Blitzed by the BillionaireBy: Alice Ward
“Go ahead,” she insisted. “Just say it.”
“If your dream is to travel the world with Henry, by all means follow it. I just think you should keep in mind that living out of boxes and suitcases gets old pretty quick.”
Linda crossed her legs and rolled her green eyes, her freckled face lit with amusement. “It’s not like we’d be traveling nonstop. Henry will be based here and I can stay behind when I feel like it. I understand that traveling gets old. What I don’t understand is how you’re happy to settle for a vanilla life after seeing first-hand how big this world is and how much it has to offer.”
If it had been the first time she’d called my life vanilla, I may have been a little insulted. But that was her go-to term to describe the life I wanted with Ben.
“I’m not settling. I love Ben,” I reminded her for the umpteenth time.
“You love the idea of him,” she corrected me.
I opened my mouth to protest, but she cut me off.
“I know you’re tired of me bringing this up. But we’re friends, right?”
“Right,” I agreed with a resigned sigh.
“And as your friend, it’s my job to make sure you’re honest with yourself. I know you’re hoping for a proposal. And I think you might be right. Ben may be close to popping the question. But I’ve seen the way you look at him, Emily. You love him, but you’re not in love with him. There’s no spark, no fire between you. I get that you’re in love with his family. But if you and Ben get married, he’s the one you’ll be living with, day in and day out.” She leaned forward, her eyes earnest. “I don’t want you to wake up ten years from now and realize you’ve made a huge mistake.”
I straightened my shoulders and diverted my eyes toward the window. I couldn’t look at Linda because a small voice in the back of my head was wondering if she was right. I’d made that mistake in college. I started dating my boyfriend Ryan the first semester of my sophomore year. Like Ben, Ryan had a large, stable family that had instantly accepted me into their fold. And I got so comfortable with them so quickly, I ignored the fact that Ryan and I were incompatible for a year and a half.
This situation is entirely different. Ben and I love each other. Maybe we don’t ‘spark’. But we understand each other. We can depend on each other. And I’ll take that over fire any day.
I cleared my throat and turned back to Linda. “Like you said, I’ve seen what the world has to offer. Now, I just want to carve out my own small, happy piece of it. I’m happy for you and Henry, I really am. Do you plan to finish out the school year? Or am I going to have to watch Mr. and Mrs. Hollis quiz your replacement on the proper administration of an Epi-pen?” I asked, attempting to bring our conversation back around to light-hearted.
Linda smiled back at me and climbed out of the tiny chair. “I haven’t made any decisions yet. But speaking of the Hollis family, we should head down to the nurse’s office. One of the commandments of teaching kindergarten is ‘thou shalt not keep nervous parents waiting.’”
“Lead the way,” I said, rolling my chair away from my desk. I followed Linda out of the room and we set off to assure the Hollis parents once again that we were capable of taking care of their children.
“Are you ready for this?” Ben asked. He held open the door of Market Seafood and I stepped past him into the entryway. A blonde hostess in a crisp white shirt and black tie held open the interior door. I took Ben by the arm and gave him a determined smile.
“Maybe he’ll be in a good mood,” I suggested, trying to hide my nerves. Uncle Walt had made it no secret that he disapproved of Ben, but for my sake, he usually stayed on his best behavior when we were all together.
“Good evening,” the hostess greeted us. She ushered us through the door and grabbed two menus.
“Hello,” Ben replied. “There will actually be three of us. I believe we have a reservation.”
“Kinkaid?” she asked, a hint of a smile lighting her face.
Uncle Walt’s still sweet talking the ladies, I see.
I nodded and she returned the menus to the hostess station. “Walt is already here. Just follow me.”
She snaked her way across the dimly lit dining room and I spotted my uncle at a corner table. His eyes fell on me and he rose with open arms. He wrapped me in a hug and kissed the side of my head.
“It’s so good to see you, Em. I hope traffic wasn’t too bad?”
I knew the question was a veiled reference to the fact that we were ten minutes late, but I kept my tone light and patient. “We got held up at school this afternoon and we’ve been running late ever since.”