MAID FOR ME Kat Lieu
The moment we show ourselves in public, the paparazzi, Jaiden's admirers, and my haters will shred us apart. That's we and the twins ride the helicopter to Old Jersey to shop.
During the ride, the twins sleep. Jaiden, wearing a pair of stylish glasses, studies a pile of documents. I glance over his shoulders and he clears his throat.
"A little nosy, aren't we?"
I shrug. "Why do you do it?"
"Do what? I can't read minds, Mina, why do you always ask strange questions?"
"I'm asking, why do you run Daniels Incorporated when you don't like it? Doc Flanican told me you want to study medicine."
A slight flush of pink appears across his cheeks. "I do it because my father's getting older. It's about time he and Mother go travel the world and enjoy life. Besides, I don't want to see the family business crumble with me—it's my grandfather's life work." He shrugs and resumes studying his papers.
"That's pretty selfless… but what about medicine? You only live once. Won't you regret it if you can't become a doctor, or something like that?"
Jaiden shrugs again. "All I know is I regret not hiring someone less chatty." He grins, winking and I turn my head, rolling my eyes, to look outside the helicopter window.
Old Jersey is the small state thirty miles away from New Haven York. We land in Old Jersey City, on top of the Blossomingdales building. Blossomingdales is a mall made for people with rare limitless Onyx credit cards. The ten-story building has a hundred stores carrying fashionable pieces straight off the runway. On the tenth floor is a restaurant called the Global Gourmet-- one can import freshly cooked delicacies from all over the world.
The world of the rich is a fantastic fairytale land. That's why it makes me so mad when I read about privileged kids popping pills and committing suicide. I live with mice that nibble my toes when I sleep and not once have I contemplated committing suicide. Anyway...
Our first destination is a bridal boutique called Eternity. The moment I step into the boutique, I hear wedding bells in my head. I see white doves, an amazing cathedral, smiling faces, a million iridescent bubbles, and my groom waiting for me at the altar. Dad walks me down the aisle toward my handsome groom.
He wears a white tuxedo and a large smile on his face. He has violet-blue eyes. He's definitely not Kit… I shake my head and gulp.
"Don't just stand there. Come in." Jaiden chuckles and pulls me out of my daydream. We walk into a private viewing room, following our attendant. She pours us tea as we lounge on a leather couch. Before us is a runway stage. To the right are spacious dressing rooms.
"I will be back with gowns for the lucky bride to choose," the attendant says and disappears.
"I want to be the pretend maid of honor," Danni says. "But I refuse to wear a dress."
"You can wear jeans under the dress." Kit punches his sister's shoulder.
Danni returns the punch. "Why don't you wear the dress? Everyone says you're more feminine than me. Remember how people used to call you Pretty Kitty."
"Shut up, Danny-boy." Kit sticks his tongue out at his sister.
Jaiden shakes his head at the twins. He looks at me. "Do you have a dream wedding?"
I nod. "Of course. But it's never going to happen now."
First of all, you're the groom, not Kit, even if it's a pretend-wedding. I don't have Dad to walk me down the aisle. I don't have Mom to do my makeup.
"Because I want to get married on the moon."
Jaiden snorts. "Simple. I can arrange that. We'll just have to go train with some astronauts."
I roll my eyes. "I'm kidding. But anyway, at least Danni has to wear a dress. A fluffy pink one." Kit gives me a high-five.
Danni narrows her eyes at me and mutters a string of ear-burning four-letter words. We laugh at her. The attendant returns with a remote in her hands. She clicks a button. Soft music fills the room. A model marches down the stage, wedding-style, in a beautiful white gown. She holds a white bouquet in her hand and smiles. The attendant describes the dress. She gives us a few minutes to study the dress, then clicks the button. The first model disappears as another model waltzes down the stage. She twirls before us and I study the dress in awe.
An hour later, I'm in the dressing room trying on a dozen dresses. Even though this is a sham wedding, I can't contain my excitement. Of all the dresses-- I love them all-- my absolute favorite is the Winter Swan. Its heart-shaped bodice hugs my chest snugly. The diamond studs on the bodice form an elegant flower shape. The white-feathered waistline fits perfectly-- it hides my tummy. The dress fans out and it has a long lacy train. I walk out of the dressing room and see Danni brooding on the couch in the pink dress I picked for her. Kit's in a lovely black tuxedo with a silk pink shirt. Jaiden wears a similar tux with a white silk shirt and silver-white bowtie. The look he gives me makes me think about Danni's words. I wonder if his pupils are dilated. My cheeks feel warm as he continues to study me. He parts his lips slightly and smiles.
