I stared at the girl before me, and her nervous eyes behind those black rimmed glasses were also set on me. Tentatively, I tucked a strayed strand behind my ear and bit my lip.
I blinked, so did she.
"You done with your stare down match with yourself, Em?" A huff came from behind me. "For God's sake! You're doing this for the last five minutes! You're creeping me out now!"
I glanced at my best friend through the mirror. With folded arms on her chest, sitting at the edge of my bed, she scowled at me.
My eyes went back to my reflection. "I don't know, Beth. Do you think he- he'll like my look?"
"After we spent two hours to doll you up? Yes, we think that he'll like your look. And won't reject you when you announce your undying love for him, " said my other best friend, Casie, standing beside Beth.
Reject. The same word that has been haunting my dreams for years now. I've been waiting for this day for six years. The day he said those words to me. I've been waiting since.
And if he rejects me today… I don't know what I'd do.
"Will you be my prince, Ace? I want to be your princess, " I'd asked my brother's best friend when he gave me a Cinderella dress on my ninth birthday.
He laughed at my silly question, almost breaking my heart. But then when he saw my crestfallen face, he crouched down before me, looking into my turquoise eyes with his stormy grey. "You're my princess."
"Really?" I brightened up like a Christmas tree. "That means you will marry me?"
He bit his lip, his eyes lit up with amusement. "I'm sorry, Rosebud! But I can't."
"Why not?" I pouted.
"Because it's not the right time. You're still so young."
"Then when will be the right time?" I gazed up at him with so much hope.
"When you turn into a blooming rose from a rose bud."
End of flashback~
I'd waited till that day to bloom into a rose. I didn't know what that meant at that moment. But to remember and understand, I'd written those words into my personal diary.
And Casie said at this age we were big enough to have a lover. Well she already had one at the age of fourteen, and is on her fourth at fifteen now.
I knew whatever Ace had said that day was because he didn't want to break a nine year olds naive heart. But I didn't care. I think I was ready to confess my feelings to him today. For real this time.
"Em, you're looking stunning! Though I preferred your long wavy hair. But it's alright, this also suits you, " commented Beth.
I'd cut my waist length hair to my shoulder and tamed my wild waves into straight. Just like Tess, my sister. She and my brother, Tobias, were twins. So obviously, Ace was her best friend too. And I'd once heard him say that he liked Tess's hair. So I turned my hair just like her. Though hers were blonde where mine was chestnut.
"Short hair is in fashion now. And Ace likes them short, " I replied, checking my manicured nails. Just like Tess's.
Just like Ace preferred. All of his girlfriends were just like my sister. Beautiful and classy. Yes, I was jealous of them. But then they all were temporary. Once we'd be together, then there wouldn't be anyone else in his life other than me.
I blushed at the thought.
So I decided to be like them taking inspiration from my sister. Maybe he'd notice me then?
And today's whole makeover was the proof. Dressed like Tess, styled like Tess. I even sneaked her favorite perfume from her room.
"Isn't this dress too short, Casie?" Though I wanted to wear something like Tess, I was uncomfortable in them. Well she looked good in those tight little dresses. She had a good amount on both front and behind. Where I was flat in both ways. Well, a fifteenth year old couldn't have any more.
"Is not! You're wearing that and that's final! Don't you want to make Ace notice you?" She raised her brow.
"Fine!" I said, taking a deep breath. Come on, Em! You can do this!
"Alright, let's go now! Otherwise we will miss you brother and sister's grand entry, " she chirped, sauntering outside.
Today was my older sibling's nineteenth birthday. And every occasion at Hutton family was known to be grand. So no one wanted to miss this special event. Almost half of the renowned families were invited today.
When we all reached the hall, I kept fidgeting in my place. My hands were clammy and my chest thudded. I was nervous for tonight's meeting with Ace. And my too short dress made me more uncomfortable.
I spotted my dad and mom in the crowd. They stood close to each other, as always. They'd to be always by the hips. Even after twenty years of marriage, they were so madly in love with each other.
And that made me hope. If I and Ace would be like that someday…
"Emmy!" Mom's voice broke my daydream.
I smiled and padded towards them.
"Oh my! Look at you! My little baby looks so beautiful today!" she gushed, her smile blinding.
"You think?" I blushed.
"Of course, baby! You should do it more!"
Dad stayed quiet. He didn't seem to be pleased with me dressing up like that. Opposite of my nature.
