The first thing this morning, I got a phone call from Garret. We had gone on a few dates since the last time I wrote and I wasn’t sure how I felt about him but things seemed to be moving along. I still hadn’t let him kiss me and I think he thought that was weird.
After we talked, I stared at my phone for what seemed like an eternity. What had I gotten myself into this time?
I didn’t really have time to think anymore about it, though, because someone was ringing the doorbell. Who rings someone’s doorbell this early in the morning? It wasn’t even light out yet.
To my surprise, it was Liev. After he stepped into the foyer, I asked, “What are you doing here this early?”
“I had a gig last night and the band — we ate breakfast together and I thought I’d stop by. I knew you would be up. I mean, I saw the lights were on.”
I was not impressed.
“Do you want some coffee?”
He shook his head. “Thanks, but I have to get some sleep.”
I couldn’t help but appear confused. “What is it you want?”
He seemed a bit off. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, he just seemed different. “Oh, um, I wanted to talk to you about Garret.” I raised a questioning eyebrow, so he muddled on. “I saw you guys at the Bistro the other night and it looks like you’ve been going out… on dates.”
He cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “I just wanted to tell you to be careful is all.”
It was my turn to stumble around with my words. “Look, Liev, I think this conversation is highly inappropriate.”
“Well, I don’t. I think that you need to give me a chance.”
“A chance?” Suddenly it dawned on my thick head what he was saying. “Are you asking me out? Because in that case, there’s something you should know. Garret is bringing me to meet his mother and I have a feeling this is a big deal to him.”
Liev could not have been more surprised. “I was hoping you would see what a jerk he is and that you wouldn’t get serious about him.”
“He’s a jerk, Memphis! A bigger jerk than you could even imagine! He’s sneaky and he comes from a sneaky family! You need to break if off with him as soon as possible!”
“This is beyond ridiculous!” I fumed. “Why are you saying these things? What’s he done that you would tell me this?”
I could tell he was trying to stay calm but there was another emotion just under the surface I couldn’t quite grasp. “I can’t go into details right now. That’s why I was hoping you’d see for yourself. Please, please, think whatever you want about me, but break it off with him. I don’t want to see anything happen to you.”
“Who was that?” Keniesha asked as I sat next to her in our usual spot.
“Liev Capra,” I responded.
“I heard raised voices.”
“I think he’s mentally ill or something. He told me to break it off with Garret and that Garret will hurt me, but he didn’t say why. He said he couldn’t tell me.”
She wrinkled her nose as she thought about it. “That’s kind of exciting; so cloak and dagger! So what did you tell Liev?”
“I kicked him out and told him not to come back.”
Keniesha sighed. “Of course you did. You know, it might just be that he has seen Garret act like an idiot toward you. Did you ever think that maybe Liev likes you a lot?”
“I don’t know what to think,” I admitted. Why was she so smart and I was so dumb? “And Garret doesn’t act like an idiot. Matter of fact, he called me this morning and asked me to meet his mother today. We’re going to have tea late this afternoon at their summer cottage.”
She put her hand over her heart and let out a different kind of sigh… a sickeningly sweet sigh, like she was touched.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” And here is where the Keniesha-typical finger pointing began for the day. “He’s really serious about you. I mean, he wants you to meet his dear, elderly mother!”
My stomach flip flopped and I could barely swallow. “Stop it. I’m nervous as it is.”
She freaking did it again with the hand over the heart. “You might beat me to the altar, little sis.”
Oh yeah, I forgot to write earlier that she’s been dating a guy she calls Mango (it’s his last name). That’s why she wasn’t around after my first date with Garret. She’s been talking about marriage ever since she met this guy. He’s nice enough and he does seem like her type but he hasn’t proposed yet and she’s obviously getting antsy.
Anyway, all I could do was roll my eyes at her because we had to get busy. There was a lot to do this morning.
Broke girls have to eat, so we were having a garage sale every day until all our useless crap was sold. I couldn’t imagine it bringing in too much money, but every bit would help.
Keniesha and I had set the stuff up the night before so that all we had to do this morning was uncover it all.
I even put balloons by the mailbox so there could be no mistaking as to where this garage sale was. People drifted in and out. Slowly and surely we were making a little cash.
I seriously couldn’t see why anyone would want this garbage, but Keniesha said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. She acted really proud at that, but I’m pretty sure I’d heard our mom say that half a dozen times. Mom also used to yell at us to turn off the lights when we were done using them. She’d say, “We don’t own the electric company, you know!”
I smiled as I thought about it and I tried not to look over my shoulder at the house because pretty soon, we wouldn’t be living there anymore. I silently wondered if the great memories I had of this place and mom and dad would slip away from me over time if I no longer lived here.
I told myself not to think about that. It wouldn’t do any good and I needed to keep a clear head today. I was half out of my mind with terror, thinking about meeting Mrs. Covington for the first time. What would she think of me?
Truth be told, if I did marry someone, I would want their mother to love me like my own mother had. Did that even happen in real life? I really didn’t know.
Pull yourself out of this funk, I commanded in my head. Keniesha said this was going to be an exciting adventure. She wasn’t letting any of this stuff drag her down, therefore, I couldn’t either. I had to be at least as strong as she seemed to be so that I wouldn’t be a burden on her.
