Inside, I expect a rowdy, robust family to be occupying the living area and a potential undercover BBQ outside to avoid the rain. What I encounter is completely different.
I momentarily forget Theo is here when I walk through the dark, unlit corridors of his silently beautiful mansion, only to walk into the most amazing room, lit with decoration such as flowers, guest tables, love couches, expensive paintings and a fireplace... and massive white panel windows.
It looked like a mini ballroom and all the family were engrossed in conversation and laughter. A huge table at one end is being piled up with more and more trays of food, chips and the usual Greek cuisine.
I stay close to Theo while he finds the birthday girl, Bryony, and he gives her a big hug and his best wishes. She is shy and doesn’t say much, and we’re quickly intercepted by more aunties, uncles and cousins. Many do not bother to ask about me, and when they do, Theo says I’m his executive assistant.
Not sure if it was all together true... but I liked the title. It sounded fancy.
“You must tell me,” one young girl comes running up to Theo, looking about thirteen, she stands with hands on hips, glaring at him after interrupting a conversation he was having with his aunty Dawn, “Where is Cynthia?”
“Mmm, yes, is she... departed?” Dawn chooses funny words to describe a break up and Theo blushes, nodding. There is a hush in the room, a slight lull but it is noticeable... and it is uncomfortable.
Especially when all Theo does is shrug.
“She was so welcome, oh well... her loss,” Dawn winks and laughs while the thirteen year old girl gasps.
“No! She said she’d make me a model,” the girl complains and Theo ruffles up her hair.
“She promised lots of things, little doll, you can be a model without her –” Theo is supportive and encouraging none the less, while I stand awkwardly and pretend to smile like this conversation was easy to manage.
The aunty opens her mouth to address me, however, but is cut off when Chloe storms off crying.
“She’s always been emotional that one,” Dawn sighs, “Chloe wants fame, her dream is to be featured in a magazine... she’s only thirteen years old, little girl has big dreams so young...”
“Don’t we all?” I speak, empathetically and I’m suddenly cornered by Theo’s curious gaze as well as his aunty’s.
“What was your dream?” Theo asks me.
“Mmmm, tell us what childhood dreams you had,” Dawn is curious. However, with all the unexpected attention I am now suddenly nervous and my mind goes blank.
“I... I... well,” I take a moment to pretend to ponder my thoughts, my eyes rolling to the ceiling and the chandelier. It is then the answer comes to me, “To find prince charming of course, I wanted to be a princess... but only for a year or two and then I found video games and became more of a tom boy,” I shrug my shoulders, rattling off from the topic.
“Prince charming?” Theo picks apart what I’ve said by focusing on the one most embarrassing part.
It had sounded so good in my head. But it was so lame when the words came puking out my mouth like an idiot.
“Hmmm,” Dawn’s only reaction is one of indifference.
I’m hoping for a way out of this situation when I suddenly hear a shrill voice call out to Theo.
“Theo!” it is Theo’s mother and she is right behind us.
I turn with my boss, close to his side, ready to be polite to his older and more traditional parents.
Second time meeting, go.
Let’s do this.
Despite the warnings, I am not prepared to come face to face with a beauty before me. My eyes feel like they are going to pop out of my head. Surely I couldn’t be this unlucky...
A girl, my height, dressed in a drop dead gorgeous hot pink dress with flowers in her hair, manicured fingers, dazzling big blue eyes and a perfectly shaped nose... and lips... and her boobs nearly spilling out of her dress...
I find myself gaping.
She was like... like... a... like a really hot version of me. Me being a two out of ten, her being a ten.
“This is Arianna, a family friend, visiting from Greece, on her university holidays,” Alex literally grabs the girls hand and Theo’s, forcing them to handshake, “This is my first son, Theodore. Recently single; I might add,” he winks at the girl who blushes brightly and glances at me.
“Oh, I thought you two,” she points a finger at Theo and me, and then shakes her head, smiling brightly, “Never mind, I was being rude.”
Oh, shut those sweet perfectly pouty lips, Ari. I’m not worried about you being rude. I’m worried about the fact you could sneeze and make it look hot, you could probably trip and do so gracefully, you could eat three souvlakis and still not have your stomach pop out... all the fat would go to your perfect breasts no doubt.
“Nice to meet you, Arianna,” Theo is formal, “But Wren –”
His dad cuts him off.
“She is studying science and biology,” Alex is loud and firm as he intercepts the conversation, “Arianna is very bright... very beautiful... you even have birthdays in the same month.”
“O-oh,” Arianna chuckles, after stuttering, “Please, you’re too kind, Alex. I am simply studying a popular course that should hopefully be... um... successful for me. It would be u-utterly amazing if I could simply find a rich man instead,” she pretends to roll her eyes after stuttering and that impossibly made her look even more beautiful.
How could someone stutter and still vibe off perfection?
My eyes briefly glance towards the doors we came through and that vine where the guy says ‘Run’ pops through my head.
Run, my mind encourages me to bail.
I have to shake my head to stop myself.
Tempting... but weak.
Just... I just won’t look at her too hard.
“There are plenty of wealthy men in this area,” Theo speaks and I glance up just in time to see him give her a wink.
Wait... what? Was that suggestive? Of him? Of other men, besides him?
I glance at the door again.
No, brain, shut up with the damn vine music.
“Would you like to eat?” Theo asks while I’m staring at the chandelier again, pretending to be very interested in it, “...sweet cheeks?”
Oh my god, he was calling her sweet cheeks now?
I turn to glare at him; however he is staring right at me and the shock of it makes me jump a little. I drop my bag and I reach down to pick it up, laughing way too high pitched and loudly.
