.
Then ‘he’ appeared at my side.
“Ready for another dance Tanya?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
Less than five minutes later, it was all over and he was kissing my hand again.
Then I saw the time on his wristwatch. My time at the ball was up.
“I have to go now.”
“I won’t forget tonight. Thank you for making the event memorable,” he whispered.
Then he kissed my hand again. Tears were welling up in my eyes so I picked up my dress and tried to make as ladylike exit as possible.
I walked down the steps in the cold air feeling wonderful.
My Limo was waiting and all too soon, we were driving away from the ball. It was over but I’d had the time of my life for just a few short hours. As I watched the other traffic I wondered what lay ahead for me. I knew one thing and that was I was going to leave home even if I had no money.
Mr Travers was waiting for me when we arrived back at my home.
“We only have twenty minutes before your sisters arrive home. Apparently, they were not amused at some ‘blonde floozy’ getting two dances with the President’s son so they left the ball early.”
I was clearly that ‘blonde floozy’. I let out a little laugh but the reality of what would happen to me if… I must not let that happen.
The assistants helped me remove my makeup and everything and after I’d signed a few documents they left. Mr Travers final words were,
“When we have left the drive, reset the CCTV. Make sure you are in your room when you do it. I will be in touch in a few days. Please hold on and we will get you out of here shortly.”
I was still speechless from the events of the evening so I just nodded my head and closed the door behind them.
As I watched their car drive away, I reset the CCTV. I’d had instructions on how to use it so that I could use it when my sisters were out of the house.
I’d just laid down on my bed and started to take stock of the evening when I heard my sisters return. From the tone of their voices and the stomping about they did when they came upstairs, they were not in a good mood. I heard the words…
“Blonde Strumpet Whore. Wait until I find out who she is, her life won’t be worth living.”
Uttered by Emerald more than once. I fell asleep with a huge smile on my face.
Morning came far too soon for me. I took a shower and made triply sure that all the makeup and hairspray that I’d worn the night before was gone before creeping downstairs to start breakfast.
Just before 10am, my three siblings came down with hardly a word to be said even to me. I knew from past experience not to speak unless I was spoken too so I kept silent.
To my eternal relief, none of them even spoke to me that morning let alone accuse me of being the mystery woman at the ball.
After they’d left for the office, I disabled the CCTV and watched the news.
It didn’t take long before the subject of the ball and the ‘mystery blonde’ came up. All sorts of speculation about who she was and where she’d come from was aired. I felt happy that I’d hadn’t been outed but my joy was dampened by spokesman from the Secret Service stating that the mystery woman could have been a terrorist and could have assassinated the President’s Son. They went on to state that a full investigation was already underway and that the impostor would be brought to book without delay.
That made me feel very uneasy.
I could not afford to dwell for very long so I re-enabled the CCTV and got on with my chores.
Despite my best efforts my mind was not on my work but somehow, I managed to get everything done before sunset. As it was a Monday, normally I would have the house to myself until late in the evening but to my surprise, my sisters came home just before 6pm. They were not in a good mood.
The looks on their faces clearly told me to keep quiet.
The reason for their mood was apparent just before 8pm when two black GM SUV’s pulled up outside and six men in black suits emerged.
As was my job, I opened the door to the visitors.
“Can I help you?”
“Do the DeVries sisters live here?” asked one of the men.
“Yes. Who shall I say is calling?”
“The Secret Service,” came the reply as they marched in.
Sapphire’s first words to me were,
“You will pay dearly for letting them in. Did you ask what they wanted? No… Now get out of our sight. Our business is nothing to do with a servant boy like you.”
I just left them alone and fled to my room and burst into tears. I’d recognised one of the men from the previous night. I was sure that he’d recognised me. If he had then I’d be lucky to escape a severe beating.
Less than 10 minutes later, I heard the Secret Service leave. I waited for the inevitable summons to appear before my sisters for punishment but to my surprise, none appeared.
It wasn’t until my Sisters left for work the following day that I dared breathe a sigh of relief. I had to go shopping for groceries but as usual, I’d been instructed to inform them when I went out and when I returned. One time I’d gotten talking to someone in the market and we’d gone for a coffee (they paid) and I was thirty minutes late returning home. I was given a beating for not obeying their orders. Even the normally quieter Ruby had joined in in punishing me. I was banned from going to that store again. In the aftermath of that incident, their control over me became even firmer. They even threatened to install a camera in my bedroom just to make sure that I didn’t hide away when I should have been working.
