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“Oh great!” I mumbled to myself when I saw Ayden proposing to Leni. And I was having such a great day too. My store was almost complete, I met a very helpful business contact, my merchandise was on the way to being delivered by the wholesalers, and yet I come home to this!

1048

The sound of Leni’s joyous squeal as Ayden scooped her up into his arms made it clear that her answer was yes, and I wanted to vomit. I shouldn’t have been so surprised by this because they’d been together since high school but the thought of Leni getting married before I even had the chance to have my first boyfriend upset me greatly. In fact, I was furious.

1049

As usual I kept calm and quietly went upstairs to my bedroom before they noticed I was even there. They were too busy making out to notice if Bigfoot walked into the room far less for me. The next day they told everyone the news. I pretended to be happy about it and offered her congratulations and then she and Mother went off to start planning the wedding. I can’t believe Mother didn’t intervene to let her know what a bad idea this was. She shouldn’t be marrying Ayden, or anyone for that matter, given her mental issues. Sure she might be medicated and in therapy but sometimes I hear her when she’s gone off the deep end, which happens whenever she doesn’t take her pills on time. She’ll be walking around the house in her pyjamas talking to her own delusions making you wonder if someone was really there with her or not.

1050

None of these episodes happened around Ayden and I was certain she didn’t tell him about her condition so he would know what to expect when they start living together. My theory was confirmed when I overheard Mother and Clay advising her to tell him the truth before the wedding. She insisted she would, but I decided to do her favour and have a little chat with Ayden myself.

“What’s up Gemma? It’s been a long time since we’ve hung out together.” Ayden said as we sat down in the living room. Uncle Felix was in the garden outside and everyone else was either at work or at school. Leni was still sleeping after working late the night before so it was the perfect opportunity for the two of us to talk one on one.

1051

“I know we haven’t been close like we used to be and that’s my fault. When I found out about you and Leni, I took a step back because I didn’t know how to be friends with you as my sister’s boyfriend, but I’ve never stopped caring for you as a friend.”

“Thanks, I feel the same. Maybe now that we’re going to be family we can work building our friendship.”

“Sure I would like that…”

1052

“What’s with the sad look, Gem? You okay?”

“Yes I… there’s something else I need to tell you, something I think you deserve to know before you marry my sister.”

“What is it?”

“She’s hiding something from you Ayden. She wants to tell you after you guys marry, but it’s not right for her to deceive you into committing the rest of your life to her without knowing the whole truth.”

“There are no secrets between Leni and me. We tell each other everything. What could she possibly hide from me?”

1053

“Do you remember when she got sick in high school?”

“Yeah, she had mushroom poisoning or something. What about it?”

“Well, the doctors told her that because of the poisoning she’d become mentally unstable in her adulthood. She’s already exhibiting some unstable behaviour. She talks to herself, she’s fidgety and erratic, she gets these flippant mood swings… she takes medication to control it but sometimes it shows up on her anyway. You probably didn’t notice because you don’t live with her like we do.”

1054

“I don’t believe what you’re telling me. Leni would have told me. She wouldn’t keep something so serious from me if it was true!”

“It is true. Look, she’s afraid of losing you that’s why she lied. Maybe she wants to make sure that you marry her first so when she does tell you the truth you’d be more inclined to stay with her.”

“You mean, trap me?! Cause that’s what it sounds like!”

1055

He was angry and I was counting on that, only one more revelation to hit the nail in the coffin. “There’s one more thing. The doctors said she can’t get pregnant. The poisoning left her infertile.” That was an exaggeration. The doctors actually said the poisoning reduces her chances of conceiving naturally but who cares about the technicalities, right?

He stared at me for a few seconds, his face a mixture of emotion before he put his head in his hands and groaned loudly. “Oh Watcher! How could she…? She knows how much I want kids! She could have said something. She lied to me! I loved her and she lied to me! I feel so betrayed!”

1056

“I’m sorry Ayden, I really am. I just felt like you deserved the truth but please, don’t tell Leni I told you. She’d hate me for ratting her out and I don’t want to damage our relationship as sisters.”

“I won’t tell anyone what you told me, but you’ve given me a hell of a lot to think about now. Thanks for being honest.”

“No problem. I only want the best for everyone involved.” And by everyone, I mean me. Ayden looked extremely upset and Leni only has herself to blame now. She should have been honest with him from the beginning. If he was so in love with her then her issues shouldn’t matter, right?

1057

The next day, Ayden came to the house wanting to speak with Leni in private. They went to her bedroom so I made sure to go to mine and press my ear up against the wall so I could hear everything that was being said. He confronted her about what he learned, careful enough to leave out the name of the person who told him.

