While he had never had a good impression of Brigitte’s parents, reality proved his thoughts too generous. George and Melanie Pruitt were two of the most ‘stuck up’ people he had seen in this world and as an artist, he had seen plenty of elite wannabes. It was no wonder the old Pruitt head had left most of the family inheritance to his openly gay son, even if he himself had been more socially conservative. Honestly, this impatient man in front of him couldn’t even hide the disdain he held for others, and the greed for his daughter, let alone succeed in bringing the Pruitt fortune to new heights. Melanie, however, seemed to be perpetually angry. She was one of those people who hated and hated and kept hating till their last breath. To complete this lovely ensemble, James, their younger son, had come uninvited to freely rejoice in his sister’s misfortune in choosing such an inappropriate lover.
Five minutes in and Tristan decided he would have to learn from Brigitte —after they kindly asked the Pruitt couple to leave— if she had been adopted.
“You haven’t introduced us yet to this handsome young man, Brigitte,” her mother spoke as they sat down in the living room.
Tristan was sitting with Brigitte in the loveseat because he certainly couldn’t sit on the empty couch now, could he?
“Mother, father,” she started, sounding joyous and oblivious to the tension in the room. “... and James,” Tristan snorted a bit surprised at the ‘innocent’ pause before her brother’s name, the latter now glaring at them both. “I’d like you to meet Tristan, my lover.”
There was unmistakable pride in her voice and to make her claim even more apparent, she placed her arm around his waist and pulled him closer. Then, she kissed his cheek and softly continued as if she hadn’t just abused her fake-relationship privileges. “Beloved, these are my parents... and James.”
Tristan didn’t snort at Brigitte’s trolling of her brother this time because he was too busy controlling himself from slapping her perverted hand away. So, he just smiled at the kiss and tried unsuccessfully to dislodge her arm, before he settled for pinching at her fingers. Brigitte pretended not to understand his obvious and somewhat painful hints and stole another kiss.
“It is lovely to meet you,” he said, smiling because it was impolite to glare at one’s fake-lover in front of one’s fake-lover’s parents.
“Wish we could say the same,” James muttered quite loudly, angry at her introduction.
“James!” Mrs. Pruitt said as if she wished to scold him but spoke no further.
“It is fine, mother, really,” Brigitte interrupted. Tristan was shocked not to see her be his knight in shining armour. Wasn’t that her plan for earning his affections today? “James has just gone through a painful breakup. I am sure he simply feels lonely at seeing my lover and me together.”
Tristan had to hide his laughter behind a cough, although from the way their guests were looking at him, it had been in vain. Oh, James Pruitt’s ‘painful breakup’ had made the tabloids go mad for a month. And with a man as petty and thin-faced as him, having people wonder why his girlfriend would cheat on him —someone both rich and handsome— with another woman, well, it tickled his inferiority complex just right. After all, what reason could a once perfectly straight woman have for suddenly becoming lesbian or bi?
“Brigitte! Have some tact!” her mother said, now truly irritated. She grabbed her son’s hand to stop him from doing something he would regret in his sister’s living room.
“Ah, sorry, sorry!” Brigitte apologized, not really sounding sorry at all. “It’s still too soon, I understand.” She nodded sympathetically at her brother.
“And what family are you from, Tristan? I don’t think we have met before.” Brigitte’s father took the reins this time, moving the subject away from that sordid affair that had made their lives hell for weeks.
“The Lewis family,” Tristan replied, deciding to follow Brigitte’s lead on this, although he would definitely be more polite.
“Oh? I have never heard of them.”
What a stupid and cliché barb to throw. Another man in his place, however confident, would still feel frustrated at the power imbalance between him and Brigitte. But Tristan? Tristan thanked Fate every day for having a puppy like Brigitte to indulge him with no bounds. He couldn’t remember a single lifetime where he had been more comfortable and lazy than this. Even in the 26th century, it had taken him a decade of effort to complete his host’s wish — to reach unbelievable wealth— and even afterwards, he still had a company to manage for long hours and housework for when he returned... Truly, this life was paradise.
“No worries, it happens.” He answered and his reply must have really thrown them off because even James seemed to have forgotten the anger his sister had caused.
“And what do you do, young man?” George asked after he recovered from Tristan’s non-answer.
