“You’re going to London?” Ava asked with excitement.
“That witch is forcing me to go,” I sighed and flopped onto my bed.
Ava’s frowning face loomed above me and I stared up at her. “Not only are you going to London, but you are going to attend the Annual Gazette Ball. Do you know how sought-after an invitation to that thing is?”
“Evie, you know that me and big, fancy soirees don’t go together. Besides, that’s not the only reason I don’t want to go.”
“That bitch is going to order you around twenty-four seven?” She guessed, her voice turning contemptuous at the mention of Vanessa.
“Yes, that too…but,” I trailed off, wondering whether to tell her or not.
“But what?” she enquired, flopping next to me and staring at the side of my head. I paused for a while, my chaotic thoughts departing in a moment of bliss. Turning to face her, I conceded to confess. Her eyes were waiting, curious.
“Do you remember Scorpius? My old school friend?” I asked.
“Who can forget McSteamy?” She grinned impiously. I shot her a ‘please-don’t-call-him-that’ look. Mostly because I hardly wanted Ava to think about Scorpius in such a way. And a little because, he used to be my scrawny, Hogwarts best friend. But mostly the former.
“Yeah, well…I’m starting to like him in a more than friendly way,” I admitted with shame. “If he finds out I’m in London, he’ll immediately go to see me.”
“And that would be a bad thing, why?” Ava asked, stupefied by what I had just said.
“Because I have a boyfriend whom I like very much! And meeting with Scorpius, may make me forget that.”
Ava remained silent for a few moments, contemplating what I had just said. “Listen, Christian is probably a really nice, friendly guy…” I was surprised such things had come out of her mouth and turning to look at her, I was amused to see that she looked even more so. “But you and Scorpius are more compatible for each other. You used to be best friends, you know everything there is to know about each other and those arguments you have, that’s sexual tension.”
I gaped at her, flushing from what she had just said. I saw her roll her eyes at me. “Scorpius is just a friend. And as long as I can help it, he will remain to be so,” I said firmly, trying to convince, not only Ava, but also myself, that what I had just said was true.
“There’s another thing,” I began and sat up, staring out my window at the falling rain.
“And that would be?” Ava said expectantly.
“I need a date for the ball.”
Silence. Ava and I had muted. I believe the same thing was running through our heads. I could hardly take Chris with me to London and the only person (or so she thought) I knew of in London was… Scorpius.
“I’m not even going to begin on that.” Thank heavens Ava had the right sense not to begin a debate on that topic. “On a more cheerful note: you need a dress!” Good, old Ava.
“The witch said I could borrow a dress from the style department. Do you want to come help me choose one, tomorrow?”
“I have a showing at ten and if it finishes early, I’ll be at your office by eleven thirty.” Ava was learning the tricks of the trade from her parents. As an only child, she was the heiress to her parents’ business and riches. Some people have all the luck, eh?
“Great, I can introduce you to Jenny.”
* * *
Marco was a bit of a surprise. Dressed in the most flamboyant pink shirt and his very own customized jeans, he fit in perfectly with the warehouse of a wardrobe. Dresses of every imaginable colour were lined in racks, as were jeans, tops, skirts, flats, heels…I didn’t know where to look. It was like a larger version of Ava’s wardrobe. She stood beside me, eyeing everything with a hungry eye.
“Rose,” Marco exclaimed in a twangy accent that I will never get used. “And who’s your darling friend?”
“Marco, I’d like you to meet my best friend, Ava Whittaker. Ava, this is Gazette’s style guru, Marco. You don’t mind if she helps us pick out a dress, do you?” I asked, apprehensive of his answer.
“A pleasure to meet you,” he trilled as Ava shook his hand. “And of course not; you can definitely help us.”
“Thank you, it’s a pleasure to meet you too,” Ava smiled.
“So…what do people usually wear to the Gazette ball?” I questioned, not in the least bit curious but trying to seem polite.
“What’s in style at the moment,” Marco replied dismissively as he rifled through a rack of blue dresses, all in different shades and styles..
“What is in style at the moment?” I asked dumbly.
“Oh, you poor girl,” Marco said mournfully, shaking his head without looking up from the rack. I suppose he had a right to say that comment. Who was I to work at a huge fashion magazine and be completely clueless about what’s in style. I suppressed a sigh. Ava grinned at me, amused by what Marco had just said.
“Simple lines are popular at the moment,” she said, making Marco nod in approval. “Designers are also using lace and mesh a lot.”
“Take a few tips from your friend, Rose.” Marco pulled out a purple, layered dress and held it to me body, inspecting me as he made approving and critical sounds. Slightly discomforted at his study, I could do nothing but stand still.
“Too short. Does nothing for your complexion either.” And he put the dress back on the rack.
