Don't Call Her Cinderella
– – – – – – – –
"You're what?" she said in shock, shaking his hands off of her.
"Am I going crazy or did you just say you're engaged, Xander?"
"Not engaged, per say," Xander McKnight said, running a hand through his shaggy brown hair. "Betrothed is the technical term."
Violet eyes narrowed in his direction. "Engaged, betrothed...they both mean the same thing. You're marrying someone other than me."
What started out as any other normal night was suddenly a disaster in Camille Young's eyes. The man she had dated for three years, moved in and fallen in love with belonged to another woman. At a loss for words, she rose from the living room couch and began to pace. She ran a shaky hand through her tangled brown hair. Could a person even be betrothed anymore? Wasn't that illegal or something? It was just another thing to add to the long list of things she had to deal with. As if her two jobs weren't enough, she had to worry about getting into grad school and making sure her grades stayed high enough for her to maintain her scholarship. Camille worked hard to get that full ride to Harvard, and she'd be damned if she lost it during her senior year of college.
"I'm sorry," Xander muttered. His elbows rested on his knees, letting his hands dangle in the space between. Blue eyes looked up at her from their gaze on the floor. The guilt was easily visible in them.
"How long have you know?"
More guilt shone in his eyes. "A while."
"A long time, Cami."
Cami was getting fed up with him avoiding the questions. "Exactly how long, Alexander," she said, slightly relishing the way he winced at the use of his full first name. She knew how much he hated it. "I want specifics. You owe me at least that much. Don't you think?"
He hesitated. Swallowing, he muttered, "Since I was sixteen."
Her knees would have given out if her anger hadn't risen at the news. The fact that he knew he was to marry another woman for almost a decade, yet still pursued something with her made her blood boil. How the hell could someone even think of deceiving someone for as long as Xander had?
"So, I've just been some play thing for the time being, huh?" she spat, her eyes like daggers. "Some stupid girl that kept your bed warm at night until you got bored. You're despicable."
Xander had the audacity to look appalled at her words. "No! No, you're not just some girl, Cami. You are so much more than that."
"You're abso-fucking-lutely right. I'm a poor, pathetic, stupid girl that warmed your bed."
"Cami, will you listen to me?" He rose from the couch, better to defend himself if she didn't have the height advantage.
"Why should I? You've lied about being single since I met you!" she yelled back at him, her self-control slipping away as each minute passed. "It all makes sense now. Why your family gave me pitying looks when you brought me home for holidays. Why your mother told me not to get attached. Here I thought she just didn't like me, since the only one in your family that said more than two words to me was your grandmother. Or why you always changed the subject when I started hinting about marriage and starting a family. Three years of my life have been wasted, thanks to you."
Camille stalked to their bedroom, ignoring the pleas for her to listen to him. She needed space before she did something she'd regret. Arguing with Xander was something new to her. There were the minor disagreements, but they were easily fixed. This fight was a whole different matter. This changed everything about their relationship. Not that there really was a relationship between them anymore. She couldn't be with him when he was marrying someone else. Cami felt like she was some kind of whore for the three years she spent with him, making her sick to her stomach.
Once in the bedroom, she took numerous deep breaths to calm herself down. Her anger slowly seeped away, until heartbreak took it's place. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes and her legs felt like they wouldn't support her weight for much longer. Looking around the spacious master bedroom she shared with Xander, she knew she couldn't stay. Just looking at the bed reminded her of the nights he held her in his arms, feeling safe.
Shaking her head, she went to the closet across the room, removed her suitcase, and tossed it on the bed. Shirts, jeans, and sweats were thrown haphazardly as she hurriedly filled it, so she could leave. And then she remembered the awful truth of not having anywhere to go.
A horrific car crash that left her with a broken leg and a tiny, jagged scar behind her ear robbed her parents of their lives. Camille was only six. The airbags failed to deploy, causing her mom and dad to sustain severe head trauma from the head on impact. Her mother died en route to the hospital and her father a couple days after due to severe injuries and internal bleeding. Since she had no aunt or uncles, her paternal grandmother took the responsibility of raising Camille. Living with her grandmother hadn't been an easy, money wise, but they managed. She remembered the pride filled look in her grandma's eyes when she told the old biddies at the hair salon about Cami's full ride.
Then, a year after she started dating Xander, her grandmother passed away because of old age. She supposed she could call her best friend, Will, about crashing on his couch. But she couldn't make herself do that when his boyfriend had only moved in a few months prior. It wouldn't have seemed right.
"Dammit," she cursed softly. She was stuck. She couldn't imagine staying at the apartment with her ex-boyfriend, yet she had nowhere else to go. Adding up the amount of money she had saved (since Xander refused to let her pay her share of the rent) from her job, she figured she could last maybe a week at motel. "Dammit, dammit, dammit."