“Dear, how can you be so blind? Brigitte’s boyfriend is so handsome, he must be a model or some-such,” Melanie continued.
Well, he can’t say he didn’t expect this. He can’t quite thank them for being considered handsome enough to sell his looks and body for Brigitte’s favour now, could he?
On second thought... since Brigitte wasn’t about to play his knight, he shouldn’t have to play the damsel-in-distress.
“Thank you, Mrs. Pruitt. Brigitte often tells me she takes her good taste from her father.”
Mrs. Pruitt became red in anger, while her husband almost let out a laugh. James, obviously, had no idea how his mother had been insulted, for he kept staring at her confused.
As for Brigitte... she had the gall to kiss his cheek again like that was a reward he would ever ask for!
“But I am no model. I paint. And please do not worry, I will not be offended if you haven’t heard of or seen my art before. I am certain an elite CEO like Mr. Pruitt doesn’t have the time to visit galleries.”
Brigitte laughed out loud at his words. George lost his colour and both he and his wife looked very pissed.
He put on a confused face and addressed Brigitte. “Did I say something wrong? I told you I do not know how to speak to important people like your parents, Brigitte.”
“How dare you...!” Mrs. Pruitt started as it became obvious how ‘important’ he thought them to be.
She very naturally pulled him in her arms, and acted alongside him. “Beloved, it’s my uncle who is head of the company, not my father.”
He continued to play up the vain idiot act as he tried to remove her from him. “But I thought you were the heiress and got that big Foundation to manage now that your dad is going to become Mayor?”
She petted his hair as if he was a particularly cute bunny that needed help understanding the world. “That was also my uncle.”
“Stop with the act, you stupid ponce!” James shouted. Although Brigitte had left the family, their uncle still considered her to be the heir and this fact had always easily enraged him. He was the eldest, he was a man, why did that bastard of an uncle want Brigitte to inherit?
“Brigitte! First you move out and declare you want to leave, insulting us, your family, and now you find a worthless painter as your boyfriend?!”
Her mother could insult her all she liked but how dare she insult Tristan?!
“Mother, I care not what you think. I assure you I have no idea why uncle would choose me to be his heiress but looking at the only other option,” and here she stared pointedly at James, “I can make a strong educated guess as to why.”
Then she embraced Tristan, as she dropped another bomb. “But do rejoice my dear family, Tristan has just accepted my proposal,” she ignored Tristan’s surprised squeak of “I did?!” and continued, “and once he and I marry, I will make certain that every single company share I have goes under his name.”
“I have heard enough of this nonsense! Brigitte, you will stop growing so disobedient and come to your senses. You think Stephen will still make you his heir if he hears about this little boytoy of yours?” George shouted before redirecting his ire at Tristan. “And you, you little gold-digger! You call yourself a man? You will get out of my daughter’s house and—”
“I think we are done here,” Brigitte spoke up, and stood. “I brought you here to inform you of my decision, not to disparage my fiancé.”
“You have finally gone insane, haven’t you?” James laughed maliciously. “First with those stupid dreams about some fucking fairy and now—”
“Get out,” Brigitte didn’t quite shout, but she couldn’t stand how they spoke of her beloved any longer. She especially couldn’t stand being reminded of the years she had been told he was merely a disorder her ill mind had conjured.
“Brigitte, how can you speak to your brother so—” Mrs. Pruitt tried to interfere, but she wasn’t in the mood to humour her.
“You are no longer welcome here. Get out of my house.”
Tristan had never seen Brigitte as angry as she seemed. She wasn’t screaming, or gesticulating. He had thought the rage of a woman as cold as her would run hot. But it seemed he had been wrong. Brigitte seemed even more disaffected than usual, her face closed, her eyes pale ice, her hands resting at her sides, voice indifferent and barely more than a whisper.
“Now listen here, you unruly—” George started but Tristan interrupted him this time. He couldn’t let these idiots irritate this silly puppy like this.
“Mr. Pruitt, you will either leave or I will call the police. I am certain the press will love hearing all about this soon as well.”
The man gritted his teeth in anger, eyes brimming with hatred. Tristan was sure that if Mr. Pruitt could, he would kill him on sight. George signalled to his wife and son and got up to leave, but not before leaving a few parting words for the both of them, at the entrance. “You will regret this.”
