One day strolling through the park, Ellie met a handsome young man named Mark. She batted her eyelashes at him and he bought her flowers. They fell madly in love.
"You must meet my beautiful daughters, Sophie and Emma," he said, "You will love them. They live with their mother, Dragana. She doesn’t like me very much and we don’t speak."
Poor Mark, thought Ellie. And poor children! So Ellie went to his home for dinner and met his daughters. They were beautiful and she did love them.
After a while, Mark and Ellie decided to get married. Ellie welcomed Sophie and Emma into her newlywed home with open arms. She quickly learned that they were experts getting whatever they wanted. When they didn’t want to go somewhere or do something, mysterious stomach pains or headaches appeared. Their mother would come and ‘rescue’ them from their father’s.
When their father wouldn’t do exactly what they wanted, they stopped speaking to him and refused to see him. Dragana backed them and told Mark he was alienating them by not giving them everything they wanted when they wanted it. Before he met Ellie, Mark usually gave into their demands. Sophie and Emma resented that Mark was a firmer parent after Ellie came into his life.
Ellie worried about the girls and what examples the adults in their lives were setting. She and Mark discussed it many times, what would happen when they were living with a flat mate, dating or even married with children and had to practice compromise and understanding. But when Mark tried to discipline them, the children went back to Dragana’s and refused to see him for months.
One day Sophie said, "I want to go to a ball this Saturday. I need a new dress and shoes and a bag and my hair done."
"But Sophie," Ellie said, "we bought you a new dress only last month for a ball. And a new bag, shoes, accessories and makeup."
"Well," Sophie replied, "Mummy can’t afford it. She has to pay her electricity bill and if she buys me a dress we won’t be able to eat for a month."
"I’m sorry," Mark said, "but we cannot afford another new dress for you this month. If you want to go to the ball, you will have to go in one of the dresses you already own."
Sophie stomped off in a huff and went back to her mother’s house.
“Daddy is horrible,” she told her mother. Dragana agreed.
"Your father has always been like this," she sighed. "If Daddy really cared about you, he would pay for what you want and not what he thinks you need. He wastes all his money on Ellie, money that should be yours."
Sophie retired to her room in a self righteous sulk.
Ellie and Mark discussed it over dinner. "I just can’t see how we can afford it this month. School fees are due, and they need new sports equipment and Emma has outgrown her uniform. After we have paid for those, we just don’t have enough money to buy another ball gown."
Mark responded, "I agree. It won’t do her any harm to learn about money and that she can’t have everything she wants. Sophie is just going to have to accept that she cannot go this time unless she wears a dress we already bought her."
Sophie had no intention of doing any such thing. She cried and screamed and cried some more, telling her mother how mean her father and stepmother were, frittering away their money on themselves. Her mother finally agreed to buy her a dress.
“Thanks Mummy,” Sophie whooped "you are the best!
"Well," Mummy replied, "your father is going to have to bring you home, because I won’t. But he can’t know that I have enough money to spend on you. Tell him that you are babysitting next door to the palace where the ball is being held, and ask him to collect you."
Sophie called her father and asked him to collect her at quarter past midnight. As always, her father readily agreed.
Sophie looked absolutely stunning as she went off to the ball. Everyone admired her new dress and shoes. At 10:30, the trumpets blared and the doors practically flew open. "He’s here, he’s here," spread whispers throughout the ball.
“Who’s here?" Sophie asked her friend Louise.
"James Midas, can you believe it?" Louise said in an awed voice. "He is only one of the wealthiest men in the country. His father built Midas Publishing from nothing to one of the largest publishing companies in the world. They call his father King Midas and James, Prince."
It took James a whole hour just to get past the well wishers and into the hall. I’ll never get to meet him, muttered Sophie sulkily under her breath.
Just then, the Prince looked straight at her! All sulks gone, Sophie flashed him her most appealing smile. She nearly fell over as he headed towards her. He was stopped over and over again and Sophie thought he would never arrive.
Finally, he was in front of her. "Hello, he said, I don’t believe we have met. My name is James Midas, but my friends call me Prince. Who are you?"
Sophie was so shy; she could only smile demurely at him. She could not think of a single thing to say. In desperation, she looked at the dance floor.
Prince immediately took the hint. "Shall we dance?” he asked.
"Yes please," she replied.
In the middle of the dance, she heard a loud bonging noise. "What’s that?" she asked.
“The clock, silly," Prince replied affectionately. "It’s midnight."
Oh no, Sophie thought. My father will be waiting for me next door. He was never late to collect her from her babysitting jobs. I’ve got to get out of these clothes, changed and out by the front door before he rings the bell!
Sophie couldn’t think of what to say to Prince. "I’m sorry," she said, "I have to go. My father and step mother are making me leave at 12:15. I really enjoyed dancing with you."
Sophie reached up and gave him a kiss on the cheek, hardly believing her own daring. She then pressed a card with her mobile phone number into his palm and ran off.
Sophie dashed outside and around the back of the house next door, where she changed her clothes hurriedly, throwing her ball gown into a school duffel bag. She ran around to the front just as her father was pulling up front.
Sophie slept late the following morning. Her mobile phone bill came to Mark in the mail. It was very large again. "That’s it," Mark said, “she is cut off. Every month she promises she will only use the phone to call her mother or I or for emergencies. She is not learning any respect for money."
Mark called the phone company and reduced her credit limit. "Are you aware,” the woman on the phone told him, ‘that reducing the credit limit will put her phone over the limit so she will not be able to make outgoing calls?"
"Yes," replied Mark, "please do it anyway."
Mark told Ellie, "I bought them these phones so they could call me as Dragana won’t let them call me from her house. I don’t mind paying for them to ring me or their mother, but Sophie is old enough to work now and if she wants to spend that much money each month, she can put some of her own money towards it."
