"Aria, we're leaving today! Get your bags ready!" Mia exclaims from the bed next to mine. She must have been making the bed, but since I am still asleep while it is likely noon, I'm unable to tell for sure. Her small hands shake my shoulders, tearing me out of sleep. We're going to England today, London specifically. Mia is getting married to an Englishman, Charlie. I don't know the man; I've never met him. But apparently he's irresistible.
I sit up in my nightdress, noticing it is slightly damp with sweat. I've been having horrible nightmares of my diseased father, Henri. No one knows about them, and I plan on keeping it that way. He died when I was six, and I was there to witness it. My mother, Aileen, says it was a random murder, nothing out of the ordinary. But I don't believe her; we live in the nice part of town. Even when she tries to lecture me that sometimes, events have no reason, like the killing of my father. But I am smart enough to know that everything happens for a reason.
My name is Aria. I am seventeen, and living in North America. Today, I'll be traveling with my sister, Mia, and my mother, Aileen to meet with my grandfather in London, England. I've never been out of the country; I haven't ever even left my town. What I've read in stories about England weren't that great. I have developed a picture in my head of snotty, spoiled men and women in suits and dresses. Because of this horrible image of England, of smoke and spoiled people, I'm the opposite of happy of going. I'd rather stay home all day, reading books and figuring out what the characters would do.
I get dressed in something nice today; Mia picked out the outfit. It is a floral sundress ending a little below my knees. It is strictly forbidden in my town to show any skin above the knees, and I am afraid at what I'm going to see in England. They have no restrictions. They can wear open-toed shoes, and shorts, while I'll be stuck in the heat wearing capris, and sneakers. Mia picked out brown flats to match the dress.
Did I mention we aren't allowed to wear shirts that show the skin on our shoulders? We believe that showing all of this much of ourselves gives away the finding of true people. We learn in school that to cover ourselves, is to cover the bad. Men don't see a woman's skinny shoulders, or chubby thighs, or even unnatural toes. The men fall in love with the true selves of us that the clothes don't show. It has been in our society for as long as I can remember, and that I know of, it will always stay.
Because of those rules, Mia gives me a brown leather coat to cover my shoulders. The dress, if I haven't pointed out, is sleeveless, with straps the width of two fingers.
I brush down my strawberry blond hair, which everyone mistakes for red. I brush down the waves in my face, and altogether, my hair reaches the edge of my sternum. Another thing we're also not allowed to wear is clips. We cannot wear hair ties, or clips, or anything to push our hair back. Then we can show more of our shoulders, and more of our faces. This rule, though, only applies to women. I haven't ever had a haircut.
We get our bags ready, and we all head for the Port. The Port is, in basic terms, an airport. Though this Port we have also has trains, ships, and any other transportation you could think of. Besides, of course, airplanes.
The Port is always my least favorite place. It's loud, and noisy, and although I am Italian, and I am loud myself, I can't stand being around loud places. It just makes me uncomfortable.
Mia and I board the plane first, sitting across from each other. The plane we're in carries about a dozen passengers. These planes tend to be the ones with the most turbulence, which is also unfortunate for me. I hate the thought of being so far above Earth. So far that I cannot even see the ground. This is my first time on a plane, and I hope it can be my last.
"Aren't you so excited?" Mia was saying, her blonde hair brushed down to the same length as mine. "I'm getting married!" Mia is my older sister. We've been friends, but I wouldn't say best friends. We don't always get along, but we prove in public that we love each other. Mia is twenty which, I think, is really young to get married.
"Congratulations." I say for the hundredth time.
"Is that all you can say, Aria? Aren't you happy for me?" her blue eyes look like the sea to me. I haven't ever been by the ocean, but I've seen many pictures in geography books at school.
"Yes, I'm happy for you." I say. I believe myself to be a good liar, only because I manage to pull off the best facial expressions. It gets me extra loafs of bread at the markets when I bring up a pity story, so as long as I get our family food, I can manage it easily.
