Friday, 15 January 2010

 Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I walked through the streets of New York. The concrete, heated up by the burning sun, seemed to blister my feet as I tried to get home. Masa was in the Columbus circle – a part of New York that was way out of my comfort zone. My bike was still at school. A bead of sweat trickled down my back, and my tongue felt like sandpaper. I was so thirsty. Why didn’t I drink the stupid champagne instead of dumping it over his head? I bet he was in some limo somewhere, being blasted by air conditioners, sipping some sort of cocktail from his little minibar (or whatever rich people did. I have no idea). I was more annoyed with myself than anything. How do I get into these situations? I snapped open my crappy phone, and sheltered the screen with my hands, so I could read the tiny pixilated words. Scrolling down my phonebook, I tried to work out who to call. My parents were definitely out. They would kill me for being so stupid – though I have no idea how I could’ve avoided being kidnapped, but I’m sure they’ll find some way to blame me. It’s not like they were bad parents, it’s just that they put so much pressure on me. That’s why they transferred me to Charlotte Private School. I was doing fine in my average public school in Brooklyn. I had friends there. I was popular. Not the right time to be bitter, Ella. Concentrate. Gramps? No. No way would he be able to help. Jean? No. Not the right time to call my French pen-pal. I moved fast – if I stopped, the white-hot pavements would scorch my feet, as I scrolled through the list. Suddenly a car passed me, the window reflecting light onto my screen. I frowned, and shifted. What was the last name?   Zack.   I stopped for a second, and suddenly, the ground burnt the soles of my feet. “Shit,” I cursed, wincing. The Billion Dollar Girl Zack was my best friend from public school. I’d lost contact with him since I transferred, but Zack was probably the only one who would understand right now. He’s the only person I can imagine laughing it off with me. My Gramps would just stare at my sushi-infested hair, and dirty dress. Nope. Don’t get me wrong, he would probably laugh – but not in the way that would make me feel better. My finger was playing on the call button, when my phone rung. I was so surprised I dropped it. “Hello? Mum?” “Can you come home, please?” Her voice was fuzzy and hard to understand because of the crappy connection, and also because I was standing next to a road. But I caught enough of her sentence to make sense of it. “Home? Why?” “There’s a…man here. Mr. Castillo?” Her voice was tense. My heart leapt out of my throat. “I understand,” I muttered. “I’m coming.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “Are you really going to do this?” “Yes, Mrs. White,” I said, smiling at Ella’s Mother. “I am.” *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I banged on the door desperately, hammering on the wood. My palms sweated, and my knees were weak with worry. What the hell had that guy done to my family? He’d kidnapped me, and almost gave me surgery – maybe there was no limit to his psycho-ness! “Come on!” I screamed, my voice desperate. “Let me in! You bastard, I know you’re in there! Let me in!” The door swung open. “Who are you calling a bastard, Ellie? I know we taught you better than that. And why aren’t you wearing your shoes?” “Dad?” I said, blinking. “You’re…okay?” I looked into the house. No bullet holes, no blood, no anything. Everything was normal. “Where’s…Mr. Castillo?” “Ash is in here. He’s only eighteen. You don’t have to talk so formally.” “Sure,” I mumbled, sliding past him, and going to the room my Dad was gesturing at. Our house was as small and humble as always, the wallpaper peeling, and the carpets worn. But it was still the only place I will ever feel at home. I took a breath in and the nostalgic smell of spice and freshly cut grass filled my nostrils. It was a weird combination, but it settled my heart-rate, and I could breath normally again. I walked the thin carpets with my bare feet, the floors cool against my blisters. Dad led me into our living, and the first thing I noticed was that Mom was okay – thank god. The next thing I noticed was Mr. Castillo (I don’t care what they say – I’m not calling him Ash) was sitting in the room. Somehow, he didn’t fit into my “home”. He didn’t look right. It might’ve been his dark designer suit, or his expensive haircut, but he just looked…weird. Like Batman appearing in Hannah Montana. Just…mind-blowingly strange. The final thing I noticed, the last thing that looked out of place, was the suitcase on the table. “Darling, go sit next to Ash!” Mom said, grabbing my hand, and forcing me onto couch with him. Dad sat next to Mom on the other sofa. “I can’t believe this is happening, I’m so excited!” I frowned. “What’s happening?” “You’re marrying Ash, darling!” “What?!” “I’m giving you one billion dollars, as proposal for marriage,” Ash said, smirking, unlocking the suitcase, and flipping it open. It was the most money I’d even seen in my life. I felt kind of light-headed. “There’s more in the car,” he added. As both my parents beamed at me, and chattered on about wedding arrangements, Ash leaned into my ear, and whispered, “Looks like you can buy anything in the world. It’s just who you buy it from.” *** The Billion Dollar Girl ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ She glared at me, untrustingly. Whatever. Not all marriages were based on trust. Most marriages were based on hatred and revenge. “No,” she said, simply. “But why not, darling? He says that –” Ella looked at me. “Outside,” she snapped, wrinkling her freckled nose, pointing at the door. “I need to talk to my family.” “Sure,” I said, smirking. *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ “I’m not going to marry him!” I screamed, jumping up. “What the hell are you two thinking?! I don’t even like him!” They were both silent for a minute, looking down at their hands. “Is it the money?” I yelled, tears forming in my eyes. “Is it that you need money? I told you, I got a job at school!” Just as these words left my lips, I remembered…I was probably fired. I pushed this thought down. “Are you selling me? Just for a stupid pile of money?! Is that the kind of parents you are?” Slap. I froze for a second, shocked. My Mom had just hit me. She’s never, ever hit me before. “Who do you think you are?” my Mom whispered, her voice trembling. Tears spilled out of her eyes, as she glared at me. “Yes, I want to live happily. I want to live peacefully. I want to live without having to worry about the next time the landlord comes around. Who are you to judge me?!” She turned away, her hands hiding her face. Dad put an arm around her waist. I was suddenly alone, standing against my parents. It made me feel small. “There’s something your Mother and I need to tell you,” Dad said, looking at me. His eyes were empty of emotion, completely detached. “Your Mother is pregnant.” Air pulled through my lips, and dragged against the skin. My eyes were wide with shock. “We wanted to tell you…but we didn’t want to worry you, and everything. You had your exams, and you were so busy…But the fact is, we don’t have enough money to raise this child happily.” I swallowed. I knew it was true. My Dad was a physicist, but he didn’t get paid enough. My Mom didn’t have a job, but mainly because of her pampered upbringing – she’d been rich, when she fell for my Dad, her chauffeur. She left that world, and her parents, to live with Dad. It was like a love story. It was like a fairy tale. But now… “We were even considering… ab –” “No!” I screamed. My vision blurred, and it took me a while to realize it was because I was crying. I wiped away the tears, annoyed. “No! I…” I looked at my parents, and was suddenly struck by how old they looked. They’d been through so much, just to get me to a good school. Mom even tried to get some money from her parents – my grandparents. They humiliated her, and made it clear she was no longer part of their family. “It’s my life!” I yelled. “I can’t – I can’t…” I turned around, and ran away. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “Hey,” I said, trying to grip onto her hand. She jerked her wrist away. “Where are you going?” She didn’t turn around, but just ran, disappearing down the road. “Shit,” I muttered. I swung open my car door. “Follow her!” I yelled at my chauffeur. I don’t know why I was forcing myself to do this. I could find any peasant girl who would be happy to marry me, for way less than a billion dollars. I don’t know why I wanted her so bad. I thought about her face, her freckly, wide-eyed face. The way her green eyes flashed dangerously when she was mad. She wasn’t as pretty as Samantha, or as charismatic as Alexis, but she had something about her. But…maybe should I pick someone else. Then again, why should I have to settle for some other girl? I could have anything I wanted. *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I had no where to go. Apart from…school. The place I hated most in the world. Isn’t that sad? I gave a dry half-sob, and smiled, bitterly. I can’t believe my parents wanted me to marry someone. After all, wasn’t that why my Mom ran away? Because she was having an arranged marriage? You’d think she would know how this would feel. You’d think… But did I really blame her? I was going to have a little sister. My heart swelled at this thought, and I smiled, unable to help myself. A beautiful little sister. I’d always wanted a sibling, someone to play with, someone to share my thoughts with. The picture I’d painted in my head, burst, and suddenly all I could see was a brown-and-red brick wall. No. I won’t marry him! I can’t throw away my life, and marry a deranged psycho! I stood up, and took a deep breath. There had to be another way. I had to get the money another way. The Gym manager was crossing the yard. I forced myself not to hide, and walked up to him. The courtyard was packed, with dozens of girls sitting on the benches. I ignored them, and the usual titters started, as they dissected my outfit – my stained Gucci dress, and my broken heels. “Sir,” I said, trying to get his attention. He was on his phone. He looked at me, and then did a double-take. His glare froze my blood. Slamming his phone shut, he turned to me. “Sir, I was wondering about last night –” “What the hell did you do there?!” he yelled, and I could suddenly feel a hundred stares on the back of my head. “I come in the morning, and do you know what I see? Glass, everywhere. The machines in pieces. Your equipment, lying across the floor. Did you decide to hire some thugs? Let your friends in for a little “fun”?” “What?” I was astounded. Did he really think that it was me who did it? “Sir, you must be mistaken, I didn’t –” “Shut up!” he spat. “You’re fired! And you’re damn lucky I’m not suing!” “What?!” I gasped. “Please don’t fire me! I really, really need the money! I didn’t do it! He was already turning away. “Please!” I cried, falling to my knees. His blurry figure paused for a second. I could hear girls muttering around me, but I didn’t care. “It wasn’t me! Please, I really need the money! My parents…they…” “No.” And he walked away. I hid my face in my hands, and suddenly I was aware of the snickering and laughing around me. I froze. This was the first time I’d ever cried in front of these people. And they reacted the way I thought they would. “Did you see her?” “Doesn’t she have any pride?” “She’s so disgusting,” Lucy stage-whispered to her friend. “I can’t believe they let a beggar in our school.” Suddenly, a hot flash of anger ran through me, and I stood up, glaring at Lucy. For a year, she’d been bullying me. I’d let her, because I knew she had to power to expel me. She was rich, and in this world, wasn’t money the only thing that mattered? I took a step towards her, and she shied away, fear lighting up her eyes. “What are you doing?” she said, her voice shrill. I clenched my fist. She was such a coward. Then suddenly, I felt tired. My muscles loosened, and my head pounded. I wanted to sleep. I’d had enough. I didn’t want this any more. I turned away. If I had money…if I had a billion dollars, they wouldn’t be able to laugh to me anymore. