In all of Anastasia's life, she always had plenty to surround her, especially people. People who envied her, people who despised her, people who admired her beauty, and people who wanted to be her. During her high school years, she had interacted with many people but considered only few to be her real close friends. Before she had met Mitchell, she was quite cautious about her relationships and often stayed tucked away like a rose bud closed shut, only unraveling her layers if her trust was earned. Anastasia, although young and not yet matured, possessed a kind of wisdom in her own ways. She could see through people, so she often got frustrated when she found it challenging to read someone. Perhaps it was part of the reason why she couldn't understand James for the life of her. And when she had gotten married, she had lost touch with most of her friends while they too, found a living of their own.
She had three close friends in high school; a boy named Willis, a husky, freckled, dirty blonde-haired of a guy who gained her friendship by being the only boy in the whole school who didn't develop a crush on her much to Anastasia's relief, as she had grown tired of the attention. Alexandra and Hattie, who were her childhood friends and daughters of her father's colleagues, remained friends with her for they knew of her popularity. They were close to her on superficial terms and often envied her secretly, for Anastasia had unintentionally captured the attention of all the boys they desired. They supported her relationship with Mitchell, all the while behind closed doors jealous that such a pretty faced rebel like one of The Higgins' son would take fancy in such a snobby girl. And as her relationship with him grew, they saw and heard less and less from Anastasia. She was in touch with herself, knowing very well what she was and was not, what made her tick and what made her happy, but every once in a while, she was capable of getting lost in something so cliche as love. All in all, Anastasia never found herself in a true, genuine friendship with the same-sex.
But it was on a rainy afternoon in November that she met a girl named Cecilia inside the quiet library of her high school during her sophomore year. Anastasia, legs crossed and all, was sitting between an aisle of shelves of books, frustrated that she couldn't find the right book to read for her book report. It took a lot to interest Anastasia and school and reading were not much to be entertained by. She was just about ready to give up, books that bore her piling around her, when she looked up to see someone hold out a book to her face.
"Here." The girl said. "Try this, it's about a boy who gets stuck in the jungle after he survives a plane crash. Quite moving, really."
Anastasia looked up to see a pair of light brown eyes belonging to a girl who smiled at her along with a straight set of pearly whites. Anastasia looked at it for a moment before taking it. She looked back at the girl, not recognizing who she was. She looked back down at the book and before she could thank the girl, she had already disappeared out of sight. They would not meet again for another following week, when the two ran into each other at the library once more when Anastasia was returning the book she had recommended. It was then that Anastasia thanked her, and learned that her name was Cecilia. She was a year ahead and valedictorian of her class. Anastasia, much to her surprise, felt like a different person, if not nice, around Cecilia. Perhaps it was the impression she got when looking into her soft, brown eyes, that told her that Cecilia saw nothing more than a girl, maybe even a friend, and not someone to be envied for what they looked like. She treated Anastasia like an ordinary person, and her kindness made it impossible for Anastasia to show any ounce of attitude. From then on, Cecilia became that one and only true friend who Anastasia would do anything for, as Cecilia would do the same. It was also then, that, for the first time in her life, Anastasia found out what friendship was about, one without two sides or superficiality.
Then high school went on, and Cecilia graduated a year ahead of Anastasia before furthering her education abroad. And as much as the two tried to write each other, communication eventually became difficult. Eventually, they lost all contact except an occasional postcard here and there. So it came as a surprise when Anastasia's Mother phoned her and told her an old friend who was in town was looking for her. Cecilia had returned to Rhode Island for the coming fall and winter and wanted to get together with Anastasia for the first time in years. Upon that learning Anastasia had gotten married and moved to Newport, she told her Mother to deliver the message that she would be there for work and was looking for her as well. And so, after finally speaking to Cecilia, they arranged to meet each other for brunch. When the day came, Anastasia sat inside a little french restaurant perched right at the end of the wharf, waiting for her old friend. She laid her cloth napkin on her lap, smoothing it over her as a waiter poured tea into her cup. She looked over the water, which was a distance away before the shore beneath the restaurant. October was approaching and fall was coming, the air getting chillier and lesser people adorning the shores and sailing the seas, before the winter's snow would eventually wipe them out altogether.