"You actually look presentable," he says to me, rubbing the back of his neck. "I like it."
I stare into his eyes... I can't tell if his pupils are dilated.
"Is there something wrong with my face?" he asks.
"No." I look away.
"It's perfect, Mina." Danni says, ripping off her dress, not caring if the boys see her in a sports-bra. "I'm wearing what Kit's wearing by the way. Who says a maid of honor has to wear a dress?" She storms away, disappearing into one of the fitting rooms.
Kit shakes his head. "She hasn't worn a dress since she was five. She used to take my clothes and pretend to be me."
"She didn't look good in the dress," I say.
"I heard that," Danni says, walking back out half-a minute later.
I grin. I, on the other hand, look awesome in my dress! I spin around and stare at myself in the mirror. I almost can't recognize myself. The feather tips on the waistline of the dress are made with crystal. The bodice's diamond studs are half-carats each. The matching white gloves are pure silk. The veil is like a liquid sheet of ice that trails down to the small of my back, with a gorgeous jeweled-feather headdress. This dress costs more than two Uptown houses. If I sell it, I can feed a small nation for a day. If I get to keep this dress, I'm selling it!
After staring at my reflection for the next ten minutes, I finally say, "I've decided. This is the dress I wish to get married in."
"It's beautiful," the attendant tells me. She helps me out of it, takes my measurements, and rings up our purchases. She shows me a collection of Eternity jewelry fit for any A-list celebrity. She clicks on a button and the same models from before line up before us, wearing the wedding rings. I study each ring and one catches my eye. It's a pink heart shaped diamond ring with small opals around it.
Life has been so unreal lately, I wonder when I'll wake up and realize it's been a dream all along. The price for the ring? Exactly one million dollars…
Jaiden points at the same ring and the model removes it from her finger. She hands it to Jaiden and he slips it on my ring finger. It's a perfect fit.
"What do you think? This will have to do for now," he says.
I never thought about my dream wedding ring but I think when I really do get married, I'd love to have a heart-shaped ring.
"What do you think?" Jaiden tilts his head.
I notice the twins staring at me with stupid looks on their faces.
"I think it's perfect." I beam. I narrow my eyes at the twins. Danni makes a kissy-noise and puckers her lips. I want to throw a designer-purse at her.
Jaiden laughs at Danni. "Well, we're set. Let's go grab some lunch."
We leave Eternity and take the escalator up to the Global Gourmet.
Jaiden orders delicacies for us to sample. We sip on bubbly alcohol-less cocktails. A few people walk up to Jaiden and talk to him, handing him business cards. He politely brushes them off, saying he doesn't conduct business when he's with his friends.
When we're alone again, Jaiden looks at me and sighs. "We've a lot of work to do. Wedding planning and rehearsals. First, we'll have an engagement party in LaPierre. Then, we're marrying in the Ambrose Chapel in August."
"Doesn't Mina get to plan her wedding?" Danni crosses her arms.
"She'll get to plan her real wedding." Jaiden arches a brow. "It's not for fun. It's a serious matter."
"Whatever." Danni rolls her eyes. "Even a sham wedding can be fun."
"It will be fun. It's just not for fun." Jaiden crosses his arms. I bop Jaiden and Danni on the head simultaneous before stuffing delicious gold-sprinkled mousse cake into my mouth.
"Just eat and shut up," I tell them. I wink at Kit.
Then I finish a martini-glass of lobster ice cream. Who knew sweets made from seafood would taste so heavenly?
When we finish our lunch, Jaiden hands me an envelope.
"What's in it?" I ask, shaking it.
He shrugs and says, "Open it."
I oblige and remove a shiny black credit card from the envelope. Danni gasps and snatches the card out of my hand. "You're kidding me... You're giving Mina an Onyx card?"
"It's for the job," Jaiden answers, looking away. "Buy some baby clothes, baby furniture, and toys, to fully convince my parents you're pregnant. Of course, you're welcome to buy things for yourself and the twins." He winks at the twins and glances at his watch. "I've got to fly back to the Uptown to attend a meeting, but you're welcomed to stay as long as you like."
"What is it that you do anyway?" Danni asks. Jaiden semi-raises his brow at Danni and grins. "A little of everything."