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I ran my fingers through my hair. Where the hell was that stupid girl?! I had to explain things, to tell her why… “Excuse me? Are you looking for someone?” I turned around. It was a girl, with two friends, all around Ella’s age – maybe she knew her? “Uh, yeah. I’m looking for a girl, about –” “You’re looking for a girl?” she said, giggling, and flushing pink. Her friends prodded her. “Maybe me?” I blinked, and then gave a patient smile. Right. She was hitting on me. I guess it couldn’t be helped. I was hot. “Another time. Today I need to find Ella. Ella White?” They stopped giggling. “Ella?” she said, in a completely different voice. “Why do you have to find her?” “Let’s just say…I’m a friend.” “Does that tramp even have friends?” she sneered. “I don’t know where she is, okay? I don’t want to know, either. Come on girls, let’s go.” She turned and walked away. Damn it. I went behind a building, along a path. It led to a quiet garden, with a big oak tree planted in the centre. It looked completely deserted, and I was about to turn back when I saw a flash of a stained, Gucci dress. Ella. *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I sucked on the cola lollipop, letting my mind wander. The sky was a dark, cloudy grey, with thin patches that let spots of light shine through. It was Winter – almost. It was just cold enough to make me shiver. My dress wasn’t covering me up very well. Gucci obviously wasn’t a very good designer, if the clothes couldn’t even do what clothes were meant to do – provide you with a layer of insulation. The Billion Dollar Girl I sighed. That feeling I’d had before – that stray thought. If I had the money, I could make them regret everything they’d done to me. I’ve lived in this world long enough to know that money is everything. If I had the money Ash had offered – the billion dollars – I could make Lucy beg. Maybe I’m just cynical. I closed my eyes, and another gush of wind ran over my bare skin. My ebony hair swirled around my head. This place calmed me. The grass, the trees, the flowers – everything. It’s not the nature. It’s the serenity. Not having to think. Being alone. There was a cough, and I dragged myself back to reality. Obviously, I wasn’t alone. I opened my eyes. “Listen to me, okay?” Ash said, his blue eyes very wide. He was kneeling in front of me. “About the marriage…You probably think I’m crazy, but please hear me out.” I didn’t reply, but he carried on. “It’s not like I like you, or anything. Don’t get me wrong,” he said, quickly. “I don’t want to offend you. I just meant…” I kept my face neutral. “Look, the reason I want to marry you is because my Dad wants me to marry me off. So, for revenge, I’m going to marry someone…poor instead. Someone of no background. I promise you, just give me three months. Three months later, I’ll divorce you.” I didn’t reply, and just sucked on the cola-flavored lollipop. He stared at me, waiting. “Three months,” I said, taking the lollipop out of my mouth. “Just three?” “Yes,” he said, looking relieved. “Deal.” *** The Billion Dollar Girl   Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I had all my childhood photos laid out in front of me. I looked at my whole life, from baby to toddler, to middle-schooler, to the place I am now. The drab photos all showed pieces of my happiness, whether it was simply me laughing at my Dad, or helping Mom with the housework. I cast these photos aside. No time to dwell on the past, now. I leaned back onto my bed, and closed my eyes. I was in my childhood bedroom. School was ending in about three days for Winter Break, and so I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t miss me. Ash had given me a couple days to “settle my affairs”, before the wedding. Settle my affairs? What the hell does that mean? Like, tell my friends? Ha! Who the hell do I have to tell? I was a complete reject at Charlotte Private School for Girls. My fingers found my phone, and I opened the phonebook. I scrolled down.   Zack.   I bit my lip. Should I? He was the only one I could think of telling, but how would that conversation go? “Hello, remember me, your old friend? Yes, that one. The one who left your school because it wasn’t ‘good’ enough. Anyway, I’m getting married, to a guy I hate. Yeah, thanks. Bye!” Right. Screw it. He was the only friend I had left. I had to at least try… I pressed call, and I waited. I didn’t breathe as it connected. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. What kind of annoying, sadistic guy invented the sound “ring”, anyway? It was so annoying, and so nerve-racking, it made me want to die. Zack picked up. “Hello?” “Hello,” I stuttered. “Um, Zack, it’s me –” “Hello?” “Hello…?” I replied, wondering if there was something wrong with the connection. “Zack…?” “Ha, tricked you! I’m not actually here,” Zack said, his voice all cheerful. “This is my answering machine. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Leave a message after the beep, and all that. Not you, Liam. Just don’t bother.” It beeped. I sat in silence, for a couple seconds. I hate you, Zack. You suck. You really do. Suddenly, my door swung open. I shoved the phone out of sight quickly, turning to see my Mom coming into the room, carrying a tray. I hid my face into my pillow. I didn’t want to see her right now. I felt my mattress shift, as she settled herself down onto my bed. She put her hand on my arm, but I jerked it away. “Ella?” she said. Her voice surprised me. She sounded like she was going to cry. My heart hurt a little. She was my Mother. I can’t…she’s been through so much to have me. “Ella, please look at me.” I didn’t move, and just bit my lip. A little tear formed in my eye, but was quickly soaked up by my pillowcase. “I’m sorry about this, Ella.” I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. “Do you forgive me? Honey?” I didn’t move. “Ella?” Slowly, I looked up, and my Mom’s face, shining with tears. How could I not forgive her…? She’s my Mother. My one and only Mother. I pulled her into a hug, squeezing her hard. “Of course I forgive you, Mom.” We stayed like that for a second. “This can’t be good for the baby,” I whispered, and we both pulled away, laughing. I wiped away my tears. “When’s she due?” My Mom’s face shone with excitement, like a kid with candy. “Ten weeks,” she said, practically bouncing with excitement. I looked at her, and wondered how I didn’t notice before. “And…she?”  “I want it to be a girl, don’t you? I could do her hair, and we could gossip… Do you and Dad know if it's a boy or a girl, yet?” “No. We didn’t want to know. That way it’ll be much more exciting, right?” I smiled. “Yes, I think so.” We sat like that, on the bed, for a couple more seconds, in complete silence. “I’m really sorry, Ella,” Mom said, her eyes sad again. “I don’t want this to happen, but…” “I get it,” I said, smiling. “And I’m happy to do it, okay? It’ll be worth it, in the end.” As my Mom grinned at me, I knew it would be worth it. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ My eyes narrowed, behind my helmet. My foot lowered on the accelerator, and I pushed forward, even faster. The race track bent, and I twisted the steering wheel slightly. The car obeyed. he Billion Dollar Girl I checked the speedometer. One hundred and fifty miles an hour. The stadium blurred into nothing but indistinguishable colors, and all I could see was the road in front of me. I knew exactly where to stop, though. I could drive down this track with my eyes closed. It was my favorite. I stopped, at the servicing station, and James helped me out of the car. I pulled off my helmet “How long?” “Four minutes, six seconds.” I swore. My record was four minutes, four seconds. “Ash?” I spun around. Who the hell dared to call me by my first name? Oh, right. Of course. “Will. What are you doing here?” The brown-haired boy smirked at me, flicking his fringe. “Seeing what you’re doing, sweet cousin.” I shook my head, and smiled. “Such a flatterer. Tell me what you’re really doing here.” “Don’t you believe me?” Will asked, his eyes widening. “I’m hurt.” “Right.” I was about to say more, when my phone rang. I checked caller ID, and smirked. “Hello?” “Mr. Castillo?” It was Ella. Her voice was as beautifully cold as always. “My Dad said you need to give us the check, or something.” “Not so fast. You have to sign the contract, first.” “Contract?” I cracked her icy wall. Her voice was now disbelieving. “Contract. Do you want me to come around today, or tomorrow…?” She was silent for a minute, apparently debating something in her head. “Today.” “Fine. I’ll come around soon,” I said, smirking. I hung up, and saw Will looking at me. “Who was that?” he asked, his voice light. “Business Partner? Builder? Hospital manager?” “Wife.” *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I sat on my couch, tapping a rhythm on the table. When was this idiot going to come around? I pulled a lollipop out of my pocket, and unwrapped it. I shoved it into my mouth. Toffee. There was a knock on the door, and I ran out to the door, swinging it open. It was Ash, standing in the doorway. “I’m just going out, Mom,” I called, before closing the door behind me. There was no reason to involve my parents in this. I pulled on an old pair of scuffed trainers and, ignoring Ash, walked right past him. I opened the door to his car – a shiny black vehicle – and got in, sliding along the black leather. I looked at him, waiting. “Coming?” He got in as well. “Where do you want to go?” I thought. “Brooklyn.” I should see my old home, before I sell the next three months of my life. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ She looked out of the bridge, leaning dangerously on the side. She closed her eyes, breathing in deeply, like the pollution-mixed-with-sea-water smell smelt good to her. Her dark hair hang over the side, and the strands waved in the breeze. “Are we going to stay here long?” I asked. She ignored me. Ella leaned forwards, arching her spine. “Careful,” I said, pulling out a cigarette and my lighter. “You don’t want to fall off and drown. This is a nice suit, and I don’t want to have to jump off to save you.” I lit the end, and inhaled deeply. “Look who’s talking,” she said, plucking the cigarette from my hand, and grinding it out with her foot. “Cigarettes kill you too, you know.” “Yes, but they take so much longer to kill you.” “Still.” “Yeah,” I said, pulling out another cigarette. She knocked it out of my hand, into the sea. I glared at her, and pulled another out. She grabbed it, and chucked it at a pigeon. “This is the worst game, ever,” I complained, leaning against the fence. “End the game then, dumbass.” “Who the hell are you calling a dumbass?” “You, dumbass.” “Hey!” “Just shut up and show me the contract.” I smirked, and pulled the contract out of my jacket. I passed it to her, and held out a pen. She didn’t take it. “What the hell is this?!” “You didn’t think you’d get the money that easily, would you? My Dad taught me how to do business. I go to Harvey, for god’s sake.” “Yet you still spell your own name wrong,” she said, raising an eyebrow, pointing at the paper. “What?” The Billion Dollar Girl   Ash Cadtillo   “Shit,” I muttered, flushing. “My lawyer must have done it wrong, I –” Ella laughed. Her whole face transformed, from tired and cold, to…breathtakingly amazing. I blinked, and my heart skipped a beat, and I flushed. Damn it. Maybe I was ill? I had to get checked out. “Anyway,” I said, trying to maintain my dignity, “read through it. I’ll give you a day to decide, okay? If you do…I’ve booked everything for the wedding, and we can get…married straight after. If you say no…well, it’s your own choice.” My chauffeur opened my car door for me, and I slid in. I chucked a wad of money at Ella, who caught it. “For the cab fare home.” We drove away. I banged my head against the front of the seat. What the hell was wrong with me? *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ Terms and Conditions: a) Ella White must do everything stated by Ash Cadtillo. b) Ella White cannot speak against Ash Cadtillo. c) Ella White is forbidden from any action that will harm Ash Cadtillo d) Any violation of any of these terms will result in the immediate fine of one billion US dollars.   