Status: I will be posting a new story soon, so this one might be delayed a bit.

Rarae Aves

A Stepdaughter's Work is Never Done

A dreaded case of the afternoon lazies was taking over Amber as she entered the grocery store. She yawned, wishing she could go home and take a nap. She walked down the dairy aisle, towards the bathroom located at the back of the store. She went in and entered one of the stalls. “God, I’m so tired,” she exhaled heavily as she opened her backpack. In there, along with her school things, were some folded up clothes. She pulled them out, a pair of khaki pants and a navy polo-style shirt, and began to change. Once she finished, she exited the stall and went to wash her hands.

“Okay, let’s do this,” she told her reflection in the bathroom mirror, trying to prep herself for the hours of work ahead of her. She was about to walk out, but then stopped, and returned. “Almost forgot,” she uttered. She took off her backpack and started digging around, searching for something. “It’s in here somewhere…a-ha, there.” She pulled out a little bobby pin, rolling her eyes. The other day, her boss told her that she needed to figure a way to pull her bangs back. He had mentioned something about having her hair in her face making her appear unapproachable to customers. As she held her fringe to the side with one hand and opened the bobby pin with the other (with a little assistance from her mouth), she thought about how dumb her boss was. He was always saying weird things like that. “Man, it looks so weird,” she decided once she got a glance of the pin in her hair, “And, I forgot my name tag.” She got it out of her bag and clipped it onto her shirt. She left the bathroom and went to the front by the customer service desk to punch in.

“Hey, Amber,” James, one of her co-workers, greeted her.

“Hi,” she smiled at him.

“You look different,” he brought up, “You did something different.”

“I look the same as I always do, James,” she responded, inserting her punch card.

“No…you changed something.”

“I’ve looked like this every day that you’ve ever seen me.”

“What’d you do, get new makeup?” he inquired, not listening to what she had to say.

“I’m not wearing any. I never do.” It was true. Even though she wasn’t big on makeup and stuff, it wasn’t the reason she always went bare-faced. Delia wouldn’t let her have makeup, even if she had wanted it. Why buy someone else cosmetics, when she could buy even more for herself? The interesting thing was, Delia often criticized Amber and accused her of not caring for her appearance, as if it was her fault she never wore makeup.

“New clothes?” James tried.

“I’m wearing my uniform, smart one.”

“Oh wait, I know what it is,” he concluded, “You have that thing.” He pointed to his own hair, suggesting he was talking about the hair pin.

“Yeah, boss made me wear it. Said I should get my hair out of my face,” she explained.

“I think you look better with the thingy,” James gave his opinion, “Makes you look more...well, don’t take this the wrong way, but…more like a girl.”

“Oh, yeah, how could I possibly take that the wrong way,” she grumbled.

“Maybe you can even get one of those ones that look like flowers like my girlfriend always wears. I think it’d look nice.”

“I don’t need a flower to make this-” she pointed at her face “- bunch of sexiness look nice.” And with that, she walked off to take her place at the register.


“Only one hour to go,” Amber thought to herself as she checked the clock on the store wall, “Then I get to go home…and work some more. Crap.” Things were getting really slow and boring in the supermarket. No customers were really there, and there was nothing to do. Nothing…

“Hey, Amber, wake up!” a voice called.

“Huh, what?” she awoke with a start. She had been resting her chin in her hand with her elbow propped up on the counter, and her eyes had been closed. She didn’t even remember falling asleep. “I’m awake. I’m sorry.”

“You’re lucky it was just me who caught you and not anyone else,” James laughed, mop in hand.

“No one is here and I’m tired,” she groaned.

“Well, you’d best start kicking it into gear,” he suggested, beginning to mop up a mess on the floor, “because, here comes a customer your way.”

Amber suddenly stood up straight, the sleepy expression on her face becoming an alert and friendly one. The customer, an elderly man whom seemed to have a bad back by the way he was hunched over, took a while to make it up to the register. He could barely push the buggy. It was full to the brim with groceries. He seemed to be weak ad in a bit of pain from his back. It looked kind of pitiful. “Hi,” she greeted him when he got up there and started putting things on the conveyer belt, “How are you today?”

