1 | nemesis
It has been universally acknowledged — not by Austen — that my brother’s ex-best friend and I are supposed to hate each other. There is no basis for this judgment. It is more of what is expected of us ever since my brother died in the car crash. It all happened in a sudden instant. One day he was alive and giving me a goodnight kiss; the next day he was just gone.
But right now, if someone asks me who I hate the most, the answer won’t be a particular Jackson.
The tension in the hall is thick. My Mom looks at me nervously as she sits with her legs crossed under her pencil skirt. My Dad maintains his stance as he crosses his arms over his chest, trying hard to give me his strictest look. My hands are shaking, the words I just heard echoing in my ears.
“This is for the good, Claire,” Dad says. “Senator Campbell is a very decent human being and he has taken a liking towards you.”
“He’s fifty,” I murmur under my breath this time because shouting the previous times didn’t make any difference to the conversation.
Dad’s corporation is on the verge of collapsing and Senator Campbell has offered to help him with his loans if he can have me in exchange. Any decent father would have rejected the proposal but not mine. Michael Hill is a misogynist. According to him, women are born to serve and must do what they are asked of.
I dig my nails on the sofa, gritting my teeth as the need to shout at Dad, to tell him what a horrible father he is, passes through my mind. Unlike me, Dad doesn’t look like my defiance has any effect on him. His shirt is still white and not tainted by his misdeeds, his face is strong at the age of fifty-three and the glow is still young, his black hair is combed backward in a neat manner. He spends a lot grooming himself, even more than Mom does.
I look at Mom, seated on the single-seater beside me with her perfectly polished nails reflecting the light from our chandelier. She had her blonde hair straightened just this morning and it falls on her shoulders flawlessly. I can see that she is startled by the news too but she is a blind follower of whatever Dad proclaims and she will never stand for me.
Fine, I will stand for myself.
“I’m not marrying him!” I get up from my seat and look at my father unfazed. His eyes widen just a little before they go back to their neutral look.
“You have no choice. You’re under my authority. My decision is the final one,” Dad snarls, taking steps closer to me until we are standing chest to face. He wants to intimidate me with his words and his height but I am not going down without a fight.
I don’t care if Senator Campbell is fucking rich or not. I don’t care if he holds immense respect in society or how powerful he is. This is my life and I value my independence. Senator Campbell might as well go suck his ass.
“You treat me like shit!” I shout.
“He’s coming tonight. He will propose and you will say yes. I don’t want to hear anything else.” Dad’s voice is determined and it irks me.
I clench and unclench my fists, the heat in my body burning with rage. As I stare at Dad, I can see that nothing I say will make him change his decision. He doesn’t care if I am happy or sad. He only cares about his business and his pending loans which he took for himself at the prime of success. He is a man who is hell-bent on doing what he wants to do and getting what he needs, whatever be the cost.
I turn around and run towards the staircase to go to my room. My wedges thump against the floor, they are deliberate and loud. It makes me feel childish that I want to remind my father that I am not happy with every step up.
I am not happy at all.
When I reach my room, I shut the door with a slam and then lock it before dragging my body to the floor. I pull my knees to my chest and put my arms around them as I let the tears pour from my eyes. I hate myself for being under the care of a man who doesn’t care for me at all. Ever since my elder brother, Christopher, died in the accident four years ago, Dad has been distant from me.
I understand a part of his resentment. Chris died because of me. If I hadn’t stayed late and gotten drunk at prom, he wouldn’t have had to come and get me. Mostly, he wouldn’t have let his best friend drive the car.
That night was the worst night of my life and I miss Chris. He was the best brother and he understood me. If he was here, he would have done anything to stop Dad. He always had my back, no matter the cost. Dad thinks that his pampering was one of the reasons I became rebellious. Little does he know that I am just another copy of him and I loathe myself for that.
I force myself to stop crying and rub my tears. If I don’t do something about it then tonight is going to be the night of my doom. I have to make him stop. I am not an item for sale. If he has trouble understanding that with my words, then it will be my action.
There is only one person Dad hates more than me and he is none other than my dearest foe, Vaughn Jackson. He is the enemy of our household and the reason for Dad’s lack of peace. The Jacksons and Hills have been at each other’s throats ever since Chris’s death and there is nothing that can tame the loathing Dad has for them, especially for my late brother’s best friend.
Vaughn is synonymous to trouble for Dad. His entrepreneurship skills are a talk of every business magazine which Dad reads and stresses himself about. At the age of twenty-six merely, he holds the position of the CEO of Jackson Capitals and is worshipped throughout the industry. They are one of Dad’s toughest competitors in the market.
Not only that, but a year back he was also mentioned among Forbes’s most eligible bachelors and women throw themselves at his feet even though they know that he is only going to use them for one night only. Being seen with Vaughn is both a mark of prestige and scandal and women love the prestige more.
I spot my phone on my bed and an idea storms to my mind. I crawl over to my bed and pick it up. Sitting on the floor and leaning against the bed, I scroll through my contact list until I find him.
’Foe’ - it reads as his contact name. I never asked him for his number. He stole my phone and saved it himself at a party we both attended two years back. He wanted to piss me off. Inhaling a deep breath, I press ’dial’. It rings for a while before he picks it up just when I am about to cut the call.
“Your place or mine?” His deep, husky voice greets my ear and I squeeze my thighs together. I once vowed to myself that I will never let Vaughn have the same effect on me as he has on other girls and I mean to keep that. I am stronger than my hormones.
“Vaughn?” I say, making it sound like I don’t remember his voice and want to confirm that it is indeed him.