Just then, she heard someone say her name with such giddiness it made her turn her head, coming face to face with a transformed Cecilia coming at her with open arms. Anastasia stood up, the two embracing and greeting each other. The two broke apart, Cecilia taking a good look at Anastasia.
"My, Anastasia!" She beamed, her face in disbelief. "How much you've changed! In a good way of course! But your beauty is unfaltering!"
"Oh, stop it, Cecilia," Anastasia rolled her eyes at this as the two finally sat down. "And might I say the same about you? Look at you, no longer that sweet bookworm but a fine sophisticated woman. A fine sophisticated journalist, at that."
"Oh, now, that's quite the title," Cecilia chuckled as a waiter came and poured tea into her china and placed a tier of an assortment of finger sandwiches and pastries in between them. "I apologize for our lack of contact over the years, things just got so-"
Anastasia shook her head and held a gloved hand up to interrupt her.
"You're fine Cecilia, it's a two way street. I, too, as you can tell, have gotten busy with life. What, with being forced to grow up and be a married woman within the course of a few months and all." She lifted her teacup and took a sip. "How's everything? Your family? Your job? Are you married? You must tell me everything."
"Well, after I left for Paris, I took a few months off just getting to know the city before starting college. Oh, Anastasia, it was divine." She placed a hand to her chest, a look of bliss on her face. "It was easy to fall in love with the place, and easier it was to fall in love in general in a city as such. I had about two serious relationships over the course of a few years there. But in the end, I was too focused on getting school done and starting a career. I got a job as a traveling journalist right after graduation and things have just been taking off ever since. I'll be traveling to Africa next month to cover a documentary."
"You're living the dream," Anastasia gazed at hear, slowly shaking her head. "If I could achieve even half of what you've accomplished."
"Oh I'm sure you've done quite a lot, your Mother mentioned to me that you got married two months ago. You're lucky to even have found someone as young as you are, I mean ever since Father fell ill, my Mother has been pressuring me to get married. She's grateful for my success but at 21, she's getting worried for me." Cecilia rolled her eyes, taking a bite out of a sandwich.
"Don't do it," Anastasia leaned in and glared at her. "It's a curse. If I could switch places with you, I would in a heartbeat."
"Oh you're exaggerating," Cecilia laughed. "Who's the lad anyway?"
"James. James Lockheart." Anastasia sighed, buttering a croissant. "Some guy who runs his Father's company."
"Wait...did you say," Cecilia slowly laid her cup and saucer back on the table, squinting her eyes at Anastasia. "James Lockheart, of Lockheart & Sons?"
"Yes..." Anastasia looked up at her, wondering how she knew. "How did you know?"
"My goodness, Anastasia Marie." Cecilia shook her head and smiled, leaning back onto her chair. "Why, you're luckier than I thought."
"What is it?" Anastasia asked, amused now. Cecilia then leaned in, placing her elbows on the table before smirking behind her netted hat that covered one side of her forehead.
"When my sisters and I were young, we had quite the crush on him. His family provided most of our seafood and he would always be there when an order came in. Needless to say, it was almost a ritual, that my sisters and I knew exactly what day and time we had to be "busy" in the kitchen, preferably near the back door where they would come in through." Cecilia chuckled at this. "It got worse when Father did business with Mr. Lockheart on a previous account years ago."
"Are you joking? James? The subject of your and your sisters' fancy back then?" Anastasia raised an eyebrow. "Why, he's nothing but an ordinary man."
"Oh back then, and I'm sure even now, he was nothing but ordinary." Cecilia had stars in her eyes while Anastasia's was ready to roll back into her skull. "It's not so much that he's handsome, but it's his charm. His charisma. Just the way he carried himself, you know? Always so serious, but the man can get things done, even back then as a young man. You could really see his potential. But he was always so oblivious to it."
Anastasia raised her eyebrows at this, not amused, but rather taken aback that she knew James enough to describe him in such a way. A way, in which, was very hard to believe. In her opinion, anyway.
