White Tie, Black Leather

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Summary

Blythe Ragin had it all-- a perfect life on the Upper East Side. But, she meets him and her whole world goes sideways. Typical, right?

Genre:
Romance / Other
Author:
I.C. Judah
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
25
Rating:
4.9 8 reviews
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1: An Elite Girl, Living in a Chauvinistic World

“Blythe darling! How enchanting to see you!” My mother lightly grasps my forearms and pecks a kiss on each of my cheeks.

“Very wonderful to see you as well, mother. How did Paris treat you?”

“Oh, my dear, excellent! Paris in the summer is beautiful! I don’t know why you insisted on staying cooped up in the manor.”

“Senior year is approaching fast. I must get a head start on my lessons, if—”

“You are to be the best. Yes, of course. However, I do think that studying so much has weakened you. Are you feeling faint?”

She runs her smooth hand over my forehead to check for a temperature. “No Mother,” I gently push her wrist away.

“I just haven’t eaten yet.” “It’s almost noon! You’ll make yourself sick!” “Soledad invited me out for lunch—at the Grand Dupris on Main,” I smoothly lie through a forced smile.

“Ah yes! Robert Majewska’s son Daniel owns the Grand Dupris! Maybe you shall run into him,” She smirks at me whilst still remaining in a ladylike fashion.

“Perhaps,” I half-smile, “I must go now, Mother. Soledad will be waiting for me.”

“It’s rude to keep people waiting!” She calls as I make my way out of the front French Doors.

Gracin, our butler, is waiting for me in the car when I get there, and I meet his eyes through the rearview mirror.

“Is it all in there, Gracin?” I question as he hands me a mangy looking rucksack. “Yes, Miss Blythe. It is.”

I roll up the privacy screen upon his last words and begin to change from my brown tweed skirt and white button-up to black high-waisted shorts and a sunflower-patterned crop-top.

Black sandals follow soon after and I shake my hair from the tightly wound bun it’s in. I stuff my other clothes into the rucksack and throw it into the floorboard of the town car.

“There in two, Miss Blythe,” I hear from behind the screen. I call back, “Thank you, Gracin.”

The town car rolls to a smooth stop and I hastily bounce out, completely done with all of the fancy talk and fake happiness.

“Miss Blythe!” Gracin calls from inside of the vehicle. “Yes?” I spin back around and duck my head into the space.

“Last one?” He questions, a look of disapproval marring his face. “Yes, of course,” I plaster a fake smile onto my face as I lie straight through my teeth.

“Good. I’ll pick you up at two,” He responds with a small smile. “See you then,” I slam the door shut and take off towards the dilapidated brick building that used to be New Hope Hospital.

“Cam!” I shout once I enter the devastated structure. “Are you here?”

“Blythe? We’re down here!” Comes from under me and I immediately know that they’re in the basement.

I bound down the stone stairs to the small concrete room where about six people are standing around, white smoke falling easily from their mouths and into the air.

Yes, I had found a new group to hang out with this summer. No, they may not be all that dependable, but at least they aren’t fake.

“Wanna smoke?” A stranger offers me what seems to be drugs and I crinkle my nose, “Uh—no thanks.” “You come to the pit and you don’t even wanna get high?” He questions, a particular slur to his words.

I shrug and lie, “Just not in the mood today.” “Suit yourself,” He leans back against the wall and continues to inhale the toxic substance.

I’ve never smoked, even if my new friends are potheads. “Blythe!” Cam appears from behind smoke rings, simply walking through them like he isn’t breathing in pure toxins.

He drops his arm around me and stares me in the face, a large smile implanted on his handsome features. “Your mommy actually let you off your leash?”

I force a laugh, “She did, but only because she thinks I’m with more... upstanding people.” He lets out a howl of laughter, the drugs obviously affecting him, “Who could be more upstanding than us?” He motions to the room and they all laugh hysterically, obviously so high that they can’t tell left from right.