The truth is I'm anything but happy. I've left my favorite book at home, which almost never happens. Now I'll be stuck on a long flight reading The Notebook and 13 Reasons Why. Both books I've read before. My friend, Laura, just gave me a series, which I'm less than eager to start. Fantasy stories: not my thing. She gave me two series, called The Mortal Instruments, and The Infernal Devices. In school, we have to write a report on a fantasy story we read, and compare it to our life. These series include lycanthropes, vampires, faeries, warlocks, and Shadowhunters. I am familiar with all but these Shadowhunters.
"Good." Mia said. She believed my lie which, I only expect. Sometimes though, I wish someone could understand me. Understand that I've been miserable my whole life since my father's death. Henri was a fighter, a warrior even. He taught me how to use swords, and daggers, though I never would when I was older. He taught me how to escape thieves, and muggers. I had all of these skills now, that I'd never be able to use.
I open my book, and flip to the first page. Clary opened her eyes to the shades peeking through the train window….
I am ordered to wake up so abruptly that I receive a migraine. Mia is screaming, pointing at Big Ben as we get closer to the Port for landing. The turbulence shakes me, forcing my eyes open. I look down at the book I'm holding. Clary opened her eyes to the shades peeking through the train window. I frown. I'd never fallen asleep on the first page of a book. I close it, and put it in my brown bag.
"Momma! There's the towers we'll be at!" Mia says, pointing. I lean forward and look out the window. My mouth falls open as a humongous building stands before me. It is where we will be staying. The building looks like a castle, with towers at the corners of each section. There is a garden in the middle, with red and white roses-my favorite. I can't help but smile. Roses are so rare these days, especially white ones. The white ones seem the prettiest to me; meaning innocence, purity, heavenly, even. It is a symbol of saying, "I am worthy of you."
Maybe I'm secretly wishing I'm not going to hate this trip. It was nice to see Big Ben, and judging on where we're staying for the three weeks up until the wedding, I'll be getting more of London. But I've no idea who I'm going to be staying with at this huge building. The Clauss family cannot be that big, can it?
"Remember girls, be very polite. Introduce yourselves as Miss Aria Havens, or Miss Mia Havens." Mom says as we all pack in a long black car. I've never seen one of these types of cars before, but apparently they're called limousines. We don't have this kind of transportation back at home.
"Of course." Mia says, as if it is natural.
"Does Charlie have a British accent?" I ask. Mia rolls her eyes at me.
"We're in England. Duh." I stare straight ahead. Was it really only filled with people who carried heavy British accents and cigarettes? I sure hope not, because I'd like to meet one person here who isn't like the people I think this place is filled with.
After a long drive, a chauffeur opens the car door for my mom. I exit after her, making myself look presentable. I already see women dressed up in shorts above their knees and sleeveless shirts, with hair ending above their shoulders. I sigh and watch two men approach the three of us.
"Welcome to the Clauss manor. I'm Mr. Clauss, Charlie's father." An old man says. He's got gray and black hair, with a long beard. I'm guessing the boy next to Mr. Clauss is Charlie, because Mia rushes into his arms right away. I have the feeling their marriage is going to last at most a month. "Well, it seems like Miss Mia knows who that is." Mr. Clauss says, laughing.
"Hello." Mom says, smiling. "I'm Mrs. Aileen Hale, and this is my daughter, Miss Aria Hale."
"Pleasure." He shakes both of our hands. "Um, Charlie," Mr. Clauss says softly. Charlie releases Mia, and leans in towards his father. "Where is William?" A loud crowd cheers from a street around the corner. I hear screams and shouts, and I hear trash bins being knocked over. Charlie glances at the street corner, as well as I.
Charlie sighs. "I don't know. He was supposed to be here to meet the family. Hold on." Charlie disappears down the street, and I can't help but watch.
"I have another son." Mr. Clauss explains.
"That's nice." Mom says. She turns to Mia. "Mia, have you met Charlie's brother?" Mia shakes her head.
"He doesn't usually participate in family events."
"Bloody hell!" Charlie was exclaiming. He was holding a boy by the collar of his torn shirt. The boy has golden skin, unlike his pale family. His golden hair is pasted to his forehead with sweat. He's got bruises and welts on his cheeks and his knuckles are bloody, and peeling skin. "How many times are you going to get in those fights with those filthy homeless people?" The boy is smiling, filled with accomplishment.
