“And that’s the history of how the airplane was invented. Hard to believe life without them. Am I right?” I nodded my head along to the old man, whose name I had seemed to forgotten through the boredom, ramble on.
“Yeah that’s so crazy.” I chuckled but turned my head to subtly let out a yawn I’d been holding in the whole time I’d been listen to the elderly man. As I was letting out what had to be the longest undercover yawn I caught glimpse of someone arriving at the steps who looked so much like Amaya that it was crazy.
I turned back to the old man and let him yammer on for another few seconds. Earlier today my mother persisted on me being nothing but polite, and also reminded me multiple times that she had Amaya’s fate in her hands. She was the whole reason I was willingly listening to my mother. My mother’s “proposition she offered earlier today also didn’t help settle my mind any.
Just thinking back to our little chat had me wanting to rip my hair out. My mother made our deal even worse. As if having Amaya’s academic future in my hands wasn’t enough, she added yet another playing piece to her evil playing board.
I roll my eyes and take a swig of drink in my hand.
Yes. it was alcoholic beverage, but in truth, I needed it. Like to see you try and get up the courage to dump the one good thing that’s ever happened to you.
Yeah...you heard that correctly. I was going to break up with Mya tonight. I didn’t have a choice, not with everything my mother had over me. I sigh as I close my eyes and remember how my mother had, well in her own words “sweetened the deal .”
“My dearest Theo,” Her grin went from innocent to devilish within the snap of a finger. I immediately knew she was up to something. Possibly something worse than usual. “I have a proposition for you.”
I sighed, knowing this could only mean trouble.
“What more could you possibly want from me?” I questioned as I positioned both my elbows on my knees and let out a tired yawn.
Her devilish smirk made a quick reappearance and cleared her throat almost like she was excited to share her newest and juiciest piece of information. I already knew it was going to be something negative, and by how excited she was about breaking the news, I already knew it was something about Amaya. She truly was a sick woman, and I don’t think I’d ever know why she was this way or why she seemed to despise a girl she barely knew. I also knew I’d never ask.
“Well you see, Theo I had my private detective look into your little girly friend.” She got up from the couch and went over to a row of books.
She reached up and snatched a manilla folder that had been sandwiched between two rather large red volumes of encyclopedias. With eager hands she flung open the portfolio and tossed it to me with a grin.
Thankfully the papers were all held together or else I’d be left picking them all off the ground at this moment.
“Take a look at that.”
I cautiously picked the folder up and held it in my hands. Inside the flaps had to be at least fifteen to twenty papers. The immediate factor I noticed about the top paper of the large stack was the long, mile-long list of numbers. I tossed the folder back onto the table and relaxed back into the couch. I felt like we were going to be here a while.
“I know you don’t keep up with my life, but I think you know that I’m a football player not an accountant. What’s all this crap mean?” I referred to the papers sitting in front of me on the surface in between us.
She rolled her eyes. “I swear no matter how old your kids get, you’re going to constantly be showing them around like a couple of blind puppies.”
She walked back over to the couch and plopped down beside me and picked the folder back up. She shifted it in her hands until it was in the perfect position for her to read. I watched as her eyes went from line to line, trying to find a certain line. When she finally did she pointed to it before handing the paper back to me.
I was still tired and waiting for the slumber to leave my system, so I rubbed my eyes for what felt like the millionth time this morning and leaned in. I took a closer look at the spot she is pointing at.
“Patrick Dawson” is typed out in the top left corner of the paper and I immediately remembered that was Mya’s father’s name. My interest immediately became peaked.
I read down the page and notice all the numbers that I had briefly skimmed over all dollar signs. It was all the costs of his hospital bills, and to say that it was putting the family in debt would be an understatement.
Without Amaya’s dad working, their family went from a double to a single income household very quickly. I never really thought about it till just now, but Amaya and her mom had been through so much more than I realized.
I still had no idea what this had to do with my mother though.
“Okay. You know that Amaya’s father’s hospital stay hasn’t been exactly cheap...so what?”
She scoffed like what I had just said was the stupidest thing she had ever heard. “Thank god your brother got the company because you don’t seem to have a mind for numbers or common sense.”
I rolled my eyes at her comment and took another glance back at the papers, trying my hardest to see something that she wants me to.
“Oh my god, Theo!” She snatched the papers out of my hands and flipped through the pages. “See this? This means their going bankrupt, and it won’t be long before their house in foreclosure and the Dawson family is living on the streets.”
I ripped the papers back out of her hands and started to really notice how many of the numbers on the papers were either in red or had a little negative sign in front of them. They were really in trouble.
“Okay they’re struggling a little bit, so what?” I ask like it’s no big deal, but on the inside my mind is already in overdrive trying to think of ways to help them. How much could I possibly get from selling my car? Maybe autograph a bunch of stuff and sell it on eBay? I don’t know. I’ll think of something.
“More than little.”
“Yeah yeah. Do you have a point here? Or do you just find enjoyment in other people’s pain?”
“God you’re so dramatic, but this is where the new part of our deal comes in.” She grinned like that was a good thing.
I didn’t want any new parts to our crappy deal. The one part was shitty enough as it was.
“Who said I wanted another part?” I questioned as I crossed my arms and leaned back into the comforts of the couch. I could definitely fall back to sleep.
“Me. Here’s the deal, Theo. Our first deal was that you break up with the girl and she gets to stay at the school of her dreams, but I’ve been watching you and I know you weren’t going to go through with it. You didn’t want to lose her. I understood that.”
She did? With her cold heart of stone she could see that?
As much as I hate saying this, my mother was right. I wasn’t planning on dumping Mya. I was planning on staying with her and then calling the dean myself to discuss the matter with him myself. I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been but being able to stay with my princess would’ve made it worth while.
"Even if it resulted in getting her kicked out of the one school she loved? The number one place where she felt a connection to her father who may or may not make it out of his coma?" My subconscious taunted.
“Okay, so what’s this new deal?” I wondered aloud hoping she’d thrown out the whole idea of me dumping my girlfriend.