"Like the mafia?" Kit crosses his arms, winking at me.
"No. Our fortune started with my grandfather's oil refineries in Prunai-Pudai. He single-handedly created Daniels Incorporated." Jaiden mirrors Kit, crossing his arms. "While our corporation invests in all types of businesses—record labels, food companies, fashion—we continue to run the world's main oil refineries."
Danni whistles. "Cool. But you didn't answer my question. What is it that you do, Mr. CEO."
Jaiden glances at his watch. "Paperwork, meetings, budget-planning, firing, hiring—a bit of everything." He stands. "It's not easy being a billionaire, kids. If you want an interview, we can arrange a time later, Miss Danni."
Danni rolls her eyes.
"I'll see you guys later. Have fun." Jaiden waves to us and leaves.
"What is this, twenty-questions?" I poke Danni's ribs.
Danni smirks, looking at me with evil-eyes. She waves the Onyx card in the air. "Well, don't you want to know more about your sugar-daddy?"
"Shut up and give that back to me!" I grab the card from Danni and narrow my eyes until they become nothing but slits. "There's nothing going on between us."
"Who said anything about something going on between you and Jaiden?" Danni sticks her tongue out at me and shoots her brother a glance.
Kit chuckles and pats my head. "I don't know Mina... I think Dan-the-Man has a point. Rich boy may be falling for you. He just bought you a million dollar ring!"
"He's not! He's just using me. The ring's just a prop! Besides, why would the most eligible bachelor of the Uptown fall for--"
"Miss Mundane?" Danni rolls her eyes. She wraps an arm around my shoulder. "Open your eyes! You're adorable. You're plump in all the right places. I tell you a million times you're funny. Guys like cuties like you."
"It's true. I never told you, but a few guys in school like you." Kit crosses his arms. "None of those guys were good enough for you. Jaiden, on the other hand...I approve of him."
This feels like strike three, Kit! "I don't need you to approve of guys for me, Kit." I shake my head and snort. "You're not my brother."
"I know but I think of you as my little sister. I want the best for you. I really believe Jaiden will make you happy, when you two realize you have real feelings for each other."
I curse at Kit. "Jaiden doesn't like me. And how can I have any feelings for him when you're the one I love?" I regret blurting out those words the moment they left my lips. Kit's face becomes sheet-white. He looks at Danni. Danni hits her palm on her forehead. My feet scream, RUN!
Kit gulps. "I'm flattered Min... but you know, I have Alyssa."
The words hit me but I don't collapse. Tears don't flow out of my eyes. My heart doesn't feel like it has shattered. The world doesn't end before my eyes. I feel like an invisible weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I exhale deeply.
At school, Kit eats lunch with Alyssa. Kit attends every one of Alyssa's plays. One time, when Alyssa caught the cold, Kit made her chicken soup. Then he got sick. I made him soup. He thanked me and then hobbled over to Alyssa's house, to give her the soup.
When we leave for school, Kit takes Alyssa home. He goes on dates with her. He tries to invite Danni and me to hang out Alyssa so we can accept her into our lives.
For every dance, Kit's partner is Alyssa. For every party, Kit's date is Alyssa.
And even when Kit and Alyssa break up, if they break up, Kit will end up with another Alyssa. Girls like Alyssa are girlfriend material. Girls like Mina Lin are girls-next-door, best friend, and nothing more material.
"I know, Kit. I'm sorry..." I laugh. "Don't worry about me. I'm okay. Really, don't look at me that way, Danni. I'm really okay." I spin around and walk toward a jeans store. Suddenly, the delayed pain of heartbreak slams against me. It's the last piece of love for Kit in my heart shattering.
I clasp my hand over my mouth and cry. I run until I find myself outside the mall, covered in sweat and tears. I feel like the sunrays are burning holes in my head. I wish quick sand would appear and suck me away. I don't know where I'm running to, I just keep running.
"Watch out Mina!"
I spin around and see Kit rushing toward me. He grabs me and pulls me toward him. A loud blast from a car's horn almost shatters my eardrums. I can feel a car zoom past us an inch away.
"Stupid!" Kit shouts. "You almost got killed!" Kit hugs me. "You know I love you, Min..."
I cry in Kit's arms. He hugs me like Dad used to hug me. It's a big-brother hug. Salty tears drip into my mouth as I laugh at myself. For a nanosecond, I wish time can freeze so I can be in his arms forever. Then I push him away, realizing how foolish I've been.