"They're not filthy. They're good people." The boy says. Charlie shoves the boy forward, making him stumble in front of us.
"Which explains why they beat you up every day."
The boy laughs at his father's comment. "I'm not being bullied. They are street fights. I make a profit." The boy holds up some dollar bills from his pocket. Charlie snatches the money from him and gives it to Mr. Clauss, whispering something.
Charlie clears his throat. "Will, meet my fiancé, Mia, and her family." Will takes a step closer to me, observing me, and eyeing me openly.
"She's cute, but she looks quite young." I smell alcohol on Will's breath, which tickles my neck.
"That's Mia's sister. Miss Aria Hale." The corner of Will's mouth quirks up.
"Then you must be…" he looks at Mom, and I stifle a laugh. Instead it comes out like a choking sound. He looks at Mia finally. "Okay you are the fiancé." Will says, pointing. Mia laughs, but I don't think she realizes that Will is drunk and he isn't kidding.
"Miss Aria Hale, this is-"
"I demand to be called Sir William the Great."
"Will, change out of those infernal clothes. Clean yourself up." Mr. Clauss says. Charlie brings Will through the castle, lecturing him. I laugh softly to myself. "My apologies." He says.
"It's no problem." Mom says.
"He hasn't ever acted this…giddy before."
"He's drunk." I say. I shrug as my Mom glares at me.
"He's not even old enough." Mr. Clauss says angrily. "I-he's going to be in much trouble. But please, let me lead you up to your rooms."
It is dinnertime, and I still have to follow the maids around to get to the dining room. The manor is bigger than I expected; with gardens, and book rooms, oh the book rooms, and multiple bedrooms. Apparently I was doing well though, because besides the boy I saw earlier, I was the only one. He is sitting in a chair, reading a novel. It didn't seem like something he'd do, considering the events that happened just hours ago.
"What book are you reading?" I ask, taking a seat across from him. He looks up at me, and pushes the book under the table. "I already saw it, so it's best not to lie to your guests so obviously."
"It's for school." He says softly. The boy, William I think, clears his throat.
"What book is it?" I ask softly.
"A Tale of Two Cities." He responds.
"I adore that book!" I can't help but exclaim. I clap my hands together and press them to my chest.
"Kill me now." He mutters. He has no British accent. In fact, he doesn't even look that British. He seems to be Italian.
"I don't think we've officially met." He says, lounging back in his chair, and putting his feet on the table. "I'm Sir William the Great." I stare at him. He winks at me, and says, "But you can call me Will."
"You may call me-"
"Miss Aria Hale. I've been told much of you." I stare blankly in his eyes for a moment. Will clears his throat. "Your mother," he starts, "wishes for you to be married."
"My mother wishes a lot of things about me." I say.
"I couldn't agree more." He smiles, tilting the hat he's wearing down. He covers his eyes, leaving me staring at his curvy mouth.
"What else does she say, besides the fact that I am ugly and short and dishonest?" I ask. These are all things I know my mother would say about me.
"Are you dishonest, Miss Hale?" he asks.
"I do what I have to, to get things done." I say. "But I must point out, I'm honest with her."
"So you're saying you do not lie to your mother." He says, in half of a question of approval.
"Yes." I say. Although I'm just saying this to be polite. I lie to my mother quite often, because she wouldn't understand me any other way.
"Did you know, Miss Aria, I mean to include lies of omission?" he asked, propping his hat up on the side. His golden hair is barely visible underneath, but it makes heat rush to my cheeks anyways.
"Why are you asking so many questions about me?"
"Who's the one who brought up your mother?" he asks, looking at me under the flap of his hat.
"Uh, you, Mr. Clauss."
"Very well." He says finally. "Don't call me that."
"Call you what? Mr. Clauss? It's your name-"
"It isn't." he says flatly. "You are the guest, and you obey me." My mouth falls open slightly. He smirks. "William." It is silent for a few moments, before he says, "Your mother has not said a word about you."