“Since the regular deal didn’t convince you to break up with her I know this one will.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah right. Please. Enlighten me on this ‘amazing’ deal.”
She smiled smugly and closed up the folder, placing it back on the coffee table. “I’m going to sweeten the deal. You break up with Amaya and she gets to stay in school.”
“Sounds the same as-”
“And all of her family’s debt gets completely taken care of by an...anonymous and very generous source. This ‘source’ will also pay for her dad to get the best care possible, and get him the top doctors. Literally anything would be better than that shithole he’s in right now.”
“Are you serious?” I ask astounded.
“Yes I am.”
“You want me to break up with Amaya so badly that you’ll bring the lives of her family into this?” My voice begins to pick up as my anger begins to flare.
“Don’t raise your voice at me. Whether you like it or not, I am still your mother, and this new offer is more generous than before, so break up with her tonight. Or else my first call the day after Christmas will be straight to the dean.” She stands up fixing her dress and is just about to leave.
“Why are you so hell bent on ruining the one good thing I have going on in my life? The first girl I’ve ever truly loved? Most mothers would be ecstatic.” I frustratedly run my hands through my hair as I stand up to face her.
“Just stop fighting me on this, Theo.” She sighed like I was beginning to upset her.
“You’ll meet someone new. Someone better.” She twisted the door knob. “I am doing this all for you, Theodore. And we both know I am not like most mothers.” The wicked witch actually had it in her to blow me a kiss and smile before making her way out the door.
I let out a sigh and leaned back before running a frustrated hand through my hair. What was I going to do?
As I took another sip of my drink, I surveyed the room until my eyes landed on my mother. Unsurprisingly, she was zeroed in on me. She was surrounded by multiple people dressed to the tens and with my father’s arm standing next to her, his left hand in his pocket and right hand wrapped around what I knew definitely wasn’t his first drink of the night.
I knew I was on thin ice with my mother and with her threats inching closer and closer to Mya I did my best to be on my best behavior. I knew I had to break up with Mya. She was always so selfless, and now it was time for me to take a note from her. It was my turn to put her needs above my own. I loved Mya, and when you love someone you put them first.
Although, she would never know that I was the reason behind it all. That was another stupid term of my mother’s. She really had thought of everything. I turned back to the old man who was STILL rambling on. I swear him getting sucked up into a tornado wouldn’t shut him up.
The depressing thoughts bouncing around my skull made me want to break away from this dull conversation to be alone, so I excused myself and started my journey back to the bar.
But as I was walking away, something distracted me on the way. I noticed everyone’s attention seemed to be fixated on the opposite side of the room, more specifically the top of the stairs. So being the curious person I am, I turned to look and noticed a woman at the very tip top. Mentally I shrugged. What was yet another girl in an overly expensive dress? There were so many of them crowding this room already. To be honest, there was only one person I wanted to see right now and she was no where to be seen.
You would have thought my mother’s warning along with her crazy eyes would have convinced her to be on time. A few gasps near me resulted from them seeing the girl at the top of the staircase.
“Yeah apparently that’s Theo’s girlfriend. One of the staff members here saw her arrive with him, so it’s 100% true.” I heard a girl’s voice whisper loudly in a slightly excited voice. Probably ecstatic to be the first to deliver that gossip.
Amaya wasn’t at the top of the stairs. That girl was way too tall to be my princess.
"She could be wearing heels, you numbskull.” My mind chided with me.
As my mind mulled over the mental image of the girl holding onto the handrail at the beginning of the steps, I began to realize that there was a higher chance of her being Amaya than it not being her.
So when my slightly buzzed mind finally put the last puzzle piece of this mystery together, I twisted my head back so fast I was surprised I didn’t give myself whiplash.
But I was right. It was Mya.
I’d seen her in a t-shirt and sweatpants, jeans and a simple sweater, and even a gloriously tight dress that left little to the imagination. But I have never seen her in such an outfit. I already knew that there was no one in the world who could wear that gown as perfectly as she did.
My eyes started at her toes and worked my way up. From the hem to her hips was nothing but skirt. Every inch of the billowy half of the gown was bejeweled in ruby-colored stones and brushed the ground in length. The carmine red fabric elegantly hugged her chest and midsection. As my eyes moved up I noticed her beginning to wring her fingers together, something I knew she did when she extremely nervous. I locked my eyes on hers as she surveyed the room, looking for me and as soon as her eyes caught mine, the wringing halted immediately and a sparkling smile widened across her face.
Out of habit her hand shot up and waved to me like an excited child, causing a soft chuckle to escape my lips before I subtlety waved back. It was like she automatically reverted back to her old self as if my presence here eased her nerves. I knew the feeling all too well since she had the exact same effect on me.
With her charming smile still in tact, she took a deep breath and straightened her posture before placing her right manicured hand back on the balustrade and gracefully began her descent down the staircase.
I watched her as she looked so poised and classy as she glided down the steps one at a time. She made it look so effortless that one would think she’d practiced this descent at least a hundred times.
Being so caught up in the moment, just like everyone in the room, I hadn’t realized she was almost to the final step, so I quickly recovered and began to push my way through the crowd. I made it to her just in time.
Just as her heel made its first click against the marble floor her small hand fell into my outstretched one. Her bold hazel eyes shifted up to mine and her reserved smile stretched another few inches, taking over the rest of her face. She looped her arm through mine, with a look that could only be classified as determination.
“Let’s get this show on the road.” She cutely laughed as she sent a wink up to me and we began making our rounds.
“It’s always nice having you up here for Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.” Theo nodded to the both of them with dazzling smile that belonged on a tv screen.
“Well thanks for having us, son.” Mr. Anderson said in his gruff southern accent. “It’s always a pleasure being here. Especially with one of the country’s okay-est quarterbacks.”
The old man a smirk on his lips as he snatched a piece of shrimp from a passing waiters’ tray and popped it in his mouth as he awaited for Theo’s rebuttal.