"I see nothing in him." She shrugged, not sure if she was trying to convince her own self. "And doesn't your Father work in the leather business? What would he have to do with a seafood company?"
"Well, the fishing company came after their other ventures. His Father is one hell of a business tycoon. It only came about from Mr. Lockheart's love of the ocean and fishing. But they've been running businesses in lots of other areas for generations back." Cecilia explained in between bites of her eggs Benedict. This, Anastasia never knew. Now she understood why he seemed busier than the average fisherman. "And hold on, if you aren't too fond of him, how did your marriage to him come about?"
"Mother." She responded bluntly, sipping on her tea. "Her usual controlling ways. After you graduated, Mitchell Higgins and I got together. His family is the arch nemesis of my Mother so of course, she had to do everything in her power to get in between us."
"That must've been awful." Cecilia looked at her apologetically.
Anastasia looked off in the distance as she played with the pendant on her necklace, remembering what happened during her last visit home.
"I..." She started. "Couldn't blame her. And anyway, I'm quite alright now."
"Was it serious?" Cecilia asked. When Anastasia didn't utter a word, she cleared her throat, suddenly breaking out into a smile. "Anyway, my sisters would die if they knew. They would think you were the luckiest woman on earth."
"Yeah," she raised her eyebrows. "Lucky."
Just then, she saw a man appear through the door, walking across the room once he met her gaze.
"Oh goodness," she muttered under her breath, placing her elbow on the table and tilting her head towards the window with her hand shading her face. She prayed to God that he wouldn't come for their table.
"What is it?" Cecilia looked puzzled, but before she could turn around to see what she was looking at, James stopped right in front of their table. Her jaw nearly dropped. He looked at her before turning his attention to his wife.
"You left this on the counter before you left." He said with a serious tone, placing what appeared to be her wallet in front of her. "Please be more careful next time."
Anastasia didn't say anything for a while, still hesitant to speak to him. But she cleared her throat anyway, forcing herself to talk.
To this, he nodded. Anastasia looked at Cecilia, who was ogling up at James the whole time.
"This is Cecilia, an old friend of mine." With this, Cecilia and James shook hands.
"How do you do?" She smiled at him.
"Fine, thank you." He replied.
"Anastasia was just talking about you," Anastasia blushed with embarrassment upon hearing this, turning her attention to the view outside their window. "And I was telling her that my sisters and I knew you back then, your family used to deliver our seafood, but it was long ago and I'm sure you don't recall."
"You did look quite familiar, Mr. Foster's daughter, if I'm correct?" He asked her.
"You remember!" She said, surprised.
"How could I not? You and your sisters were there, every Sunday morning at 9 o'clock." He smiled as to which Cecilia blushed madly, embarrassed at the fact that he not only remembered but noticed their being there. "I didn't know you two were such good friends.
"Ever since high school, but we lost contact for some time after that." Cecilia said. "I just came back from Paris."
"I see, well welcome back to Rhode Island." He nodded, then turned to Anastasia. "Well, I must get going. I'm late for a meeting but I wanted to stop by quickly to make sure you had your wallet with you. It was nice meeting you, Cecilia."
"The pleasure's all mine!" The two shook hands once more.
"Ladies," James tipped his hat, looking at both of them before turning to leave. Anastasia watched him walk out of the restaurant.
"Time hasn't changed a thing," Cecilia sighed, holding her cup to her lips. "He's still dreamy as ever. And he took the time out of his busy day to go out of his way just because you forgot something."
"Oh, nonsense." Anastasia crinkled her dark eyebrows, putting her wallet inside her purse. "Any decent human being would."
"No," Cecilia shook her head. "They wouldn't."
