My step-cousin Cindy and I never were the best of friends. Sure, we got along from time to time. We co-existed. But there was always something about her that bothered me. It was this sense of entitlement, this attitude that the whole world owed her something.
Let me give you some backstory. Cindy was adopted. Her biological parents abandoned her, and she was raised from an early age by my aunt and uncle, who already had two children of their own, although both of them were moved out by the time Cindy was ten.
My family is Asian. Cindy's white. Because of that, Cindy must have felt a natural disconnect from the rest of us. It wasn't exactly a cultural disconnect, but the kind that nobody wanted to talk about. The elephant in the room. That kind of superficial, but all too powerful disconnect that could only be attributed to a difference in skin tone.
I suspect it was this disconnect we have to blame for Cindy's sense of entitlement. She was always the baby. The outsider. The other. Thus, she became the recipient of much sympathy from our family. Everyone bended over backwards for her, especially my aunt and uncle. They spoiled her rotten. They let her get away with everything. They let her talk back to them in ways that would have not been tolerated by one of their two biological kids. Period.
But I always sort of understood that. I mean, I couldn't exactly blame her for the situation. She had demons, a lot of psychological scarring stemming from her abandonment. Still, I didn't like it, and there was always this subtle tension between us at family gatherings.
Cindy moved in with us recently (that is, my parents and I) because we happen to live closer to her home-school tutor, who also moved recently and would not have been able to continue teaching Cindy at her previous location. My parents weren't happy with the idea, but we had a spare room and a big house, so we didn't exactly have a good excuse to reject her. My aunt and uncle would be paying all of her expenses, so cost wasn't the issue. Still, an extra child was a lot to deal with, and Cindy was always a handful.
For the first month or two, though, she was actually pleasant to have around. She made sure to be on her best behavior, didn't cause anyone too much trouble, and contributed a lot in the way of household chores. As uncanny as it was, we actually started to develop a relationship, almost like sisters. I've never had a sibling, so it was nice.
Unfortunately, like all sibling relationships, it didn't stay that way. Especially with Cindy. By two months, she'd developed enough rapport to begin pushing the limits of what she could get away with, much in the same way she would take advantage of her foster parents. It wasn't malicious, it just came naturally to her. It was the lifestyle she was used to.
It was hard to notice at first. Despite her poor grades, Cindy is actually fairly intelligent. She knows how to play up her strong points to meet her own ends, at the same time picking up on the weaknesses of others, making her a truly potent manipulator. So when Cindy started to take advantage of my parents, it went right over their heads. They were falling into the same trap my aunt and uncle had fallen into, and despite their criticisms of the way they raised Cindy, they still couldn't see it happening to themselves.
It started with small things, like catering to her preferences over ours. My mom would begin to cook meals that only Cindy favored, and my dad would let it slide whenever Cindy came home late or made a mess in the house. Meanwhile, I was still being yelled at for those kinds of things, and I didn't necessarily like the same kinds of food she did.
But things escalated quickly. Before I knew it, my dad was driving Cindy around everywhere, spending an absurd amount of money on superficial things: stuff like clothes, makeup, nail polish... the kind of girly stuff I never got into.
Cindy complained that her room was too small, so my parents actually switched bedrooms with her, under the rationale that neither of them needed all that space, despite the fact that they clearly did, while Cindy clearly didn't. Not even my room was that big, and I've needed more space for bookshelves since I started going to college.
I would like to say that I was able to resist giving in to Cindy's whims, but I can't. I've actually found myself responsible for keeping her new room tidy, as she's terrible at cleaning, and somehow just helping her gradually turned into me doing all the work while Cindy sits there on her queen-sized bed, glued to her phone. I felt like a maid.
While my parents and I have always ate dinner together at the table, Cindy wasn't used to that, and gradually began to excuse herself to eat in her room. That was almost understandable, until it got to the point where she wouldn't even come down to get the food herself or thank my mother or I for cooking. She would text me to bring it up to her, and while I initially resisted, it was more effort to argue with her than to carry the food upstairs, so I just saved myself the trouble.
All in all, having Cindy around eventually became the burden that everyone expected it to be. But much to my... frustration, it wasn't all bad. Let me explain.