What the hell was this? This wasn’t going to be a marriage, this was going to be…slavery! And what, if I didn't follow the conditions, I had to give the money back? I took some deep breaths, calming myself down. It was worth it. It was for my family. It was worth it.  I opened the wad of money, and counted the tens. A thousand bucks. He gives me a thousand bucks for cab fare. I threw the money into the air, and watched as the green paper drifted back down, swirling in the breeze. I closed my eyes. The smell of Brooklyn. I thought about the girls who's bullied me. I thought about my parents, and the little sister I would have. I picked up the pen, and signed my name over the dotted line. *** Ͼ Ella White Ͽ I closed my eyes, and the make-up artist spread eyeshadow over my lids, staining my lips a shade of pink. When I opened my eyes again, I had to fight back a gasp. Wow. I stood up, and examined the full effect, with the dress, turning around. It was beautiful, I had to admit. The delicate shade of cream set off my skin perfectly, and somehow made me look elegant. It was well cut, and well tailored – how did they do that, without taking my measurements? Someone placed a little diamond tiara on my head. I looked back to the mirror, and saw someone else. It was like I was floating out of my body. I wasn’t really there, looking at myself. I was…a bystander, looking down. I breathed in, and smelt the perfume someone had sprayed me with. It was nice. Rose petals. I could run out right now. I could escape. I wouldn’t have to do this. My Mom came into the room, and gushed about how beautiful I looked. I didn’t smile. She leaves. I check the clock. Five minutes left. I could go right now. Suddenly, I can hear the music starting up. The marriage march. I was still detached from my body. I wanted to run, but – You’re marrying for money, Ella! You’re marrying for money! Leave! My Dad comes in, and takes me by the hand. He is as gruff and emotionless as he always was, but I could tell he was happy. Run, Ella! He puts my arm into the crook of his elbow, and leads me to the altar door, behind my bridesmaids, both of whom were strangers. You still have a chance, Ella. Go, now! The altar doors open, and suddenly I can see dozens of people I had never met before, all staring at my face. Ash is at the end of the church, in a black tux, smirking his smile. Run, Ella! Now! My Dad leads me done the altar, step by agonizing step. Run! *** New York Post Modern Day Love Story   Daily News Multi-Billionaire's Son Marries High School Student      New York Times Screw Cinderella – this is Ella The Billion Dollar Girl I looked out, through the white lace of a veil, to the dozens of people, all staring at me with a mixture of confusion and anxiety. The silence was broken by a single whisper. Then the guests all started murmuring. I caught snatches of conversation. “Why isn’t she saying anything?” “What’s happening?” Ash nudged me gently. “What are you doing?” he whispered, his pale blue eyes wide and angry. “I…” I started, my voice coming out completely hoarse. I coughed, and tried again. “I…” I couldn’t do it. I still had time, right? I could call it off! I could call it off already… Ash leaned in, pressing his face to mine, in a way that might have looked comforting to the audience behind us. I froze, and he brushed a dark tendril of wavy hair away, and pressed his lips to my ear. “You’ve signed the papers already, Miss White. The contract was legitimate the second your name was on it. There’s no turning back, now. Besides…I’ve already told the papers. The whole world knows.” To the audience behind us, we were hugging, like a normal couple. To the minister in front of us, we were just talking. No one heard. I pushed him away. I coughed, and smiled apologetically at the audience. “Sorry,” I said, grinning nervously. “I had a…uh…wedgie.” Where the hell did that come from?! All the guests stared at me blankly. Obviously, celebrities didn’t wedgies because their butts were made from solid gold or something. I turned back to the minister, swishing the hem of my wedding dress. “I do.” Ash slid a ring on my finger, and I slid one on his. I raised my hand, and watched the diamonds twinkle. The platinum band shone. It was beautiful. The ring I’d always wanted. “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.” Ash leaned down, lifted my veil, and kissed me. *** That was it. I was married. I bit my lip, willing myself not to cry. I wouldn’t cry. I will not cry. I’ve cried enough these past few days, and that bastard won’t make me cry anymore. I can’t believe I kissed him. Twice. I had to fight back the tears again. My fingers wound into the white lace at my thigh, and I took a couple deep breaths in. The air was stale and musty, but it still calmed me down – but only fractionally. I could hear the tapping of feet and the laughter above me. I looked around me, at the dusty, un-used cellar – where the hell was a paper bag you could breathe into, when you needed one? I shivered. The cellar was more of a warehouse, really, with unmarked wooden crates covered in a layer of thick dust. I was sat on one of the crates. “You’re getting your dress dirty,” Ash said, suddenly. I blinked, and covered my mouth before I could scream. I glared at him. “When the hell did you get here, Castillo?” “Ash,” he insisted. He butt of his cigarette winked at me through the darkness. I grabbed his hand, and pulled the cigarette from his fingertips, grinding it out on my stupid dress. “Please don’t smoke, Mr. Castillo. I don’t like that.” His face suddenly appeared, and he was smirking that trademark smile of his. He leaned down, and put his face to mine. “W-What are you doing?” I stuttered, pulling away, backing myself into the wall. He was too handsome, he really was. “Ella Castillo,” he said. My heart thumped, when I realized that that was my name now. Ella Castillo. It…kind of fit, right? “Do you know what I don’t like?” “What?” I whispered, unable not to. His blue eyes were almost enchanting. “Girls like you,” he said. His smirk turned vicious. “The kind of girl who cares about money. The kind of girl who wants everything.” He leaned in, and I could feel his breath against my neck. “The kind of girl who marries for money.” I pulled away, slapping him. “Shut up, you…you…snob!” I yelled, wiping the tears – the stupid tears – from my eyes. I stormed away. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I sat on my own, in the dark cellar. I pressed my lips to the ring around my finger. I smiled. The Billion Dollar Girl This was going to be fun. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stretched. The sun was peeking through my windows. It was just a dream. It was only a dream. I stood up, and opened my curtains. There were hundreds and hundreds of cameras, all pointed at my window. Paparazzi yelled at each other, and suddenly I was blinded by a thousand or so camera flashes. I blinked. What the hell?! “Ella? Are you up?!” my Mom yelled. “We don’t know when they came, they’re just…” She flung open my door, and stopped, gaping at me. “What?” I said. Suddenly, my mobile rang. I checked Caller ID. Unknown number? Frowning, I pressed accept. “Hello?” “Ella? Are the paparazzi at your house right now?” It was Ash. His voice was static-y, and I could hear the sound of an engine in the background. “Yes, I – how did you know?” “Because I’m outside. I’ve got a car, and some security, so you have to come out now. We need to go somewhere.” “What? Where?” “To see my Dad.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ She came out, shoving her way through the press. They cornered her, yelling questions at her. She shied away, and I could hear her yell at them. I rolled my eyes. She needed to learn crowd control. I stepped out of the car, and suddenly all eyes were on me. “I’m sorry,” I said, confidently. I grabbed Ella’s hand, and pulled her to my chest, “but can we talk to you later? My wife and I are about to go see my father-in-law.” I opened the door, and pushed Ella in. “Wait, Mr. Castillo! Is it true that you married because of love?” “Yes.” *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ Ash slammed the door shut, sliding his jean-clad butt into the car. I was about to ask him what the hell was that, when I remembered I had to be mad at him, for what he did yesterday. So I stared resolutely out of the window, humming a tune in my mind. I bit my lip. I should really call my Mom and tell her where I am, or she'll get worried. I glanced at Ash, but immediately looked away. I was so not going to talk to his first. The driver slowly pushed through the crowd, who seemed to be unwilling to move. In fact, they were stopping our progression with their bare hands. A middle-aged man with belt issues, crushed up right against the window next to me and I was rewarded with an utterly gorgeous view of his hairy butt-crack. Ash's chauffeur, who looked completely unfazed by this, just beeped his horn, pushing against people, until we pulled out onto the road. "Ella," Ash said, not bothering to look at me, and getting his Blackberry out again, tapping at the little buttons. I fought the irrational desire to rip the Blackberry from his hands, and chuck it out of the window - if he was going to bloody talk to me, he talk to my face! I grit my teeth. Did I really marry this bastard? "My Dad wants to talk to us today..." I ignored him, but just glared out of the tinted windows, watching scenery roll by us. "...about our marriage." Duh. Why else would I meet the famous billionaire? I fidgeted with my nails. Ash looked up, when I didn't reply. "Jesus Christ!" he yelled, dropping his phone. "What the hell happened to your face?" I clapped my hands to my face. "What?!" "You're eyes are...all swollen..." What?! I stared at my reflection in the window. Crap! He was right. I looked...kind of like a short-sighted person with an eye-infection disease. I bet the press loved that. I squeezed my eyes shut. So embarrassing. Ash took my chin in his hand. My eyes opened wide in surprise, and I felt him gently press a soft cottony material into my face - I glanced down, to make sure it wasn't something gross like a...sock, or a mouse. Or something. This was the first time I was willingly touching Ash. Now I was this close, I couldn't help but appreciate him. His dark fringe fell just into his clear eyes, his straight nose was sculptured perfectly, his jaw-line was strong and manly, and his lips were shaped into perfect curves. I would so heart him, except he's a sadistic tyrant who thinks he can buy anyone. But I guess that's kind of hypocritical, as I'm almost as bad as him - a masochistic coward, who is willing to be bought. "You have some tear tracks," he said, his voice emotionless. His pale blue eyes were unreadable, but under his gaze my cheeks warmed up under his palms. I swallowed. I closed my eyes, and the cloth brushed against my skin, so gently I could barely feel it. His hands felt cool against my hot skin, and I couldn't help biting down on my lip slightly. Then he was gone. My eyes snapped open, and he was back on his side of the car, tapping away on his Blackberry. I just didn't get him. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I squeezed my fists. My vision blurred as I randomly pummeled into the keys of my phone, desperately trying to keep my face cool in front of Ella. I don't know why it mattered, it just did. My heart thudded hard, and I turned away to hide my burning cheeks. Damn it. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ The driver stopped with a gentle "thunk", and I blinked, my eyes focusing as I came back to consciousness. I'd barely slept last night, due to the sensational honeymoon night I'd been spending - me, sobbing into my pillow. I glanced at Ash. I didn't tell him that, but he'd probably guessed. I brushed my fingers over my cheekbones again, making sure the tear tracks were gone. Ash opened his door, and a gush of cold wind met my skin, making me shiver, waking me up completely. My fingers reached for my handle, but Ash opened it for me. I looked up at his face, blinking groggily, as my dazed mind tried to figure out what happened. My feet met the ground, and I hoisted myself up, stumbling slightly. Ash's hands went to my waist, steadying me. I bit my lip, to stop the thanks from coming out. I had no reason to thank him. "Mr. Castillo," I said, nodding slightly, and walking out of his grasp-zone. Slick, Ella. The Billion Dollar Girl Ash was right behind me, when I stopped suddenly. He banged against my back. "Bloody -" he cussed, wincing. "- Hell," I finished, breathlessly. Oh my God. "!" The house was huge, about I guessed about a thousand or so of my house could've fit in there. The chauffeur was driving away, along the circular path, disappearing behind the house. He had dropped us off in front of the house, and from this vantage point, it seemed to fill the whole sky. It looked incredibly modern, a mixture of steel, glass, and wood - a complete contrast to the front lawn, which seemed to be the epitome of roman artwork. You know the type, statues made of marble, without any arms. I looked out, away from the house, and realized we were about a mile away from a proper road -a circle path enclosed around the garden, at the end of which, was a huge iron gate. The garden was bordered off in tall, red-and brown bricked walls, trapping us into a square mile of unnaturally green grass, trimmed wedges and birdbaths. Wow. Ash tugged at my t-shirt gently. "Let's go." *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ We both sat in my father's office, waiting for him to come. I tapped my sneakers on his floor impatiently, leaning forwards on the leather chair, waiting for him to come in. Where the hell was he? Ella had dozed off, her eyelashes fluttering, and his lips slightly parted. She must be tired from last night. Was she really crying? There was an unfamiliar twinge of guilt. The door opened, and Ella's eyes snapped open. My father came in, wearing his trademark suit, without meeting eyes with us. He passed the chair next to me, and settled into the one behind a desk. He always did. Ella tried to smile at him, but my father's cold face told her that now was not the time. "Hey," I said, grinning. "What's up?" He dropped a bundle of newspapers onto his desk, and slammed his hand onto them, with a hard "thump". Ella jumped, slightly. My father glared down at me - his chair was always higher than mine. Gave him a sense of superiority, I guess. "You got married?" he said, his tone harsh. "You get married, and this is how I find out? The papers?" I coughed, glancing at Ella. He seemed to be ignoring her. "Uh, yeah," I said. "I guess." He studied me, and I tried very hard to look like I gave a damn. "Divorce her, now." He was definitely ignoring her. "You're only doing this, because I -" "That's not true, father!" I yelled, standing up. "I'm doing this because I love her!" Ella took a sharp breath in, and my head swiveled back to Ella, my eyes trying to convey a message - remember the contract. "Would you really do that to your own son?" I asked, turning back to my Dad. "Would you really...make him to divorce the girl he loves?" Ella's face hardened, and I knew she would go along with it. I looked back to my father. "Would you?" The question held in the air for a moment, for my father answered. "You really love her?" he asked, his eyes cold. Did he even believe in love anymore? I sure as hell didn't. "Yes." The lie came easily. I even wound my arm around Ella's slim waist. I felt her muscles tighten, but I ignored it. There was another prolonged silence. "Then...I guess..." he hesitated, a flash of emotion in his eyes. I could barely believe it. My father...was acting human. The moment passed. "As long as you do three things," he said, his voice ringing with authority again. He seemed to be talking to Ella, now. She tensed up, and nodded, nervously. "One," my father said, holding up one finger. "You will learn the etiquette appropriate for a woman of your standing." Ella flinched. "Two. You will go to any event I deem fit, and you will act like you belong in this world. You will act like you deserve to be with my son." His tone was condescending. "Three. You will live in the same house as the man you love, and attend his school." Ella gasped. "What?!" "I'll even give you the penthouse you wanted, Ash," he said, ignoring her again. He pulled open a drawer, and found a pair of keys - keys to my favorite penthouse in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He tossed them to me, and I caught. "Is that good enough?" I smiled at Ella. The Billion Dollar Girl The contract. Remember the contract. She pressed her lips together, but said nothing. "Sure," I answered, twirling the key around my finger. "When should we move in?" *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ My head was spinning, and I collapsed into the sofa in front of me. They had something to talk about, and so I was sent out. How could...Ash make that choice for me? How could he...? I can't live with him! I can't go to the same school as him! I can't...wreck my life, just to fit with his! But Ash was that kind of person, right? He could have anything he wanted. I've never hated anyone more. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ My father studied me closely, trying to read my face. But I've learnt well, Dad. I kept my face perfectly straight, not betraying a morsel of emotion. After all, I learnt from you, Dad. "Do you really love her?" my father asked, finally speaking. "Of course I do." He was silent for a while longer. "Don't think this means that you won't have to take over the business," he said. I grit my teeth. Of course it would be about business. Everything about my father was business. "I don't understand," I argued. "Why you can't just let Will be your successor? He's better trained for it. He was brought up to run the company, after all. Wasn't it what your brother wanted -?" "Enough!" he snapped, angry now. "I know what I am doing! I want you to take over from me, and when you are twenty-five, you will." I bit my tongue. "Whatever you say." He stared at me for a while longer. I returned his gaze, refusing to be stared down. Finally, he looked away, pushing a little slip of paper across the table towards me. "Goodbye, Ash," he said, his tone final. I picked up the slip of paper, and left without replying. When I was outside, I took a deep breath of relief. That went perfectly. If the plan works well, three months from now, I'd have divorced her, I won't have to marry again. *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stayed still. I clenched my fists together, so hard that my knuckles shone white against my skin. I forced the air in and out of my lungs, keeping my breaths even. My head pounded, and my chest was tight. I was going to kill him. I heard footsteps, but I didn't look up. I just grit my teeth, pushing the violent urges down. "Darling?" Ash said. He was right in front of me. I could see his jeans, and his t-shirt. "Shall we go?" My head was spinning. Darling?! Oh, right. We were meant to be in love. His Dad must still be watching. I didn't move, but stayed perfectly still. "Let's go," Ash repeated, a hint of steel in his tone. I said nothing. "Honey, we must pack your bags, so you can move into the penthouse tonight. You still want to be my...wife, right?" I flinched. To me, it was like he'd said: You still want the money, right? Slowly, I nodded. I was completely and utterly humiliated. Of course I couldn't do anything to hurt him. The contract. Ash smiled. "Then, do you want to go?" "Yes." *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I opened the door for Ella, who ignored me, and went in the other side. I almost laughed. Cute. Very cute. Once I was in the car, I glanced at the little slip of paper in my hand.   The Carlyle Restaurant Tomorrow, 9 PM Don't take your wife. No backing out, this time.   My forehead creased. What the hell? Dad couldn't still be...? I almost laughed. *** The Next Day *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stepped out of the polished black car, onto the sidewalk. Dazed, I thanked the chauffeur, who nodded merrily, and drove away. Whoa. Is that how a chauffeur acts? Is that how anyone acts? I wasn't used to this treatment. I guess people treating you better was just another upside to marrying to the son of the fourth richest person in the world. The car had come, first thing in the morning, exactly on time. Completely rare for cabs in New York, New York. No, Ella! Stop being so superficial! I turned around, gaped. Wow. The building was about sixty stories high, and even here, I could see that the walls were completely made out of glass. There was heavy, cream, lace-trimmed curtains that separated the insiders from the outsiders. I looked up, and gulped. Whoa. That was high. I was going to live at the very top. Not good, since I was afraid of heights. I looked back down again, staring at the faint reflection of myself in the glass wall, behind of which was the marble-floored reception. Everyone in the reception was shiny and perfect, in their expensive suits, clutching their iPhones. Did I deserve to be here, among the rich, the famous, and the beautiful? After all, I was no one but me. Ella White, born to be nothing. Was it any different, now I was "Ella Castillo"? I watched my reflection's forehead crease into a frown. Suddenly, I realized that a guy on the other side of the glass wall was glaring at me. I gave an awkward-half smile, blushing. Damn it - why do I always act like an idiot? "Who are you smiling at?" I jumped. "Ash! When did you -?" Ash had suddenly appeared behind me. He leaned on my shoulder with his chin, and stared though the window, his forehead creased. I tried not to notice his hard, lean muscles press against my back. I breathed in Ash's cologne...Damn. He smelt good. "Are you cheating on me?" "What?" I asked, confused. "With who?" His light blue eyes glared at the wall, and pointed. I turned around, my eyes focusing on the man Ash was pointing at, the man who'd glared at me. "The middle-aged balding man?" I said, surprised. "Of course I am!" He stared down at me. "Are you kidding?" "Yes!" I cried. "What the hell is up with you? Why do you even care?" He gritted his teeth, his blue eyes flashing with anger. "I just don't want to be married to some promiscuous slut!" How dare he call me promiscuous?! I've only kissed one guy! "You're the one who sexually assaults random girls, after busting up the place they work!" "You kissed me back!" he snapped, glaring at me. The Billion Dollar Girl "No, I didn't!" I yelled, incredulous. "I was trying to get you the hell off!" He bit the side of his cheek, as I stalked away, towards the entrance. Was that me, or did I just win that one? Apparently not since, about a second later, his fingers were wound into my hair. "You're cute, Ella," he said, laughing, ruffling my hair like I was some kind of puppy. "Especially when you're angry." I flushed pink from anger, pushing him away roughly. The doorman smiled, and let me in. I smiled back, and he blinked, like he was surprised someone who lived in an expensive building like this one, bothered to smile at the doorman. "Stop looking at other guys!" he yelled, grabbing my chin, and forcing me to face forward. "Then stop touching me!" I