Emily was never particularly in the mood for social engagements- not most of the time anyways. However, seeing as this was a very important day, perhaps even the most important day ever for her father, she had even gone so far as to let Veronica burn her scalp a few times with her curling iron.
“I just don’t know why you don’t do this more often,” Veronica said, mid-curl, admiring her “extreme makeover powers,” as she liked to call it. “You really do look normal when you have eyelashes.”
Coming from a blond father and blond mother, it was only natural that Emily inherit the same pair of invisible lashes and eyebrows, although Veronica had somehow managed to end up with a jet-black mane. She always made it an effort to assure Emily that black hair was something she did not want, however, as it made shaving and waxing a daily task.
“Ronnie,” Emily said, looking at her through her vanity mirror, “I think you better pluck your unibrow. It’s getting quite bad.”
Veronica slowly brushed a finger on the space between her eyebrows, making a face of horror and rushing to the bathroom to find her tweezers.
“Hurry!” Emily called after her with false concern. “We only have five minutes!”
She then got up and closed her bedroom door. Her eyes drifted towards the pair of golden heels sitting on her bed.
Emily had always loved the idea of heels; A classy, elegant form of stilts for people who were rather on the shorter side, like herself.
Walking in them was another story.
She had never been one to have much of a sense of balance, or really any coordination at all. So, during the last five minutes before the Harrison’s arrived, as her sister frantically plucked out the hairs from her face, she slipped on the heels and hoped to somehow master the art of walking on sticks. Gripping her bedpost for dear life, she slowly inched forward, and then a little more, and just when she thought she was getting the hang of it, the doorbell rang- four times.
“Once will do!” She heard her father yell downstairs, followed by a few muttered swares. According to what he had told Emily and her sister last night at dinner, he had hated Tom Harrison ever since their first year of college together. There was no particular reason why, other than that he was a “greedy, money stealing, lying little twit who also, unfortunately, happened to be quite good at businesses,” as her father had put it. Veronica almost choked on her food at the “little twit” part.
Emily heard the sound of tweezers quickly being dropped onto the bathroom counter and knew it was time to start heading out. She reminded herself of all the things not to do, like be awkward, try to be funny, and to really just not speak at all. Today meant the difference between her father getting the job of his life, or giving up on his dreams for good, and he was going to get that job.
She started down the wooden stairs slowly as their butler, Geoffrey, opened the door to let the Harrison family in. Veronica was already there, greeting them with a smile and her freshly plucked face. Emily had just made it down the final step when the older woman, which she assumed was Mrs. Harrison, approached her rather quickly.
“Goodness, Arthur, she’s so thin!” She said to her father.
Going red in the face, Emily didn’t know what to say, so she just gave sort of a laugh in reply.
“Eat a second helping of supper tonight, won’t you dear?” She was touching her on the shoulder, actually seeming concerned.
“Sure,” she said, already disliking them. She could tell they never were really familiar with the word “hello.”
“Oh, that won’t do any good,” her father said, chuckling. “This one here eats like a pig all day long and doesn’t gain a thing.”
Emily wasn’t sure if she should be offended by that statement or not, but she decided to brush it off.
“Lucky you are, then,” Mrs. Harrison said, and with that, she went over to sit in the dining room.
Veronica had already befriended the curly haired boy they had brought along with them, probably their son. He seemed decent and laughed quite frequently at whatever Veronica was saying. This was unlike the other boy who still had not taken a step further from the door the moment they entered. He stood there with his arms at his sides, looking around at their enormous house, and then his eyes drifted up towards the ceiling, his whole head leaning back to see the full length of it. Deciding he looked lonely, Emily approached him.
“Hey,” she simply said.
Startled, the boy turned to look at her and his face suddenly filled with an expression of disgust.
“Don’t talk to me,” he said sharply, and he finally started walking away from the door.
Emily felt her stomach drop.
Never. Never in her life had she been so rejected. She wasn’t exactly “popular” around town, or really a loser either, but people didn’t dislike her enough to be like that. She watched the boy in hatred as he sat down at the table and figured she had better do so as well. Two steps in, a large figure halted her. This was Mr. Harrison.
Emily’s first reaction was to introduce herself, shake his hand, but he had spoken first.
“You must be Emily,” he said, his tone hard to read. Still in frustration from the boy, she wasn’t trying too hard to make a good impression. She nodded her head.
“Well then, I’m Mr. Harrison. Pleasure.”
He still didn’t sound too enthused. Emily reached for his hand, not realizing which hand she had put out, and quickly knew by the way he glanced down and brushed her off that he had seen it. Emily thought she saw the slightest hint of fear on his face, and she knew she had definitely gone red when she felt her cheeks burning, but otherwise his face was quite expressionless.
“Well then,” he cleared his throat, adjusted his coat, “It’s about time we eat. Jameson-” he motioned for the curly haired boy to come. He and Veronica broke their conversation, still smiling about something, and sat down next to each other. Once, they had settled down, Arthur was the first one to break into their lobster dinner.
“It’s such a messy entre’,” Mrs. Harrison said, twirling the lobster leg in her hand. “And you know me, I don’t do finger foods.” She set the lobster back on her plate and placed her hands in her lap. The table was silent.
“You could always do what I’m doing,” Emily said finally, pointing to the napkin tied around her neck. Veronica turned to eye her from across the table with her “what-the-hell” look. What had she done wrong?
