5.1 Scarlett's Art Of Kissing A Stranger

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I thought about canceling my date with Aiden, but calling him two hours before we're supposed to meet and bailing on him isn't the impression I want him to have of me. Especially when the only reason I have is the bruise on the side of my neck.

Wanting to avoid people asking questions, I called in sick today since the weekend is up next and I'll have three days to heal and be my regular self. Besides, I had to make a decision to protect my image.

The day they see the bruise is the day everything will change.

It seems shallow and uncalled-for, but I know people's opinions don't take long to change. The minute they realize I'm not as perfect as they think I am is the minute they'll label me a domestic violence victim and start to pity me. I don't want to see the sympathy in their eyes, their minds reading hidden messages in every word I say before they quickly assume 'she's saying this because she's been through it'. I would rather be called perfect than be known as the victim.

I've become a great pretender, able to hide my scars behind the veil of perfection. I'm not really as sad as most would think. As mom puts it, I have a perfect life. So what if my father slaps me once every month of leaves a bruise every few weeks. At least I look like the girl they all aspire to be. At least I look like someone they can look up to and swoon at.

That's the image I prepare myself to portray: rich, smart, beautiful; the perfect girl with the smile that can conquer the world. I put on my black Chanel jacket, my Dolce and Gabbana jeans, and my Louis Vuitton boots. I grab my luxury Fendi handbag and apply a mac matte lip balm before picking up my vibrating phone to glance at the texts.

'Hope you don't mind a few cupcakes with the coffee. I found this cozy café I know you're going to adore. Just follow the location on the map I'm sharing.'

'P.S. Grab a jacket. It's about to rain.'

'P.S.S How freaking ro-man-tic.'

Not answering him, I lift my gaze to survey my reflection in the mirror. I look nothing like myself and exactly like my mom, elegant, stylish, rich and beautiful.

Fake.

My phone vibrates between my clenched fingers and I exhale a mournful breath.

"I can't do this," I murmur to my own reflection.

The more I think about it, the more realize how shallow all these superficialities really are. The tag on my bag, the designer's name on my clothes, how much my mascara costs ... who cares about all these? Aiden didn't see how big my house is or how many cars my dad owns. He didn't see my mom's walk-in-closet or my dad's luxury office that stands atop any other in the state. He doesn't know how much my parents donate in charity each year or that my dad's tax returns probably cost more than his ten years' salary.

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