“I’m okay,” he responded, “Been better, though.” His voice was so quiet, like he was too exhausted to speak. He was all by himself, too, which is what made it sad. He had to go to the store in such bad shape because he probably didn’t have anyone who could go and do the shopping for him, or at least go with him and push the cart.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It comes with old age, I guess,” he sighed. She began ringing up the items and placing them in bags as the man put more things on the belt. Eventually, he got to the last item: a gallon jug of water that was sitting on the platform at the bottom of the cart. Just as the old man began to bend down for it, hands placed on his lower back, Amber stopped him.

“No, no, don’t,” she told him, “It’s okay. Let me.” With that, she made her way around over to him and bent down for the water jug. “Got it,” she announced as she lifted it onto the counter.

“Oh, thank you,” he spoke with gratitude, “I had trouble bending down to put it there in the first place. I wasn’t sure if I could bend that low again.”

“Sure thing,” she grinned, “It’s no trouble at all.”

“Thanks again,” he said once he paid and everything was back in the buggy.

“Yeah, my pleasure. You have a nice day, okay?”

“You too…Am-” he paused, reading her nametag, “Oh, your name is Amber.”

She laughed at his reaction, thinking that he was just shocked when he discovered that she had a girl’s name and was indeed, a girl. However, that wasn’t why he reacted the way he did; he knew she was a girl when he first saw her.

“That was my sister’s name,” he sighed sadly. The sound of his voice and the look in his eyes just told her that something terrible must’ve happened to his sister. That was his sister’s name.

“Oh, I’m, uh so sor-” she began to apologize, despite not having a real reason to. It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

“Can you do me a favor, dear?” he asked, cutting her off.


“I’m hurting really bad right now, and I don’t think I can push all of this-” he motioned to the cart “-to my car. I know, years ago, when I worked here when I was a kid, they used to help elderly people take their stuff to their car. They don’t do it anymore, but do you think you could, maybe…”

“Help you? Yeah, I’ll do it.”

“Oh, that means so much to me, dear.”

“Yeah, I’m glad to help.” She made her way over there and began pushing the cart. He followed her out of the store as best he could. She stopped once she got outside to wait for him. “Sorry,” she apologized when he caught up, “I’ll go slower.”

“You young people are so fast,” he joked, “It’s this way.” He led her to his car, and she put all the stuff in the trunk for him when he unlocked it.

“Okay, that’s it,” she announced once the last bag was in the trunk, “You need anything else?”

“No, it’s fine, thank you.”

“Uh…are you going to be okay driving home?” she questioned, noticing how he was still hunched over. Would he even be able to drive with his back like that?

“Yes, yes dear. I’ll be fine. Thank you,” he assured her, “You have a good day, sweetie.”

“Same to you. Goodbye.” Amber went to go put the cart up as the man got in his vehicle. As he backed out of his spot, he waved to her as he drove by. She returned the wave. Once he began driving off, she headed on back inside.

As soon as she set foot on the tiled floor, she was greeted with a, “Amber, get over here right now!” The manager was over by the customer service desk, face red as a beat and tapping his foot rapidly. He was in a bad mood about something or another, which was extremely common for him.

“Oh great, what does he want?”

“Sir?” she gulped when she got over to him.

“Come with me,” he grumpily commanded her as he spun around and walked towards his office behind the desk. She followed, an uncomfortable feeling swirling around in her gut. She was going to get fussed at…yet again.

“Sit down,” he grunted once he closed the door, “Or don’t…whatever, I actually don’t care.”

“Y-yes sir,” she rejoined, deciding to take a seat like he first told her to do.

“Why in the hell did you leave your post?” he hissed at her through clenched teeth.

“I was helping-”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses!”

