We kept what we did a secret from our moms. I didn't know about Artemis, but I wanted to avoid the smug looks on their faces. I knew Evelyn would give us crap for days. They returned about an hour after and I got dressed quickly. Artemis gave me a quick kiss on the lips before I hurried into my room.
They called us downstairs ten minutes later and we walked down as if nothing had happened. I knew he was thinking about it by the way he kept nudging me with a wink. I shoved him and he laughed. When we saw the look on our mothers' faces, though, that changed.
"What's wrong?" I asked, sitting beside Artemis at the table.
"You guys weren't watching the news?"
We were a little busy.
Evelyn sighed. "The abortion story: as you know, we went tonight to try and dispel it. It's not working." I glanced at Artemis. He looked furious. "So we have to be careful about how we're going to go about planning the wedding."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"If they see you picking things out, they're going to immediately assumed you're getting married because you're pregnant."
"Why is that a problem?"
This was all new to me so I didn't see the big deal.
"Imagine the headlines, Deidre," she sighed. She held her hands up and spread them "Charity Case: Married Because Pregnant?"
"Right," I muttered.
"Have you heard from your lawyer yet?" my mom asked Artemis.
He nodded. "He called me earlier this morning. He said he'll take the case but we'll have to be careful. He's worried about what the press would say should they find out. They could do a hatchet job."
"Haven't they already?" I mumbled. "God, this is a mess."
"Why can't we just ignore it all and go on like normal?" my mom asked.
"Because it will give off the impression that we don't take things like this seriously," Evelyn answered. "As you know, this all started because we're a family business. When people read that Artemis had a girl get an abortion, it is slowly destroying the company. I've already had 30 clients demanding to know if the abortion story is true. I'm glad they trust me or we would have lost them by now."
I rubbed my eyes. "Damn it. What's Larry doing?"
"Coming up with more material to argue our point," my mom answered. "Anything to counter that woman's claim."
My head shot up. "I know what to do!" They stared at me. "Call doctors in the area and find out who it is that 'verified' the abortion."
"She's probably already paid him off," Artemis said.
"Normally I would frown on this," I said, "but we can pay for him, too."
Evelyn had a curious expression on her face. "You know what, Deidre? I think you're on to something there. I'll give Larry a call."
The next day we decorated the house. We were listening to classic Christmas music and I whistled along. Eventually, though, I picked up on Artemis' boredom from traditional music so I knelt down by their CD collection.
"What are you doing?" he asked as he hung lights around the living room.
"You'll see," I answered. I came across a group called 'The Trans-Siberian Orchestra' with two Christmas CDs. "Can you show me how to work the CD player?"
"Sure," he said and jumped off the step ladder.
He opened the disk insert. He took the current CD out and I hid the one I was about to put in from him.
"Aw, tell me," he begged. "Please!"
"You'll find out in, like, two seconds."
He chuckled and we waited for the player to read the disc. It eventually did and the music started. He laughed and kissed me on the cheek.
Next came the Christmas tree. I was excited. I hadn't decorated a Christmas tree in 10 years. They had a lot of ornaments and Evelyn passed them out to each of us. When it came time to put up the star, Artemis lifted me by my hips so I could put it up. I squealed at the sudden height but enjoyed it all the same. We stepped back to admire our handiwork and Evelyn insisted on pictures.
Christmas eve came quickly and I was incredibly excited. Evelyn wanted to do something but she was also nervous. She was afraid people were going to bring in cameras so we invited just a few people.
Larry came with sparkling champagne and a meat tray. Two people I didn't recognize that worked with Evelyn and my mom arrived with more booze and cheese and crackers. Artemis had invited his friends and I was excited to see Nancy again. I wasn't able to since the media was attacking me everywhere I went.
"It's great to see you again!" I said, giving her a hug. "Merry Christmas Eve!"
Nancy hugged me back. We ventured into the living room where Artemis had plugged his iPod into the radio again and was playing a mixture of all kinds of Christmas music. Evelyn introduced me to her two friends from work. One was named Sarah and was very kind. She made sure I understood right away that she didn't believe a thing the media said.
"Artemis is a wonderful young man," she said, shaking her head. "Those people are so awful."
The other's name was Grant. He was really young and was interning in the marketing department, too. He looked incredibly nervous to be among such well known people. When I asked why, he let out a nervous titter.
"I'm only 20 years old," he breathed. "Mrs. Kilgore hired me almost on the spot after seeing me at a competition."
"He's a wonderful worker," Evelyn insisted, making him turn red.
"So, who are you going to beat up at this party, Deidre?" Vince asked, putting his arm on my shoulders and I laughed.
"You if you don't get your arm off of me," I joked and he chuckled, stepping back.
They still didn't know about what happened to me and I kept it that way. I was glad that Artemis had also kept it a secret.
For the first part of the party, the women gushed over my ring and the proposal story.
"It was my mother's," Evelyn said, smiling at it fondly. "She wanted me to give it to Artemis when the time was right."
Artemis pulled me away to hang out with our friends after that. I was getting uncomfortable so I thanked him for saving me. I may be a girl, but I wasn't all about clothes and jewelry and makeup. Nancy looked happier than the last time I had seen her. She was sitting on James' lap and joking around with Vince. Artemis and I sat beside them on the floor and I leaned into him.
"Are you excited about tomorrow?" Mike asked and I nodded enthusiastically.
"I haven't had a Christmas in 10 years," I said without thinking and clamped my mouth shut.
Only Artemis and Nancy knew out of the group. They stared at me, curious, and I sighed.
"Deidre and her mother, Janine, really were homeless before we met," Artemis said quietly, giving me a kiss on the cheek.
The look on their faces was horror. Mike groaned, Vince shut his eyes, and James covered his face in Nancy's shoulder.
"I had no idea it was true," Mike breathed. "I am so sorry Deidre. That explains so much."
I shifted uncomfortably. "Thanks but I'm happy now. I visited the kitchen we used to go to. They were in trouble so we donated some money."
"What was it like?" Vince asked. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
"It's okay." I accepted some eggnog from my mom. That's when I realized everyone had heard and they were gathered around. "Just... I don't want this getting out more than it already has."
"Our lips are sealed," Sarah promised.
I took a deep breath. "Well, we started being homeless when I was 13...."