I knew nothing else in my life. I had no money and only a few shabby clothes to my name. I was in effect their slave. All because they blamed me for the death of our mother. It wasn’t my fault that she refused to start treatment for her breast cancer until after I’d been born. By the time I was, it was too late and it had spread too far to save her. I’d been paying for this almost ever since I’d been born. The whirlwind events that surrounded the ball led me to hope that it would be over very soon.
I arrived at the market with a long list of things to buy and only thirty minutes to do it such was their control over me.
I’d just entered the store when I saw John Travers waiting for me.
“Hello Mr Travers. I was wondering when I might see you again.”
“I’m here today. Give your shopping list to my assistant and we can go and talk.”
“My sisters are very particular about what brands I buy.”
The assistant grinned back at me.
“We know. Our Investigator has followed you for several months. Please trust us to get it right.”
With a sigh, I reluctantly agreed and let her take the shopping trolley from me.
A few minutes later, we were sitting in a nearby coffee shop where Mr Travers started tap update me on the ‘situation’.
“Here is your birth certificate,” he said to begin.
I looked at it with incredulity.
“Yes. Your mother named you Opal. I think that was due to the flecks in your eyes. It is obvious that she intended that you were to be raised as female.”
“But… Sapphire has one with the name Trevor on it. I saw it when I applied for my driving license.”
“A forgery. This is the real one. It has been in my possession since your mother gave it to me a few days before she passed.”
I sat there looking at it not believing what I was looking at.
“All those feelings about being female were not my imagination then?”
“No. Absolutely not. This is the proof of that.”
Then I made a decision.
“I’m not going back. Yes, I know that I have no money and nowhere to stay but I’ll go mad if I have to stay there and live a lie and in fear of my sisters a day longer.”
He looked at me and smiled.
“Please stay there for another few days. Things are moving fast but we may have some problems with the Secret Service. They are determined to find the mystery woman before the inauguration ceremony itself.”
“They perceive her as a threat to the president. I’ve heard the word ‘terrorist’ mentioned more than once. Everyone had to be security cleared before they were given tickets to the ball. You were cleared as part of the household so that was why you got into the ball but the Secret Service are too thick to realise that the mystery woman was not a threat or an uninvited guest. They simply don’t realise that they made the problem for themselves.”
This shook me to the core.
“But… They were at the house yesterday. They spent nearly thirty minutes with my sisters.”
“Did they speak to you?”
I shook my head.
“I only let them in much to the anger of my sisters. Then I was dismissed like you would do to a servant. I’m a non-entity as far as they are concerned. No one worth worrying about especially with respect to the mystery woman.”
He thought carefully for a moment before replying.
“In that case, I think you should leave today. Return with the shopping, put it away and then walk out of the house as if you were going collect the mail. Just don’t stop or look back. My people will keep an eye on what goes on when your siblings return from work. If you come to my office then one of my assistants will take you your property to the north. Your sisters won’t go there because that was where your mother told them of her decision to refuse treatment until after you were born.”
“Good. Then I can begin life as Opal. Trevor is dead and buried as far as I’m concerned.”
He sat back and looked at me closely. Slowly a smile developed on his face.
“I am amazed at the change in you since we first met the other evening. Those sisters of yours have a lot to answer for their treatment of you but you are a changed person already.”
Then he added,
“If you were able to drink I’d propose a toast to Opal and her future. Instead, I wish you well but offer a few words of caution. There may well be problems ahead for you if the Secret Service get hold of you. However, I suggest that you prepare for life as Opal but stay dressing as you are until after the thing has blown over. You have a lot to learn about being a woman. What do you think?”
I knew that he was talking sense.
“You are right. I wasn’t thinking straight. I have always been a bit impetuous.”
“The privilege of being young. Don’t worry, you will grow out of it.”
We both laughed at his joke.
Before he departed, he gave me his Metro Card and instructions on how to use it and to get to his office.
I arrived back home with the shopping within the time I was allotted by my Sisters. I afforded myself a small smile as I put everything away for the last time.
With that done, I look one last look around the kitchen. I was tempted to get the ketchup out and write obscenities all over the doors but after a smile, I left the room. After all, it is my house after all.
That fact that I didn’t do that made me feel good. My first act when this is all sorted out will be to evict my Sisters and sell the place. It holds far too many bad memories for me.
I put on my coat and walked to the front door and shut it behind me. I stopped and gave a small wave to the CCTV camera that covered the entrance and that I was it. I left the house and those bad times behind me. I felt good but apprehensive about my future.
I didn’t look back even though I was sorely tempted. Instead, I walked calmly to the end of the street and used the WMATA card that Mr Travers had given me earlier. I took the first of two busses to his offices in Georgetown.