"Camille," she heard Xander say from the opposite side of the door. The sound of his voice forced her to resume her packing. If push came to shove, she'd just have to move her belongings into the guest room down the hall. She wouldn't have to endure his presence too much if she planned accordingly. A yip had her turning towards the door as Xander walked into the room. Tickles, the Teacup Pomeranian he had given her for her twenty-second birthday, was in his arms as a shield for her wrath. Peeved that he'd use their dog as a buffer, she continued her packing.
"What are you doing?" he asked, placing Tickles on the king sized bed.
She snorted. "What does it look like?"
"You know I wouldn't kick you out, right?"
Camille ignored him, walking over to the dresser and grabbing fistfuls of her underwear to throw in the suitcase. "Cami, stop," he grabbed her hands to stop her packing. She tried to jerk them out of his grasp, but it was to no avail. Xander's free hand moved cupped her cheek, rubbing the pad of his thumb across the softness of her skin. "Stay here, please? I can crash at a friend's tonight."
Avoiding his blue eyes, she mentally cursed herself for the way her heart picked up speed at his touch and whispered, "Why?"
"Because I'd feel better knowing that you're here and safe instead of God knows where and worrying about you."
She didn't say anything, which he took as a sign that she would stay. Hopes rising, he lowered his head to give her a soft kiss, but she turned her head before his lips could touch her own. Not being deterred, Xander placed a lingering kiss on her temple instead. The way her body reacted to it, she knew it would be a lot harder to get over him.
"I love you, Camille," his lips grazed her skin as they moved. "Nothing about this situation changes how I feel about you."
Her eyes squeezed shut, trying to hide the pain from his words. She didn't utter a word. She knew her voice would waiver if she tried to speak. A small sob got stuck in her throat as Xander gathered her in his arms. His arms tightened around her, almost as if he was afraid he'd lose her forever if he let go. She knew he was going through Hell, too, but she couldn't allow herself to forgive him at that moment. Her brain still needed time to sort through everything before that was even a possibility. He finally let her out of his arms when she didn't return the embrace a few minutes later.
Xander kissed the top of her head, inhaling the mango scent of her shampoo. "I love you," he repeated, slowly walking backwards out of the bedroom. His footsteps grew fainter until she heard the muffled sound of the front door open and close behind him.
Picking up Tickles from his spot on the bed, she cradled him close, burying her face into his soft fur. Slowly, she let the tears fall from her eyes.
– – – – –
Two weeks passed since the night Camille's love life was turned upside down. Things were on the awkward side in account of them still living together. Although she had moved into the spare bedroom and tried to have as little contact with Xander as possible, she hadn't managed to get much sleep. She had gotten so little sleep, that her boss at the bar and grill she worked at sent her home an hour into her shift. Camille swore she was okay, but her boss said he didn't want to see her collapse from exhaustion.
Reluctantly, she allowed Will to drive her home. Tiredness hit her the moment her behind sank into the leather seats.
"Mils, you need to leave that apartment," Will said as he started the car. "Living with him isn't doing you any good. You're always welcome at my place."
She turned her tired head his way. "I can't do that to you and Braden. You guys are still getting used to each others quirks." Turning her head to face the window, she stared aimlessly at the passing scenery. "Maybe...maybe a part of is still hoping he'll find a way out of this and we can be together."
Will spared a glance her way, flashing her a small smile. "He's a dumbass if he lets you go."
I'm the dumbass for falling for him, she thought. I brought it on myself.
She realized how right everyone was when they warned her about getting together with Xander. She really should have listened. He'll only break your heart, was what they said. Happily Ever Afters only exist in fairy tales. But did she listen? No. Instead, she got sucked into the surreal feeling of being in a relationship with someone like him. She knew they came from two different worlds. He was rich and had an easy life while she had to work hard and lived paycheck to paycheck more often than not. Was it so wrong to want to feel like a princess in a fairytale romance for once in her life?
Apparently it was, if it meant her Prince Charming turned out not to be what she thought.
Silence reigned over the car the rest of the drive to the apartment. Not even the radio was on. She welcomed this silence. It was a comfortable silence, rather than the tension filled ones with Xander. There was so many things she wanted to say to him, but couldn't. Will was her support. He was there before Xander, and she knew he'd be there after. She didn't know what she could do to fight for him. She wanted to fight like hell to be with him, but she didn't know who she was even up against. Plus, Xander didn't seem to be fighting to stay with her. And that was what hurt the most.
She shut her eyes before any tears could fall from. After the first night, Camille decided she'd cried enough over Xander and wouldn't anymore. She had failed on more than one occasion. It happened at night, alone in bed, knowing that Xander was down the hall and wondering if his nights were as sleepless as hers.
Too soon, Will was bringing his car to a stop in front of Camille's apartment building.
"Mils," Will gently grasped her arm, stopping her from getting out of the car. "I'm only a phone call away. My offer still stands, you know."
