I stood in front of my mother. We were on the other side of the van to block out the wind. Some still managed to fly around us, though. I pushed my hair out of my face.
"You're joking, right?" I whispered.
She put her hands on my shoulder. "This is a chance for you to be happy, Dee."
"I am happy! Aren't you?"
She smiled sadly at me. "No, Deidre. No, I'm not."
I stepped out of her hands, tears filling my eyes. "You're not happy with me? Is that why you're selling me away!?"
She sighed. "I'm not selling you away, Deidre. And of course I'm happy with you! I love you! I always have and I always will! But you're to young to be living like this!"
I shook my head. "No. I won't do it. That means leaving you like this and that's not going to happen."
"Evelyn said she'll help me," she promised. "You don't need to worry about me anymore."
"I'll always worry about you!" I yelled, stomping my foot. "You're my mother! It's been just you and me for ten years!"
"Exactly. And haven't you wished, even once, that things were different?"
I stared at her. It was true that I had wished things weren't the way they were. But this isn't what I wanted. I wanted to stay with her, to always be with her. She was my mother, my rock. I had sincerely thought she was happy. Sure, being poor wasn't making either of us happy but... we had each other.
"You're not even giving me a choice," I whispered. "That's not fair."
"You'll like him," she promised.
"I don't care if I'll like him! I don't even care if I'll love him!" I grabbed her hands. "I want to be with you!"
She pulled me into a hug and started to cry. "Please, Deidre. If you don't do this for yourself, do it for me. I hate seeing you like this."
I shook my head, my tears falling. "But-"
"Please," she begged and I gulped.
"When do I meet him?" I whispered and she squeezed me.
"Tomorrow morning. We're meeting at their house. She's going to make us breakfast."
I nodded and we climbed into the van. Instead of sleeping by myself, I slept in her arms. I sobbed most of the night until I drifted off to sleep.
I didn't have anything nice to wear but, at first, I didn't mind. Until we walked up to their house, though. Now I knew why my mother didn't want to drive here.
It was three stories high. The outside was black stone. There was a two car garage and a fancy porch wrapped around it in the typical Oklahoma style. I pulled my tattered sweater closer to me, not wanting to go up there. Not only did I want to avoid an arranged marriage, now I showed up looking like a fool. My mother smiled encouragingly, though, and took my hand in hers, leading me up the stairs.
She rang the doorbell and I shivered from the bitter wind. I nibbled on my lower lip. To soothe my nerves, I though about what they'd be serving at the kitchen. That only made it worse, though, since marrying this guy meant I wouldn't have to do that anymore. So, instead, I wondered how many pumpkin spice lattes we would be selling this season.
The door opened and an elderly woman grinned.
"Evelyn!" my mother said and hugged the woman.
"Janine! It's so good to see you!" she said and grinned at me. "You must be Deidre!"
I smiled shyly and held my hand out to shake hers. "It-It's nice to meet you, Mrs...."
"Oh please," she scoffed and pulled me into a bone crushing hug. "We'll be family! Call me Evelyn."
I laughed nervously and followed them inside. I looked around. As soon as you stepped inside, you were in a hallway with family pictures along it. Then on the left was a kitchen with a lot of equipment I had never seen in my life. To the right was a set of stairs. Past the kitchen was a dining room with two rooms branching off: the left was a living room with a huge screen TV and the one in the right was an office of some sort.
I checked the bottom of my shoes before I walked in. My mother and her friend were already headed toward the kitchen. I wondered how my mother knew her and why Evelyn looked so familiar.
I followed behind, hugging myself and feeling completely out of my element. I was never ashamed of who I was but, being in this rich family's house made me feel like a street rat. Evelyn led me to a chair and I sat down stiffly. My husband-to-be was nowhere to be seen. Evelyn noticed and her lips pressed together.
"Get down here!" she yelled up the carpeted stairs.
Something told me he wasn't that pleased about this, either.
I heard heavy footsteps and I chewed on my lower lip. I straightened my hair and pulled self-consciously at my sweater. Then he walked in and my jaw dropped.
"You?" we said in unison.
"You've met?" my mom asked.
He stood at the base of the stairs, still looking stunned. I was the first to recover and I stood up.
"No," I said immediately, heading for the door. "I'd rather live in the van than-"
"Wait," my mom said quickly and grabbed my hand.
The man snorted. "Don't bother. The feeling's mutual."
"Artemis, you stay right there," Evelyn snapped and my mom dragged me back into the kitchen. The man - Artemis - had started walking up the stairs. He glared at her. "You both will sit down and eat breakfast. Then you will hear us out."
I sighed but sat back down, avoiding Artemis' eyes as he sat across from me. Evelyn brought out plates piled with pancakes, bacon, and eggs. She set it in front of me and my stomach growled audibly. I stared in wonder. I had never been given so much food all at once.
I jumped. Evelyn was smiling at me with a small metal pitcher in her hand.
"Uh... uh, no thanks," I breathed.
I wasn't sure if I should wait. Normally, it was eat it as fast as you could or it would be gone. I didn't think that was the case here, though, since both Artemis and Evelyn were both eating slowly. I glanced at my mother. She looked confused, too, and I could feel color climbing up my neck and into my cheeks.
Evelyn cleared her throat and nodded. I picked up my knife and fork and cut into the pancakes. They were light and fluffy and tasted wonderful. Not wanting to make a bigger fool of myself, I ate as slowly as I could manage. But the food was so delicious....
I was done within minutes. Artemis was staring at me so I pretended to be interested in my juice.
"That was delicious," I said in a small voice.
"Why, thank you," Evelyn said proudly. "You sure ate quickly! You must have been hungry."
I only nodded.
"It was good," my mom agreed.
Evelyn straightened up once she was done eating.
"Now, it's time to explain what's going on here," she said and I looked at Artemis. Our eyes met briefly then we both looked at our moms. "Kilgore Productions is a family owned business. We have operated as such for many years and that will not change just because my son is stubborn."
"Mom," he said through clenched teeth.
She ignored him and continued. "I am getting old and I need to retire." She smiled at me. "That's where you come in, my dear."
"So I'm just a game piece?" I asked, trying to hide how insulted I felt.
My mom put her hand on mine. "It's not like that, Dee," she said softly.
"Then why me?" I demanded. "Surely there are... other women."
"What are you saying?" Artemis snapped and we glared at each other.
"Nothing," I snapped back. "But if you take it that way, then perhaps-"
"Stop it," my mom said firmly and I crossed my arm across my chest.
Evelyn sighed. "This is going to happen," she said and I closed my eyes. "It's best for everybody at this table."
I stood up. "Not me."