I woke up the next morning to the sound of my mother aggressively pulling open my curtains, letting in a stream of white light. Even though her back was turned it wasn't hard to tell she was pissed.
"Ooh, hey, Mom," I started groggily. I pushed myself upright in bed, grabbing my head as a splitting headache blurred my vision.
"Have fun last night?" She questioned, crossing her arms over her chest.
"What time is it?" I murmured, ignoring her question.
"You've got a clock," she snapped.
I groaned and twisted my neck to check to clock. Eleven twenty-three am.
"It's not that early!" I grumbled, letting my body collapse back down onto the mattress.
"It is when you've got places to be," she barked, flicking a stray hair from her face. "And you do."
"What?" I spoke incredulously. "No I don't."
My mother sighed and turned to my closet. "Go ahead and do something with your hair. I'll pick out your outfit," she spoke, ignoring me entirely.
"Mom, why didn't you tell me about this-- whatever this is?" I cried, irritated.
"Because I knew this would be your reaction. Honey, just go fix yourself up. We're leaving in forty-five minutes."
"Fine. Just tell me what it is, okay?"
At that moment Callie walked through the door with a face that looked like it might explode if she smiled any wider. Her fingers were clenched mischievously at her mouth and her eyes sparkled with roguery.
"Whatthe hell,Callie??" I snapped, confused and frustrated at the fact that everyone knew exactly what was happening before me.
"Erin! Don't speak to your sister that way!" came my mother's sharp reprimand.
I rolled my eyes, thankful her back was turned. If she saw me right now, with her in this pissy mood, she would definitely try to kick me out of the house. She probably would have already, only I'm required by law to stay with my parents until the day I become engaged, and I'm not even considered an adult until the day of my wedding.
"Wait--Callie??" I gasp as the full realization dawns on me.
"You're going to meet someone!" She squeals, jumping up and down in her excitement.
"No, Mom, I can't--please! You told me I could wait--I'm only seventeen! Mom, please don't make me go!"
"Relax, Erin! Yes, I'm taking you to see someone, but it isn't definite he'll be your husband," my mother tells me. Her calm tone, even laced with annoyance, is soothing. "Now, will you, please, go do something nice with your hair?"
I reluctantly climbed put of bed and shivered as the cool morning aid hit my bare legs. I shivered and reached down to rub my calfs until they warmed up a bit. I guess it was still too early in February to start wearing nothing but my underwear beneath my oversized t-shirt. That meant it was back to flannel pants for me, at least until the sun decided to show its face.
My hair, though it could occasionally work itself out, was easily my least favorite thing about myself. Well, in terms of physical appearance. It was thick, which I guess I should have been thankful for, but sometimes it got out of control, and it had to be washed every single night. The curls in it were manageable, so long as I put just a teensy bit of mousse in it every morning.
As for the color, I was satisfied with it. It was a bit too dull and lifeless for my liking, but I know it looks better on me than blonde.
After roughly tugging a brush through my knotted hair, I played around with it a bit and arranged it in all the different ways I could think of. Unfortunately for me, that wasn't much.
Despite the thickness of my hair, it looks good in just a few select styles. No buns, no sideways braids, no high ponytails. That's just the way it went. I liked it best when it was just left down, but after a few days if the same style your neck starts to get stuffy and you begin to wonder if everyone else sees it as awfully as you do.
"Can I fix it?" Asked a small douce from the corner of my room.
I turned over my shoulder and saw Callie, still dressed in her pajamas, like me, standing hopefully in the doorway. Unlike mine, her blonde waves fell neatly around her shoulders, even though she had just woken up.
"What do you want to do?" I replied shortly, returning to my reflection.
"Just a braid is all," she replied sweetly.
"Those don't look good on me," I remind her. "They make me look as of I shaves half my scalp."
She shuddered. "Ew. Don't say 'scalp.' it creeps me out. Besides, I don't wanna do a side braid. Just a simple one from the center of your head."
