“We need to find the most gorgeous dress,” she told me. “Something that will make Bastian subconsciously think of you, even if he doesn’t know who you are.”
“He calls me sugar plum,” I said softly. “He used to call me his littlest sugar plum.”
“Perfect!” Rosie clapped her hands together with excitement. “We’re going to find a plum-colored dress. It will look perfect with your hair too.”
“You’re so excited about this.” I laughed. “It’s as if you’re the one going!”
“Let me live vicariously through you,” she said. “You know my parents won’t let me date until I’m eighty, not when I’m living with them and they’re footing my bills. Like… all of them. This is all I get.”
We made our way through store after store, rifling through racks of festive clothing. Nothing felt right though, and by the time lunchtime rolled around, my stomach was rumbling, and we were still empty-handed. Rosie came to a stop in front of an expensive department store.
“Not there.” I shook my head. “I won’t be able to afford it.”
“Come on,” she begged. “Let’s at least have a look. What if you find the perfect dress?”
“The perfect dress that’s way out of my price range.” I sighed, but nevertheless I followed her into the store.
The place was magical. It even smelled good, like expensive perfume. Rosie led me right to the designer section of the store and began going through the racks, but I stopped in front of a mannequin wearing the most perfect dress I’d ever set eyes on.
It was long, with a shimmery purple train and tight in all the right places, while generously fanning out under the waist. There were ruffles on the shoulders, but it didn’t look like a dress a little girl would wear. No, it looked like a dress fit for a queen. Bastian’s queen.
“This one,” I spoke up, catching Rosie’s attention. “This is the one.”
She gasped when she saw the dress then gasped again when she checked the price tag. Chewing her bottom lip, we tried to work out a way to get around the hefty cost.
“You’re going to have to use your Dad’s credit card.”
“That’s only for emergencies,” I reminded her, shaking my head. “Somehow I don’t think this constitutes as one.”
“How many times have you used it since he gave it to you?”
“See? He won’t mind. He’ll want to spoil his favorite girl. Just try it on first. Let’s see if you’re still in love with it then.” She touched the material again. “In fact, we can return it afterward and he won’t even know.”
I didn’t think that was how it worked, but I wanted the dress too badly to talk myself out of it.
Begrudgingly, I took the dress into the changing room. The moment the rich, plum-colored velvet and silk slid onto my skin, I knew it. This was it, the dress.
I walked out of the changing room and Rosie clapped with excitement when she saw it, saying, “It’s settled. You have to get it!”
And then that was it. I was going through with this. I was actually going to do this… with Bastian.
At the checkout counter, I handed the sales assistant Daddy’s credit card, hating myself. Rosie even found a pair of silver stilettos and a matching silver sequin clutch for me. Luckily, they were more affordable, but still, the whole outfit added up, and I knew Daddy would ask me about it.
But it was all worth it, and when my fingers gripped the bag with my new purchases, I beamed, knowing this was meant to be.
Rosie and I settled down in one of the mall’s cafés to discuss her master plan for the day of the party.
“I’ve got it all worked out,” she gushed. “So. Here’s the plan. Sean asked you to the party, right? So he’ll expect you to be with him the entire night. But what if… we tell him we both want to go?”
“I mean,” she went on excitedly. “He’ll show up with two girls on his arm, which he won’t be able to resist. And it means I can distract him while you put the moves on Bastian.”
“You really think that’s going to work? That he can get another ticket?”
“Of course.” She nudged me. “You’re gravely underestimating my charm. I can distract him for hours.”
“I’d rather not know what that entails.” I giggled. “But wait. What about Professor Sullivan?”
She scoffs. “Who cares? We’re adults and he’s an ass. He’s got some kind of superiority complex bossing around his students. I mean, we pay for our damn classes. If I want to not show up all week, that’s on me.” I can hear in her voice she’s getting pissed. “Fuck him.”
I snort. “God, I hope this works out,” I muttered, biting my lower lip.
“It will. Don’t worry.”