"Please," I say, holding up a hand. "I am sure she's said I'm ugly and short-"
"Indeed, you are small Miss Hale. But you're far from ugly." I am not sure if he is being sarcastic, or if the compliment is genuine. My cheeks heat up as a long silence passes between us.
"A-aren't you British? Aren't you supposed to be saying things like rubbish?" I say to break the silence. I hear a laugh escape his mouth.
"Boy, are you burning through topics." He says in a cheerful tone. "And rubbish? Where on Earth did you get that?" Will asks.
"Movies." I respond.
He chuckles again, making my cheeks flame. "You are so-"
"So what?" I demand.
"Oh, I see you've found the dining hall." Mr. Clauss says from behind me. I stand up quickly.
"Oh, yes. Th-thank you very much." I sputter. I smile and straighten my dress.
"I see you've met William." Mr. Clauss says, taking a seat next to his son.
"Aye." William says, reaching for the water in front of him.
"Did you apologize for your behavior from earlier, William?" Mr. Clauss says with warning eyes. Will clears his throat.
"Of course. Right, Miss Hale?" his blue eyes shine into mine. I open my mouth to talk, but the doors leading into the room burst open, and Mia and Mom enter and take a seat on either side of me.
"Good evening." Mom says, putting the napkin in front of her on her lap. I glance past Will to see him staring at me. We lock gazes for a moment, and I'm surprised that my cheeks aren't flaming. Usually, when a man this handsome is staring at me, I think he might like me. But I'm sure Will is really just pointing out my flaws in his head: long hair, rosy cheeks, very petit, and quite stubborn. But as I stare at him, his flaws disappear completely. I don't see a stubborn and rude boy; I see a handsome man.
"Excuse me." William says, pushing away from the chair while his eyes are on mine. I'm the first to break away, even though I can see his eyes on me from the corner of my eyes. He disappears out of the dining hall with a slam on the door.
"I apologize for his behavior. He usually doesn't leave until we've eaten a meal." Mr. Clauss says. A moment later Charlie enters, his attention behind himself.
"Father, does William seem a tad more… strange to you?" Charlie asks, taking a seat next to Mia.
"Will is always arrogant." Mr. Clauss says, looking at Charlie.
"Yes, I suppose." Charlie says with a shrug. We are served in silence until Mia brings up the wedding plans. I eat that evening thinking of where Will had went, and what he was doing. And why he was staring at me.
After the meal, I begin walking down to the room that was ruled as mine. At nighttime, though, the dimly lit hallways confuse me, and I'm absolutely lost. I wonder around a moment longer before I let out a frustrated breath. My feet are aching from these flats that are two sizes too small. I'm pretty sure I have blisters, so I take of my shoes. I carry them in one hand while wondering barefoot through this huge manor.
I am nearly lost more than I have ever been now-at the end of a hallway, I see glass doors leading out to a garden with fruits. I start hearing the beautiful sounds of a grand piano coming from one of the doorways in the hallway. I keep walking, and as I do, the piano music gets louder. Every door is closed, making me unable to judge where this beautiful sound is coming from.
I pass by a door that sounds like the source of the piano playing. I bring the palms of my hands to the oak door and press my ear against it. This person playing is definitely professional. The sounds that the music makes almost forces my eyes closed. Before I have much time to move, the music stops, and the door abruptly opens, making me stumble. I jump back quickly, clutching my shoes to my chest.
"Any reason why you were eavesdropping?" He asks. I look up to a stern-faced William.
"Will-" I slap a hand to my forehead. "Sir William, I-uh-I was trying to find my room." This is embarrassing. My cheeks flush dark red as I stumble through my words. Will takes a step out of the room and I can catch a glimpse of the black grand piano in the room behind him. Music sheets are scattered on the end table next to the piano, but I'm unable to see this for a while, because he quickly shuts the door behind him. He glances down at my shoes between my trembling hands.
"Why are you-"
"I'm sorry." I say quickly. I spin on my toes against the tiled floor, and begin to walk down the hallway without an idea of where I'm going.
"Miss Hale, are you lost?" I know he is smirking because of the way his voice has edge in it. I come to a stop and turn around. He tucks his hands in the pockets of his trousers and makes his way over to me in a few strides.
