Grabbing a bottle of wine off of the counter, I take a quick swig. It burns at the back of my mouth, but still tastes so sweet. I let the bubbles flow over my tongue as I take another sip. My father walks in, and immediately tuts at me.
“Where are your manners, stupid girl!” He snatches the wine off of me, so a little trail of wine dribbles down my dress. It looks pretty, I think to myself, as the crimson stain deepens on my cotton dress, seeping through my clothes rapidly. Father won’t be impressed. “Oh, look what you’ve done now! You’ll have to take it off.”
“I have nothing else to wear,” I tell him, exasperated. We have this conversation every time, and it’s starting to bore me now. “You don’t like all of my clothes, remember?”
“You can’t show up with a wine stain on your dress,” he seethes, and whispers something to our personal chef. “Just find another dress – preferably a black one, so your clumsy hands don’t spill anything else on it – and then come down quickly; our guests will be arriving soon.”
Leaving my father to stew, I hold back my retort and leave the room. It takes an age to get up to my room (the joys of having 3 billion stairs in the house) but once I get up there, and into the comfort of my room, it’s worth the trek.
My room is vast and spacious, and decorated in every shade of pink you can find. Not my choice of course; my father wanted it to be pink, because my preference of blue was ‘too boyish’. Apart from the colour, everything in my room is to my liking, and suits me just fine. My bed takes up almost the whole of my room, and my wall is adorned with posters, which, if my father knew about them, I’m fairly sure I would be kicked out. They’re not exactly to his taste. Then again, nothing I do is to the taste of my father…
I open my wardrobe, and start rooting around for an outfit to wear. I skim past all of my short tops and low-cut jeans, knowing my father will simply die of shock if I don’t turn up in a dress. I grace my hands across one of the only dresses I have: the short and skimpy black lace one. I slip into it, and feel around the bottle of my wardrobe. I find the bottle of wine that I stashed from months ago, and I open it, chugging it for extra courage. Dinner with the Millers? I’m going to need it.
I strut down the stairs, loving the feel of the lace against my skin, when I see someone leaning against the stairs. I cough slightly, trying to get their attention.
“Excuse me? Can I help you?”
He turns around at the sound of my voice, and for a few seconds, I am struck silent. I try not to stare too much, but he seems to have felt my attraction anyway. He flashes me with a cheeky grin, and stares up at me from the bottom of the stairs.
“You can help me if you want, sweetheart. What do you have in mind?” He has a British accent, which is quite refreshing to hear; around here, we only have annoying-sounding American boys. I lick my lips, starting to feel a little nervous, but unwilling to let him know that.
“What are you doing in my house?” I question him calmly, returning my journey down the stairs. I feel his eyes follow me the whole time, and it’s a wonder that I don’t trip.
“I’ve heard there is a dinner?”
As I get to the bottom of the stairs, I turn to face him. “Did you get an invite?”
“Jacob?” The frantic voice of Andrea Miller rings through the house. She barges through the door, and as soon as she lays eyes on her son, she charges towards him, eyes ablaze with fury. “I told you, you can’t walk through people’s houses like this. It’s rude!” She spots me. “Oh, hello dear. I see you’ve already met my son. Are you excited for the dinner?”
“Ecstatic,” I reply monotonously, and I see Jacob smirk beside me.
“Well, let’s go take our seats, Jacob,” she ushers him through the door, “dinner will be ready soon.”
I sigh, and manage to compose myself before entering after them. This is going to be a terribly long night.
An hour later, we are all sitting at the table, and the appetising smell of beef and potatoes linger around the dining room. As we tuck in, there are several moans of appreciation. It seems that Mrs Blooming, our cook, has excelled once again with her meals. My father will be giving her high praise, as always. Must be nice.
“So, Jacob,” my father begins, just about finishing his mouthful, “what is it you do again?”
“Oh, he’s going to be an accountant,” his mother finishes his sentence for him, and a pit of fury starts developing in my stomach. “Tell them, dear.”
“Actually,” Jacob wipes his mouth with a cloth, “I just dropped out of accounting school last week. I’m going to be a tattoo artist.”
