An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(2)

By: Krista Lakes

I took a step back. Being a senator's aide was my dream job and I was really good at it.

“There's no way that's what happened,” I informed the guard. “If you can contact Senator Glenn's office, they'll tell you I'm supposed to be here.”

The guard didn't return my badge and he didn't move to call anyone. He just motioned me out of line, my badge still in his hands. This was going to be a long day.

“Aria? What are you doing here?” A familiar voice called out. I sighed with relief.

“That's Thomas, he's my boss,” I told the security guard, pointing across the check-in area to a man walking across the lobby. “He'll vouch for me.”

I watched as Thomas hurried over to the security check point, a frown on his face deepening the closer he got. He was in his forties and thin with messy brown hair that always seemed to need a trim.

“What are you doing here, Aria? You aren't supposed to be here.”

I quickly did a mental calendar check. Today was a Tuesday, it wasn't a national holiday, I hadn't requested any vacation time, and I was sure I was supposed to be in the office researching a tax proposal for Senator Glenn today.

“What do you mean?” I asked when I couldn't come up with a good reason for not being at work.

Thomas sighed and his shoulders fell. “She didn't tell you, did she?”

“Who? Tell me what?” I tried to smile and keep the mood light, but my heart was already sinking. Nothing good ever came from a sentence like that.

“Come with me. I'll explain in my office,” Thomas said. He waved to the guard and I was allowed to pass. The guard didn't give me back my ID badge, though.

I followed Thomas up to his small office. He had pictures of his wife and kids on his desk. The calendar hanging on the wall said April, even though we were already in the first week of May. I wondered if he'd remember to change it in time for June, or if he just liked the picture for April better.

“Have a seat,” Thomas said, motioning to a small folding chair to the side of the room. He sat on the front of his desk and crossed his arms. I sat down, carefully keeping my messenger bag on my lap like a shield against bad news.

“What's going on?” I asked. I hoped this was just some sort of misunderstanding. I hoped that I'd simply forgotten that I'd asked for a day to go to the dentist. Or that it was actually a federal holiday and I'd just missed it.

The sick twisting feeling deep in my stomach told me it was none of those things. Something bad was about to happen.

“Your mother was supposed to explain all of this to you,” Thomas said. He sighed and looked like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world rather than here, telling me this.

“My mother is dead,” I corrected him, feeling the small surge of irritation that always followed my stepmother's interference. “You must mean my stepmother. And no, she didn't tell me anything. She never does.”

“She was supposed to.” Thomas sighed and looked apologetic.

“And what exactly was Audrey supposed to tell me?” I asked him, trying to keep my voice calm. Maybe it wasn't that bad. Maybe she'd asked to give me the day off for a chance at some mother-daughter bonding.

Yeah, right.

“Your sister will be taking over your position as an aide to Senator Glenn,” Thomas stated. He shrugged and held up his hands to show he had no power in the decision. “You've been replaced.”

For a moment, I thought this had to be a bad joke. This couldn't be happening.

“Replaced?” I asked, repeating, but not really understanding. “But this is my job. I've worked so hard to get here. I'm good at this.”

“You are good at this.” Thomas sounded like he meant it. “You've been the best we've had in years, and I don't want you to go. But it wasn't my decision. I'm sorry.”

I swallowed back tears. “Where am I going to go?” I asked. “I don't have another job lined up.”

Not to mention that no one wanted to hire me because of my family ties. Yet another reason I had to thank my stepmother.

“You have a job,” Thomas assured me. “She was supposed to tell you that too.”

I looked at him, hoping for the best.

“The USTR,” Thomas explained. “When Deputy Director Wilson heard you were available, he hired you on the spot. You're a records transcriptionist now.”