The proposal went viral fast. We had been 'officially' engaged for one day before the magazines went insane. There was a picture of when I proposed to her in front of the fountain. I had hoped it would be positive but they were still labeling her as a charity case.
"I don't care anymore," Deidre said when I expressed my frustration. She was smiling at the ring. "I have you and a wedding to look forward to."
I smiled and kissed her. "When do you want to start planning it?"
"When people stop freaking out if that's okay," she answered. "We can barely get to The Wholly Grind without almost running people over. Can you imagine walking through floral shops?"
I chuckled. We were going at a snail's pace to get to the coffee shop. Not only were the streets crowded with holiday travelers, but now we were followed all the time by paparazzi. The only time she and I could get relief is when we were at work or at home.
I leaned over and kissed her when I pulled in to drop her off. She smiled into the kiss and I rubbed our noses together, making her giggle.
"I'll see you at seven, future-Mrs.-Kilgore," I said and she giggled again.
As I drove off, though, I wondered when the next attack of people would be. I was hoping for not a long time but I knew better.
I walked into the lobby and, sure enough, there were at least ten reporters in there waiting for me. Unfortunately, so was one of my ex-girlfriends Izzy. I quickly jogged for the elevator but she blocked the way. She threw her arms around me and planted a kiss on my cheek.
"I've missed you so much!" she said, loud enough for the reporters to hear.
"Stop it," I snapped. "I know what you're trying to do. It's not going to work."
She pouted as I tried to pry her arms off of me.
"But we worked so well together," she purred.
I rolled my eyes. "I'm in love. Back off."
She snorted. "With the charity case?" she asked. "I'd make a much better wife."
"Actually, no you would. Now let me go."
"Or what?" she hissed, narrowing her eyes. Her voice dropped. "I could say anything to these reporters and they will happily print it in two seconds."
I looked at her. It was true. One word and we could be ruined.
"What do you want?" I snapped.
"You," she answered. "Get rid of the street rat."
"Not going to happen." My heart was pounding, though. The company was on the line. "Let me go or I'll call the cops."
She sighed dramatically. "I guess they'll have to hear about the abortion you made me get."
My eyes widened. "You wouldn't," I growled.
"Try me," she challenged.
"I'm in love with Deidre, Izzy," I snapped. "I know why you're interested but you don't deserve it."
"Last chance, Kilgore," she snarled.
"No," I said firmly.
She raised her voice. "You're the one that talked me into the abortion!"
The people around us gasped and camera shutters clicked. I glared at her, steaming.
"You're a lying bitch," I snarled and the person nearest me passed along the message. "You're trying to ruin my name!" I finally got her arms off of me. "Go find someone else to manipulate." I walked to the elevator, pressed the up button, then turned. Everyone was waiting with bated breath. "By the way, expect to hear from my lawyer."
The doors opened. I pressed 10 and stood with a stoic face as they took more pictures. Izzy was glaring, her hands balled into fists. The doors closed and I kicked the side of the elevator angrily. When I got to my mom's office, she was on the phone and I paced in front of her.
"What's wrong?" she asked when she hung up. "You look upset."
"It's that bitch, Izzy!" I yelled.
I told her what happened and she sighed, rubbing her temples.
"I'm calling Larry," she said.
"And I'm calling my lawyer," I growled, getting my cell phone out.
She didn't stop me.
"She did what!?" Larry yelled from the office.
I frowned over my shoulder but smiled at the customer. She looked worried.
"It's fine," I said. "Sometimes his 3 year-old niece likes to flush things down the toilet."
The woman giggled. "My daughter used to do that all the time." She glanced out the window where reporters were talking into microphones and taking pictures. "How do you deal with this zoo?"
I showed her the ring on my finger. "I'm in love."
She beamed and left. A reporter slipped in and, before I could tell him to leave, he beckoned his camera crew in.
"How do you feel knowing that Artemis Kilgore talked his ex-girlfriend into getting an abortion?" he asked and shoved the microphone into my face.
I kept my face even but inside I was screaming. They were waiting for an answer.
"You need to leave," I said softly.
"Did you know about the abortion?" he pressed.
Don't do something stupid, Deidre.
"You need to leave," I repeated.
"Do you think he did it because he didn't want an illegitimate heir?"
"Unless you're buying something, you need to leave."
"Are you afraid he would make you get an abortion?"
Tears of anger were threatening but I blinked them away. There was no way in hell I would cry in front of these assholes. Before I could say anything, the office door slammed open. Larry stood in the doorway, looking furious.
"Get out," he snapped. "Unless you're buying something, you have to leave. You know the rules. Get those cameras out of my employee's face."
The reporter made a cutting motion on his neck and the camera man lowered his camera.
"What are you going to do? Call the police?"
"If I have to," Larry said, holding up his cell.
The reporter glared at it for a few seconds. I held my breath but he turned and stormed out, pushing the door open with so much force it hit another reporter in the face, causing a bloody nose. Normally, Larry would go to help but he waited until the door was closed to turn me around.
"It's a lie," he said immediately.
"I know," I whispered but I was crying.
"But do you know?"
"He'd never talk a girl into getting an abortion. But I don't know if he had gotten a girl pregnant." I hesitated, biting my lip. "He wouldn't lie to me, would he?"
He held my left hand up so I could see the ring. I looked and wiped my tears away with my right hand.
"He made you a promise when he put this on your finger," he said firmly. "He wanted to come talk to you but I told him to wait. If they see his car coming, they'll assume he's come to lie to you. I know how these bastards work. Just work like normal."
"Okay," I whispered.
"Go compose yourself," he said in a soft voice.