Hello everybody! It´s been some time since my last published story, but this is something I´ve been working on for some months now… Hope you like it!
As usual, I´d like to thank Becca for proof reading this for me and for her suggestions!
"I can´t do that, Father…" Emma, the youngest and the only single daughter in the Pillsbury family, "I don´t love him… I don´t even know him!"
"You can do both things as time goes by", the old man declared firmly, closing the inventory and setting it on the desk, before him; his pose serene, and extremely serious.
"Please, don´t ask me this…" marriage was supposed to happen because of love, that was her deepest belief; the reason why her father´s request (it had been more a statement than such) had shaken her to the core.
"This marriage will assure your legacy and our financial stability once again"
It was a low card to play.
"I-I don't want to m-marry him…" she seriously doubted she was ready for marriage; she had no reputation, she was no socialite… How could she be his wife? His, above all?
But could she leave her parents to their luck? Could she see them descend to everything they´d fought against?
"We can´t get the money, Emma. We can´t lose the house or the family lands… This is a fine arrangement... An exceptional one, actually. And you will have everything you´ve ever dreamed of"
"Maybe this is not what I´ve dreamed of", she muttered under her breathe, causing a frown on her father.
"The Schuesters are coming for supper on Friday"
"This Friday?" she would meet her future husband. It sounded insane.
"Yes, Emma, you should meet them", her father sighed; "You´ll find the young Schuester a very suitable man"
What a terrible word to describe her soon to be husband.
"Is that all?" she asked, her mind a blur. Her father nodded, "I´ll be in my bedroom", faking confidence, she walked to the door; her legs, though, were unsteady.
"Emma?" his voice was tender now, different from moments ago, "You could be very happy"
"I really doubt it…"
"Tell me exactly how this marriage is supposed to fit with me", Will asked his father, who was calmly resting on the armchair before the fireplace.
"William, Pillsbury has a debt he can´t pay off. This arrangement will assure us getting the money back. His lands will be yours"
"And hers", he pointed accurately; as much as his father was right, Will disliked the idea of taking her possessions just like that.
"Of course, of course"
"I know nothing about fashion or fabrics"
"She´ll teach you. I´m aware she participates in her father´s dealings"
"Haven´t you thought that maybe I have no desire on getting married?" tiny little detail his father had forgotten.
"You´re 28… it´s time for you to get married and have an heir for our own company"
Will growled in disapproval, but saw the old man´s point; if he wanted to keep the business alive in the future, a family was something he should start considering.
But again, the idea scared him. He wanted to love his wife, not look for company outside his marriage, like his father had; he wanted to love his son, not to leave him under the care of some nanny, like his mother had done with him.
"You´ll meet her this Friday", his father´s voice took him out of deep thought, "And her family"
"I don´t really have a choice, do I?"
"I´m afraid not"
The driver took them to one of the most elegant neighborhoods in the city; it wasn´t a long trip, they themselves lived in one of the finest as well.
"The war ruined his business", Mr. Schuester explained to his son during the short journey, "It brought more widowers than brides and the textile industry didn´t really help him"
"I imagine…" vaguely Will recalled the famous bridal store on Bond Street. It was as exclusive as always; so exclusive, the abundant but rare incomes were not enough to pay off the old debts.
"We salvaged his business during the war and helped him recover afterwards, but it´s been years since he´s been into arrears; that´s why we´ve come to this arrangement"
"Tell me about his daughter", he was not interested about the financial aspect. He would own half of her possessions but the woman… he had better start getting a general idea…
"You´ll meet her shortly"
His evasive meant something would not be of his liking. Either the woman was an insufferable spinster or she was… he didn´t dare to think about it.
The thought made him nervous; extremely nervous.
"We are here, darling", Mrs. Schuester, his stepmother, announced cheerfully. It was rather odd, her behavior; she had never showed any interest in him as a kid. Now she was excited; money took her to that state. And Will would bring his family money. More money if that was even possible.
The house was a delightful narrowed, three-floor property; stylish and very New Yorker building with a buoyant façade that made Will´s heart beat a little faster. It was homey, warm.
The housekeeper answered their call promptly, letting them in as Mr. Pillsbury approached them with a charming smile.
"Rusty! It´s good to see you", both men shook hands, and then he spoke to Mrs. Schuester with equal gentlemanliness, "William, it´s been quite some time"
"Mr. Pillsbury", it had been quite some time. Years, in fact. He barely remembered the man´s face.
