I can’t say that I absolutely hated the idea of dress shopping with Hazel and Brandon. I’m not overly girly, but every now and again it’s nice to feel beautiful. Hazel on the other hand radiated pride when it came to her amazing sense of style and I quickly realized how lucky I was to have her help. Every dress I picked up she seemed to notice some flaw within the piece of fabric. One dress made my eyes look dull, the next dress didn’t compliment my skin tone, the next dress made me look boxy. It was a never ending stream of advice and comments that I couldn’t help but be grateful for.
Brandon on the other hand seemed to love every dress that I tried on. Each time I stepped out of the dressing room his eyes would roam my body and his typical smirk would play on his face, and each time I rolled my eyes at his usual flirty self.
“This one is it Claire, I can feel it.” Hazel shouted proudly from the dressing room as she slipped on a baby pink, floor length gown. As she stepped from the dressing room even Brandon’s eyes widened in the slightest bit. The baby pink gown fell to the floor in an ocean of lace and silk. The neckline was extremely low, highlighting the bits and pieces Hazel had no fear showing off. Somehow the light color seemed to make her dark eyes pop and her skin resemble smooth marble.
“That is the one.” I nodded in absolute approval as she twirled in a circle.
“I don’t quite trust your opinion but I can take a compliment either way.” She smirked at me jokingly and I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Well, what do you think?” Hazel turned to Brandon, her hand placed on her hip as she gave him a stern look. I could tell from Hazel’s face that she had already made her own decision on this dress, so Brandon better give her the right answer.
“That’s definitely the one. I didn’t even know you could look attractive.” Brandon smirked while Hazel fumed at his meaning. I met Brandon’s eyes in an effort not to laugh and he shot me a quick wink.
Hazel retreated into the dressing room to throw on her normal clothes and emerged with her pink gown neatly tucked away in one of those weird dress bags.
“Alright, your turn now. Lets get to work.” Hazel huffed, scanning my body up and down as if she were analyzing every curve and angle of my body. I could feel my face flush under all of the attention and jokingly brought my hands up to cover my breasts, which were already covered by my shirt.
“Oh very funny. We need to find a dress that shows off them curves.” Hazel smirked as she turned and made her way back to the dresses.
If I thought Hazel was bad before, I was completely wrong. I must have tried on over a hundred dresses and did over a thousand poses in those dresses. Each time Hazel would deeply analyze my body as a glazed look came over her face. None of the dresses I had tried on managed to gain her approval. Just as I was about to give in and choose one at random, she called out to me.
“Now THIS, this is one you need to try!” Hazel shouted, rushing up to me with a gorgeous blue dress. I could already tell that the dress would show my bare shoulders and give a plain view of my neck. I smiled deviously, already liking the idea that this wouldn’t please my parents. Showing an unmarked neck off like that was just calling attention to yourself. I could already see Sabrina wearing her long sleeve, floor length, long neck gown. She would look beautiful either way, but I knew she would wear it to please our mother.
The dress Hazel handed me was a beautiful baby blue color, the same as my eyes. The top of the dress, that ran across my chest, was covered in luscious blue flowers. The gown trickled to the floor in an ocean of silk and waves. I knew as I ran my hand down the soft fabric, that this was the dress I wanted. I gave Hazel an approving nod and made my way into the dressing room.
I finally emerged from the dressing room, smoothing my long chocolate hair down my back and running my fingers down the length of the dress. I heard a slight gasp and instantly looked into Brandon and Hazel’s shocked eyes.
“Damn girl. I’m so good I impress myself.” Hazel beamed at me, her head bouncing up and down in approval. Brandon’s eyes roamed the length of my body, but this time it felt different.
“Wow Claire. You look absolutely stunning.” Brandon forced the words out, a small smile playing on his face.
“Girl, I know you don’t want a mate. But whoever he is doesn’t even know how lucky he is.” Hazel confirmed, looking over my body yet again. I felt a scowl form on my face. My body is my own, whoever my mate is can go be lucky with someone else. When Hazel said this, I noticed Brandon’s face seemed to drop.
“Lucky.” I thought I heard him mumble to himself.
“Okay so I’m going to come to your place tomorrow around 5pm to get you ready for the ball!” Hazel beamed, giving me a small shove towards the dressing room. I didn’t bother voicing any disagreement, I knew she wouldn’t listen. Any chance to do full glamour makeup made Hazel vicious.
After changing and purchasing our gowns, we stopped by a few stores and repeated the entire process only with shoes and accessories. Our little dress trip had taken up all of the day and the knot in my stomach grew larger than ever. Hazel demanded that I get loads of beauty sleep and do some fancy hair mask she had purchased me. With a little grumble I agreed, mainly because I was looking forward to sleeping. Brandon had been quiet the entire ride home, and I couldn’t help but wonder why.
Once we pulled up at my house, I hopped out of Hazel’s car and made my way to the front porch. I noticed Brandon had hopped out as well and followed me, a strange look coming over his face.
“Claire..” Brandon trailed off, looking uneasy. As the sun was beginning to set I noticed his eyes for the first time. While his shaggy hair is a sandy blonde color, his eyes weren’t the typical hazel color I had been used to. As the sun hit his eyes I could see the flecks of green that swirled beneath them, also tinged with a warm caramel color. The small scar above his upper lip seemed to stand out as he bit on his bottom lip.
“What’s wrong?” I frowned, looking at his tense posture.
“What happens to us if one of us finds our mate?” Brandon asked, his deep voice growing quiet as the words leave his mouth. Confusion became clearly written on my face as I tried to understand exactly what he meant.
“Well, I have no intention on finding a mate, and obviously Hazel is excited to meet hers. How do you feel about finding a mate?” I asked him, my lips turning down at the thought of me finding a mate.
“I think that we should be free to choose our own mates.” I heard him speak quietly. I looked at my best friend and saw some distant sadness within his multicolored eyes.
“Unfortunately that’s not how it works.” I sighed, knowing if I had the choice, I would choose to not have a mate. The thought of freeing whoever was forced to be bound to me made me feel light and happy. I knew the truth though, if you reject your mate, you live a life worse than death. Constant pain, sadness and sorrow you’ve never known. I can’t say I know of any wolves that lived a long life after rejecting/being rejected by their mates.
“If only.” I heard Brandon add quietly as he turned back to Hazel’s car. I watched him walk away, feeling awful for my friend. He deserved every bit of happiness as Hazel did. I wasn’t sure what I deserved, the longer I thought on it, the more confused I felt. Did I deserve to fall in love and be happy? My wolf shouted ‘yes, we do!’ so many times when I asked myself this question, and each time my mind would drift back to the possibility of being hurt. I knew in my heart that I couldn’t handle being hurt again. At that moment I made a clear decision in my head, one my wolf absolutely disagreed with, but I didn’t care. I would sooner die than ever be hurt like that again.
The rest of my night was spent laughing with my brother and Amber as if no time had passed, as if he had never left. I forgave him for not helping me out, I couldn’t stay mad at him after all. After what seemed like hours of laughing, telling stories to Amber about our childhood, I finally made my way to my bedroom. Wanting nothing more than to go to bed, I reluctantly did as Hazel told me to. I peeled my clothes off and hopped into the shower, making sure to use her fancy hair mask that smelled of vanilla and lavender. Once I was finally clean and dry, I hastily put on an oversized t-shirt and practically collapsed on my bed. The knot in my stomach forgotten once more, sleep consumed me moments later.