Emma slowly climbed to her feet, stumbling over a few times in the process.
She brushed off the dirt that was deeply encrusted in her dress, pulled off her velvet high-heels, and began to walk, shoes in hand. Her bare feet scraped unpaved road.
Tears flooded her red eyes, the throbbing pain of her sore feet and the agony of the entire night was too much to hold in.
She had walked upon the dirt road for miles hopeful that she would find someone to help her, but there was no sign of civilization.
“Yes, Finally! There’s hope for me!” Emma exclaimed as she jumped in elation. The lights got brighter, a gray vehicle was rolling towards her. She inched her extended thumb forward.
The car grew closer.
Emma, whom had never even come close to hitchhiking before anxiously awaited what was to come. The car came to a halt beside her, the car-light flicked on.
Emma’s smile of hope had shifted into a look of terror. The driver appeared to be a man around her age. His dark messy hair covered nearly covered the dark circles around his eyes.
He appeared to be wearing a black Nirvana t-shirt with dark wash jeans.
They stood in silence, trying to resolve who the other was. Emma had come to the conclusion that the man was most likely not going to kill her, but was still scared.
“Umm, so where do you want me to take you?" asked the man
“72 Bates Lane,” Emma replied
“Okay, cool,” he replied. “I’m Alex by the way.”
“Emma,” she stated.
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say to the strange person beside them.
“Um, can we turn on the radio or something?” Emma asked in desperation for some kind of sound to break the silence. She couldn’t stand to be alone with her thoughts.
“Ugh no, sorry. It doesn’t work, my friend spilled Dr. Pepper on it,”
“Oh, okay,” she replied quietly.
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask how you ended up here, um like this...” He asked, finally breaking the horrible wall of silence.
“Well, um it’s like a really long and stupid story, but if you want to hear I guess you can,” she sighed.
“But, it’s like really, really, really stupid, and super embarrassing,” she warned him.
“That’s okay, I think that my curiosity to know beats over any morals I have to save you from embarrassment,” he laughed. Emma’s mouth stayed glued flat.
“Um, so anyway, what happened?” the man asked innocently.
“5 months ago I got engaged, to my childhood best friend, Vincent. I’ve known him since I was in kindergarten, he always stole the sparkly crayons from me when we were coloring,” she smiled.
“We had class together every year up until we graduated. We started dating in the middle of our sophomore year, on January 23, 2001 to be exact.
Everyone had been wanting us to get together for a while at that point.
It was snowing that day, and he wrote in the sticky stuff on the pavement in huge letters, ‘Emma will you go out with me?’.
He was always so good at grand gestures, they were always so well thought out and beautiful,” she continued slowly. Her eyes were completely dry now.
A beaming smile was plastered across her face as the thoughts of beautiful memories danced out her mouth.
¨Wow… that’s a really sweet story,” Alex said flatly with a deadpan expression, obviously disappointed that he didn’t get to hear something more dramatic.
“Yeah, it is a sweet story,” Emma stated, more to herself than to the man in the seat next to her. Her smile grew.
Seeming to jolt awake from a sweet dream, she sat up, her lips pursed into a frown, and nearly yelled, “But that’s the good part of it!”
“Well, it was all actually pretty good until today- I mean yesterday. Last night, there was a surprise engagement party for us. My Grandmother threw it.
She was really excited and she’s horrible at keeping secrets, so I knew immediately.
Last week she texted me not to make any plans for April 31st from 6pm-11pm because she needed me to help her with something at home.
She didn’t even try to come up with what that something was,” she laughed.
“And on top of that, she told me that I needed to wear something very nice and that my sister was going to drop off ‘something just absolutely perfect for me to wear’ according to her,
” Emma exclaimed as she imitated her grandmother’s voice.
“So then what happened at the party?” asked the man.
“All of my friends were there, even people from high school who I haven’t even seen since graduation. The house looked incredible, there was even an ice sculpture.
After a few hours at the party, and a lot of champagne everyone started to make toasts to Michael and I,” Emma paused, her upbeat demeanor had been diminished.
Alex nodded, urging her to continue her story.
She took a deep breath and began, “Michael went up to make a toast to me after about 6 people had already made speeches,
I could tell everyone was starting to get bored with hearing what a great couple we were.