"I'm sorry, Kit... I'm okay... Really... Just let me go."
He releases me and I look at him with a smile on my face. I wipe my eyes. "I swear, I'm fine..." I turn around and walk down the street.
If I can survive Dad's death and learning about my real mother, I can survive a heartbreak I've prepared myself for, for the last five years. In truth, I feel silly for harboring a crush on Kit, hating Alyssa, and feeling sad. If I weren't selfish, then I would have been happy seeing Kit happy, instead of being a depressed and jealous loser.
"Mina, wait up..." Danni runs after me and hooks an arm around mine. "Don't ever scare us like that again. Please..."
I see tears in her eyes, with her face flushed and sweaty. She stares at me with intense, stormy eyes.
"I'm sorry, Dan." I hug my arms around her. She strokes the back of my head.
Kit catches up to us. He rubs the back of his neck and looks at his shoes. I can imagine Kit as a puppy with its tail between its legs. He looks like he would rather jab a pen between his toes than hurt me.
"No matter what, Min, you're family to us," he says, breathing heavily.
He's right. Asides from Granny, Kit and Danni are the only family I have left in this world. How can I let something silly like one-sided unrequited love mess up my awesome relationship with the twins? How could I have survived everything up until now without them?
"I'm sorry guys..." I grab Kit's arm and hook my other arm around Danni's. "I'm officially over you, Kit."
Kit wrinkles his brow. Danni blinks away her tears.
I smile. "This is the last time I'm almost running into a car for a guy!" I give Kit's shin a playful kick.
"Silly Min Min..." Danni lets out a sigh of relief.
"Alright, no more moping kids... I have rich boy's Onyx card. So why are we here when a millionaire's mall is over there?" I grin and run, pulling the twins with me. We laugh all the way back into Blossomingdales.
A week later, we hold an extravagant engagement reception in Chateau LaPierre. Outside the hotel, fireworks brighten the skies. A live band plays outside LaPierre for the arriving guests. I'm reminded of the night Jaiden brought me to LaPierre to crash Anna's engagement party. Down the block, Uptown Police barricade the streets to keep out the paparazzi and uninvited Uptowners. Unless one arrives in a helicopter, it'll be hard to gain entry into LaPierre.
Stepping into LaPierre in a white gown, and silver diamond studded heels, I'm the center of attention. It's like the entire room freezes for a moment before the guests in LaPierre resume their activities.
LaPierre's ballroom is decked in gold, silver and white. White-garbed waiters and waitresses navigate the endless stretch of tables with ballerina-like grace. Three five-tier engagement cakes stand in the back by a dark chocolate fountain, surrounded by beautiful ice sculptures.
Danni and Kit wear matching black tuxedos with pink ties. Accompanying Kit is his gorgeous gal-pal Alyssa, dressed in a stunning black gown. She wears her long strawberry blond hair in a simple bun. Funny how I can't hate her anymore when I see her now—she's the perfect arm candy for Kit. Alyssa walks over to me and kisses me on the cheek like she's known me forever. I have known her for a year but I guess I had never made an effort to really know her, having hated her for so long.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw you on the news," she tells me, her eyes sparkling. "That's my boyfriend's best friend, I told everyone at home. I'm happy for you." She takes out a small, purple velvet box from her purse and hands it to me. "For you. It's a bell from a Dokio shrine. It's blessed--I wish you a lifetime of happiness with Jaiden Daniels." She sighs. "You're so lucky, but not as lucky as me, because I have Kit." Alyssa squeezes Kit's arms. "I'm kidding, sweetie. You're lucky too because Kit loves you like you're his baby sis."
I grin at Alyssa. "Thank you. You're right, I am like Kit's baby sis… Though I'm two months older!" I wink at Kit. "You have good taste. Alyssa's beautiful on the inside and out. Enjoy the evening guys."
"We will," Kit says, winking back at me, before he leads Alyssa away to the refreshments and I turn to face Danni. "I feel stupid for hating her all this time. She's actually pretty cool."
Danni shrugs and wrinkles her nose. "I still hate her. She makes Kit happier than me." She sighs and I laugh at her misery.
"Open your eyes, Danni. There are hundreds of hot chicks here tonight. Go mix and mingle with them."
"I'm not interested… I'll be fine." She tilts her chin. "You have fun, I'll be boozing over there if you need me." She points at the open bar.
