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Falling for the Ghost of You(9)

By:Nicole Christie

A man in a suit opens the big glass doors for us ,smiling and gesturing for us to go on in. Mom grabs my hand and pulls me forward, over to the little alcove where a model-like young woman is standing behind a fancy glass lectern.

“Welcome to the Four Seasons,” she greets us with a professional smile. “Do you have a reservation?”

“Um, yes. I’m Lily Mercer,” Mom says timidly, tucking a lock of hair behind an ear. “I believe the reservation is under O’ Connor. Bill O’ Connor.”

I don’t like the superior look the toothpick girl bestows upon my mother. “Yes, Mr. O’ Connor is already here. Follow me, please.”

I don’t miss the snide up and down look she gives me, either. She exchanges smirks with another stunning girl who we pass by on our way to be seated. I can’t help but feel self-conscious. Do we have signs on our foreheads saying we don’t’ belong? Is it our cheap-looking shoes?

Why couldn’t we have gone to Taco Bill’s? I’ve already been dumped there. It can’t possibly get more humiliating than that. Right?

The interior of the restaurant is all shiny dark wood and glass. The bar is off to the left, full of well-dressed people. Mom and I follow Toothpick Girl as she expertly weaves her way through tables. Please don’t let me trip!

She shows us to a table next to a window that displays the setting sun casting pink and gold rays over the water. The man sitting at the table half-rises at our approach.

“Enjoy your meal,” Toothpick Girl says to me with another smirk.

“Thanks,” I say sweetly. “Enjoy your…waitressing.”

I turn away before she can react. Whatever. I don’t know why she thinks she’s so fancy. My attention returns to the man—Bill. My mother’s fiancée and my future step daddy.

Bill is not the powerful corporate tycoon I imagined. He’s really good-looking, but not in that rich sophisticated way I was expecting. He looks so young in his casual shirt and jeans, and kind of scruffy-looking, with longish red gold hair and an unlined, unshaven face. His ice blue eyes never quite look me in the eye, just a quick glance here and there if I ask him a question.

So I find out that Bill actually created the Arpeggio OS—which is what I use on my phone! Mom goes on and on about how revolutionary it is, more user friendly and interactive than any of its predecessors. As if I didn’t know! It’s so cute how she gushes on about his accomplishments, while he just remains quiet, occasionally looking at her and smiling. I find myself really liking him. He’s not what I expected at all, and I’m relieved. I like his silent awkwardness. He’ll fit right in with us.

“So where is Zane?” Mom asks after taking a sip of her iced tea. “I think they’re going to come for our order soon.”

Bill barely looks up when he says. “He said he was going to be late, so we should go ahead and start without him.”

“You’ll like him, Violet,” Mom tells me, her eyes twinkling excitedly. “He’s only a few years older than you, and he’s…he’s a software engineer, right Bill?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Bill mutters, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. I picture a younger geekier version of Bill.

“Zane lives in L.A., but he’s going to be staying at the pool house so he can supervise the renovations while we’re in Europe. Isn’t that nice of him? In fact—before I forget—let me give you his number, Violet. You can call him if you need help with anything. Zane’s going to be working on some project for work, but I’m sure he won’t mind if you give him a call once in a while.”

Mom digs through her purse for her phone. When she finds it, she makes me put his number into my phone. I have no intention of ever calling him, but I do as she asks, since I know it will help her worry less about leaving me for a month.

Four waiters come to take our order—I’m not sure why. I decide on the tempura shrimp, which I had in Hawaii and enjoyed. Despite my nerves, I’m starting to feel a little hungry. This atmosphere, while beautiful and posh, is not the most relaxing. I wish I could just get some fast food and take it home. I wish I could sulk over Matt in private, instead of pasting a smile on my face that feels like it’s going to break into a million pieces any minute. I’m honestly thrilled for Mom, but watching her and Bill exchange secret smiles and glances…it’s just too lovey dovey for me right now.

I have the sudden urge to jump up and shout, “I’ve been dumped! Screw you all!”

Will this night never end? I surreptitiously text Lauren, keeping my phone in my lap.