I chuckle along with them for a moment before Cam shakes me, seemingly eager. “Hey, you met my cousin?” I crinkle my forehead and shake my head, “Your cousin...?” “Yeah! I can’t believe I haven’t introduced you to him yet! He’s freaking awesome!”

I censor out the profanities that easily spill from his lips and echo off the stone walls. He leads me forward by the arm around my shoulders, forcing me to go along with him,

“C’mon!” I’m pulled over to a dark corner of the basement where a few older guys are standing around, smoking whatever they can get their hands on. In the middle, nestled against the corner, and sitting on an old milk crate is a black-haired, blue-eyed boy—man.

He seems to be pretty tall, from what I can tell, and muscular, but not to the point of being beefy. He runs his hand down the side of his cheek and across his sculpted jawline, letting it fall until his fingers catch the rim of his black wife beater. “Jesse!” Cam garbles out, catching the handsome man’s attention.

“Hey, man,” They do an odd handshake, then Cam steps back to me. “This is Blythe.” ‘Jesse’ raises an eyebrow as he examines me, those icy blue eyes scalding my skin as they rake up and down my body.

“She’s not as pretty as you said she was,” He remarks, then takes another drag of his cigarette. Hoots of laughter chime around the group of men and I roll my eyes. “I’m not going to deal with this,” I say to Cam. “Call me when you’re not high.”

I spin around on my heel, prepared to walk away when a, “Wait,” comes from that melodic, lazy voice and I pause for a brief moment. “Excuse my manners,” He says, his voice a jumble of sarcasm, “I’m not very polite when I’m high.”

I hear the milk crate screech against the concrete floor, evidently moving as he stands to his feet. Again, I don’t respond, channeling my inner maturity. Smoke billows over my shoulders and above my head, telling me that he’s right behind me.

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t blow cigarette smoke into my hair,” I grit out, forcing myself to keep my voice a level tone.

“I would appreciate it if my cousin didn’t bring spoiled little rich girls into my territory,” His voice sounds like a silk caress; however, it feels more like the silk is strangling me.

“Technically, this isn’t your territory. I’ve never seen you here, and I’ve been here quite a lot,” I point out, instantly regretting my almost-childish response. He chuckles lowly and I slightly turn my head to see everyone else in the room going about their business.

I can even hear Cam’s voice as he jokes around with the older men that had been surrounding Jesse only moments ago. His fingertips brush my waist, causing me to jump. Didn’t expect that.

“Someone’s a little jumpy, yes?” “Always have to be alert in case the police decide to make a surprise visit,” I murmur. “Honey, I’ve been arrested, it’s not so bad,” He shrugs and I hold in the ‘I’m better than you’ response on the tip of my tongue.

“For what?” I blurt, instantly regretting my invasive question. “Sorry, that’s none of my business—” “You’re right. It isn’t,” More smoke surrounds me and I frown.

“Petty theft, possession of drugs, physical assault... Nothing too major,” He unexpectedly names off, the crimes rolling off his tongue like a familiar mantra.

I can feel the nonchalance radiating from him and I wonder how he could be so calm about doing those things. “Wow,” Falls from my lips and his nonchalance changes to smugness. “Scared now? Or just impressed?”

“Neither,” I monotone, not allowing him to get under my skin. “I have to be going now. It was lovely speaking to you.”

Without another word, I head up the battered stairs to the first floor, where I can still hear laughter echoing off the empty walls.

I can still feel the sting of where Jesse’s fingers had glazed my side and I press my hand firmly to my abdomen, willing myself to take in fresh breaths of air.

The first insult pulses back to the front of my mind and I frown. Who’s he to say that I’m not pretty? I’m drop dead gorgeous.

And mature. A year ago, I would’ve snapped some lame comeback at him, in an attempt to even the playing field, and he would’ve merely embarrassed me further.

But I’m not that person anymore. I’m an intelligent grown-up who knows how to effectively act in any situation...God, I sound like my mother.