I shake my head. I know Danni's still hurting over Princess Aadila. I turn to follow Danni before she drinks her weight in booze, but Jaiden appears from behind me and takes my arm. Tonight, he wears a stylish black tuxedo with a silver tie and a white shirt.
"We have to toast the guests," he tells me and whisks me away. Half an hour later, my feet are about to break as Jaiden and I toast every guest around the ballroom. When we reach the celebrity table (yes, Jaiden has invited celebrities to the party), Jetty Li asks for my autograph for his daughter who is a teen celebrity. Jetty Li, my action-hero idol, has a daughter who idolizes me...? And Jetty Li is here? OH-MY-THERE-IS-A-GOD…
I gulp and stare at Jetty Li like a creepy stalker-zombie in a midnight blue evening gown. Jetty Li has ripping muscles and legs that can deliver fatal blows. (KILLER SCISSOR HAMSTRINGS HEAD CUT!) I lick my lips and my eyes widen.
He blinks and coughs. "You alright?"
Oh lord, he's more handsome than he is on-screen! I wish I could just kick the air and show him my version of his shadow-kick. I could roll around on the floor with him for hours and die happily.
I nod. "Yes... I'm fine. I just can't believe you're here... in front of me..." I give him my autograph before I ask for his, gushing about how much I enjoy his movies and martial arts.
Jaiden grins. "Mr. Li, if you wish to, you and your daughter are welcomed to join us for lunch at any time. Mina is a very gifted martial artist herself-- perhaps you can even spar with her?"
I almost have to bend down to pick up my jaw. Jaiden must be out of his mind-- Jetty Li can kick my butt across the globe and back with the tip of his big-toe.
"Oh, most definitely." Jetty Li smiles and raises his champagne glass. "A toast to you both, wishing you a long and healthy marriage."
"Thank you. Please do enjoy the evening," Jaiden says. He places a hand on my shoulder. I almost drop to my knees and propose to Jetty Li but Jaiden pulls me to the next table. I refrain from kicking and screaming—my eyes linger on my god, Jetty Li… Sigh.
Jaiden introduces me to people who probably would not even give me a passing glance if they had met me on the Uptown streets a month ago. I plaster the most genuine smile I can muster when I meet them and shake their hands. They speak their pish-posh jargon and I have to turn away to hide my yawn.
Who needs a pretentious upscale engagement party anyway? When I really get married, I just want to escape to a paradise-island and have a fun and simple wedding on the beach. Fireworks at night, alright, with dancing, games, a beautiful sunset, and the wedding night spent right underneath the stars before an endless beach... Oh yea...
Suddenly, the room darkens and tiny lights illuminate the ceiling like stars. I wonder if Jaiden wants to surprise me with something romantic to wow his guests. Possibly serenade me…
"What are you up to?" I ask Jaiden.
"Really, I didn't plan this. I'm as surprised as you are. A blackout maybe?"
Campy music from a piano greets my ears. A feeling of impending doom swallows me. A chill runs down my spine and the hairs on my back stand. A spotlight shines on Aaron sitting by the grand piano in the center of the LaPierre ballroom. The guests become silent.
"What's happening?" I ask Jaiden.
Jaiden wrinkles his forehead and frowns. "I don't know..."
On top of the piano, Ivy lies like a succubus, with a microphone in her hands. Her voice fills the room as she belts a sad love song.
"It's not my party, but I'll still cry, because the guy I love is marrying another…"
Madison and Daphne appear with a large white projection screen. When Ivy stops singing, Madison and Daphne clap their hands. The three girls dress similarly-- all in beautiful little black dresses.
Madison clears her throat and speaks into a microphone.
"A toast to our dearest friend and the Prince of the Uptown, Jaiden and his Pauper Princess Bride, Mina, luckiest girl in the world. I mean, if it isn't luck, then what is it?" Madison shrugs.
Daphne waggles her finger and pouts. "How could you not invite us, your dearest friends to this affair? An event of a lifetime, when the prince falls for the pauper!"
Madison attempts to draw laughs. "Oh lucky pauper. Certainly it's not her looks that drew Jaiden to her. I mean, does she have skin like Ivy?"
Ivy blows an air kiss and rub her shoulders with a level of puke-worthy seduction. Male guests whistle.
Madison continues. "Does she have lips like Daphne?"
Daphne puckers her lips.
