Deidre stormed out the back door. I watched her sit down at the base of the cement stairs and cross her arms. Already she was shivering and her mother, Janine, sighed.
"This is going well," she mumbled.
I stood up. "I agree with Deidre. This may benefit the two of you, but not me."
"Stay there," my mom said and I clenched my hands into fists.
"I'm not a teenager anymore!" I yelled. "And this arranged marriage shit is ridiculous! This kind of thing went out with high buckled shoes!"
"Do you want this company or not?" she snapped and I frowned.
"Then what do you get out of it?" I asked Janine, not bothering to pretend and be polite.
"My daughter's happiness," she whispered.
"Does she look happy!?" I yelled, pointing out the window.
"Don't talk to her like that!" my mom yelled, standing up as well. "Where are your manners?"
"Gone! Just like my say in what happens in my life," I retorted. "I'm not doing this!"
"Yes you are," she said, suddenly calm and I knew the argument was over. "Now go out there and bring her inside."
I scoffed. "Yeah, right."
She glared. "At least get her a decent jacket!"
"She's her mother. Have her do it!"
My mother's glare deepened and I tried my best to match it. I growled and stomped over to our coat closet. I grabbed a random jacket and stormed past the two women, slamming the back door behind me.
"Here," I said grudgingly, standing beside her.
"I don't want it," she said.
"You'll freeze to death."
She didn't answer and I clenched my jaw.
I draped the jacket on her shoulders, anyway, and stood with my hands in my pockets. It had started to snow.
"It's early this year," she mumbled suddenly. "Doesn't usually snow until the end of November."
"You keep an unusual eye on the weather," I muttered.
"You have to when you live in a van."
I stared at her. Was that rusted white van her and her mother's? Had they lived in that all this time? She was crying, wiping her tears on that stupid sweater.
"Why do you still wear that thing?"
"It's all I have. We never got the chance to go to the Salvation Army."
My body moved on its own and I sat beside her.
"You're really homeless?" I whispered and she nodded. "What's it like?"
"Why do you care?"
I shook my head, too tired to argue. We sat and watched the snow fall. I had no idea what to say. I was angry with my mom and her mom. I was also angry with myself. Even though I hated the idea, I was entertaining the idea of marrying the small girl beside me. I would finally have the business in my control and my mom could retire.
"Why do you have to get married?" she asked.
"You heard my mom. I'll get to have control of the company."
"But why? It seems like a stupid reason to force someone to marry."
"I couldn't agree more." I sighed. "We have a lot of clients. I'm forced into this... public view. If I take over and I'm not married, people will wonder if we're truly a family business. That's what appeals the most to our clients." She nodded but didn't say anything. "What about you? Why does your mom want you to get married?"
She rested her chin on her knees. "She wants me to be happy. I don't know why she thinks I'm not."
"You're happy being homeless?" I asked in surprise.
"I don't like having to live in a van and constantly moving parking lots," she admitted. "But it's been me and my mom for ten years. I'm happy wherever she is."
"What about your dad?"
Her face darkened. "He's a douche that doesn't deserve whatever happiness he's found."
I frowned. "That's pretty harsh."
"You wouldn't think so if you met him."
The door opened behind us and we both turned. Our moms were coming out, both in jackets too, and carrying hot chocolate. The four of us sat on the steps, watch the snow.
"We know you're upset," Janine began.
"But this is the best we can do," my mother finished.
"What happens next?" Deidre asked in a defeated voice.
"You and your mom will move in with us," my mom answered and Deidre looked at her in shock.
"Live here?" she asked and my mom nodded. She looked at the house behind her. "But-"
"You said you don't like moving to different lots," her mother said.
"Do I have to quit my job?" she asked. "Because I really like it."
"Nope," Janine said. "But this needs to remain silent until the official announcement."
"Which is when?" I asked, blowing on my hot chocolate before taking a sip.
"In two months," my mom answered promptly. "That gives you two time to get to know each other and we can plan everything. After the announcement, we'll plan the wedding."
"Is there a bathroom I can use?" Deidre asked.
"I guess I'll show you," I muttered and led her inside.
The closest one was on the first floor. She rushed in, closing the door behind her. As I was walking down the hall, I could hear her throwing up.
Deidre and her mom moved in the next day. Janine said they had sold the van to an impound lot. Whatever money they got from that went to buying Janine some new clothes. My mom insisted on taking her and Deidre shopping, though, as soon as possible.
"You two really need decent jackets," my mom sighed, looking at Deidre's tattered sweater.
We left for the store, me in tow reluctantly. I really didn't want to come along but my mom insisted I give my opinion on Deidre's clothing. I sat beside Deidre in the back of the car. We were both staring out the windows. I didn't know what she was thinking, but I'm sure it was negative from the look on her face.
We pulled into Burlington first and found good pea coats for both women. Deidre decided on a blood red one that looked really good on her. After that, we went to Kohl's. I had been clothes shopping once before with my mom and this was more boring than last time; especially when she got two carts instead of one. I kept falling asleep in the chair by the dressing room.
"What do you think?" my mom kept asking, dragging Deidre out of the dressing rooms.
"Looks good," I said each time and my mom glared at me.
It was the truth, though. Deidre was the kind of girl that could pull anything off. We were there for at least three hours and I got my phone out to scroll through Facebook. Per our mothers' requests, I didn't tell anyone about the engagement. But I'd have to introduce her to my friends someday soon....
I wondered what they'd think. Mike and James shouldn't give us much trouble. Vince had always been a flirt, though, and I laughed to myself. I wondered how she'd react to the first time he tried. Of course, she already knew Larry.
As she tried on the last of the clothes my mom pushed on her, I realized she probably didn't have any friends. Hopefully, if they liked her, James would introduce her to his girlfriend.
I glared at the floor. Why had I become so easily bent to the idea?