"You mean my scalp?" I teased.
"Shut up, Erin!"
I giggled. "Alright, you can braid my hair. But please, make it look good?"
"Ah, so you do care about what this man thinks of you!" She spoke, walking behind me and beginning to separate my hair into different sections.
"No!" I protested. "I just don't want to look bad, that's all."
"Too late there," she mumbled, smiling to herself.
When Callie had finished my hair, I was absolutely stunned with the result. Whenever I try to do anything with my hair, it either ends in a tangled knot or a simple ponytail down my back, after my arms ache from trying so many times. Yet here was Callie, who had managed to coax my hair into a perfect fishtail down the center of my back.
My mother had picked out my clothes, which turned out to be cuter than I expected. I guess she was more worried about how this went than I thought.
On my bed lay a billowy pale pink dress I had bought months ago, then stuffed in the back of my closet after realizing I had nothing to wear it for. My mother had given me weeks of shit for it, because it cost $47 and "we didn't have money to throw around."
She matched the dress with a minty green stone necklace and a pair of suede Mary Janes.
To me, it looked like something Callie would wear, and while that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, her style and mine were complete opposites. She dressed in pastels, flirty and adorable, giving her the whole "girl next door"
look. As for me, I just wore whatever I could to piss off my parents the
But just because it wasn't my go-to look didn't mean I didn't like it. I thanked my mother quietly, reluctant to let her know how much I appreciated her help. I was just awkward that way. I had trouble putting myself in a more vulnerable position, even to my parents. It was embarrassing, really.
After shooing her and my sister out of my bedroom, I stripped out of my pajamas. As I dropped the dress over my head, the light fabric settled like water over my thighs. I smoothed my hands over the material, wondering why I had never worn it before.
Checking over my shoulder to make sure my door was closed, I began to twirl, just for the sake of it. The skirt rose up to my waist in a perfect circle, waves rippling out from my center. I kept spinning, putting one foot where the other had been only seconds before and twisting my body, until I nearly crashed into the dresser. Giggling to myself, I grasped the corner of the wood tightly, watching the room spin and tilt around me.
When the world finally came to a complete halt, I fastened the necklace around my neck, careful not to catch it in my perfect braid. Looking down at it, I realized it was probably Callie's, stolen by my mother. Or, more likely, Callie had already had the entire outfit planned for today and had bought the necklace specifically for it.
That wonderful girl never even told me she had bought it. Instead, she let me twirl around in my room with it, without giving the necklace a second thought.
I touched up makeup a bit, just a thin line of eyeliner and a swipe of mascara--that was the usual. But today, I felt pretty. So I blotted on some blush and added some lip gloss, just to look a bit more polished.
I may not care about this guy my parents want me to meet, but that doesn't mean I don't want to look pretty when I have the chance.
"Oh, Darling, you look absolutely lovely!" squealed my mother upon my arrival in the kitchen, where she was waiting with my breakfast of toast and coffee.
"I like it," admitted Callie, beaming.
"Oh, you like it? That's all?" I teased. She rolled her eyes at me, smiling sweetly.
"So when we get there, Erin, I want you to be on your best behavior," warned my mother, handing me my plate.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked haughtily.
"Well, don't slouch, make sure you be polite, smile, and don't speak too much."
"Mom," I groaned. "Please."
"Erin, I'm telling you this because sooner or later, you'll have to get married. And you might not like it, but the man waiting to meet you today may be the same man who sits next to you on a rocking chair fifty years down the road."
"I don't see why I have to go through with this. I'm only seventeen, I still have four more years!" I whined.
"I know, but you just have to give this guy a chance. We scheduled it because, like you, he wants to wait until the last minute, and this is it."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that his stakes are higher than yours. I would be totally okay with you waiting, except for the fact that he doesn't have time," she explained, taking a bite into her toast.
"But why is it so important that I marry him?" I begged.
"It isn't, not necessarily. But I think it would be a wise option. You see, his Father is the CEO of some major corporation and is willing to help you guys live comfortably until you can provide for yourselves."
