A millionaire workaholic’s wife got cancer, and when that woman knew she’s gonna die, she called her only daughter to her and said, “Dear Grace, your daddy’s a dumb-dumb about people. He works hard. He’s rich. He’s handsome, but I don’t think he knows the first thing about lovin’. He’s gonna screw you up unless you learn how to work hard for yourself and be smart. Work hard, so you can get what you need and want, and be smart, so you can keep it.  Anyhow things might get difficult on you but remember what I told you: work hard and be smart, and always remember that I love you. With this she closed her eyes and died.

Grace visited her mother’s grave every day and cried, but keepin’ in mind what her mama had said she gave all the house staff and the grounds keepers the sack and started doing all the cleaning and landscaping herself during the day, and at night she got online and gave herself more learning than any school could, mostly ’bout computers. When winter come she was out with the snow blower keepin; the walkways and her mother’s grave free from snow. At first Grace’s daddy worried about her, but by the time spring rolled around, her daddy had forgotten ’bout her. When he was home, which wasn’t much; he just blinked at her and wondered who she was.

That summer he remarried; because he was planning a political career and knew that he needed to be married to get votes. His new wife, Susan, was pretty, cunning, and had two girls of her own. She helped him gain influence in the community; because as his first wife said, he was a dumb-dumb where people was concerned. The girls were little copies of their mother. One was older than Grace, and the other was younger. The eldest was called Chloe and the younger one was named Tiffany.

Having read how these stories go, Grace had removed all the pictures of herself from the house, so by the time Susan and the girls moved in, they thought she was the housekeeper.

“You’re kind of young for a housekeeper,” Susan said.

“Yes Ma’am, I am Ukrainian orphan and hide here to not be deported. I work hard and strong as bull,” Grace said.

“Yes. That is true. What is your name,” Susan asked?

“Svetochtka,” Grace said.

“That’s a stupid name,” Chloe said.

“I know! It sounds like someone throwing up, she’s so dirty. Let’s just call her Dusty,” Tiffany said.

“From your mouth to God’s ears my little milka,” said Grace.

So, Grace was called dusty.

She slept in the maid’s quarters and worked long hours but kept up her studyin’ at night. The only reason she worked so long was that them two girls loved to follow after her and undo all her work. But no matter how busy Grace was, she always took her break at her mother’s grave site. She told that cold stone all the troubles she had. That cold stone never said nothin’, but she always felt better for havin’ somethin’ to talk to.

Grace’s daddy come home one day and asked his stepdaughters what they wanted from China. He was goin’ that away for business.

Chloe said, “I want a beautiful silk dress.”

Tiffany said, “I want jade jewelry.”

Grace had just walked into the room and was re-shelving the books that the girls had flung to the floor.

“How about you Dusty,” the girls teased, “Do you want a new duster?”

Grace’s daddy looked at her, confused for a moment, and said, “I didn’t know your name was Dusty. I thought it started with a G,”

“Net ser. I am Svetochtka, but pleasant leetle milkas call me Dusty,” Grace said.

“Oh. Did you want something from China,” he asked?

“Da, ser. computer,” she said, and give him the name of the computer she wanted.

The girls and Susan laughed, but contrary to everyone’s way of thinkin’, Daddy come back with everythin’: a beautiful silk dress for Chloe; a matchin’ necklace, earrins, and bracelet set all made from jade, and a computer. Grace took the computer and started hacking all of her father’s accounts. She created shell accounts so the eagle-eyed Susan couldn’t see what she was doin’. After figurin’ out all of her daddy’s wealth, she started skimming a quarter of the money. She then took to investin’, and ‘ventually she bought businesses. She had a good eye for talent, and in no time at all she was cleanin’ up more’n the house.

A year or two passed, and all of her daddy’s and Susan’s machinations started payin’ off. He won the election for gov’ner. Part of the celebration was a ball. Chloe and Tiffany was so excited. They bossed Grace around something terrible for weeks before the party. They had her shining shoes, fixin’ they hair every which-a-way, and puttin’ on different makeups.

Grace did what she was told, but started thinkin’ it was past time to make things better for herself.  She started hackin’ the accounts of Chloe and Tiffany. She found everythin’ she expected to find: pictures of theyselves naked, and drunk photos of them snortin’ cocaine. She also hacked Susan’s accounts and wasn’t surprised to find a few extracurricular gentlemen hangin’ round.

Then she went to Susan and said, “G-zha sosok. Is possible I go to party?”

“Why Dusty would you want to go. Everyone will be dressed up, and I’ve never seen you out of those ghastly nylon work clothes,” Susan said.

Grace went to her room and come out wearin’ a beautiful blue evenin’ gown.

“Very pretty. Where did you get the money for that,” Susan asked?

“I brought from homeland,” Grace said.

“Did you? Well Grace I know your game. So, you can stop the fake accent and tell me why you have been pretending to be the housekeeper,” Susan said.

“Well you know how the stepmother is in most of the stories,” Grace said, givin’ Susan a nod of admiration.

“Yes, and I probably would have behaved that way, but you did it for me. So, now I am just wondering why you want to go to your father’s inaugural ball all of a sudden,” Susan said.

“Mostly to say goodbye to him,” Grace said.

“How can you do that? You are only sixteen,” Susan said.

“Well in this state you can emancipate yourself at sixteen, if you have proof of stable income,” Grace said.

“Have you been embezzling,” Susan asked?

“Oh no. That would be illegal,” Grace answered with a smile.

“I could find out. You know,” Susan said.

“I doubt it, but there are pictures of your precious children with precious little on except for white powder on their noses. I don’t thing the constituents of this state would like to see that,” Grace said.

“Our former president’s daughters got away with it,” Susan answered.

“That’s true, but in that case Tom and Derek would be an interesting tidbit for the news,” Grace said.

Susan’s face turned pale, and she reached for her waistband.

“I wouldn’t,” Grace said, “those pictures have already been sent and well…me being dead would seem oddly coincidental. Public shame sucks, but I hear jail is worse.”

At that moment Susan’s phone went off. She looked at it and took a deep breath.

“I can explain…” she said into the phone.

“Mom! Mom!” yelled Chloe and Tiffany from upstairs.

Then Grace walked out of the mansion and into a waiting limousine.