The soft ding of the elevator echoed through the apartment. Charlotte ruffled her hair in the mirror once more before slamming the bedroom door on her way out. She hurried the hall and skipped downstairs, gathering her thoughts all the while.
Her butler, Truman, welcomed the boys and Eleanor inside. Charlotte could hear them long before she saw them. As expected, they were boisterous and rowdy. It seemed they paid no mind to where they were, but rather to each other, laughing and slapping one another after every joke.
Beside them, Eleanor looked anomalous in her boxy white dress and black buckled booties. Her hair was elegantly braided to the side with her bangs hanging loose in the front. Eleanor thanked the butler for removing her coat, and proceeded to walk slowly through the penthouse.
To describe Charlotte’s apartment as nice would be a vast understatement. It was grand with high ceilings and pristine white walls. A chrome lined staircase circled upstairs. Eleanor wouldn’t call it minimalist, but nothing whatsoever about the apartment was overbearing. It was sleek and contemporary in design and seemed to Eleanor, made with clear intentions. She had always known her best friend was well off – as was she – but she’d never known exactly how much.
Truman ushered the group into the dining room, and the boys, becoming aware, began to settle. Like every other room, this one had high ceilings and unspoiled white walls. There was a magnificent chandelier made of a transparent gemstone in the center of the room. The table and chairs both had concrete tops and chrome extremities. To accommodate sitting, Charlotte placed white leather cushions on the concrete chairs to match the walls.
In front of each chair was an arrangement of porcelain white plates with a silver embroidered napkin and silver utensils engraved J & C. Beginning from the head of table, were several vanilla scented candles from Anthropology, Charlotte’s favorite.
Louis pulled out Eleanor’s chair respectfully and after she was seated, he sat beside her. Niall seated himself next to Eleanor and chatted idly with the couple.
Their waitress had set out a silver dish loaded with an assortment of fruits and a stack of delicate silver embellished plates beside it. Zayn sat across from Louis and served himself some blueberries. The other waitress scurried around placing napkins on Charlotte’s guests’ laps.
Now feeling slightly panicked, Charlotte endeavored to delay the brunch. She entered the kitchen ordering the chef to run through her plan and adjusting her waitresses’ ties. But the chef was more than qualified…as was every other staff member, so there was little more to be done.
“Mate, you can’t even imagine how fit Charlotte is. Last night, I got all the right angles!” Harry, who was seated beside Zayn, couldn’t stop talking, mostly to taunt Zayn for wimping out than to brag.
“As I recall you only saw one angle of me,” Charlotte interjected abruptly, the door swishing closed in her wake. “And I suppose the rest are left to your imagination.”
“For now at least,” Louis chuckled to Niall. Charlotte walked to her seat at the bottom of the table between Zayn and Louis but didn’t sit.
“If you liked it, you should’ve put a ring on it,” Charlotte countered, wiggling her fingers in the air.
“Is that what I think it is?” Eleanor stood and grabbed Charlotte’s hand from across the table.
“If you think it’s a Cartier engagement ring, then yes.” She was suddenly uncomfortable, the regret washing over her. Jackson would not be pleased.
“My god, it’s gorgeous! Jackson really outdid himself.” Eleanor held Charlotte’s hand in hers unable to take her eyes off of it.
The ring itself was enormous, but still maintained delicacy. It was rounded with a platinum spiral and sparkled on Charlotte’s tanned fingers. Its crown was made of brilliant vibrant diamonds. It was incredible and likely cost a fortune.
“Everyone knows the biggest present comes in the smallest box.” Jackson emerged from the other end of the room, immediately taking his seat at the head of the table.
“You must tell us the story! The story is always the best part!” Eleanor seated herself again and looked to her best friend eagerly.
Charlotte sat and opened her mouth to speak, but Jackson spoke for her. “I suppose our story just isn’t that interesting. We’re a bit of cliché as it is.”
Before Eleanor could protest – and she would – Jackson summoned a waitress. The waitress, a petite brunette with an athletic build, made her way around the table taking drink orders, and when she got to Harry, he requested a bottle of champagne to celebrate the news. She returned with the champagne and with helped the other waitress distribute full glasses.
“Well I’d like to propose a toast,” Harry began, allowing time for each person seated at the table to raise their glasses. “To the three rings of marriage…the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.”
All aside from Jackson began to laugh, first quietly, then loudly at each other. But Jackson remained still. It was like he had turned to stone only he hadn’t. But that didn’t deter her from wishing he had been. It would make their current circumstances less terrifying for one.
The elevator dinged faintly. Unsurprisingly, Truman attended to it, and Charlotte began to excuse herself as she rose. But to her astonishment, Jackson stood sharply, his chair grinding on the mahogany floor before he ambled out of the room.