“Take that off,” she whispered, curly haired boy looking back and forth at them.
After a moment, Mrs. Harrison chuckled and said, “I don’t think I’ll be needing that.”
Hesitantly, with her fork in her mouth, she bit off the piece of lobster and quickly untied her napkin. Her father had never complained about it before, so what was the deal with them? She came to the realization that maybe what was acceptable when they were alone, wasn’t so acceptable when there was company. Not that she would ever have known, because they never had company over.
Arthur, who had been awfully silent, decided to finally try and get some sort of conversation going.
“So, Harrison,” he looked over at him, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen your boys. God they’ve grown so much. How old are they now?”
“Well,” he started proudly, obviously liking this topic, “Jameson over here will be 18 in two weeks. We’re thinking about taking him to Tokyo this year. Paris is starting to get a little old.”
“Oh really? I’ve been to Tokyo myself a few times, and I must say it’s a magnificent place to be in. Everything is so colorful and beautiful, you have to tell me how it goes!”
“We’ll make sure to send you a postcard,” Mr. Harrison said, although it sounded very fake.
“I’m fine with Paris,” Jameson said, chewing his lobster. “But you know where I’ve always wanted to visit? Antarctica!”
“Antarctica?” Mr. Harrison paused right before his fork reached his mouth. “Son, we’d be dead in ten seconds.”
“I know, but there’s these cruises you can go on, and they give you all this gear and stuff so you don’t die, and you can even see polar bears and penguins. We have to go someday.”
“But there’s nowhere to shop in Antarctica,” Mrs. Harrison said, her tone brushing him off as ridiculous. “And besides, Jameson, we can just see a penguin any old time at Sea World.”
“No, Mom, that’s not the point.” He took a deep breath. “The point is to be there, seeing them really live their lives in their natural habitat, not behind some glass.”
“You’ll like Tokyo,” said Mr. Harrison, nudging Arthur. “Didn’t you hear what he said? Tell him, Arthur.”
“Well,” he said, “I do think Antarctica would be rather fascinating. It’s one place I haven’t been to yet. And think about all the stories you would be able to tell after.”
Jameson smiled at him.
“See? He agrees with me. What about you, Edgar? Don’t you want to go to Antarctica?”
He turned to his brother, who had not spoken a single word since they sat down and seemed to be zoning out the entire conversation. He looked up from his food.
“I dunno, could be interesting,” he said softly. He didn’t seem as nasty as he had been when Emily said hello, but seemed rather shy now. As soon as he had responded, he was back to looking away from the table. Emily wondered if maybe something was wrong.
“That makes two yeses. What about you, er, I’m sorry, what was your name?”
He was looking at Emily, waiting for her to respond, but she wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to get into his whole Antarctica argument. Mr. Harrison was looking like he was trying very hard not to lose his temper now, and that was the last thing her dad needed. However, when she saw the eager look on his face, she decided to speak anyways.
“It’s Emily. And I think you should do whatever you want. After all, you are turning 18, aren’t you?”
He looked at her and nodded his head.
“She’s got a point, you know. I like the way this one thinks. See father, now you have to-“
“That’s enough, Jameson.”
He said the words so calmly, so coolly that it was frightening. She didn’t think he would dare speak again after that, but Jameson didn’t seem to be easily brought down.
“Dad, it’s my birthday. I’m only turning 18 once, and after that, I’m gonna be moving out and starting my own life. This is the last time we’re ever going to do a birthday trip, at least for me anyways. So please, if you would just think about it, just a little bit-“
“Can we discuss this later?” Mrs. Harrison said abruptly. “Now is not the time.”
“It’s never the time.”
Everyone rustled over in their seats to look at Edgar, who had suddenly spoken softly, but loud enough to be heard. “You never do what he wants, or what I want, or what anyone else wants. All you do is take him to places that you want to go to because all you think about is yourselves.”
After that statement, the room was left stunned. Emily exchanged horrified glances with Veronica, who then looked over at Jameson, tugging at his own curls. Clearly, Edgar had been keeping this bottled up anger inside him for a very long time. Emily looked over at Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, waiting to see what would happen next. Why did this night have to be such a freaking mess?
“Go outside,” Mr. Harrison said. “Both of you. Now!”
The two didn’t hesitate to get up.
“Arthur, I am so sorry,” he said, watching them walk out the door. “I sincerely apologize-“
“No, Harrison, but I’m afraid that I’m sorry as well,” said Arthur. Mr. Harrison wrinkled his brows in confusion.
“And why is that?”
“I don’t think I can work for a twit like you, much less a poor father.”
Emily saw Veronica smile out of the corner of her eye. Mr. Harrison, however, was not amused.
“I’m a poor father? May I remind you that the first thing your daughter did when we arrived was flirt with my son, like some sort of desperate middle-aged woman. And as for the other one, well, at least our Edgar isn’t deformed.”
Emily’s heart sank. She looked down at her finger, the one that wasn’t, well… there. It was her ring finger on her left hand. She had had it at some point, but she didn’t really remember life before it was cut off, or it being cut off.
“You can leave my house now,” Arthur hissed. You did not dis his daughters.
“Very well then. Come on, dear.”
“Go to hell!” Veronica yelled, standing up. “And may I remind you that your son just so happened to be flirting back!”
Arthur didn’t say anything. He just watched them leave.