Ever After. Chapter 19

Saturday finally came. Julia couldn’t stop pacing from one end of her room to the other, while rolling her eyes at the sky as Sonia tried to give her advice on the speaker of her Iphone on how to get her hair done and do her make up for the party.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t have a flat iron nor do I have the time to make my hair look like someone licked on it.”

“Stop being so annoying, Julia.”

“I’m not. I’m just trying to convey how I haven’t worn a dress nor been to a party in ages. Not to mention a party being thrown by Damian Solis.”

“Julia, you need to relax. It’s just a party.”

Julia scowled at the phone before sighing, exhausted from having stressed out all afternoon since the moment she changed into her dress.

If only it were that simple……..

“You’re right. I’ll figure something out. I do own a brush and a comb. I’ll be able to do something about my hair. And make up is just make up right? Shouldn’t be a problem.”

Julia could almost see Sonia’s tender smile when she said. “Okay, sweetie. We’ll see you later. Bye.”

Sonia hung up and Julia felt even more helpless than she had yesterday shopping with Sonia. She figured now getting the dress had been the easy part compared to now. She’d been to this party many times before, when it had been her father organizing it. But it had been different.

This time, she would be wearing a dress she now realized clung to her body more than she was comfortable with. And what had she been thinking about the back? It practically went all the way down a few inches above her ass. In hindsight, it had been a huge mistake.

“Damn it.”

She stormed back into the bathroom. With an hour before the guests started arriving, Julia decided that if she could write a bestseller, or eat snails in Morocco, she could certainly prep herself for a party.

Julia was in the middle of putting her foot high on the edge of the bed to tie the straps of her black sandals, when Esperanza came inside. She didn’t hear her, so she let out a loud “Ahh!” when the cook touched her shoulder and almost lost her balance.

“Julia, it’s just me.”

“I…God. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Is everything all right? The other day you let out a scream when I knocked on your door and now you almost jumped out of your skin.”

“I’m……..I’m just feeling a little bit anxious, that’s all.” Julia finished putting on her sandals and pointed a finger at her recently done hair and face. “I just don’t know if I did my hair right or my face. I……tell me, really, do I look okay or should I just shut myself in the room for the rest of the night?”

“You look wonderful.”

Esperanza went to sit next to Julia on the bed and hugged her. Esperanza kissed the top of her head, like a mother would a daughter before seeing her off to prom.

Julia had opted to tie her long hair at the base of her neck, while she let a few strands of wavy brown hair hang low over her forehead to the side. For the makeup, she put some color on her cheeks, dabbed some mascara on her eyelashes, added some smoky color with a hint of silver on her eyelids and a soft rose lip gloss. All were items Sonia had bought yesterday.

“You think so?”

Julia went to stand before the bathroom mirror, surveying the image before her. She had to confess she felt good now, after that hair and makeup panic attack had been dealt with. If only she had thought of buying something for her neck so the outfit wouldn’t look like it was missing something, but she guessed she would have to make do and just enjoy herself tonight.

As Julia had been in the process of getting ready, she discovered there was a lightness about her. She felt like jumping up and down as she was looking forward to tonight, if only to hang out with her friends and see this house restored to its former glory.

“I do.” Esperanza spoke to Julia’s reflection.

“Well, you look lovely, Esperanza.”

She surveyed Esperanza’s olive green dress. It stopped a little bit below her knees, with a pair of brown sandals and her beautiful black and silver hair shinning at her back, beaming just like the older woman was. She even did a quick turn to show Julia the dress.

“Oh, well. I just hope Joaquin likes it.”

Julia couldn’t help but smile as Esperanza sounded like a woman who was going to go on a first date, instead of attending a party with her husband from more than twenty years. It was sweet, and knowing Joaquin, he was going to be blown away by his wife’s beauty.

“He better, or else I’ll make sure he knows it.”

Esperanza’s stare lingered on Julia’s reflection, then, putting her hands on her shoulders she said. “You have blossomed, mija. In the time you’ve been here, you’ve recaptured the essence of the girl I used to know. I am proud of the woman you’ve become.”

The cook’s eyes glistened with unshed tears and Julia squeezed the hands on her shoulders. She whispered. “Thanks.”

Esperanza took a step back and waving a hand in front of her eyes, she said. “By the way, Damian wants to see you when you’re ready. He’s in his study.”

“Oh, okay.” She frowned. “I’m ready, I guess.”

They left her room. Esperanza left Julia to deal with the caterers before the guests began to arrive. The door to the office was half open. Julia pushed it and peeked inside, until she found Damian staring at the front lawn window. From here, she could see it glowed from the torches set on either side of the gravel path outside. They went all around the house, and they would guide the guests to where the party would be held, right next to the pool, which Julia saw earlier, had been adorned with floating candles and rose petals.

Julia cleared her throat and wondered why she didn’t faint here and now, when Damian turned around and locked his stare with hers. He was breathtaking. He wore a simple black linen shirt, open to reveal a tanned neck and part of his chest. A pair of white linen trousers and black leather loafers.

Her whole body shivered as she felt his gaze roam over her body and she felt an invisible pull urging her to walk over to where he was standing. However, Julia remained where she was, sure her out of control heart’s thumps could be heard inside Damian’s study.

Who would’ve thought that the same guy who was never allowed to this party, the same man standing there exuding nothing but elegance, confidence and success, not to mention sex appeal, had to wait for her outside the wooden gates in the past? Julia would sneak out from the party and dance with him under the silver glow of moonlight, to the echoes of the music coming from her back garden.