Theo chuckled with a mischievous glint in his eye. “At least I still can play, old man.”
“You call that playing? Back in my day, we would’ve crushed you. First they make education easier on you kids, but now they’re sassing up the sports. Big babies need all that padding? My helmet was held together with a piece of chewing gum!”
“That’s only because you were convinced that smelly thing was ‘lucky.’”
“It was lucky! We won 36 straight games!” He huffed before sauntering off to a long table covered in fancy foods. It was so full not a single inch of the table cloth was even showing.
“You men and your football.” His wife scoffed with a playful roll of her eyes.
“But it was so nice to meet you, dear.” Mrs. Anderson politely smiled to me as she brushed a piece of her graying hair to the side as her blue eyes crinkled at the edges. She had to be in her late 60s, but was still so beautiful. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was a movie star at some point n her life. “I’ve known him since he was twelve and breaking hearts left and right. I just thought he’d never settle down.”
“Well it took some time, but he’s getting there.” I joked as I wrapped my fingers around Theo’s and grinned.
“I’m glad he chose such a sweet girl like yourself. Don’t mess this up, Theo. She’s a good one.” She grinned between us before pulling her husband’s arm to get him away from the food table earning her a groan of despair.
“Nancy, just let me have a few more. I’m a grown ass man.”
Theo and I chuckled as I listened to their banter.
“No. The doctors say your cholesterol is high enough as it is. You don’t need to be shoving bacon-wrapped foods down your throat by the dozen.”
The conversation continued but they were soon out of hearing range leaving me without a humorous conversation to listen to.
“I like them.” I admitted to Theo as I leaned my head on his shoulder and smiled. I could see us being like that one day. Him basking in the glory of the good old days and me arguing with him about his eating habits.
“Yeah they’re always fun to be around. Old man Anderson bought me my first ever football, so I kinda owe where I am now to him.” Theo smiled as he reminisced, but his smile soon slipped from his lips when a certain voice boomed over the speakers.
“Hello, everyone. I hope you all are enjoying yourselves tonight, and I’d just like to thank you all for making appearances. Also thank you all for donating a total of,” She looked to a woman below the stage where she was currently standing and gestured for hand to her a clipboard As soon as it was her hands she skimmed over the paper until she found what she was looking for. “$450,000!”
A round of applause went around, but Theo’s mom wasn’t done just yet.
“A little lower than last year’s grand total, but hey! The night is still young, so keep your wallets out and keep having fun. Just remember all your donations go directly to a very important charity. The staff will start to clear the floor for dancing and begin setting up the raffle over in the far left corner! Merry Christmas everyone!” She said as rose her champagne glass high to everyone.
A ramble of hoots, hollers, and ‘Merry Christmases’ sounded out as Mrs. Thompson sashayed her way off the stage.
“Rich people participate in raffles?” I questioned in a surprised tone.
“Um, yeah. Just because we’re rich doesn’t mean we don’t like nice, free things.” Theo dramatically sighed.
I chuckled and wondered aloud. “What is being raffled off this year?”
“I have no idea. It’s always something different.” Theo shrugged. “One year it was an all expense paid trip to Africa, the next was a bunch of Louis Vuitton bags, and then after that it was a bunch of jewelry from Tiffany’s.”
I shook my head. “With all of the money they put into the raffle, which is free to enter, they could’ve donated to hundreds of other charities.”
“I know. I’ve tried to tell my mother that, but trying to talk to her about showing off less is like asking her to donate her kidney to a complete stranger.”
I laughed at his joke, but sadly I knew he wasn’t kidding. As everyone went back to their usual activities, I watched eagerly to see what the raffle was this year. My mind was more than ready to know what they blew their money on just to keep up appearances.
Diamond encrusted toothbrush? A pure gold flat screen tv with a remote to match? Who knows, but I was dying to find out.
They set up a small table, a projector screen, and a fancy drop box. A tech guy was plugging everything into the projector and pressed the on button. Within a few minutes, there was flashing words on the screen in all caps.
SIGN UP FOR THE RAFFLE AND WIN A BRAND NEW RANGE ROVER!
How typical. I watched as the slideshow went through. Apparently this car has grained leather seats and whatever a three zone climate control was. I wouldn’t lie, it was an amazing looking car, but I still think it was a unintelligent use of money.
“Wanna sign up for it?” Theo asked excitedly.
“You have a car, Theo.” I chuckled and walked over to the bar and asked for a ginger ale.
He followed after me and continued talking as we waited on my drink.
“Not for me, for you.” He said in a duh tone. “That’ll sure show my mother, huh?”
I could already see the gears in his mind turning to accommodate his evil little plan.
“Yeah! Cause I’m totally not on thin ice with your mother as it is.” I rolled my eyes just as the bartender slid my glass across the counter to me. I grabbed the cup and thanked the guy before making my way over to an unoccupied table and sitting down.
“You’re no fun!” He pouted before leaning back into a chair beside me. We watched as people began to get up and head to the dance floor. It was a mix of all types of music which generated a slew of people of all ages scattered across the dance floor.
I gulped down the rest of my drink, surprised at how thirsty I was from just walking around to meet people. I guess you could also add in my nervousness as a contributor to my slight dehydration. After my thirst was finally quenched, I smoothed out my dress and checked to make sure I hadn’t spilled anything on it. Being the accident prone mess I usually am, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if I had dropped a whole plate of hors d’oeuvres on myself tonight and ruin this expensive, gorgeous dress.
But when I had given myself the mental stamp of ‘stain free,’ I turned to Theo and he was already staring at me with a smile on his face. “Checking for stains?”
“You know me all too well, Theodore Graham Thompson.” I winked letting him know that I knew his middle name and I planned on using it to my full advantage for the rest of time.
Theo groaned. “I had hoped you didn’t hear it.”
“Oh but I did! No worries. I intend on using it as often as possible.” I squeezed his cheek between my thumb and index finger like he was a little baby. His face proved he was not thrilled about the face squeezing, so I eventually let go, but not without a laugh.