My dad chokes a little on his food. Andrea stares at him aghast, her mouth wide open – really, it’s a shock she doesn’t have any bugs fly in there. I see her grip tighten on her fork, as her knuckles begin to turn white. I grin at him, impressed with his frankness and honesty. Andrea, however, is not amused by it at all.
“But we said, you were to be an accountant,” she says through gritted teeth. “It’s the only way to make up for your heinous behaviour throughout school.”
“I didn’t kill anyone, ma,” he reminds her.
“You were out with them boys every day, probably up to no good. I wouldn’t be shocked if you did, you insubordinate little boy. How dare you drop that news on me, right here, in front of our neighbours! Tell me: do you have no soul?”
“I think it’s time to leave.” Percy Miller, who hadn’t spoken a word all night, finally speaks up. He removes his napkin from his neck, and begins to stand up. I, for one, am not yet ready for this train wreck to end. I also stand up, swaying slightly from the wine, and I laugh at them.
“You don’t need to go yet,” I state, leaning on the table for support. Jacob, through my blurred eyes, seems bemused by my display. “We aren’t even onto dessert yet.”
“I think it’s best for everyone if we leave,” Andrea insists, placing a hand on her son’s shoulder, but he makes no effort to move.
“My cook, Mrs Blooming, she’ll be awfully upset if you leave. It’s disrespectful. You don’t want to be disrespectful now, do you?”
“With all due respect, we have decided we are going to leave.” She tries to get Jacob to leave. My father gets up, and shakes Percy’s hand.
“It was lovely seeing you for this fleeting occasion.” He tells him. “Hopefully next time, we won’t have such… interruptions.” He motions towards Jacob, and anger starts bubbling in me. It travels through my body, in my blood, and I can feel my face start to get hot and flustered. I round on him, and he doesn’t see my annoyance until I am right under his nose.
“Interruptions? So, because he doesn’t grow into your tiny mould, he’s an interruption? He’s a human being, not your littler toy, and so being so focused on yourself. Just because your lives are dissatisfying, doesn’t mean ours should be. It’s his life not yours.”
My father stares at me, outraged. “I think it is best that you go upstairs.”
“Oh yes, banish me to my room. It’s easier to send me away than to actually be a proper parent. That’s why you sent me to boarding school, isn’t it?” A collective gasp travels around the room, and I’m glad I have everyone stunned. “Just face it: I’ve never been enough for you. I never have, and I never will. The sooner you start to realise I’m not your slave, the better.” I grab the bottle of wine from the table, and storm out of the room. I don’t stop until I’m out on the driveway, staring up into the dark night sky, filled with twinkling stars. A few minutes later, the door slams shut from behind me, and a warm hand is placed on my shoulder.
“That was some speech you gave there,” Jacob jokes, as he takes the bottle from my hand. “And I don’t think you’ll be needing any more of this today.”
“Let’s go away,” I plead with him, grasping his hand. “We don’t need them, let’s just get away.”
“You don’t know me,” he says to me gently.
“Come on, you must have a motorbike that we can drive away from here on,” I tell him. “All the British boys in romance films do. We can ride off into the sunset together. Please tell me you have a motorbike?”
“I don’t have a motorbike, and we’ve passed the sunset stage, I’m afraid.” My face falls instantly. “But I do have a car.” He points to a Mercedes parked at the end of the drive. I squeal, and start pelting towards it. “Be careful!” He shouts from behind me.
“I’ll drive!” I yell over my shoulder at him, as he starts chasing after me.
“No you won’t,” he smiles, leading me to the passenger side of the car. “You just sit there, and we will go find somewhere to stay. Do you need anything from your room?”
“Gosh no,” I clasp my head. “Just get me out of here.”
“Duly noted.” He acknowledges my request, and he climbs into the driver seat. We set off, the windows fully down, the wind whipping through my hair. The salty breeze from the ocean tickles my nostrils, and, under the playful glance of the moon, I feel freer than I ever have done in my life. I haven’t known Jacob for more than a few hours, but I already know he’s helped me to find the freedom I deserve. My neighbour’s son, Jacob.