Tristan smiled as he accompanied them outside. “Rest assured, for this visit, we already do.” He said and closed the door shut.
He sighed against the door now that this debacle was over. What should he do about Brigitte, though? Having parents like these, it was a wonder she didn’t become even more of a stalker-ish pervert than she already was. Like her imbecilic brother, he thought in distaste.
He entered the living room and saw that Brigitte was sitting on the sofa, staring at some point on the wall morosely. At first, he had been angry about the supposed proposal, but she probably spoke out in anger then.
“Hey, that didn’t go that bad. Your brother certainly got his ego bruised at least.” This was the first time he had to deal with a sad Brigitte, he wasn’t quite sure whether keeping quiet would be helpful or not. Suddenly, Brigitte embraced him, her head resting on his shoulder. He returned the hug and started humming.
A few minutes into the hug, she spoke. “It has always been like this. That family.”
He continued to hum as he started patting her back.
“We will be different, won’t we? Promise me that we will be different, Tristan.”
Her voice was so soft, that he couldn’t help but pity her. While there were definitely many worse fates than that of Brigitte, this was her sadness, the sadness of his friend, so he couldn’t help but sympathize.
“Of course it will be different. There are no idiots in this house.”
“I am so grateful to have you as my family. Thank you for being with me, beloved.”
“Me to—” Tristan stopped mid-word as he suddenly realized something. No. It couldn’t be.
He pushed Brigitte away and got up. She looked surprised and sad but her eyes were laughing at him! This stupid puppy dared to deceive him!
“You pervert! You pretended to be sad, so I could pity you!” he shouted.
“I wouldn’t, beloved,” she started to explain but her lips twitched trying to contain her smile.
An even more horrible realization just came to his mind as he saw how self-satisfied she seemed.
“Don’t tell me— you orchestrated all of this?” As he spoke, he became more convinced of his words. “You know your parents’ characters, you know how they would react, you acted like that on purpose!” He remembered another terrible, horrific memory. “You called me your fiancé! When did I ever become—” he stopped, for Brigitte didn’t look guilty, she looked proud. “It wasn’t valid! Our relationship is fake! Why are you so damn happy?!”
She grinned fully now. “James,” she said as explanation and it was enough.
Tristan finally became aware of how devious Brigitte was. Her brother hated her guts and would definitely make use of anything he thought could help him in his goal of disqualifying Brigitte as an heir. And if he, in all his idiocy, thought that an ill-matched marriage could ensure that, what would he do with that knowledge? He’d make it go public as soon as possible.
Ah. He got fooled. He had thought this fake-boyfriend thing was already a push on his limits. But it seems he had set his sights too low. Brigitte had completely crushed his limits with dreadful visions of a fake June wedding.
“Sorry in advance for the media circus this will become?” She was starting to become worried now that her beloved stopped shouting. He couldn’t get out of this without it becoming even more of a public circus. She may have cheated a tiny bit by forcing his hand like this, but what could she do? Every day that passed was a chance for her beloved to suddenly realize that he no longer wanted to be lazy and just get up and run away to places she couldn’t find. No, she had to claim him any way she could before that thought even made it into his head.
He sighed and then coldly stated. “The tiramisu I made for you this morning? I am throwing it out of the window.”
The image of a perfect tiramisu made by her beloved’s hands getting eaten by flies and ants made her forget her pride. She couldn’t let him do this! “But beloved—”
“—And,” he continued, unforgiving. “You are no longer allowed to touch me for at least a year, maybe more.” She tried to interrupt him again, but he forced his words through. He couldn’t let this stupid puppy think there were no consequences. “No hugs, no kisses, no nothing. I dare you to try.” With that said, he left the room.
After he left, Brigitte smiled. Ah, her beloved was really a spitfire. He looked so beautiful, eyes blazing with anger, voice low and rough. Really, she commended her self-control for not jumping him right then and there as he ‘punished’ her. In the end, he allowed for them to be engaged. But a year of no touching was a bit much. She should think of some ways to soften her beloved in the upcoming month. After all, 30 days of no hugs was enough torture.
Mission accomplished, she decided to go to the kitchen for some dessert. The tiramisu had looked especially good...
Fuck, she thought as she ran to the kitchen. She had yet to save the tiramisu!