“You’re kind of being a turd right now.” He pursed his lips and gave me a sideways glance. “But turds deserve to dance too, so shall we?” He asked as he stood,straightened his tux and held out a hand for me to take.
“Wow. That was so romantic. I’ll be telling our children that beautiful and tearful line as a loving bedtime story.”
“Let’s just hope they don’t get they’re not as accident prone as their mother.” He winked.
“Or that they’re not smart asses like their father.” I countered.
Theo chuckled. “You don’t want our children to be geniuses like their ole dad?”
Theo held his stomach with laughter and I couldn’t help but mirror him. After getting a dirty look from just about everyone, we straightened up and finally made our way to the dance floor when the lead singer announced they’d soon be playing an upbeat song. We danced like a couple idiots, but we definitely were having a good time. We danced to the beat of the song as best we could, but ended up looking like a couple of limp noodles trying to wiggle off your plate.
I’m sure Theo was only doing this to be silly, since I’m almost positive he told me at one time that his mother made him take a few dancing classes as a young boy.
Theo looked to me with a meaningful smile and I nervously smiled back.
I had only slow danced a few times in my life, and all those times were pity dances or that one time when my aunt Janine forced her son to dance with me at a distant relative’s wedding. To this day, I’m still traumatized.
“May I have this dance?” He questioned with a goofy grin.
Before I could answer, or better yet run through the nearest exit, he grabbed my hand in his and gently tugged me towards the already crowded dance floor. We stopped at the direct center of the room and I glanced around to notice so many eyes were on us. My breathing began to pick up. Today was the first day I’d ever had so many people watching me and my heart definitely knew it.
Theo’s hand trailed around my jaw and brought my eyes back on him. There was an encouraging smile on his lips, as if to tell me everything would be alright. I felt my pulse begin to regulate once again.
“Theo, I’ve never danced like this before.” I whispered shakily, knowing the chances of me messing up were 99%.
He took my left hand in his and brought it up to his lips. He left a quick peck on the back of it before placing it over his bold shoulder.
“Just trust me. I got you, princess.” He whispered back to me with a grin as he wrapped his arm tightly around my waist and let our remaining hands fall together.
The music’s introduction began and it wasn’t long before I stepped on Theo’s toe.
“Sorry.” I winced and stared at the ground as my feet became cemented in one spot, resulting in a halted dance. At this rate, I don’t think you could even call it one.
“Hey, it’s okay.” He chuckled like it was no big deal. “You’re nervous.”
He hooked his finger under my chin and lifted my sight back to his caring and forgiving eyes. “Just focus on me.”
A smile took over my lips and more confidently, I readjusted my hands back in the places he had taught me earlier. I watched as he danced and realized that the usual twinkle in his eyes had returned after being vacant our whole time in New York.
As the song went along I began to really listen to the lyrics.
I was made for loving you
Even though we may be hopeless hearts just passing through
Every bone screaming (I don’t know what we should do)
All I know is, darling, I was made for loving you
I was so happy in that moment. The sweet and loving words reminded me of my relationship with Theo. We definitely weren’t perfect, but we were perfect for each other.
Hold me close
Through the night
Don’t let me go, we’ll be alright
Touch my soul and hold it tight
With a smile Theo closed all the space between us as we continued to sway around the dance floor. I could feel multiple people watching us and tons of whispers fluttering around us, but that was the last thing I was worried about. All my focus was on the handsome guy right in front of me, smiling like there was no tomorrow. And in this instant I hoped there was no tomorrow, because I wanted to stay right here till the end of time.
I’ve been waiting all my life
I won’t scar your young heart
Just take my hand
’Cause I was made for loving you
Having Theo hold me made me feel so protected and safe. I sighed with content. My life was just so right now.
Even though we may be hopeless hearts just passing through
Every bone screaming I don’t know what we should do
All I know is, darling, I was made for loving you
He slowly moved us along with the music and I breathed him in as I rested my cheek on his shoulder.
Please don’t go, I’ve been waiting so long
Oh, you don’t even know me at all
But I was made for loving you
I was made for loving you
“Amaya.” He whispered to get my attention.
I turned my head back to look at him with a growing smile. “Yeah?”
Our faces were now aligned and I could feel his cool and minty breath hitting my cheek. His eyes shut as he leaned down so our foreheads were now touching. “You know I will always love you, right?”
As if on cue the song ended.
All I know is, darling, I was made for loving you.
I still hadn’t been able to answer his question when a certain old man interrupted us.
“There she is!” Both of our heads spun to see a grinning Mr. Martins standing next to his glowing model-like wife.
Theo and I remained in each other’s holds, still surprised that our intimate moment had come to an abrupt end. Theo’s hands left my waist and I inwardly groaned. I already missed dancing with him.
“Mr. Martins, so nice to see you again.” He welcomed him with a handshake.
“You too, kid. Mind if we switch dance partners? This one kind of promised me a dance yesterday.” The old man had a grin on his face to which his wife rolled her eyes.
“I highly doubt she wants to dance with you, Walter.” She said as she slipped his arm off her waist and walked off. I watched as she moved around the room in her midnight blue dress towards a waiter with a tray full of champagne flutes.
She wrapped her long and slender fingers around the closet glass on the platter and immediately brought it to her lips. In the most elegant way possible, she tipped the glass and let the sparkling liquid pour down her throat. She looked frustrated, like nothing was going her way and she just wanted to forget.
Without even asking I knew her problems stemmed from her husband. With the way she watched him with distaste, and the way she distanced herself from him as fast as she could, I immediately knew she was no longer in love with him.
Without giving it a second thought, I stood on my toes and whispered into Theo’s ear. “I’ll be right back.”
Before he could stop me, I was halfway across the room and in front of a literal goddess. I went over to her to give her someone to talk to. I glanced back to see a confused expression on Theo’s face.
“What are you doing?” He mouthed and in reply I held up my index finger to let him know I’d just be a minute.