As the months passed, so did the seasons; fall and winter came, all of which went by like a blur. Nothing much had changed, Anastasia still loathed being married, much less living with someone she didn't care for. And James, like always, busied himself with projects such as the new factory being built in North Carolina. If he wasn't flying back and forth to visit the construction site or cooped up in his office overlooking the floor plans, he would be asleep in his bedroom. And while he was out around the house, it was Anastasia who was locked up in her bedroom, trying to make herself scarce. But even if the two still didn't accept themselves as husband or wife, more so on Anastasia's end, they had gotten accustomed to their own, odd, routine as two people living together under one roof. They had learned to be civil with each other, only interacting here and there every so often. They didn't spend Christmas together, which Anastasia had wished they didn't have to. Much to her relief, the big plans of opening up a factory in North Carolina came to fruition at that time, and so she was free to spend it with her family. New Year's eve, however, was different. At least a portion of it anyway. But only because Anastasia's Mother insisted on having her son-in-law present for their annual New Year's eve dinner. Though the two never got along behind closed doors, it always baffled Anastasia how James played the part of a married man when they were around other people, something Anastasia didn't do. She never felt the need to act differently, now that she was married, nor did she care if they saw her indifference towards James. To her surprise, she saw a different part of him during the dinner and around her family.
"Tell me, James," her Mother said. "How have you two settled in your new home?"
Anastasia shifted in her seat, knowing for a fact that her Mother wouldn't find herself approving of their arrangement at home, much less their attitude towards each other. But like always, James always knew the right words to say, as if filling in the cracks to their odd relationship, so that no one could suspect a thing.
"Wonderful, things are getting along just fine." He replied, slicing ham and placing it on everyone's plate. "But, I'll be honest with you, Mrs. Avon. Your daughter here, isn't easy to please."
Everyone wasn't surprised, but rather almost nodding in agreement as Anastasia shot them looks.
"Doesn't take a scientist to figure that out," Dorothia chuckled, knowing this all too well. "But how so, dear?"
"She's picky, can be stubborn at times. Especially Sunday mornings, when she hasn't gotten a glass of milk the night before." He looked at her, but her eyes were widening in their sockets upon hearing him.
"Oh, now Mother, that's not true-"
"But I've learned, that those are just the normal things that come with getting married." He interrupted her. "Discovering your partner's little antics. All of which can never be too much to handle, after all, marriage means being in it for the long haul. Isn't that right?"
Anastasia relaxed in her seat, for a moment she thought he'd blow it.
"Of course, James. And I want you to know how lucky we are that you ended up being the perfect choice for our daughter and I can only wish you both, many happy years to come." Dorothia beamed at him.
Anastasia wished for dinner to be over soon as they continued to ask questions about them as a couple as it was the first time since their wedding that they were all together. She became more at ease only during dessert, when James, her brother, and her Father engaged themselves in a conversation regarding Avon oil drilling, with James sharing his own two cents about the better ways that Mr. Avon could improve his business. And when dinner was over and the family celebrated and greeted each other a happy new year, welcoming the coming of 1949 over champagne, couples embraced each other in a kiss. They looked at James and Anastasia for a moment after, with James being quick to act by pulling her gently but swiftly to him before planting a kiss on her lips. Anastasia didn't close her eyes, for it all happened so fast. But when it was over, she found herself looking at him, surprised, while he went on as if nothing happened.
When it was all over, James and Anastasia found themselves having to share a room. They made sure to carry on with their usual routine, and that included not sleeping together. But as usual, James would look over documents before he allowed himself to turn in. So there he was, sitting on a desk in the corner of the room while Anastasia tried her best to fall asleep but finding it difficult due to the light.
"How much longer are you going to take?" She huffed under her breath as she stared at the mural on the ceiling. "It's 2 in the morning."
"It'll be over in a minute," he responded, not looking up from his paperwork. "And besides, lighting as dim as this doesn't make it impossible to fall asleep."
"Maybe for you," she snapped back with irritation.
"Just a few more minutes," he said, taking the cigarette from his lips and smashing it against the ashtray to put it out. "I'm sure a woman such as yourself will have the patience for that?"
She didn't say anything, instead falling silent as she stayed tucked underneath the covers. He looked back down, continuing on. Just then, she sat up, her back against the headboard as she looked at him.
"You put on quite the show down there," she started as she crossed her arms. "Marriage is being in it for the long haul? When did you become such an expert?
