“Cam, we really don’t need to spend a ton of money on wedding bands. We can just go to a simple jewelry store or even Russell’s or something.”
Cam responded with a head shake a grin, holding my hand as he guided me into the Osmanthus Fine Jewelry Company store down the road from Mayfair, in the Oakview Court Shopping Center. It was less an indoor mall and more of an upscale strip mall for people with money. Serious money. It was filled with high luxury brand stores that I’d only seem in fashion magazine spreads and romantic comedy movies. Boutiques that are always hidden in plain sight, only seen by folks who can afford the pricey tags.
Someone like Cam – not me.
“Nonon, I want us to have nice rings.” Cam squeezed my hand. “Everyone else is going to be lowkey, but the rings are important.”
“They are, but do we have to…” I lowered my voice, leaning in closer. “…do we have to spend a ton of money on them? You’ve already spent so much already.”
“It’s fine. You don’t need to worry.” I knew that I didn’t need to worry, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. “Nonon, it’s fine, really. Really. Would you relax? People are going to think I’m forcing you to marry me.”
“As long as they get that hefty commission, I don't think they care."
“I’d like to think the people here aren’t that shallow.” Cam puckered up his lips, cocking his head to the side. After a moment, he blinked his eyes, shaking his head. “But you're probably right.”
“Indeed.” I covered my mouth, struggling to stifle my laughter. “But for real, Russell’s is open twenty-four hours. We can go back into the car and get a simple band set.”
“No. Not going to happen. I get that you’re trying to be considerate but I’m not budging. I want us to have nice rings so we’re getting nice rings.”
“No ‘buts’. Let me do this for you. I promise you, I’m not doing this to make you feel obligated to go through with this. I’m doing this because I want to splurge on my wife-to-be, because we both know that’s been long overdue.” The words were hard to accept. Not because I doubted his sincerity, but because I didn't think I was worth all the money he invested in me. “Now, come on - the consultant's waiting.”
I offered Cam a smile as we walked toward the counter, but my discomfort remained. I felt so out of place in Osmanthus. Everything was bright and shiny, from the show floor lights burning a soft white glow to the sparkling diamonds and other jewels in the show cases, proud and cushioned in their opulence. What the hell am I doing here? The question was an annoying pop-up window taking up every corner of my brain. But it was a valid question.
What the hell am I doing here?
What is my life right now?
Is this my life right now?
The first official day at Cam’s house was an adventure. Waking up, I thought I was still in my motel room, my cell phone blinking with missed calls and messages. But it didn’t take long to realize my change of venue. I blamed my new pajamas for that. Seeing the colorful hearts on comfy cotton fabric and my luggage resting by the door was the catalyst I needed to shake my memory.
Cam’s home would be my home from here on out. I moved my things last night after our Mayfair outing. That morning marked the first day of my new life in Greenview, since I’d never have to sneak away to the Peacetree Motel for a weekend stay ever again.
I was engaged.
To be married.
To Cam... my best friend.
My wealthy as hell best friend.
I wasn’t one to curse, but more than a few expletives came flying out of my mouth.
The realizations were so hard hitting that I plopped back down onto my bed to let it all sink in. I’d finally escaped from my mother’s grasp. She had no idea where I was because I had the foresight to turn off my phone the night I checked into the hotel. She wasn’t very savvy with tech but there were family members who could teach her how to locate me using the map on her phone. I couldn’t take that chance. But my euphoria over my escape wore off and as I sat there in bed, I wondered if I’d really gone about this the wrong way.
Was I worried about Cam? No. I knew I had nothing to worry about with him.
I was more worried about how I was going to get used to this sudden change in lifestyle.
My new bedroom gave me every indication that no longer was I in Kansas anymore, I was now in a prime luxury room smack dab in the Emerald City. Never had I ever had the pleasure of sleeping in such a comfortable bed. Dressed in high-count cotton sheets topped with a fluffy duvet made of clouds and sweet dreams, I wondered how Cam found something like this in the first place. The curtains, a soft and muted gray, covered the massive window that I imagined offered sweeping views of the neighborhood – maybe even Greenview as a whole. The iron nightstand beside the bed beckoned me with a stack of various books featuring artistic photography and architecture. The walls were bare, save for a few tasteful portraits of a flock of birds flying against the gray, city skies. There was a plush, ivory area rug resting beneath the bed, its mission to keep the feet warm and protected from the room’s smooth hardwood floors.
The whole setup reminded me of those staged rooms houses realtors use to convince someone to put in an offer for a property.
My bedroom was just one part of an opulent, spacious townhome. I don’t know what ideas I had in mind for Cam’s new home (and to be fair, I didn’t really know where he moved from in the first place), but a three-floor luxury townhome was not it. Cam, up until the night before, was a bachelor. What did he need with more than one bedroom or even three floors? It seemed like overkill. But Cam and I seemed to have very different ideas of residential needs. I figured that had to do with us being situation and two very different tax brackets.
Cam didn’t give me time to get wrapped up in my concern. Once he realized I’d woke up, he was by my side, making sure that I slept well, and I was doing fine. I didn’t have to heart to mention how off-balance going from a shack to a mansion made me, and as weird as it all was, there was no way in hell I was going back home to my mother. So, I kept my mouth shut.
Cam wasted no time making sure that I made myself at home. After treating me to brunch, he insisted that he take my shopping for new clothes. There was no way I’d be able to go home now and get whatever clothing I had there without encountering my mother and those items were getting on in years anyway. I insisted on using the money I had been saving for that, but Cam was having none of it.
“Nonon, I want you to know up front that everything I’m doing from this point on is of my own free will.” There wasn’t a hint of shakiness in his voice. “Whether it’s buying you new clothes, moving you into my house, or just being there for you when you need someone, I made a promise to give you a good life. Now, let me keep it.”
“I just don’t want you to think that I’m taking advantage of you.” My voice was shaky, uncertain. I grabbed onto any semblance of assertiveness lying around in my bones.
Cam arched an eyebrow. I swallowed hard. “Why would you think that I think you’re taking advantage of me?”