First Page: A Minute to Midnight
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Ella Andrews paced the small kitchen of the house that she shared with her grandmother and aunts. They were late again, which meant that the meal she made–roast turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and biscuits–would be cold by the time they showed up. This, of course, would be Ella’s fault for not anticipating the fact that they would be late. She knew the drill as it happened at least once or twice a week, and as it was Friday and it hadn’t yet happened this week, she really should have known that it would be tonight.
She went to the cupboard, taking out the aluminum foil to cover up the food, hoping she would be able to save the potatoes, which would likely be inedible if they weren’t eaten soon. Ella knew she should be more understanding as they worked hard all day, but it wasn’t as if they were staying late at the office. Oh, no–Roberta and Gertrude Andrews would never put in a minute of overtime, even if they were in the middle of a huge order. That was the sort of thing that employees were for; if one needed to stay late, it was much more satisfying to have one of the workers stay than it was to do it oneself. That was the Andrews Family Motto. Her grandmother, Agnes, had even made Ella stitch it onto a pillow, despite the fact that the font was far too tiny to be read without a magnifying glass.
Even thinking about that pillow had Ella rolling her eyes, thinking about the day that she would be able to leave this place. She doubted that this was what her father had in mind when he asked her to care for her grandmother all those years ago, but no matter what her life was like, she would do as her father wished, although each day that she stayed there she felt herself dying more and more. It had been that way almost from the beginning.
It was obvious that her father hadn’t realized just how much influence his sisters had over their mother because she wasn’t anything like Ella had imagined. For days after her father’s death, she pictured her grandmother as some kindly old woman, who liked to bake cookies and watch “her programs” like her other grandmother, but she couldn’t have been more wrong.
Agnes Andrews, Ella quickly learned, was more concerned with profit margins than with chocolate chip cookies and with finding her daughters appropriate husbands than with Erica Kane or Dorian Lord. None of that would have mattered to Ella if it appeared as if her grandmother had even the slightest interest in her, but on the very night that she arrived on the doorstep, her grandmother shoved her off on one of the neighbors while she, Bert, and Gert attended a society function.
Sitting down on her favorite chair, she tried to shake of thoughts of her past and dreamt of what the future would bring. If there was one thing Ella was good at, it was dreaming. This time, she dreamt that she was a spy, skulking from country to country, attempting to stop a plot to assassinate the president. That brought a smile to her lips. Her, Ella Andrews–Spy Extraordinaire. She couldn’t help rolling her eyes. There was no way she would make a good spy. For one thing, she couldn’t skulk. She could barely walk normally without bumping into things, and she imagined that being stealthy was probably a requirement to join up with the CIA or the FBI.