He looked up at her before looking down again at his papers. She carried on.
"And that kiss-"
"Kept them from questioning." He finished for her. "Keeps them quiet from their suspicions as to why we're so distant. It's better that way."
To this, she didn't say a word. James sighed, organizing and stacking documents before slipping them inside a filing briefcase. He then stood up and walked to the other side of the room where three doors leading to different closets were.
"Third door to your left." She said without looking. He opened as he was told, pulling out a few blankets and pillows.
"It's wise to plan ahead sometimes. Saves you from certain situations." He said to her, spreading two stacks of blankets on the floor along with a pillow.
"Well, aren't you a wise one." She said with a hint of sarcasm. "How did I ever get so lucky?"
He shut off the lights and laid down, covering himself with another blanket.
They both stared at the ceiling in the darkness as they tried to fall asleep. A few moments later, James eventually drifted off. But it was Anastasia, who, found herself blinking and breathing steady, wide awake. And before her eyelids closed themselves shut, the kiss was the last thing on her mind. Not so much because she liked it, but rather because it confused her.
"Goodnight," she whispered sleepily, eyes already closed. "James."
The next few months flew by and while being civil worked for the two in the past, it seemed that James and Anastasia began to find reasons to bicker and argue with each other. If it wasn't Anastasia's attitude, it was James' patience running thin due to her childish ways. And while he was a man of calm demeanor, and seldom did she ever break it, once in a few blue moons, it pushed him over the edge. He saw nothing more than a young woman who tended to overreact, which in result made him not take her seriously half the time. And nothing made her more angry than someone belittling and disregarding her opinions and feelings. She was truly convinced that she was trapped in a colossal mistake in which she had no way of escaping. They almost never saw eye to eye, and she didn't think they ever would. But whether she was willing to admit or not, most of what they argued about was due to her immature and stubborn ways, such as not agreeing to come to any company dinners or act like the wife he needed her to be. And even when she would agree to make an appearance, he would always have to find a way to save themselves from the embarrassment that was Anastasia's blunt and brutally honest tongue, and she certainly didn't make it convince-able that she was actually his wife. It didn't help that his business partners and their wives were almost a decade older, age wasn't that big of a deal but when you have a group of women discussing what kind of schools were the best for their children and Pierre Balmain's haute couture line, it's a bit harder to keep up.
When Anastasia's 20th birthday rolled around in April, she didn't plan on doing much. Her Father was away on business and her Mother was busy for the annual social. Her brother and sisters sent so many greetings through gifts and abundant flower arrangements that it filled the foyer all the way to the living room. But boredom was starting to set in and everyone knew how to operate an automobile vehicle except her. And the fact that she couldn't even travel the world made her feel that she deserved to at least be able to drive wherever she pleased. She would have asked Mr. Linwood, only she didn't want it getting back to James, who she assumed would just take over, if not judge her. So she phoned her Father, after all, he always had the answers for everything.
"Father..." she hesitated over the phone that day.
"What is it my dear?" He asked. "We've got to make this quick, your Father has a conference at 12."
"Of course." She gulped. "Well...I want to buy a car."
"A car?" He laughed. "Why, Anastasia, you don't even know how to drive."
"Well, that's why I want to get one, I want to learn." She replied.
"My dear, you're a married woman now. You needn't buy a car, you've got plenty there, I'm sure. Why not just use one of them?"
"Father, those are James' cars, I don't-"
"How many does he have?" He interrupted her.
"Well he keeps about 6 here, but-"
"There!" He exclaimed. "And anyway, if you want to buy a car, then you buy a car. Of course you'd have to talk to him about it so the two of you could make that decision together."
"No, Father." She sighed. "You don't understand. I can't use those-"
"Honey, you two are married now. You've got to learn how to blend your lives and your belongings together. Everything that is his is now yours, and everything that is yours is now his."