Turning in her seat, Camille wrapped her arms around him as tightly as she could with the gear shift between them. "Thanks, for everything," she said, placing a soft kiss on his cheek before pulling away.
Will winked at her. "Want me to walk you up?"
"Nah," Camille shook her head, gathering up her purse and backpack. "He's out tonight, so I'll be okay."
The air was brisk when she stepped out of the car, causing her to wrap her jacket around her tightly. Chilled, she rushed to the front door and entered the security code to get in. Once inside, she sent Will a small wave before heading to the elevator.
Normally, she would have taken the stairs, but she doubted they would have made the trip up the five flights. Her legs felt like they were made of pure lead. She leaned against the wall as she pressed the elevator button. Maybe she was more exhausted than she thought.
The elevator arrived after what seemed like forever. Dragging her feet, she pressed the button for the fifth floor and leaned against the corner to stay upright. The soft sound of the music coming from the elevator's speakers acted as a lullaby. Music always helped her fall asleep at night. Closing her eyes, she relaxed, feeling some of the stress leave her. She'd just get inside the apartment and hit the hay. Maybe without even getting undressed. Camille could finally get some sleep without Xander there. That seemed to be the only time she ever got some shut eye.
The elevator's doors opened on her floor shortly after. Resignedly, she made her way down the hall, digging through her purse for her keys that were at the bottom. Noise from inside her apartment stopped her at the door. Listening closely, she realized the T.V. was on. Which was odd, because she swore she turned it off when she left.
"I must need the sleep more than I thought," she said to herself, unlocking the door.
Tickles yipped as his little legs ran up to her as she walked through the door. His tail wagged a mile a minute as he pawed the air for her attention. She bent down to pick him up and showered him in kisses. He was the only one in the household she let comfort her anymore.
The Pomeranian was licking all over her face as she walked down the hall into the living room to shut off the television. Since Xander paid all the bills, she didn't want to be careless and feel like she was living off of him more than she actually was. She wanted to conserve as much energy as possible so the bill wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was the least she could do. Although the thought of leaving it on day and night as a small act of revenge crossed her mind, she couldn't bring herself to do it.
Jumping at the sound of her name, she almost dropped Tickles from her arms. There, on the plush couch, widened blue eyes looking up at her underneath slightly shaggy brown hair, was the one person she was trying to avoid.
"Xander!" she exclaimed, clutching Tickles closer to her. "What are you doing home? I thought you had someplace to be tonight."
Xander nervously scratched the back of his neck. "Um, yeah. We had a change of plans. I thought you were working until later, so I suggested we came back – are you okay? You look like crap."
Gee, thanks, she thought. "Gary sent me home. And I'm fine, just going to bed early." She took two steps until a thought stopped her. "What do you mean, we?"
The sound of heels clicking on the hardwood floor garnered Camille's attention. Her stomach clenched when she saw a beautiful blonde woman walking out of the kitchen. The illuminating smile on her face was enough alone to make Camille feel like white trash.
"Xander, dinner's just abo – oh," her eyes widened at the sight of Camille. "You must be Cami. I'm Melissa. Melissa Dalton." She shook Camille's hand in both of hers, Melissa looking at her in awe. "Wow, you're just as beautiful as Xander described."
Confusion clouded Camille's eyes as her mouth open and closed with no words coming out. Looking back and forth between Melissa's smiling face and Xander's pale one, she waited for someone to explain.
Melissa's smile dimmed when she realized Xander hadn't filled her in. "You didn't tell her?"
"I, uh... Cami, Melissa's my..." he took a deep breath. "Mel's my fiance."
The blood drained from Camille's face. "Oh," she said meekly, running her fingers through Tickles soft fur. "Um...wow."
Her eyes drank in the sight of the beauty in front of her, wondering what Xander ever saw in her when he had someone like Melissa Dalton. Her jewelry was real, her hair was perfect, and her makeup (although light) was impeccable. She was probably a size two and dressed in a way to accentuate all her womanly assets without making it seem like she was trying to hard. She was everything Xander should have had hanging off his arm.
She was perfect.
And Camille was starting to realize she had no chance to win him back.
"Would you like to join us for dinner?" Melissa asked, tearing Camille out of her reverie. "It's just about done and there's more than enough for the four of us."
Camille's eyebrows furrowed together. "Four?"
"Yeah. Xander, myself, and our mothers. Would you go set another spot at the table?" she turned to the unusually quiet Xander. Staring at Camille for another second, he nodded his head and hastily made his way down the hall to the kitchen. Once he was out of sight, Melissa turned her attention back to Camille. "I'm so sorry."
"For what?" she blinked.
"Meeting like this. I thought he would have mentioned something about tonight to you. It might have been a little less of a shock had he told you. We were supposed to have dinner at my place, but one of the pipes broke so he said we could move it over here."