Sophie, however, didn’t see it that way.
"You did what," she whined at her father as she thought to herself, what if Prince calls? He can’t leave a message if the phone is blocked. I can’t call him back.
"I’m sorry," her father replied, "but that is the way it is." Sophie went back to her mother’s without saying goodbye to Ellie or Mark.
Prince did try to call Sophie all week. Sophie, who was in class, didn’t have her phone switched on and because she had such a big phone bill that her calls were now barred, he couldn’t even leave a message.
After four days, Prince had had enough. "That’s it,” he said, “we are going to find this girl. I am going to marry her. I have her mobile phone number and we will visit every house in this town until I find the phone that rings when I call it."
So saying, he and his entourage set out in search of Sophie.
By Saturday, they had reached the street where Ellie and Mark lived. As chance would have it, Sophie and Emma were at their father’s that day. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and lunch had just finished.
“Sophie," Ellie said, "it is your turn to clean up from lunch today. Emma, you can clean up after dinner tonight."
“That is so unfair," Sophie said under her breath, stomping around the kitchen. "What am I, your servant?” she muttered.
Mark cut in with a sharp, "What did you say Sophie?"
"Nothing," Sophie replied, smiling guiltily.
Ellie started to help but Mark said, "Ellie, please sit down for 5 minutes. Sophie is capable of clearing up from lunch." So Ellie and Mark went into the lounge for a five-minute rest.
As they were sitting down, the front doorbell chimed. "I’ll get it," said Mark. Ellie went briefly into the kitchen and found Sophie sitting on the floor, playing with the dogs. "I’m done," Sophie said, oblivious to the dirty pans, table and floor.
“You’re done?” questioned Ellie.
“What,” said Sophie, “I put the dishes in the dishwasher. Why should I have to do anymore? It looks clean to me.”
As Prince walked into the kitchen, Ellie was telling Sophie, ‘The table needs to be wiped, the pans scrubbed, the dishwasher turned on and the sink cleaned.”
Sophie was turning away with a scowl blackening her face, when she saw Prince.
“It’s you” he exclaimed. Prince looked around the kitchen, which was still a mess because Sophie had not cleaned it. “Poor you,” said Prince, “having to do all the work while everyone else lazes around.”
Just to be certain he had the right person, Prince called Sophie’s mobile phone number. From within her Ripcurl bag, came the unmistakable tune of Busted ‘She Said No”. “That’s my phone!” she shrieked excitedly. Sophie and Prince hugged each other.
Over the next few years Prince and Sophie dated whenever they could. Sophie finished high school and went to University to study law. Prince had lots of things to learn about running an international business and so spent a lot of time travelling.
When Sophie turned 21, they announced their engagement.
All of society waited in excitement for Sophie and Prince’s wedding.
Except poor Ellie, who was dreading it. Dragana didn’t want Ellie to attend the wedding. If she did attend, Dragana threatened that she might not. Sophie joined in with temper tantrums, claiming that she didn’t want Ellie there. Ellie never got a thank you or a please for anything she did.
Still, Ellie knew it was all Dragana’s doing, and after all Sophie was her daughter. So what could you expect? Ellie held her head high and waited for the wedding.
Sophie was so beautiful on her wedding day. Mark’s heart nearly burst with joy as he walked his daughter down the aisle. Ellie watched from her place at the back of the church with tears of happiness for Sophie and Mark. After walking Sophie to the front of the church and placing Sophie’s hand in Prince’s, he went to the back of the church to sit with Ellie. They didn’t want to upset Dragana by sitting up front.
Prince and Sophie went on a six month honeymoon around the world. In the meantime, Emma had also grown up and was at University getting a degree in teaching. Dragana, with no children in the house, had started dating a vet she met when her cat got sick.
When Prince and Sophie returned from their honeymoon, they moved into a new house which Prince’s father had bought them as a wedding present.
Prince was very busy working with his father running the company. He had lots of things to do and many times Sophie was expected to be with him.
“But I don’t want to go out with your parent’s tonight” she complained.
"Well," Prince replied, “My Company has won a big award and my father is being honoured. I am the guest speaker. You know, it is just one of those things we have to do."
Sophie looked at him in shock. “What do you mean?” she said. “I’ve never had to do anything I don’t want to do.”
She refused to go to the dinner. Prince went on his own and the next day all the paper’s showed a picture of Prince and his parents, out without Sophie.
Mark and Ellie read the papers in shock. "Oh no," Mark said.
"You must have seen this coming," thought Ellie although she didn’t say it. She just held Mark’s hand.
Prince quickly began to realise that maybe Sophie wasn’t quite the girl he had believed.
She couldn’t understand why Prince expected her to do certain things, when she only wanted to do what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it.
She had sulks and temper tantrums when she didn’t get her own way or whenever they argued. Instead of talking to him, she would call Prince names and storm off to their room in a sulk. She then wouldn’t speak to him for days.
Prince did all the work around the house. Sophie never helped. Looking around the kitchen in dismay after dinner one night, Prince recalled a distant memory of Ellie telling Sophie off for not cleaning the kitchen properly. Sophie had told him she was treated like a servant and expected to do chores while her father and stepmother lazed around the house.
Twelve months later, Sophie and Prince separated. Dragana was so happy with her new fiancé, that she didn’t have the time or desire to pander to her daughter’s every whim. In shock, Sophie came to live with Mark and Ellie while she got her feet back on the ground.
And the wicked stepmother said to Sophie’s father, "If anyone had cared enough about Sophie when she was young to make her accountable for her actions instead of trying to be her friend, she would still be happily married to her Prince Charming instead of living here with us."