After worrying about her thin and frail new student for a few days, Sarah followed him after school only to see him entering a beautiful mansion. But the last thing she expected was for him to be in a fairy tale situation.
“Everyone, let’s welcome our new student, Luke. His family just moved to town,” Sarah said to her six grade class. But she wanted to take back the words almost immediately.
The boy she had just introduced looked at his feet, almost ashamed. One arm touched the other as if to protect himself. His clothes were too small for him, yet he was the skinniest 11-year-old she had seen. His hair was greasy, but it was almost like he had tried to hide it with some styling or gel.
“Hello,” Luke said. His voice was barely a whisper.
“I can’t hear you!” one of the kids in her class yelled.
“Hey, Andrew! That’s rude. Luke,” Sarah turned to him gently. “Can you tell the class something about yourself?”
Just then, a fancy SUV pulled up, and Sarah heard a woman yelling, “John! Get in!”
“I’m Luke. I’m 11. I like soccer and cartoons,” he said a little louder but still timid. “Can I sit down now?”
“Yes, go ahead,” Sarah nodded and watched him reach the empty desk. I have to stop doing these introductions. Some kids simply don’t want to be in front of the class on their first day, she thought as she started her lesson.
Despite his shyness, Luke proved to be brilliant. He raised his hand and answered questions readily. It was a rare sight considering he was changing schools in the middle of the school year. But Sarah was pleased to learn more about him and see him opening up.
At recess, she spotted him talking to a few kids but frowned because he didn’t have a plate of food, unlike everyone else. He might not be hungry. That’s fine, she told herself and went to the teacher’s lounge.
“Ugh, I’m going to have trouble the rest of the year,” Sarah heard her friend, Melissa, complain as soon as she entered the room. She was an eighth-grade teacher.
“Mel, what’s wrong?”
“I just got this new kid, John. He’s obviously a class clown and wants everyone’s attention. All the kids were oohing and aahing about his sneakers and his smartwatch or whatever,” Melissa sighed. “He also brought his phone and his iPad to class. I wish parents actually parented instead of just pushing screens on their kids. It was extremely distracting. I hope he settles down.”
“You have a new kid, too?” Sarah wondered, although John didn’t sound like the new student in her class.
“Yup. But he’s a reserved kid. Skinny. His clothes are old and too small for him. Shy. However, he’s smart. He had already read the book we were discussing,” Sarah continued.
“Could they be related?” Melissa asked. “Wait. You said his clothes were worn? Maybe, not.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so. Your description of John sounds like the complete opposite,” Sarah nodded. “I’m a bit worried. He didn’t have any food at the cafeteria.”
“Oh, you think he doesn’t have enough for food?”
“Exactly. But I can’t do anything about it today, I guess. I need to find out more about him,” Sarah commented, almost wistfully.
“You’re a good teacher, Sarah. You care about people,” Melissa expressed, hugging her friend’s side.
“Maybe, I would be better off if I didn’t care at all,” she half-joked.
“You’re doing a great job. Here and at home, Sarah. Things will get better, sweetheart,” Melissa said thoughtfully, looking at her friend with nothing but kindness. She knew about Sarah’s situation at home and how hard she was working to care for her husband, Walter.
A freak accident at a warehouse left him in a wheelchair a few years ago, and Sarah was doing everything she could to hold the fort. Walter was now working from home, but they struggled with medical debt still.
They were both working hard trying to solve their financial issues, so they could finally attempt to start a family. They worried that Walter’s condition had also affected his fertility but wouldn’t be able to focus on that or get the proper medical assistance until they cleared their debts.
“Luke, would you like this granola bar?” Sarah asked at the end of the day. All the kids had exited the class already, but Luke had taken longer to pack his things.
His eyes widened, but he schooled his features quickly. “You don’t want it?”
“No, this has a lot of sugar, and I decided to diet a little,” Sarah smiled. The boy approached, took the granola thankfully, and bid his teacher goodbye.