"It's cool. I don't really blame you for all of this." Tickles yipped, seconding her statement.
A sympathetic smile graced Melissa's face as she reached out a hand to scratch Tickles behind his ears. "Will you join us for dinner? I'd like to get to know you better," she said, grasping one of Camille's hands and pulling her down the hall.
"Uh, I actually just want to go to bed."
"Well you should still eat something."
Reluctantly, Camille followed Melissa into the kitchen. She felt even more like the outsider she was when all conversation ceased at the sight of her. Xander stood in the corner of the kitchen, his arm muscles taut as he gripped the counter top behind him. His eyes bore into hers and his lips set in a grim line. The royal blue button up made his eyes stand out even more. When she was finally able to pull her eyes away, she felt his on her that caused the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end and goose bumps to rise on her skin.
"Hello, Camille," a cool, yet pity sounding voice said from the table.
Looking at the owner of the voice, she saw Xander's mother, Tabitha, nursing a cup of coffee. "Hello, Mrs. McKnight. Nice to see you again." She adjusted Tickles in her arms as he started to wiggle around.
"Why on Earth would you bring that thing into a room where there is food?" came a cold voice, which made Camille feel like she was caught doing something bad.
"Mother!" Melissa exclaimed in shock. She turned to Camille in embarrassment. "I'm sorry. Please excuse my mother and her bluntness." Melissa sent a glare her mother's way.
"Melissa, sweetheart. I'd appreciate it if there wasn't any animal hair in our dinner. How unappetizing would that be?" She cast a pointed glance at Camille.
"I'll just eat a yogurt or something in my room." Camille ruffled Tickles' fur purposely as she walked to the fridge. The woman may have been Xander's future mother-in-law, but she still lived there. It was still (partly) her place.
"It's okay, Melissa. I'm really tired anyways."
"Cami," Xander stepped in front of her. "You haven't eaten a decent meal in weeks. Don't think I don't notice that your clothes are getting baggy. Please, fill a plate and eat it. I worry about you."
Cradling Tickles close, she shook her head. "I'll be fine." Her stomach growled and Xander gave her a pointed look. "I'm going to bed. Enjoy your dinner."
Melissa came to her rescue, "I'll make you a plate and you can eat it when you want, how's that?"
Camille nodded, smiling her thanks as she left the four to enjoy their soon-to-be-family dinner. She could hear the hushed arguments between them, but couldn't make out what was said, as she made her way to her bedroom.
She was just about close her bedroom door when Xander's voice rang out crystal clear.
"Because I'm in love with her, Monica." She assumed he was talking to Melissa's mom. "I won't stop loving her just because of this arranged marriage."
Quickly, she shut the door, not wanting to hear anything that would crack her broken heart any more than it already was. A girl could only take so much heart ache in one day. Setting Tickles on the floor, she figured she might as well put on a pair of sweatpants and an oversized shirt. She'd be more comfortable that way, and would more than likely fall asleep easier. Once dressed for bed, she grabbed a hair tie off the top of the dresser to put her brown hair up.
As she was pulling her ponytail tight, her eyes landed on the plain, white, full face mask hanging off the corner of the mirror above the dresser. Carefully removing it from it's spot, she ran her fingers across its surface.
Her heart clenched as she admired it. The memories it held were of better times.
It was what Xander was wearing when they first met.
It was a masquerade Halloween party that Will dragged her to against her wishes. And to top it off, he picked out her costume for her, too. And what did he choose for her? A hoochier version of Juliet Capulet complete with a fancy up do courtesy of his hairstylist cousin and a mask that covered the area just around her eyes. Of course, the purple of the matching dress and mask only enhanced the color of her eyes.
It makes your eyes pop, he had said. No straight guy will stand a chance when they catch sight of those babies.
Having a big test that Monday after the party was the most important thing on her mind. Not some party. So instead of mingling with the rest of the masked party goers, she found solitude in one of the upstairs rooms that was void of couples getting some nooky. She made herself comfortable on the window seat and took out her notes she snuck in her purse, making sure her derriere was adequately covered as she sat down. No matter that she was the only one in the room and it didn't really matter.
Then, not even an hour later, someone disturbed her peace and quiet. Xander disturbed her.
At first, she thought he was someone that wanted her to get out so he could use the room for other extracurricular activities. The full faced mask covered his features, but she was still able to see his blue eyes. She was just about to tell him that she was there first and she refused to move when she caught a glimpse of the book in his hands.
Taking off his mask so she could see his face, he asked, mind if I use a corner? I have a test on Tuesday I need to study for.
Neither one of them got much studying done that night. Instead, they talked. They talked about the classes they enjoyed, music, movies, everything and anything. Both were sitting on the window seat when Will found her hours later when he was getting ready to go. Quickly, they exchanged numbers before Camille left. A small smile accompanied with a shy wave was the last thing he got from her that night.