I thought it would be easy talking to Mrs. Martins...after all, she was the only woman in the room who was even close to my age range. But as soon as I was in her presence I immediately felt intimidated. Not only did she have the most flawless features, but she was also towered over me. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was previously a Victoria’s Secret Angel before marrying Mr. Martins.
“You going to stand there all night, or are you actually going to talk?“She suddenly asked pulling me from my thoughts.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to be rude.” I apologized as she watched me down the perfectly straight bridge of her nose. “Was just coming over here to ask if you-”
“Were okay?” She finished my thoughts with a quick scoff as she brought her glass back to her lips.
“Um...yeah.” I said feeling slightly embarrassed. “Just wanted to maybe talk if you needed it and make sure you were okay, but it seems you’re just fine. I’ll leave you alone now.”
I turned my back to make my way to Theo, who was still talking with Mr. Martins, but before I could his wife wrapped her fingers around my arm and pulled me back.
“Oof.” Escaped my lips as she tugged me back towards her. After I took a second to stand right again, I straightened my dress and hair before turning to her.
“Sorry.” She shrugged.
“That’s alright I guess. What do you want? You seemed like you wanted me gone a second ago. What changed?” I questioned in a slightly puzzled tone.
“I figured I could use someone to talk to. After all, I think you’re the only one in the room who doesn’t go weekly to get botox done.” She shrugged as she downed another glass and plucked yet another off a passing waiter’s tray. “Can we go somewhere private t talk?”
“Um...” I looked back to Theo to see he was now surrounded by not just one old man but multiple. They were all laughing along to something he’d just joked about. I smiled at the scene, glad to see he was getting along with everyone and knew he’d be fine without me for awhile. “Yeah sure. Let’s go.”
She led the way. I didn’t really know how she where to go, but I followed along with her quietly. We didn’t take the steps that I made my grand entrance on, knowing that we’d attract far too much attention, but we rather swooped around people and turned down multiple hallways. After passing what seemed like hundreds of doors, she finally stopped at one I had never seen before.
I watched as she typed the passcode quickly and made sure no one watched us as we entered the room. There was little to no light as we made our descent down the small spiral staircase, but when we finally took the last step off and onto level ground again I could hardly see a foot in front of my face since it was pitch dark inside. But as soon as she flicked the light on, all of a sudden the room was filled with a dim glow.
At the far end of the room there were tall, ceiling-to-floor, cathedral-like windows. It was winter now, so the sun had already set, which accounted for the dark room. I continued to glance around the room, I noticed the white pillars that seemed to hold up the ceiling and the flooring looked to be a beautiful wooden and by the shine and cleanliness, it must have been freshly waxed.
In the center of the room sat two back-to-back, long, ivory and silver-colored sofas. As I continued to look around, I noticed mini spotlights were placed in the ceiling and each shined down upon its own piece of art. There had to be at least fifty canvases hanging on the walls around the gallery. There were also a few sculptures placed around, but they were definitely outnumbered by the amount of illustrations.
I stepped further into the room and started to step closer to each painting. Each of them were different. Different styles, different pictures, and it was obvious that all of them were done by different artists.
Knowing the Thompsons, all of these paintings had to have cost an arm and leg each. Although I knew nothing of art and was slightly against paying so much for something that would just sit and get dusty in a room, I did know they were all unique and exquisite.
By the sound of clicking on the spotless floor, I knew Mrs. Martins was walking in my direction.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” She questioned.
I turned back around to see her admiring the paintings, but from a nagging sense in me I knew someone hadn’t just given her the passcode, but she had been in here before. By the way she moved around the room, and knew which painting was which, you could tell se had been in here multiple times.
“Yes they are, Mrs. Martins.” I replied, just loud enough for her to hear.
“Please. Call me Cecilia.” She sighed and downed the rest of her drink, and ditched her elegant persona before flopping back onto the couch. She set the now empty glass on the floor and patted the seat next to her, instructing me to come and sit.
By the laughing and the growing gin other face, I knew she was at least tipsy, if not full-on drunk. So I did as she told me to, not really in the mood to fight with someone who was intoxicated.
The cushiness of expensive sofa surrounded me, and I felt immediate comfort after being in my heels for hours.
As if Mrs. Martins could feel my foot pain, she kicked her tall heels of and chucked them to the floor.
“Careful with those. They’re Prada.” She said in a overly sarcastic and peppy tone.
I chuckled at her carelessness and did the same with my expensive shoes.
We lounged around on the couch for about ten minutes, laughing at stupid jokes and doing not much else. A few texts from Theo let me know he was wondering where I was, but I just turned my phone on silent since my sole attention was on Mrs. Martins at the moment.
Theo could talk to me any time, whereas Cecilia couldn’t.
I don’t know what it was about her, but I just felt the need to help her in any way I could. Even if it meant talking with her about her rich people and husband troubles.
“So what did you bring me in here for?” I asked feeling that we should get this conversation started somewhere.
She sighed and tsked as she got back up. She wobbled a bit but then balanced herself back out before falling over.
She straightened her dress out which from all the sitting, had become slightly wrinkled over time, and began to walk along the wall of paintings. One minute there was nothing but the sound of our own breathing and the next she’s spilling her whole life story to me.
“You now I married Walter when I was 21. We met my junior year of college when he was a guest speaker in one of our lectures. I had multiple questions about his speech, so many that my professor had to cut me off. But I couldn’t help it. He was so in to his speech and his presentation had peaked my interest.” She chuckled as she focused on the painting in front of her as she spoke to me.
I stayed silent, letting her know I was listening.
“After class he found me. He let me know how much he admired my interest in his speech and invited me to dinner. Of course I said yes. He was number one in the field I had been studying for so long, and I was absolutely awestruck that he was even speaking to me.”
She took a pin from her hair and began to undo the rest as she continued telling her story.
“Long story short, we fell in love. Or at least I did. We dated for awhile, and all was well until we became engaged. Since our age gap was so large, everyone was convinced I was only in the relationship for his money, which was ridiculous. I was in our relationship for love. You know how many times he offered to pay off my student debts? My car? Even my parents’ house? And every time I’d turn him down.” She sighed as she took her diamond earrings out and tossed them with her shoes.