“Hahaha! Clumsy me!” I call out, also a bit too robustly, trying to act chill and sounding the exact opposite. Arianna is giving me a lovely smile and my stomach clenches.
Argh, no, bitch, don’t you dare be nice or it’ll be harder to hate you.
“I was talking to you, Wren,” Theo reminds me and my eyes widen in surprise.
“Oh!” I exclaim... again, too loudly.
“Enjoy the food,” Alex eventually forces on a smile for me, disappointed in Theo, while Gaia nods at Theo, wanting her son to go eat.
Theo heads off for the food and expects me to follow.
I do, happy to get away. However, I find I’m quickly towed by Arianna.
She is with no one else now but us, so I find myself turning to her, not wanting to have any awkward silences where she might think I’d try to ignore her.
“Hey, so, I guess the flight was long?” I ask her and she shrugs.
“Long, yes, and tiring, I am glad to be on holiday though,” she responds, again kindly, “You eat Greek much? You will love this,” she points to everything and I smile nervously, my cheek twitching with a nervous tic, especially when Theo glances over his shoulder at me, amused.
“Greek and all sorts of cuisines are common in Melbourne, so yes, I’ve tried all this before,” I explain, “A-are you... um –” I forget what I’m saying as I’m trying to talk while facing her and getting food. The next moment, my elbow smacks into a pair of tongs which flip out of the bowl and onto the floor, “Oh! Shit!” I exclaim, feeling my cheeks go bright red as I turn to pick it up. Reaching down, knocking my injured hip back into the table, wincing and dropping the tongs as I try to grab it but my hands fail to work.
I try to grab it again but I’m intercepted by Theo, who leans down, twines his fingers quickly through mine, clasping my hand close.
“....Ms. Clumsy.... please... watch your injuries,” he scolds me, picking up the tongs for me while rising back up, my hand in his, he chucks the tongs on the table and pulls me in close to his side, “You’re not required to make conversation with anyone, sweet cheeks,” he murmurs in my ear. I breathe a bit more slowly and I watch as Theo hands back my plate and starts filling it up for me.
I look over my shoulder for Arianna but she has been called over by another few family friends and talks to them while picking off her plate.
Once Theo and I have our plates full, we go to an empty table and sit side by side.
“Hungry?” he asks me and I finally feel we have some time alone.
“She’s beautiful,” I whisper, while trying to pick at my food like Ari, so I don’t eat like a crazy unattractive ogre.
“So are you,” Theo shrugs, “You think I haven’t see a thousand girls like her, try to dress up, put on a tonne of makeup, wear a push up bra, a corset underneath to suck in her stomach, high heels for height, fake hair, fake nails –?”
“I get it,” I snap, annoyed, “Women can do that if they want, though.”
“You’re different,” he points out and leans in to speak more quietly, “They think I don’t know her, I’ve visited the family before during my teen years. I remember her. Running around the house in pajamas and too shy to speak... she’s not as pretty as she does herself up to be.”
“But her voice is so feminine and smooth, I wish I had that,” I complain anyway, still feeling threatened.
Grow a back bone, Wren. You’re better than this.
“The grass is always greener on the other side. You didn’t overhear her when we came in at first?” he asks, “...she was standing near the entrance when we came in.”
So he noticed her straight away? That says it all, huh?
... shut up, brain!
“No, what did she say?” I ask, dryly, slowly losing my appetite.
“She noticed you and instantly started to compliment your natural long hair, your jacket, I heard her say she thinks you look like a nice girl... see? She wishes she had your hair, she is probably freezing in that dress and wants your jacket. She even knew instantly you gave off sweet vibes because you’re a sweet girl,” Theo watches my face soften now, finally.
I feel a bit better.
“You going to show me a tour of your mansion later?” I ask, still deciding a change of topic was best.
“When everyone leaves,” Theo smiles and shakes his head to himself as he also picks at his food, “You think I haven’t already planned that through?”
“Planned what?” I ask, confused.
“Tonight –” he raises both eyebrows, smirking, his mouth popping open to explain more.
However, we’re quickly intercepted by Chloe and her gang of little cousins and siblings.
“We’re sitting here,” Chloe announces, “You must be a fashion designer, right?” she asks me, “I need your help.”
I’m confused why she would think that and I just stare at her, shocked. She probably thought Theo would just replace his last fashionista girlfriend with another one... I guess... I didn’t want to disappoint but... she continues before I can deny anything.
“You need to help me,” she repeats herself, “I’m doing a fake cat walk with my camera crew,” she points to a younger girl holding a camera, “My rivals,” she points to the other kids, “and Theo will be the judge.”
“Do you have clothes to dress up?” I ask, curious to this game.
Chloe opens her mouth to reply straight away, however she sighs and shakes her head.
“No... not really... but I did bring hair products, and makeup, can you please help?” she asks me.
I’m about to deny my abilities... but the passion in her eyes is hard to ignore.
“Of course I’ll help,” I agree, “When would you like to start?”
“After we eat of course!” Chloe complains and Theo just rests his chin in his hand, watching me with a calculating stare.
What did he mean by tonight?
He knows I am thinking about it when I bite my bottom lip, because I see his eyes spark.
Oh, lordy, lordy, oh my twisted panties... maybe he’ll twist mine? Haha.
Where the fuck did that thought come from?
I wouldn’t know until I helped Chloe with her fashion parade and survived the rest of the day.
Hey, Wren... you’re starting to read him better. He is just looking at you and you know what he is thinking. What he wants to say...
Hmmm. Perhaps I was.
I was starting to vibe off Theo better.
But I still had no idea what he truly had in store for me tonight.
And there was only one way to find out.
I wanted to find if he had a play room... or if that was just a joke when he mentioned it last night.
Perhaps, if Theo gets distracted later...
...I’d have to go exploring.