“But, you just asked me why I-”

“Shut up. I’m the boss; I’ll be the one saying all the ‘buts’ around here.”

“Sir, I’m just trying to tell you that I was helping a customer,” she tried to explain.

“Helping? That’s what you call helping?” he growled at Amber, causing her to shrink down in her seat a little. It was a common occurrence, him yelling at her. All of the employees were victims of his wrath; it was just how things were. He snapped at them and jumped down their throats over this littlest of things. No one dared try to stand up to him, though, for fear of being fired.

The last thing Amber wanted was to end up being fired from either of her jobs. Delia had been the one that made her apply at the grocery store, as well as her other job. Delia had told her to get off her ass and start contributing to the household. Contribute to the household? Amber already cooked all of the meals, did all the laundry, and took care of Delia’s pets. Scrubbing the toilets, washing Delia’s car, and taking out the trash every single time…did none of that count for anything? All of that mopping and sweeping, dusting and organizing, and all of the other things she’d done around the house every day over the years…how could none of it count as contributing to the household? Delia didn’t have to lift a finger around there at all. Whenever she instructed her stepdaughter to do something, the task got done every time. Delia didn’t cook or clean. All she did was go to work at that stupid boutique and write out the bills. Amber went to school and worked till all the tasks blurred into one from the second she got home until Delia allowed her to go to bed. That’s right, when Delia allowed her to go to bed. Amber tried her best to turn in at around nine o clock at night, but every now and again, Delia would come up with something else she need to do at the last minute and delay her bedtime. But, that just wasn’t good enough. Delia still thought Amber was a lazy waste of space that needed to do more work, so she could relax and do less. It wasn’t fair.

Fair, or not, Amber knew that if she lost her job, Delia would be extremely upset. She’d say it was all Amber’s fault and that she did something foolish to get herself fired. Then, she’d probably accuse her of getting fired on purpose because she was indolent and wanted to slack and stick all the responsibility on her stepmother. Not to mention, Delia wouldn’t react well to the idea of not having one of Amber’s paychecks to spend. So, like the other employees, Amber just took all of the yelling and insults and tried not to cause trouble.

“Tell me, how in the hell you are helping customers if you’re not even at your post,” he barked at her.

“I was taking groceries to a customer’s car for him,” she expounded.

“He can do that himself. I don’t pay you to take strolls outside and socialize.”

“His back was hurting. He could barely push the cart. He asked me to help,” Amber whined, trembling slightly. Her voice was quick and shaky. She did nothing wrong. She helped a customer. Not only that, but said customer appreciated it. He’d probably keep shopping there because of what she did. Wasn’t that good for the business? Wasn’t the customer always right? It’s not like she was slacking off; she was working. She could feel her heart racing, and her blood pressure was elevating. The whole situation was distressing. Not only was she starting to get angry for being accused of doing something bad, she was also scared. She was scared of being fired, scared of what else her boss had to say to her, scared of his voice getting any louder.

“You are never to leave your post without turning the light above your register off and putting a sign up, you hear? A customer went up in your line and waited for you, and then they got impatient and came over to get mouthy with me about it. I shouldn’t have to take the heat for your screw-ups.”

“Okay, I should’ve done that, but I wasn’t just goofing off. I was helping a cust-”

“You know,” he interrupted, “This is the fifth time you screwed up this month. As a part-time employee, you’re very easy to replace. I suggest, Liu, that you get your shit together and start taking this job seriously. Unless…you just want to get fired.”

“N-no sir,” she stuttered, “I-I d-don’t want that.”

“Well then, why don’t you stop being so damn brainless and get the hell out of my office and back to your post?”

“Y-yes, sir.”

“GO!” he roared, pointing towards the door. He didn’t have to tell her twice; she quickly booked it out of there and dashed towards the register. She was just glad that her shift was almost over.