"I-how big is this manor?" I ask as we start walking.
"Big enough for even me to get lost in sometimes." He says. He runs a hand through his golden hair. It's funny to think that just moments ago, those slender hands elegantly pressed against the soft keys on a piano.
"You play the piano?" I ask abruptly. I probably shouldn't have, but it is too late. I see his shoulders tense slightly.
"I dabble." I turn my head sideways to look at him, and his expression looks bored. I have to walk at a fast pace to keep up with him.
"That is not dabbling. That was-that is-beautiful." I hear him chuckle.
"I know I'm beautiful. Stunning, even. Actually, I've been told gorgeous-"
"I'm talking about your piano playing." I interrupt. He is silent for a minute.
"Thank you." He says softly.
"William, sir, I uh I'm sorry I interrupted you." I sputter. I fumble with the soles of my flats.
I hear Will laughing next to me. "Sir William, William sir; that is all too formal for me." He says with a smile.
"Well, you are formal." I say softly. I shouldn't be arguing with him; if I push one wrong button, then I can lose all chances of finding my room again.
He exhales a shaky breath. "Don't call me that." I hear him say. "Just Will."
"Will." I repeat. I smile and stare ahead. We turn left and pass by an open doorway.
"Yes?" he asks. Oh. So he thinks I'm going to say something. I think of something to say quickly before he thinks I'm just seeing how his name tastes coming from my mouth….which is really what I'm doing. And I love it.
"I-why did you leave dinner?" I ask. It's the best that I can come up with.
"Aren't you dying to know." He says as we turn down a hallway. It is identical to the one we've just walked through.
"I'm just curious. Trust me, after the image you've displayed of yourself, I wouldn't be interested that far." I let out a laugh. I really wouldn't be interested with someone arrogant as him. It goes against every rule in my book. But why, then, am I unable to take my attention away from him?
"Oh really?" he asks slowly. "And what image is that?" I pause, trying to figure out what I'm going to say. Handsome and beautiful? Magnificently talented?
"Y-you can't just switch the questions like that without answering mine." I say quickly, and my words jumble, making it take Will a moment longer to respond.
"You ask me too many questions, Miss Hale." He says, scratching his palm. I notice bandages are wrapped around his knuckles. My eyes openly stare at the hands that fall to his sides. The gauze is slightly pink. What could Will have been doing for bleeding knuckles? "You know, Miss Hale, I believe it is quite rude to stare." I shoot my eyes away from his hands, flushing a dark red.
"Your hands. They're-"
"I'm not stupid, Miss Hale. I know what happened to them." William's gaze stays fixed on a hanging chandelier as we pass under it.
"What did happen to them?" I ask. I am always too curious. My mom scolds me for often saying too much, or asking too much.
"You need not worry of my well-being."
"I don't believe you have one." I say seriously. He's done nothing but cause trouble for Charlie and his father. "Don't you think you should behave better? I mean, it's your brother's wedding in just a few weeks! The day we come, you are introduced with quite a bad reputation."
"I don't think you're one to talk about families." Will says sternly. "So you should keep your nose out of mine. And I'm dealing with things right now, and yes, maybe I do get in some fights, but it's for fun."
"Fun?" I echo. I laugh humorlessly. "Getting beat up sure does seem like real fun when you've got a bruise on your cheek and wrapped up hands." I gesture towards Will as I spot a blue and purple bruise that is small, under his left eye. He stops, staring at me.
"What?" he says, putting a hand to his chin, feeling for a bruise. "I do not have a bruise on my face." I roll my eyes and grab on to his wrist. I bring his hand up to his own bruise and with my other hand, press his fingers to his skin. I am shocked at how casual I act while doing this, but I guess it is just anger from him being rude. His fingers wiggle around and somehow they become intertwined with mine. I quickly take my hands off of his and push them to my sides. I grip on my shoes that I had tucked under my arm momentarily.
"There." I say sharply. I start walking again, and after a moment, he follows me. We both keep walking silently and we pass in front of an open doorway. I look around Will into the doorway out of curiosity when I think I see a flash of books. I quickly put my hand out in front of Will, causing him to smack into my arm and stop. I feel my hand on his chest, but pretend not to notice it. "Is that a book room?" I ask, my eyes wide in wonder.
