"Be the good girl you always have to be."
"Hey, Anna," Mark said when I entered the warmth of Donaldson's. I greeted him in return as I took off my coat and brought it to the backroom. Grabbing an apron, I went to help Mark. When I approached the bar, a familiar black-haired girl sat on the chair in front of me.
I blinked in shock. "Everly?"
She appeared equally surprised. "Anna! You work here?"
"You two know each other?" Mark asked.
"We literally just met a few hours ago. She's Will's cousin," I said. "What are you doing here?"
"Waiting on Eric," Everly replied.
As if on cue, Eric Montrose strutted into the bar, planting a kiss on Everly's lips. He noticed me and said gleefully, "Annalise! Good to see you!"
"Hey Eric, good to see you too!" I lied.
It wasn't good to see him. The guy was a pig and a womanizer. I wanted to warn Everly about him right away, but I didn't know her well enough to do that. Plus, Everly seemed like a smart girl who wouldn't take any crap. I had a feeling that if she found out about Eric and his real self, she'd dump him faster than he could blink.
"Small world, isn't it?" Mark mused with a grin. "All right, you two, what would you like to drink?"
Eric ordered a beer while Everly ordered wine. I started taking orders from the other customers that began to file into the pub. I'd come into work at four, and the pub had been half full. By six, the entire place was packed, and we even had a wait. I vaguely wondered why we were so busy on a Tuesday night.
Thankfully, by ten o'clock, the crowd died down, leaving only a few groups and Everly and Eric.
"Are you guys always that busy?" Everly asked.
"Not during the weekdays. The weekend has our biggest nights. Today was an oddball. Was the food good?" I asked.
"Delicious, but then again, Will and Eric have both told me the food here is amazing."
"I'm glad you liked it!"
Everly smiled. "What's up since I last saw you?"
"Not much, just been working all day," I answered, slapping Mark on the butt with the towel I was holding when he tried to tickle me. Everly looked at me with a curious smirk, causing me to ask, "What?"
"Are you two dating?"
"What?" I repeated, looking at her in disbelief.
"Are you two dating?"
"No!" I laughed. "Mark's like my brother. We've grown up together."
"Sorry, you two seem pretty close, so I kind of assumed... Do you have a boyfriend?"
"We've been trying to get her one," Mark chimed in, coming to stand next to me.
"I don't have time for one! I have too much on my plate at the moment," I defended.
"Like what?" Everly inquired.
I faltered. She seemed sweet, but I didn't know her well. I told James and the Griffiths because my hand was almost forced. They also seemed to understand better than anyone what I was going through. "Some family and monetary issues. I'll have one someday, just not today."
"Or in the next couple of years probably," Mark joked.
"There isn't even a guy you're interested in?" Everly questioned.
"No, at least not at the moment."
"Once Anna has a goal in her mind, she goes for it and pays very little to distractions," Mark said, filling up some water glasses for us.
"I see." Everly got up from her stool. "I should probably head back to the palace."
"I'll see you tomorrow, babe," Eric said, giving her a kiss. Everly left, and Eric was soon to follow. Turning to me, Mark said, "Why can't I get a girl as amazing as her?"
I poked his arm. "Someone have a crush on their best friend's girlfriend?"
"He's a jerk, yet he gets all the girls. Maybe I need to start being a jerk."
"That's one of the most idiotic statements to come out of your mouth," I said. "I say wait it out. You'll find the right girl one day; she'll see what an incredible guy you are."
"I'm just kidding about becoming a jerk, but thanks, Annalise."
"Any time," I said. "Would you mind if I left work early? I need to go see Mia. I didn't get a chance to go the past two days, and I feel incredibly guilty."
"Not at all. Go, I'll take care of everything."
"You're a saint!" I exclaimed, kissing him on the cheek. I grabbed my coat, said goodbye to the Wallaces and Stewarts, and then practically ran to the hospital. I wanted to see my sister. Knowing Mia, she'd still be up. If there was one major similarity we shared, it was our ability to stay up late. I used to be a complete night owl, but I trained myself to go to bed on time once I started working.
When I approached Mia's room, singing could be heard. She was probably watching 'Frozen' again.
I was right.
"Are you ever going to tire of that movie?" I asked, standing in the door.
"Never," Mia replied. "I may be fourteen, but Disney will never get old. And I mean, come on, who doesn't want epic ice powers?"
"You seem to be in a good mood." I walked up to my sister and sat on her bed.
"Yeah, it was a good day today. I didn't feel too bad." Mia pushed herself up. "How's work at the palace? Have you seen Will again?"
"What is it with your obsession with him?"
"Have you seen how hot he is?" Mia remarked, raising her eyebrows.
"If I tell you, you'll kill me."
"You've seen him, haven't you?!" she exclaimed.
