When we got back to the house, my mom was going insane. She was running around the kitchen, opening and closing drawers. She started slamming plates into the dishwasher. She was ranting to herself but we couldn't understand what she was saying.
"There you are," she growled and we both stepped back. "I thought I told you guys not to say anything!"
I frowned. "What are you talking about?"
She pointed to a magazine and Deidre picked it up. I read the headline over her shoulder and we sighed in unison. It was the picture we took at the Chase's light display with Kilgore finally engaged! under it.
"Can I borrow your phone?" Deidre asked through clenched teeth. I passed it over. She looked furious as she scrolled through my contacts. "How do I put this on speaker?"
Larry picked up just as we pressed the speaker icon.
"I swear I didn't say a word!" he said.
"Then how else did they find out?" Deidre snapped.
"Look, the media always blows things our of proportion. I know I'm on speaker. Evelyn, you should know how good they are at-"
"Have you said anything to anyone?" my mother demanded, gripping the countertop and glaring at the phone as if he were there.
"No. I swear to God. Hook me up to a lie detector test if it'll make you feel any better." He sighed. "Do you remember the articles that came out when your husband died?" I closed my eyes. Of course we did. "This is just another case of that, okay? Don't confirm or deny anything."
"So we're supposed to just pretend this never happened?" Deidre asked.
Deidre sighed heavily. "Do you think they know who I am or where I work?"
"No, I don't think so. I read the article and there's no mention of your name or the shop's."
"So I'm nameless."
"For now," I murmured.
"Look, if you don't want to come in tomorrow, that's okay."
"No, I think I should. If I don't show my face in public, they'll get suspicious."
"All right." He paused. "I'm really sorry about this, guys. It'll pass. I promise."
Deidre went upstairs and closed her door without saying goodbye. I hesitated. Should I go up to talk to her? I looked over at my mom but she was talking to Larry, having taken him off of speaker. I sighed and climbed the stairs. I unbuttoned my shirt and pondered hiring Larry as our PR agent. It was starting to look like we'd need one.
I stopped at Deidre's room. I couldn't hear anything. I knocked but she didn't answer.
"I'm in my room if you wanna talk," I said then crossed the hall, closing my door quietly.
My alarm went off at 7:45 and I got dressed quickly. When I got out into the hall, her door was open but she wasn't in her room. I frowned and walked downstairs. She was about to leave.
"So you're just going to walk to work?" I asked as she put her coat on.
She sighed. "I didn't think you'd want to be seen with me," she said. "Not after that," she added, glaring at the magazine on the countertop.
I sighed, too. "Look, Larry was right. As far as anyone is concerned, you and I are just dating."
"Why would they jump right to engagement?"
"Because I'm single, 27, and about to inherit a large corporation," I pointed out. "Well, I was single." When she didn't look convinced, I took her upper arms in my hands. "It'll be fine. I promise. Let's get you to work and-"
She opened the door and slammed it immediately. There was a media zoo outside of the house. Her eyes were wide.
"Artemis, if they see me come out of here," she began.
"Yeah, I know."
I looked around but, before I could make a suggestion, she was already slipping out of the back door. I ran after her.
"What are you doing?" I whispered.
"Meet me five houses down," she whispered back. "Just trust me," she said when I didn't move.
She climbed over our fence and disappeared in my neighbor's yard. I groaned and hurried back in the house. I dialed Larry's number to let him know she'd be late. I took a deep breath and walked out. I was swarmed by reporters and cameras flashing in my face. I didn't say anything as I pushed through the crowd to my car.
"Is it true you're engaged?"
"Is she staying at your house?"
"Did your mother have anything to do with this?"
"Do you love her?"
I finally got to my car and started it. I gave them a warning honk and two flashes of my lights. When none of them moved, I put it in reverse and slowly put pressure on the gas. A few yelled but got out of the way. I drove down to the left and prayed she got to wherever she was without being seen by one of my neighbors.
I frowned. She was sitting on the curb. When she saw me - and the press - she leaned back on her hands. She made a small motion to indicate that I should roll down my window.
"Thank goodness you got here!" she yelled and I blinked. What was she doing? "I forgot where you lived again!"
The press had caught up and she stood, making a show of wiping her pants. She widened her eyes pointedly and I quickly got out of the car, going to open the other side.
"I got here as fast as I could," I said loudly.
We got in and I sped down the street. She kept her eye on the side mirror. I took a few back roads.
"They're gone," she sighed.
"Quick thinking," I praised and she laughed.
"Oh, I hope they don't follow me," she groaned.
We were getting close to the shop.
"Hey, it would make for good advertising!" I joked and she punched my arm. I laughed then stopped. "Oh shit."
We got to the light just before the shop. It was swarmed with the press, too. Deidre bit her lip.
"I don't have an escape plan for this," she muttered.
"Remember: we're dating," I drilled as I parked in the lot. I lowered my voice just in case. "I'm just a good boyfriend dropping you off at work. Do not answer any questions."
She looked at me, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "Why do I feel like I'm in a Hollywood movie?"
I chuckled and got out, going around to open the door for her. As soon as she came out, the questions started. I ignored them but she was shaking a little, clearly overwhelmed. When we got to the entrance, Larry opened it and I planted a quick kiss on her cheek, prompting a lot of "awws" from the crowd.
"I'll be back at eight," I mumbled and she nodded.
As I went back to my car, I started to feel guilty. I was used to the press but she wasn't even used to being around that many people at once. I sighed, giving them a warning honk as I pulled out of the parking lot.
There was still that nagging question, though:
How did they find out where she worked?