Realizing that I’ve only stayed around ten minutes and that I’ve dismissed Gracin for a couple hours, I sigh. What am I supposed to do now?

I could go get lunch at the Grand Dupris with Soledad, like I told my mother, but I cannot wear this to the Grand Dupris. If anyone, who knows my mother, at least, saw me dressed like this, it would get back to her before I could even get home.

Problem number two: I smell like cigarette smoke. After having it blown at me continuously, the stench is embedded into my clothes and in the strands of my hair. You could always walk home...Or you could be smart and call Gracin!

Suddenly remembering that I do indeed have a cell phone, I pull it from my back pocket and dial the familiar number.

“Blythe? Is everything alright?” His tone takes on worry and I immediately put it to rest. “Yes, Gracin, I’m fine. I’m just finished earlier than usual.

“If you could, please, come pick me up?” I ask politely; however, I know he will because it’s his job. “Yes, of course. I’ll be there in a minute,” He responds, then promptly hangs up.

I stuff the phone back into the pocket of my pants, then await his arrival. I gain a few honks as people drive by, most likely taking on the image of a prostitute. Well, I do have the body for it...

“Miss Blythe?” Gracin’s voice pulls me from my reverie and I snap my eyes up to meet his. His forehead is scrunched in concern and he questions, “Are you alright?”

I shake my head, “Uh—yeah. I’m fine. I was just thinking.” “Very well then,” He nods and stands up straighter than before. “Where to?”

“The manor,” I say in a clipped tone. “Are my parents there?” “No, Miss. They went out for some wine with the Majewska Family,” He informs me as he opens the door to the back seat.

“Crap,” I mutter and sit into the luxurious town car. If Daniel is with them, he’ll tell them he didn’t see me at his restaurant. “Step on it, Gracin!” I call through the privacy screen and he responds by accelerating.

I wonder why they would be meeting with the Majewskas? Probably planning yours and Daniels wedding. I roll my eyes at the thought.

Daniel Majewska is nothing but a stuck-up, arrogant ivy-leaguer who thinks that he can attain everything he wants by simply tossing money and his PhD at people.

“We’re here, Miss Blythe,” Gracin shouts through the screen and I bolt out of the car and up into the manor.

Knowing that I only have limited time to get ready and show up at the Grand Dupris, I hurriedly change into a fitted black dress with a white collar and sleeve cuffs, pull on my Hamilton Pump, Michael Kors, black heels, then braid my black hair and spin it up into a bun.

I spray enormous amounts of perfume to cover the stench of smoke since I don’t have enough moments to completely shower and wash out the smell.

I douse myself with more of the fragrance, then hurriedly make my way back out of the house and into the town car.

“The Grand Dupris, Gracin, and fast!” I almost shout, and as soon as my door is shut, he’s speeding out of the drive. Clicking a name and pressing my phone to my ear, I pray that Soledad answers my call.

After two short rings, her cheery voice chimes through the line, “Blythe! How enchanting to hear from you!” I roll my eyes at her sarcasm.

“Yeah you too. Look, can you meet me at the Grand Dupris in like five minutes?” I speak, trying to keep my voice level as to not give away that something is wrong.

“What’s in it for me?” She lazily presses and I punch the leather seat of the car. “I don’t have time for this. Will you come?” There’s silence at the other end and I’m afraid she’s hung up on me.

“Be there in five, but you’re buying... and I’m in the mood for lobster,” She warns. I wave it away, “Yeah, sure, whatever. Just get yourself there... and stat!” She hangs up and I let the device fall into my lap.

My legs jump at the prospect of my parents figuring out where I’ve been. You mean where you’ve been all summer? I chew on my French tip fingernails, knowing my mother will castigate me for it later but not caring.

“Two minutes out, Miss Blythe,” Gracin calls from behind the screen and I prepare myself for the ambush of questions that are going to be thrown my way when I encounter my parents.

Where’ve you been? Why didn’t you call us? Where’s Soledad? Hey, why don’t you fall in love with Daniel and have five rich, male-heirs to carry on his legacy so you can fade into oblivion and be known as nothing but ’Daniel Majewska’s wife’ forever?

