Ever since I was younger, my mother always told me to be wary of men. She trained me to cross to the other side of the street when I saw them coming and move to a different aisle at the grocery store. At night, she always made me travel with Seth or my Father, because she trusted them both to protect me if I was put in any danger.
Of course, I thought she was crazy for years. I used to do everything I could just to spite her, which may have been the cause of my flamboyant personality now. I would sneak out just for the sake of sneaking out, even if she never found out about it.
But then, when I was fifteen, I was walking through the neighborhood around eight-thirty at night from Meredith's house to my own. I wasn't even trying to be rebellious, I just wanted to go home. Halfway home, a young man stepped out from his porch, holding a beer. He whistled at me and made a rude comment even I would never repeat.
Instinctively, I zipped up my jacket and began to walk much faster down the barren street, ignoring the man. I had hoped he would stay on his porch, but he didn't. He followed me, all the way home, making slurred comments to me and stopping every few houses to puke into the bushes.
He never touched me. He never even laid a finger on me. But that was enough to scare me into listening to my mother.
That night, after I told my mother what happened, she broke down into tears and hugged me tight, rocking me back and forth. She had been raped, she told me, when she was just a little bit older than me. Neither of her parents even found out about it. The only person who knew was her best friend, Margaret, who found her, bruised and naked by a dumpster behind the party house.
She was fine, of course, but since then she was terrified something like that might happen to her again. She never even slept in the same bed as my father until they had been married for seven months and she knew he would never hurt her.
As for me, I has forgotten it all-what these people could do to me, what they did do to my mother-until Zayn's hand brushed my breast in a manner much too plain to be a simple accident. Of course, right after, his golden eyes stayed trained on my chest for just a second too long.
"Um, sorry, love, but what's your name?" He asked tentatively.
"For one thing, it's not 'love" I snapped, yanking my arm from his grip. "It's Erin."
He smiled apologetically, confusion and a bit of hurt painting his face. His pupils dilated dramatically as he tried to find a way to smooth over a situation I had already managed to make rigid. "Would you like to come inside?" He asked politely.
"Do I really have a choice?"
As much as I hated to admit it, I was looking foreword to seeing the inside of his house, especially since the outside looked so appealing. Something inside me had always had an intense appreciation for good architecture, as well as interior design. Part of me let my mind wander for a moment to what would happen if I did choose to marry this man, even though I felt so greatly opposed to it at this second, especially after the not-so-subtle trace of his fingers over my breast. My mother did say his father would help us out greatly with finances and the new house, and I would absolutely love to decorate my own home, instead of one of the pre-furnished townhouses given to new couples.
But that would mean I would have to be able to tolerate this man well enough to spend the rest of my life with him, and that wasn't looking so bright right now.
Zayn began to rest one hand on the back of my shoulder blades, but wisely pulled it away when I shot him a look of pure malice. Instead, he settled for holding the door open for me, and I didn't complain. If he wanted to be a gentleman, I was no one to stop him, so long as he kept his chivalry hands-off.
Inside, the house was just as gorgeous as I had expected. The walls were a beautiful wood paneling which reached high up to the top of the house, where the railing of a loft could be seen. An elegant chandelier hung from the ceiling. For a second, I shed my cruel mask and let myself gaze in wonder at the house.
Could I really have a home like this?
On a leather couch by a bookshelf, two girls, one about Callie's age and the other a few years younger, were watching The Proposal, legs and limbs draped over each other in the way only sisters know. When they heard our footsteps behind them, they both turned and looked eagerly at us.
"Hello!" The older of the two squealed excitedly.
I smiled genuinely and waved at the two girls. I had no reason to block out these girls.
"Erin, these are my two sisters. This is Waliyha," Zayn spoke, gesturing to the girl who spoke, "and this is Safaa."
"Are you two getting married?" Asked Safaa, her eyes wide.
I rolled my eyes, irritated with the thought of marrying this man. If I could help it, I would stay as far away from him as possible.
"Slow down, Safaa," laughed Zayn. "I've hardly met her."
She grinned and then made a horribly disgusting face, gesturing to Zayn. I nodded eagerly, understanding immediately.
Zayn playfully swat at Safaa, who in turn hit him back before returning to her movie. "Perhaps we should find a place more private, hmm?" He suggested.
I nodded, but inside, I wanted nothing more than to run outside into the arms of my sister and complain loudly about Zayn. To be honest, I was a bit frightened about being alone with him. Of course, I knew I wouldn't be put in any real danger, but he could easily put me in an awkward and uncomfortable position that would leave me gently tugging down the edge of my skirt so that he couldn't get a chance to look up.
He led me into a bright, airy room that must have been an office to someone, but was currently being used for other purposes. I took my seat on a cushioned bench by the window and he took his on the rolling chair in front of the desk.
"So, tell me about yourself," he asked politely.
"How many times have you been through this?" I demanded, ignoring his question completely.
He was taken aback by my response, but still held his calm and collected demeanor, only pissing me off even more. "Excuse me?"
"You've obviously been through this before. This-meeting new people or whatever the hell it's supposed to be. And either you've turned down every girl before you or they've turned you down, so what makes this any different??"
"You'll have to forgive me, Erin. I don't understand what you mean," he told me, his dark brow furrowed.
"No, I will not forgive you! It isn't fair to me to go through with this simply because you were too picky about any of the girls before! Why am I any different from any of the other girls you turned down?"
I was pissed. Really, irrationally pissed. From the moment I sensed that tiny bit of lust, this man was tainted. Anything he did, no matter how polite, only made me even angrier.