“Oh Watcher! How did you find out?!” She gasped in shock.

1058

“Does it matter? The point is, you lied to me.”

“I was going to tell you Ayden…”

“When? After we got married? After I commit myself to you for the rest of my life?”

“I’m fine Ayden. I take my pills on time, I see a therapist, and I’m still the same way I’ve always been…”

“No, you’re different and not because of your condition, but because of how you played me. You probably would have remained quiet until, I don’t know, the morning of our wedding to tell me if I didn’t confront you now!”

1059

“Today, I was gonna tell you today. I’ve been talking to my therapist trying to find the best way to tell you the truth.”

“It’s too late now. I’ve been thinking and I have to do what’s best for me. Honestly, your issues are too much for me to handle especially since I can’t trust you to be upfront with me about what’s going on with you. I want a family someday Leni. I want to be Dad and I can’t have that with you. I’m sorry, but I can’t marry you… forgive me but, I just can’t…”

1060

I heard crying that sounded like Leni and for a moment I felt just a little bad for her until she started begging him to reconsider and crying about how much she loved him, and he was her whole world, and blah, blah, blah. It was so pathetic.

1061

The next thing I heard were footsteps, a door closing and Leni’s wailing was getting louder by the minute so it was easy to figure out that he dumped her. Thank the Watcher! For a while, I wondered if Ayden was going to stay with her despite knowing the truth but I’m glad he made the right decision for the both of them. Leni would just ruin his life anyway.

1061a

After that whole debacle, I quietly got dressed and left to meet Zachary for dinner. We’d been spending quite a lot of time together since meeting. It was mostly business related, but then we’d hang out and have few drinks or lunch and get to know one another. Tonight was our first official date and I was more excited and nervous about it than I wanted to admit.

“You look amazing,” he said as he presented me with a single red rose.

1062

“Thank you. Roses are my favourite.”

“It’s a good thing I guessed right. I was thinking daisies at first, but a rose seemed more like you.”

We sat down at our table. It felt so odd being here since this place was also where my parents had their first date.

“You look amazing.” He said with a warm smile.

1063

“Thank you.” I responded, hoping he wouldn’t see me blush at his compliment.

“I hope I’m not being too forward here, but I just want to say that I really like you a lot Gemma and I’m not looking to date you just to date you. I want to see if we can have something long term because that’s what I’m looking for – someone I can love and spend the rest of my life with. I know all that sounds really corny, but I’m a family oriented guy and having a wife and children has always been a dream of mine and I’m so tired of the dating game.”

1064

I was stunned. How was it possible that I just happened to find the kind of man I’ve been looking for right off the bat? Was I really that lucky or was he just telling me all the right things to woo me? He didn’t seem dishonest and I think I would have picked up on that. I’m usually a good judge of character. I can always tell when someone is trying to manipulate me. Maybe it’s because I do the same thing to other people so I know all the tricks. Zachary is not like that. Call it hunch, but I felt like he was being genuine.

“Uh-oh, did I blow it?” He said, probably noticing my silence. “Tell me, I can take it. I’m scaring you off with all the marriage and family talk huh? I mean you’re a young woman and probably not ready for all of that as yet.”

“Forgive my quietness it’s just that I am really impressed by you. I’m not looking to play the field. I’m a traditional, classy kind of girl who wants to settle down just like you.”

1065

“That’s great to hear.” He smiled a boyish grin and I suddenly felt that whole weak in the knees thing I kept hearing about. The rest of the dinner was great. We talked a lot about our childhood, our interests and future plans. He even made me laugh a few times. Some of his jokes were corny, but he was such a goofball that he even made me laugh at those.

“I had a wonderful time Zachary.”

“I did as well. But I have a confession. Your father actually encouraged me to ask you out.”

“What? So that’s the only reason we’re on this date?”

“Not at all. I liked you from the moment I saw you but because you are Stephan’s daughter I was hesitant to show any interest in you out of respect for him. But I think he figured it out and kind of gave me his blessing. He was the one who said I should bring you here because you liked this place.”

1066

The idea of dating Zachary suddenly started looking ten times better now that I knew he was Dad-approved. Perhaps that was Dad’s plan all along when he introduced me to him. Dad knew Zachary would be a perfect fit for me and he wanted me to have a partner who would understand me and treat me right. Remember how much I hate public displays of affection? Well, all of that went out the door the moment my lips touched his.

1067

My very first kiss ever took place in the middle of a crowded lounge, but I didn’t care because I enjoyed it too much to allow anything else to distract me from Zachary’s mouth and the sensations it created throughout my body.

1068

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