“Why would you think that I think you’re taking advantage of me?” Cam asked
“Because you are wealthy. Like, seriously wealthy."
"Really? I thought I was just comfortable."
"Comfortable? Cam, you have a whole townhome with bathrooms in each bedroom, state-of-the art appliances, and a nice luxury car. In fact, everyone who lives in this community has a nice, fancy car in their driveway! I'm surprised there isn't a big gate keeping all the commoners out."
"Well, it is a bit of distance from the city center, so there's that. But what point are you trying to make? The balance of my personal bank account isn't something I've really thought about.
The point is that you are very wealthy. I thought I knew that back in university, but it turns out I didn't know anything. You were born into money, and you’ll probably die with it, too." I imagined him being laid to rest in one of those swanky mausoleums, dressed in marble with the aroma of "I'm dead but I'm still better than you". "I can't help but feel like I'm the cross between a gold digger and a trophy wife."
"Nonon, you're neither of those things." Cam reached over and patted my shoulder. "You're too soft to be a gold digger and too independent to be a trophy wife.
“Yeah, well, it crossed mine. I knew you had it good but I didn’t know you had it like –” My arms flailed as I gestured to random things all over his house “ – this.”
“Do you at least like all of this?” Cam asked, mimicking my gesturing. “I bought it with the future in mind. In hopes that one day, I’d settled down with a family here. Lucky me, it happened sooner.”
“As lovely as this sounds, I hope you know that it’s going to take time for me to get used to it.”
“Take all the time you need. Just as long as you lean on me. I’m going to be your husband, remember?”
“I know, I know. But don't expect me to be comfortable with things for a while.” My voice wasn’t as confident as I would have liked for it to be. Thankfully, he didn’t notice. “I know you want to take care of me, but I need you to remember that I have my own desires and goals to accomplish.”
“Is one of those goals quitting that dead end job of yours? Because if I were you, I would.” He squeezed my shoulder, that playful smile returning to his face. “I would love nothing more than to take care of you and make sure you have everything you need. If want to keep working at your job, I will support you. If you want to quit and look for something else, I will support you. Whatever you choose, I will support you.”
“Cam…” My voice lowered to a warning tone as I stared him dead in the face. But the more I thought about it, the more his words made sense. Why would I keep a job I couldn't stand? I had my pride, but I wasn't so stubborn to miss out on something like that. “Yeah, you're right. I hate that job and my mother knows where I work. I've wanted to ghost that place for weeks, no, months, and now I finally can."
Just before noon, we travelled to Mayfair, which thankfully wasn’t as crowded as it was the day before. Maybe it was due to many families still being or church or the lack of a massive bridal fair on the mall roof. The first thing we did was head over to mobile phone store. Cam added another line to his service so that I would have a new phone. I didn’t fight him on this one – getting a new phone made sense. If I kept my own phone, my mother would have a way to connect with me. By having a new phone with a number she had no knowledge of, the connection would be severed.
I did get a little nervous when he suggested that I get the purple flip phone that's been all the rage recently. Not an old phone from like ten or twenty years ago, but a newer model smartphone that just so happened to flip close. I’d secretly wanted that phone for a long time but I was too focused on moving out so I couldn’t get it on my own. I didn’t put up too much off a fuss when the retail specialist suggested it for me.
“Only you and I need to know your new number for now,” Cam told me as everything was set up. “Keep your old phone off. When you’re ready, we can call your cell phone provide and cancel your plan. I’ll take care of the fees.”
“It’s a pay-as-you-go phone,” I pointed out. “It expires in a few days anyway. As long as I don’t pay for a new month, it should be fine.”
“That makes things easier. I wasn’t looking forward to calling to cancel a phone anyway. Half the call is spent trying to keep you on contract, and the other half is spent guilting you in changing your mind.”
I scoffed. “Something tells me you have personal experience with all that.”
“Heh. What was your first guess?”
Once my new phone was set up, it was time to shop for clothes. It was a whirlwind of beautiful skirts, classic blouses, colorful sweaters, and of course, nice pairs of jeans. I went from store to store, buying clothes I liked and knew would have staying power. I…might have gone a little overboard…but Cam didn’t seem to mind. I guess that’s what happens when you’re able to get the items you want rather than making concessions to ensure you get the items that you need.