“Hello, ma’am, is there an 11-year-old kid living here?” one of the cops, Officer Figgins, asked.
Sarah saw him walk out of the school through the classroom window. He didn’t get on a bus, or no one picked him up. I hope he lives nearby, she thought worriedly. Just then, a fancy SUV pulled up, and Sarah heard a woman yelling, “John! Get in!”
A kid separated from a group of other students, waved goodbye, and got into the car. Sarah could easily recognize everyone at school, so John must be Melissa’s new student. Obviously, he was in a much different situation than Luke.
Tomorrow, she would try to ask him about his parents and his home life. Sarah would do her best if he needed help, especially with food during school hours.
“Hey, Luke. Can you come here for a sec?” Sarah asked the following day when the recess bell rang and all the other kids ran out.
“Can you tell me a bit about your parents? Do you think they’ll be up for a parent-teacher meeting soon?” Sarah prodded.
“Uhh, no. They’re busy,” Luke shook his head and got quiet.
“Are you sure? Luke, the truth is that I’m concerned. Are you eating well at home? I can help you sign up for some resources so that you can eat from the cafeteria and –”
“What? No! I’m fine! I… I don’t like cafeteria food. I eat a lot at home,” Luke said, shaking his head more. Something in his words and expression told Sarah that he was lying. But she couldn’t do anything unless he agreed.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Can I go to recess now?” Luke asked, fidgeting.
“Go,” Sarah responded, sighing as he left.
Luke didn’t realize how adamant Sarah was about helping her students, so he couldn’t have known she would follow him home after school. But she did. She was sneaky about it, too. Shockingly, Luke walked and walked and walked. It was almost 30 minutes before they reached… a beautiful community.
Sarah knew that only the wealthiest people in town could afford such a home. Maybe, his mom is a maid here, she thought and kept following from a far distance with her car.
However, things got even more confusing when Luke stopped in front of a fancy mansion with a gorgeous front yard, took out a key from his pocket, and went inside. If he’s the maid’s son, why would he have a key? Wouldn’t he go through the back or the kitchen? Sarah continued speculating.
She parked a few houses down from that mansion and stared, wondering what to do. Suddenly, a loud and fast car drove around and parked in the driveway. It was the luxury SUV from yesterday. A woman in brand-name clothes got out of the driver’s seat, and… John, Melissa’s student, did, too. He was drinking from a soda cup.
“LUKE! COME!” the woman yelled, and Sarah’s brows lifted when Luke rushed out of the house. He went right to the trunk and started taking out bag after bag. Meanwhile, the woman ordered him around, sometimes criticizing him for not going faster.
“Hey, loser. Bring my iPad!” she heard John yell from a second-floor window, and Luke reached into the back seat for an iPad.
“What the hell?” Sarah muttered as her new student finally went inside, carrying the last bags.
That scene had seemed so odd and yet familiar somehow. But Sarah couldn’t place it. But one thing was clear: Luke didn’t seem to be the maid’s son at all.
Despite her better judgment, she got out of her car and went to one of the windows, hiding in the bushes so no one would spot her. She saw Luke in the kitchen, washing dishes. The woman came down and ordered him around some more. Clean the floors, wash her car, shine the silver, and more.
Finally, things clicked when Luke responded, “Yes, stepmother.”
Oh my God, Sarah was shocked. That’s why the scene had been so familiar and strange. Luke was… Cinderella. There was no better way to explain it.
“When you’re done, go to your room and don’t come out. I have friends coming over. No need to embarrass me,” Luke’s stepmother spat and went upstairs. Sarah watched as Luke did everything his stepmother asked and went to… a cupboard under the stairs.
She waited for a while, in case that was some kind of storage spot or broom closet, but Luke didn’t come out for a long time. So, her new student was not only Cinderella but Harry Potter, too.