"Does she have a body like me?" Madison shakes her hips. The DIM Trio dance, almost like strippers. Ivy and Daphne saunter over to Jaiden and dance around him. Madison snaps her fingers. An image appears on the projection screen. It's a picture of Emi with a headline, taken from an old Arcadian tabloid-paper.
"What does it take to become the Princess of the Uptown? Step one, you must be the sister of a porn-princess." Madison gasps and covers her mouth daintily. She looks like she's about to faint. She snaps her fingers again. Another image appears on the screen-- it's a picture of Kit hugging me.
"Step two, you must be a slut." Madison shakes her head and looks at Jaiden. She snaps her fingers again. It's another picture of me with Kit, this time we're laughing together. Another picture appears on the screen, this time a picture of Danni hugging me. "And a lesbian..."
"Oops. Wonder who knocked her up?" Madison taps her chin and sighs. She raises three fingers in the air. "Step three, you must live like trash in a trashcan." A picture of my basement home appears.
Ivy and Daphne continue to dance around Jaiden. They smirk at me. Madison snaps again. She snaps those damned fingers again and I'm snapping off her neck.
By now, the guests have filled the room with hushed murmurs. I see the twins moving toward us. I see murderous rage in Mr. and Mrs. Daniels' eyes. One of them is about to pop an artery somewhere.
I wish I can just spontaneously combust. If Madison shows the incriminating photos of me, I swear, I will murder the DIM Trio and then throw myself in jail.
"Pauper Princess and Prince of the Uptown, worlds apart and yet their worlds collide. But why?" Ivy sings.
"How?" Daphne adds.
"Is this a joke? A sham? A scam? Tell us Jaiden, why did you choose Mina Lin?" Madison walks up to Jaiden and puts her microphone by his mouth. Silence swallows the room.
With eyes narrowed, Jaiden claps his hands. He stares at Madison and takes her microphone.
"I chose Mina because she has more class in her pinky than you three have combined." Jaiden takes my hand and squeezes it. "I chose her because she didn't ask her daddy to buy her a new nose."
Daphne squeals and covers her nose.
"I chose her because she doesn't make her daddy buy her fame and popularity."
"I chose her because she has dreams and direction. She's real and beautiful on the inside and out. And most of all, I chose her because I love her." Jaiden smiles like a boxing champ after three continuous KOs. "Thank you for pointing out how much Mina has suffered in the past and how much she loves her best friends. Thank you for deliberately making yourselves look so bad so Mina can look so good." Jaiden arches a brow. "Now, are you finished or do you have more to show and tell?"
Madison screams and storms away, with Ivy and Daphne following her.
Aaron claps his hands, smirking. "Good job. I underestimated you, dear cousin," he says to Jaiden before disappearing from the ballroom with the Trio. The room lights up and the party resumes.
Danni, Kit and Alyssa walk toward us and applaud Jaiden. I see Jetty Li rise from his seat. He and the other celebrities also clap. Even Jaiden's parents give him a standing ovation. They smile at me and nod knowingly. Soon, applause fills the entire ballroom. Without thinking, I hug Jaiden tightly and kiss his cheek. "Thank you..." My eyes fill with tears. "You're like my fairy godmother, you know?"
"Fairy god-parent, please." Jaiden chuckles and pats my head. "You're going to be my wife. Protecting you is my duty." He wipes my tears away with his soft thumbs. "Even if it's pretend," he whispers. "Go freshen up. Danni, take her to the lady's room please."
"With pleasure, my sire," Danni replies, bowing. "No wonder they call you the Prince of the Uptown." Danni fans her face. "Man, that was awesome. I think you've just made me straight with those words."
Kit pats Jaiden on the back. "Welcome to the family." Kit grins. "Even if it's pretend," he whispers.
Jaiden laughs. "Thanks."
When I turn around to look back at Jaiden, I see Anna approaching him. Jaiden looks tense when she speaks to him. He turns to face Kit, as if he wants to ignore Anna, but then faces her again when she touches his arm. I turn away, suddenly feeling uncomfortable.
How dare she touch my fiancé's arm?
EVEN IF IT'S ALL PRETEND!
"What's wrong?" Danni scratches the back of her head. She turns around. "Oh... I see."
"See what?" I feel smoke fumes seep out of my ears.
Danni grins. "A green monster rearing its ugly head."
I furrow my brow. "Who? Todzilla?"
"No, butthead. I see Miss Jealousy."
I shake my head. "I'm not jealous!"
"Sure you aren't."
