I put my clothes in the washing machine and turned it on, then left it to swirl my clothes into cleanliness and went to watch TV in the living room as the machine would take a while to wash my clothes.
Today marked the fifth day of Theodore’s absence and only two more days until I saw Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome. I really wished I could see him now, but they say patience is a virtue, so I decided to not cry today.
Last night was difficult as I couldn’t get Ian out of my head. All night I kept tossing and turning but Ian didn’t vanish. In fact, he was the one that dominated my mind last night instead of Theodore. Every second of him invading my thoughts was torture. Not because I couldn’t stand the guy, but because he was doing things that made my blood run cold. Twice I woke up in the middle of the night panting, cold sweat running down my back.
American Horror Story was on but I didn’t feel like watching it. After last night’s cold nightmares I wanted to avoid the horror genre for a few days. So I settled for watching re-runs of Modern Family.
The lack of activity in my apartment was creeping me out. Amanda was gone to work, leaving me all alone in our apartment. At first I was glad that she wasn’t present, but the silence of the apartment soon started to drive me crazy. So much so, that I actually decided to do my laundry after two weeks, just so I didn’t feel so trapped in my home.
I wasn’t really watching Modern Family, but the background noise helped. No matter how hard I try I couldn’t get Ian out of my mind. The way he had touched me sent shivers down my spine, made me feel trapped. Those shard like blue eyes had terror snaking around my heart. That smile had me believing that he would thoroughly enjoy tormenting me, and that was something which made me want to lock myself in a basement, just so I could escape his ruthless monstrosities.
Glancing at the clock had me jumping to get my laundry out. I should’ve gotten it out after 15 minutes but Ian took over my sanity once again, which had me rushing to the laundry room after 20 minutes.
Stuffing my now washed clothes in the basket I went to my room and dumped the contents of the basket on the bed. Then proceeded to fold them as neatly as possible, which wasn’t exactly neat. I was a mess when it came to domestic chores, no matter how hard I tried.
The ringing of the bell had me wondering who would visit at this time as I wasn’t expecting anyone. I folded my blue shirt and placed it on the pile of folded shirt and walked to the front door and opened it to see the face that I had been yearning to see for four days.
Theodore stood outside looking as dashing as ever. He was wearing a navy blue suit with a white dress shirt. His hair were styled in a messy way that made it seem as if he had run his fingers through them a few times. Those gray eyes were like two deep pools with no bottom.
“Mr. Benson, h—hi.” I said quickly realizing that I was just his assistant so had to address him as my boss.
“Hailey.” Theodore slipped inside my apartment and walked over to couch in the living room and sat on it like he lived here. While I still couldn’t get over my shock of seeing him two days early.
“Are you just going to stand there gawking at me, or would you at least go and make me a cup of coffee?.” Theodore muttered in an irritated tone, snapping me out of my shocked state.
I hurriedly went in the kitchen and made a cup of cappuccino and brought it to Theodore who took it without a word of thanks. What was wrong with him? Was he alright?
Theodore took a couple of sips and put the mug on table. Then ran his eyes over me stopping at my eyes. His eyes held a mixture of anger, affection, irritation, danger, amd lust, making me wonder just what was going on in his enigmatic mind.
“So Hailey, what did you do these past few days?” Theodore asked. By the tone of his voice, I felt as if he asked me this question for a reason—and it was not that he was actually wondering how I spent my days without him, but it felt as if he knew something I didn’t.
“Uh, well I mostly spent my time shopping with Amanda, Mr. Benson.” I told him truthfully.
He arched his eyebrow as if saying I was lying. “Oh really, just shopping with Amanda, nothing else?” He inquired further making me frown in confusion. What was he getting at?
“No, nothing Mr. Benson. Just hung out with Amanda.” I reassured him.
His gaze visibly darkened, making the once soft gray eyes look like dark stones. “Oh really, then what is this?” He pulled something out from the pocket of his jacket and threw it on the table. I looked down to see a bunch of photographs scattered on the glass top. My eyes widened when I realized what I was seeing.
Pictures of me in the mall yesterday with none other Ian. Him standing next to me, with the silver dress in his hands. Ian standing eerily close to me with a small smile on his lips. Ian’s finger on my cheek. His hand cupping my face, while I stared back at him. It was all there staring back at me, mocking me.
“I—I—It’s not what you think.” I started, but Theodore suddenly stood up and came to stand in front of me. He towered over me, making me feel small and vulnerable.
“Oh really, because it looks like you two were getting pretty cozy with each other.” Theodore sneered.