Two months later – after numerous texts, phone calls, and study sessions – Xander asked her to be his girlfriend.
And just over three years after that, he shattered her heart.
Camille shook her head once, twice, three times to rid her thoughts of that night. She tossed the mask on the nightstand and crawled into bed. It wasn't as comfortable as the one she shared with Xander, but maybe it was because he wasn't sharing it with her. She put in her iPod ear buds and cuddled Tickles close as she finally let exhaustion take over and fall into a well needed sleep.
– – – –
The feeling of fingers running through her hair disturbed Camille's slumber. The sensation had a soothing effect on her, almost sending her back to dreamsville. Calloused fingers trailed across her cheek before leaving her face entirely. A few seconds passed before she felt a soft pair of lips against her forehead.
"I'm sorry," a husky voice murmured against her skin. "If I could go back and change everything, I would."
Weight shifted on the bed as Xander left her side. Camille's eyes fluttered open as she sleepily watched him close the door behind him. She stretched her arms upward, arching her back, as she sat up. Taking a look at her phone, she realized she had slept for a decent three hours. Her stomach growled obnoxiously as she absentmindedly stared at the screen. Getting out of bed, Camille figured Xander's guests had probably left and it would be safe to find something to eat. Melissa was nice, but her mother was another story. She had the ability to make Camille feel even more like the outcast she was.
She had the door opened only an inch when she heard voices coming from the living room. Opening it a little wider, she noticed the lights in the kitchen were off. Nothing but the soft glow of the end table's lamp. Not even the television was on, which was a little odd since Xander constantly had the thing on. Camille silently creeped down the hallway. Halfway down, she could clearly hear Melissa's voice with Xander's.
"Why didn't you tell her about tonight?" Melissa's voice was filled with curiosity. "I was a little embarrassed when I realized she didn't have a clue to who I was."
Xander's sigh was loud enough for her to hear from her spot in the hallway. "I don't know. I guess I thought since she was supposed to work and if she didn't know, it wouldn't hurt her."
"Well you know what they say about when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me."
"I'm sorry, Mel," Xander said. "Things seemed so much easier back in high school, right? It was nothing compared to this."
"You're right about that. I could deal with your fan girls when we dated-"
Camille stopped breathing at the statement. They dated?
"-but Camille's different," said Melissa. "You're... a different person with her. She makes you happy. And she's someone I could see myself being friends with. But I doubt that will happen now."
"Maybe when you move in-"
Melissa scoffed while Camille's stomach dropped. "Do you really think that's wise? Xander, you two are already in separate bedrooms. What do you think you're going to do? Where's one of us going to sleep?"
Camille slunk away to her room as she heard the last words she'd ever want to hear.
"You can... We can share mine."
Back in her room, Camille realized she didn't belong there anymore. She didn't have a choice anymore. Picking up her phone, she dialed Will's number as she grabbed her suitcase from under the bed.
Just as she thought she was going to get his voice mail, he answered.
"You sure your offer still stands?"
– – – – – – – – –
Camille stood impatiently as she waited for the person in front of her to move so she could open her P.O. Box at the post office. A couple months had passed since the night she overheard Xander and Melissa's conversation and she moved in with Will and his partner, Braden. Ever since she did, Camille felt as if a huge weight had lifted from her shoulders. She got a good night's sleep. There wasn't any awkwardness in the house, and Tickles even seemed more alive. Although the first couple weeks took some adjusting, Will and Braden were helping her get back to the Camille she had been before. She was still her quiet bookworm self, but she was smiling more. The light that was extinguished by Xander's confession was coming alive once again.
Sure, her heart ached when something reminded her of a memorable part of their relationship. But she was healing. The pain wasn't as intense anymore. Although she doubted she'd ever truly stop loving Xander, Camille was starting to move on with her life.
Finally, the man moved, and with a gentle smile as he passed, she located her key and unlocked her box. With no living relatives, she didn't get letters or cards from home. Thus, her mailbox was regularly empty aside from the random bills. Sifting through her mail, she stopped when she came to an envelope with the crest for Harvard's Medical School in the right hand corner. There was no mistaking the lion and the VE RI TAS.
With a pounding heart, sweaty palms, and a light head she closed her P.O. Box, her eyes never leaving the envelope in her hands. She was excited beyond belief at the reply, but she was beyond nervous to read the contents. Stuffing the letter in her purse so she could open it with Will and Braden's support, she headed out the door.
She paused and looked back towards the voice.
"Melissa!" said Camille.
The blonde beauty smiled as she caught up with Camille. "I thought that was you. How... how have you been?"
"Better. I've...," she swallowed. "I'm getting better. How are you?"
"Good. I just came to mail out the wedding invitations." Immediately, Melissa looked guilty for mentioning it.