"I swear, I'm not jealous of Anna. I just think she should stop bothering Jaiden because she's marrying Aaron. That's it." That and she's as evil as the DIM Trio. They should be a quartet of witches together, trading eyes of newt and shrunken heads (oh wait that's for witch-doctors).
"I'm sure that's it." Danni hugs an arm around me. "Don't tell me what Jaiden said to the entire world didn't touch you. Not even slightly?"
"I... well... I don't know... Whatever. I need to pee."
"Don't deny it Mina. We can see it in your eyes and his eyes. You like Jaiden. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been so easy, getting over Kit."
"It took five years of build-up Danni. It's not like I just woke up one day and decided, I'm no longer gaga-in-love obsessed with Kit." Besides, Kit has already officially rejected me… "He and Alyssa make a perfect couple… There's no point for me to continue pining for his affections." I shrug.
Danni does have a point though. But I still don't believe I have real feelings for Jaiden. It's just that he's so handsome, I'm always around him, and we're a pretend-couple. It's very easy to become the characters we play. Jaiden's an awesome actor. It's all an act.
"It's an act, Danni. I'm glad I'm so convincing."
"Oh yes, we should give you an Escar Award." Danni rolls her eyes. "But I'm glad you're officially over Kit. I'm proud of you. You've grown up." She opens her arms like she's about to hug me but then she pushes me into a bathroom stall and laughs.
We loiter in the restroom for a few minutes (me powdering my nose, Danni clogging the toilet) before returning to the ballroom. I see Anna and Jaiden still conversing. I want to walk away with Danni but she's already heading to the appetizer-tables.
I feel like I'm going to turn into Todzilla. Anna's eyes sparkle like two hazel Christmas lights. She wears a red dress that hugs her every curve. Her long hair flows to the small of her back.
I don't want to stand next to her—it's like putting a warty-toad next to a golden frog with no warts. Bless my luck, Anna and Jaiden walk toward me. Anna takes my hands and gives me a small but genuine smile.
"I'm happy for you. I have a present for you, Mina." Wow, another pretty girl's giving me a present… Anna opens her palms and they're empty. "It's the present of deletion," she says and I look at her stupidly. "I've deleted every incriminating photo of you. So no more hard feelings. I hope we can be friends from now on…"
Oh. "Anna… thanks."
Anna shakes her head. "Don't thank me. It was partially my fault. I shouldn't have joined the girls… It was mean, what they did to you." Anna sighs and her eyes linger on Jaiden's. They appear to have zoned out the entire world around them. Jaiden snaps out of his reverie and hooks an arm around mine.
"Thank you again, Anna." He says. He turns away and looks at nothing in particular, just to avoid Anna's gaze, I bet. Anna blinks, like she's trying to blink away tears. She plants a large smile on her face and breathes deeply. "You're welcome. I wish you two a lifetime of happiness." With that, her expression changes and she leaves with her lips quivering and her eyes teary. Her steps are short, like she's waiting for Jaiden to run after her. Jaiden doesn't budge.
"Go after her," I say, pushing Jaiden. "I know she still loves you. And she's really sorry for what she has done…"
Jaiden shakes his head and sighs. "One heartbreak is painful enough to last a lifetime," he tells me. "You should know." He turns his head and looks toward Kit and Alyssa's direction. They're dancing, with Kit spinning Alyssa around in fluid circles. They laugh and Kit pulls Alyssa toward him. He kisses her sweetly and they laugh again.
"What are you talking about?" I stammer.
"You know what I'm talking about." He raises a brow and grins smugly. "I know you like Kit. Anyone can tell from the way you look at him and blush." Jaiden crosses his arms.
"You think you know me so well." I roll my eyes. "For your information, I'm happy for Kit and Alyssa. I did like him, but not anymore. He's like a big brother to me now."
"Oh really. You don't sound too convincing." Jaiden rubs his chin.
I plant my hands on my hips. "Whatever. I'm over Kit… The question is, are you over Alyssa? I mean, because if you aren't, we can just stop this whole charade-business."
Jaiden raises his chin. "I am. Completely." He bends down and places his face an inch away from mine. "Besides, this has been fun. I don't want the act to end. Can't wait to see you in a fake belly," he quips. He stares at my lips like he's about to kiss me. I suck in my breath and squeeze my eyes shut, bracing for a kiss. There are caterpillars in my stomach turning into butterflies on all kinds of drugs.