Jessica saw the curtains twitch in the living room. She knew it was father relaying to her mother what he saw. They often watched the street, not much happened, but when it did they were first at the window.
Jessica waited as Curtis walked around to her side of the car and opened her door. He held out his hand and helped her out. He stepped towards the gate, her hand still in hers. She felt that same sensation as she had earlier, but dismissed it, until he moved a piece of hair that had fallen over her eye, and then he leaned in. She was frozen to the spot as his lips crushed down on hers. The kiss was deep and passionate, she was not disappointed. When he released her, her lips tingled. He whispered in her ear, telling her she was good at this faking enjoying that kiss. She nodded, acting; she had been lost in the kiss. However she nodded, that it was an act, not admitting he had taken her breath away.
He released her and walked back to the car, turning once before he climbed inside the car, started it and then drove away. The whole time she watched, her fingers caressing her lips.
It was crazy, she thought for a moment that she might in time like him, but as soon as those words left his lips, the moment was gone, she would put on a good act, but was scared about what would happen when he said she was not someone he wanted to marry. After all his father would believe she did it on purpose. She could not let her family come to any harm; she would have to do whatever it took, to save her family.
She climbed the stairs and unlocked her flat, closed the door, changed and threw herself on her bed, she had not looked at her phone since she met her brothers, she had ten messages from her brothers and a few from her best friend too.
She read through them, replying to both brothers that she was fine and home safe. She left a message for Amy and turned her phone off; she did not want to have to read any more.
She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but thoughts of what will happen. The fake dates, the way it will end. She swallowed, touched her lips again, she would not allow his family to hurt hers. She would fake it, so much that to everyone else, it looked real. She could do that. She would do that.
The next morning, she woke early, switched her phone on. Jessica had not slept much at all, she was tired, but as her phone beeped into life, she had message after message, and a few missed calls. She ignored them all, a shower and a cup of coffee was what she needed, before she could deal with any of it.
The moment she stepped out of bed, she knew her mother would be up there. She unlocked the door, turned the shower, and stepped beneath the water.
Twenty minutes later, wrapped in a towelling dressing gown and slippers on her feet, she entered the kitchen area.
“So, who was that last night?” her mother demanded to know before Jessica could even open her mouth to say good morning. She turned to face her and sat at one of the chairs.
“Morning to you too, Mum.”
“Come on, who was he?”
“A guy I met last night. He offered to drive me home.”
“And I’ll be seeing him again soon.”
Her mother raised her eyebrows and tilted her head.
“Mother come on, that is all I can say, I only just me the guy last night.”
“Oh come on sweetheart, you can tell me, was it love at first sight?”
“I don’t know, maybe,” she replied and sat at the table, as the doorbell rang.
Her mother looked at her and before she could make her way to the door, her mother was on her feet and at the door, she opened it to find the man from the night before holding a bunch of red roses.
Um, is Jessica here?”
“She is, come on in. I’m her mother, please come on in,” she said, suddenly so sweetly and staring at him, fluttering her eyes at him. “Nice to meet you…!”
“Curtis, nice to meet you too.”
“Jessica go get dressed, while I put these in water, I know you don’t have a vase. I’ll get one from the house, take a seat, Curtis, she won’t be long,” she said, ushering Jessica towards the bedroom.
“Thank you, I’m here to pick her up, we have a whole day planned, best to wear something comfortable, Jessica.”
She stuck her head around the door, “We do?”
“Yes, jeans and comfy shoes would be best.”
“Okay, I’ll be ten minutes or so, you can make a pot of tea or a coffee if you can find them.”
“I am sure I can. Take your time.”
Her mother smiled and left the flat, mumbling about the flowers and how lovely they were.
Jessica closed her door and sighed, hearing him open and close doors, as the kettle boiled. Pulling out a pair of jeans, a top and a jumper, she put them on, before entering the living room-come kitchen area.
“I was not sure if you took sugar!”
“Coffee or tea?”
“I made coffee, was that okay?”
“Sure. What are we doing today; I didn’t know we made plans.”
“No, we didn’t, but my father insisted we get a move on with getting to know each other. A whole day seemed a good idea.”
“Okay, do you want to get to know me, I mean you have already decided that this is not going to work, and I am not saying I think we would have either. I just don’t think your family will accept that you…”
“Jessica, I said I would deal with that, my father and my family.”
“Right, but you don’t care about me or my family do you?”
“No, but that’s not the point.”
“No, it is the point. I care what happens, but we are not talking about this here. My parents may hear what is said here; let’s go, before they hear what I have to say.”
“What you have to say?”
“Yes, now drink up.”
Drinks drunk, Jessica followed him down to his car, while her parents watched from the window, knowing that her father would have wanted to meet him too. They would quiz her later.
They drove in silence. Arriving at a zoo, he parked, locked his car and placed his arm around her shoulder, as they walked towards the entrance. Jessica loved animals, she had not been to a zoo in years.
“Why did you pick a zoo?” she queried.
“I had a feeling theme parks where not your thing.”
“No, they are not, I love zoos,” she said.
“Good, let’s go, I want to show you my favourite animal.”
“What animal, the lion. King of the jungle?”
“Wow, this is going to be a fun day,” he said, as he paid, this time taking her hand. “I hate to tell you this, but my father has a few of his men watching our every move.”
Her mouth fell open; he leaned in and closed it, before leading her towards the monkey enclosure. She stood outside it, watching them swing and climb around the enclosure. The whole time his hand held hers firmly, she placed a smile on her lips, not that she had to fake the enjoyment. She was having a nice time, even if it was the oddest of dates, with his father’s men following them. She saw them talking on the phone, most likely telling his father, TJ exactly how the date was going.
As much as she wanted to pretend she was having fun, she did not need to, because she was enjoying herself, even if he was pretending. On the outside, they looked like any other happy couple. He was a true gentleman, opening doors, paying for things, holding her hand, and flirting with her. She had to keep reminding herself that this was all for show, that he was not about to fall for her, and they would get married. It was not as if she wanted to marry into his family either; he was not the man she would to marry.
The day was almost coming to an end, but they were hungry, and he drove them to a little restaurant that sat at the top of a hill. Curtis parked, and opened the door, allowing her to enter first. It was not as fancy as the one the night before.
She sat watching him as he ate; the men were there too, at another table. She wondered for a moment about all the money he had spent on her, would that be added to the debt her brothers owed.
“Thank you for today, it was really fun,” Jessica said as the food arrived.
“Good, I am pleased you enjoyed it, but not all our dates will be like this. I will wine and dine you, for a while, but give it three weeks and things will settle down. I want you to know that, after that time, I plan to let my father know we are just not working out.”
“And then what?”
“I was honest with you, that I did not want to marry you. That is not want I want, but as I said, we will play along for now.”
“But then what happens, the debt is not going to go away. My family will be the ones suffering, I am sure your father would not take kindly to me not giving him what he wants.”
“Tough, I told you that this is not what I want.”
She had not intended to cry, but tears spilled down her cheeks, she had to excuse herself and composed herself, before returning back to the table. The rest of the meal felt awkward to Jessica, how could she go along with this, she had to do what was best for her family. She planned to visit his father and tell him that she would do what was asked of her, but his son was not.
The meal was over, the drive home quiet, he dropped her off, a peck on the cheek, for show, he told her.