Zee wondered where he was staying in town.
“Where are you staying in town?” she asked, her intention, to pick a spot close to his area. She hoped it was quite far from her home so that she would take some time, organizing her mind as she went.
Zee knew the place. The Eagle hotel was close to Inara’s family house and it was where Cassy and her friends had set her up with the bridal shower, getting her in trouble with Lemuel. Zee could not stand those bullies. She hoped she would never have to cross paths with any of them again.
“The Eagle hotel is fine if you ask me.”
“Great. We will meet at the restaurant, then. See you tomorrow. Is 2:00 pm okay with you?”
“Yes, it is.”
Zee ended the call. She should feel much calmer now that she had started the game but she did not. She was feeling all tensed up. She fell back on the bed. Then she took a deep breath and concentrated on getting some sleep.
Hours passed and the night faded, bringing in a new day that went by until Zee’s appointed time to meet with Michael, came.
Staring at her reflection in the dressing mirror in her bedroom, she didn’t see any reason why she should change herself for him or anyone.
She had been a crazy girl for a long time and he didn’t have to see her differently. After all, she wasn’t really looking to be attached to him. This was just a game. She was fine the way she was. Besides, he had a fiance, which meant that the end of this game was predictable.
Zee was wearing black slip-on shoes, black skinny and extremely rugged jeans, and a red long sleeve shirt. Her long hair was center-parted and braided on each side, the braids, resting on her back. She was wearing a magnetic nose ring because she could not bring herself to have her nose pierced. Actually, she could not stand any sort of pain and was afraid of having her nose pierced.
Long artificial eyelashes surrounded her brown eyes, dark eye pencil, circled her eyelids and she had on smokey eye makeup and a black shade of lipstick. She was not ready to please anyone. This was all her. It was her attention-grabbing look.
She picked up her cross-body bag and wore it. Then she smiled at her reflection in the mirror and exited her bedroom.
She saw her parents seated at the dining table, admiring an African-looking sculpture of a man. Their collections were all they really cared about. They were both middle-aged but always looked younger because of their active lifestyle and adventure kind of work, being collectors of anything interesting or with some sort of history attached to it.
“Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel.”
They looked at her.
“We are your parents.” Her father said, his blue eyes resting on her. “So stop calling us that.”
Her mother’s brown eyes briefly rested on hers and returned to the sculpture. “Going out?” she asked without sparing her another glance.
Zee laughed and they both shook their heads at her.
“Yeah, I’m going out.” She answered.
“Okay. Have fun.” Her mother said distractedly, her finger tracing the sculpture in a delicate manner.
“Allowances, intact?” her father asked.
“Okay. Have fun.” He said and returned his attention to the sculpture.
“Darling, this will make a great addition to our stash.” He said to her mum.
“Yeah. I think we are ready to open our own Museum.”
“I think so too.”
“You’re both planning to open a museum?” Zee asked.
“Yes.” They chorused.
“But we haven’t made the final decision.” Her father added.
“Enjoy your day.” Her mum said.
“Thanks,” Zee responded, although their attention had already returned to the sculpture. It was as though, any moment they spent talking with her was a waste of time. Well, they were living their lives. She had to live hers.
Zee headed out towards the main door. She was used to the fact that they never bothered about her destination. She knew that if it were Inara, it would not be the same. Inara’s parents would want to know. Now, Inara had Lemuel. He also would definitely want to know. As for her outfit, neither Lemuel nor Inara’s parents would ever let her dress like that. But here she was, free as a bird. Yet, she was not feeling free. She was feeling abandoned.
Zee shut the door behind her, got into her truck, and drove off into the afternoon, with loud rock music about how freedom could sometimes feel like a prison, blaring from the car’s radio. Whoever the male artist was, he had talent, she thought. The timing of the song couldn’t have been more perfect.
Zee drove past Inara’s home and slowed down as she saw Amara heading out towards the curb. Inara’s sister was always so poised and graceful. She really admired Amara because of that. Zee parked by the curb.
“Hey, Amara.” She greeted, winding down her glass.
“Hi, Zee, what’s up?”
“Great. Need a lift?”
“Thanks. I already called an Uber.”
“I see you still haven’t killed your fear of driving.”
Amara shrugged. “Yeah.”
“You should.” Zee encouraged her.
Zee noticed a black Mazda approach and park opposite her on the curb. “I guess that’s your ride.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Okay, see you.”
“You can be like Inny, you know. She can drive anything she puts her mind to.”
Amara laughed. “I’ll try, Zee.” She said and they waved each other off. Zee drove off as Amara walked across the street towards the waiting car.
As Zee drove forward through the streets, thoughts of what she had to do in a short while, occupied her mind. It scared her, especially now that she had to do it face to face.
Zee became distracted at the sight of a couple hugging by a familiar-looking CAMRY parked along the roadside. She could recognize that the girl was Cassy.
Zee rolled her eyes in disdain and drove past them as they went from hugging to kissing. For all she knew about Cassy, the girl was never short of lovers or boyfriends.
They were still kissing as she could see from her rearview mirror. She ignored them and concentrated on the road ahead of her. Cassy was not her problem. The last dare was.
It took her a few minutes to reach the Eagle hotel and then before long, she was at the doorway of the restaurant, her eyes on Michael who was occupying a seat at the end of the room. There were a few guests inside and he was drinking water from a glass.
She stepped inside and all eyes rested on her briefly. She was used to it and she knew it was because of her appearance. The eyes that had landed on her, included Michael’s but his amber eyes lingered on hers. Her heart skipped a beat as he rose to his feet.
He seemed to have grown taller and looked to be about 6 feet. He and Lemuel could be around the same height. Michael was twenty-six, though, and about five years older than she was. She herself was twenty-one and a year older than Inara.
He had an athlete’s body because he played basketball for fun and he was attractive and laid back. He always had been, which was why she felt like she did not deserve him.
She had secretly been afraid that if she accepted him, her good girl time would elongate. Even while they were friends, as a senior, he would make sure she did not miss her classes. He had not lost the enigmatic look his dark hair and rare eye color gave him. If anything, it seemed more pronounced now that he was older.
Zee felt like she did not know him anymore. She was feeling quite intimidated. Zee realized that she did not know what he did for a living. Damn, how time flies. Besides, she never really knew him.
She noticed he was dressed in a black short sleeve shirt that emphasized his toned arms. His eyes swept over her from head to toe and Zee knew he had just perused her dressing. If he was pleased or displeased, it did not show. She didn’t really care. She was not here to please him. She was here in honor of the last dare so that she would survive.
She smiled at him, encouraged by the wink he gave her, and then she was walking towards him. They say girls had respect for the guys who took their virginity. To her, it was true. No matter what she did, she could never forget him.
She wished she had gotten high a bit before hitting the road. A great part of her self-confidence came from alcohol but no one knew that. Not even Inara. It was pathetic but hell, who cared?
She was surprised when he held out his arms for her and enveloped her in a warm hug but she hugged him back, loving his earthy sandalwood cologne. She felt his breath on the skin of her neck and his mouth at her ear.
“You look very rebellious, Elizabeth.” He whispered in her ear. “Still trying to prove to the world that you care for nothing, I see.” Then he raised his voice to a quiet tone. “Nevertheless, I never thought I’ll be happy to see you, but I am quite delighted.”