I shudder at the idea of being tied down to someone and forced to be ‘seen and not heard’, which is the role my mother and many of her friends embody.

We all had male heirs, darling. We all let our husbands take care of us instead of working. We all are known as our husbands’ wives. But, sweetheart, look at how we’re living. What more can a woman ask or dream for?

You could ask for a normal life. You could ask for all of the pettiness and deceit to go away. You could dream that possibly your male heir will come home after you drove him away with your constant, looming standards.

The carousel never stops turning, my dear, she would say. He’s not going to come back. I close my eyes tightly, trying to push out the memories of my brother, Beau.

After he’d graduated high school, my father expected him to attend Harvard Law and follow in his legacy as a white-collar lawyer. However, Beau had different plans—he wanted to be a philanthropist. Now, that part didn’t bother my parents.

Oh, no. It was the fact that he wouldn’t be going to Harvard, but instead going to live in Africa and help with the water crisis.

“No college education? Beau Ragin are you out of your mind? What will you do when this little fantasy of yours fails you, huh? You’ll run back here, begging for money, I assure you. And you know what I’ll say? I’ll say: ‘I told you so’! Then you’ll be pleading for me to send you to college!” My father’s voice resounds in my mind like a loud slap.

“No, dad,” Beau reassures him, “I won’t. You can throw your money at me all you want, but finances don’t rule my life, unlike you. I actually want to help people with my money instead of hoard it for myself and loom it over peoples’ heads like a threat.”

“I don’t know who you think you are, but—” “Miss Blythe? We’re here,” Gracin has rolled down the private screen and is intently staring at me through the rear-view mirror. “Yes, I’m going,” I murmur, wiping away a stray, unforeseen tear from my cheek.

I open the door, before Gracin can open it for me, and hurry towards the restaurant, my heels clicking on the concrete sidewalk. A doorman opens the golden-rimmed, tall glass door for me and I acknowledge him with a small smile and a nod.

Multitudes of high-class elite stare me down as I enter, many attempting to be polite with the usual, ”How enchanting to see you!“.

After gliding around and greeting familiar faces, I’m directed to where my parents are having wine. Slowly, I approach, trying to come up with a solidified lie to back up why I’m here when I left the house twenty minutes ago.

“Mother, Father,” I speak once conversation dies down between them and the Majewskas.

“Blythe!” My mother looks surprised, as does my Father. “Where have you been? I didn’t see you when we came in!”

“Sorry, I had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction and had to go back home. When I arrived, you were already gone,” I let the lie flow effortlessly from my tongue, hoping she doesn’t catch my fidgeting.

“What about Soledad? You made her wait? Blythe, that’s very rude, darling,” She castigates. Crap I forgot about Soledad! “Uh—um—right—she—uh—” “Darling, it’s not becoming to stutter,” She chides. The Majewskas’ stares make me even more nervous than usual and I subtly wipe my palms on my dress.

“Turns out, there was a scheduling issue but we worked it out. Just a little miscommunication on both ends.” “So, you didn’t make her wait here for twenty minutes?” She raises an eyebrow at me.

“No, of course not,” I force a polite smile and she clasps a hand to her chest, glad that I haven’t been rude then exposed it to my “future-husband’s” family.

She motions with her eyes for me to speak to the Majewskas and I obey, “Mr. and Mrs. Majewska, how are you both on this fine day?” “Oh, wonderful dear! Even better now that we’ve seen you!” Mrs. Majewska clasps my hand and gives it a small shake.

Mr. Majewska, a man of few words, smiles at me. I return the action before my attention is redirected to my mother. “Blythe, have you seen Daniel? He was just looking for you!” I plaster a fake grin on my face. Oh, give me a break.

“Yes! Yes, he was! He wants to ask you something!” Mrs. Majewska wiggles her eyebrows at me and I want to erase those drawn-on brows from the high place on her forehead.