Looking at my watch, I realized that I had to get ready for tea… It felt like there was a brick in my stomach. Like a prisoner going to their execution, I tried to find any reason at all that I couldn’t go.
Garret had said to dress nicely and as if he was afraid I didn’t know what that meant, he had sent a dress and heels to my house via his chauffer that he deemed fit enough to meet his dear old mother.
My breath caught in my throat as I got out of the taxi and stood outside the massive summer cottage, as Garret called it. Holding back the urge to wipe my sweaty palms on my new dress, I anxiously rang the bell. Garret brought me inside and to the back garden where his mother was seated at a tea table by the pool.
The unobstructed views of the ocean took my breath away.
Mrs. Covington smiled curtly at me as Garret and I approached. She was breathtaking. I was sure that wasn’t her real face. I mean, she must have had some plastic surgery or something.
She seemed so… proper. I stood by, not quite sure what I was supposed to do next. Thankfully, Garret pulled a chair out and ushered me into it. Then he sat across from me.
Mrs. Covington poured the tea and set a delicate cup in front of each of us. She then asked if I wanted any sugar or milk. I shook my head nervously and she turned to her son, asking him the same thing. I stared at the cup just knowing I was going to break it.
Garret was so at ease with his mother, as well he should be, but he was very proper as well. His demeanor seemed quite different when he was with her.
I watched them carefully and imitated everything I saw them do. If they stuck their pinkies out, so did I, believe me!
Mrs. Covington and Garret kept up a light conversation that didn’t really amount to much. Every once in a while, she gave me a glance. I couldn’t be sure if I was reading into it or if I had actually seen displeasure in her eyes.
Tea seemed to go on forever. Good gravy, did they do this every single day?
There were dainty little sandwiches and cookies on fragile plates. It was so beautiful the way it was all set up, but I felt too upset to my stomach to eat anything. Besides, I was too busy watching Garret and his mother to make sure I didn’t do something stupid that would offend their sensibilities.
Mrs. Covington sat bolt upright, her body not even touching the back of the chair, so that’s how I sat as well. She held her saucer, so there I was, holding mine. When would this torture end?
“Now, dear, you must tell me. What is it you do?” Mrs. Covington asked, her voice polite but firm.
“Uh, well, I work –”
“– She’s an aspiring chef, remember, mother? I told you that,” Garret said smoothly and with a smile.
Mrs. Covington didn’t smile, however. After a moment, she said, “Well, after the wedding, you won’t have to worry about doing anything so menial again.”
It’s too bad I was taking a sip just then as I nearly spit my tea out right in her face. Somehow, I held back but I’m really not sure how I managed. Some of the liquid had gone down the wrong pipe and I coughed as delicately as I could into my napkin. I’m pretty sure they thought I was about to cough up a lung.
“Mother, she can do whatever she likes.”
In response, Mrs. Covington gave him a look that could melt steel.
Later, Mrs. Covington suggested we move indoors as the evening air didn’t agree with her. I excused myself to use the bathroom and check myself in the mirror. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about lip gloss, it’s that it doesn’t last very long.
As there was a lot of art to see, I took my time returning. Quite enjoying my reprieve, I paused to look at a portrait when I noticed their voices from the drawing room.
I stopped cold because they weren’t speaking normally. Their voices were hushed but harsh at the same time. They clearly weren’t expecting me back yet.
“You have to get this done! Do you understand?”
“Mother, it’s not that easy. She hasn’t even kissed me yet. How can I propose so soon when she won’t even kiss me?”
“You figure it out! I want this done as soon as possible. We’ve waited too long for this.”
“You know, maybe I don’t want to get married! Least of all to her. She’s not even my type.”
“You will not defy me. Besides, your type is nothing I ever want to see in this house. It was bad enough having this ragamuffin join us for tea today. Do you think I want you to marry her? Really? This situation has been forced upon us and I don’t like it either, but we have to deal with it just the same.”
“Now, my boy,” Mrs. Covington continued, “you will do as we planned. That girl can never know, do you understand?” To my horror, Garret nodded his agreement. “Now, you will propose to her within the week, you will wed her and bed her and there will be nothing she can do to us after that.”
My chin hit the floor as Garret said, “Okay, but I wish there was another way.”
“I’ve consulted our attorneys and there is absolutely nothing else to be done.” She patted his hand. “Keep in mind that just because you’ll be tied to her legally once you’re married, that doesn’t mean that after she bears an heir or two that you can’t have your fun on the side. There is no rule that you have to actually love her.”
I stood like a deer in headlights. What was I hearing? This couldn’t be real! Could I really be in the middle of some sort of plot? This was insane!
Without even thinking about it, I fled past them and out of the house. I heard Garret shouting my name, but I ran and ran. I just wanted to get as far away from those vile people as I could so I raced on until I didn’t even know where I was anymore.
Finally, panting wildly for air, my face hot with tears and the heel of one of my shoes broken off, I stopped. I couldn’t go on. My head was spinning and my heart was pounding. I was sure it would burst right through my chest and explode. And that was okay. All I wanted to do was curl up and die.