We're all in the closet about something. I just happened to be in there for the most typical thing. My parents are pretty traditional, and more than just slightly homophobic. Coming out to them would be a nightmare, so I've been careful to guard my secret as well as possible. But Cindy made that more difficult than ever.
I shouldn't have been attracted to her. We were practically related, and she was only eighteen; two years my junior. On top of that, she was honestly the type of girl I've always been repulsed by. The girly-girl type, the diva, the borderline skank. I've always been the nerdy, boyish type, but something about Cindy drove me crazy. Maybe it was the taboo that excited me, I still don't know. All I knew is that living with Cindy had its benefits.
As I've been telling you, Cindy is absolutely lazy. Despite her good looks, she has no boyfriend, almost no social life, and is extremely sheltered. Because of that, Cindy rarely gets changed. She spends a lot of time in her underwear or her pajamas. At first this wasn't the case, but eventually she became comfortable enough to roam the house that way, and nobody really protested because they didn't want to make her uncomfortable.
I didn't protest for a different reason, of course. If I haven't given you a description already, Cindy has long, brown hair, although she tends to dye it blonde. She's short, but not that short. She's not skinny, but she's not fat either. She does have some meat on her bones, mostly thanks to her eating habits, which are for the most part unrestrained, as she doesn't feel like she has anyone to impress. Despite all of this, Cindy is quite attractive. She's not a ten, but she's definitely at least a seven, and she's not even my type.
This is all extremely relevant, as it would become an Achilles' heel that Cindy could exploit.
You see, I would take a lot of pictures of Cindy covertly. The way modern cell phones are set up, it's no problem. I would take plenty of them while Cindy was lounging about in something revealing and use them to masturbate later. I got a rush out of it.
I got away with this for months, so I started to get confident and decided to push my limits one night. When everyone was fast asleep and I had finally finished studying, I wanted to relieve myself. Cindy had been walking around in her underwear earlier as usual, so I had that image fresh on my mind. I had a lot of pictures like that at my disposal, but I'd been desensitized to them, and got it in my head to get a little something more.
Cindy is an extremely heavy sleeper. It's almost impossible to wake her up, which is one of the reasons why she needed to be home-schooled. She also sleeps naked, so this seemed like a huge opportunity to my perverted mind.
It would be no issue, I thought. I would go in, turn on the light, snap a quick photo and be out of there. Cindy wouldn't notice. I've made more of a fuss in there trying to get her up in the afternoon and even that proved to be futile, so I had almost no hesitations.
When I went in there, I switched the light on and saw her fast asleep in her birthday suit. The problem was, she was covered by a blanket. But as I've said, Cindy doesn't sleep, she hibernates, so this was hardly an obstacle. Without thinking, I went to move it, and it still didn't faze her. So I took out my cell phone, positioned my camera, and...
...I had forgotten to turn the flash off.
I felt a pit in my stomach as Cindy's eyelids twitched open and she saw me there, hovering over her with a phone in my hands, the bedroom light on, and her blanket completely set aside.
"What are you doing??" she said, completely fatigued.
"I'm sorry Cindy, go back to sleep," I said in a panic. "I-I heard you talking in your sleep and my phone went off, I wanted to see if you were okay, I'm sorry to wake you!"
"I'm trying to sleep!" she whined, completely ignoring my phony explanation. I might have been off the hook. She was probably too tired for it to occur to her.
"I'm sorry," I exclaimed again, grabbing her blanket to cover her. She tugged it from me and aggressively pulled it over her head, burrowing her face in a pillow.
"Turn off the light!!" she groaned.
I didn't say anything else. I bolted out of there, flipping the switch on my way out. I spent the rest of the night in complete anxiety, praying that Cindy was too groggy to reflect on the perverse nature of the scene she had awoken to. I had about a seventy-five percent chance, knowing Cindy, but those odds weren't safe enough. If Cindy realized what I was up to, my life would be over. And the worst part was, I didn't even catch a decent picture.
The next day, I was terrified to show my face around Cindy out of fear that she would have put two and two together. I was almost too afraid to leave my room, but I had class at twelve thirty and a bus to catch. Still, I didn't go down for breakfast. I tried to quietly excuse myself from the house, but it just wasn't my day.