“I did it.” I said to him as I was ushered into his oak panelled office.
“You did indeed. Now we need to get you in front of a Judge.”
“You need to assert your independence from your Sisters. A form of divorce or emancipation if you like. As you are eighteen you are entitled to the trust that your Mother setup for you. They might feel that they are entitled to it because they have looked after you all these years.”
“Well, they did, didn’t they?”
“They did but they also made your life hell. You were little more than a slave. They took you out of school, how long ago was it?”
“It was when I was twelve. I broke my arm playing football. They said that it was too dangerous and they never let me go back.”
“They said that you were to be home schooled,” said Mr Travers.
“But you weren’t, were you? Instead they made you their virtual slave and kept you under their thumb. How many beatings did you get?”
I sat silent. I’d lost count of the number of times they’d laid into me. I never retaliated because who would believe the word of an uneducated boy over his sisters?
“I’ve lost count.”
“Then remember them as you move to put your new life together. Those bad times will help you face the future.”
I couldn’t argue with that logic.
Two hours later we were in the office of Judge Hargreaves.
“I understand Mr DeVries that you are declaring your emancipation from your Sisters?”
“Yes Sir. I am now Eighteen and want to take my rightful place in society.”
“What do your Sisters say about this?”
“I don’t know sir. They will probably object but I am of age and of sound mind and am entitled to be a real person. My Mother left me a substantial holding in Trust until my Eighteenth Birthday. If I do not do this then they will lay claim to the whole lot as payment for raising me.”
Then I hesitated as second.
“Besides, I don’t want any more of this.”
Then I raised my shirt. I let the judge see the bruises their last attack on me had left.
“How did you come by those wounds?”
“My sisters beat me because I broke a crystal vase doing the housework last week.”
“Has this happened before?”
“Yes Sir. If I made any mistakes or didn’t do things on time I got beaten.”
“What about School? Didn’t anyone notice your injuries?”
“I was taken out of school when I broke my arm playing football when I was twelve. I was never allowed to return.”
“What have you done since then?”
“I’ve cleaned house, done the cooking and after I was able to drive, I did the shopping.”
“What were you paid for all this work?”
“Nothing Sir. All I got was a roof over my head.”
“If I may add your honour, we have obtained CCTV of the sisters administering a beating to my client.”
The judge looked shocked as he was shown one of the many beatings I’d had over the years.
“Your honour, we also request a restraining order for the Sisters, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald. We do not want them to approach my client.”
“I can understand that but why have you not involved the Police?”
“Sir, there is a medical matter that we wish to keep out of the press. If you look at these two documents, I think you will understand.”
My lawyer handed the Judge my birth certificate and the medical report that had been compiled after my birth.
He read the report and then closed it with a sigh.
“I can understand the need for privacy. The media would have a field day with this.”
He looked at me for a few moments.
Then he wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I read it.
“Are you the mystery woman from the Ball? I seem to recognise the way you flick back your hair?”
My heart stopped for a moment,
In shock, I simply nodded my head. My hair was long. It didn’t get cut very often simply because I never had any money to go to a barbers shop. Ruby was clear when she said,
‘if you want it cut, cut it yourself and be sure to clean up the mess after you.’
So, I let it grow. Mostly I put it into a pony tail. I’d removed the rubber band on the bus. A signal of my new found independence.
The judge wrote something else on another sheet of paper and handed it to me.
“As nothing has been spoken, it will not go on the record of these proceedings.”
I felt relieved. I handed it to Mr Travers. He smiled and nodded his head.
The judge then sat back and thought for almost a minute.
“I have considered the evidence and I see no reason that would stop me from granting the motion. Furthermore, I will also grant a temporary restraining order against your sisters. I will also seal the record of these proceedings. There are facts pertaining to the case that should not get into the public domain.”
That was it. We left with the court signed documents and I felt free at last.
As we drove back to Mr Travers Offices I asked,
“Can I serve the restraining order? I want to see their faces.”
“I wondered if you would ask to do that. My advice is that you should not. I use a firm of servers that record their servings on video. I think that would be best. If you were to do It I would have to get the police involved because I fear that they would strike out at you.”
I could not disagree with his advice. Suddenly, I wondered how much this was costing me.
“How much is all this costing me?”
John Travers smiled back at me.
“Your Mother was a wise lady. She made provision for my fees in her will. To be honest, we had nothing to do until you became eighteen. That was the trigger to start working for you. As you know, we were also lawyers to your Sisters business. It was founded by your mother who engaged us right at the start. The deal we had with her was to take a percentage of our fees to the business and put it into the bank so to speak in order to cover this work. You might ask why? Well, before she died, your sisters were already blaming you despite her best efforts. She engaged us to keep an eye on you and to make sure that they didn’t harm you. I must apologise for not picking up on what was actually going on. All their reports said that you were doing great at school and were looking forward to going to College. I know now that it was all a lie.”
