"What will I wear?" I heard it from my stepmother's office. It sounded like Stella. I quietly moved down the hall. It was rare to find one of my step sisters at the office anywhere near closing time.
"We'll go shopping," Jeremaine announced with an excited voice, "for both of you." I heard a duet of agreements and knew that both of my sisters were there. I walked into the office, my curiosity getting the best of me. Sure enough, what constituted my family was gathered in Jeremaine's office.
"Shopping?" I said. I knew it didn't mean me. I liked the tinge of guilt I could generate in them. They may be gold diggers, but they were human as well. I watched their expressions of joy dissipate as their eyes found me. Chalk another one up for Ella. It was going to be a good night. "This doesn't concern you," Jeremaine threw back. She was using my inheritance so I felt it did.
"Sounds like a party," I said with an excited grin. I looked to my sisters and they lit up, foolishly thinking I was sharing with them.
"Charity ball," Katie blurted out. It was so easy to stir her red haired covered brains. I looked back at Jeremaine who was trying to feign disinterest.
"I suppose we are making a donation," I commented. I made sure the word 'we' was emphasized. Jeremaine looked flustered. I knew instantly that this was more a society play than a business decision. She had a high opinion of herself and her two daughters.
"It is beneficial for us to contribute back to the community," she lied. She was trying to get her daughters married off to wealthy men. Maybe find another one for herself. More of my money down the drain. Anyone willing to marry those two, wouldn't be rich for long. "Everybody who's anybody will be there," Katie added.
"What's the charity?" I asked. I almost threw my dust rag at Jeremaine when she had to look it up on the invitation. Beneficial for the company my ass. "Children's hospital," she read. At least my money wasn't being thrown in a ditch. I felt a little better. I decided I would make her uncomfortable anyway.
"Where's my invitation?" I asked. It was fun watching her fumble with her mind. She was spending my money after all. She didn't see it that way, but I did.
"We need executives to represent the company," she smiled when the answer came to her, "janitorial staff would not be how we would want to represent ourselves." I smiled back and watched her lean away. She hated my smile. Nine more years.
I left them, curses dying on my lips, and returned to my cleaning. It infuriated me that they were using my company to further their gold-digging plans. I almost swore at my father for leaving me in such a predicament. I sucked it back. He was only human and had little defence against a demon like Jeremaine. Jeremaine and her daughters left shortly after. They were babbling about tomorrow's shopping. Executives my ass. I was in an especially dark mood when I sat down with Arun later that night. Even my glasses seemed to be steamed up.
"Why don't you go?' Arun asked me after I had explained my mood. "Mscheww," I sighed, "me at a formal dance. I couldn't afford to look in the front door. Jeremaine keeps the purse strings tight about my neck." Arun turned back to his terminal and began typing. He turned back around with wide eyes.
"$5,000 a plate," Arun said, "your sisters better have a good time." "$5,000?" I exclaimed. Arun nodded. "That bitch. I will be lucky if there is anything left when she's done." "Why don't you go?" he repeated.
"Where would I get $5,000?" I asked, waving at the atmosphere, "I could barely afford to get my tire fixed. Jeremaine certainly won't give it to me." Arun smiled and went back to his terminal. I moved behind him to see why he was so pleased with himself. His fingers were moving quickly as he fired off some program I had never seen.
"How many tickets do you want?" he asked. His voice was arrogant and full of pride. I saw a series of text prompts followed by commands I did not understand. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"I am in the organizers database," he said, "I can slip in a ticket for you and no one would be any wiser." He was exceptionally proud of himself.
"You hacked the system?" I asked. The thought scared me. I took a step back as if that would make it less wrong. "No one will know," Arun said, "I wrote a program that finds its way into networks." I stared at him. I thought I knew him. "I've never used it before, but it's untraceable." He chuckled to himself, "these people are good. Shark firewall, but I chewed through it in under five seconds."
"Arun!" I said, "You could end up in jail." He shook his head.
"They've never seen anything like this," He praised himself, "It travels through so many proxies it's untraceable. That's if they figure out I was in at all." "Why would you write such a thing?" I had a whole new opinion of him. It was scarier.
"I toy with all sorts of code," He explained, "Once I get my citizenship, I am going to need a resume. This will be the cornerstone. I am a master of network security. This proves it. Shark firewalls are the best in the business. The same ones the U.S military uses."
"You're risking too much, Arun," I said, "You’ll never get your citizenship if you get caught."
"I'm careful," He said, but I noticed he ended the code's execution. "Thanks, but I prefer you out of prison,” I said with a smile, happy he turned off his hacking program. He smiled back with a bit of hesitancy. I don't think he thought the whole thing through. Writing the code was as far as his mind took him. He had such a brilliant mind. I think Anita married up, not down. The rest of the evening went as the hundred before it. I learned a little more about the company while sharing a nice conversation. The ball left my thoughts and hopefully Arun's.