Camille forced a smile at the news. A little stab to her heart occurred every time someone mentioned weddings. "Oh. So it's soon?"
"A couple months from now." She adjusted her purse on her shoulder, a sparkling engagement ring on her left hand. Something that was new since the last time they saw each other. "Would you want to get some coffee? Like I said the night we met, I really would like to get to know you."
"Why?" Camille asked, pushing a lock of brown hair behind her ear. "If you don't mind me asking. I'm your...fiance's ex. Wouldn't that be weird?"
"Normally. But then again, our situation isn't entirely normal, is it? So I figured why not."
Camille debated on the inside. She never blamed Melissa for the end of her relationship with Xander. She didn't blame her for any of it. In Camille's eyes, he was responsible for everything. He should have told her about everything: the engagement, how they dated before hand, that he was having her move in...everything.
So maybe a coffee outing with Melissa wouldn't hurt. Camille still loved Xander, would always love him. All she wanted was for him to be happy. And if that happened to be with Melissa, then who was she to stand in his way?
Two hours later found the two young women laughing over their empty coffee cups. Conversation started out slow and a little awkward, but once the two found out they had similar interests in movies, music, and books, it was like they had been friends forever. Camille realized she wasn't just a beautiful, wealthy girl. To already be an executive editor at her father's highly successful publishing company was impressive. Some of her success was because of who her father was, but the rest was pure hard work.
"What about you? You said you wanted to go into medicine?" Melissa asked, resting her chin on her knuckles.
"Yeah," Camille smiled. "Specifically pediatrics. I love kids. I can't really see myself practicing medicine any other way."
Melissa looked at her softly. "Xander said you'd make a great mother some day."
Her heart was torn between feeling hurt and filling with pride from the compliment. "Thanks."
"When do you start medical school? When I have kids of my own, you'll be at the top of the list to be their pediatrician."
"I got the letter today, I'm just waiting to open it with my best friend and his boyfriend," she said, building up the courage to ask Melissa something that she wanted to since they agreed to go for coffee. Taking a deep breathe, she took the plunge. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," Melissa shrugged. "We're friends. Shoot."
"How long did you and Xander date?" she watched Melissa's eyes widen in surprise. "You know, before I met him?"
"He finally told you? I thought he never would."
"No. I, uh, I overheard you two talking the night of the dinner. I woke up and went to get something to eat and might have eavesdropped on your guys' conversation."
Melissa chuckled. "The chicken. Well, I was fifteen at the time and he was sixteen. We went to the same private school together. Our dad's were childhood friends, so we were friends by default. We were high school sweethearts. Our dad's wanted to combine their publishing companies so they could expand, and I guess when we started dating was the start of this whole arranged marriage debacle. At the time we thought what the hell. We were in lust and thought it could last.
"We broke up when we went to separate colleges. I met someone else and he met you. He just took a chance with you while I was afraid to. And he loves you more than anything in the world because he took that chance." Understanding flooded Melissa's eyes as Camille's confession finally sunk in. "Is that why you moved out? Because we dated?"
"Well, it was already awkward with just us living together. It would be ten fold with me in the middle of you two. It was the right thing to do." She turned her head and looked out the window at the passersby. "I think a part of me thought that by staying there, we'd magically have that happy ending. Like some fairytale moment would happen and we would be together. But life isn't a fairytale. I'm not Cinderella. I don't have a fairy godmother to help me out. If anything, our relationship was more like Romeo and Juliet. Doomed from the start. Moving out helped me move on. It helped all of us move on."
"No. You're wrong, Camille."
Camille pointed to the rock on her ring finger. "You're wearing his ring, Melissa. The wedding's in a couple months. He's given up trying to contact me. Yes. We've all moved on."
"But it wasn't the ring he had in his dresser for months," Melissa said fierily. "I'm not the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with."
"What?" Camille asked, taken aback. Quickly recovering, she shook her head. "It still doesn't mean anything. You two are getting married. There's history between you two. You're beautiful, successful, and smart. He deserves someone like you on his arm."
"It doesn't matter. If he had a choice, it would be you. If I had a choice, I would have grown a pair and pursued a relationship with someone other than Xander. Maybe things would have been different if we both had found someone else," she said. Taking a glance at the time on her phone she picked up her purse and excused herself. Before she left, however, she placed a wedding invitation addressed to Camille on the table. "I understand if you don't attend, but I'd really like my friend there."
As much as it would probably hurt to be there, she promised she'd think about it.
Just before Melissa left, she turned to face Camille once more. "If anyone deserves to be on Xander's arm, it's you. You love him enough to do the selfless and let him go. I won't let it be in vain."
– – – – – – – – – –
"Are you sure you want to do this, Doctor Young?" Will asked her as they entered the church.
"I'm not a doctor yet. And yes. I'm sure. It's been, what, four months? I'm okay. You and Braden helped me realize life without Xander isn't the end of the world."