“Well, then, I must see him before I leave,” I politely respond, attempting to leave when I spot Soledad enter. “He’s right over there, why don’t you go see him now?”

Mr. Majewska adds and I grit my teeth. My mother urges me with her eyes, but I refuse. “I would, but Soledad just arrived—I don’t want to keep her waiting.”

The Majewskas’ faces fall, as does my mother’s, but she quickly replaces it with a smile across her lipstick-slathered mouth. “We’ll send him your way!” “Alright. Good to see you, Mr. Majewska, Mrs. Majewska,” I force from my lips, trying not to be too curt.

“Very enchanting, Blythe! You must come over for tea sometime!” “Yes, of course,” I half-smile, then, with one last wave, hurry towards where Soledad is waiting for me, her large sunglasses hiding her eyes. “Blythe, darling,” She says in a thick, low, accent, mimicking the usual tone of older elites.

“Shut up,” I grab her arm and tug her towards the dining patio. We sit at a table for two and she sets her sunglass on the table, revealing her puffy, darkly-outlined eyes. “Party too hard?” I question, picking up my menu and perusing it. “Duh,” She scoffs, picking up her menu as well.

“I’m really in the mood for Pinot noir,” She comments. “We can’t drink. We’re underage,” I remind and she tsks. “I’m sure if you ordered it, Daniel would provide. He is trying to marry you, after all.” “Don’t remind me,” I murmur, closing the menu and laying it on the table.

“I don’t see why you’re so biased against marrying him. Yeah, he may be as dumb as a brick, but he’d take care of you with his piles and piles of money,” She shrugs, fiddling with her utensils.

“I don’t want to be ‘taken care of’,” I create air quotes with my fingers. “I want to take care of myself. I’m going to be a neurosurgeon, after all.”

“Yeah, if they don’t break you first,” She mumbles. “What about you?” I flip the scrutiny. “How are things in the Castillo household?” She rolls her eyes and scrunches up her red lips.

“Idiotic. They want me to be married off in the next year, since women don’t go to college in the Castillo line,” She chants her father’s annoying mantra.

“Well, what do you want?” I question. “Well, I want to be a veterinarian, but my parents despise animals and women in the workforce,” She relays. “Why don’t you just do it anyway? Take your small fortune and put it towards vet school,” I shrug.

“If they thought I even had the idea of wanting to be a vet, they’d confiscate my funds, since I’m not eighteen yet. Plus, that money would never pay for all the education required.”

“Start working, then. Get a job at a local clinic,” I suggest, but she shakes her head. “Blythe, I don’t know how to have a job. Everything has been handed to me, as it has for you. I don’t know the first thing about working. Also, my parents would never allow it.”

She has a point there. If someone asked me to work as a waitress, I wouldn’t know the first thing about being employed under someone.

“I’m going to apply for an internship under Dr. Zechariah so I can gain some field experience,” I add, displaying that I’m not going to blindly go into the workforce with no experience whatsoever.

“If you get it, have fun. Just promise you’ll think of me, locked up in a mansion with nothing to do but sit around and plan book clubs and drink fine wine,” She goes into her accent again and I chuckle.

“But you like wine,” I point out. She slightly bangs her fist on the table. “Yeah, but I like the dirty stuff more. Vodka, bourbon, beer— that’s the stuff for me. Not all of that swirl and smell junk,” She goes off on her soapbox and I tune her out as she begins to speak about the different tastes to each of her preferences.

“... then there’s bourbon, which is stronger, but—” “Blythe?” A deep voice resounds from behind me and I clench my jaw. “Daniel,” I force myself to sound delighted.

“Hey Dan,” Soledad calls, “it’s about time someone came to take our order. We’ve been sitting here for like ten minutes.”

“I apologize, Miss Castillo. Can I make it up to you?” He goes into business mode and I roll my eyes. “Yeah, a bottle of Pinot noir would do the trick,” She shoots back. “C’mon, you know I can’t serve you alcohol,” His voice becomes more casual as he speaks.

