The week leading up to this morning was miserable and exciting. Miserable, because it was my last week of school and the end of my high school days with just my friends and I. Exciting because it was the end.
Brett and I aren't speaking. We avoid each other, which isn't all that hard to do, going to completely different schools and everything. His laughter around me is a little too forced and I can't help but look at him and just regret.
Regret what I am. What I've become.
A rose. Really and truly an unfeeling pretty thing, with the added bonus of sharp points.
So that is why I made my decision. Everything was ready for France. And everyone.
"We're going to be late, mes filles," called Madame Rockshire in her cheerful voice.
"Get moving!" squawked Madame Charmon.
Aw. Madame Charmon. You hate her or you love her. I personally like the woman.
The senior class of Berkley scrambled to the front lounge and we emptied into cabs and vans.
Eighty-five girls in all were fighting their way out the door. I reached forward and grabbed the back of Lily's shirt and brought her back and away from the crowd.
"Patience," chided Victoria with a devilish smile.
Lily looked up to me. She was only 5'3". I gave her a reassuring smile.
The girl trusts me implicitly, for reasons not known to me. I've never shown her anything to trust. She's seen me drop guys like hats and dismiss acquaintances without so much as a glance. I live my life with rare outwards signs of affection, yet she clings to my presence like a vine.
"No reason to rush like those blondes," Amelia said. Jordan and I used to take offense to this, but don't anymore. Amelia's definition of blonde is something dark tan and platinum with a soprano voice and much too much eyeliner.
We walked outside after the crowd had died down and saw Bernie leaning against the passenger door of a yellow cab.
"Not two, Bernie?" asked Jordan, raising an eyebrow.
"Nah, there's room in the van's" he said with a shrug.
"Aurora!" I recognized the voice.
"Alex," I said as I turned in the direction of the voice. He was parked in a nearby visitor's parking space and was standing in-between his open car door and the actual car.
He stepped away and shut his door. Then he started walking towards me. "I'll give you a lift to the airport," he said as he reached me and picked up two of my four suitcases. And those things were heavy; a lot of keepsakes were in there. Not just clothes.
He nodded his head over to his car with a smile and started striding towards it. I turned back to grab the two smaller suitcases and shrugged one shoulder and raised an eyebrow with a smile at my friends and walked after him.
Alex and I had been eating out every night this week, since that first morning. He was definitely marriage material, to me, and he seemed to be very eager to be with me. One day, we talked about who and when we would like to marry. He described me in a nutshell. I laughed and teased, then mentioned I always had planned on marrying right out of high school. A bit of a lie. Well, a big lie. He was ridiculously enthusiastic after that and when he had a few drinks he had said:
"You're perfect." I gave him an incredulous look then. "No, I mean it. You're smart, funny," he leaned forward to stroke my face with the back of two fingers. "Beautiful. Young and wild and strong. I have to have you."
His definition of "have" was going to be different than mine, I was sure. Him "having" me was a piece of paper saying that we were bound to share our money and our remaining years with each other. But I was fully planning on living every day of my life as if there were never consequences or rules.
But he didn't need to know that.
Besides, the guy was just average in personality. Not a crazy, worldly environmentalist, nor a Hell's Angel skinhead. And I do have to admit Alex was very attractive. I was not the only one getting checked out by the surrounding people dinning out that one night.
Long, dark, curly hair with sea green eyes and tanned skin stretched over hardened biceps make him a prime male species.
"You can," I threw back my head and downed the shot of Sex on the Beach. A fruity drink.
That cleared his eyes and made him straighten. He studied me long and hard for any trace of a lie. He wasn't going to see one. I wasn't lying. He could "have" me all he wanted, in my definition of the word, of course. Love had never been in the plans for me, I guess.
"Really?" he smiled and cocked an eyebrow. He was trying to appear teasing and succeeding little.
"Of course," I replied, barely letting a smile touch my lips.
His eyes widened and a large smile spread across his face. It was a good smile. Not a smirk or a grin. One I could live with, I decided.
And that's how, five days after that coffee morning, I received a large platinum and diamond ring which now lay on my third left finger.
Yes, I was engaged, and the world could tell by the size of that rock on my hand.
Victoria was the least enthusiastic about it. I could see her despair clear in her eyes. Amelia congratulated me on ringing an older guy and informed me they were much better in bed. Jordan told me to kiss my freedom goodbye and Jenny ogled at the diamond. Lily informed me that I should drag out the engagement and told me to hold out on sex, but made me call my aunt that night.
I am pretty sure Aunt Colleen dropped the phone because there was silence from her end and then a loud crash and my five year old cousin spoke to me for a little while.
"What's wrong Ah-wor-ah?" he repeated over and over again.
"Give the phone to your mom, Kane," had been my constant reply.
Then, "Harold!" a quite unearthly shriek that could only belong to my beloved aunt. She was yelling for her husband. "She's engaged!"
"Who is?" I heard his alarmed reply.