Almost two hours later and I had tried on possibly over fifty dresses of varying styles, colours, designers…it went on and on. Every time I’d think that a dress was perfect, Ava or Marco would criticize it and make me try on another one.
“Surely one of those rejected dresses was fine,” I sighed, starting to get irritable. Vanessa had only given me exactly one hundred and twenty minutes off to find a dress. I was sure very few minutes remained.
“I think I’ve found it,” Ava’s excited, muffled voice sounded. She had gone deeper into the wardrobe and she emerged moments later, holding a stunning dress in her hands; a wonderful cascade of silk and mesh in a pleasingly dark navy.
“Try it,” Marco urged and pushed me into the poky dressing room I’d gotten to know rather well in the past two hours. Hello again.
Quickly pulling it on, I stepped out and looked at them hopefully. They broke out in approving smiles. I looked down at it, staring at the minute blossom pattern at the rim of the dress.
“Take a look,” Ava pulled me towards a mirror and I stared at myself.
A thin line of black silk wrapped around my neck in a bow, holding the dress up, whilst the fabric lovingly embraced my body. It fell to my knees and my pale legs stood out against the duskiness of the dress. It was simple yet stunning. I smiled, pleased for the sudden frivolity.
“Perfect! Honey, your date won’t be able to take his eyes off you.”
And suddenly, all frivolity had gone.
* * *
London air had never smelt sweeter. They say that wherever you go, there’s no place like home. I used to scoff at that. A lot. Now, I completely agree with it. Staring at the many familiar sights as I sat next to Vanessa in her car, I couldn’t help but to let my heart soar and my thoughts reminisce. Flitting images of me as a young child, my brother and my mother enjoying time together in London swam in my head. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel any grief at remembering such things. Perhaps I was learning to accept what had happened. Before I could analyse this sudden change, Vanessa had pulled me out of my thoughts.
“Have you found yourself a date?”
I groaned and released an endless stream of profanities in my head, inventing some colourful ones of my own along the way. “No,” I admittedly quietly.
“You are from England, aren’t you, Rose?”
“Are you telling me that you don’t know a soul in your homeland?”
“I do but…I haven’t seen anyone in almost six years.” Okay, so…not completely true. I’d seen Scorpius four months ago and was in frequent contact with him, but I was hardly about to tell her now, was I? Besides, I resolutely didn’t want any thought of Scorpius to enter my head. Already, I was failing dismally.
“Then go meet with some of them,” she snapped. “If you do not have a date, I will fire you.”
Fired for not having a date to some ball. That’s a new one to add to One Thousand and One Reasons I Got Fired by My Boss. That’s when I made my mistake. The next question I asked was apparently not the right thing to ask. “Why are you so adamant I have a date?”
She stared at me as if I’d just slapped her. Fear flickered briefly through my body. “Always bear in mind, Roh-se, that I am the one who asks the questions,” she hissed with the spite of a thousand heartless people. If a simple question had brought about such a reaction, I was wary to do anything that might make her fire me. And now burdened with the task of finding myself a date, I was dreading this trip.
Once we’d gotten settled into the hotel, Vanessa set me with the task of making sure everything was ready for the ball, two days from now. I didn’t do it. When I’d finished the new ball file, I’d double and triple checked everything was ready and that absolutely no glitches would happen. I didn’t know where Vanessa had disappeared to and I had no intention of being locked up in my, admittedly luxurious, hotel room.
Throwing a medley of essentials into my handbag, I was distracted by a knock at the door. “Come in.”
The door was pushed open and my heart froze. So did every other part of my body. Scorpius stood in the doorway, stunning as ever. My memory had not done him justice and I had underestimated how much I missed him. Once my heart choked, forcefully starting once more, my body started functioning as well, but not in the way I was used to. My body heat had dramatically risen, my heart hammering within my throat, and a million butterflies fluttering madly within my stomach. My mouth had gone incredibly dry, my mind short-circuiting from the shock and his elegant charm.
“Hi,” he smiled, revealing white, even teeth.
“Hi,” I breathed, still frozen in my place.
“Sorry for the surprise; you still looked shock,” he said gently and closed the door behind him.
“Uh..yeah…” I paused, unsure of what to say, still surprised. “How…how did you know I was in London, and at this hotel?”
“Didn’t I tell you in one of my letters? A little birdie told me,” he laughed, pleased at my annoyance and mystification.
“Looks like there’s a spy on my side,” I muttered and shouldered my bag. “I showed you around New York, so now you show me around London.”
“Won’t your boss ask about you?”
“Forget her. Besides, I’ve always been an adept liar, remember?” I mocked sternly, making for the door where he stood.
“Of course,” he teased and held the door open for me.
“So, where are we going?”
“But don’t you love surprises, Rose?” He grinned matter-of-factly.
“I hate you.”
* * *
A/N: Sorry for the delay ^_^
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