"Oh. I understand," he sighed. "You see, I never turned anyone down before."
That meant that as long as I was okay with marrying him, it was on. This decision was completely in my hands, and that was a lot to handle.
"This is fucked up," I muttered, more to myself than to him.
"This whole thing, with arranged marriages and that shit, it's all so fucked up."
He shook his head, chuckling with amusement. "I agree."
"You agree?" I echo, confused. Here was this man, this man who had probably done everything right in his life, saying that everything he was raised to believe, to respect, was shit.
"Yeah, Erin, I do. I hate how we're forced into marriages with people we don't know and expected to live a life with them and pretend that we're tolerant of them, when we're just becoming more and more annoyed with them by the second."
"You know why I'm here, don't you?" I murmured, ashamed to say so.
"Yeah," he sighs. "I do."
For the first time that day, I felt guilty. I was only here for his dad's money. I had no interest whatsoever in this man, and yet he had welcomed me into his home, perfectly willing to make me his wife.
At least, I'm assuming he's be okay with that. Chances are he hasn't had any reason to turn down women before-none of them were complete bitches to him.
"I want you to know that I don't like you," I tell him flatly. There's no reason to make him believe I want to marry him.
"Oh, I've gathered that much, Erin," he laughs. "And yet-I can't imagine you being friendly and sweet to someone."
I raised my eyebrows, amused. "Believe me, I'm not. Don't start thinking you're so special, cause you're not."
"So do you just hate everyone?" He asked curiously. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, because in truth, I did despise most people.
"I have friends," I muttered, irritated. I refused to meet his gaze, which I knew would be making fun of me.
"Are you a bitch to them, too?" He challenged, sitting up in his seat.
"I've known them forever, I've earned that right," I defend myself, tugging a few stray hairs from my braid out of my face.
"What the hell, Erin? Nobody has the right to be a bitch to anyone!"
His perfect features, tainted imperfect by my mind, were livid. His caramel eyes darkened to a shade of brown that you might see on the leaves outside your house in November, and his nostrils flared.
"Jesus Christ," I muttered. "Calm down. I was kidding, alright?"
I really wasn't, but Meredith, Seth, and I had some sort of unspoken understanding that whatever rude thing we said came from a place of love. We knew that they had already seen our worst, so we didn't hold back. I have never been more comfortable with anyone in my life than I am with those two.
Across from me, Zayn had squeezed his eyes shut and was massaging the bone between his eyebrows. I watched him warily, wondering if that was the wrong thing to say.
It didn't matter, anyway. What's done is done, and I don't care enough about this man to regret it.
I slipped my phone out of my tiny purse and checked the time, taking advantage of Zayn's blindness. 12:46.
"Fuck," I cursed under my breath.
"What now?" He sighed, running his hands through his hair tensely.
I groaned inwardly, knowing I would be late. "I told a friend I'd meet him later at his house. He wanted to show me his bird."
Suddenly Zayn sat straight up in his chair, his expression alert and serious. "Is his name Louis?" He asked solemnly.
"Uh, yeah. Why?"
How the hell did he know Louis?
"Don't go over there."
I clenched my jaw, annoyed at his command. "And why the hell should I listen to you?"
"Erin, I'm serious," he spoke gravely.
"How do you even know him?" I challenged.
He sighed, and I could tell he was getting frustrated. "Fuck, Erin, dies it matter?"
"Yeah, it kinda does," I remark. "How do I know you guys didn't do time together in prison?"
"Because we didn't. There's your answer."
"I have no reason to listen to you," I sneered.
"God dammit, why can't you just give up your bitchy act and listen to me?" He jumped up out of his chair and was now flinging his hands wildly over the place.
"Zayn, I know him better than I know you!"
"It doesn't matter how well you know him, you just can't go to his house."
"You're fucking crazy, I hope you know that!" I exclaimed. I gathered my few things I had brought with me and stormed out of the room, letting the wood door slam behind me.
I heard his footsteps following me through the house, but I simply sped up, wanting to get as far away from him as I could. He confused me, he spoke in mixed signals, and he made me uncomfortable. All I wanted now was to call Meredith and bitch about this government's fucked up arranged marriages for hours on end.
Outside, my mother was still speaking with Zayn's father. Callie stood beside her, bright-eyed and smiling, waiting to hear more about the marriage that was most definitely not going to happen.
"Oh, how did it go?" My mother squealed as I approached.
"What did he say?" Said Callie in the exact same tone.
I glared at them both, hating them for putting me through this. "Let's just go home," I demanded, as Zayn stumbled out the door behind me, calling my name.
"What did you do?" Barked his father in an audible whisper as he came closer.
Zayn held his hands up as if to say 'I surrender' and shot me an annoyed gaze. "It wasn't me," he told him.
At that my mother turned on me. "What the hell happened?" She hissed through clenched teeth.
"We disagreed on my plans for this afternoon," I told her plainly. "He tried to tell me I has to cancel."
"But why?" Callie complained.
"Can we not talk about this now?" I begged. "Please?"
They each nodded and turned to shake Zayn's father's hand before leaving. The man held out his palm toward me, and I reluctantly took it. I could apologies in his eyes for whatever happened. I was glad to be leaving before Zayn told him his side if the story and that kindness behind his eyes disappeared.
Zayn shot me one last pleading look and mouthed the words 'don't go,' to which I rolled my eyes dramatically before following Callie and my Mother to the car.
(Okay so I think I'm gonna change the name to Bluebird because it will fir the story better. Thanks again for reading this!)