When New Year’s Eve rolled around, the day of the party, I started to get ready from early in the morning. My father had been baffled but I’d explained to him that going to a formal event, at least for women, was an all-day process. I went to the salon in the morning for a shampoo and blow-dry, a manicure and a pedicure. Adrianne and I had gone early hoping to avoid a crowd, but it seemed that every other female in Kingston had the same idea, and that we all shared the same salon. The place felt as crowded as a popular nightclub.
When we finally walked out of the salon hours later, I was too busy scrutinizing the French manicure on my toes to even notice what was going on around me in the parking lot. A car horn broke me out of my reverie. I glanced up and was shocked to see Lily at the wheel of a car that was pulling into the parking lot, waving and grinning at me like a madwoman. For a second, I completely froze. “Hey Nadiya,” Adrianne prompted, “I think that girl in that car is waving at you.”
The words woke me up. I quickly whipped my head back down and tried to act like I hadn’t seen her. “Hurry, hurry, hurry, get into the car!” I muttered through clenched teeth, my chin pressed to my chest like someone had glued them together.
“Nadiya, what on earth is wrong with you?” Adrianne asked, puzzled. Instead of hurrying to get in the car, she had come to a complete standstill. “You’re just going to look the girl straight in her face and not say anything to her? And why are you staring at your feet like that, what’s wrong with your neck?” Lily honked again as she questioned me.
“Adrianne, please, just get in the car!” I hissed from clenched teeth. My cousin sighed loudly but this time heeded my words. Lucky for me, we were really close to the car. I speedwalked to the passenger side, trying my best not to break into a run, and we got into the car just as Lily was parking and getting out. I made sure to keep my eyes averted as we drove out of the parking lot, purposely turning to stare directly at Adrianne as if she was telling me the most fascinating story I’d ever heard. Adrianne almost crashed the car as she noticed my face only inches from hers. I felt awful as I heard Lily calling my name while I still completely ignored her. I finally glanced into my side view mirror as we were turning out of the parking lot and saw her still standing there, staring at the car with a puzzled look on her face.
“OK, now can you please explain what that was about? Who was that girl and why were you acting like some kind of fugitive running from the feds?”
I covered my face with my hands. “That was Lily, Kevin’s girlfriend. The one who I had promised I would call, and I never did? The girl who is dating my dream man and who I’m so jealous of? You know, that one,” I said sullenly. I was feeling completely stupid for the way that I’d just reacted. I had been avoiding Lily for so long that I had completely panicked, but I knew that Lily realized I’d seen her. My act hadn’t exactly been convincing.
“But…you knew you would be seeing her tonight anyway, didn’t you?” Adrianne asked, speaking slowly and clearly as if she was speaking to a child. A slow-witted child. “You expected her to be at the party, right?”
“Yes, Adrianne, I did,” I snapped. “But I hadn’t figured out yet how I was going to handle it!” I had actually included coming up with an excuse for Lily on my list of things to do for the day. Unfortunately, it had come after going to the hairdresser, not before.
“OK, well, now you really need to figure out how you’re going to handle it when you see her tonight.” Adrianne’s voice was cracking strangely. “On a positive note, I’m sure she’ll be much more interested in the way you acted today than in you not calling her these last few months.”
“Hey, are you laughing at me?” I asked, indignant, recognizing the strange sound in her voice.
Adrianne couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Nadiya…if you’d seen your face,” she got out, in between spurts of laughter, “it was hilarious…you looked like…you had seen a ghost…and then you just looked back down at your toes! You were just staring at your toes!”
I tried not to smile and encourage her, but I had to admit, the whole thing must have looked absolutely ridiculous. “OK, fine,” I said with a small smile, “I don’t blame you for laughing. But you’re going to have to help me out tonight when she asks me to explain!”
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine. We’ll think of something. Just please don’t panic and run away when you see her tonight!” Adrianne didn’t stop laughing for the rest of the car ride back to her parents’ house.
Geez, I’m so dumb, I thought, chastising myself. If she weren’t Kevin’s girlfriend, I would just tell her sorry that I haven’t had a chance to call. No big deal. But anything to do with him and I turn into a complete idiot.
“Nadiya! Snap out of it,” commanded Adrianne. We were in her room debating jewellery and make-up choices and she could see that I was distracted. “Trust me, I’ll handle Lily tonight. Don’t worry about that anymore. You need to focus on the issue at hand. Should I wear the long earrings,” she held an earring up to her ear, “or the longer ones?” We had enough fun getting ready for the party with our mothers’ help to finally distract me, and when Jeremy and his date for the night arrived to pick us up (he didn’t have the same superstitions that I did, this was the first time I was even seeing this girl), we both looked fabulous.
“Alright, you guys, have a good time!” Mummy said as we headed out. I was the last one out the door, and she grabbed my hand right before I closed it and whispered in my ear, “Have a wonderful time, sweetheart, and you just watch Kevin’s reaction when he sees you! He’s going to be blown away!”
I shook my head and pointedly ignored her words. “Goodnight, Mummy!” I really wished my mother hadn’t said that. Because, even though I didn’t want to, I knew I would be watching to see if she was right. I’d made every effort to look my absolute best that night, and it was all for Kevin’s benefit. I had never thought I could fall in love with a guy who had a girlfriend and barely noticed me, but I decisively had.
When we arrived in the backyard of Kevin’s father’s house (which, unimaginably, was even bigger than his mother’s house), the first thing that I noticed was that there was a bevy of gorgeous girls. There was nothing like getting dressed up to make females look beautiful. It just didn’t have the same effect with guys; they didn’t have the hair and make-up to work with. My father always said that Jamaica had the most beautiful women; all the girls there were certainly helping his case.