"Multiple times," I admitted. "He comes and talks to me while I'm doing my chores and eats breakfast with James and me. Don't rub this in my face when I say this, but I was wrong about him. Will's a decent guy."
Mia giggled. "Did my sister just admit she was wrong?"
"Don't get used to it."
"What do you guys talk about?"
"Mostly books and movies. We have a lot of similar interests."
"Have you asked him why he's stopped drinking? Everyone wants to know, but no one knows. It's strange."
"I'm not going to ask him that, it's not my place," I chided lightly. "What about you? Any new stories?"
"I didn't witness this, but Ms. Kirk told me a man just had his large intestine removed, and he said his new nickname was going to be 'Semi-colon.'" I snorted at the story as Mia grinned. "And then I finished Gone with the Wind. Scarlett's kind of psychotic."
"I remember her being that way." I took her hand in mine, heart dropping at how cold they were. "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't been here the past couple of days. I got off work late and-"
"Anna, you know I understand. You don't have to visit me every day."
"But I want to," I said. "Why don't I bring my bosses over one day? They'd love to meet you."
"But I already know the Wallaces and Stewarts."
"I didn't mean those bosses."
Mia's mouth formed a perfect 'O.' "You mean… your bosses from Windsor Palace?
"Oh! Can you, Anna? Can you can you can you?" Mia begged.
"Of course. I'll ask them tomorrow. I should probably head home and get some sleep. It's almost midnight, and I have to be up at five-thirty."
"All right. Love you!"
After giving her a tight hug, I left the hospital right as my watch struck twelve. I inwardly groaned at the thought of how little sleep I would get tonight. But I was okay with it because I was doing this all for Mia, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for her.
I woke up to my alarm blaring. I slammed my hand on my phone, wanting to get at least five more minutes of sleep, but I knew it wouldn't happen. Sighing, I sat up, dangling my long legs over the edge of my bed. I forced myself to my closet, where I stared contemplatively at my wardrobe. Picking out an outfit had never been one of my strong points. But thankfully, that choice wasn't left to me because Everly poked her head.
"Why aren't you dressed?" she asked.
"Because you set my alarm for a different time, didn't you?"
"I'm trying to clean up my act here, and that means waking up on time!" I snapped, unamused by her antics. She seemed unfazed, which irked me even more.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. But if you have to know, the meeting was moved to eleven instead of ten, so you got an extra hour of sleep."
"Yeah, but what about breakfast?"
"You mean, what about Annalise?"
"I don't like how you said that, and no, that's not what I meant. While yes, seeing her is always a plus, I actually do want breakfast." I said, throwing on some black dress pants, a white button-up shirt, and a suit jacket. "What tie should I wear?"
"Everly, I don't want to look like our country's flag. With my blue eyes, the red tie, and the white shirt, I completely would."
"You would not!" she protested, forcing the red tie into my hand. I tried shoving it away. The two of us started playing keep-away with the red tie before we were interrupted by a knock on my door. Looking at her disdainfully, I told the person to enter. Annalise stepped inside.
"Everything okay in here?" Annie said, a small smile forming on her lips.
"Yeah, Everly and I are arguing over this." I lifted the red tie up.
"I recommend blue; it brings out your eyes," She suggested. "Listen, I just came to tell you breakfast is almost ready. I'll see you down there."
Annie started to leave but stopped when I asked, "You noticed my eyes?"
"It's not a secret that you have pretty eyes. Now hurry up, or James and I will start eating without you."
Annalise left the room. I turned to Everly, who wore an annoying smirk.
"What?" I asked gruffly.
"She's single, you know."
"Yes. What about it?"
"Uh, ask her out." Everly enunciated each word carefully.
"You don't get it. Annie doesn't want to date me or anyone else for that matter. It was hell just trying to get her to talk to me."
A spark flared up in Everly's eyes. "How much do you know about her?"
"She's a fiery, independent blonde that has her head on her shoulders and knows where she's going in life."
"I don't think she does."
"You know her better than I do after two days?"
"No, but you didn't mention something that I think is very important."
"What would that be?"
"When I went to Donaldson's last night, we talked a bit, and she mentioned something about family and money issues. What I'm saying is there's more to her than you realize."
I stared at my cousin. "What do you mean, money and family issues?"
"I don't know; that's all she said about it."
"Should I ask her about it?"
"No, if she hasn't told you, don't prod. Wait for her to tell you. She will sooner or later, but I'm telling you this because maybe once the things she's dealing with now are gone, you can make your move."
I snorted. "Yeah, and then she'll slap me and tell me to go to hell. A friend is all I'll ever be to her."
"So why are you changing yourself for her if you know she'll never date you?" Everly asked, crossing her arms.
I couldn't think of a response, so I ignored her and got dressed instead.