“I can’t take this anymore,” Sarah said, pulling out her phone as she walked away from the mansion to her garden. She called the police, explaining the situation and how Luke was treated like an indentured servant by his stepmother.
To her surprise, they took her report seriously and came to the house only a few minutes later. Sarah greeted them and went with them as they knocked on the door.
“Yes?” Luke’s stepmother greeted them with a bright smile.
“Shut up, you idiot! Go back to work, or you won’t eat again for three days!”
“Hello, ma’am, is there an 11-year-old kid living here?” one of the cops, Officer Figgins, asked.
“Yes, my stepson, Luke,” she answered.
“What’s your name, ma’am? Can you call the boy?”
“I’m Catherine. Of course,” she added and looked behind her. A sweet voice called, “Luke!”
Sarah rolled her eyes, but Luke didn’t come out of the cupboard. He was in the kitchen, and his eyes flared as he noticed the cops and Sarah at the front door.
“Ma’am, we’ve received a report that you’re mistreating this kid – like a servant in your house. We have to take these things seriously. Can we look around?” another cop, Officer Mullins, stated.
“What? That’s crazy. Luke has some chores just to teach him responsibility, but he’s not a servant,” Catherine scoffed, but she was sweet as pie to everyone. “But please, come in.”
The cops entered, and Sarah saw Catherine acting like the most gracious host, smiling, and answering their questions easily. Her husband, Luke’s father, had died about six months ago. She decided to move to this town and had custody of her stepson because they had no other family.
“He’s my son, too. John is upstairs, blasting his music,” Catherine finished, tilting her head like a beauty queen. Sarah knew the cops were eating her act up.
“Where’s your stepson’s room?” Officer Figgins. This was it. Sarah had reported that part, and he knew the cops would start to see through her lies once they saw the room.
“Sure, let’s go upstairs,” Catherine waved for them to follow. She led them to a big room with a huge bed. “Luke hasn’t had time to decorate. But this is his room, right?”
They all looked at Luke, and Sarah pleaded for him to say something. But he smiled tightly and nodded.
“Sorry, he’s a little shy, and it only got worse after his father died. I’ve been looking for a therapist, but we’re still getting used to this new town,” Catherine added. “Is that it, officers?”
“I guess it is. Miss, I don’t think this situation is what you thought,” Officer Mullins turned to Sarah.
“She’s lying,” Sarah said, but her words rang empty. There was no way she could prove anything. She wished she had recorded something.
Officer Figgins knelt and looked directly at the 11-year-old. “Son, is there something you want to tell us? Is everything alright with your stepmother?”
Luke nodded, “I’m fine.” Then, he looked at the ground.
“Well, I’m glad that our new school has such great and concerned teachers,” Catherine said, still using her sweet voice but the pointed look she gave Sarah was chilling.
They exited the mansion, and the cops told Sarah that nothing seemed wrong in that house. She had no evidence of her reports either, so they couldn’t do anything.
“Thank you for coming so quickly. Maybe, I misjudged the situation,” Sarah told them. Luckily, the cops didn’t blame her and left. Sarah got in her car and banged her head gently on the steering wheel. She would have to find another way to help Luke.
“Sarah, I can’t believe you would do this! You’ve been here for ten years! Are you insane?” the principal, Mr. Garrinson, shouted. “That woman is threatening to sue the school and you! I have no choice, Sarah. Either find a way to apologize, or I’ll have to fire you.”
Sarah had no idea that her concerns would uproot her world in such a way. Apparently, Catherine had already called her lawyers, who contacted the school, and she was willing to take things further to the board of education in their state. If she did that, Sarah wouldn’t be able to teach again.
She couldn’t lose her job. Her husband didn’t make enough money working from home to sustain them. They also had rent, food, medical debt, and more to think of. So, she exited Mr. Garrinson’s office almost in a trance and went to the teacher’s lounge.
Melissa already knew everything. “Sarah, there’s only one thing you can do. Beg that woman for forgiveness. My friend, I know you didn’t lie about what you saw, but this is your life,” she begged.