“We weren’t cozy. I don’t even know who the guy is. He just showed up at the store and started talking to me.” I explained, feeling like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“Talking?! It definitely looks more like talking to me.” He accused with anger, making my temper flare.
“Mr. Benson, even if we were doing something more than talking, I don’t see how it is any of your Goddamn business. I think you’re forgetting your place as my boss, and it’ll be in your favor to stay out of my personal life.” I told him with a glare.
Instead of yelling at me Theodore burst out laughing, making my confusion double. His laughter was mocking, as if he found me standing up to him cute.
“Oh sweetheart, you just gave me the perfect reason to do what I came here to do.” He stated cryptically and went back to sit on the couch.
“What do you mean? What are you talking about?” I asked with dread.
Theodore’s lips curved in a smile. A smile that clearly meant that I wasn’t going to like what came out of his mouth.
“You just confirmed my belief that I cannot leave you unsupervised ever again.” He spoke as if I was a child, not doing anything to diminish the flames of fury burning in the pit of my stomach.
“I’m not a child that needs supervision, Mr. Benson,” I snapped causing his eyebrow to arch, “so please, do us both a favor and leave my apartment.” I ordered.
“Oh baby, I would be leaving this apartment, but not alone. You are going to come with me, so be a doll and go change, it’s time I got what I wanted.” He muttered in response, making the dread coil tighter around me.
“I’m not going anywhere with you, and what in the hell are you saying about getting what you want?” I demanded, annoyed at him talking in riddles.
“You are going to go with me, even if I have to drag you out of this apartment by your hair, and as for your second question, sweetheart, we’re getting married.” Theodore finished with a satisfactory smile.
I just stood there, frozen in shock. Did I hear him right? Married? My jaw slackened, my eyes widened. No no no, he can’t do this. This is not the way. This is no proposal. He, he was suppose to bend down on one knee and offer me a ring with tons of promises of eternal love and support. Not this! This wasn’t how I pictured my prince charming marrying me.
“What?! No! I—I’m not going to marry you!” I exclaimed while he just sat there looking smug.
“Oh darling, yes you are.” He stated as if it was a fact. Well he had another thing coming.
“Ha, in your dreams. I’m not going to marry you! Hell, I’m never going to marry you!” I told him firmly.
“Yes you are, or else.” He threatened mildly.
“Or else what? Sorry to burst your little bubble of arrogance, Theodore, but your threats of sending me to jail aren’t going to work this time.”
“No, but maybe the threat of ruining Amanda’s life might persuade you to change your mind.” Theodore stated bluntly, and all my comebacks died in my throat.
“What?” I mumbled, desperately wishing he wouldn’t use my best friend against me.
“I heard that Amanda loves her career in the fashion industry. You wouldn’t want her to spend the rest of her days in a mental asylum, now would you, darling?” Theodore cooed mockingly, making me wish I had a gun so I could shoot him.
“What are you talking about?” I asked as if all sense had deserted me.
“Well, if you don’t marry me right now, I’ll hold a press conference informing the world that Amanda is not mentally stable to work in the fashion industry, which would automtically have her spending the rest of her life in a mental asylum, now do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“Yo—you wouldn’t do this.” Tears formed in my eyes at imagining Amanda suffering because of me. I couldn’t believe Theodore would be so heartless, so cruel as to exploit my relationships for his own personal gain.
“I wouldn’t if you marry me, right now.”
“No one would believe you.”
“Sweetheart, everyone would believe me, while no one would believe your precious little friend.”
Immediately, Amanda’s face came to mind. The fiery spirit that lured men in her trap. The mesmerizing eyes that one could get lost in. The beautiful smile that enraptured people of every age. To see all of that gone; to see the sparkle of life in her eyes vanish; to see the fire of her soul extinguished; to see that smile gone forever, I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t let my best friend, my only family get subjected to the cruelty of the world. Not if I could do something about it.
“I—If I marry you, you wouldn’t hurt Amanda, right? You’ll leave her alone?” I asked knowing full well that I was well and truly trapped.
“Yes, if you marry me right now, no harm will come to Amanda, and I’ll make sure that she is protected at all cost, and her future in the fashion industry would be secured.” Theodore assured me.
“I promise on the bond that will be forged between us in a few hours.” He stated and took my hands in his.
I wish I could say no. Wish I could do something that would result in me not marrying the spawn of satan standing in front of me, but I couldn’t. Because I knew he would follow through with his threats and I couldn’t let Amanda suffer.
“Okay Theodore, I—I’ll marry you.” I gave up.
“Good afternoon, how may I help you?” The saleslady with golden hair and blue eyes asked with a soft smile.
“My bride-to-be needs a wedding dress, preferrably in lace.” Theodore told the saleslady, who nodded and ushered me in the changing room.