"I wasn't about to let my best friend drown her sorrows in Ben & Jerry, that's for sure," he rested his forehead against hers, big brown eyes twinkling into her violet ones. "But I'm proud of you. I don't know of many people who would attend their ex's wedding."
Camille scoffed, picking up a program as she shifted her weight in her heels. "Lots of people go to their ex's nuptials."
Settling his hand on her lower back, Will guided her to one of the pews towards the back of the church. Because she wasn't as close a friend as other attendees, or a family member, she didn't take a closer seat. Smoothing down the skirt of her violet summer dress, she took a seat as Will claimed the spot next to the aisle. The rest of the pew was empty for the time being since they were all visiting with others they hadn't seen in forever.
Wedding goers started trickling into the sanctuary as she and Will chatted. Everyone around her looked like they stepped right off the runway compared to her twenty dollar bargain dress. It was just another fact that reminded her she made the right choice in moving on. She'd never truly fit into his world. Not like Melissa did.
And she was okay with it.
Okay, not completely. The hurt was more of a dull ache than the unbearable pain she endured before. But she knew she would be someday.
The time to start the ceremony arrived as everyone took their seats. Women fanned themselves with the programs and got their cameras ready to capture all the special moments. Waiting music started to play, making everyone anticipate the entrance of Xander and his groomsmen at the front of the altar. Minutes passed and there was still no sign of them.
The music died and a muffled commotion could be heard through the wooden doors. Camille turned in her seat, following everyone else's actions, when said doors flew open.
Striding down the aisle came Xander, clad in his black tux. Melissa followed right behind him in her gorgeous, flowing, designer wedding dress. Catching Camille's eye, she winked.
Whispers erupted as they passed each pew. Confusion and a hunger for a good slice of gossip showed on the old biddies' faces. Everyone's attention was honed on the couple once they reached the front of the sanctuary and faced their friends and family members.
"Hello, everyone, and thank you for coming out today," Xander said in a calm voice. "I know you all came here today to support Melissa and I in our marriage, but there won't be a wedding today."
Although Camille was already looking at them, her eyes snapped up to meet Xander's at the statement. The whispers had started up again, only louder than they were previously.
"In fact," he continued, raising his voice so he could be heard over everyone's side conversations. "There won't be any wedding between us. Ever."
Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open. Craning her head behind her, she saw his parents in the doorway pursing their lips. His mother's eye caught sight of her and gave Camille a look of defeat. She had a feeling his parents figured Camille had something to do with the canceled nuptials. No matter what she could say to the them, she knew her opinion probably would never change.
She turned back around when she heard Melissa speak.
"This was a mutual agreement, and we are both sorry we wasted all of your time today. Please, take your gifts as you leave. And if you all are hungry, you can still enjoy a free meal from the caterers." She took a deep breathe and let it out slowly. "I think that's about it."
Everyone slowly stood as Melissa walked back up the aisle, leaving Xander where he was. Scrambling over Will, Camille grabbed her as she walked by.
"Melissa! What the hell – heck – is going on?"
"We found a loophole. I told you I wouldn't let you're selflessness be in vain."
"What? Melissa, I don't get-"
"Listen. I really need to get out of this dress. It's beautiful, yes, but quite a nuisance. Plus, I see somebody I really need to talk to," her eyes strayed to a smart looking gentleman that was moving with the crowd as they left the room.
Then she left, leaving Camille confounded.
"Well," said Will, draping an arm around her shoulders. "I'm down for some free food. You in?"
"I don't know. I don't really know how welcoming their parents would be. It'd probably be best if I just left."
Stepping out of the pew and into the exiting crowd, Camille felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. A feeling of being watched accompanied it.
Turning her head, her violet eyes met ocean blue. Her heart picked up speed as each second he looked at her passed. His lips twitched upwards as he held her gaze, drinking in her sight as if he hadn't had a drop water for months.
A tug on her hand from Will effectively dragged her attention away from her ex, effectively bringing them into the swarm of people trying to exit the single doorway.
"Camille!" called Xander. "Camille, wait!"
Jostled around (thanks to the heels) by the crowd, she wasn't able to stop if she wanted to. Peering over everyone's heads, she could see Xander pushing his way through the crowd as he uttered apologies to those he ran over. Finally making it through the entryway, she looked for a glimpse of his mop of shaggy brown hair.
"Cami!" Xander gasped as he caught up to her. Her knees weakened a little bit at his smile, and her breath hitched when he grasped her hand in his. "Take a walk with me? There's a lot we need to talk about."
She blinked, berating herself for the way her body was reacting to him. She had remember to be strong. Just because he wasn't getting married anymore wasn't a reason to forget the past four months she endured.
"Please?" His eyes had that sad puppy look that she wasn't immune to. What would a walk hurt, though, in the long run? They could clear the air between them once and for all. Have some actual closure between them.