“The tabloids had a freaking field day as soon as my engagement ring was seen for the first time, calling me a gold digger and him a cradle robber. None of which reflected good on Walter. His advisors warned us to stay out of the public eye for awhile so his company could take some recovery time.” I noticed her roll her eyes.
“I had just graduated so I took the time to look for job opportunities. From the time we got engaged up until our marriage he always told me all the time that he loved me and that he always would. He was my dream man, and despite his age he was so full of life and always there for me. But as soon as we came back from our honeymoon that all stopped.” She walked further down until she stopped in front of a canvas that was nearly three feet long.
“He started staying out late “at work” and would come home smelling like cheap perfume. You get the idea. I was becoming another one of his trophy wives. He could set me up on the shelf for everyone to admire but when he became bored with me I’d stay there collecting dust.” As she said the word she ran her finger along the frame of the canvas and came up with some.
“They should really dust in here more. Most of these painting are worth millions now.” She clicked her tongue in disappointment and began moving further down.
I decided to get up and follow her since she was beginning to be too far for me to hear. I would be lying if I said her story wasn’t intriguing. I had never heard one of these stories straight from the source. Although I found myself wondering if this would be me and Theo down the road, but I inwardly yelled at myself for being so superstitious. Just because her relationship wasn’t working out, didn’t mean mine was going in the shitter. Not all rich people were evil.
When she noticed I had caught up she kept on talking. “Like your typical wife that gets cheated on, I wanted payback. Revenge. So I found someone who could help me.”
She finally stopped at one painting and stared at it in admiration. She took the expensive fabric of her dress sleeve and voluntarily carefully dusted the painting. She hadn’t cleaned any of the others and I began to wonder what had made this one canvas in particular so much more special?
It was a painting of a woman with her back turned to the artist. She was slim and the only thing covering the lower half of her body seemed to be only covered by a thin white sheet. The artist was sure to capture her blonde and curled hair layered over her back, almost like waves cascading over a shore.
You could only see the left half of her face, but the shadowing of the picture made sure to provide anonymity. All you could really see was the perfect bone structure of her facial features, her straight and slender nose, along with her long and full eyelashes.
As I really started to look at the picture I realized how much the painting really resembled someone. It resembled the only other person in this room with me. It resembled Cecilia.
“Is that...you?” I asked before I could stop myself. My curiosity had gotten the best of me.
She sniggered bitterly. “Yeah. It’s me. The artist really knew how to capture an image, didn’t he?”
“Yeah...” I said slowly. I began to wonder why the Thompsons would have Cecilia’s naked picture. Why? Especially why since Mrs. Thompson absolutely hates a scandal and anyone could see this? “Why’s it in here?”
I know it was rude of me, but I just couldn’t help myself. It was like I was being sucked into a mystery novel that was her life. She looked surprised I asked, but wasn’t bothered. She was actually rather pleased. Probably happy to be finally getting off her chest rather than bottling it up.
“Well, you remember how I said I got my payback on Walter?” She questioned and I nodded. “Well...I doubt if it really counts as payback since I never even told Walter.”
Her whole story was one big ball of confusing. Maybe she’d tell it better sober, but then again I doubt she’d be telling the story at all if she wasn’t buzzed. I felt bad listening in on all her secrets, but it was too late now since I was now intrigued. Who the hell was the painter?
“He never found out?” I questioned.
“No. He has always been too busy with work to even notice how much I go out. Too busy to understand that when I go out I don’t “go out with friends” considering I don’t even have any. Every time I was out I was with him.
“Our first time together I told him there would be no strings attached. I was only with him to hopefully get my husband’s attention. Maybe so he could love me again, you know? So I could get my old Walt back, but the whole plan backfired.” She sighed as she plopped down on the floor in front of her painting.
“The man and I started to spend so much time together. Dinners, theater dates, and he’d always take me to his private beach house. We loved it there.” She remembered with a sad smile. “It was always so peaceful and quiet. No public’s eye constantly watching and judging you. We were happy. We were in love.”
“So what went wrong?” I asked interested.
She took a big inhale and exhaled, almost like she was exhausted. I’m sure she was, with all that she’d been keeping secret. “Like I said, we fell in love.”
I nodded. “Yeah. I got that.”
“But after a year and a half of sneaking around, we both wanted more. But he broke it off with me because he was tired of us living in the shadows. Tired of me being with another man.”
“So why didn’t you just divorce Walter and be with the artist?”
“Oh, he’s not an artist. Well, I mean he is.” She pointed back at her painting. “But that’s not his main job. His painting is more of a...hobby. To keep him sane. I mean he needs it with that mother of his.” She rolled her eyes.
“Oh right. You asked why I didn’t just divorce Walter. Well honestly the thought of leaving something I’d known for so long scared me. I was afraid. If I divorced him I would be free, but I just wouldn’t-”
Cecilia scoffed. “I’m not that shallow.”
I tilted my head.
“I just wanted a little money to keep myself afloat. If I had divorced Walter and they found out I had been unfaithful to him I’d be awarded nothing. It says so in the prenup, that I so stupidly signed.”
“Who’s to say he’d ever find out?” I asked.
“I would. He knows the best private investigators out there and the artist and I weren’t exactly secretive. They could probably dig something up on us within five minutes.”
“So you’re just going to stay in a relationship with someone who no longer loves you when you could be with someone who actually does?”
She stayed silent, proving there was still more to this very confusing and very long tale. She tried to stand but wobbled a bit due to her intoxication, but grabbed the wall for support before turning to me and giving me a hateful look. “Like you’re one to talk.”
“What do you mean?” I ask confused. I was caught in a love triangle. I never cheated while I was married.
“You and your boyfriend obviously aren’t perfect.”
“Well, of course we’re not. No one’s perfect, but Theo and I do love each other.” I admitted, still confused as to why she was bringing my relationship into this.