Anastasia was about ready to whine from frustration when her Father had to catch his conference and say goodbye, but not before greeting her a happy birthday once more. She slammed the phone back down, sighing loudly from the useless phone call. She walked to the foyer and looked outside through the glass opening on each side of the door. She crossed her arms, one foot tapping as she contemplated going down to the garage and taking matters into her own hands. On impulse, off she went, walking outside and then walking to the side of their garage and entered through the side door. She came face to face with five different cars lined up. She walked through them, examining them one by one.
"Mr. Linwood?" She called out. No response.
She then walked into the garage closet and opened the safe which contained all the car keys. She retrieved one and walked to the car that it belonged to. She was nervous, but kicked her confidence into high gear as she never usually doubted herself. And anyway, she was a year older, no longer a teenager, and furthermore, she was married, wasn't she? She wasn't the girl that people had forbid to do certain things or see certain people anymore, and she would be damned to ever just sit around and not serve a purpose to herself.
She started the engine and the maybach roared to life. Then she opened the garage, shielding her eyes from the sun. Walking back, she stepped into the car, taking a deep breath when she finally got settled in.
"Alright," she whispered to herself. "I've watched Mr. Daly and Father drive a million times, should be a piece of cake."
The only thing she already knew were the first two steps; to step on the brakes before putting it into drive. Except she didn't know the car as each brand had their own designs and functions. So it took her by surprise when the car began to move the minute she took her foot off the brake. Her eyes widened as she tried her best to stir the car in a direction that would follow the driveway. She didn't get past the house before she saw Mr. Linwood and James coming to halt in their car just a distance away from Anastasia.
"Oh goodness." The ever so composed Anastasia began to panic, a bead of sweat on her brow when she saw James hop out of the car and run towards the maybach. She screamed, almost hitting him as he slammed both hands on the hood of the car, a bewildered expression on his face.
"What do you think you're doing?!" He sounded muffled from inside the car. He walked to the driver's seat as to which Anastasia rolled down the window.
"Trying to teach myself how to drive! Because, you know, I can!" She fired back at him.
"By yourself? Are you nuts?!" He asked her. "Have you ever even driven once in your life?!"
"This is exactly why I didn't want to come to you." She rolled her eyes.
"Oh sure, but quick you were to hop on one of our cars and take charge. You could have asked someone!" He ran a hand through his hair, a wisp falling out of place and onto his forehead.
She was equally heated, months worth of pent up emotions burst from her at that moment. Although James didn't treat her like a child, she felt like she was being treated that way for James seemed to do nothing but advise her.
"I am not a child," she breathed heavily, her blazing green eyes matching the intensity of the moment. "If I want to learn how to drive, I will."
"No one said you were a child, Anastasia. I know you aren't." He said, his face perplexed mixed with concern. "But if you go at this alone something might happen-"
"Look, if it's the car you're worried about, I can have it replaced if anything were to happen to it!" She snapped at him.
"Oh never mind the car!" He waved her off. "Something could happen to you, do you understand that?!"
She fell silent as she continued to grip the stirring wheel. She didn't know what to say. She had never seen James react in such a way. She turned the other way, James backing away from the window and turning his back to her, his hands on his hips as he let out a loud sigh. Moments later, he faced the window, bending down and placing his elbows on the window pane. He looked at her as she stayed looking straight ahead.
"I know it's your birthday today, and I know you won't accept a single gift from me." He said to her. "But I can teach you how to drive, if that's something you're willing to allow yourself."
She didn't say anything, hating having to succumb to an offer as she wanted to do things for herself and seldom asked others for help. She couldn't do it. She just couldn't. Because that would've meant that she needed him for something and she hated needing someone. Anyone. But she also couldn't sit around at home all day anymore. And if she were to go on another day that way, she was sure to lose her mind. But she couldn't bring herself to take the offer.
"Alright...Mr. Linwood, could you please come and take over and drive the maybach to the garage?!" He shouted from a distance as the chauffeur stood watching as he leaned against the other car.
"Wait!" She quickly turned around as to which James looked at her. She looked up at him grimly, those dark eyebrows furrowing together with a pair of emeralds gleaming up at him. "I'll...I'll take you on your offer."
"Okay, you want to step on the gas gently at first. Gently, Anastasia."