"You didn't like the gown I brought for you, princess?" he asked.
I did. Very much. But Ace wouldn't like that.
"Of course I did, Dad! But… I couldn't find matching jewelry with it, " I lied.
He nodded his head.
Mom had a knowing look on. She knew, everyone knew of my crush on Achilles Valencian. But they didn't know that it was more than just a mere crush.
He became my dream prince from the day he was introduced to me by Tobias when I was just seven. I still remembered that day clearly in my vague memories. But the day he saved me from some bullies in my school, he became my hero. And with time, he became my heart.
I stopped the urge to cover my flushed cheeks.
Where was he?
I looked around. He should've been here by now. Last month when he played chess with me, he'd promised me he'd be here tonight. And he never broke his promises to me.
He used to come here everyday. But after the tragedy his family faced a year ago, his visit in our home had lessened. He changed. Carefree playful Ace turned into a lost and always angry Ace. But he was always soft with me though. He'd come and see us once a month. And of course, to play chess with me.
The crowd cheered as Tess and Tobias climbed down the stairs in a dramatic way with the spotlight on them. In a pink mid-thigh fairy dress, Tess looked like a real fairy, when Tobias looked good in his black tux. They smiled down at the cameras and everyone as their group of friends clapped and whistled wildly.
But there wasn't still any sign of Ace.
Excusing myself, I aimlessly wandered around the people.
Where are you?
Colliding into a hard chest, I stumbled back. A pair of arms circled around my waist.
"I'm so so…" Looking up, my breath hitched at my throat.
Stormy grey eyes stared down at me. His dense stubbles were gone, showing his chiseled jaw. Jet black hair gelled back and the ring on his right brow wasn't there today. Even though there were dark shadows under his beautiful eyes, and he'd lost some weight than before, he still looked breathtaking.
"Rosebud?" His forehead creased as he straightened me on my feet. His eyes roamed up and down my body, his lips tightening. "What're you wearing?" Greek accent in his voice came deep.
And it happened whenever he was angry.
My eyes widened. Didn't he like my appearance?
"Uh, why? Don't I look good?" I bit my lip. "I thought you'd like it."
His frown deepened as he watched my hair and heavy make-up. But then he shook his head. "You don't need my approval in anything, Emerald. It's your choice to whatever you want to wear." With that, he walked away.
My heart fell. I looked down at myself. Was anything wrong with my look? Why was he so distant?
He has been like this since his Dad died. Our families weren't that close, they always preferred their privacy. So no one really knew what happened to his dad. But whatever happened, it changed my Ace drastically. And it made my heart ache for him.
Running upstairs, I changed into the white gown Dad had brought me and removed my makeup. Once satisfied with my new neutral look, I headed back downstairs.
Ignoring Casie and Beth's raised brows, I went to find Ace again.
My brother and sister were busy chatting with their friends, but he wasn't there.
"Hey, Em!" Tobias called out.
Smiling, I walked to them.
"Aren't you forgetting something, little sis?"
Chuckling, I hugged him tight. "Happy birthday!"
He lifted me off the ground, getting a squeal out of me. "Where is my gift?" he asked, once he put me down.
Tobias loved his birthday gift from me. Actually, he loved the red velvet cake I baked him since I honed my skills in baking. And so did Ace.
"You will get it after the party. It's in the fridge, " I replied, my eyes going back to the crowd for a moment.
And there he was, standing at a corner, beside a table. With a drink in his hand, he looked deep in thought.
"Happy birthday!" Wrapping my arms around Tess, I wished her.
"Thanks!" She pulled back. "You changed?" Her eyes raked over my gown.
Mark, a boy in their group slapped on Ace's back, greeting him. But he ignored him. And when Mark went to reach for the glass in his hand, Ace shot him a sharp look, making him back away.
"Uh, yeah! That dress was slightly uncomfortable, " I said absentmindedly. My eyes set on him. "I will be back just in a minute."
When I went to move, she caught my arm and dragged me away from her friends' earshot.
"You're going to confess tonight, aren't you?"
I let out a surprised gasp. How did she know?
"Don't, " she said in a sharp voice. "You will only be heartbroken."
Frowning, I snatched my arm from her grip. "How do you know? Who knows, maybe he likes me too."