But, Michael is great at making speeches and everyone knows it, so the room started to fill with energy as he stood up on his chair tapping his glass of bubbly.”
Emma continued, “He said something like ‘Emma you have always been my biggest supporter, cheering me on for everything that I do. So I know you will be on board with me for my next venture.
’ Of course he said it much more elegantly, but that’s the basis of it. After his speech, he continued to stand on the dining room chair in silence for a few strange minutes.
Everyone was confused as to what he was doing, but they were drunk so there was little thought put into it.
Then Michael broke his silence and blurted out, ‘And that venture is not getting married to you Emma, or any girl actually.’ The crowd was visibly confused.
He jumped of the chair he’d been planted on.
He walked through the crowd that was examining him as a completely new person, parting them like they were the red sea, and walked out the door,” Emma explained.
“I chased after him.
I needed him to tell me he was joking, and that he’d only said what he’d said to see what everyone would say, and had just forgotten to tell me his plan with all the chaos of the wedding.
‘What was that?” I shouted at him as he walked away from the apartment building. He turned around and told me I knew exactly what it was. Rage overcame my entire body.
I shoved, hit, and screamed in the street. I swung my arms at him rabidly. I was blinded by my tears and I gave a majority of my punches to the air. My fist finally connected.
He should of told me I thought as smashed his nose in. I collapsed to the ground, panting. Michael sat down next to me. He apologized as he nursed his broken nose.
I cried waterfalls into his chest.
I don’t know how I ended up in his car, but I was sitting in his passenger seat when my eyes finally began to dry. He drove slowly and carefully, like always.
The road was empty, only a gray minivan and a few taxis shared it with us.
As he drove, he shared his side of things with me- And to tell you the truth, I understand and pity that he felt he had to hide who he was from the world for so long, but still I was in shock.
An era of my life was over, I couldn’t handle it. My world was falling apart.
The car slowed to a halt as we came to a traffic light. Emotions were flying through me. I needed out of that car, I wasn’t ready to feel bad for Michael.
I had barely had time to feel bad for myself, to process what had happened. Just before the traffic light changed to green, I opened my door and tumbled out.
I sprinted into the woods beside the road, my dress flowing behind me. Michael chased me, but I was too determined. No one would catch me, not ever,” Emma finished.
The pair sat silently in the car once again. Emma’s eyes welled with tears.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you,”
Alex’s car came to a stop at a massive home, gated away from the world around it. Spotlights illuminated a manicured garden, complete with fountains and tasteful statues.
“Is this you?” he asked uncertainly. Emma nodded and gently opened the car door. She stopped halfway out the door and turned back to Alex.
“You can come in if you want,” she muttered, and quietly added, “I don’t want to be alone.”
“Um, okay.” He quickly stepped out of the car and followed Emma inside. Two staircases wrapped around the foyer, framing a decadent crystal chandelier that hung from the cathedral ceilings.
Wealth oozed from the marble floors and golden crown molding. Emma had placed her heels back on now and clicked around the house with a newfound regality.
“Do you live here with your parents?” Alex asked.
“No, it’s just me,” emma smiled as she poured herself and Alex a glass of wine.
“Follow me,” she commanded. Alex obeyed. Emma led him through a labyrinth of rooms and halls until she reached a massive portrait placed in an otherwise empty room.
She stared at intensely in silence. The painting seemed to drain to the life from her.
“Who is that?” Alex asked. Emma gave no response and continued staring. The portrait contained a clean cut old woman dressed in a suit. Her black eyes seemed to follow him.
“Do you know everything I told you was a lie?”
“What are you talking about? Why would you lie about that?”
“Nothing was true. Michael doesn’t exist. I’m sorry,” she said remorsefully.
“What’s going on? I need to go,” Alex said frantically. Emma tapped her heel to the ground three times, and the elderly woman in the painting appeared in the room beside them.
“Who are you?” Alex shouted. Before the woman could answer Alex collapsed to the ground. The wine glass in his hand shattered beside him.
“Thank you, Emma. You will be well compensated for this one. Please put him with the others, and make sure to gag him,” The old woman stated emotionlessly. Emma nodded and dragged him away.