It had been moments later and James was in the passenger's seat, watching her feet carefully. Secretly, she was nervous, something she never dared making obvious. But as she pressed down on the gas, the car jutted forward hard, making the both of them shift back into in their seats.
"Look, maybe we should just-" she was finding it harder to hold in the panic. It wasn't as easy as she thought. And again, the car zoomed forward fast, resulting in Anastasia screaming.
"Anastasia, gently! Gently!" The car sped faster as James tried his best to redirect her.
"I can't! I can't, alright?!" She couldn't take it anymore, but most of all, she couldn't stand him, much less follow directions from him. "I tried! I've been trying-"
"Press on the brake! The brake!" He shouted as they the car headed for the closed gate at the end of their driveway.
"I don't want to do this anymore!"
"You can do it, Anastasia!"
"Don't you make me!" She was enraged now.
"Don't make you?! We're about to crash into the gate!" He growled back.
Then, with the swiftness, he intervened and stirred the wheel away, the car turning away and into the grass as they came to a sharp halt, Anastasia finally hitting the gas all too hard. Her chest heaved up and down from breathing deep, placing a hand over it. She then turned her attention to him.
"I thought you were gonna teach me! You call that teaching-"
"Now don't you go blaming this on me. If you didn't catch a fright with every slight movement of the car and just stayed relaxed like I told you to, things could've gone a lot smoother!" He got out of the car with her doing the same. The two met each other in the middle and the bickering went full blown.
"Have you ever taught anyone how to drive?!" Her glare was piercing.
"Don't pull that," He told her. "It isn't like you've driven a day in your life. And today doesn't count!"
"What are you saying! That I can't drive?! That I won't learn?!" She was in disbelief now.
"You're twisting everything I say, damn it!" He glared back. "But if the shoe fits, wear it."
She gasped at this as he walked past her and got into the driver's seat.
"Where are you going?!"
"Get in!" He shouted from inside. "Now!"
"Excuse you?!" She crossed her arms and looked at him as if he were crazy. Just then, she jumped back and let out a scream as he put the car in reverse and drove it off the grass and back into the driveway with the quickness.
"You want to learn how to drive, don't you?" He got out of the car again. Then he stood face to face with her. "Get in."
He was a man of patience and he wasn't going to take any less. They had to try again, without letting their tempers get in the way, at least. She looked at him for a moment, wanting to throw a tantrum at that moment. Not because of him, but more on her part. Because she didn't want to admit, but she knew she was mainly the reason the lesson had gotten off to a rocky start. Maybe that's why she couldn't help but blame things on him. Just then, she found herself opening the driver's seat and getting in. They both just sat there for a good minute not saying anything and just letting themselves cool down.
"Now," James said softly. "Anastasia, you can't let the smallest things frighten you. When you let go of the brakes, set your foot on the gas, but start out with just an inch."
Instead of fighting back and snapping back with a catty response, she nodded, swallowing the big lump in her throat as she put the car in drive, stepping on the gas with the pressure of an inch. The car started to move ever so slowly.
"That's it, keep it at that." He said. "Apply more pressure whenever you're comfortable."
"I just-I don't think I can go any faster than this. Every time I push harder it's too much, I can't-"
"You're okay, Anastasia." He said, ever so calmly. "You're doing great."
She applied more pressure, now going at a steady pace as the car continued up their long and winding driveway.
"Now, that sharp turn over there leading to the back door, you're gonna gently step on the brakes while turning stirring to the left."
"Wait, what? Why? What does that do-"
"You've got to trust me on this, Anastasia." He looked at her as he reassured her as to which she could do nothing but breathe deep and nod. "Trust me."
Oddly enough, in that moment, she did. And although she wasn't a pro, she got to learn the basics that day. And with a little more practice and work, she was able to catch on the following week. Anastasia was grateful to him for teaching her, but still, their arrangement carried on and their lack of interest in each other remained. And the fighting was inevitable. James, a cool and calm man, found himself reacting to her, which confused him more than it did bother him. It was easy to stay away from one another as they both didn't harbor any feelings at all, but when the time came when they would see each other, it was like walking on eggshells for they knew that if they weren't careful, certain buttons could be pushed. Little incidents like the time James accidentally caught Anastasia undressing in her room the following week occurred from time to time, putting them in awkward positions.
