Erin Monello is only seventeen when her parents expect her to settle down and get married, but that's not unusual in her society, where everyone must be married by the time they've reached twenty-one. But settling down is the last thing on Erin's mind, especially not when she's just beginning her life. Even so, her parents find a suitable husband for her, one who they believe will be able to provide for her in the years to come, named Zayn Malik. He shares her opinion on marriage at a young age, so they decide to be friends instead of lovers, even thought they're labeled as husband and wife. But how long will this act last before they realize just how much they care for each other?


5. Chapter Five

"Erin, you tell me right now what happened in there!" My mother demanded, taking a sharp left turn into our neighborhood, earning several loud beeps from the cars around us.

I groaned and covered my eyes with my fingers. "Mom, seriously, stop. He's a dick, that's all."

"Erin," she warned. Behind us, Callie giggled.

"I'm serious!"

She flashed me a look of pure annoyance. "I'm serious does not count as an answer, young lady."

"Will you just drop it?"

"No, I will not. I've told you before, sooner or later you'll have to be married, and if you go around treating everyone you meet the way you do, you'll be in your thirties without a husband!" Her voice rose with each word she spoke.

I knew this would happen. I fucking knew, the second I slammed that door behind me, that I would get so much shit for this.

"It wasn't even that big of a deal!"

Okay, maybe it was. But I figured downplaying it would cause her to back off, even a little bit.

"It had to be a big deal for him to give you the look he did," she retorted, arching her eyebrows.

"I already told you, Mom. He's a d-not a nice guy." She gave me a warning glare at my slip-up. "Besides, that face wasn't that bad."

Callie's small voice sounded from behind. "Something had to happen for a face that gorgeous to look so pissed."

"Who's side are you even on?" I questioned, twisting my body around to face her.

At that moment, Mom turned another sharp corner, causing me to sway wildly to the left, groping madly for something to steady myself. "There are no sides, Erin."

"Mom, why is this such a big deal to you?" I asked. "Why can't I just wait and marry a guy I actually like?"

She sighed and closed her eyes, taking deep breaths. "I've told you this before. The government will give you six thousand dollars to start off with--and once that runs out, you're screwed."

"I already know what job I'm getting, and once I start working I'll have a steady income. Besides, six thousand dollars is more than enough to live comfortable off of for a long time."

"That same six thousand will also be covering your entire wedding, Erin. The dress, the cake, the venue, all of it comes from the same money, that takes out a big portion," she reminded me coldly.

"But even then, whatever's left-I dunno, three thousand-that can keep us afloat for a long time. Plus, the apartments are already furnished, so it isn't like we'll be picking out our sofa together."

She groaned, her eyes nervously checking the roads. "Yes, they are furnished." She paused. "However, there will still be things to buy-sheets, silverware, pillows, even an iron. And what about all the bills?"

To be honest, I hadn't thought about this before. I had never even dealt with it at home. To me, those little things were just a given, and the bills did sound a bit frightening. How much would I have to be working to really keep my head above water?

Even so, I didn't drop my façade. I would rather live uncomfortably with someone I cared for than with more money than necessary with someone I hated-specifically, Zayn. "Mom, don't you think that if the government wasn't giving enough money, more people would be bringing that to attention?"

"Well, look around, Erin. Do you see anyone who's actually living an ideal life?"

"Mom," Callie interrupts. "Did you even see Zayn's house?"

I giggle to myself and reach my arm behind the seat, tapping Callie's leg in thanks.

"Exactly my point! He's got it figured out!" She exclaimed.

"Not him, Mom. His Dad," I remind her.

"But don't you think he might have told him some useful tips? I mean, the boy's already I'm his twenties-"

I inhale sharply. "What? He's in his twenties?"

I can't marry someone that old. It's not that he's almost past the acceptable age limit for marriage, it's the fact that he's at least four years older than me. I couldn't be expected to sleep in the same room as him, much less in the same bed. Maybe I could learn to tolerate someone who was closer to my age-but this is kinda creepy, if we're being honest.

She blinks. "Yes, darling, he's twenty-one."

"Then why aren't there pretty girls his age flocking his house?" I challenge.

"Because, Erin, they're already married," she groans, exasperated.

I roll my eyes for what feels like the millionth time that day and lean my head against the cool glass of the car window. Outside, fat droplets of water has begun to fall, spattering on the hot asphalt.

I don't have a bad life-I know that. I'm very grateful for what I do have, but the falling rain is easily what makes me happiest. I would gladly turn down all the technology and riches of the world just to watch the rain tumble from the clouds on to the leaves of the trees, restoring life to the dying world around it.

After rolling down the window slightly, I close my eyes and let my forehead rest on the glass, taking long, deep breaths of the clean air. It soothes the bubbling anger in my chest as it travels down and out of my body.

When I open my eyes again, I'm home. My mother and Callie are rushing to the front door, bags over their heads to protect them from the rain. I slowly exit the car and take my things with me, reluctant to go back inside and return to my hectic life. The last few seconds I spent with the rain cleansing my mind were a beautiful and calming break, but now I must return, and I'm not sure that I'm ready.

Before giving myself the chance to doubt my choice, I pull the keys to my green VW out of my purse and climb into the car next to my mother's. The cool leather is sharp, yet comforting on my bare thighs.

On my phone, I pull up the address Louis had sent me on the gps. 4839 Barden Street. Seventeen minutes away.

In the back of my mind, I hear Zayn's deep voice telling me, begging me not to go. Part of me wants to go just to spite him, this man who everyone expects me to wed. Another part genuinely wants to go and see Louis again. But then there's a tiny sliver, in the back of my mind, calmly whispering what if Zayn's right?

What if there was something about Louis I didn't know? I had only met him last night, and we were mostly drunk anyway. It wouldn't be that unrealistic if he was a completely different person than the happy, laughing boy showing me pictures of his dog and bird. 

I pull out my phone and find the address Louis had sent me. After plugging it into my GPS, I turn my key in the ignition and feel the engine gently spring to life. 

After about ten minutes of driving, I feel my phone begin to vibrate in my lap. Looking away from the road, I read the name. Louis. I answer the phone without question, wondering if it had something to with whatever Zayn told me. "Hello?"

"Erin! Thank God!" He replies, his voice relieved.

"Yeah, it's me. What's up?"

"Are you coming over?" He asks, his voice a bit frantic.

"Oh! I knew I should have called you!" I exclaim, feeling incredibly guilty for not letting him know. However, I want to avoid letting him know about Zayn. Clearly the two know each other, and I don't want to be associated with Zayn. "I'm on my way over now!"

"No, no, it's fine, Erin," he tells me. "In fact, I'm starting to think we should do this another time anyway."

In the background a large crash could be heard, as well as loud cussing. I could hear a young girl crying, but before I could register it, I heard Louis screaming, "Don't you fucking touch her?"

I remain quiet, knowing that whatever's happening is not meant for my ears. 

"Oh, shit, sorry, Erin," he apologizes. "I meant that for, uh, someone else."

"That's alright," I mumble quietly. 

It's silent for a moment, but not uncomfortable. I hear his breathing mixed with mine, the ragged, nervous breaths combined with my clear ones.

After another crash is heard, Louis speaks again. "I think I better go."

"Bye, Louis," I tell him, but the line had already gone dead.

Part of me was scared for him. I didn't know what was happening, but it didn't sound safe. I wonder idly how well Zayn knows Louis and his family to be able to tell me something was wrong before Louis even could. Even so, I was still thoroughly shaken up after that call, short as it was.

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