“Oh yeah? Then why have I heard from multiple sources that he plans to break up with you tonight?” She tilted her head in a know-it-all kind of way.
I was stunned. What the hell was she talking about? Why would Theo be breaking up with me? We were doing better than ever.
“You must’ve heard wrong because Theo and I are doing just fine.” I said trying to sound confident but it came out shaky and scared.
He wouldn’t break up with me? I did nothing wrong? What could I have possibly done?
“Are you so sure about that, chicky? My sources are never wrong.” She winked as she walked my way. “Take it from the woman who got dumped by artist man. Just break up with him. It’s better to be the dumper rather than the dumped.”
She picked up her shoes, her earrings and her empty glass before she made her way over to the spiral staircase. Watching her walk away I recalled that she never did tell me who her “artist man” was.
“Who was he?” I asked wanting to know the characters to her vividly told story.
She stopped just as she was about to take her first step and let her head drop and her shoulders droop for a second before turning to me. “You would know him if you saw him.”
She continued to climb the stairs until I heard her go out the door and close it behind her.
My mind was no longer on Cecilia’s “sad’ tale. It was on Theo.
Fear immediately took over my senses, and I had to get to Theo. Surely this was all fiction that the drunk Cecilia had made up to scare me. Why she would do that when I had been nothing but understanding of her hardships was beyond me, but I just knew it all had to be fake.
Taking one last look around the room, I gathered my dress in my hands and took off to the steps. I ran down hallway after hallway and passed the miles of doors until I finally arrived back where the party was taking place. It looked as if no one had left and the party was still in full swing, but there was one person who I couldn’t find anywhere. Theo.
That’s when I saw Ethel standing at the edge of the room watching along in her maid’s uniform. “Ethel!” I shouted and her head immediately snapped to me. She smiled to me and walked over to me.
“Hello, dear. You look absolutely beautiful.”
“Thank you, Ethel.” I replied quickly. “I’m sorry but I can’t talk right now. I’m looking for Theo. Have you seen him?”
“Oh, yes! Last I saw him he was heading into the kitchen.” I could tell she was proud of herself for remembering.
“Thank you, Ethel! I will talk to you later.” I shouted already making my way for the kitchen.
I pushed through person after person, trying my best to say ‘excuse me,’ but at the moment I didn’t care about manners. I needed to talk with Theo, but just before I could make it through the doors my name was announced over the speakers.
“Ms. Amaya Dawson. Is there an Amaya Dawson out there? Anybody?” I looked up at the stage and saw a man looking all around for me. I tried to avoid the attention by sneaking away, but that’s nearly impossible when they put a spotlight on me. The crowd clapped as they ushered me up to the platform where the man who announced my name was standing, with a microphone and a piece of paper in his hands.
“Amaya Dawson?” He questioned as I took the steps up until I was standing behind the podium with him.
“Yes?” I asked only growing more and more confused. I needed to find Theo. Since I was on a higher level, I took that to my advantage and started to scan the audience for my boyfriend.
“Congratulations!” He shouted in my ear, bringing me back to the present, and shoved something into my hands before I could even see what it was.
“You won the new Range Rover.”
“Oh, no no no.” I tried to hand him back the keys. “This can’t be right. I never even entered the raffle.”
“You won, alright? Here take a look at this.” He showed me the piece of paper in his hands.
I quickly snatched it from him and started to read.
Name: Amaya Dawson
The information was correct and you could tell it was in Theo’s handwriting. I rolled my eyes. How typical of him to enter me without even asking first, but that was honestly the least of my problems with him right now.
“Congratulations again!” He said with a straining smile but you could tell how desperately he wanted me off the stage.
Not wanting to cause any more commotion, I stepped off the stage with the keys still in my hand. No way I would take the car. It was too much for me.
I began to push through the seas of people again, and made my way to the kitchen. If Theo wasn’t in there I’d have to start searching elsewhere. I wasn’t gone that long with Cecilia. Where could he have possibly have run off to?
After about five minutes of dodging trays of shrimps and champagne glasses, and snooty people I had finally made my way to the kitchen. I let out a sigh of relief and pushed through the swinging door only to find more chaos behind it.
Chefs were all focused on putting the finishing touches and garnishes on their deserts. There had to be at least two hundred small plates scattered around the kitchen as the waiters were running around with plates in the hands, trying to balance everything on salvers as they avoided bumping into each other.
It seemed like it was trouble in the making, but I remained silent as I noticed a door that led outside was slightly cracked. It was less a door and more a entrance to heaven, whereas this kitchen was currently a hell on earth.
Staying out of everyone’s way, I skirted the walls until I had finally made it to the door of my salvation. As soon as I swung it open, a gust of cold air swept around me, making my teeth instantly chatter. I ignored my senses and stepped further out into the cold in attempt to find Theo.
On the other side of the kitchen was a small patio along with a garden that was currently all dead. The patio furniture was lightly dusted with snow, that had just begun to fall, but the cement slab that the mini courtyard sat upon was still clear of any snow or ice. I stepped with caution anyways as I continued to look for Theo.
A gasp released from my lips when I saw a sitting figure at the furthest end of he patio. By the posture and body structure I knew it was a man, but as I stepped closer and the light hit his face I found it to be none other than my boyfriend.
I stepped in front of him and it took a minute before his head rose to look at me, but when it did a look of complete surprise was there.
“Amaya!” He stood up from his seat and wrapped a hand around each of my shoulders. He must’ve noticed my rising goosebumps because he immediately took off his jacket and wrapped it around me. “Hey, you shouldn’t be out here. It’s too cold.”
He brushed his fingertips against my cheek in a loving way which I just wanted to lean into, but I stopped myself. There were more important things for us to discuss.
“I’ll be fine.” I gave him a reassuring smile.
But will I be fine? Because I definitely wouldn’t be if he really was planning on breaking it off. Speaking of which, I should really ask him rather than sit around and assume things.
“Yeah? What’s up?” He asked as pulled his phone out of his pocket and started typing on his phone.