“Oh, it’s not for me. Blythe wants it. Don’t you, Blythe?” She forces a smile at me, warning me with her eyes that I better agree or I’ll regret it. “Yes,” I will myself to speak. “I’m feeling in the mood.” “In that case,” A smirk appears on his handsome face, “it will be right out.”

He snaps and a wimpy teenage boy hurriedly approaches. “Y-Yes sir?” He shakes out, obviously afraid of his boss.

“Get me a bottle of Pinot noir and two chicken parmesan plates,” He says without even looking at him. The boy nods and turns to go, but Daniel stops him, “You’ll do it quickly if you want to keep your job.”

The harsh tone causes the teenager to speed towards the building, afraid of losing his way of making money. “And what if I didn’t want chicken parm?” Soledad drawls out, trying to get under his skin. It’s obvious she’s succeeded when he releases a tight grin. “I can redact the order, if you’d like.”

“No, no,” She shrugs and slumps back in her chair, “that won’t be necessary.” He narrows his eyes at her as she pouts before turning to me, a full-on smile reappearing on his face.

You’re not going to charm me, buddy. “I haven’t seen you lately,” He remarks and I shrug, fiddling with the handle to my spoon.

“I’ve been busy,” I respond, trying to push him out of any and all of my affairs. “Yes, your mother told me you have been studying to get into Harvard to be a gynecologist,” I roll my eyes as he speaks.

“She misinformed you. I’m going to Yale to be a neurosurgeon,” I correct and he raises an eyebrow. “Oh?” He questions. “I didn’t think women indulged themselves with such a challenging and stressful line of work.”

“Hate to break it to you, but they do,” Comes from across the table. Soledad lazily files her nails, seemingly bored with his attempts to woo me.

He scowls at her, then turns back to me and places his hand over mine. I glare a hole into the hand as he begins to speak. Die. Die. Die. Die. Die. D-I-E! I scream in my head as his chauvinist ideals come into play.

“Darling,” He drawls out, and my eye twitches at his term of endearment, “I don’t think that’s a good career path for you. I mean, think of the pressure it would put on you and your children.” Who said I was having children?

“Who said she wants children?” Soledad speaks my mind and I’m thankful for her crassness. He scoffs and buttons his suit jacket.

“All women want children,” He says, a matter-of-factly. Wrong. Soledad makes a noise like a buzzer, ”Wrong. Not all women bow to your housewife standards.” He goes to speak, but the waiter comes at an impeccable time, placing our food and wine before us.

“Really? It took you five minutes to bring this out here? I thought I told you to be faster,” Daniel whisper-yells. “I-I’m sorry, Mr. Majewska, it won’t happen again—”

“You’re right. It won’t, because you’re fired. Get out of my restaurant, you pathetic excuse for a human,” He insults and I grip the table, holding back the flood of things I could scream.

“B-but this is the only way I can pay for my education—”

“Do you think that’s my problem? No. Get out of here before I have to call security.” The teenager looks absolutely devastated before turning and hurrying away from our table.

“Anyway, what were we talking about?” His voice becomes pleasant once more as he regards me.

“Why would you do that? He’s only a boy,” I allow to escape my lips.

“Business affairs shouldn’t be any of your concern, darling,” He squeezes my hand.

“It was time for him to be let go. He was messing up orders, mistreating the guests—”

“But what about his education?”

“Honey, that’s not our problem; it’s his. If he were a better waiter, then he’d still be earning money for his schooling.”

“But I—”

“No more on this, alright? You haven’t been observing him for the past month,” He lays his hand on my shoulder and I’m tempted to bite his hand off.

Soledad stays quiets as she gulps down her wine and chicken parmesan, too occupied to come to my aid. Daniel’s phone buzzes from inside his pocket and his brown eyes flit to the screen as he pulls it out.

His face falls and settles in an expression of annoyance. “Sorry, darling, I must be going. There’s a problem in the kitchen.”