"Don't be foolish, Em! Just because he is soft with you doesn't mean he harbors any kind of feelings for you." Her voice was harsh. "And you and I both know he only cares for you as a brother, not a lover. So don't embarrass him with your stupidness. He is already disturbed with his own problems."
Her words stung. I always feared that his kindness towards me might be just a brotherly love. But deep down, I felt there was more than that. It may be stupid and nonsense, but my heart told me not to lose hope.
I won't know unless I confront him, right?
"I won't embarrass him. And you don't know everything. So why don't you just go and enjoy your party and let me be on my own?" My tone matched hers.
Her blue eyes flashed. "Stay away from him, Emerald. He isn't the one for you."
Now my anger flared. "I will do whatever the hell I want, Tess. It's none of your business! So, leave me alone!" Turning on my heels, I strode away.
Once I'd padded closer to where Ace stood, I took a calming breath and smoothed my hair. No one can stop me from telling you my feelings today.
"Hey!" My voice came out meek, gone the confidence into the air. Nervousness fluttered in my tummy.
His grey eyes lifted to mine. This time his gaze didn't hold displease. But there wasn't any pleasure either. They were just, cold.
He was actually in a bad mood. Should I do it today? But It had taken me so much courage to make up my mind. I didn't know if I could have that much guts anytime soon.
"Won't you play chess with me today, Ace? I've been waiting for another match."
Maybe after the game, his mood turns good?
He thought for a second and then nodded his head. "Yeah, that sounds good. This party is boring me anyway."
My grin was face splitting. "Alright, let me go and ready the board. In the library, as usual?"
He nodded, taking a sip. "I will be up in a few."
Failing to contain my excitement, I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tight. His exotic scent with a tinge of smoke, made me giddy. "I will be waiting for you."
My sudden act caught him off guard as he stood stiff. His touch on my back was almost non-existent. Inhaling a deep breath, he pulled me away by my shoulders.
His lips in a straight line as he said, "Go!"
Nodding my head, I skipped off to our small library and started to make the board ready for play. I could barely contain myself from dancing around. I was finally going to tell him.
Tell him that I love him.
Ten minutes passed, and he wasn't still up. Then it turned into twenty. And there wasn't any sign of him. I even missed the cake cutting so that he wouldn't have to wait if he came here.
He said he'd be here in a few.
Letting out a sigh, I got up and went downstairs again. The party was going on in a full swing. Most elders retired for tonight and there were only the youngers, dancing and drinking wildly.
I spotted Cassie dancing with my brother, and Beth drank with some girls. But I couldn't see him anywhere. The loud music and sharp smell of alcohol almost made me gag.
Where is he?
Making my way through the half wasted dancing population, I padded towards the balcony. But he wasn't even there. Did he forget about our match and left already?
But he never forgets our match.
Sighing in disappointment, I decided to go back up to my room. Maybe another day.
Just when I turned to go, I heard something. Some strange noises. I hadn't fully entered inside the balcony, I stood at the doorway.
Curious, I slowly moved inside and looked at my right.
I froze. My heart stopped in my chest as my breath hitched at my throat. My hands shook at my sides, as I took in the sight before me.
His hands were wrapped tightly around her waist and hers were around his neck; one hand tugged at his hair as their mouth worked on each other in a passionate kiss. Not even an inch of space left between them.
Their every moan and groan hit my heart like thousand stabs of knives, shattering it into millions of pieces. My feet stumbled back, tears fell from my eyes.
His hands roamed around her body as he pulled her more close. My heart squeezed so hard that I had to clutch my chest. A sob threatened to escape my lips but I slapped a hand over my mouth and ran away.
I ran and ran until I was inside my room. Closing the door behind me, I let out an agonized sob. Tears blinded my vision as I still had a hand on my chest that pained physically.
I felt my insides breaking, falling into irreparable pieces.
I heard my best friends knocking on my door, their concerned voices reached my ears. But I couldn't speak, I couldn't move. All I could do was, lie on the floor in my dark room and cry my heart out.
The visions of them tangled around each other's arms flashed across my mind again and again, making it hurt more.
He didn't know, but she did. Her betrayal just intensified the pain more. Betrayal of others could be tolerated, but betrayal of loved ones wasn't.
How could she do this to me? How?
I stayed on the cold floor for the entire night, cradling my heart, mourning the loss of my love.
The love my own sister took away from me.
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, incidents and locations are products of the author's imagination. They don't have any affects in real life. Any resemblance to any living and dead or any events is totally coincidental.