“So, it isn’t costing me anything?”
“Not for some time to come.”
“Good. I need some money. As I said before, I don’t have any.”
By the end of the day, I’d seen what I owned and was taken aback by the estimated value of my holdings. Despite me not having much of an education, I knew that my sisters would kill me to get their grubby hands on even a part of it.
I drafted my own ‘Last Will and Testament’. I made sure that not even one bent penny would go to my sisters. Any challenge to it would result in all my estate being donated to the Homeless of Washington. That would really anger them. I’d heard them say many times that the homeless were a disgrace and should be sent to Cuba or somewhere just as bad. I had it witnessed right there in his office.
Mr Travers had given me a wallet and a few hundred dollars. I’d also signed the documents that would get my driving license changed to my proper name. I was having a hard time coming to terms with the name ‘Opal’ rather than Trevor. I was sure that in time, I would get used to it.
What had started out as just another day in hell had improved dramatically but fate was there waiting to hit back.
Just before 5pm, one of the staff at the office burst into where we were reviewing documents.
“You have got to see this on TV. Channel 4,” she said.
We turned the TV on and to Channel 4. We didn’t have to wait long.
“The Secret Service have issued this picture to help their search for the suspected terrorist who gate crashed the Presidents Ball at the weekend.”
The picture came on the screen. It was of me. Despite the hairdo and the makeup, I knew it was me. I was sure that others would too.
“Oh fuck,” I exclaimed.
“Sorry for that.”
“No, it was justified. There is no way you are a terrorist. This is the Secret Service trying to justify their existence. Let me make a few calls. There are people I know who can talk to others. I want to nip this in the bud as soon as possible.”
“It is too late,” I said.
“The only way is to get hold of right people and stop the Secret Service before they come in here all guns blazing.”
Mr Travers nodded his head.
“Let me make a call. “
I took the hint and went in search of … the ladies room. I laughed at that. This would be the first time I’d ever been into the hallowed grounds of Women’s Bathrooms.
I almost stood up to pee but thought better of it and like I should be doing from now on, I sat down.
I was standing staring out of the office window at the rush hour traffic wending its way home when Mr Travers came out of his office and came towards me.
“Penny for them?”
“Eh? Oh sorry. I was miles away.”
He smiled at me.
“I was watching the traffic and wondering who’s going home to their family and who’s off on a date.”
“Do you want to be on a date?”
“Ha-ha. Who would want to go on a date with me. No education and nothing to wear.”
“That’s my girl. Well, you have a date but not in DC.”
“We need to get you out of DC pronto. You have a date tonight but you need to go to your property in Northern Maryland Far fewer prying eyes up there.”
“Who’s the date with?”
“The President’s Son?”
“Yes. Camp David is only 10 miles away. He’s supposed to be revising for his Bar exam. I got through to his Aide and arranged everything.”
“But the Secret Service? Won’t they be all over his every move after the other night?”
“No. They consider him to be safe there.”
Two hours later we arrived at my house in the country. It had taken us an hour to get out of DC due to the traffic. As it thinned out, I began to relax a bit. At one point, I feared that every car contained armed to the teeth Secret Service Agents coming arrest me.
The place was very cold so the Driver quickly fired up the heating and got a log fire going. That was all well and good but I had nothing to wear but Mr Travers had said that if I was going to have a relationship with ‘him’ then I had to come clean and sooner rather than later. After some persuasion, I agreed but I had my doubts but the last thing I wanted to do was spend the rest of my life in a Super Max prison. I’d really done nothing wrong but some of the commentators were calling me a modern day ‘Mata Hari’. This was not me in no way shape or form but I knew that once the press got their hands on my name it would not be long before my history was outed and that was most certainly not what I wanted.
I did my best to tidy myself up for my guest before preparing some food. We’d stopped at a small store outside DC and the driver had purchased some food for tonight and tomorrow. Mr Travers had promised to send some more food the next day. It wasn’t what I wanted but it would have to do. I wanted to go shopping and just to experience shopping for clothes and makeup and shoes like any other normal eighteen-year old but my actions of the other night had made that temporarily an impossibility.
Right on 8pm, the lights of a SUV came up the driveway and a single figure emerged. I felt very nervous. I didn’t even look like the person who’d crashed the ball. All sorts of bad ‘what if’ scenarios flashed through my head as I waited for the driver to show my guest into the sitting room.
