‘I’m going out to dinner with Reid tonight,’ I tell her, followed by the clip-clip of my scissors pruning an inch from each stem.
The day after Reid’s return to my life just days ago, I’d confided the truth of our newfound relationship into Deb’s silent room. I felt like such a coward – confessing secrets to my mute, unresponsive sister and no one else. Now, my parents are aware of it, but their biased judgement of Reid means my sharing stops there. Deb, once again, is my confidante.
What I would give for her fair-minded advice instead of this silence. I don’t know what she’d think of Reid, or our relationship, but she would tell me straight up, without any candy-coating. And in the end, she’d support whatever decision I made. Instead, I hear only the views of distraught parents and celebrity-awed friends. Neither feels credible.
‘We’re also going to a party. Crazy, right? Me, at a Hollywood party … His friend John isn’t a celebrity, but he sounds like sort of a social climber.’ A sobering thought hits me then, as if Deb had stated it. ‘I guess I shouldn’t judge, though – most people are going to think the same of me. Or worse.’ Gold digger.
I straighten the soft blanket on Deb’s bed and perch next to her. ‘I have no idea what to wear tonight, so I invited Kayla and Aimee to come over and do their worst.’ Laughing softly, I recall my friends’ doubly silent response when I phoned to tell them about Reid and our impending debut. I don’t think I’ve ever known either of them to be stunned into silence – certainly not both of them at the same time. Five seconds later, they erupted into a breakneck dialogue about designers, colour palettes, shoe trends and hairstyles, and all the reasons I’d been reluctant to tell them came rushing back.
The last time I’d allowed them free rein with my clothes and make-up, I’d woken up in Reid’s bed with the worst hangover imaginable.
There were worse alternatives than that, though, one of which almost happened. I almost left a nightclub with a possibly psychotic stranger due to my alcohol-compromised state. Instead, I woke up to the beginnings of a fairytale love. One I still can’t quite believe is real.
After arguing with each other for ten minutes as though I’m not standing there, Aimee and Kayla settle for a turquoise silk top with beading around the hem and neckline (Kayla’s), a pair of dark, pressed jeans in an unfamiliar brand (Aimee’s), and fuzzy chocolate boots (also Aimee’s, and flat-heeled, thank the Lord). Naturally, they refuse to consider any of my clothing for more than half a second.
‘No,’ Aimee says. ‘Noooooo. You should never wear your clothes when you go out with him. I’m not kidding. Never.’
I decide to panic about that later. Right now, I don’t have time.
Trying to talk Kayla out of using her mammoth case of cosmetics on me is futile, but we compromise with a semi-natural look when I remind her that Reid has only ever seen me with next-to-no make-up. ‘Except for the hangover night,’ I add, and they both avert their eyes, each reproached for letting me out of her sight at that club.
‘You guys, stop with the guilty faces!’ They peer back at me, sheepish, and I shake my head, insisting, ‘I made my own foolish decisions that night. I got luckier than I deserved when Reid spotted me. I don’t blame you and I never did. I’m just not used to a lot of make-up, and I want to feel comfortable tonight.’
Did I just say comfortable? What a totally unrealistic request.
‘Did you notice how she just went, “Reid,” like you’d say, “Clark” or “Josh”?’ Aimee asks Kayla, who nods. They both sigh, and I struggle to resist an eye roll.
From the moment Aimee and Kayla arrived and even when Reid arrives to pick me up, Mom is conspicuously absent. She vanished behind my parents’ closed bedroom door before I came home from Deb’s and hasn’t come out. Dad does his fatherly duty, opening the door and uttering his unfailingly polite, if clipped, ‘Good evening, Reid.’
I hear Reid’s response as I reach the top of the stairs, Kayla and Aimee at my heels. ‘Good evening, Mr Cantrell.’
‘Reverend Cantrell,’ my father corrects, not meanly, but not in the playful manner in which he’d have spoken to Nick – whom he directed, Call me Doug.
‘Reverend Cantrell,’ Reid parrots, unfazed, releasing my father’s hand as I come into view. I soak up the sight of him, despite having seen him yesterday. His blue button-down and jeans seem understated, but I’d bet twenty dollars he knows exactly what wearing that particular shade of blue does to his eyes.
I’ll be lucky if Kayla doesn’t press so close to my back that I end up in a heap at the bottom of the staircase. ‘Aimee,’ she squeaks. ‘That’s. Really. Him.’
Reid’s eyes sweep over me from head to toe and back, unhurriedly, with no care of his rapt audience – my father or either of my star-struck friends. ‘Beautiful,’ he says, taking my hand, and I’m immediately thankful for my friends and their fairy-godmother skills.
‘Ready?’ I ask her, and it won’t be the last time tonight I do so. We’re in a short line of cars waiting for the valet.
Unhooking her seat belt, she takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders, as if she’s preparing for a challenging Olympic performance instead of a night out. Her huge brown eyes turn to me as she nods. ‘Ready.’
I suppress a laugh and lean to kiss her temple. ‘This will all be over soon, and we’ll be old news. I promise.’ These words have a fifty-fifty chance of becoming truth. Same chance of turning out to be entirely false … but I prefer to be optimistic about my promises.