I did a quick mental self-scan to see how I stacked up. I was wearing a bronze-coloured strapless form-fitting dress with a mermaid shape. My freshly blow-dried and curled hair was down around my shoulders. My new tennis bracelet was on one wrist and I was wearing a pair of gold strappy heels. Yeah, I can fit in with all these girls! I thought with pride.
“Nadiya!” a voice trilled from my left. I knew already who was calling my name before, with a sinking heart, I turned towards the voice. It was Lily. Wow, she looks gorgeous, I thought sadly as she came hurrying over to us in her yellow flowy dress. I winced in preparation for the lecture I feared I was about to get.
“Did you see me at the hairdresser today?” Lily asked, hands on her hips. “I could swear that you looked right at me, but then you looked like you were trying to avoid me! What on earth happened?”
“Uh…” I wished the earth would open up and swallow me. What on earth could I say?
Adrianne jumped in. “Oh, was that you?” she asked in an amused voice. “Nadiya, I told you that wasn’t Shelley! She thought you were someone else,” she said, turning back to Lily. “This girl from school who really gets on her nerves. My silly cousin is supposed to wear glasses, you know, and as you can see, she never does. Who knows why, she does stuff like this all the time! She’s always getting herself into trouble because of it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief that my cousin had saved me. The story she had come up with was certainly better than the stammering I had been about to do. “I’m sorry, Lily, that’s so embarrassing. I wish I had known it was you.”
“Well, I’m just happy to see you here!” She really did seem delighted. “But I can’t believe all this time has passed by and I never heard from you!” She feigned a stern look. “What happ’n?”
I felt my face flushing. “I’m really sorry about that, I’ve just been really busy…”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Adrianne smoothly, “sorry to interrupt, but can I steal Nadiya away to introduce her to somebody?”
Lily looked disappointed, but Adrianne grabbed me by the elbow and we hurried off. “Bwoy, what would you do without me, eeh?” she giggled.
“I know, I’m a terrible liar!”
“I see that! But come, I seriously did want to introduce you to someone.” As Adrianne introduced me to a girlfriend of hers from high school and we chatted, I kept one eye out for Kevin. It didn’t take me long to spot him laughing with a group of friends, wearing a classic tuxedo and looking completely debonair. I had never seen him look better and that was saying a lot. He should be a waiter so he can dress like that all the time!, I thought dreamily, imagining myself sitting in a restaurant looking at a menu, with Kevin standing over me offering me a bottle of wine and speaking in a fake French accent.
“Stop staring!” Adrianne hissed in my ear, waking me from my daydream. I noticed her friend had somehow already walked away without me even noticing. “You should have heard how Natalie was laughing at you just now, saying how you’re so dumbstruck by Kevin that you weren’t even hearing our conversation.”
“Oh my God, am I that obvious?”
“Clearly! You didn’t even notice her go. Anyway, don’t look now but he must have sensed your eyes burning into him. He’s coming over here.”
A few seconds later, Kevin was by my side. He gave me a brief and boring hug, and I was secretly disappointed to see that he didn’t seem to be wowed like my mother had predicted. “But why didn’t you bring a date?” he asked, confused. “I was looking forward to meeting one of the many members of your harem!”
I blushed. “I don’t have a harem! I decided I would have more fun without a date.”
He looked puzzled. Understandably so, I thought. It was a deliberately vague comment.
“OK. Anyway, so how is your parents’ visit going?”
“Oh, it’s going great! I’m sure they’re having a wonderful time as we speak; my aunt and uncle are having a party tonight and all their friends are going to be there.”
“Yeah, my father and stepmother are off partying too. They actually went over to Grand Cayman to a friend’s.”
“Wow. And they trusted you with their house?”
He laughed. “Well, you will notice that we are not inside the house. But in all seriousness, yes, they trust me and I trust my friends.”
“That must be a good feeling.” Suddenly I noticed that Adrianne had moved away and rejoined her friend. I didn’t mind at all though. That happened a lot when I was with him; the rest of the world seemed to disappear for me when we spoke.
“Well, I need to go say hello to some more people,” he said finally after a few more minutes of talking. “I think I’m being rude. But check yu lata, alright?” I didn’t know if it was my imagination or not, but he seemed like his eyes lingered on me a second longer than necessary, like he would rather stay and talk to me than be polite. But I didn’t want to read too much into a look. Probably just wishful thinking.
As I watched Kevin walk away, I suddenly felt a hand grab mine. I looked to see that Lily had appeared at my side. She didn’t say a word, she just started pulling me away urgently. “Lily! What’s going on?” I asked bewildered. I suddenly had a panicky feeling in my chest. Had Lily finally seen through me? Was she about to chew me out for talking to her boyfriend for so long? Could she tell that I was interested in him?
Lily didn’t answer; she just hurried inside the house with me in tow. She seemed like she wanted to get inside before anyone saw where we were going. She dragged me into the study, a room that I noticed kept us totally out of view of the partygoers. “OK,” Lily sighed, once we were inside, plopping down into a chair. “This is the only way that I could get you to talk to me!”
She saw the scared expression on my face and rolled her eyes. “I know that you think I’m mad, but I don’t business anymore. There are some things you need to know. Well, one thing really.”
My heart was racing. Where is this going? Is she going to tell me to leave Kevin alone? Is she pregnant? Are they engaged?