"Morning," I heard Cindy say from behind me as I went to open the side door in the kitchen. My heart started to race.
"Hey Cindy," I said, turning nervously to face her. "You're up early."
"I couldn't sleep last night," she said, rubbing her eye. "And I have a huge migraine."
"Oh, uh... sorry to hear that. You should take something for it."
"You know I can't swallow pills," she said, sounding almost annoyed as she opened the refrigerator. "And we still don't have any liquid Tylenol. I thought I told you to get some from the drug store."
"Shit, you did... I guess I forgot. Sorry."
Cindy rolled her eyes and left the kitchen. I could tell she was in a bad mood, but I didn't know if it was because I disrupted her sleep or because she knew what I was doing in there in the first place. Still, I didn't dare ask. If she didn't bring it up, I sure as hell wasn't about to. But I had no time to think about it, as I was running late.
When I got home from class, those anxious feelings returned as I entered the house. Mom and dad were at work, so Cindy was the only one home. I caught her laying on the couch watching something on TV. She had a bag of potato chips in her arm.
Strangely, though, she wasn't in her underwear. Considering nobody was home, this was highly unusual for Cindy. It instantly made me fear that she knew that I've had my eyes on her and felt too uncomfortable to walk around like that anymore. But I didn't question it. I didn't say a word to Cindy as I simply walked past her and headed upstairs to my room.
When I reached around for the key to my room, I found the door already unlocked. I felt another pit in my stomach as paranoid thoughts flooded my head instantly. I always lock my door. Had I forgotten this time? I prayed that nobody had gone inside.
But wouldn't you know it, right as I stepped inside, it became obvious to me that someone had. My laptop was open and running. I scrambled to my desk to take a look at it, and I immediately noticed that it was opened to the folder where I had kept Cindy's photos. Except the folder was empty. I felt like throwing up.
"Looking for these?"
My hair stood up as I quickly jumped to see Cindy smirking behind me. She held a USB stick in her hand as she leaned against the doorway.
"Were you in my room?" I reactively spat out, closing my laptop.
"Now we're even," she responded. "You know, I don't remember consenting to a photoshoot..."
"Cindy, I... I can explain..." My heart was pounding.
"There's no need for that. I think I understand what's going on."
"I just never pegged you for... you know."
"Please, Cindy, I'll delete the photos, you just can't tell mom and dad!"
"You don't need to delete them! I want to keep them for myself! You really know how to capture my good side." She chuckled.
"This isn't a joke, Cindy! J-Just give me the USB... you shouldn't have come in here."
"And you shouldn't have come in my room last night... but we all do things we shouldn't, don't we, Olivia? Like how you shouldn't find me so... well, I'm not gonna say it. You know what I'm talking about."
"Look, I know this looks bad, and I promise I'll make it right, but, y-you can't tell mom and dad! They'll disown me!"
Cindy laughed again, making her way over to my bed where she planted herself, smiling up at me. "That doesn't sound so bad to me. I'd have even more of their attention."
"Cindy!" I wanted to cry.
"Don't worry, you're gonna make it up to me either way. But we can do this the easy way or the hard way."
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"If you don't want me to tell aunty and uncle, you're gonna have to make it worth my while. Cause right now, all that extra money and attention looks awfully tempting..."
"How am I supposed to do that, Cindy? What do you want me to do?"
"Well..." She seemed to ponder it for a moment. "I'm kind of hungry. You can start by fixing me something to eat."
"You want me to cook for you? That's it?" I almost felt a shred of relief, but I knew there was no way I was getting off that easy.
"Did I stutter? I said I'm hungry. Food. Now. And I want you to serve it to me, like a waitress. In fact, you still have that waitress uniform, don't you? I want you to wear it."
"You can't be serious..."
"PUT IT ON!" she yelled, stomping her foot. I hadn't seen her this outraged since she moved in. I mean, I'd seen her speak to her parents this way, but never one of us... It was honestly somewhat intimidating.
"OK, OK! Look, whatever you say, as long as it'll keep you quiet!"
"That's right," she said with a smirk. "Whatever I say. Now get to work. I'm starving, so don't keep me waiting."
With that, she popped off the bed and whistled out of the room, USB in hand. I sat back in my chair and buried my face in my palms. I knew I was in deep shit. From that moment on, I may as well have worn a collar that read "Property of Cindy"...
