Chapter 2 – The Preparation
“Maddy, we are two days from the most amazing night of our life. Why are you stressing?” Liv pestered.
“What if he’s not there? What if he doesn’t want a chunky girl like me? What if-”
“Stop. Just stop. You have come too far to start doubting yourself now. You are an incredibly strong, brilliant woman. ANY man, I mean A-N-Y man that is lucky enough to become your mate is going to be the most incredible man on the planet. Now pull yourself together. Let’s go get a milkshake.” Liv, done with her lecture, grabbed my keys, and dragged me to the car.
One chorus of Run The World by Beyonce and I was feeling much better. I am an incredible woman, and my mate will appreciate having a confident woman by his side.
After getting our milkshakes, Olivia headed home to start packing her bags. I guess I need to do the same. The mating ball is held at the Regional Alliance Conference Center. Each guest receives a room at the adjoining hotel for the night before, the night of, and the night following the ball. Sometimes women leave the ball and never return home for their things. They find their mate, join their pack, and never look back. Being an only child, I couldn’t imagine leaving my mom and dad and never seeing them again. Nor could I imagine giving up half my wardrobe and hair products. I decided to start with my clothes. I picked outfits for the next two days and laid them aside. Standing in front of my closet, staring into the mass of clothing, I was unable to decide on what to wear. It was only for three days.
I just needed three outfits; it wasn’t that hard. I laid out three maxi skirts: a solid teal, a navy floral, and a black and white color block design. But what if I didn’t feel like wearing a skirt every day? So I picked out two pair of high-waisted denim shorts and a pair of ripped denim capris. As I flipped through the closet, I found a denim mini-skirt, spicy, but I’ll throw it in too. That should be good. I moved to the other side of the closet to pick out matching shirts. I started with the basics, one white and one black t-shirt and one white and one black camisole. I spotted the hem of a burnt orange ruched crop top with off the shoulder sleeves - perfect. I looked at the outfits laid out on the bed. I just needed two more shirts. I settled on a long sleeve pale pink floral blouse that tied in the front and an oversized graphic tee. What if I get cold? I toss my favorite hoodie on the bed and a couple of jersey knit cardigans. “This is exhausting,” I mutter as I throw myself on the floor. Just as I feel my body land on the soft rug, I hear a knock on my door, and my mom peeks her head in.
“Need some help honey?” she offers
“Yes, Momma!” I pout
She pulls me to my feet and takes in the pile of clothes in front of her. She begins to match outfits together and fold them neatly while I retrieve my suitcase from the closet.
“Do you plan on sleeping naked? I don’t see any pajamas here, honey.” Mom asks with a wink.
“No!” I feel my face redden. I open my dresser and decide on a t-shirt nightgown, a satin tank top and short set, and my favorite sweatpants and t-shirt. I turn around to place them in the suitcase and quickly realize that I’m already out of space. I haven’t even packed my hair and makeup yet.
“I should have known my prissy girl wouldn’t be able to take just one suitcase,” mom laughed. “Let me go see if I can find another one in the attic.” She kissed my forehead and walked out.
I walk into the bathroom to begin sorting through my hair and makeup. I’m such an indecisive person. What if I want to wear my hair natural? What if I want to straighten it? What if I want to twist it up? I let out a frustrated sigh and sat down on the rug.
“You’re still not done?” Olivia scowls. I was so frustrated that I hadn’t even heard her come in. I just look up at her in desperation. She giggles and sits down on the floor beside me. “Maddy, no matter what your hair looks like, your mate will love you. But in my opinion, if any guy doesn’t like your gorgeous natural curls, he’s not worth all the time it takes to straighten it out.” Although I was two months older than her, she always gave the best ‘big sister’ advice.
“You’re right, but I’m bringing my straightener just in case.” Liv throws her hands up and mutters under her breath.
