“Deferred” by Tiffany Romigh
Blurb: Sheltered, 17-year old MEZZANINE PARKER has never been allowed to make any decisions for herself. And now that she’s freshly graduated from high school, instead of going to the college that everyone in her family has attended, she wants nothing more than to show everyone that she can become a success in the place of her dreams, New York City.
To show Mezzanine how unprepared she is, her controlling parents go out on an unexpected limb and allow her to defer college enrollment and give her a test in exchange for her freedom- a 12-month test of adulthood that they are certain that she will fail. By July 4, she must have and keep the following 3 things nailed down: a good job, an apartment that she pays for and an acceptable boyfriend…or she’ll be forced to come back to Texas, give up her dreams and go to college with a parentally planned curriculum and life to go with it.
Mezzanine looked at the Mercedes-Benz symbol bruised into her back.
If it were only a few inches higher, my hair would cover it. Or if I’d been where I was supposed to be, I wouldn’t have to cover anything at all.
She swished her long, dark hair from side to side in the mirror, trying to see if there was any chance that the mark could be made invisible, but no matter what she did, it just looked like a bulls-eye with an arrow of infidelity shot right into the center. She took a long swig of last night’s champagne straight from the bottle, hoping that it would make her feel less guilty. Thank God I actually made it home alone. That part I remember, at least.
She looked at the clock. 3:14 p.m. Quinn wasn’t due to land that night at JFK until 6 p.m., and with a radio show to do as soon as he landed, he would arrive at the apartment at a bit after 8 o’clock if he didn’t have to sign autographs. That left her several hours to sleep, clean herself up and figure out what she was going to tell him about where she had been when he had tried, over and over again with no success, to track her down. And where had he been last night? Working. And trying to make sure that she was ok.
Her mind flashed to Francois laying her down on the hood of his shiny, silver car outside the St. Regis Hotel. So, so hot and so, so wrong. He doesn’t even know I’m only eighteen. Wait, he doesn’t even know very much English.
She walked over to her makeup kit and pulled out a foundation brush and some samples of a full-coverage under eye concealer that they’d been developing at work. Well, it’s worth a try. Let’s see if this baby really does what we say it does.Ten minutes later and still branded by the hood ornament, she flopped down onto the comforter. It was hopeless. I’m just going to have to come up with something else. Her mind drifted back to last night, the town cars rushing by her on the right as they headed toward Fifth Avenue, and Francois’ warmth melting into her as they kissed, over and over for hours until he picked her up and put her into the car. Sure, he was sexy and mysterious and a little dangerous, she thought, taking small sips of champagne with her shaking hands, but Quinn was….well, he was Quinn. And with every second she felt more and more guilty.
Feeling exposed, she grabbed a tiny, flimsy nightgown that did little to cover her tall, thin frame. I love him more than I’ve ever, ever loved anyone. I’d die if I lost him. And, I’d be deported. When did everything get so complicated? How did this happen? She could barely remember a time when things weren’t so crazily, dramatically intertwined. She was so lost in the folds of her own mini-drama that she didn’t notice the tall reflection in the mirror and the noise the suitcases made as they hit the floor with a bang.
I need to get it together, she thought. I can’t let him see me like this.
She jumped up, but it was too late. There Quinn stood, fully visible in the doorway with his mouth open and his eyes fixed on her bruise, the champagne bottle and the fact that she was still in bed in the afternoon. He had been watching her for what felt like hours and, try as he might, couldn’t hold his words in for another second. I don’t know who you are anymore, he thought.
“Mezzanine…” His eyes were watery.
She whipped her head around trying to cover her bare, exposed back, and she turned to face her adorable, faithful boyfriend who had come in early, especially to see her. Her mouth turned to barbed wire.
“…What in the world has happened to you?”