ArrangedBy: Sara Wolf
I love you, Rose. Kiss your Mom and Dad and Riley for me. Hug them. Know that every day is a blessing. Be happy and healthy.
Farlon claps his hands. “Now that everything’s cleared up, we can begin –”
“One moment.” Brett raises his hand. “Let me confer with Rose.”
The friendly look on Farlon’s face cracks, sour impatience showing. He smooths it over in a split second and nods.
Brett looks to me. “There’s a joint contract. Lee’s already signed it. All you have to do is sign it, and you’re agreeing to it.”
“Marriage?” I snap. “Not to him. I can’t, Brett. Marriage for money? How old fashioned and ridiculous is this? You can’t expect me to do this. There’s no way I’m doing this.”
I stand and grab my coat and purse. Lee jumps up and blocks my exit.
“C’mon, Rose. Just stay and listen to what we have in mind.”
“Is that why you kept trying to talk to me?” I say. “Because you knew about this?”
Lee frowns. “Yes, I knew about this, but -”
My heart gives a little sputter of defeat. Why else would a handsome, sort-of witty swim team playboy bother with me if not for money? Why else would he joke with me? Talk with me? He never liked me as a person at all – he just liked the money. I steel my quivering lip and smile as best I can.
“I would rather die than marry you,” I say. My tears well up. I can’t be here anymore. I brush past him and out the door.
“Rose!” Lee shouts. “Wait!”
I stride into the freezing night. A large hand on my arm whirls me around, pinning me to the brick wall. Lee pants, eyes burning into mine.
“It wasn’t just for money, I swear –”
“Let go of me!” I beat his arm off with my purse. He stands back, catching his breath.
“You have to believe me –”
“Just leave me alone!” I snap. I hurry to the parking lot and collapse into my car. I look back at the dark sidewalk – he didn’t follow me. I’m halfway down the freeway before I realize I can’t see because of all my tears. I gasp and press my sleeve to my eyes. The tears keep coming, and I have to keep wiping. Finally, I pull over and cry, harder than at Grandpa’s funeral.
He’s just a boy. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. I didn’t even know my hopes were up until now, where I can see the shattered remains of them. Somewhere deep inside, I’d hoped Lee and the brief moments we shared meant something. I should have known better. Guys don’t like me. And I understand that. I’m not very interesting or all that pretty. I’m just good for mooching off my study notes. And marrying for money.
Just once. Just for once, I wanted a guy to like me for who I am and not what he could use me for.
In Which I Meet Lee Montenegro’s Supermodel Sister
I sleep in until lunch. Mom knocks on my door but I stay quiet until she leaves. Riley knocks on my door later, but comes in anyway. He sits on the end of my bed.
“What’s got you all angsty?”
I pull the covers over my head. Riley leans in.
“Is it a boooooy?”
“Shut up,” I grumble. He claps.
“It is! Holy shit, tell me about him!”
“There is no ‘him’!” I sit up and scowl. “So stop asking.”
“Aw, c’mon.” Riley sighs. “The first time you come home crying about a boy and you don’t tell me anything? It’s not fair. I told you about Elaine.”
“That was your first crush in second grade, Rile.”
“Exactly! We have to be open with each other.”
“Just go away. Please.”
“Finnneee. But Mom and Dad are wondering what’s up. What should I tell them?”
“I met with some friends from high school last night.”
“And why did you come home crying?”
“One of them said I’ve gotten fat?” I try.
His mouth twists into a smile. “Like they’ll believe that.”
He skips downstairs with an enviable amount of energy. I roll too far and fall off the bed in a tangle of blankets. Great. Even gravity’s being a jerk to me, too. Mom and Dad tactfully edge around the question of where I was last night, and when I refuse an extra pancake, Dad gently reminds me I’m not fat. I shoot Riley a glare and he laughs into his melon slice.
Thanksgiving is a somber affair – Dad still puts up the traditional turkey made of pinecones as the table centerpiece and Mom still frets that he’ll ruin the cooking, but there aren’t as many jokes at the table. Riley’s girlfriend is sweetly polite, which is a step up from his girlfriend this summer. The next few days are a blur of leftover turkey sandwiches and football games I only half pay attention to. Mom spends a lot of time accepting casseroles from neighbors who heard about Grandpa. I go with Dad to the office once or twice - a warehouse off the highway where their soap company ships out from. The same packers and line managers and marketing people are there. They’ve known me since middle school. Betsy, Dad’s shipping manager with a platinum blonde beehive hairdo, grasps my hand.