I start organizing my hair products into two categories: curly and straight. You would think that for someone with naturally curly hair, it wouldn’t take much work to wear it curly. You would be sadly mistaken—special shampoo and conditioner. Gel, mousse, and creams to apply when thoroughly wet. More gel to apply when partially dry. Sprays and Oils to apply when completely dry. Then you might ask why I don’t just wear it straight then. Ha! It takes 4 hours to dry, protect, and straighten my hair. Once I had everything sorted for my hair, I moved on to my makeup. Makeup would be much easier since I didn’t wear a lot of it. I worked hard to keep my skin clear of blemishes so that I didn’t need a lot of makeup. I grabbed my entire skincare line and the essential makeup: eyeliner, mascara, lip balm.
“Maddy, you need more than that. Spice it up a bit, girl!” Liv chimed in.
“Fine.” So I dug a little deeper and found a smokey eye pallet, a red lipstick, a highlighter, and a brow pencil. “Better?” Liv smiled in approval.
“Girls!” I heard my mom call out as she entered my room. Her arms were full of shopping bags. She hadn’t just gone up to the attic.
She unloaded her things onto my, now overflowing, bed. She grabbed the first bag excitedly and instructed us both to close our eyes. After a few seconds, she allowed us to turn around and open our eyes, revealing two pale pink satin robes, one embroidered with an M and one with an O. We squealed with joy and pulled each other into a group hug. That was just the beginning of our surprises. Mom continued to unpack the shopping bags revealing matching slippers, soft cotton headbands, and a few dresses. Liv and I both raised our eyebrows at the dresses, and mom quickly tucked those back into a bag and said, “You didn’t see those. Your father doesn’t need to know how all these clothes get in my closet” with a smirk.
“Now girls, sit down,” she said as she pulled out two pink striped bags. “You girls could meet your mate this weekend. Now it’s not a guarantee, but with this many members of our neighboring packs together, it’s likely. When you meet your mate, you’ll feel like the whole world disappears. The mating bond is a magical force, and it ensures our packs continuation. Sometimes there can be a strong urge to solidify your bond the moment your eyes meet each other, especially if your mate is a ranking wolf. Girls, I want you to have fun this weekend, but I also want you to be safe.” She concluded and handed us each a bag. We hesitantly pulled out the tissue paper to reveal a lace lingerie set and a box of condoms.
“MOM!” I yelled as my face flushed with embarrassment. Poor Olivia buried her tomato-red face into her hands.
“What?! I was your age once too, you know! Your dad and I met at the mating ball, and you were almost conceived on the dance floor.” She danced out of my room, reminiscing that day. “Dinner will be done in about an hour, girls,” she yelled from the hallway.
“Liv, I am so so sorry about that!”
Standing in front of the mirror, holding a strapless lace bodysuit in front of her, “Actually, I really like it. Yes, it was embarrassing having your mom buy us lingerie, but she did well. I like it! Let me see yours.”
I pulled out a red satin bodysuit with lace trim. It had a built-in underwire and removable straps. As I looked in the bag, I also found a red lace garter with a satin bow. I had to agree with Liv; my mom did well. Olivia helped me pack the rest of my stuff. I put the lingerie and condoms in a small satin drawstring bag and tucked it into the garment bag with my gown. I took a moment to admire my dress one more time before zipping it up and placing all my stuff together in the corner of my room. I can’t believe this is finally happening!
Friday morning, and as usual, Liv and I take our places on the deck. I set the timer and lay down on my stomach.
“Make sure you pack your bathing suit and tanning lotion to take with us.” Liv reminded. “We will want to get in one last tanning session before Mr. Dreamy whisks you away to his pack.”
“It’ll be nice to meet the other girls there too” We drifted off into comfortable silence.
This time, possibly our last time here on my deck tanning together, seemed to pass so quickly. Mom brought us our usual lemonade. “You girls need to start getting ready to go. Your ride to the hotel will be here in an hour.”
