My eyes fluttered open as the sunlight hit my exhausted face. I was thankful that the nightmares didn’t wake anyone last night.
I freshened up, brushing the tangles out of my chocolate hair. Then I made my way down the spiral steps. It wasn’t long before I could hear my father in a heated conversation with my stepmother.
I slowed down to try to hear a little better.
“Consider it, Vivian. The Marigolds are powerful. With their help, we can be equally as powerful.”
The Marigolds? I’m sure I had heard of that name before. They were the most talked about family in the country due to their power and status.
“I would rather Diana marry into that family than your ugly offspring,” Vivian hissed.
“They asked for her, Vivian! Richard Marigold himself saw her at one of the charity events. He called me himself.” My father’s tone turned more desperate but still stern.
“She’s not good enough to marry their son, Charles. She’ll embarrass us, make a mockery of our name.” I could hear my stepmother’s heels digging into the floorboards as she paced around.
“Vivian, think of our status. With the Marigolds as our allies, we will be one of the most respected families in the country. People will fall at your feet, darling.”
“What are you doing?”
I gasped loudly at Diana’s screechy voice as she poked my back. Her blonde hair was up high in a ponytail, making her cheekbones stretch even higher.
“Eavesdropping, huh? You’re so fucking weird.” She folded her arms to her chest and stared at my face. I lowered my gaze to the ground.
“I hear Dad’s getting you married off. Good fucking riddance.” One of her eyebrows raised slightly as she gave me a cruel smirk.
“No one in their right mind would be happy to marry you. I feel sorry for the guy. He’s probably an old man with no teeth. I hope he beats you.” Her laugh was mean.
“Just leave me alone, Diana,” I whispered, my eyes in disbelief as to how someone could be so cruel. Why did they hate me so much?
Hetty would tell me that Diana was jealous of me, but I could never believe that. Diana was really attractive. She was all blonde hair and blue eyes.
Every girl I knew looked up to her, and every guy wanted to be with her. Although we were half-sisters, we looked nothing alike, and we were nothing alike.
“Get out of my face, loser.” She shoved my arm as she joined her parents in the lounge.
What on earth are they all up to now? I don’t want to get married!
I joined Hetty in the kitchen and helped her prepare breakfast. Any thoughts about being forced to marry had long left my mind as we talked and laughed between ourselves.
She always made me feel a sense of belonging. I was attached to her. I don’t think I could have survived even one day here without Hetty.
“Raina!” My father stormed into the kitchen, causing me to drop the plate in my hand. “Your mother and I need to talk to you.”
I almost gagged at the way he called that woman my mother.
He walked out, mumbling something under his breath. I gave Hetty a nervous shrug before following him out, and her expression mirrored my own.
Four sets of eyes were fixated on my every move as I sat on the couch in the lounge.
My father stood with his hand leaning against the fireplace, my stepmother sat on the couch opposite the one I sat on, Troy stood by the door with a stone cold look on his face, and Diana smirked in the corner by the window.
“You are to be wed in six weeks,” My father stated blankly. What the hell? My eyes grew wide as my mouth opened in shock. He didn’t once ask if this was what I wanted.
“But Dad, I’m only twenty-one. This is hardly the age—”
“You are to be wed, Raina, and that’s final!” he interrupted. I knew if I spoke up again, it would end with me being punished. I furrowed my brow as my stepmother stood up and pointed her skinny finger my way.
“That family is completely out of your league, girl, so don’t go getting any ideas that you could ever measure up to them.” Her face raged with each word.
“You will be nothing but a baby maker to them,” she said, her eyes looking up and down my body as though I were pure filth.
How could she hate me so much? I may not have been her real daughter, but I was still her niece.
Who would have agreed to marry me without even meeting me? I clearly heard my father state that Richard Marigold had asked for me himself, but why wouldn’t he leave that decision to his son?
“Oh, she’s fucking daydreaming again,” Diana’s screechy voice cackled in the corner.
“Enough,” warned my father, wiping the smug smirk off Diana’s face. He turned back to me with an icy stare.
“You will keep the Wilson name held high, Raina. You will only speak good things of us. Don’t think we won’t still be able to punish you if you embarrass us in any way, shape, or form!
“Six weeks, Raina, and you will be married to Roman Marigold.”
Diana’s mouth dropped open at the last part of my father’s words. It was as if she wanted to say something but was holding it in.
She then looked at her mother with pleading eyes before storming out of the room in a huff. What was that about?
I walked out and back toward the kitchen, feeling my legs tremble with each step. I’m getting married. Fuck! I’m getting married. I wiped away my tears and tried to calm my sobs.
As the days passed by, I noticed that the beatings had stopped. I could only assume it was because I was being noticed in society now, and people would talk if I were covered in bruises.
That only made their words meaner, each insult cutting through me daily.
I often wondered what my husband would be like. The nightmares would find me.
I would be running from the darkness in a wedding dress, unknown hands lifting my veil only to see the menacing grin of Troy.
I would wake in a pool of my sweat, calling to any higher power to save me.
Hetty would distract me from time to time. We would stroll through the gardens and talk about many things.
“You are beautiful and kind like your mother. You have to believe in yourself, child.” She would encourage and lift me, touch my cheek with her gentle hand, and kiss my forehead.
Her motherly love kept me going. It kept me as strong as I could be.
My body had changed over the years. I would notice a lot more people gawking my way at social events. I had become curvy in all the right places.
Even toward the end of college, a few guys had asked me on dates, but I was always too shy to answer.
My chocolate wavy locks grew, almost reaching my waist. I was so thankful that I took after my mother in that department.
As the weeks went on, I slowly began to accept my fate. I had never been able to make a choice for myself once in my life, so why would I expect my marriage to be any different?
I could only assume that all of these upper-class families were the same, full of greed, just like my father. Money, status, and power were all that mattered in these high societies.
I was just thankful my father had backed off from beating me.
I felt a small sense of freedom in those few days before that one dreaded night that changed me forever.
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