He stands up from the borrowed chair and places it back at its proper table. “Goodbye, Soledad,” He remarks, walking a couple steps, then turning back.

“Oh, and Blythe, would you like to be my date for the Norman Price Charity Gala tomorrow night?”

Say yes to any and all offers Daniel hands you. You will be married to him, after all! My mother’s posh voice resonates through my cranium and I nod.

“Yes, of course.”

A small, cocky smile forms on his lips. “Good. I’ll pick you up at six,” Then, he’s disappeared into the sea of people, leaving Soledad to openly gape at me.

“If you think he’s such a jerk, I don’t see why you accept his date offers,” She stuffs a forkful of pasta noodles into her mouth.

“My mother would murder me if I rejected him and like you said: they pay for everything. I actually want to go to medical school.”

“The carousel never stops turning,” She mumbles and I groan before taking a small sip of wine.

Nope. Not for me. I suck my lips into my mouth at the bitter taste and down some pasta to try and rid my taste buds of it.

“You look like you just sucked on a lemon,” She remarks, still shoveling food into her mouth.

“Remind me to never drink Pinot noir again,” I mutter, dabbing at my mouth with the cloth napkin before laying it back into my lap.

“Are you going to the gala tomorrow?” I question, swirling the fork around my plate.

She shrugs, “Yeah, but I’m going with Avery Dunlap.”

“The blond Dunlap?” I ask.

“And the most controlling. My parents think he’ll be the perfect husband for the simple fact that he can easily dominate me, or whatever,” She speaks with her hands, moving them in violent motions.

“I’m sorry, Sol. At least he’s attractive...?” I try to turn the situation around but she shakes her head.

“This time, I’m the ‘be-seen-and-not-heard’ arm-candy,” She monotones whilst deeply frowning.

“That’s what Daniel expects me to be, but he has another thing coming if he believes that I’m going to play that role,” I remark, stabbing a noodle with my fork.

“Stick it to the man,” She mumbles through her wine. As I begin to laugh, my phone rings and I pull it out to see that there’s a text message from my mother:

Wrap it up with Soledad so you can try on dresses for the gala. Daniel is waiving your bill.

“Sorry, Sol,” I say as I place my phone back into my purse, “I have to go. My mother wants me to try on dresses for the gala.”

She rolls her eyes, “Mine probably does too.”

“Just leave when you’re finished,” I stand and gather my things. “It’s on-the-house.”

“Yet another perk of you being betrothed to Daniel Majewska.”

“We’re not betrothed!” I hiss back as I glide to the exit. However, before I make it there the devil himself swerves in front of me. I abruptly stop and put a pleasant look on my face.

“It was lovely seeing you, Blythe,” He flirts.

“You as well, Daniel,” I respond, trying to seem as earnest as possible as to not give him any ideas. He leans in, as if to kiss me, and I step away.

“Sorry, Gracin is waiting for me. It’s rude to keep people waiting,” I quote my mother from earlier, then quickly flee the scene to avoid the awkwardness that was going to ensure his attempted kiss.

“Miss Blythe, leaving so soon?”

“Gracin it’s been like half an hour,” I sass back and he raises his hands in defense.

“Pardon my time-keeping skills,” He says before opening the door for me. I sit into the vehicle and instantly sigh, a mountain of pressure falling from my shoulders. “Everything go well?” He asks as he gets into the car and cranks it.

I shrug, “I guess.”

“Did he try to kiss you again?” His voice is almost comical and I want to strangle him.

“Yes,” I snap back.

“And you fled?”

“Yep.”

“Good,” He puts the car into drive and takes off, my laughter bouncing off the inside of the town car. Gracin doesn’t like Daniel either, and for good reason.

Once, Gracin was late picking me up (he’d had a family emergency) and it enraged Daniel. So, when he arrived, Daniel threatened to have him fired and black-balled. As you can imagine, I quickly shot down his thought that he could control who works for me, and ever since they’ve disliked one another.