Sarah didn’t want to apologize to that horrible woman, who literally Aunt Petunia and Evil Stepmother put together. But what else could she do? She was about to lose everything.
So, she climbed into her car and drove to Luke’s house after school. With her metaphorical tail between her legs, Sarah rang the doorbell.
“Aha, if it isn’t the crazy teacher who wanted me to get in trouble,” Catherine laughed, swinging the door wide open. “If you think I’m going back on my lawsuit, think again! I’m going to ruin your life! What I do in this house is none of your business!”
“Can you read me something? Cinderella is my favorite story!”
“Please, ma’am. I’m so sorry. I can’t lose my job. My husband is disabled, and we have medical bills to pay, and our house –”
“I DON’T CARE!” Catherine yelled, cackling as well. “Your stupid minimum-wage problems are not my business! You’ll never work in this school district or, hell, this state again when I’m done!”
“Miss! Call the police again!” a voice came from behind Catherine. “I’ll tell them everything!”
“Shut up, you idiot! Go back to work, or you won’t eat again for three days!” Catherine yelled at Luke. “Go away, lady. Don’t come back.”
Sarah felt the whoosh of air as the door slammed in her face. But instead of crying or breaking down, she smiled and called the cops again, asking specifically for Officer Figgins and Officer Mullins.
“Well, that recording is not the most damning evidence, ma’am. But the boy’s testimony is,” Officer Mullins told her. Sarah had been more clever this time and had recorded the entire exchange. The cops heard how Catherine threatened to starve Luke for several days, which is considered abuse.
Luke revealed everything. He talked about his father, who had made a fortune in oil and real estate. Catherine had been nice to him until his father’s death. Everything changed afterward. She didn’t spend a dime on him, often refused to let him eat, and treated him like Cinderella.
Therefore, Catherine was arrested. Luke was removed from her home by CPS. John had to leave, too, although it was clear that the woman didn’t neglect her own son and spoiled him rotten.
Unfortunately, Catherine paid bail and fought all the charges with her lawyers. She also fought to get John back and wanted nothing to do with Luke.
Catherine couldn’t continue her lawsuit against the school and Sarah because there was tangible evidence of her abuse. Hence, Mr. Garrinson apologized and took back everything he said, so Sarah kept her job. All the teachers praised her for helping a child out of a bad situation.
Luckily, Luke wouldn’t have to return to her house. Instead, Sarah took him home, and after some time and a lot of paperwork, she and her husband became his official foster parents. Luke became a big part of their family almost immediately. He filled the empty space in their hearts and had much in common with Walter.
Sarah was happier than ever, mainly because Luke made real friends at school, got straight As, and gained weight at her house. Sarah and Walter were not wealthy like Luke’s father, but the kid knew how much better off he was with them. He loved them for everything they gave him.
Years later, he received a call from his lawyer. His father had left him most of his fortune, but it was so vast that Catherine had no idea she only got about 15% of his estate. However, Luke could only receive it when he turned 21.
He went back to Walter and Sarah – his parents – and offered them money. They didn’t want to take it, but Luke insisted, clearing all their debt, buying them a house, and paying for a new type of surgery that helped Walter walk again.
Afterward, Sarah and her husband toyed with the idea of visiting a fertility clinic and getting pregnant. But saving and raising Luke, they decided to continue fostering and, eventually, adopted a little girl, Kelly. She adored her big brother, who often came to visit.
“Can you read me something? Cinderella is my favorite story!” Kelly said one night when Luke had volunteered to tuck her in.
He smiled and grabbed the book from her shelf. “Really?” he asked, staring at the book and sighing. “Well, it’s more real than you know, Kelly.”
What can we learn from this story?
When you suspect or see someone in trouble, do something about it.
Some fairy tales are more genuine than most people imagine, but they don’t have happy endings unless a hero appears.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.