Cam was a cheerful trooper, insisting that I pick out whatever I want, price tags be damned. I think he took great pleasure in watching me ooh and ahh over clothing. As for me, I wondered how that beautiful yet sassy “escort” in that one movie felt when she purchased all those expensive threads on the dime of the rich businessman who hired her to play his girlfriend at several high-class social events. It was a movie I probably shouldn’t have watched as a little girl (some of those scenes were spicy), but I remembered being enraptured by the sight of the red-haired woman, looking stunning in her pretty white dress and black wide-brimmed hat as she sat down in her hotel room, triumphant after putting a judgmental salesclerk in her place, Roy Orbison crooning about how gorgeous she was.
I’d never be that redhead in the black hat and white dress, but I understood how she felt, like a million bucks, refreshed, renewed, and reborn.
The following day, I ghosted my job. I was a nervous wreck. I never thought I was the type to ghost a person, let alone an entire job. But I did. Cam was there for me the whole time, giving me thumbs up and smiles for encouragement. I won’t lie. It felt good to be rid of that horrible job and I knew my mother would hound them to figure out where I’d gone. Better to cut them loose and never deal with them again, guilt be damned.
I’m sure they tried to call me, but I'd already turn the phone off, even before the phone’s anniversary when it would shut off on its own. Instead, it sat in the darkness of my nightstand drawer, languishing in digital purgatory, never to be used again. By next week, they'd probably already have a post on the job boards, looking for my replacement.
My mother...I tried not to think too much about her. Knowing her, she had long gone nuclear, complaining to the family about my disappearance. Her gravy train was gone - now, she had to figure out how to take care of herself. As angry as I knew she'd be, I also knew she'd be unwilling to get the cops involved - she never liked authority and it's not hard to figure out why. She had no idea about Greenview and since I wasn't big on social media or anything, she had nothing she could refer to figure out where I was. As far as she knew, I'd just disappeared - ghosted her like the job I couldn't stand.
It felt good, cutting off all ties with my mother and my previous life. Any guilt I might have felt for taking such drastic measures wouldn’t last forever. At least, that’s what I told myself.
Cam and I were seated at a counter that was a distance away from the main display case where most of the other customers were gathered. With white-gloved hands, the consultant showed us a selection of upscale but simple wedding bands. She tried to convince me that they had some of the most breathtaking engagement rings set with flawless diamonds that would make the sun scoff in jealousy, but I waved them off. I wanted simple. Cam knew better than to try to convince me otherwise.
I was out of my depth. One ring blurring into another, despite all their different little quirks. Some rings were gold, others rose and white gold, and other still platinum. Some rings were engraved with the name of the jewelry maker on either the outside or the inside of the ring band. Most rings were smooth all around, but others had a design that reminded me of a snake coiled around into a circle. After a few passes, one pair of rings stood out – a set of platinum rings that looked like the rolling waves of the sea. Both rings had the band shape, but only one had a sparkling diamond set inside the stone. I smirked. There I was, against engagement rings of all shapes and forms, and yet this wedding band with the little diamond had my full attention. “How about this one? I know I said no diamonds, but this one speaks to me. I just think it’s nice.”
“An excellent choice,” the consultant cooed. “We call this set the ‘waves of forever’. It was created with the ocean in mind, since the sea seems to go on for an eternity, just like your future marriage.”
“Right…” I know she meant well, but I wish she hadn’t said that. I turned to Cam, who didn’t seem to share my awkwardness. “What do you think, Cam?”
“Hmm.” Cam hovered over it the set, gazing at the two rings for a bit before nodding. “I think you have great taste, Nonon. It’s both simple and unique. It’s a ring I’m happy to wear every single day after our wedding.”
“Aww, you’re so sweet.” Either the consultant didn’t hear the hint of sarcasm in my tone, or she avoided it altogether. Cam, on the other hand, looked as smug as ever. “So, would you like to go with these then?”
“Absolutely.” Cam leaned in closer, close enough that I could smell the lingering hints of his woodsy cologne. Anyone on the outside would chalk up the move as a man getting a little closer to his chosen companion. But the move made my heart jump into a furious pace. The marriage may not be a real one, and we may not be a real couple, but moments like things made it feel like we were. Somehow, I would have to find a way to deal with that. I had no idea how I would, but I had no choice but to figure it out. “Miss, my bride has spoken. We’ll take this set, please.”