She was proud of him, of what he’d accomplished. It was a feeling untangled from the rest of insecure and yet strong emotions like love, longing and defeat that arose every time she saw him. And Julia understood, amazingly so, that things would’ve turned out different for them if her father hadn’t intervened. Not that she was glad he’d lied to her, she just realized they probably wouldn’t be standing here today, had things unfurled differently.

Damian stayed there another couple of minutes before he moved from the window to his desk, picking up a small box Julia hadn’t noticed until now. How could she? Damian’s presence was magnetic, unavoidable, making her aware of the man he’d become and yet of the boy who was still there. The boy she’d fallen in love with.

His dark eyes shadowed behind the sole glare from the desk lamp, continued to study her silently.

Julia wondered what he was thinking and if she was part of those thoughts. Damian always had this pensive look, and Julia loved knowing what was on his mind. Right now, she didn’t dare ask like she used to before.

“Esperanza said you wanted to see me?” She said in a raspy voice that sounded almost like she were seducing him. The truth was her throat had gone dry the second he focused on her.

“Yes.”

Damian realized he he couldn’t say more. He was star struck. Julia Andersson looked very much like the woman he knew she’d become. He’d noticed as much at the pool the other day. But now, as she stood mere inches away from him, with her hands clasped together below her waist, with that black satin dress covering her body flawlessly, and that hint of skin and cleavage, the man in him wanted very much to reveal all the secrets the woman she was today, hadn’t revealed to him ten years ago.

“What’s up?”

Damian had to put a stop to the many torturing and taunting images with Julia in that dress, before he could offer her a coherent response. He cleared his throat and began approaching her until he held the small blue box in front of her, offering it to Julia.

“I bought this for you.”

Her eyes went big, the surprise making them sparkle in the dim light of the room.

“You….you bought me something?”

“Here, open it.”

Tongue-tied, Julia did as he said. When she gasped, Damian’s lips curved upward, enjoying the shock as she stared at the red crystal heart, hanging from a silver chain, nestled on the dark blue velvet padding of the box.

“Damian this is………..” Julia couldn’t finish. She was still getting over the shock of him being all dressed up and handsome and now this. When she was sure her voice would not come out in a squeak, she said. “It’s beautiful.”

“Then it suits you, because you look beautiful tonight, Julia.”

Julia’s hands shook as she took the box from him, still unable to grasp the meaning of his gift. Which was why she asked next. “Why? I mean, it’s lovely but you didn’t have to get me anything.”

“I bought it because of what you’ve done. You’ve poured your heart into your stories, into making your dream come true.” And because I wish I would’ve never lost it, Damian thought but kept it to himself. He added. “I just wanted to give you something to commemorate your success and what is yet to come.”

“Wow. This………..this is the best thing someone’s ever done for me. I….I don’t mean the jewelry just….you know…..” Her voice wavered and Damian caressed her cheek, his eyes narrowed as he saw the tears reflect the pain in her eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

“You are giving me this, despite the fact we lived hating each other for ten years and…….” it was hard to keep the tears away. Julia took a deep breath, let it out and continued. “And when I went to find my dad to show him my first story had made it to the New York Times bestseller list, so he could see that I hadn’t taken the wrong decision, he just gave me a blank stare and said. ‘Unless you come with a clear head and the willingness to put this nonsense behind you, then I am not interested.’” Julia pressed her eyelids shut, she was done crying over something that didn’t matter anymore.

Damian’s curse vibrated deep in her bones. All she had wanted from her father was a pat on the back saying ‘if you’re happy then keep doing it’. Yet this man, who until recently would avoid her like the plague, was giving her a very precious gift because he was proud of her.

“It’s okay.” Julia shrugged her shoulders, nonchalantly, but Damian could tell she’d given anything to hear her father’s approval.

“I read one of your stories, you know.”

“You did?” Her eyes opened up and searched his face.

“I thought it was amazing. You always had the guts and the talent Julia, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”

“I don’t know what to say, I………” She was speechless. Maybe she hadn’t been aware but hearing him say that broke down one of the many protective walls around her heart. It warmed her all over.

“I just wish I’d read the first one.”

Julia was too astounded to say anything else. Never mind the gift, she didn’t care about that. What he just said meant more to her than if he’d bought her the entire catalogue from the jewelry store. It had never been about the material stuff with them. It had been those stolen nights, those long toe curling kisses, his hand taking hers, when he’d made her laugh, and the many times he’d encouraged her to do what made her happy, whatever that was. And most importantly, promising he would stand next to her every step of the way.

Yes, things were different now. And he hadn’t been there every grueling step of the way, but he was here now. Julia had no idea what would happen with them next, but just having back that tiny glimpse of what had made them belong, was the most precious gift he could’ve given her.

“May I?”

“Sure.”

Julia turned around and grinned like an idiot when she heard Damian’s sharp intake of breath, as he was obviously taking notice of the rest of the dress. Maybe it hadn’t been such a bad choice after all.

His hands came around her neck. The mere contact of his hands, as he struggled a little bit with the clasp, caused her skin to sizzle and beg for more.

“There.” He spoke close to her ear and she wanted to purr like a cat.

“Thanks.”

Julia walked over to the window and admired the necklace on her reflection. The red crystal heart rested perfectly on her slightly tanned skin. All Julia could think of was that she now looked perfect, complete. She had her heart back.

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