The Arrangement (New Hampshire Bears Novella)

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Authors: Mary Smith
and heads to the corner of the room.
    There are no words I can say to him right now, and I do have more guests to greet. I want this to be a perfect night for Aimee. She and Ned seem to be floating around on a cloud.
    I notice the appetizers are running out and wines are low, so I search for the manager when I overhear my name in a conversation near the hallway.
    “I heard Vance got two girls preggers.”
    “No, it’s Dacey who he knocked up. The parents are rushing to get them married.”
    “You’re both wrong. Their arrangement broke up. Dacey is tainted. Someone needs to inform her she’s going to be a spinster.”
    They laugh.
    “Please, if she ended up a spinster it’d be a step up for her. Did you see her dress? Trying hard to fit in much?”
    The tears burn my eyes, and I know if I give into them then those bastards win. I will not allow it. I turn from the hallway and see the manager I’d originally been looking for. After I inform him of the issues with the food and drinks, I step back into the VIP room and see Dad in the corner with Vance.
    My first concern is Vance’s knees and pray Dad isn’t on the verge of taking him out. My second concern, when Vance seems to be intact, is the expression they’re both wearing. Dad looks concerned, patting Vance’s shoulder. Vance looks like a lost puppy, begging for a home or food.
    I can’t just up and forgive him for his actions; he had intercourse and even dated while in Canada. While I sat at home every night and read books, went to school. And kept my nose clean. Had I seen attractive men in my life? Yes. Would I ever do anything? No, of course not.
    Suddenly, bubbling in the pit of my stomach is rage, hurt, and I begin to seethe as I storm over to Vance and Dad.
    “Darling, we were just speaking of you.”
    “Wonderful,” I smart off. “I need to talk to you. Alone.” I glare at Vance, who nods and stands.
    I lead the way out of the VIP lounge, through the Green Room’s thumping bass music and out into the streets of Belfast. I walk away from the waiting crowd outside the bar until I turn and slap Vance across the face.
    My hand stings from the action. “I’m not going to apologize for it,” I firmly state.
    “You have every right.” He rubs his now red cheek.
    “I’m fucking mad at you. For the past eleven years, I’ve done nothing I wanted to do while you bed hopped and traveled and did what you love. All I did was sit home and wait by my mobile to speak to you. And each time, I hoped that call would be the one you said you cared for me.”
    He starts to say something but I toss my hand up.
    “If you say a single word right now, I’ll not be responsible for my actions.”
    He closes his mouth.
    “I prayed and hoped we would find our right path and we’d be in a real relationship. When you came home this time, I thought we’d reached the path. Instead, your mood differences are because of shagging whores and not me. When you kissed me, I really believed it. I believed you truly had feelings for me.
    “And now people are gossiping about me. In there. When it isn’t anyone’s business, now I’m a laughingstock, and I didn’t do anything wrong.” I choke on a sob and tears spring from my eyes.
    There’s no time in my life I’ve cried this much, but the last twenty-four hours it’s been a waterfall. Vance pulls a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and places it in my hand. I dab my eyes and cheeks.
    “I’m sorry I hit you.” My bad-ass-no-apology attitude leaves. Now I’m back to my shy, meek usual self.
    “I deserve much more.” He pauses. “Who was talking about you?”
    I wave my hand toward the club. “Just people.”
    “Is this the first time you yelled at anyone?” I clearly pick up his teasing tone.
    “Besides Aimee, yes.”
    “Don’t be mad at yourself. You can’t keep it all in.”
    We fall into silence. The only noise is from the waiting line at the Green Room.
    “Dacey, tell me what you want done and I’ll

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