I heard the front door close so I took a deep breath, swallowed hard and walked into the room.
“Hello,” I said.
“I’m Opal and it is nice to see you again. I’m so sorry for causing all this trouble.”
He just smiled back at me.
“It is nice to see you again,” he said with a flash of his white teeth.
“I must look a state. I’m not really a woman… Well I am but I was born all wrong….”
“Sorry… I’m rambling. Have you eaten? I made something a little while ago.”
“That would be good. And really, you have not been the cause of any trouble. Other people are quite able to do that without any help from you or me.”
His kind words put me at ease.
“This is wonderful. Where did you learn to cook like this?” he asked as he finished the Asparagus Tart that I’d served him as a starter.
“The Cookery Channel. I had to do all the cooking for my sisters and not going to school meant that I was able to watch many, many TV cookery shows. I just sort of picked it up.”
“When did you drop out?”
“I didn't drop out. I was taken out of school in the seventh grade. I broke my arm playing football. My sisters never let me go back.”
James sat back and looked at me with a totally startled look on his face.
“What? You never went back to school after you recovered?”
I shook my head.
“No, I was made to look after the house. They threatened to turf me out on the streets if I didn’t. Now I know it was all lies. They hated me because they blamed me for the death of our mother. But I’ve turned eighteen and… well, I’m free of them at last.”
“I can’t believe what you are saying to me. You seem so educated?”
“All down to the TV. While i was doing the housework I would have the TV on in the background. National Geographic and the History Channel mostly. I couldn’t stop working because they had CCTV monitoring every room and believe me, they watch me like a hawk.”
“That means that you were little more than a slave to them then?”
“I was but I am getting my own back. They will soon be evicted from my house. My lawyer and his team are serving them with eviction orders this evening. They are Realtors so they won’t find it hard to get somewhere else to live. I’ll sell the house as soon as they have gone.”
“Who’s is this place?”
“Mine. It was left to me by my Mother. She inherited it from her family. I only found out about it yesterday.”
“You are incredibly resilient. I’d probably have melted down by now.”
“Daytime TV has a lot to answer for but some of the shows have been quite educational. Now that I look back on it, I am actually thankful.”
I dived into the kitchen before the tears started to flow. A few minutes later I returned with the main course, a pot-roast chicken.
“I will get my Father to call off the Secret Service now that I know who the mystery woman is,” said James as he helped me with the washing up. I liked him even more for helping out like that.
“That won’t satisfy the press. They have my picture. I’ll be a marked woman for some time to come.”
“Let me get my Mother to send her hairdresser over. A cut and a change in colour will do wonders for you.”
“Eh? Why do you say that?”
“My mother has had so many different hair colours over the years, that I’ve forgotten what it was originally. But I do know how different someone can look with a new colour and style.”
“You’d do that for me?”
“Why not? Our two dances were the highlight of what would have been a very boring evening. I owe you that at least. Besides, her hairdresser is guaranteed to keep secrets. You can’t have the First Lady’s hair problems leaking to the tabloid press now can you?”
“Thank you it would be nice to not have to hide away.”
He looked at me strangely for a moment. Then he said,
“You are a remarkable woman. Does nothing faze you?”
“Probably lots of things but I have not found any yet.”
James left me soon after. He kissed my hand just like he’d done at the ball. As the taillights of his SUV disappeared into the darkness, I wondered if I’d ever see him again. He certainly was delectable but he could have the pick of just about any woman in the world so the chances of an uneducated misfit of a person like me must be close to zero.
If I thought things would calm down I was very much mistaken. My Lawyer called me early the next morning.
“Opal, I have received a request for you to visit Camp David.”
“What? You can’t be serious?”
“I am perfectly serious. It comes from the former President’s Secretary.”
“I can guess but it would only be a guess.”
“Well then? What is the guess?”
“You made a huge impression on a great number of people at the ball. That includes that someone who you danced with not once but twice.”
“But I’m not that person.”
“Really? I saw a frightened young lady get into a Limo at your old home and a few hours later a totally different person returned. A person who knew who she was.”
His words scared me to the bone. Had I changed that much?
“Do I go as Opal or …?”
“You should go as you are, the old you. That is far less risk of people seeing you as a girl and jumping to totally the wrong conclusion. Put your hair a ponytail though. It does make you look… less beautiful.”
I almost cried. Someone had said that I was beautiful. I got my thoughts back into line.
“Gee thanks. I’ll head into the Lions den to meet my maker.”
“You will do fine.”
The call ended with me thinking, ‘yeah right’.
[continued in Part 2 of 3]
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