My skin was ice-cold as the next song began and Clay waltzed away from me and the next song began. I couldn’t move; I was traumatized. People began surrounding around me, continuing to dance and I was bumped here and there.
Turning to get out of the crowd, I ran right into a familiar face.
"Briana?" My dad stared right at me and I at him. Usually I would have the right words to say, but I was still in shock; I was still so nervous. My dad noticed this and just wrapped his arm around my waist. "Let’s just dance."
My dad and I swayed to the slow song that was playing and he danced to the beat, smooth and flowy. He flowed around the other people that were in the ballroom and I followed, respectively.
"I saw you dancing with Clay Matthews." I didn’t reply and just rested my head on his shoulder. "Briana, what are you doing here?"
I took a deep breath and looked back at him. "Angie didn’t want to come alone; I was her plus one." I searched my father and sighed. "Why are you here dad? How come I didn’t know that you came here every year and basically hosted this?"
Somehow, I got shook out of my shock and he could tell. My dad sighed and continued to sway to the song.
"I can explain, honey-"
"Can you?" We both stopped dancing and I looked at him. "Because you’ve been keeping many of secrets from me. You’ve been on the council of this gala for fourteen years. And you never told me." He looked at me, long and hard before he grabbed my hand and pulled me back towards him and continued to dance.
He was quiet for a while until he spoke. "I have been on the council for 14 years. I didn’t think that it was a fact to have been mentioned."
"What other facts are you neglecting to tell me that you didn’t think should have been mentioned?"
My dad sighed and continued to flow around the ballroom in tune with the other people dancing on the dancefloor. "Briana, look. You must trust me. Everything that I do is to protect you."
"Dad." I stood back and looked at him. "It’s a gala, where people dress up and dance and eat free, good food. How are you protecting me from this? You tell me trust, understand you, but how can when I have absolutely no idea who you are."
"I am your father," he muttered. "And that should be enough. It’s not like you’ve continued to tell me that you have been hanging out with the Roswell’s until the last minute, nor did you tell me that you were coming here tonight."
"How am I supposed to tell you anything? You’re hardly ever home." I sighed and looked at him, biting my bottom lip. "Dad, I don’t know who you are anymore."
The song ended and my father glared at me, hurt in his eyes and I knew that I had never seen before, but I’m sure that he also saw the hurt that was in mine as well.
He opened his mouth to speak and that was when a man approached him, smile on his face.
My father turned around and smiled. "Peter. How are you?"
The man had rosy pink cheeks and white hair. He was a bigger man, with a navy striped suit on. "Better now that I’ve found you." He glanced back at me and then back at my dad. "And who is this lucky woman?"
"Peter, this is my daughter Briana." I smiled and shook the man’s hand. "Briana, this is Peter Sandovsky from Rona. He owns a firm there."
Peter leaned down and kissed my hand. "It’s nice to meet you dear."
"The pleasure’s all mine," I said, faking my smile.
Peter smiled at me. "You mind if I steal him away?"
I glared at my dad and then he looked at me. There were words that I knew that he wanted to say and a lot that I wanted to say, but there was just no way to be able to say everything here and now.
So, I just smiled and said, "he’s all yours."
Charles whisked my father away just as the next song began to play. I stood in the crowd, wondering what was coming of my life and what I was doing. Broken relationship with my father, can’t seem to get a handle on Cynthia nor her rapist.
I looked through the heavy crowd, but she was nowhere to be found. Somehow, I managed to wriggle my way through everyone back to where the seats were and they were empty, only with a few scragglers here and there.
I looked up and noticed Angie, phone in hand. I grabbed my dress and walked over to her.
She turned and looked at me. "Thank God, I’ve been looking all over for you."
"I got a bit caught up…"
Her eyes bulged as I relayed her the story of what took place on the dancefloor.
I shrugged. "There’s not much else that I, in my power, can do except go to the police Angie."
Angie shook her head. "Look, the best that you can do right now is get back out there and find her. She hasn’t left because I’ve been checking all the exits. It was a mistake to bring her here since it is done more harm than good."
Angie was right. I turned back towards the crowd at the same time the song began to change to a slow ballad. Many couples began to cling to one another and I felt hesitant to just rush in there unattended.
"I got you." I heard someone whisper into my ear before I was swept off my feet and onto the dancefloor. Who now?
I felt myself turn into the arms of whomever just grabbed me and was shocked.
"What are you doing here, Mike?"
Mike didn’t look at me, but continued to twirl me as his arm tightened around my waist and his other arm cupped my hand.
"Who are you looking for, Briana?"
I hesitated as he turned me quickly and I felt my body suck to his. Mike guided me through the crowd delicately, it felt as though I was floating on air.
I turned back to look at him and noticed how good he looked. His hair wasn’t in the bun that it was used to, but down and natural and he had on an all-black suit on.
I looked up at him and he was still not looking at me.
"You look nice."
I felt his body tense, as though he was shocked at what I had just said to him. He glanced down at me, his green eyes like forest orbs. Looking at his stunned face, he was shocked.
"That’s one of the nicest things that you’ve said to me since I’ve been here."