I slipped into my old waitress uniform as per Cindy's request and got to work in the kitchen. I knew spaghetti and meatballs were her favorite, so that's what I prepared. When I was finally finished, I set it aside on a fancy plate and brought it to Cindy.
I found her lounging on the armchair in the living room watching television again, so I made sure to steer clear of the screen so as not to inconvenience her. I made my roundabout way across the room and presented the food to her.
"Ahem." She cleared her throat.
"Is that any way for a good waitress to conduct herself? And I thought you not to keep me waiting. Do you know how hungry I am?" Fortunately, I could tell that Cindy was just giving me a hard time. I knew she wasn't quite as pissed as she was letting on.
"I'm sorry, Cindy. L-Let me try again..."
"No, I don't want you to. I want you to leave that here and go fetch me a drink. Right now."
"Uh, what would you lik--"
"DRINK! NOW!" she ordered, kicking her foot up at me demandingly.
I didn't say another word. I left the plate with Cindy and bolted back into the kitchen, scurrying around in the fridge for something that I knew would satisfy her. I returned to the living room with a glass of coke and immediately handed it to her.
She shook the glass lightly in her hand and gave me the brattiest look she could conjure. "I don't hear ice. Bring me another glass, and don't forget the ice. I want a straw, too. Go!"
And I wanted to smack her, but I knew there was no room to protest. I sucked it up and returned to the kitchen to meet Cindy's order, and once again returned to her. She didn't object any more to the drink, but I couldn't help but notice she wasn't eating.
"Is something wrong with the food?" I asked, meekly, as if she were about to blow her lid on me at any moment.
She stippled her fingers impatiently on the arm of the chair and let out a huge sigh. "Well it's not gonna feed me itself..."
It took me a second to catch the implication, but I understood. "Oh, um... of course. Here, let me get that for you?" I felt somewhat silly as I knelt beside Cindy and twirled the fork full of spaghetti, bringing it to her mouth for her.
"Good," she said, in the midst of chewing. "You're learning." She swallowed and pat her mouth with a napkin. "Drink."
I sat confused for a moment before Cindy glared at me and I quickly brought the glass to her mouth, allowing her to take a sip. I wished Cindy would have clarified the terms for me instead of leaving me in anxiousness, but I didn't want to upset her, so I remained quiet and just continued to feed her at her direction. I felt like I was dealing with a spoiled child, but then again that's exactly what Cindy was.
After Cindy finished eating, I did the dishes and returned to her in the living room, unsure of where the two of us were standing. I needed assurance that she wasn't going to say a word about the pictures to my parents.
"So, uh... are we even? You're not gonna say anything, Cindy?"
"Even?" Cindy looked dumbfounded for a moment before she burst out laughing, kicking her feet around frantically. "Not even close!"
"But I made you dinner! I sat there feeding you for fifteen minutes in uniform! What, what more do you want?"
"When I said waitress, I guess I meant more like... servant. And not just for today... more like... until further notice."
"Servant?? You've got to be kidding me! Cindy, you can't jerk me around like this! I said I was sorry for what happened and I'm going to make it up to you, but not like this!"
"SHUT UP!" she yelled, throwing the TV remote at me in a tantrum. "You don't get to decide when and how your debt is payed. I'm the one with the leverage, so what I say goes. I call the shots. If I tell you to JUMP, I expect you to ask how high. Got it?"
"But, I--" I was speechless. I wanted to object. I wanted to put her bratty little ass in her place, but I couldn't. I was powerless. I couldn't even open my mouth, unless it was in compliance with Cindy's wishes. "I understand."
"Well I sure hope for your sake that you do understand. I told you if you wanted me to keep quiet you would have to make it worth my time. If you want to make it worth my time, you're going to have to offer me something I couldn't get just as easily from your mom and dad. But you have nothing I want, Olivia. Nothing except your servitude. So if you really want your secret safe, I suggest you get used it."
I sighed, bringing a palm over my forehead in complete distress. I was utterly defeated. If my parents knew the truth about my sexuality, I would be completely disowned. I would be forced to leave the house and could no longer pay my tuition. Cindy was right. I had no choice but to yield to her.