I wanted to protest, but I was working on autopilot. Everything I thought I knew about Theodore was a lie. He wasn’t a sweet man, he was cruel. He wasn’t gentle, he was ruthless. His heart was black and encased in ice, not showing mercy to anyone.
The saleslady brought a bunch of white gowns—all made of lace to me and instructed me to try each one on. I did as I was told, wanting this ordeal to be over.
The first dress I tried on was mermaid style with full sleeves. The back was cut into a V leaving my back bare. When I walked out Theodore immediately told me go change, amd I went back into the dressing.
Theodore rejected dress after dress, till I lost count of exactly how many dresses I had tried on. I just wanted to go home; maybe this whole thing was a dream and soon I would wake up and laugh at myself. But, the stiffness of my body, and the feeling of lace wrapped around my body, had me believing otherwise.
There were three more dresses to go. I took a deep breath and got into one of them. It was a white strapless gown which flowed out at the back in a train. It looked to be made of sheer expensive lace—obviously. The bodice of the dress had hundreds of crystals sewn on it, giving the whole dress a very expensive look.
As I emerged from the dressing room, Theodore shamelessly let his gaze trail over me, and a smile of satisfaction curved his lips.
“We’ll take this one.” He told the saleslady, who beamed at him and went to the check out counter. Theodore told me to keep the dress on as he would be taking us to church after we leave.
Once Theodore paid for the dress we left the shop and slid inside his black Porsche. Theodore instructed his driver to take us to church. Then grabbed my hand and kissed it sweetly.
“Just one more hour, my darling, then you’ll be mine.” He said and the rest of the car ride was silent.
Meanwhile, my heart was pounding as the realization that I was getting married sank in. Out of all the scenarios I envisioned, getting threatened into marriage wasn’t one of them. I always thought that I would marry the man of my dreams in a grand church with the presence and blessing of my loved ones. But no, God seemed to believe that I had to be threatened into marriage. Oh why God, why did you hate me so much?
The car stopped and Theodore eagerly got out with me. His hold on my wrist didn’t loosen, which had me believing that he was afraid that I would run, and trust me he was right to be afraid. If he had not shackled my wrist, I would’ve made a run for it—whether I would’ve succeeded in escaping him or not was an entirely different matter.
We both walked inside the church and were greeted with a bunch of people who I had only seen at Benson Enteprises, with the exception of Harry, Theodore’s brother. I counted a total of 18 people, in which only three were females while the rest were males.
Theodore walked straight at the alter with me and stood facing me once we reached. The priest, a middle-aged man with wire rimmed glasses and white hair stood st the center wearing his signature church attire. The small crowd fell silent and the ceremony begun.
“We gather here to unite these two people in marriage. Their decision to marry has not been entered into lightly and today they publicly declare their private devotion to each other. The essence of this commitment is the acceptance of each other in entirety, as lover, companion, and friend. Marriage, ideally, is a sharing of responsibilities, hopes, and dreams. It takes a special effort to grow together, survive hard times, and be loving and unselfish.” The priest glanced at both of us with a smile.
“Do you both pledge to share your lives openly with one another, and to speak the truth in love? Do you promise to honor and tenderly care for one another, cherish and encourage each other, stand together, through sorrows and joys, hardships and triumphs for all the days of your lives?” The priest asked us.
“We do.” We both muttered in unison.
“Do you pledge to share your love and the joys of your marriage with all those around you, so that they may learn from your love and be encouraged to grow in their own lives?”
“We do.” We both confirmed.
“May these rings be blessed as a symbol of your union. As often as either of you look upon these rings, may you not only be reminded of this moment, but also of the vows you have made and the strength of your commitment to each other.”
The priest turned to Theodore. “Theodore, please repeat after me ...
“I Theodore, promise to love and support you Hailey and live each day with kindness, understanding, truth, humor, and passion. With this ring I wed thee.”
Theodore repeated the vows and slid a platinum band on my ring finger.
The priest then turned to me. “Hailey, please repeat after me ...
“I Hailey, promise to love and support you Theodore and live each day with kindness, understanding, truth, humor, and passion. With this ring I thee wed.”
I repeated the vows in a montone and slid the platinum band on Theodore’s finger.
“Go now in peace and live in love, sharing the most precious gifts you have- the gifts of your lives united. And may your days be long on this earth. I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.” And with that Theodore bent and sealed his lips to mine as well as the rest of my life with his name.
The people cheered and whistled. The sound of claps took over the atmosphere, but they couldn’t take over my heart or mind. But in all this one thing had become a fact.
I was now married.
I was now Hailey Jane Benson.