snapped, slapping his hand away, but he just wound his arm around my waist instead, much to my dismay. I think he enjoys embarrassing me. What a dick. A couple people around us smiled, and I distinctly heard someone whisper, "Young love." I blushed (from anger, I told myself). *** "Do you like it?" Ash asked, flicking on the lights. I inched away when he came closer. I was maintaining a strict five-foot rule. But I had to blink, when the shiny light illuminated the...our penthouse. It was beautiful. It a huge living space, with an amazingly high ceiling. All the furniture was modern and artiste. I walked passed a chair, in the shape of a huge hand. Wow. It had a different feel to the mansion I'd seen yesterday - it was more...shiny. Even the wood shone, in a way I'd only seen in TV adverts. I stared at a painting on the wall, trying to remember where I'd seen it before - then I realized. It was a Monet, the one we'd studied in art class. There was a signature in the corner...wait, was this an original?! Wow. He was really rich. More proof I didn't belong in this world. I was the type of person destined to see great works of art from a text book, and never, ever see them in real life. I turned away, breathing in the smell of the apartment, and tried to figure out what it was. It was...borderline spicy, with a hint of raspberry blossom. It was the best smell in the world. I tried to remember where I'd smelt it before. Then my eyes fell on the window. Wow. Slowly, I walked towards it, my hands in front of me. My finger-tips made contact with the cold glass, and I gasped. I pressed myself right up against the window, ignoring the familiar nervous feeling in my stomach, and the paranoia from being so high. For it minute, it was like the glass wall wasn't even there, and I was floating above the buildings, the roads, the cars, the clouds, and the people. I was on top of New York. Suddenly, Ash's arms were around me, violating my mental five-foot rule. Damn him. "Does this please you, my princess?" Then I smelt it again. The spice, orange blossom, and raspberry. That's where I'd smelt it before. It was coming from Ash. I pushed Ash away, blushing a furious pink. "Get off, idiot." "Relax!" he laughed. "I'm just playing with you." I hit his chest, trying to hide my flaming cheeks. "I bet that's what you say to all the girls." His blue eyes were suddenly completely serious, his mouth turned up in a sincere smile. "Only to you, Ella." I held my breath, and for a second, my heart stopped beating. And then he laughed, his face lighting up into a smirk. "God, you should see your face. I'm kidding!" I glared at him, for a second, letting him laugh. Then I pulled my fist back, punching his chest, hard. It didn't seem to make a difference. He just laughed harder. "You're cute, Ella," he said, smirking. Then he changed the subject, pulling away. "We're going somewhere tonight." That took me completely by surprise. "What?" His fingers slid into his pocket, to pull out his Blackberry. He started texting again. "Yes. We're going to the Carlyle Restaurant. It's great. You're gonna love it." I really don't get him. *** The Billion Dollar Girl  Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ He chucked me a bag, and I blinked, catching it on reflex. “Open it,” he said. I blinked. The bag was plain, with simple writing and a logo on the side. “Coca…Channel?” I read, frowning. “Coco Chanel!” I shot a glare at him, annoyed at his tone, but I peeked inside. It was a sort of silky, purple material. I pulled it out. A dress. I looked up, at Ash’s eyes. He’d been watching my reaction. “Oh,” I said, with mock enthusiasm. “You shouldn’t have. I love it. I really do.” He flashed me a glare, before turning back to his phone – it’d just buzzed. “Get changed,” he ordered. I grit my teeth. Any regular guy who ordered me to do anything, while tapping at his phone, would’ve been in a coma for six months. But him…the contract… “Fine,” I said, holding the dress to my chest. Like the dresses before, it molded against my body perfectly. I looked up again, raising my eyebrows. “Well, Ash? Aren’t you going to leave?” “Why would I leave?” “I’m getting changed.” He smiled cockily. “We’re married, aren’t we?” “What are you saying?” “Well…” Ash said, slowly, trying to work out his words – even he seemed to have enough sense to was back out of this fight. “I’m just saying that…we’re husband and wife. We’re sharing a bedroom. It should be perfectly fine to –” “No,” I said, firmly. He quirked up an eyebrow. “We need to consummate the marriage, Ella.” My cheeks burnt. “Where’s my bedroom?” I snapped, emphasizing the “my” bit. I rolled the dress up into a little ball, and shoved it back into my bag. “Our bedroom?” he said, smirking a little. “Third door to the right of the hallway.” I squeezed past Ash, desperately trying not to brush up against him. I jammed myself up against the wall, against a big picture frame that was dug into my back. I winced, much to Ash’s amusement. He was such a sadist. Couldn’t he move out of the way, just a little? I stalked into our bedroom, and slammed the door closed hard enough for the sound to reverberate through our penthouse. Our. Our, our, our. I had to say that stupid word. Do you know what? I hate “our”. Truth be told, I hate sharing – it sort of happened, when you were poor, and you barely had enough stuff for yourself, let alone share – words “our”, and “shared” made my blood pressure skyrocket. I turned around, and stumbled back a bit. Oh my God. The bed was the biggest bloody thing I’d ever seen. I moved cautiously around it, eying it with suspicion. It was almost three times the size of myr old room. I sat on it, and the mattress wobbled – a water-bed. I ran my fingers through the soft duvet and pillows. Two pillows… I bushed. Two. One for me, and one for Ash. We were meant to share the bed. Oh, God… I suddenly ripped my shirt off, desperate to get changed, and run the hell away from this room, and the frighteningly big bed… *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I tapped my fingers on the thumb of the big hand chair, pounding a steady rhythm. How long was she going to take? I checked my watch. Seven-fifty. We were going to be late. I was taking her to piss my Dad off, more than anything. I knew it would make him, and his company look bad. Wasn’t that just another delicious advantage of marrying someone background-less, like Ella? Click. The bedroom door opened. Our bedroom door. I smirked a little. I was going to enjoy that fact. “Come on, Ella,” I called, standing up. I was already in my tux. “We have to go. Some people are waiting for us.” Some people…meaning the person Dad was still desperately trying to get me to meet. My hand was on the doorknob, when I realized…Ella’s shoes. I turned around, and had to stop a quick gasp from escaping my lips. Ella was beautiful. She looked almost as good as at our wedding. The purple set off her off perfectly, and brought the greenish-tint out in her grey eyes. The dress fell down to just above her knee, revealing what it was meant to reveal, but keeping so much secret. She’d scraped her wavy hair back into a ponytail, and even though it was messy, wisps of ebony hair framed her face perfectly. I think she looks better au naturel…without the makeup. The Billion Dollar Girl Of course, she had her imperfections…the splattering of freckles over her nose. The awkward, I’m-not-used-to-wearing-a-dress way she stood. And of course, the look of intense hatred on her face. I smiled at her, and took a step towards her. She stumbled unsure of what I wanted to do. Don’t worry, Ella. I won’t do what I want to do. I’ll do the next best thing. I pulled out a box, and opened it, slowly. Her eyes fell down, and gaped slightly. Even a moneyless pauper like her knew that they were expensive. I knelt down, on one knee – the way I should’ve done before, as tradition dictated. Whatever. “Can I…?” I asked, indicating. She looked at me, confused. I sighed, and reached forward, taking her bare foot. I held her slim ankle, wrapping all away around with one of my hands. There was a spark of electricity. Did she notice? I pushed the shoe on, sliding her foot in effortlessly. I zipped up the side, and pulled away, smiling. A perfect fit. I looked up at her, smiling. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stared into Ash’s light blue eyes, and he looked back at me, refusing to blink, prolonging the moment. I…Ash…I… “Thanks, Castillo,” I said, brusquely, grabbing the other ankle boot, and turning away. “But I can do it myself.” I turned around, sliding the shoe on, and standing up. I still didn’t turn around. That brought back a memory for me…from that old Disney movie, Cinderella. The way the Prince slid her glass slipper onto Cinderella’s foot, proving that she was his lover. I still remember the moment from the movie, and just now… that’d been almost as tense as the moment from the movie’d been. I swallowed, trying to pull myself together. Now I think about it, this was almost too much like Cinderella. The pauper, being rescued by the prospect of marriage, and marrying the Prince. And the shoe. Yeah, if the pauper was really just a poor high school student, and instead of being rescued, she was kidnapped, and instead of wanting to marry him out of her own free will, Cinderella was bribed and blackmailed into it. Oh, and the magical glass slipper was a black suede, six-inch ankle boot. I closed my eyes. Worst fairytale ever. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ We stopped, but before Ella could open the door, I stopped her. “Ella, wait,” I said, putting a hand on her bare arm. She flinched from my grip. Thanks. At first, I thought she would ignore me – she had, for the whole of this trip. But she didn’t move, staring straight in front of her, waiting for me to talk. “Ella,” I said, starting again. “I just want to tell you, I’m…” What do I say? I’m sorry? I was wrong? Please stop staring at me like I’m some kind of sewage monster whenever I accidently brush up against you? No. None of those things. “I…uh…have a credit card for you.” That got her attention. She looked at me, blinking. “What?” she asked. I coughed, to hide my discomfort. “Uh, yeah. Since you’re my…wife now, you need some money, right?” I pulled my wallet from my pocket, and pulled a card from a slot. “Here you go,” I said, handing it to her. “Spend as much as you want. It’s all paid for it at the end of the month.” She took it from me, without saying thank you, and I turned away, kind of hating myself. I’d chickened out. Why couldn’t I just apologize to her? “Anything else?” she asked. I froze. How did she know? “Nothing,” I replied, without turning back. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I fingered the credit card, from the pocket of the jacket Ash had given me as well. What the hell was that? The look on his face…he couldn’t’ve just wanted to give me a credit card. “Private room,” the Waiter said, giving us a courteous smile. I smiled back, distractedly, while staring at the back of Ash’s head. What the hell was he thinking? He turned around suddenly, and I banged against his chest, stumbling back. He caught me by my waist, and I regained my balance, before pushing his arm away. I didn’t like it when he touched me. Not that I didn’t like it, really. It was completely the opposite. I like it too much. Way too much. A shiver would run up my spine, and I would blush. That’s why I had to maintain this five feet circle of personal space. For his safety. The Billion Dollar Girl “Can you stay outside, for a second?” Ash said, not noticing the fact that I’d pushed him away when he’d touched me. “I just need to talk to the person first, before I introduce you.” “Oh…I…okay,” I said, caught by surprise. He turned around, and the Waiter opened the door for him while giving me a glance of sympathy. Who was he in there with? I tried to peek over the Waiter’s arm, but the door snapped shut. I was suddenly alone. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “So my Dad sent you?” I asked, leaning back in my chair. The person opposite me nodded, smiling. “Yes.” “Right,” I replied, smirking. “And your name is?” “Lucy Andre,” she replied, with a smirk, tossing her blonde hair. She smiled at me. “Your future wife.” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “Lucy Andre. Your future wife.” Lucy. Oh my… No, it couldn’t be…not her…no… I turned around, running far, far away. *** The Billion Dollar Girl ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I let a smile spread over my face, and Lucy blinked, dazzled. “But…I’m already married.” “So what?” She was cocky. I liked that. “Well…” I said, pretending to hesitate. Let’s play this game for just a little longer. “I don’t really want to leave my…wife… She’s outside, right now, and I don’t think she’ll be that happy –” “Your wife is here?” Lucy said, stiffening. “Yes,” I said, smiling again. “Ella? Ella, honey?” I called, my tone lilting. “Come in.” No answer. I frowned, as Lucy looked away, smirking. “Looks like she’s gone.” I stood up, and walked to the door, pulling it open. Crap. Where the hell has she…? Oh God. She couldn’t’ve heard what Lucy said, right? She couldn’t’ve… I ran, ignoring Lucy as she pulled on my arm. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I took a swig from my coffee, and breathed out. A steam cloud billowed in front of my mouth, and cold air danced around my lips. I took another swallow, to warm my mouth up again, staring up at the non-existent stars in the black void of sky. I was calm now. I watched life pass me. Cars blurred past me as owners pushed through the busy streets (well, this is New York, pretty much every street was busy and car-filled). Gangsters strutted behind me, clearly going home after a day of gangster-ing. Couples walked on the road opposite mine, talking and laughing and smiling. Damn Ash. Damn him. I tipped the coffee back, and drank again. I licked my lips. I couldn’t understand why the hell I was feeling like this – I couldn’t understand how… Maybe I was just angry, because I could be replaced so easily – by someone I hated. Yeah, that was it. Totally. I pictured Ash and Lucy, laughing together, talking, and…kissing. I gripped the rail hard, and my knuckles shone white against my skin. Damn. I forced myself relax and leaned forwards, onto the cold steel railings, shivering as air passed against my bare legs. I was outside a coffee shop – the one I used to spend a lot of time in. It was about the only coffee shop in the world that would be open at this time. There weren’t any chairs outside, so me and Zack used to lean against this metal fence instead. I stared down at my chocolate muffin. I used to love these – I’d dip them into my coffee, and Zack would pull faces, saying I was gross, because all the muffin crumbs would float on top. I semi-smiled, now. But that was the past. Now, every day I saw people who hated me, and thought I was “stupid” and “weird”. Now, every day I saw Lucy. Great swap. I finished my coffee, and my fingers, that were so hot from clutching the side of my cup, started cooling. My chocolate muffin now beckoned. I bit into it. Then I pictured Lucy. I was so inadequate compared to stupidly skinny, pretty, elegant Lucy. Skinny. I was Size 8. I was normal, right? Not fat, right? But not Lucy. I swallowed. Suddenly I felt bile rise up in my throat. I leant my muffin on the rail, and shoved a lollipop into my mouth to erase the sharp acidic taste of sick. Great. Now I couldn’t eat… My fingers began turning blue, and I absentmindedly rubbed them, trying to get some circulation. I shoved them into my cold pockets, alongside my coins, and waiting for them to start heating up. I’d locked my knees together, so I wouldn’t lose excess heat. I remember reading somewhere that ten percent of your body heat is lost through your head… I wish I’d brought a hat…or had bigger hair. I debated whether or not I should bother to get some more change out of my pocket. I brushed over the coins, trying to work out if I had enough money for a coffee. Yep. I had five bucks and thirty-one cents left (well, it was a jacket Ash had gave me, so I’m guessing it’s his money. That was nice, right? Bothering to leave me some change? Or, more likely, this was an ex-girlfriend’s jacket, which he then gave to me. Ash seemed like a player-ish guy.). I turned around, back to the coffee shop, when I lost my balance in the damn shoes – surprise, surprise – I think Ash purposely gave me high stilettos, just to have the pleasure of watching me fall in them. I knocked against the steel fencing, and I was definitely about to smash my head, when I was jerked upwards again. The Billion Dollar Girl “Careful,” a male voice said. He tossed me my muffin, and I caught it, almost dropping it in surprise. “You could’ve knocked over your muffin.” I glared at him. “Not break a leg? Not smash my head? Not crush my skull, and die? But knock over my muffin?” As I looked at him, blinking. He had straight brown hair, with a floppy fringe that fell over his pale blue eyes…wait…did I know him? He looked kind of…familiar. “Well, food is very valuable. There are eight hundred million malnourished people in the world.” “And so, now you’ve saved my muffin, somehow, one of those eight hundred million people is suddenly no longer malnourished?” I snapped, but secretly kind of shocked. I immediately pledged to donate some of my wealth to a charity. “Touché,” the guy said, smiling. I blinked. He was definitely familiar… where have I seen that smile before? He looked up and down my body, taking in my dress. I folded my arms, self-conscious. “So…what’s a girl like you doing in a neighborhood like this?” I glanced around me, kind of offended. I mean, I used to live around here. “What’s wrong with this neighborhood?” I asked, defensively. “I think it’s kind of nice.” The world obviously hated me, because it suddenly felt the need to prove me wrong. A guy, obviously drunk, smashed a bottle over his mate’s head, screaming a war cry. His mate seemed alright – kind of amused by this, in fact. He threw back his head, laughing like a twat for about a minute, before drawing his fist back and punching his friend. Blood splattered the ground. A couple of onlookers jeered. I glared at the guy next to me, who was smirking. “Oh, shut up,” I snapped. “I didn’t say anything,” he said innocently, his blue eyes, which were so familiar, twinkling. He took my muffin from my hand, and bit into it, still staring at me. “Hey!” I protested, trying to wrestle my muffin back. “What are you doing?! That’s my muffin!” “Can’t we share?” he begged, his eyes going all puppy-dog. “I’m so hungry… I haven’t eaten for ages…my parents don’t feed me.” My eyes passed over his clothes. His shirt, though clean, left his arms bare – he must be absolutely freezing. It wasn’t even a very good t-shirt, as it was really thin, the only thing it said on it was “Hollister”. His jeans looked pretty worn as well, with holes at the knees. His story definitely seemed true. “Sure,” I said, giving in. Okay, he was right in the end – saving my muffin did mean someone wouldn’t be “malnourished” any more. Make that seven-hundred and ninety-nine million, nine-hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and nine-hundred and ninety-nine malnourished people in the world. I’d really helped. He collapsed into laughter, bursting my little bubble. “Did you believe that?” he said, choking through muffin crumbs. “You’re cute. I knew you were never Ash’s type –” “What?” Did I hear right…? “Nothing,” he said, quickly. He inhaled the rest of the muffin, and chucked the wrapper into the bin. “Don’t worry about it. Anyway, you were about to tell me…why are you in this neighborhood?” “Well, what happened was –” I started, before stopping, and glaring at him through narrowed eyes. “I can’t tell you. I can’t believe you tricked me like that.” He laughed. “I didn’t trick you. You were just dumb enough to believe me.” “I’ll have you know, I’m in the top hundred of the country.” “Oh, right. What number?” I blushed. “Ninety-nine.” “Then you’re easy to figure out. You’re the studying type, who knows lots about quadratic equations, and chemical symbols, but nothing about real life.” I glared at him. I didn’t like the way he talked about me. “I know enough about real life.” “Really? Have you got a boyfriend?” he asked, quickly. “No, I…” My eyes flew to the ring around my finger. I swallowed. “Yes, I do.” His fingers fell to the ring as well. “Right,” he said, his blue eyes flashing a little. He didn’t sound surprised, at all, but his tone was flat. “And do you love him?” “What?” I stuttered. “I…I don’t have an answer… I can’t answer…you’re a stranger…” The Billion Dollar Girl “Ah.” He was smiling again. “That’s the wrong reply. If you loved him, if you really did…you would’ve said yes, without thinking. You’re in a loveless marriage. You don’t like him at all, do you? Was it arranged?” Before I could answer, he shook his head, holding up a hand. “Never mind…” he said, slipping a hand into his pocket. “But here’s my card…in case you ever...” He bit his lip, choosing his next words carefully. “…want to talk.” Without another word, he turned around, and walked away. I stared after him blankly. What was that? What the hell was…? I looked down at name, engraved on the elegant cream-colored card, underneath the numbers.   Will Castillo   Castillo. No. No, it couldn’t be… “Ella?” I looked up again, and saw Ash running towards me. His cheeks were red, and he was panting hard. He pulled me into a hug, enclosing me in his warmnth. I felt my heart slam into my chest, and my knees weaken slightly, as I breathed in Ash’s smell – it was so distinct. The spice, orange blossom, and raspberry. When he pulled away again, I looked into his light blue eyes – the same ones I’d been glaring into only a minute ago. Will and Ash Castillo… *** Create Community EvangeliqueSn... English of 3 The Billion Dollar Girl Dedicated to Alexandra Gregg Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “I’m sorry,” he said, still holding me close. “I’m so sorry I did that to you, I didn’t think –” “Was that your plan? To replace me?” He pulled away, frowning. “No. Why would you think that?” “Well, because she said…” “She was being stupid, Ella. I don’t even know her.” Oh. Ash called the car, and it came around the corner in about a minute. Why didn’t he bother to walk? Were these streets too dirty for his holy feet, or something? Actually, he was looking a bit uncomfortable, standing on a sidewalk littered with cigarettes and McDonald’s paper bags. It suddenly struck me that Ash had bothered to run around this part of town – a setting he was obviously not used to – to find me. I tried not to feel too flattered. I stared at the back of his head. Why would you do that for me, Ash? He opened the car door, gesturing for me to get in. I complied, sliding to the other side. There was a slight shift in the car, as Ash got in as well. I glanced at him, and caught him pulling off his tux jacket, and brushing off the non-existent dust. I felt myself bite my own lip, when Ash’s toned, bicep flexed under the thin material. Oh, God… “What are you staring at?” Ash asked. My eyes immediately tore away from his arm. He was smirking – bloody typical. “Uh, nothi –” Luckily, I was saved by the driver, who suddenly accelerated, making me bang my head on the window, hard. I would happily hit my own head a thousand times, than let Ash know I was looking at him. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I smirked at my window, staring at Ella’s reflection. Her pink cheeks were slowly fading away, and she was breathing normally now. She thought she’d gotten away, but I’d seen it. She’d been checking me out. Who could really blame her? My eyes suddenly focused on Ella’s jacket pocket. The corner of a small card was poking out of it. I frowned. What is that…? I’m pretty sure she didn’t have that before. Her eyes looked up, and met mine in the mirror. She blinked, surprised, and shied away. No, wait? I wasn’t looking at your chest! I swear I wasn’t – “We’re here,” the driver said. He’s pulled over, and I could see our apartment complex. It shone, the streetlights reflecting off the surface of the glass. “Thank you,” I said. I opened the door, and was about to open Ella’s as well – the way I was taught – but she got out quickly, like she was trying to avoid contact with me. I’m not some kind of sick pervert, okay? I’m your husband! *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stumbled in my shoes, pulling them off. I leant against the bedroom door, jumping around as the zip jammed itself. I could feel about ten blisters on the soles of my feet as I ran through to the bathroom. I really needed to have a quick shower, and brush my teeth, and go the hell to sleep. I tried to ignore the fact that I would be sleeping in the same apartment as…him. I looked at the bed dubiously again. Shutting the door behind me, I glanced around the bathroom for the first time. Wow, is all I can say…though after what I’ve seen for the last couple of days, this doesn’t even really surprise any more. The bathtub wasn’t really a bath-tub, more of a Jacuzzi. Everything in this room seemed to be made out of a dark, black marble – even the toilet seat. I navigated my way over to the massive mirror (basically one whole wall), and grabbed a black toothbrush, the toothpaste, and squeezed on a sizable amount. Then I started scrubbing at my teeth as fast as I could. I really didn’t want to come into contact with Ash, and I was pretty sure he’d want the bathroom soon. I don’t know how this is meant to work, I’ve never lived with a guy before – The bathroom door opened, and I froze. Ash came in. He’d taken his jacket and tie off, leaving the front of his shirt open. I almost swallowed the toothpaste, when I saw the gentle, muscular curve that sloped downward, down his chiseled chest… I broke out of the trance, and scrubbed as hard as possible. All the time, my heart was pounding. What the hell was he doing here, just watching me? I kept my eyes on his face, from the mirror. All the times, his gaze never left mine. The Billion Dollar Girl “Wha’ you doin’,” I said thickly, through my mouthful of toothpaste. He didn’t answer. Ash had a sort of vague amused look on his face. When I’d finally decided my teeth were clean (I was fairly OCD in that way – if my teeth weren’t perfectly clean, I literally couldn’t sleep), I spat out, and rinsed my mouth. Now I could finally ask the question I’d been dying to ask. “Why the hell were you watching me for?” He plucked the toothbrush from my hand, and turned away. “You were using my toothbrush.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ Slowly, I creaked open the bedroom door. Ella was huddled over, on “her” side. She was trying hard to look asleep, her chest rising and falling very dramatically, and even giving off a couple unconvincing snores now and then. Maybe I would’ve fallen for this terrible, terrible acting if it wasn’t for the fact that her eyes kept opening every two seconds. I considered calling her bluff, just to piss her off, but I was way too tired. They’ll be plenty more chances to bully her tomorrow. Patience. But when I saw one of her eyes cracking open again, I couldn’t help wanting to tease her, just a little. In a smooth, fluid movement, I gripped the bottom of my shirt, and pulled upwards, exposing my bare chest. I heard a small gasp, and I smirked, satisfied, flexing a little, just for her. I pulled off my belt, and unbuttoned my pants. How long was she going to keep this up? When was she going to stop me? When my fingers found the elastic of my boxers, she finally gave in. “Stop!” she called, her eyes crazy, and her hair sexily messed up. “What the hell are you doing?” “I’m about to give you your honeymoon night, sweetheart,” I said, my face perfectly straight. It took her a while to catch on. “Oh, very funny,” she said, sarcastically. “Why don’t you go…drown…in a well?!” I smirked, and jumped onto my side of the bed. I grabbed the pillow. “Shut up, and sleep.” “Fine!” There was silence for a while. “Are you really going to sleep like that? Without covering yourself up, or anything?” “Are you embarrassed by my nakedness?” “No!” she protested. “Of course not! It’s just that… I don’t want you to get a cold.” Suddenly, I felt ashamed. Totally guilty. I’d forgotten that was she a good person. I’d forgotten that she wanted this fate about as much as I did. I’d completely forgotten that this girl was just another naïve, innocent little virgin. She should hate me more than anything else in the world… but… she was caring for me. “Thanks,” I said, very quietly. My voice was muffled by the pillow I was burying my face in. Slowly, I pulled the cold covers over my body. I could feel Ella’s eyes on the back of my head. “No problem.” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I’m lying here, staring at his unmoving back. The muscles were toned, but not overly-defined. They move, as he breathes in, and out. Their movement is almost hypnotic. His body heat reaches my skin, making me feel hot, and I can’t help but lean in. My eyes are straining to see through the dim moonlight. A trembling hand reaches forwards, and they’re about to meet his back, skin on skin, when I stop myself. What the hell was I doing? I turned around. How the hell was I meant to sleep? *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ My head pounded like hell, and I knew it was way, way too early. But I couldn’t sleep again, not when Ella was pressed up against my back like this. It’s totally driving me crazy. Slowly, my hand reaches for my phone, and I switch on the screen. 9.50 AM. I groan. Are you kidding me? 9.50 AM? That was practically dawn! I shift my weight, and Ella gives a low, raspy snore. Did I mention that? Ella snores. Like, full on, loud, nasal snoring. Couldn’t I have chosen someone else? Anyone else? My eyes shift around the room, and finally settle on Ella’s jacket. Last night, there was a card. Almost like a business card… Gently, I pushing Ella’s arm off my chest, and rolled side-ways, off the bed. I tiptoed to the chair, where her jacket was hanging. I lifted it up, and my fingers worked over the material, trying to find the pocket opening. The Billion Dollar Girl I felt a thin, stiff piece of card.   Will Castillo   …Will?! *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stretched. Whoa, that was a good sleep. I’ve never slept better. I considered the things I could do today. Watch TV. Go on my laptop, and lazily surf the net. Sleep. Nothing seemed particularly appealing, apart from eating. My stomach was rumbling loudly. My eyes snapped open. I suddenly remembered where I was. I searched the room. Thank God Ash wasn’t here. I’d have died, if I knew he’s heard my stomach rumble. I don’t even know why I care so much…I just do. I opened the door that I thought led to the hallway, and gaped. It was a huge walk-in wardrobe, about five times my old bedroom, and had about ten times the amount of clothes as a normal shop. I stumbled into it, my head spinning as I took in all the rows and shelves of clothes – with one whole wall dedicated to shoes. There seemed to be a split down the centre of the room, and I was guessing, from the suits, that the left side was Ash’s, and the right side, the side that was mainly dominated by skimpy, figure-hugging dresses, was mine. I was dazzled by the frightening array of colors. The whole wardrobe seemed to be arranged by the colors of the rainbow. Slowly, step by step, my feet moved across the cold wooden floor, towards a less provocative rack of clothing. The rack I came to seemed to consist entirely of hoodies. I pulled on out at random, and immediately shoved it back in again – it was lycra, purple, and had an completely open back. Not good.  After about an hour of desperate browsing, I picked out a semi-okay outfit – a plain t-shirt, thinner and lower cut than I was used to, but it was the best I could find, without going into the scary lace and silk section. The jeans had silver studs up and down the sides, and a pair of trainers. They were all completely brand new – I had to snip off all the tags (by the way…what’s Prada?!). Now I was fully dressed, I decided it was time to finally properly explore this place. Opening the wardrobe door, and I gasped. A china vase shattered on the floor. “Oh, sorry, Miss,” a young girl said, immediately collapsing to her knees, trying to clean up the mess on the floor. Her cheeks flushed, and she refused to meet my eyes. “I thought you’d left, for your classes… I was just trying to change the roses –” “No, I’m sorry,” I said, blushing as well. I stumbled my way over to her, dropping to my knees as well. “Here, let me help you.” “Oh, Miss, I couldn’t let you do that. Really, please stop. This is my job.” I withdrew my hands, hesitantly. I wasn’t used to this treatment. “Only if you call me Ella,” I compromised. She smiled. “Thank you, Ella.” “Now, what was that about my classes?” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I breathed hard, staring at in front of me, at the unmoving race track. Adrenaline pulsed through my veins, my heart running double-time. My fingers were still clutched at the wheel, squeezing so hard my knuckles had turned white. My mind was blank, utterly blank. With a massive effort, I pulled myself back to reality. I’d just crashed. “Shit,” I muttered. I released my grip on the steering wheel, and ran my fingers through my hair. I coughed from the smoke, which was slowly filling the car. “Shit,” I said, again. I opened the door, and slid out, my muscles still not moving properly. At once, I felt someone help me up. “Thanks,” I muttered vaguely, at the blurry shape next to me. “Are you okay, Mr. Castillo?” I closed my eyes. I hated it when people called me that. I sounded like my Dad. “I’m fine,” I managed to choke out, in a voice that was quite close to normal. “Why did you crash?” I ignored him, running a hand over the hood. The glossy paint had scratched, all along the side, and my tyres were totally wrecked. I leant back, to stop myself from inhaling a big lungful of smoke. “Why did you crash?” he repeated. I closed my eyes, trying not to relive the moment. I was going fast – two-hundred miles an hour, the familiar track rushing past me as I flew down the grey road. Then suddenly, this image comes into my mind – Will and Ella. Unconsciously, my fists squeeze into tight balls. No… they can’t be working together. It had to be some kind of coincidence. The Billion Dollar Girl “Ash?” A bloody unbelievable coincidence. With incredible control, I turned my head, and started at Will. We had matching eyes. We’d both gotten them from my Grandfather. “I thought I told you to stop coming here, Will,” I said, my voice quiet. “Free country, cousin,” he replied, smirking. His eyes flickered to the wreckage behind me. “Whoa. What happened?” “Nothing.” “Seriously,” he said, taking a step towards my car. “What happen –?” “Nothing!” I yelled, pushing him away. “Will, I’ve told you, leave me alone! Why are you even here? Why did you come back from Spain?!” “I wanted to say sorry.” “It’s too late, okay? It’s way too late. I don’t want anything to do with you, now.” I turned, and started walking away. “I met Ella,” he called. I stopped, my muscles stiffening. “She’s cute,” he continued, as if we were just talking about something inane like the weather. “Good choice.” That was it? That was all he had to say? My fist flexed, and I had to restrain myself from turning around and punching him, full in the face. I made myself take a step forward, away from Will. When he didn’t stop me, I walked away. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “I’m so sorry,” I blurted, swinging open the limo door, and jumping in. “I had no idea that I had lessons today! I didn’t mean to…” My chauffeur ignored me, and started driving. “Uh…Did you wait long?” He didn’t answer. I settled back into the leather seat, glaring grumpily out of the window. Why the hell didn’t Ash tell me about my “training” lessons today? I bit on my tongue, and dug through my pockets, trying to find a lollipop, before remembering I’d left them in my old clothes. Great. I looked around the limo. I’d never been in one of these before. Air conditioning blasted into my face, and there was a minibar on the side. I swung it open, and the minibar door fell off. Crap. I glanced at the chauffeur, to make sure he wasn’t watching, and quickly slotted it back into place. The ride was about half an hour, and by the time I’d reached to whatever place I was meant to be reaching, I was completely hungry. I hadn’t had anything to eat, since about yesterday morning – the dinner last night had completely flopped. “We’re here, Miss,” the chauffeur said, in icy tones, opening my door. “Please, call me Ella.” He ignored me, so I just stepped out and deftly swerved past him. “Uh…is this it?” I asked, staring at the big, old-fashioned manor house in front of me, through the intricately sculptured iron gates. He didn’t reply, and just shrugged, turning away. I nudged against the gate hesitantly, but it was locked. I looked up – it was about ten feet high, and the top was decorated with iron spikes. No way could I just climb over, then. I stared at the intercom, next to the gate, frowning. There was a couple buttons. Which to choose? I pressed the biggest button, and a curt voice answered, almost immediately. “Who is there?” “Uh…” I said, into the intercom. “Ella Whi – I mean, Castillo.” There was a brief silence, and I jumped backwards in surprise when the iron gates suddenly swung open, with an electronic buzzing. “Uh. Thanks.” There was no answer. I cussed under my breath. Why was everyone so rude these days? And walked through the gates, up to the manor house. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “Is Ella there?” I asked through the phone, my voice shaking uncontrollably. “Can I speak to her?” “I’m afraid Miss Castillo has not arrived yet.” I frowned. What?! Why hadn’t she gone to the stupid lessons my Dad had planned for her…? I slapped my head. Damn it! I forgot to tell her about them. “Oh, no wait, sir, she’s just arrived.” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ The front door was open. I paused, letting my fingers slide over the patterns that were carved into the smooth wood. Could I just enter? I’m sure it wasn’t considered breaking and entering if the person had left the door open…and the intercom guy had let me in. I swung the door open, with confidence. And was hit by the amazing smell of food. The Billion Dollar Girl Oh, god, what was that? Chicken, turkey, gravy, curry, steak, cinnamon, apple pie…oh god. I followed the smell, my stomach rumbling. It was coming from the dining room. I bit my lip, my mouth watering, as I took in this gorgeous sight. I wasn’t a pig, but oh my god… this would break any girl. I pulled back a chair, and sat down, inhaling. Surely no one would notice, if I just ate one teeny, tiny bite, right? Just a crumb from the chocolate gateau, sitting in front of me? No one would notice, right? They wouldn’t care… Even though I wasn’t sure who “they” was, in that moment, I managed to totally convince myself that no matter who “they” were, they wouldn’t be heartless enough to deny a starving teenage girl just a tiny slice of cake. So I dipped my finger, into the soft icing, and brought it to my lips. I gave out a little moan. God, it was good. Ignoring my morals, I basically shoved my hand into the cake, grabbed out lump after lump of chocolate icing, getting stuck in. “No manners, whatsoever, this one. This is going to be a hard job.” I turned around, and faced a forty-something-year-old woman (though it was so hard to tell under the make-up and undoubtedly, the plastic surgery), in a perfectly un-creased black skirt suit with a necklace of big, shiny pearls around her face. Her face was disgusted (or as disgusted as she could make it look, with all the Botox she’d had), and she was glaring at me. Me being me, I did the least helpful thing possible. “Whaa –?” I said intelligently, gaping at her, and at the same time, revealing my chocolate-coated teeth. From the look she gave me, I knew we were definitely not going to get on. *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ She handed me a napkin, and I took it, gratefully. She watched me mop myself up, with a disdainful look on her face. Slowly, she pulled back a chair, and sat down next to me. “Good morning,” she said, as normally as she could. Her British accent stuck out. “I am Lady Emily.” I tried to work out the chocolate from my teeth as I nodded intelligently…or so I hoped. “For the next week, I will train you for the Debutante ball. The Debutante ball will be held on January the first, and Mr. Ash Castillo will be your escort –” “Wait,” I interrupted. She glared at me, and I shrunk away a little. “I have a couple questions. First, what’s the Debutante ball?” Lady Emily sighed and launched into a long monologue that sounded pretty rehearsed. “A Débutante ball is for young ladies from an aristocratic or upper class family, who has reached the age of maturity, and as a new adult, is introduced to society at a formal "début" presentation. Originally, it meant the young woman was eligible to marry, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select upper class circle. But,” she added, “this is simply an event to introduce you to our society. You have married already.” “But… you said January the First…” “Is there a problem?” she said, raising an elegantly plucked eyebrow. It probably took a lot of effort – Botox, again. “It’s just that… I always spend New Year with my family…” She shrugged. “That is not my problem. Please take that up with Mr. Castillo. It is only my job to get you ready for the event.” I bit my lip. “So…uh…how are we going to get ready for the event?” She narrowed her eyes, and her lipsticked lips stretched into a rather scary smile. “We’re going to change everything. But first thing’s first…your name. Ella is so common, so normal. From now, your name is Gabriella.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “She’s there?” “She is, sir,” he confirmed. “Alright. I’ll be around in ten.” “As you wish, sir.” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “Stand up, Gabriella,” she said. I gulped, complying. She was too scary to argue. I stop up, feeling incredibly stupid as she looked me and up down, shaking her head, unsatisfied. “Like I thought…no fashion sense whatsoever. No simple color-coordination… This is going to be hard.” I stared at my clothes, and tried to work out what was wrong. I mean, isn’t orange meant to be a cheerful? And purple is… “cool”, right? She got me to spin around a couple times. “Right,” she said, glaring at me again. “Now walk.” “Excuse me?” “Just walk. Normally, please.” I walked down the dining room, as the smell of food filled my nostrils. God, I was hungry. I licked a stray crumb from the corner of my mouth, as she ordered me to turned around, and walk back to her again. “Did you never learn posture, at your school?” “Uh…posture? We learnt…tennis postures.” I demonstrated, and she shook her head sadly. “Ah, this country’s education is becoming ever so average. How could they miss out such a vital part of a young lady’s education?”  What the hell was she talking about? “This is a simple exercise,” she said, pulling out an old, thick book supposedly from nowhere. “Balance this on your head, and walk again. Make sure it does not fall.” I gingerly took the book from her. “1001 Color Schemes”, the title read. Wow. Light reading. I tried to balance it on my head, and it felt like I’d broken my neck. I winced, staring at her. She glared at me, her face emotionless. I tried again. It fell off, before I could even take a step. I looked back at Lady Emily. Her face was still blank. I tried again, and it fell off. She still didn’t respond. This was going to be a long day. *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ She handed me a napkin, and I took it, gratefully. She watched me mop myself up, with a disdainful look on her face. Slowly, she pulled back a chair, and sat down next to me. “Good morning,” she said, as normally as she could. Her British accent stuck out. “I am Lady Emily.” I tried to work out the chocolate from my teeth as I nodded intelligently…or so I hoped. “For the next week, I will train you for the Debutante ball. The Debutante ball will be held on January the first, and Mr. Ash Castillo will be your escort –” “Wait,” I interrupted. She glared at me, and I shrunk away a little. “I have a couple questions. First, what’s the Debutante ball?” Lady Emily sighed and launched into a long monologue that sounded pretty rehearsed. “A Débutante ball is for young ladies from an aristocratic or upper class family, who has reached the age of maturity, and as a new adult, is introduced to society at a formal "début" presentation. Originally, it meant the young woman was eligible to marry, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select upper class circle. But,” she added, “this is simply an event to introduce you to our society. You have married already.” “But… you said January the First…” “Is there a problem?” she said, raising an elegantly plucked eyebrow. It probably took a lot of effort – Botox, again. “It’s just that… I always spend New Year with my family…” She shrugged. “That is not my problem. Please take that up with Mr. Castillo. It is only my job to get you ready for the event.” I bit my lip. “So…uh…how are we going to get ready for the event?” She narrowed her eyes, and her lipsticked lips stretched into a rather scary smile. “We’re going to change everything. But first thing’s first…your name. Ella is so common, so normal. From now, your name is Gabriella.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “She’s there?” “She is, sir,” he confirmed. “Alright. I’ll be around in ten.” “As you wish, sir.” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “Stand up, Gabriella,” she said. I gulped, complying. She was too scary to argue. I stop up, feeling incredibly stupid as she looked me and up down, shaking her head, unsatisfied. “Like I thought…no fashion sense whatsoever. No simple color-coordination… This is going to be hard.” I stared at my clothes, and tried to work out what was wrong. I mean, isn’t orange meant to be a cheerful? And purple is… “cool”, right? She got me to spin around a couple times. “Right,” she said, glaring at me again. “Now walk.” “Excuse me?” “Just walk. Normally, please.” I walked down the dining room, as the smell of food filled my nostrils. God, I was hungry. I licked a stray crumb from the corner of my mouth, as she ordered me to turned around, and walk back to her again. “Did you never learn posture, at your school?” “Uh…posture? We learnt…tennis postures.” I demonstrated, and she shook her head sadly. “Ah, this country’s education is becoming ever so average. How could they miss out such a vital part of a young lady’s education?”  What the hell was she talking about? “This is a simple exercise,” she said, pulling out an old, thick book supposedly from nowhere. “Balance this on your head, and walk again. Make sure it does not fall.” I gingerly took the book from her. “1001 Color Schemes”, the title read. Wow. Light reading. I tried to balance it on my head, and it felt like I’d broken my neck. I winced, staring at her. She glared at me, her face emotionless. I tried again. It fell off, before I could even take a step. I looked back at Lady Emily. Her face was still blank. I tried again, and it fell off. She still didn’t respond. This was going to be a long day. ***


  1. you stole the story you son of a bitch stop lying the date on the blog and the time stamp in the url is different.

    go fucking do sonething with you're own imagination and stoping using someone elses