Xander's eyes lit up like the night they first met and talked for hours. His fingers tightened around hers as he led her to a side exit of the church. Once outside he took a seat on the staircase and pulled her down next to him. The early summer breeze blew tendrils of her brown hair in her eyes. Xander raised a hand to push the silky tresses behind her ear, but she turned her head and did it herself.
Refusing to let her guard down by looking into his baby blues, Camille let her eyes stray to the park across the street. "So..."
"So..." he mimicked. "We found a loophole. Well, Mel did. Some clause that said if we both agreed to the decision, we could back out of it. If we both thought this was a mistake we didn't have to go through with it. Her mother wasn't too thrilled with this, but her dad was okay with it. I proposed the option of having our companies combine anyways. It will still be a family business, but not a family together... Am I making sense?"
"Yeah. Instead of being a combined family business, it's two separate families collaborating."
"Exactly. Anyways, this means we get a second chance, Cami. We can be together."
Hearing the words hurt. She didn't know why, but they did. Maybe it was because she dreamed of a instance like that happening and now it was too many months too late. Whatever the reason may have been, Camille knew she wasn't ready for another relationship. It didn't matter that her heart still skipped a beat when she saw him. Or how his voice could still send a tingle down her spine. Or even hour her nerves went on high alert when his skin touched hers. They couldn't go right back to how things were. Things had changed. She had changed.
She pulled her hand out of his, only to have him tighten his grasp, refusing to let it go. A couple insistent tugs and she was able to pull it free.
Splaying her hands palm up in her lap, she whispered, "Xander, don't."
"Don't? Don't what?" he asked, his spirits falling.
"Don't act like everything's going to be the same as before. It's not. It's never going to be."
"But it can, Cami. Just give us a chance to get there again. I know it'll take some work and time, but don't write us off."
"Xander. You did that the moment you decided you had to hide all of that from me. Do you know how bad that hurt? To find out there's another woman in your relationship when there were no signs whatsoever?" She faced him, risking looking into his eyes. "There were no mysterious phone calls, no late night sneak ins smelling of another's perfume. You were normal. I might have actually preferred all of that because it'd have meant I had a sign that we were through.
"Relationships need trust in order to work. And honestly...I don't have that trust in you," she finished, looking away as she felt her eyes start to water. "At least not right now."
They sat in silence, just listening to the sounds of children playing, birds chirping, and the numerous sounds of the street traffic. She let it all out. And she felt like a weight had lifted off of her shoulders. He now knew how she felt about everything.
"Do you love me?" Xander asked. His tone was calm and collected. Almost as if he was asking her opinion on the weather.
"Don't think about it. Don't let your head tell you you shouldn't. What does your heart say? Listen to that, alright? That's the answer I want."
She turned the slightest bit to look at his profile. "Yes. I still love you. Probably always will. But it isn't the point. This isn't some Cinderella story where we ride off into the sunset because you didn't get married. It's real life."
"You're right," he stood up. Standing a few steps down from her, he was level with her eyes. "You're not Cinderella. But that doesn't mean we can have a fairytale ending. We can, Camille. A year from now, I see you by my side. Five years from now, I see you running after a devilish little mini me. Fifty years from now, I see you in silver hair looking as beautiful as the day I met you, with our grand kids in your lap."
Tilting up her chin with his fingers, her placed a soft, lingering kiss on her lips. Pulling away, he pulled out a small, square box from his tux pocket. A sparkling, simple, yet elegant diamond ring lay in the center of it as he opened it up for her to see.
"This ring is meant for you and only you. I'll do whatever it takes to gain your trust again. I made a mistake not fighting for you like I should have during this whole thing. But I'll be damned if I make that mistake again." He placed a final kiss on her forehead before he climbed the steps to reenter the church. "I love you. I'm not giving up yet. It's you or no one."
Camille didn't know how long she sat on the steps thinking about everything Xander said. She couldn't be with him again right now, but could she down the road? Probably. Would her love for him every go away? Not likely. It was the love Shakespeare could have written about.
They could start anew. Make it even better the second time around, whenever that came.
In the meantime, she'd focus on grad school instead of how Xander was going to try and win her back.
– – – – – – – – – –
WHEW! This took me forever!
Give All Over You some big props for editing all 17 pages of this! She's a trooper.
I wrote this for Juliet over at A Drop of Romeo for the Star-Cross'd Challenge (battle of oneshots prompt). Hope it meets her requirements (romance genre, a Romeo/Juliet reference, written after the contest began – duh – and based off the picture she supplied us with here: adropofromeo . webs . com / starcrossd. htm [just remove the spaces]).
EXCITING NEWS: Shit Happens When You Party Naked won Judge's Pick for Best Oneshot during SkoW Round 11! Thanks to the judge's and anyone that may have voted for it! You're all amazing.