The Wager

By: Calista Kyle


Chapter One: Lily

I really hate my friends sometimes. That was what was going through my head as Melanie stood there trying to convince me to go to this charity gala with her.

"You know I hate all that stuff, Mel," I said.

"Pfft," she snorted, waving her hand in front of me in dismissal. "You've never even been to one, so how would you know?"

"I've never had a root canal either, and I'm sure I wouldn't like it one bit," I shot back.

"Oh come on," she pleaded, changing tactics. "Brian was supposed to go with me and you know how that turned out, what with him jetting off to Thailand and leaving me in the dust. I don't want to go alone. Besides, it might be fun!"

She looked at me with her big brown puppy dog eyes and I felt a little bit of my resolve crumbling. I hated when she looked at me like that. Deep down I was a big softie, and Mel used it to her advantage whenever she thought she could get away with it.

Still, I hesitated. These fancy functions weren't my cup of tea. She was right in that I had never gone to one before, but that didn't mean I didn't know what to expect. It'd probably be full of uptight snobs and shallow people, who went only for the publicity and free booze.

Mel's mother has been in charge of overseeing the event ever since she took over as editor of Chère Magazine 20 years ago. While it was always one of the biggest social events of the season, this was actually the first year that Mel's mother had invited her to go. Mel had been talking about it for the past few months.

I knew it meant a lot to her, and honestly, she'd probably need some moral support to face down her dragon of a mother. But that didn't mean I was ready to volunteer myself for the task. I knew I wouldn't fit in and would probably stand out like a sore thumb. Parties and hobnobbing with the rich and famous just didn't appeal to me at all.

"Are you even sure your mother would even want me to come? Last I checked, she couldn't even stand the sight of me," I said.

"The invitation says I could bring a guest, so she really can't do anything about who I invite. Besides, she never said she didn't like you."

"Yeah, just her cold glares or her mentioning my bad influence on you, as if being fat were contagious, really pointed to her affection for me," I scoffed.

Mel had the grace to blush in embarrassment, but still she tried to defend her mother. "Oh come on, she glares at everyone. You should see the looks she gives to me. And besides, you're not even fat. There are women who'd pay thousands of dollars for the figure you've got. I don't know why you're always so down about yourself. You know my mother has this warped sense of beauty. I mean look at her job," she said.

"But I still have nothing to wear. I doubt I could get away with wearing an off the rack dress from J. Crew or whatever else is in my closet. I don't have anything fancy enough to attend this gala."

That much was true, and I'd hoped she'd finally drop it and find someone else to go with, but she was undeterred.

"Don't worry about that," she said. "I'll take care of your dress and all the accessories and hair and makeup. You just have to worry about getting your butt out the door."

I sighed in defeat. Mel could be as stubborn and determined as a mule when she really wanted something, and she had set her sights on me going to the gala with her. There'd be no point in arguing because I knew she'd just keep chipping away at my resistance until I finally agreed to go.

"All right," I said. "But this is the first, last, and only time I'm going to go to one of these events with you."

Mel's face transformed into delight and she squealed as she grabbed my hands.

"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" she said before giving me a hug. "I'll owe you one, and I'll never ask you to go to one of these things with me again."

"Yeah, I'll remember that for next time," I said doubtfully.

Once Mel left, I stood alone at the counter of my bookstore. Already I was regretting my decision. I hadn't gone out to a party or even a date for over six months, ever since I broke up with my ex, Michael. I thought longingly of the plans I had had this weekend--sitting at home with a nice hot cup of tea, curling up with a good book and my cat Misty at my side. Instead, I had to play dress up and plaster on a fake smile for a whole night.

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