"More like a library, yes. I've read each of those silly novels." He gazes into the candlelit library room. I see the book he was reading earlier today in the dining room back in its alphabetical place on a shelf. "We can check it out later. It's late, if you hadn't noticed." I pull my arm back.
Will stopped walking when we reached a door. I guess it is my room, but I've seen so many identical ones, that this looks wrong. His eyelids hang half over his eyes from tiredness.
"Thank you, Will." I say as I look up at his soft blue eyes.
"You won't be liking tomorrow." He says with a smile. He leaned against the wall beside my door.
"Why is that?" I ask, scared as to what he is going to answer with.
"You're getting a makeover." I swallow hard. I do not do makeovers. This is unacceptable.
"You're lying." I say. William shook his head. His hand went up and curled between my strawberry blonde hair.
"This is going to be gone."
"All of it?" I whisper, peering down at my soft strands of hair.
"Most of it. At your shoulders, probably. I am quite curious to see how you're going to turn out." He smirks, dropping his hand.
"Goodnight, Will." I say, ignoring him and turning to the door.
"Sleep tight, Miss Hale." He says, backing away from me and turning down the hallway. I exhale smoothly as I enter my dark and cozy room.
I am so exhausted that I can't even change out of my clothes. I flop onto my bed, and cover myself with the soft sheets. I've never felt blankets this soft, ever, and I want to enjoy as much of this as I can.
I am awoken to a sudden brightness. My eyes squint as the radiant sun pushes through the curtains that a maid had just opened.
"Miss Aria! Time to wake up, darling! Wilonna Feesley is here! The greatest designer in town!" the maid pulls the blankets off of me. "Darling, did you even put on the night gown I set for you yesterday?" she asks.
"What…what time is it?" I ask, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. I'm trying to pull myself away from this grogginess I feel. There isn't much; now that I've slept in a bed worth more than the whole room, the aching is nonexistent in my back, where it usually would be.
"It's just about breakfast time!" she says excitedly. She pulls me to my feet, and guides me out of my room in a rush.
"Can't I change before we head to breakfast, Miss?" I ask, starting to tug away at her hands that enclose my wrists. She's stronger than I imagined, and her grip remains firm.
"Miss? Oh, no, no, no. I'm Thia. Do not call me Miss. And we aren't going to breakfast quite yet. We're meeting Miss Feesley!" She smiles like this is the most exciting day of her life. I sigh and let her take me the rest of the way to wherever this Wilonna Feesley is.
Thia pulls me into a room that is unusually large. It has vanities, and mirrors, and closets too. Clothes are packed on racks and on chairs. A woman with brown curly hair stands before us. My maid, Thia, bows down to her. I stare at her, clueless as to why.
"Hello, Miss. You must be Aria Hale. From North America, I hear." I moisten my lips and nod. Thia lets me go, and backs away from the woman.
"Yup." I say, none too formally. The woman eyes my hair, my arms, and my whole body as she speaks.
"I'm Wilonna Feesley. I'm a very popular stylist, and I just gave a makeover to your mother and sister about an hour ago. Lovely folks you have." She says sweetly. She finishes observing me, and brings me to a black chair. She ushers me into the seat, and leans my head back over the sink. Water pushes out of the drain, and she begins to wash my hair.
"They are, aren't they." I say sarcastically. Wilonna doesn't realize it, and rants about other things in her life; her annoying poodle, her lovely husband, and the future that she wants her kids to have.
She spins me away from the mirror on a cushioned chair. My hair is up in a green towel, drying while Wilonna plans out what she is going to do with me. After I am turned away from the mirror, my eyes quickly widen.
"Why are you here?" I demand, and Wilonna pauses her speech. I look at him as he sits, smiling in a chair a few feet away from me.
"Charlie ordered me to wait for you to be done." He sighed, rolling his sapphire eyes. "I can tell this will take quite a long time."
"Oh shut up Will." I snap. Wilonna flinches away from me slightly. "You can tell Charlie that I do not need you to wait for me."