“Geeze, what is with everyone today?” Amber muttered as she was walking along the sidewalk, “I get fussed out at work, Mason was a total jerk today, and Mr. Smith and Mrs. DeLainey gave me a bunch of mouth. Not to mention Farquar and Mr. Jones being buttholes as usual. And, now I get to go home and deal with Delia’s crap if she’s home. Pfft, people need to chill out.” She kicked a bent and dented soda can that she came across that was discarded along the pavement. While it was true that she had seen days far much worse, she had also seen better days, too. All of the drama could be so damn draining at times.

She stuffed her hands into the pockets of her khaki work pants and quickened her pace slightly. She just wanted to hurry up and get to the bus stop, hoping that maybe there’d be a spot on the bench for her to sit this time. Her feet ached; they usually did. It made sense though, considering how much she was always on her feet doing something or another. Of course, she was also feeling weary, but that was an automatic given. When was she ever not feeling that way?

Soon, the sound of a car radio being played way too loudly with the bass amplified to a heart-quaking level could be heard approaching. Some jerk was speeding down the street in some soaped up hot rod automobile. Not looking (or not caring, for that matter), he lowered his passenger side window to toss out some litter. Said litter was a take-out box from some local chicken restaurant, and it was sent flying right into Amber’s path, barely missing her as she jumped back in surprise. The car’s tires squealed as he sped off from the scene. The fifteen year old grumbled some swear words under her breath as she grabbed the box and angrily threw it down in an adjacent alleyway. “Jerk could’ve at least looked where he was throwing the damn thing,” she complained aloud, “What is this, National Jerk Day, or something?” She approached the bus stop. “Well, at least there’s an empty spot on the bench today.”


It was already dark outside when the city bus arrived at the bus stop in Amber’s neighborhood. She pulled on her hoodie that she had been keeping in her back pack along with her school clothes, as well as a black beanie that was tucked away in the hoodie’s pocket. She got up and filed out of the bus along with a few other passengers, the nippy fall air causing her to shiver as soon as her feet hit the sidewalk. Grabbing onto the shoulder straps of her bag, she headed towards home, glad that the bus ride was over.

She hated having to ride the city bus home from work; it was always smelly and she was almost always the youngest person riding. The city bus was notorious for being the transportation device for some…let’s just say, sketchy characters. There had been times in the past when people had tried to start trouble on the bus, sometimes with her, sometimes with others; it wasn’t exactly a safe place for a fifteen year old girl to be by herself. Every time she boarded, she would put on a brave face, but secretly, her insides would tremble fearfully.

She could see that Delia’s sports car was parked in the driveway, beside the house. Amber groaned as she walked up to the porch; she was hoping that Delia would still be gone. “Great, she’s back,” Amber mumbled sarcastically. She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to mentally prime herself for what would be ahead as soon as she entered that door. She unlocked the door with her key and walked in the house. “Delia, I’m home,” she called as she closed and locked the door behind her. There was no response, but the sounds of some car insurance commercial playing on television could be heard. “She must be in the living room,” Amber concluded. She walked over and peered in the archway to find her stepmother sitting in the dark, the television bathing the room in a bluish glow. There was a second bluish glow, that one coming from the screen of the laptop she was typing away on, that was illuminating Delia’s face. The 29 year old woman was completely absorbed with whatever was on the computer; the TV set was nothing but mere background noise.

“Delia,” Amber voiced, trying to get her stepmother’s attention, “I’m home.” She entered the room, and turned on one of the lamps.

“So you are,” affirmed Delia dryly, wrapped up in an online chat room. She was having a one on one chat with someone, that someone being a guy.

“What are you looking at?” Amber queried, curious. Delia had been on the computer a lot over the past few weeks, way more than she usually had been. If Delia kept it up, soon she’d end up being just like Mason with that thing.

Delia brought the laptop’s screen towards her, making it so the laptop was closed halfway. She arched her eyebrows at her stepdaughter. How dare she ask such questions? She had no reason to know what she was doing. It was Delia’s computer, after all; she could do whatever she wanted to on it. “I don’t believe that is any of your damn business,” retorted Delia roughly, “You don’t pay the internet bill around here, do you?”