Kindly, he guided them to the sitting room where his wife was waiting for them. But it was someone else who drew Will´s attention; someone whose gaze was glued to the floor, someone whose hair reflected the flames coming from the fireplace, copper, ginger and luminous. Beautiful.
She stood up at the call of her name; her eyes, bright and big, scanned at everyone present in the room, but not really looking at any of them.
"These are Mr. and Mrs. Schuester", her father made the proper introductions as she shook his father´s hands and his mother kissed her cheek, "And this is William"
He noticed the blush creeping up her cheeks and neck and watched her walk towards him with gazelle elegance.
Her red-polka dot full skirt dress flowed as she moved and when their eyes met, he realized what her father had omitted.
She was really young. Probably near her twenties. He couldn´t really tell… her outfit was tricky. She looked like a girl in that dress.
"Hello, Mr. Schuester", her voice was angelical, sweet and very soft. "It´s nice to meet you", she lied avoiding his stare.
"My pleasure", the gruffness of his voice made her nervous, but Will took the hand she was offering and shook it with hesitancy. Maybe he should have kissed it instead.
The expectancy was palpable in the air. Both families waited for something, anything, to be said, but no more words came from Emma´s pretty mouth.
"Would you like a martini before dinner?" Mr. Pillsbury spoke seeing no one would.
Thank God someone did.
"Tell us about you, Emma", Mrs. Schuester asked kindly during the calmed but pleasant dinner.
"About me?", when she was uncomfortable, the redhead had the terrible habit or duplicating the question, "There´s not much to tell", perhaps that would dissuade William from any interest he might have in her.
"Don´t be shy, darling", her mother disguised a scold under a cheeky encouragement.
"I, uhm, I studied Art in Columbia… only for two years… I, uhm, now I help my father with the business", how could she tell them the production was a fiasco and she had to drop School? They probably knew by then, but it didn´t make her feel any better.
"I bet you´ve learned a lot"
Her head shook, bashfully, "I help him, that´s all"
"She has an impeccable taste", her mother commented, "Most of the brides we dress wore dresses designed by her"
"You certainly look beautiful tonight, doesn´t she, Will?"
"Indeed", finally he spoke directly to her; she wasn´t expecting him to be so lip-sealed. But apparently, the man had no interest in her. Maybe her girl-ish dress had worked.
"Thank you", should she feel disappointed? It was absurd, Emma was slightly peeved. But the truth was why would someone like him find her attractive? She had some background information thanks to Ann; her friend used to frequent the same places he did and even thought they had never exchanged a word, she could tell her the kind of women he knew. Rich, bubbly, light-hearted women.
Not daring to confess it to her mother, Emma found William really handsome. He was tall, wide-shouldered, with deep beautiful eyes, and a masculine jaw line.
The gray flannel suit he was wearing gave him the appearance of a very professional man, experienced and world-travelled… He looked like he had the time and the wealth to do so.
Taking a sip from her wine, Emma watched him. The angle of his chin; the strong, deep structure of his brow; the curls, neat and placated with hair gel… He was really handsome.
How old is he?
Surely approaching his thirties… it was unreal thinking she would be sharing the rest of her life with a complete stranger.
What does he like?
Besides his name and the fact that he worked in publicity, Emma knew nothing else… And she would share her every-day with him…
What does he dream of?
The mere though scandalized her. She would be expected to carry out the wife´s duties.
With difficulty, she gulped the drink and suddenly his eyes were locked with hers. Piercing, intense…
Looking at him so directly, made everything abruptly real.
"Are you alright?"
His voice was barely audible, but Emma nodded weakly, lowering her gape to her plate. She was too afraid of him reading her thoughts if she held his look for another second.
"You look pale"
"I-I´m fine", please stop looking at me like that… if moments ago, aloofness would have worked to describe the impression she got about him, now that work would be completely inadequate. There was something in his eyes; something resembling fire and it made Emma edgy. "Maybe it was the wine", poppycock, it was him.
To her surprise he chuckled, "Aren´t you a little young to be drinking?"
The bastard…! He´s mocking me!
"I can think of other things I´m too young to do".
The girl was sassy; and quick-tempered. He was actually teasing her, but Emma had snapped at him.
Another grin curved his lips; she amused him. "Me too"