“I have to go to this stupid gala with him. I don’t even want to go to the thing and now I have to go with him!” I bang my head repeatedly against the leather seats.

“You could always fake sickness,” He suggests. “No, my mother would know I was faking... Wait! I know! I could throw myself from the top of the manor!”

He chuckles, turning down a familiar road that leads to my house.

“How about this: you go, you dance a little, you say hello, then you pretend to feel dizzy, and really harp on the fact that you feel dizzy, until he insists that you go home,” He pitches and I mull over it. “Hmmm... Not bad. I think I’ll do that,” I stroke my chin.

“No need to thank me,” He mutters and I roll my eyes, “Miss Blythe.” “Blah, blah, I’m an overpaid butler/chauffeur. Cry me a river,” I say sarcastically and he laughs.

“I’m not overpaid. They don’t pay me to deal with your drama,” He points out and I narrow my eyes. “Ok,” I respond, raising my hands in defeat.

Before I know it, we’re pulling into the manor drive, right behind my parents’ car. I allow Gracin to open my door for me, for fear that my mother might say something to him about ‘not doing his job’. “I’ve had dresses brought over from Cecilia’s.

“They’re all waiting in the dressing room. Anna-louis will help you put them on,” My mother bombards me with information as soon as I step out of the car.

“Yes, mother,” I respond respectfully, then walk into the house and up the left staircase towards the dressing room. When I reach the immaculate room, there are at least forty dressed hanged around the room, each one fancier than the last.

“Ready, Miss Blythe?′ Anna-louis pops up out of nowhere and causes me to flinch.

“Don’t do that!” I press a hand to my chest, feeling my heart beat quickly. “Sorry, madam,” she apologizes and I shake my hands. “No, no, please don’t call me madam,” I refuse the title due to the fact that it makes me feel like a slave-master.

“Sorry mad—” “Anna-louis,” I warn and she pauses before picking up a very pink and very puffy dress. “Ready?” I nod, extremely not ready for the torture that’s about to ensue.

After showcasing thirty-eight dresses for my mother, we (not just me, but both of my parents) decided on one. It’s white lace at the top with a long, black, tulle tail that extends to the floor.

The dress is long-sleeved, yet it’s off-the-shoulder on both sides and is belted at the waist. “Lovely!” My mother chimes as she motions for me to spin.

I do as she instructs and she plays with the tulle. “Oh, Daniel is going to adore it!” My father, being a man of, literally, no words, merely scans me with his eyes and nods with a smile.

He’d learned that long ago his opinion stopped mattering when it came to things like this, so he merely stopped giving his thoughts and started agreeing with mother.

Stupid man. Stand up for yourself, why don’t you. “Take your hair down so we can get the full effect,” She prods me, but I refuse.

“No, mother, it looks dirty. I need to wash it.” True, I do, because of all the smoke embedded in it. “Oh, alright,” She relents and waves me away, “but tomorrow we’re doing it how I like!”

We would’ve done it how you liked it anyways, but ok.

“Well, I have work to do,” My father hurriedly makes an exit before mother can rope him into doing anything else. “So do I,” She says to me.

“You look ravishing! Oh, I can’t wait!” She exclaims as she also makes her exit, clasping her hands to her chest. “Get me out of this thing,” I mutter to Anna-louis, who instantly begins to unclasp and unzip.

Once it’s off, I change into shorts and a t-shirt and proceed to study for my internship interview.

When identifying an intracranial hemorrhage, CT Scans are useful. There are two kinds of hemorrhages: intracerebral and subarachnoid.

I pause for a moment, allowing those words to sink into my brain. Intracerebral and subarachnoid. Intracerebral and subarachnoid. Intracerebral and subarachnoid.

“I don’t think that’s a good career path for you. I mean, think of the pressure it would put on you and your children.”

“I didn’t think women indulged themselves with such a challenging and stressful line of work.” Instead, his words resonate on the inside of my skull and I sigh.

He isn’t right. You can do this. You can do this.

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