“Well, considering that you use my paychecks to pay bills around here, there actually is a chance that I’m the one paying for it,” Amber figured. She didn’t dare voice it aloud, though. The only sound that came from her throat was, “Um…”

“Quit acting like a damn fool and go make dinner,” ordered Delia, beginning to play with her dyed red hair, “Some of us need to eat after a hard day’s work, you know.” For a split second, Amber clenched her teeth. It always shook her up in the inside whenever her 29 year old step mother acted like Amber didn’t know the meaning of hard work. If anyone in that household knew the definition, it would be Amber. Every time Delia would act like she was the one that labored the most around there, Amber would have to fight the urge to scream to the top of her lungs. It was an exercise in control that was becoming more and more difficult each time.

“I work, too,” a small voice squeaked. At first, Amber didn’t realize she had been the one that stated it, so it even caught her by surprise. She shouldn’t have let that slip. Those three words didn’t really mean much, but they were the beginning to what she was contemplating deep within her mind. If she didn’t watch herself, she might end up accidentally blurting out everything one day and get herself into a terrible dilemma.

“Part-time jobs don’t count,” sneered Delia, “You’re a child. You have it easy. You don’t know what it’s like for us adults.”

“Don’t say anything, don’t say anything,” Amber instructed herself, glad that Delia didn’t get furious about her statement.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Delia blurted, catching Amber off guard, “I thought I told you to go make dinner. I’m getting hungry.” Amber just nodded, and turned to leave. When she arrived to the archway, she could hear her stepmother utter, “Good-for-nothing.”


“You put too much garlic salt on the bread,” Delia articulated randomly in the middle of dinner. She didn’t express it in a cruel manner or anything, but it was still irritating that she felt the need to gripe about the meal, considering the fact that she never bothered to cook anything.

“Okay,” Amber mumbled before taking a sip from her glass of water.

“And the noodles are still a bit too hard.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Sorry.”

It was silent for a while. Dinner at their house was always like that. They both would sit across from each other at the table and eat whatever Amber had made. Delia usually never cared what they had for dinner; as long as it was good tasting for the most part, she wouldn’t be mad. They wouldn’t converse much. Delia had told years ago to be quiet whenever they had dinner unless Delia spoke to her first. It was rare that Delia did speak to her, though. Whenever Delia talked at dinner, it was usually about the food.

In all honesty, dinner time was known to be the most peaceful time in their household. They never argued then, just ate. It was actually strange. Sometimes, Amber would realize how calm things were at the table and would catch herself wondering what things would be like if it was always like that. Maybe, just maybe if the two of them had more relaxed moments throughout the day, if they acted more like they did at dinner, maybe things wouldn’t be so terrible.

Maybe, if it were like that, the two of them could actually…as odd as it sounds…get along. It was something that often swam through her mind; she mused about what her life would have been like if Delia didn’t hate her. What would it be like if they loved each other like stepmother and stepdaughter should? Little did Amber know, once in a blue moon, Delia would contemplate the exact same thing. Nevertheless, Delia would still treat her stepdaughter like crap; it’s what the little brat deserved after all for ruining her life. Besides, what had been done couldn’t been undone. They had hated each other for a little over eight years. Why change anything? Amber was just a nuisance. An annoying, whiny, and spineless nuisance.

After dinner, Delia returned to chatting with her male friend on the computer. Amber cleaned up and did the dishes. After that, she had to, like always, make Delia’s lunch for the next day to take to work. “Delia,” Amber called her name as she entered the living room, “I forgot, did you say that you liked that new chicken salad or not?”

“Why? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“I’m making you sandwiches for tomorrow, and I forgot if you liked the new brand of chicken salad, or…”

“I told you to eat that crap. It’s disgusting. Why do you ask such stupid questions? Don’t you listen?”