James needed to tell her something and as he passed by her room, her door was left ajar, catching a glimpse of her bare back as she slipped off her dress. He quickly looked away, backing away from her room but staying right in front of it. He was caught off guard, the thought of her bare skin never crossing his mind once. He didn't know what to make of it. He tried again after a few moments, thinking she would have put on something sensible by then, only to find her topless with her back to him as he brushed her long locks in front of her vanity set, having slipped off her bra completely. But instead of looking away, he found himself studying her, from the way her skin looked flawlessly smooth, her waist curving into a narrow figure as a sliver of dark hair covered it. Just then her eyes grew big and she caught a glimpse of him through her mirror, standing up and gasping as she grabbed her nightgown off the stand and placing it over her chest.
"I-I apologize, I wasn't here for long. I didn't mean to-" He started. But before he could explain himself, she shooed him away, covering only her breasts with her nightgown as she shut the door in his face quickly and loudly.
"Haven't you ever heard of knocking?!" She shouted through the door.
"Right." He said. "I'm sorry."
He turned to leave as Anastasia stood on the other side of the door, flabbergasted. But as he started walking away, he remembered what he had to say so he walked back.
"Wait just a minute," he said through the closed door. "You're the one who left your door open!"
"Well you didn't have to look!" She said, slapping her hand against the door.
"Anastasia, I didn't see a thing." He sighed. "Look, that's besides the point. I came here because I had something important to tell you."
"What?" She said after a few moments.
"Lockheart & Sons is having a big dinner party along with Hartford Foods and this merger means a lot for our company. Well it's not exactly a merger, Lockheart & Sons is just looking to buy them out and we want to put on a good impression as a candidate." He explained to her. "And I need you to be there. This might be a lot to ask, but it's important."
A few seconds passed with nothing but silence. Anastasia stood there, contemplating it. She took a breath before speaking.
"Yes." She said.
"Yes?" He replied.
"Yes, I'll go."
"Well, alright." He said. "I didn't have to wrestle you for it, why is that?"
"Well..." she said through the door. "You taught me how to drive, now I go and pretend to be happy being your wife. Fair enough?"
"More than enough." He smiled. "Thank you. Oh, but Anastasia...do you think you could, or maybe just-"
"Just what?" She asked, puzzled.
"Do you think maybe you could behave yourself and just put on a convincing-"
"Hey," she snapped. "Now what are you trying to say?!"
"Anastasia," he uttered low and calm. "You know exactly what I'm taking about."
"Alright, alright! I know." She replied, chuckling. "I can't promise anything, but...I'll try."
"I'll take what I can get." He sighed, giving the door a little knock before he walked away. "Goodnight."
She shook her head, smiling as she bit her lip, pulling her nightgown over her head and slipping it on as she walked back to her vanity set. She sat down and picked up her brush once more, carrying on with brushing her hair. She looked at herself in the mirror for a few moments, trying to recognize herself. Another year older and if there was anything she wanted to take away from being married, it was that not all things were meant to work out and that sometimes you don't get what you've always wanted. She continued brushing her hair, and for the first time in a very long time, she wondered how married life must have been going between Mitch and Sofia Novack. Whether it was loveless just like her own marriage or whether it was the complete opposite and that he never thought of her at all. Before her thoughts could get even more depressing, she placed her brush back into its silver box and closed it shut, standing up and walking to her window, which was open, curtains dancing along with the night breeze. She took a seat on the cushioned window bench and took in the view of the ocean from afar. The water glittered under the moonlight, the sound of waves audible even from a distance. When she first moved in, she often wondered what it would be like to be swallowed by it and be swept to sea. But lately, she's been imagining what it felt like to float onto it and just go with the flow. She no longer wanted to escape her heartache nor run away from her unwanted reality. Yes, the world goes on, as she had been told. And she wanted to live.