Will lets out a frustrated breath and stands up. "Very well. Since you are, indeed the guest,"
"And you are, indeed rude, impolite, and-"
"Sexy?" Wilonna suggests from behind me. Heat runs up to my cheeks as I glance at her.
"That, too, Miss Hale?" Will asks, at the door now. I face him, and see a smile crawl up his face. He holds a hat to his chest.
"Just go." I say, jerking my chin to the door. He laughs and shuts the door behind him.
I walk slowly to the doors of the breakfast room. My hands tremble at my sides with nerves. Wilonna not only cut my hair to just at my shoulders-showing the shape of my shoulders-but I also ended up with highlights. The highlights make my hair look more brown than red, which I am thankful for. I am dressed in high waisted skirt that is almost a maroon color. I am wearing a sleeveless top that is white and it has a floral pattern with colors that match the skirt beautifully. I have never been dressed in clothes showing this much of me-my shoulders, and the skin above my knees. I guess that's what makes me so nervous; no one in the room I'm about to walk in, has seen so much of me. All of my old clothes have been replaced with short dresses and skirts, and every accessory I have is now in the trash; pins, and hair ties.
I take a deep breath and walk through the doors of the breakfast room. It is hardly ten, and I've been told the day is going to be so quick-moving. But I never wake up this early, and I feel like I've been up for over hours.
The minute I walk through the door, everybody turns to me. I see Mia and Mom revolve in their chairs, both looking quite different, but not nearly as different as me. Mia smiles, and Mom has a hand to her cheek in wonderment. I see Mr. Clauss and Charlie grinning at me, very happy with the change. I had on makeup for the first time. Blush, eye shadow and eyeliner, and even a little lip gloss.
And then I see Will.
He seems frozen in his seat. His eyes are glued to mine, his hand curling around the fork that was just a millimeter away from his mouth. I see a bit of an omelet on the fork, and watch it fall onto the plate. His eyes don't even look at my whole body. They are on my face, making my heart churn and my cheeks burn.
Mr. Clauss quickly clears his throat and Will sets his fork down. He breaks my gaze and stares at his food. He pulls his hat up off of the table, next to his plate, and puts it on his head, brushing back his golden hair.
"Aria, darling, you look stunning." Mom says, looking at my knees. I know she's uncomfortable with me showing my legs, but she knows that this wasn't my choice.
"Take a seat next to me, sis." Mia says, smiling. She pulls out the chair next to her. This happens to be the one right across from Will. I stumble forward and sit in the chair. I can't help but look at William; his gaze is fixed at me under the hat. He quickly looks away when I stare a moment longer.
"You look gorgeous , Miss Aria." Mr. Clauss says from the other end of the table. I thank him and grab a roll sitting in s basket in the center of the table. I put it on the plate in front of me and notice everyone is watching me. I look around strangely at all of them.
"Is…there a problem?" I ask.
"Well…" Mia starts with a smile.
"You look so different." Charlie says. I catch a glimpse of his steel gray eyes. I let out a small smile.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" I ask.
"Good." Mom replies right away. "Definitely good." I take a bite out of the roll. It is warm and crunchy from coming out of the oven. I hear a noise above the normal conversation of the wedding. I look up and see Will scooting out of the chair. He gets up quickly, clearing his throat.
"Excuse me," he murmurs as he begins to walk past his father. Mr. Clauss stops him by grabbing his arm.
"Son," Mr. Clauss says with an angry voice.
"Michael," Will replies, with the same amount of sharpness in his tone. Mr. Clauss, or Michael, releases William, and he saunters off. Michael sighs, putting his head in his hands.
"Is he always that…" Mom says quietly. "distant?" Michael looks at her across the table.
"No." Charlie answers. "He is never that distant. He never leaves before a meal is served like that. Now it's lucky if I see him roaming the halls." It is quiet for a for a moment.
"Your son," I start softly. Everyone looks at me. "William." I clarify. "He's an amazing piano player."
"He's amazing at getting in fights, too." Charlie laughs, picking up his orange juice. Everyone laughs, except for me.