“Well, I remember you said you didn’t like something, but I forgot if it was the chicken salad or the pimento cheese, so…”

“Well, I hate the chicken salad. It’s full of gristles. Besides I don’t want sandwiches tomorrow. We’re having a party during lunch break tomorrow, so I’ll just be eating there,” Delia verbalized in a huffy tone of voice.

“Well, okay, I won’t make you anything,” returned Amber, feeling glad that now she had one less thing to do.

“Uh-uh, stop,” Delia directed just as Amber was just about to go into the next room.


“We all have to bring a dish to the party,” Delia informed her.

“And…” riposted Amber, not liking the direction things were starting to take.

“And…I told the girls I’d bring goulash. So, make yourself scarce and go make some.”

“Are you serious?” snorted the fifteen year old, “That’s an hour and a half of more cooking.”


“Delia,” she respired, “It’s getting late, and I still have the rest of my evening chores to do, and I still have homework…”

“Really? You’re going to use the homework excuse again?” she huffed, “Honestly, Amber, do you think you can fool me with that? I know that you don’t give a damn about homework; you never do it. We both know you’re doing pitifully in school. Obviously, you don’t care about such things. Besides, soon homework won’t even matter; you’re dropping out, anyway.”

“Why do you keep suggesting that?” Amber whined, “I’m not going to drop out.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure you won’t, and dolphins will learn how to tap dance. Just do what you’re told and quit being a bothersome twit.”


“Amber,” Delia voiced sternly, “You’re being difficult. You remember what I made you do the last time you were difficult.

Amber gulped. Indeed, she did remember what Delia made her do for “being difficult.” She made her go under the house and lay out mothballs. Ugh, it was so nasty and damp underneath the house. She had to crawl on her stomach and get all dirty, and there were a load of bugs and dead rodents under there. She shivered, recalling how dark and creepy it was. “Y-yes, ma’am,” she stuttered before returning to the kitchen.


It was 11:00 PM, two hours past the time Amber usually liked to go to bed. Her eyelids were drooping and she was yawning. “Tell me, what all have you done?” Delia asked.

“I,” Amber paused to yawn, “I cleaned up all the dishes, I made the goulash and put in the fridge once it cooled, I cleaned up your vanity, and both the bathrooms, and I-”

“-Did you clean the commodes?” interrupted her stepmother.

“Yes, both of them. I made sure the kitchen was tidy, I dusted your knick-knacks, and I fed Princess and Jack-Jack. I also took them out for a walk and cleaned their area up, too. I also mopped the hallway.”

“Okay, that’s fine.”

“Anything else?”

“No, not tonight,” answered Delia, “I’m going to bed soon, anyway.”

“Okay.” That was all that Amber said before leaving to go to her bedroom. Her shoulders, feet, and back ached and throbbed from all of the cleaning. Something always hurt on her body every day. Once one body part started to feel slightly better, something else would start to give her problems. It was exhausting. She changed into her pajamas-a loose black tee shirt and a pair of baggy navy plaid drawstring sleep pants-once she got in her room. “Stupid pin,” she uttered as she took out the bobby pin from her hair. She got her backpack and pulled out her math book; time to try to get some homework done. She turned to the page they were assigned and, after glancing at the first problem, gave up and shut the book closed. “It’s too late for this crap,” she decided, “Forget this.”

She really wanted to actually get something accomplished, but it was no use; she was much too sleepy and her mind was fuzzy. She just needed to surrender herself and fall deep into dream land, and just hope like hell that the dreams would be pleasant that night. Amber loved it when she had nice dreams because when she did, that world that she created was so much better than the real one. That was when she was the happiest in her life: whenever she dreamt happy thoughts. Not caring, she just shoved everything off of her bed, turned off the light, and got under the covers. She didn’t even bother washing her face, brushing her teeth, or anything that night. She was just too fatigued to deal with it. She needed all the rest she could get, after all, tomorrow was going to be just as stressful and demanding. It almost seemed that she blacked out the second her head hit the pillow.
♠ ♠ ♠
Comment please.