That was unlike him. He usually always listened to me and wouldn’t even have his phone out during our conversations. He always said he listened better without distractions.
“I was wondering...” I started to choke up and I couldn’t get those words out of my mouth. I just couldn’t. “Why you signed me up for that damn raffle.”
Nice save, Mya.
He stopped typing and looked up to me, confused. “How do you know about that?”
I rolled my eyes and held up the keys. “Because I just won.”
“Whoa-ho-hoa. Nice going, champ.” He chuckled. “I didn’t expect that. Congratulations!”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m not keeping it.” I shrugged.
“Why not?” He asked dumbfounded.
“Because, Theo. It’s just too much. Normal people give out gift bags at their parties. Not cars.” I told him as I shoved the car keys into his hand.
“Really? That’s your best excuse to not taking it? Because it’s too much?” Theo questioned with a newfound attitude and a raised eyebrow before pushing the keys back into my hands.
“Yeah. That’s a good enough excuse to me.” I shrugged as I plopped down in his old seat, already tired of this conversation.
Theo sighed as he pulled up a seat and positioned it front of me. We sat there in silence for about three minutes before he spoke again.
“Why do I feel like you’re not just upset about just the car? What’s going on, Amaya?” He wondered aloud.
I looked up from the ground which was beginning to become covered with white snowflakes, only to see Theo’s eyes already watching my every move. A lump in my throat started to form and I tried my best to clear it.
“It’s not just about the car.” My voice came out all scratchy and I instantly hated how pathetic I sounded.
Theo scooted his chair closer and brought his hands up to hold mine as he tried to look in my eyes, but I wouldn’t have it. I slipped my hands from his and trained my eyes elsewhere. Theo looked hurt, but I did it for my own good. His touch was like my own personal kryptonite.
It made me weak and vulnerable, which were the two last things I needed to be right now. What I needed were answers, and I intended on getting them.
“Were you planning on breaking up with me tonight?” I asked before I could talk myself out of it.
Theo’s eyes snapped to mine. Surprise and confusion swirled around his beautiful irises, but he was so stunned that he remained silent.
“Are you going to answer the question?” I asked as I tried my best to keep my voice from breaking.
“Who told you this?” He asked with his tone slightly angry.
“Doesn’t matter. Just answer the damn question, Theo!”
“Yes! Okay? Is that what you want to hear? Yes, I was going to break up with you tonight. Happy?” He shouted.
I was too shocked to even speak words. He was going to break up with me. After months of giving my trust over to him, he was just going to dump me? How could he? After I’d told him so much, and almost gave him my everything. He said he was so in love with me, but I guess that’s another thing he lied about.
“Did you seriously just ask me if I’m happy?” I questioned as I began to stand up from my seat.
Theo sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Listen to me, Mya. I didn’t mean it, okay? I was just so tired of keeping it from you and—”
“No need to worry anymore! You’re done with me so I’ll just go, okay?” I said collecting my dress so it wouldn’t drag on the ground.
“Mya. You don’t know the whole story. Please just let me tell you everything.” He said holding my arm.
I took a deep breath. One part of me wanted to stay and hear him out. I was, after all in love with him and wanted to try to save our relationship. But on the other hand he had just admitted he was going to dump me. How could there be any upside to that? Him telling me the “whole story” would only result in me feeling worse.
“No thank you,” I ripped his hand from my limb like his hand was burning me. Getting a sad reaction from Theo, of course, but I didn’t care at the moment. He didn’t get to break my heart and end with me feeling bad for him. “I’d rather not get the whole gist of why you wanted to dump me.”
“Please, Amaya? You don’t understand.” He pleaded.
I saw this as my perfect opportunity.
“You know what? Fine. You have fifteen minutes to clear your name.” His face lit up. “But after that I’m done.”
“Thank you, Mya.” He tried to wrap me up in one of his famous embraces, but I took a step back.
“It’s going to take some time for us to be back on the same page.” I explained and he nodded.
“I understand, so let’s talk.” He smiled looking like he was ready to get all the secrets off his chest.
“Let’s go inside. It’s freezing out here.” I let out a shiver as I chattered my teeth to sell it better.
“Oh, yeah! Good idea.” He started to head inside but stopped when he realized I wasn’t following.
“You go ahead. I need some time to collect myself and to not want to punch you in the face.”
He chuckled. “I understand.”
“Meet me in my room. I’ll be there in a couple minutes.” I said with a fake smile.
“Okay. I’ll see you in there.” He said in a hopeful tone and made his way inside.
I made sure the door was shut all the way before I glanced around me. No one was around, which meant no witnesses.
I had lied to Theo. I was in no place to sit around and talk about our breakup like it was nothing. I was done. All this time we had been at his parent’s house, I knew something was wrong with him. But I had just figured it was because he was around his evil mother and brushed it off when I should’ve listened to myself.
What I did need was space from Theodore Thompson, and I needed it now, so I did the best thing I could think of at the time.
I sprinted as fast as I could in this dress and through the snow until I made it to the valet’s stand.
“How may we help you, miss?” He asked and I immediately straightened up and gave him my best smile.
“Well, you see. I won the raffle inside and I was wondering if you have my new car out here.” I hoped they would as I dangled my new keys to prove it.
“Are you a miss...uh...” They looked down at a piece of paper and used the small light at the valet stand to read. “Miss Amaya Dawson?”
“Yeah! That’s me!”
“Oh, good! Mrs. Thompson asked us to being your new car around for you earlier . Said you’d be in a hurry.”
“Well for once she’s correct.” I smiled to them and asked them to point me in the direction of my car.
As soon as I saw it I was in awestruck for a moment. It was such a beautiful car that giving it up seemed like a nightmare, but I had to. I wouldn’t be keeping mementos of Theo laying around any time soon, but my main priority was making it to Louisiana.
I really needed my mom and dad right now.
So as I sniffled like a baby, I climbed into the gorgeous car and skidded out of the driveway of the wealthy Thompson estate, secretly hoping to never to return.