May was putting away the leftover cake when Stella realized how late it had gotten.
“I promised Ivy that we would meet up tonight.” She said as she got up to get ready to leave. “She is leaving for Bridgeport to be a Fashion Fledgling soon, and I don’t know when I will be able to see her next.”
“Or Brandon.” June added, but Stella just rolled her eyes.
She told herself that she was over Brandon, although deep down she knew that it was a lie.
“Don’t stay out too late.” April told Stella.
Stella might be a young adult now, but that doesn’t mean that April’s job is over, or that the worrying is over.
“I will be home at a reasonable hour.” Stella replied as she headed out the door.
Stella was shocked at how quickly Ivy came to the door. Stella didn’t even have her finger off of the doorbell yet when Ivy pulled Stella inside with such force that Stella almost tripped over the doorway. “I am so glad you are finally here!”
That was when Stella noticed that Maleficent was staring at her. Maleficent was watching Stella the same way that a lion watches a gazelle. It made Stella nervous, and more than a bit creeped out, so she just responded with a meek smile.
And then she saw Brandon.
Stella thought that Brandon was a good looking teen, but he looks even better as a young adult. He has the same perfect tan and surfer boy look, which has now been accentuated by a strong jaw line. Brandon was leaning against the door frame in a casual, nonchalant sort of way. However, his smile quickly turned to sadness as he caught Stella’s eye.
A big part of Stella wanted to run up to him and tell him how much she missed him and that deep down she really loves him. But something stopped her.
Maybe it was Aunt June’s voice in her head telling her to keep cool. Maybe it was Ivy talking nonstop about her new job in Bridgeport. Maybe it was Maleficent watching her like a creeper. Or maybe it was all of the above. Whatever the reason, Stella stood her ground. She didn’t even give Brandon a second look.
“I have a surprise for you.” Ivy dragged Stella up the stairs and into her room. As Stella entered the room she noticed a rather large box. It was wrapped with pink and purple sparkly paper and had a giant hot pink bow on top of it.
“I got a little something for you too.” Stella said as she handed Ivy a small box. She felt a little embarrassed that her gift is so much smaller. But after all, isn’t it the thought that counts?
Ivy started to unwrap Stella’s gift. She opened the box and pulled out a picture of a beach, and a jar of sand.
“What is this?” Ivy asked holding up the jar.
“It is sand from the beach.” Stella explained. “Even though Twinbrook isn’t your home, I want you to remember the fun times we had together. And know that you always have a piece of Twinbrook with you.”
“Oh, okay.” Ivy said apathetically.
Stella watched as Ivy carelessly tossed the items on her bed as if they were scraps of trash. Ivy didn’t even seem to care that the jar of sand almost rolled off the bed and could have crashed and broke on the floor. Stella’s feelings were hurt watching her best friend act so indifferent towards her gift.
“Now open mine.” Ivy said. Ivy’s tone of voice was part excitement, but mostly insistent.
Stella began to unwrap the gift. She carefully took off the large bow and placed it on the floor. She took her time with the wrapping, making sure not to tear it.
“Hurry up, will you!” Ivy yelled. She was growing even more impatient by the second.
“I’m sorry.” Stella was surprised by Ivy’s demeanor.
Stella has known Ivy to be to be spoiled by her mom, but never has Ivy ever been so rude or demanding, or even raised her voice to Stella. This was a whole different Ivy, and Stella didn’t like it. She quickly unwrapped the gift, so she could leave as soon as possible. As Stella removed the box top the sides of the box fell down, revealing her present.
“What is it?” Stella questioned.
“It’s a spinning wheel.” Ivy said matter-of-factly. “It’s an antique.”
“Wow, I’ve never owned a spinning wheel before.” Stella was trying to be polite, but she was totally confused.
Who gives a spinning wheel as a going away present? This visit has been so weird, Stella couldn’t wait to leave. She tried making her way out the door, but Ivy blocked her path.
“Why don’t you try it out?” she impatiently directed Stella back to the spinning wheel.
“I don’t know how to use this.” Stella said. She had had enough of Ivy’s rude attitude and wanted to leave, with or without that darn spinning wheel. Yet Ivy wouldn’t let her go.
“It’s easy.” Ivy responded with more aggression. “Put your hand right here.”
Ivy isn’t as strong as Stella, but that didn’t stop her from trying to push Stella towards the present. She yelled in frustration as she tried pushing Stella’s hand onto the needle of the spinning wheel.
“What are you doing?” Stella questioned as she pulled her hand back. She hurt Stella’s hand by grabbing at it so hard.
“Just put your stupid finger on the freaking needle already!” Ivy shouted.
That outburst was the last straw. Stella pushed her way past Ivy and headed towards the door, determined never to speak to any member of the Crowe family ever again. As she was reaching for the doorknob Brandon came walking into the room, blocking her path. Stella tried to talk to Brandon, but he wouldn’t look her in the eyes. Instead he sadly looked at the ground with his hands folded behind his back. Ivy grabbed Stella by the arm and was once again trying to forcefully drag Stella back to the spinning wheel.
Alarm bells were going off in Stella’s head. There was something very very wrong here. Stella tried to shake free from Ivy’s grasp, but it was no use. It didn’t matter anyway, since now Brandon also stood in her way. Stella was starting to feel like a caged animal.
“Now that you are here,” Ivy said to Brandon, “you can finally tell her the truth.”
“What are you talking about?” Stella questioned.
“Tell Stella how Mom forced you to date her.” Ivy continued speaking to Brandon, but she was looking at Stella. She was getting a twisted sort of enjoyment from seeing Stella’s confusion turn into panic. “Tell Stella how Mother told you to talk about Dad and how much you missed him. And then tell her how we faked being her friend.”
“Stop it Ivy.” Brandon pleaded, but Ivy didn’t listen.
“Tell her that you never cared about her, and that we only did all of this for the reward money.”
“What are you talking about?” Stella repeated her question.
Stella felt a knot in her stomach and tears fall down her cheeks. So, it was true that Brandon didn’t love her the way that she loved him. But why would he lie to her? And why would Ivy fake being her friend? And what reward money were they talking about?
“We know all about that curse put upon you.” as Ivy spoke an evil gleam spread across her face. She was enjoying watching Stella squirm. She wanted to savor each sinister moment. “That is why we are here. Anastasis hired us. She sent out different families to try and find you. And after you had dinner with us, we knew that you are the one we have been looking for.”
Stella’s panic turned into shock. She still had no idea what Ivy was talking about, but there was one thing that Stella knew for sure. Stella realized that she had been set up. And that her two best friends were frauds.
Stella didn’t know what to do next. She quickly tried planning an escape. How could she get away from Ivy, past Brandon, who was still blocking the bedroom door, down the stairs, past Maleficent, and then out the front door? Stella was flooded with panic. She stole another glance towards Brandon. He looked like he was sorry, but he wasn’t offering any help either.
Ivy still had Stella by the arm and was dragging her away from the door. With a burst of adrenaline Stella freed her arm from Ivy’s death grip. Stella backed away from Ivy and Brandon as she planned her next move. That was when she felt a small prick on her finger.
Stella looked at her finger as she saw a drop of blood fall to the floor. Then she looked at the needle, which also had her blood on it. Like a dummy, she had backed right into the spinning wheel, and pricked her finger. The last thing she heard was Ivy’s evil laugh. Then, everything went black.