"Your niece!" Need I remind you that my Aunt is my mother's youngest sister and I am not related to Harold in any way. We hardly ever spoke in my troubled year as one of their household.
"Brittany?" he asked, sounding more alarmed. My distant cousin, his actual niece, is fourteen.
"No!" she shrieked again. "Aurora."
"Wor-wor?" my other cousin, who is three, asked. "Why are you engaged?"
"Give the phone to mommy, Tammy," I said through clenched teeth. Kids weren't always my thing and I really don't like being referred to as "Wor-wor."
"To whom?" my aunt came back on the line. "When? How long have you known him?"
My aunt hasn't seen me in six years. I think to her I'm still a twelve year old girl with rebellious tendencies.
"His name is Alex Denalkie," I started, but was cut off.
"The businessman?" she asked, disbelieving. "I saw his picture in some magazine, something about most eligible bachelor on the east coast…"
See? I told you he's a looker. Will's family's got some money behind them, too.
"That's him," I sighed, rubbing my forehead.
"Oh," was her soft reply.
There was a long pause. Then, "When's the wedding?" in a tight voice that sounded distinctly relieved.
"After the class trip," I said. There had never been any reason to alert her to, what I called, "the plan". "To Paris," I said after a long pause. I didn't update her on any comings and goings in my life.
"Oh," she said again. "Where is it going to be?"
"The Lakeside Country Club," I said. "I'll send the invitations."
"You sound so…" she said. "We got your Christmas card… and your school picture. You look very… grown up." She sounded so uncomfortable.
"Thanks," I replied slowly. "I'll see you soon. It's going to be formal," I added. Big and formal. "Everyone on our side will be getting the invitations within the week. The class trip will last 20 days. I guess I will see you then."
"I suppose," she murmured. "Goodbye, Rory."
That was a surprise. She hadn't called me Rory since my parents died.
"Goodbye, Aunt," I said. No reason to rethink now. The plan was set in motion.
Alex took the two suitcases from me and shut the trunk. That jerked me from the past, back to the here and now.
I smiled at him and went around the car to the passenger side door. The drive to the airport was comfortable and calm. He held my left hand in his right and his thumb worked the platinum ring round and round my finger. I looked out my window and let him do as he liked. I felt his eyes on the side of my face more than once.
"Alex?" I asked. "Why do you want to marry me?" I had to know. This was not the first time I was questioning the plan. But it was after the trip to the bank and some large money transfers under different aliases. I understand banks and didn't waste my year as a hoodlum. And it wasn't like I was stealing any money. It was mine.
He laughed. "I don't know one person who wouldn't," he joked. He was semi-serious though. I, having been introduced to many of his friends, think they would propose if they hadn't heard the news or saw the ring.
I squeezed his hand kind of hard. "But why? After only a week?"
He chuckled again. "Why did you agree after only a week?" he turned the question around.
I studied him and shrugged. "I could do worse," I said, with a straight face.
He saw through it and winked at me. "That," he said, nodding in my direction. "That is why I have to marry you. Why I will marry you."
I just smiled again, and looked out my window.
We reached the airport first and he parked.
He brought the hand he was holding up to his lips as I unclipped my seatbelt with my other hand.
"Mmm," he hummed as he kissed my wrist.
A grin spread across my face and he leaned in, lips pressing into mine. I took a deep breath of his expensive cologne and uttered a soft moan. He pressed harder, slipping his tongue into my mouth. The back of my head pressed into the window and he reached up and pulled my hair band, releasing my hair. He fisted a hand in it and pulled me to him.
My hands went to the bottom of his shirt and I slipped them under, resting both palms flat on his tight stomach. He smiled as we pulled back for air, foreheads resting against each other.
"You're too good at this," he breathed. "You shouldn't be allowed around men."
"You'll have to keep them away from me, then," I panted. "For their own good, of course," I added. This made him happy. The words and the kissing. I might as well make him happy before "the plan". He deserved that.
"Why would I do that?" he asked. "Their faces are priceless when I introduce you as my fiancée. I couldn't miss their reaction to 'wife'."
"What am I? Your show-piece?" I asked playfully and pressed my lips back onto his.
We continued like this until his phone went off, buzzing and beeping.
"Shit," he panted, pulling it out. He looked at the top of it to check the identity of the caller before narrowing his eyes. He flipped it open, clearly annoyed.
"Yes?" he asked. "No, we want the old Parks' building for a parking lot," he said. "Well, why not?" he snapped.
He looked at me as I pulled my shirt back down and took my hair tie from the floor, pulling my hair up again.
"Goodbye, Alex," I said and gave him a swift kiss on the cheek. I pulled back and looked at him. I would miss him. Not as much as I was going to miss Victoria, Amelia, Jenny, Lily and Jordan, but I did like him.
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This is the set-up for the Paris meetings. I will reveal exactly what "the plan" is soon, but it's not the same as the last story. Yup, that's about it.
TRISTAN IS COMING SOON, MAYBE EVEN NEXT CHAPTER!