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Bloom For You

Episode 32

A young woman I didn’t recognize answered the door a moment later. Her glossy brown hair was pulled up in a neat bun and she donned a simple pair of jeans and a sweater. The white apron around her waist clued me in to who she was: the new housekeeper.

She smiled at Dex and I, beckoning us inside by widening one of the front double doors. “You must be Miss Rosaline. Mrs. Reed told me to expect your arrival.” As she closed the door behind us she leaned over to the intercom system next to the door, letting out a short statement to let my stepmother know we arrived. She looked Dex up and down, her brown brow furrowing. “She didn’t tell me you would be bringing someone along though. I only prepared one bedroom.”

I smiled at her, hoping like hell it was reassuring. “That’s alright. She didn’t know.”

“Rosaline!” My stepmother exclaimed as she descended the imperial staircase.

I stood there awkwardly. “Hey, Valerie.”

She looked the same as she always had, her long red hair styled perfectly and her small body encased in an impeccable pair of slacks and a sleeveless silk blouse. Her ever-present pearls sitting perfectly along her dainty collarbone. She was beautiful, just like always.

Valerie grabbed me into a hug, her designer perfume smelling of wildflowers. My stepmother had never been outwardly cruel or rude to me, but she had never done anything to discourage my father from separating me from the rest of the family. I remembered the tears in her eyes when my father brought me home for the first time, and their hushed argument later that night about the impending destruction of their perfect little family.

I had always resented her for that. For not caring enough. For denying me a proper mother figure because of mistakes that were not my own. For spending more time outwardly denying my presence than getting to know me.

“Look at you!” she exclaimed, taking me by the shoulders and leaning back to take me in. “It looks like that Miami sun has done you some good.” She tweaked my nose a bit. “We missed you around here.”

My scoff sounded throughout the foyer, bouncing off of the perfectly marbled floors.

Valerie sighed, choosing to ignore my rude reaction. “Bianca and Adrian send their regards. You missed them by a few hours.”

With the exception of some childish taunts and pranks here and there, much like their mother, my half brother and sister had largely chosen to ignore me. I wasn’t sure if it was due to our age difference or the fact that I was the product of their father’s infidelity. Either way, I definitely hadn’t been eager to see them.

“Please tell them I said hello the next time you speak with them.”

My stepmother smiled and turned to Dex, who had been waiting silently and patiently at my side, sizing him up with her bright green gaze. “And who is this?”

“This is Dex, my boyfriend.”

Dex grasped her hand in his, giving her a firm shake before wrapping his arm around my waist. “It’s a pleasure to meet you ma’am.”

Valerie smirked, looking over at me once more. “You leave us for a few months and come back in the arms of some hunk.” She giggled. “You’re going to give your father another heart attack, Rosaline.”

“Speaking of, where is he? I should go see him.”

She waved me off, calling out for the housekeeper again. “Why don’t you get settled first? Clean up, have something to eat. Your father can wait a bit. Melissa will go retrieve your bags from the car.”

Dex shook his head. “No, please. I’ve got them.” He addressed Melissa directly before returning back out of the front door.

“What a gentleman.” Valerie giggled again.

I ignored her. “I’m guessing we’re stationed in my old bedroom?”

She paused. “I’m not so sure your father would approve of you two staying in the same room.”

“Well I guess it’s a good thing I don’t care what he approves of then,” I lied.

Dex returned with our bags and I grabbed my suitcase out of his hand before grabbing his arm. “Let’s go.”

My childhood bedroom was the same as it always was. Cream colored walls tastefully decorated with various random artworks and pristine white furniture, topped with the few valuables I hadn’t deemed necessary to take to Miami with me. The room was completely free of dust, smelled like lemon cleaning products and the large canopy bed in the center of the room was perfectly made up.

My bedroom, the space I spent very little of my time since my initial arrival at the Reed family estate, was completely bare of any sort of personality. I had bedrooms all over the world, California, the south of France, New York, even the English countryside, all of them filled with the best furniture, clothes, and accessories money could buy, but I absolutely hated them. I couldn’t wait to be back in Miami, lounging around Dex’s house or my dingy little apartment. The only two places that really felt like home.

“This is… Nice,” Dex tried to compliment the ornate bedroom but I knew he was thinking the same thing I was. It was cold, lonely, and completely depressing. There were no posters or family pictures, nothing to indicate anyone had ever really lived there.

“I’m going to shower.” I dropped my suitcase and pushed past him into the in-suite bathroom, desperately needing the few minutes of alone time a shower would provide me.

I couldn’t have described that night’s dinner if I was tortured for the answer. Dex, Valerie, and I sat at the large dining room table consuming a well-made but unmemorable meal over dramatic candlelight. In between the awkward silences, Val asked Dex and I all types of questions about life in Miami. After turning her nose up at Dex’s admission that he was a painter and I his assistant, she stuck to questions about the weather and nightlife, prattling off a list of upscale Miami restaurants she’d heard great things about.

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