Olivia starts to panic and puts on her cover-up and runs over to her house to get ready. It helps that she only lives three houses down from mine. I jump in the shower quickly then set to work on my hair. This process alone takes almost 45 minutes. Luckily I’ll have time to do my makeup in the car. I hear my mom come in to start taking down my bags, and I rush to hurry. I slip on a sundress, flats, and my sunglasses and skip to the bottom of the stairs holding my tote bag with my last-minute hair and makeup items.
Lots of hugs, tears, and pictures later, Olivia and I are tucked into the sleek black car, our luggage packed into the trunk. Our driver was super cool and let us blare our super girly playlist as loud as we liked. I quickly applied some mascara and honey lip balm before we went into the curvy stretch of road leading up to the Conference Center and hotel. We turned the corner, and the massive building consumed the view. It was magnificent. Our driver unloaded our bags from the car and handed them off to two older men. Each of them held out an arm to escort us to our rooms. When we made it to the third floor, Liv’s escort turned her to the west wing and mine to the east. “I’ll text you later, Maddy!” Liv yelled as we waved.
My escort carefully placed my luggage in the room and handed me the room key. I thanked my attendant before turning to take in the room. It was amazing! A full suite all to myself. A huge king size bed centered between two doors. On the opposite side of the room were a sitting area and a desk and two solid french doors leading out onto a balcony. I decided to check out the balcony first. My view overlooked the pool and a beautiful flower garden. Beyond that was a huge meadow with a few horses grazing its grasses. This view was paradise. I walked back inside to check out the rest of the room. I open the door to the left of the bed to find the bathroom with a huge shower, soaker tub, and makeup vanity. After discovering the bathroom, I was ever more curious about the other door. I turned the knob, and the lights came on automatically, revealing a walk-in closet big enough for two people. I decided to go ahead and unpack my bags and settle my things in place. After hanging up all my clothes and settling all my hair and makeup in place, I flopped down on the big bed. The duvet was so fluffy it almost swallows me up. Just as I got comfy, my phone dinged.
Liv: Dinner downstairs in 5?
Maddy: Sure. Should I change?
Liv: Nah. I doubt we’ll run into anyone.
Maddy: Okay. See you in a minute.
We meet each other at the elevator and head down to the hotel restaurant. They had a little bit of everything. I decided to go light with a grilled chicken salad and some fruit - I had to make sure my dress would still fit tomorrow. Liv, never gaining an ounce, went with a massive plate of spaghetti. After our food arrived at the table, Liv’s eyes glazed over. Her gaze locked on something over my shoulder. Before I could turn to investigate, she asked, “Do you smell that?”
Thinking she was referring to the food, I replied, “Yeah, your spaghetti smells amazing.”
“No, not that. It smells like sweet like citrus but rugged like the forest.” She closed her eyes and inhaled deeper. I didn’t smell anything like that.
I took a bite of my salad, thoroughly convinced that Olivia was a lunatic, then glanced over my shoulder. There at the entrance of the restaurant was a tall, broad-shouldered man with light blonde hair reflecting the same crazed look in Olivia’s eyes. In two steps, he was standing at our table, kissing Liv’s hand.
“Ma’am,” he bowed his head to her, “my name is Taro. I don’t wish to interrupt your dinner, but I must know your name.” He looked up into her eyes, begging her to answer.
Her mouth opened, but nothing came out. I giggled and kicked her foot under the table.
“Uh...Uh...Olivia,” She finally managed to get out.
“A beautiful name for a beautiful woman.” He complimented and kissed her hand again. “Will I see you at the ball?”
She nodded, unable to utter a single syllable.
“Until tomorrow, my beautiful Olivia,” he turned and exited the restaurant.
Liv sat there hanging on to the last bit of the love high she was on.
“Wow!” she finally said. “Did you see him? He’s gorgeous. He’s mine.” She trailed off back into her love haze.
“Earth to Olivia!” I said, waving my hand in front of her face. “Your food is getting cold.”
“Oh yeah. Food. I should definitely load up on these carbs. I may be burning them off tomorrow.” She smirked.