"Thank you all for attending this years’ gala!"
Angie and I took our seats by Angie’s father and mother who were dressed in their best, as we all were. The announcer continued to speak to all the wealthy men and women that were spread out across the gala hall and all I could do was look at Cynthia and realize how depressed she looked sitting where she sat.
She was sitting uncomfortably in between her father and brother while Clay sat beside her brother. He continued to glance at her and she knew, but made no eye contact.
How could her father nor brother not believe what she said to them? How could she not go to the police? How could it come down to just me handling this?
I felt myself clench the back of my chair as I continued to peer over my chair at their table.
"Maybe you should take a picture of him." I looked up and glared at Angie’s father, Barrett was peering down at me. "I know that Aiden Roswell is a well-respected man who has accumulated a fan base somehow."
"Well I am not a fan," I whispered. I turned back around and looked around. "There are a lot of people here."
"Yeah there are." He looked down at me and shrugged. "I’m surprised you’ve never been here before."
"I don’t know how I would." I shrugged as the announcer made a joke and the crowd rumbled in laughter. "This is too fancy for my tastes."
Barrett scrunched his eyes down at me. "Not too fancy for your dad, I suppose, since he’s been on the council to create the gala for 14 years."
I looked up at him. "Excuse me?"
"Yeah." Barrett raised an eyebrow. "I know he keeps things from you, but I wouldn’t think that he would keep something like this from you."
Before I could open my mouth to respond, the announcer’s voice bellowed over the speakers. "We’re going get started with our dinner and then our keynote speakers after that." There was applause and then the lights went from dim to a little brighter as the servers began serving food.
Angie grabbed my hand and I looked over at her.
"It looks like you’ve seen a ghost," she said over the loud bustling of the people around us. "Are you okay?"
I nodded. "I think so." Worrying anyone about the doubts that I had about dad would be futile at this moment when Cynthia was our top priority. I gave Angie a quick smile. "I’m just nervous about Cynthia. Every moment that I spend away from her only makes me even more nervous about what’s really going on with her."
Angie looked above my head. "Well she hasn’t moved from the position she was sitting at." I turned and looked at her and that’s when the both of us made eye contact and I saw it and what I saw sent shivers down my spine.
"I have to go and save her from them. She’s not happy." I looked at Angie and then back at the table. I looked back at her.
"Bri," she whispered. "It would look weird if you just stood up from where we are sitting and then went across the room to save your damsel."
Angie glared at me and then she placed both of her hands on mine. Angie, never the affectionate one, caught me off guard.
"Yes, you are right. She is our damsel and I’m sorry that I am not jumping at the gun to go toe to toe with Aiden Roswell." She nodded towards his table and I turned to look where she was looking. There were a lot of different people that had swarmed his table and were shaking his hand and talking to him. "He’s the guy. So, us going to steal his daughter will raise a lot of red flags to not only him, but to everyone around him so you have to pick your moves wisely B."
I looked back at her and she had a point. I couldn’t go in full-force, but I had to do everything very subtly to ensure that I was doing the right thing by Cynthia.
I turned and looked at the entree they had for us and it was a type of pasta with garlic bread. I grabbed my fork and began to eat.
If I were going to be here, I at least had to enjoy the free meal.
An entrée, dessert platter and three keynote speakers later it was time for the last keynote speaker that was introducing the band and thanking everyone for coming.
"B." I looked over at Angie as she held up the pamphlet that would tell us what event was next. I looked down at it and in perfect cursive was my father’s name: Charles Wilkens. "Your dad?"
I turned back as the first announcer introduced my father. He came onto the stage with a sleek black suit and smiled and waved at the crowd who were obviously in love with him because they continued to cheer.
I felt my insides turn hot. I told myself to continue to put my father on the back-burner,
but he was keeping so many secrets, including this one for 16 years.
"Good evening everyone, you all look well. Thank you, again, for coming to our 18th annual gala." There were claps and applause everywhere. He glanced around the room and then began to make more of his speech, lighting up the crowd and making them laugh. His speech went on for a few minutes before he began to close. "This has been such a lovely evening and we are ending it, of course, with our annual get-down!" The crowd cheered. "We’ll play a variety of music so-" And then he paused and I looked back at him and he was looking right at me. I clenched my jaw and he coughed before he continued his speech. "So, all you ladies and gents get on the dance floor and show them what this is all about."
The lights dimmed and the crowd rushed to the dance floor and removed my father from my eyesight and me from his.
"He saw me," I muttered to Angie.
Angie nodded as we stood up. "I think half of the room noticed."
Angie’s mother and father made their way to the dance floor. I turned to Angie, out of words and out of options on what to do at this moment.
"I don’t know," I muttered, out of context. Angie understood me though.
"I know." She noticed that the crowd was getting a bit crazy on the dance floor and she looked at me. "What a perfect time to check on Cynthia."
I nodded, coming to my senses. I turned and glanced back at the table and noticed that Cynthia was gone. I looked at Angie.
"Keep an eye out on my father and I’ll go find Cyn." Angie nodded and I hit the dance floor, shimming my way through it.
The people were boogying it down and most of them were drunk and would regret this in the morning. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw luscious blonde hair and I glanced to my left. A few feet away from me, I noticed Cynthia was talking to someone whose face was obscured from my view.
I started in her direction when I felt a strong grip on my waist.
I was pulled in closely to someone whose face I couldn’t see, but who held me tight enough to his chest that I couldn’t move. His left arm clasped around my waist and he guided my right hand into his palm.
"Briana Wilkens." I couldn’t recognize that voice. "I’ve heard a lot about your family."
The mystery man’s grip around my waist loosened and I could pull back a little and see who the intruder was.
And I felt the color drip from my face.
He was smirking down on me.
"You’ve gotten in the way," he muttered as he continued dancing. "We don’t like meddlers."
"I don’t know what kind of strings you’ve pulled," I muttered, my confidence ringing back in. "But Cynthia is fighting this; she is fighting you and she will when."
Clay pulled me back in, closer, his arm tightening more on my waist. "Cynthia is trapped." I felt the ice-cold come from his lips. "She’s not going anywhere. Aiden Roswell is the man. He will find a way to bury this ‘so-called’ story she has attempted to tell you."
"No one can bury rape."
His grip got tighter around my waist. "You shouldn’t toss around accusations that you have no proof of. It’s my word, her father’s word and her brother’s word against hers. And in the judicial system, do people really take rape or rape accusations seriously." I was quiet. "C’mon, I’d love to hear your rebuttal."
I clenched my jaw.
Was I scared?
I could feel my body up against this rapists’ and all I wanted to do was gag.
"I like you Briana. Your sass, your drive. If anything, I would love to have you on our side but you chose the wrong one." He turned me again, where Cynthia was in my line of sight and so was her father, the person who she was talking to. "Cynthia likes you, I’m sure, but she’s more scared of her father. He will shut this down and I will go back to Evermount and continue on my basketball scholarship, marry my girlfriend of two years, and then have beautiful babies and live a lavish life." He continued to turn and then he dipped me and pulled me back up to him. "And if Cynthia doesn’t fall in line, she will be sent to Michigan, where there is a bed in a mental institute or rehabilitation center or whatever waiting for her." He stared at me, eyes glazed over, smirk gone from his face. "She will be there until she can’t even think straight and will really go crazy. Either way it goes, I still get what I want because no one crosses me."
The song ended and he stepped away from me and bowed. "And you’ll be right there with her." The crowd applauded at the song and he smirked. "Was nice dancing with you, Ms. Wilkens."