"Well, it got you to look at me," I said. "What are you doing here, Mike?"
"That’s not your concern Briana. Your concern is finding whomever you’re here to help seeing as how I’ve never seen you here before and this is not your scene. So, tell me, who are you looking for because I’m helping, not hurting."
I sighed. "Cynthia Roswell. I’m sure you know who she is."
"Everyone knows the Roswell’s. Why her?" He glared down at me and I tensed up a little. His eyebrows squinted together. "Is she your rape victim?" I sighed and he tightened his grip on me, pulling my body close to him with his lips against my ear. "You’re kidding me, right?"
"I wish that I was."
"Briana, the Roswell’s are-"
"Very powerful, I get it." I pulled away from him. "But when have you ever known me to give up on someone no matter... the importance."
"Sometimes you just have to know your limits Briana."
I paused some and glared at him. "You don’t get to tell me this. We haven’t seen one another in a long time. I enlisted you to help me to fix someone not to give me pointers on what I should or shouldn’t do. You lost that right."
He bit his lip and looked away. "I didn’t mean to overstep my boundaries."
"I hope not," I muttered. I looked around, as did he. "Do you see her or do I have to go find someone else to help me?"
He turned me swiftly and that’s when I noticed Cynthia dancing with her brother.
I tried to loosen my grip on Mike, but he wouldn’t let go. I looked up at him and he was already looking at me.
"The song is almost over," he said. "Savor this moment with me." I looked at him and sighed as we continued to dance. "I haven’t seen you since we first talked about this."
"I’ve been busy trying to figure out how to fix this." I took a pause. "This is just bigger than me."
"You can handle this because you’ve handled everything else. You can find resources to help you, which I’m sure that you have. And you can make this better."
I looked at him and he was already looking at me. A wave of nostalgia wiped over my body and I felt my legs turn to jelly. Mike and I had been to dances before and I had confided in him a lot about everyone that I was fixing.
"I’m sorry." I squinted my eyes. "We have our history, but I shouldn’t have…"
His sentence trailed and I knew why it did. I didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t apologized for our history or why we stopped seeing one another. He never brought up our past and I was never okay with that, but even now, I’m not okay with him bringing it up in this fashion.
"Not here, okay?" I sighed and looked down. "I have a lot on my plate and I don’t need this. Not now."
At that moment, the song had ended and the gala was ending. My father walked back onto stage and I knew that was my moment.
I turned, spotted Cecilia. She was all by herself, standing, looking lonely. I dashed over to her and when she saw me, her frown became bigger.
"I know, I’m sorry that I left you all alone." I looked around. "But we have time to get your things and leave and go back to my place." I grabbed her arm. "We can tell your mom tomorrow, bright and early about everything."
Slowly, I felt her pull her arm away from me and that stunned me. I looked back at her.
"I’ve made a mistake Briana."
I clenched my jaw. "Cynthia-"
"You heard her." I glared behind me and noticed Aiden Roswell with Clay and Christian. They were ganging up on me. "She made a mistake."
"She didn’t make anything." I turned and glared at Cynthia. "You don’t have to do this."
"I’m sorry Briana." I saw her eyes brim red. "I’m sorry I led you on about something so futile. I know that you have the ability to help others-"
"Cynthia, I can help you through this-"
"And I have used so much of your time. So, I apologize. I’m going back home."
"That’s not a good idea and you know it." I felt my heart began to break. Looking at her, I knew that these weren’t the words she wanted to say, but that’s what she was saying.
"You can let my arm go now, Briana."
"I can’t do this Cyn. I can’t leave you."
She looked at me and I saw the pain in her eyes as she jacked her arm from me. She leaned down, grabbed her bag and then went and stood with her father.
I turned slowly as I watched this happen before my eyes.
Her father kissed the side of her head and placed an arm around her shoulders.
"Let’s go home honey."
He turned and they began walking towards the door along with Christian. Clay stood there in my face. He crossed his arms and walked towards me, slowly.
"And here you thought you were on the winning team." I looked at him, unable to process words. "I was just having fun, messing with you."
"You are a monster," I said, the only words that could come out. "You are disgusting."
"And I won."
I felt my hand real back and then connect with his face, hard. People in the ballroom stopped as they heard the loud crack from my hand to his face.
He reeled back some and then looked at me. He stepped closer and the look on his face frightened me.
"Do we have a problem here?" I looked up and noticed my father standing there and Mike Sutter on his tail. The whole ballroom had seen the altercation; some people left and others continued to watch the spectacle.
"No Mr. Wilkens sir," Clay muttered. He looked at me. "I was just leaving."
He glared at me as he walked backwards and then turned to leave the ballroom.
"Briana!" I didn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. "Briana Renee."
"Bri…" I looked to my left and noticed Angie was standing there.
"Briana, hey." And that was Mike’s soothing voice.
And then suddenly, I couldn’t breathe and everything was in slow motion. I was being tugged in so many different directions and I just couldn’t answer everyone at one time.
So, I ran.
Miha: Thank you!! Sorry for the delay!
Paperclip: Do you still ship Clay and Briana?
Butterfly: Thank you so much for being a fan!!