“Alex, sweetie, are you ready?” My mother calls from downstairs. I sigh, looking in the mirror at my dress. The dress, which my mother bought, goes down to my knees and shows a “respectable” amount of skin. The dress is a pale blue with little white flowers all over it and it has a white cardigan to match.
“Alex!” My father’s voice calls out. I turn from the mirror and walk out of my room, my flats padding across the wood floors. I walk down the hallway, through the living room, around the corner, down the next hallway, and to the front door.
“I’m ready, father,” I say softly, keeping my eyes angled down a bit. He nods and opens the door. Mother and I walk out as he locks the door, and we go to the car.
“Stop slouching,” my mother criticizes when I slide into the car. I nod and with a roll of my shoulders to straighten out.
“When we get to Romano’s, I expect you to act the way we’ve taught you, young lady,” my father speaks up. “You will speak when spoken to, answer any questions Richard has, and serve him in any way he might need. You are trying to find a husband, so act like it,” my father orders.
I nod, “Yes, father.”
Fifteen minutes later, we pull up in front of a Valet booth. The young man outside opens my father’s door. While my father gives the keys to the valet, mother and I climb out of the car and wait for father. “Not a scratch,” father growls, turns, and walks inside.
Mother and I follow father in. He stops only to give his name and then leads the waitress to the table of his choosing. We come here often enough that the workers know my father has a mind of his own, mainly due to the fact that he’s one of the best realtors in the area and he has quite a bit of money.
My father sits at the head of the table with mother at his right and me to his left. Richard, the man my father is choosing for me to marry, walks up a few minutes later. He greets us formally and takes a seat next to me. He smiles at me, a charming, handsome smile. The kind of smile that- in a movie- would give off the shine. His hazel eyes gleam with arrogance and his dark, slicked back hair gives off a look of togetherness. He’s wearing something similar to my father, a suit and a tie with dress shoes.
“Alex, it’s nice to see you again,” he greets me specifically. My father narrows his eyes at me, so I respond, “Yes, it’s nice to see you, too, Richard.” He smiles again and turns to my father, beginning a conversation about work.
Over the course of the meal, Richard and father continuously and vigorously talk about work. They speak through the main course and the dessert, and when we finish eating all together, their conversation dies down.
“Mr. Valerie, we’ve spoken over the last few months and I’ve grown fond of your daughter,” Richard speaks after a moment of silence. I lift my head slowly and look to the man speaking. My father raises an eyebrow in interest, and Richard continues, “You have a beautiful daughter, sir, and I would like to ask your permission to date your daughter.”
My heart sinks.
My father laughs, a –what can only be a pleased laugh- and stands before pulling Richard into a hug. “Of course, Richard,” he says. Do I get a choice?
No, I don’t.
Richard looks over at me and smiles. I hesitate. I do not want this. I don’t even like Richard; he’s far too much like my father.
“Alex,” my father growls in a warning tone. I force a smile and nod, giving the only response my father will allow.
“Richard, it would be my pleasure to go out with you,” I choke the words out of my mouth. Once they’ve left my lips, I sit back in the chair and let my mind go blank. This man didn’t even ask me what I wanted. My father didn’t ask what I wanted, but he doesn’t care.
“Well, I think we should call it a night,” my father announces. We all stand and my father tosses a hundred dollar bill on the table. “Richard, would you like to walk Alex out to the car?” Richard gladly accepts my father’s not so subtle hint. He takes my arm, wraps it around his own, and leads me outside.
“Alex, I think this relationship will benefit the both of us,” Richard says as my father’s car pulls up to the curb. Benefit? What is this, a business deal?
With two businessmen like Richard and my father, it probably is. Is that what I am? An object given from one businessman to another? I know my father wants someone to be his heir to the company, and since I’m a woman, he says I can’t take over. He says that women should never be put in a place of power. Father thinks that women are made to be in the kitchen or in the bed.
I glance at Richard. Is this what my life is going to be?