"I'm serious. I-I heard him playing late last night." Michael shakes his head.
"Will doesn't play." I shrug, and poke at the bread on my plate, no longer hungry.
"But I saw him-"
"Aria." Mom warns. I catch her angry gaze and quickly break it, rolling my eyes. I lower my eyes to my plate. Just breakfast. And then I can get out of this manor. How about excuses? The library; got it. Now I just need to push past this awkward fest.
I quietly shut the door to my bedroom, and disappear down the hallway in long silent strides. None of my excuses worked. Apparently it is 'too dangerous to take a walk to the library' and there is a 'wonderful library at the manor'. Nobody gets it. I don't want to be here. Why does Mia have to get married at stupid London? I need to go somewhere to get out of this hellhole.
I successfully sneak out of the manor into the compact London. It's night time now, and lights spring the rainy climate to life. I don't know where I want to go is, so I start walking down the street. I see couples passing by and holding hands, laughing and kissing. If only Mom understood that I don't need a man to be happy. I don't need a husband when I've barely started my life. It's so unreasonable. And if you're wondering about the possibility if I'd rather be with girls, the answer is no. Of course I find men attractive, and I just don't think of girls that way. For example, Will Clauss. I definitely find him attractive. It's like a magnet for me. But he just leaves too soon to talk to, and when I talk to him, he's not exactly nice.
I reach Big Ben, and smile at it dryly. It's eleven o'clock at night. The streets are practically deserted, except for some pedestrians taking walks with each other or their dogs. I'm not yet tired because of the dramatic time difference from back home. Though I am exhausted from this day; I had to help my sister pick out the perfect bouquet of flowers, the cutest little bridesmaids, and the designs of her cake. It's funny; she should be doing this with her future husband, not the maid of honor. I finally get why weddings are so exhausting.
I walk down Westminister Bridge and keep a hand on the railing to steady myself. The rushing cars and trollies that are out late make me shiver as a tough wind follows in their paths. I turn a sharp left, walking, wondering the streets. The sidewalk doesn't get dirty over here, save for the cigarette butts everywhere. I pass County Hall and the London Film Museum. I'm not in the mood to actually go through a museum, which is probably closed anyways. I stop abruptly when I see the London Eye. I've seen only pictures in books but even those didn't actually present its height well enough. Well, this is one way to get perspective on the city that I haven't yet gotten.
I make my way over to the London Eye, feeling nerves run up the back of my legs, telling me to turn around. There are few people around, yet it is still open. Special occasion, maybe. Either way, I walk to enter onto the London Eye. I'm about to pull a twenty out of my pocket, but the man says something I don't have.
"Ticket?" he holds out his hand, and I stare at it openly, his old, wrinkled palm.
"How much is one?" I ask.
"You have to order tickets by contacting us as little as two hours in advance." I sigh, looking at the London Eye. It has what I need to just let go of this stress of the manor, and especially Will. He's been making everything hard to understand; why he leaves every single time he sees me, why he is so arrogant and cocky, just everything about him.
"I don't have tickets from two hours in advanced." I say, holding up the twenty. "But I've got money. If I could pay now for it-"
"Sorry." He says shrugging. "Come back tomorrow. It's late." I let out an angry breath, and make fists into my hands.
"You can't just let one girl on? Look, you can easily fit me on there." I protest.
"You big…jerk!" I let out an audible breath and spin on my toes, whipping my hair behind me. My eyes quickly widen. My mouth falls open slightly, mostly of shock that I see him here. "Oh, Will!" I exclaim in half question. He is wearing a buttoned shirt, with dark trouser pants, and holds his coat in his arm and tickets in the other.
"You put up a fight, don't you, when you don't get your way?" he asks out of curiosity. I open my mouth to snap a reply, but he simply walks around me, not waiting for an answer. I turn slowly and watch the man let Will through the gates.
"What!" I snap. "You're letting him in but not me?"
"He has a ticket." The man says, shrugging. "Two, actually."
"You coming or not?" Will asks, stepping up the platforms to a seat. I stand for a moment wondering how he got two tickets, and how he knew I'd be here before I join Will.
"It really is