"Mom, are you trying to tell me I should marry this guy for no other reason than that his father is rich as hell??"
"That's exactly what I'm saying. Marry for money, and love will come later."
As much as I hated to admit it, the idea was appealing to me. I mean, if I had the option, I wouldn't marry until I found someone who I was really willing to put up with for the rest of my life. I'll have to marry eventually, and there's no way to guarantee that man will be able to keep us afloat.
But this guy might not even like me, I remind myself. He could be a total douche, or so stuck up and pompous. Or maybe he's completely gorgeous and sweet, but he has not interest in me.
"Okay, Mom," I sigh reluctantly. "I'll meet him. But that doesn't mean I'll marry him. It isn't totally up to me."
She nods eagerly. "Of course. I just want you to be aware that this opportunity may not come again."
After I finished my toast, which felt like cardboard in my dry mouth, I climbed into the passenger seat of the car with my mother and Callie, who insisted on going so that she could meet him too.
"Can you at least tell me his name?" I asked for what felt like the hundredth time on the drive over.
My mother shook her head, a mischievous smile playing across her lips.
"Callie?" I turned to her, hoping to get an answer from her. When she didn't answer, it wasn't because she didn't know.
"It has to be a surprise!" She squealed.
"What? Callie, why does it need to be a surprise. Do I know him?"
"No, but what if you marry him? Then when your children ask about the first time you heard his name you can say something more romantic, rather than, 'your aunt Callie told me on the way over to his house.'"
"Wait--who said anything about children?" I exclaimed. "I don't want kids. They're gross and unnecessary."
Next to me, my mother grinned. "That may be true, but once you hold them--your own child--in your arms, it's worth all that," she remarked with an air of nostalgia.
"Okay, whatever," I sighed. "Don't tell me his name then."
"We're here, Erin," spoke my mother as we turned into the driveway of a beautiful tall stone house. In the front yard, lush green grass spread beneath the beautiful cherry trees that were just beginning to blossom in the spring. Several small flower beds lined the face of the house, all filled with hydrangeas and azaleas.
On the small stone path connecting the driveway to the front door stood two tall men. They both had black hair skewed over their faces, which each had stubble covering their chins. Except one was rounder, with an older face and blocky glasses. The next was skinny, wearing a linen iron-pressed shirt with the sleeves rolled up past the elbows and simple denim jeans. His hands were shoved in his pockets as he stared at the car.
I felt frozen in my seat. Next to me, my mother had already unbuckled her seatbelt and was climbing out of the car to greet the larger of the two men. Callie squirmed away, too, leaving me alone in the car. I stared at my reflection in the mirror for a few seconds, trying to decide if I should get out of the car and greet him like everyone expects me to, or if I should crawl into the driver's side and drive off to a small coffee house in the middle of London where no one will be able to find me.
As appealing as the second option sounded, I decided the first would be more practical. So I quickly smoothed down my braid and stepped out of the car, tugging my dress down so that I wouldn't accidentally flash somebody.
When I looked up, his eyes were on me. Following my every movement. They were beautiful, if I was honest with myself. A rich caramel colour, with specks of gold and darker browns etched in.
I was so entranced with his eyes and the possibility that I was right--that he was gorgeous but wanted nothing todo with me--that I tripped over nothing but thin air as I made my way toward the man with the golden eyes.
The ground was suddenly a lot closer--I pushed out my arms to stop myself from breaking my nose on the stone driveway, but before I knew it, he was at my side, supporting my weight with his two powerful hands, on on my elbow and one on my back.
"Thanks," I muttered, feeling my cheeks heat up. I averted my gaze, embarrassed at myself for falling within the first seconds of our interaction.
"No problem," he replied, flashing me a set of pearly white teeth. "You okay?"
I nodded slowly, smoothing down my dress to give my hands something to do.
"Wonderful," he remarked. "My name's Zayn. Zayn Malik."