My Spanx were killing me. So was being stuck in this ballroom decorated with Swarovski chandeliers and pretty lies. But all I had to do was put in a brief appearance. Shake a few hands, smile at a few faces, and then I could duck out.
Elegant notes from the string quartet floated in the background as I leaned against the bar, clutching a glass of 2007 Gaja Barbaresco in one hand and scanning the crowd. Movers and shakers, the big-deal kingmakers—and the strivers clawing their way to the top. At a glance, I'd spotted a handful of CEOs, the mayor, countless socialites, three senators, and my twin sister, Quinn, with her fiancé, Adam. None of the options were appealing.
Attending these events was squarely at the bottom of my list, right next to having laser hair removal on my bikini line and getting a root canal. Well, I'd never had a root canal, but I assumed it was about as pleasant as these ostentatious parties. Unfortunately, my mother cared more about keeping up appearances than about my feelings. Or at least, that was the only explanation I could think of as to why she continually guilt-tripped me into attending. Another an event, another excuse.
Her new husband, Charles Horvath, had thrown this charity fundraiser tonight to support endangered sea turtles. He was a big oil magnate and I assumed this event was intended to create the illusion that he cared about the environment--even though I was also fairly certain that wasn't the case. When I'd suggested that I could support the cause equally well by giving a donation from the comfort of my own home, my mother had looked at me like I'd suggested we go slaughter the turtles en masse.
If I wanted to remain in her good graces, my presence wasn't optional. But I couldn't explain was why, as a fully grown adult, I cared so much about what she thought. I didn't want her life. I knew firsthand it wasn't nearly as nice as it looked from the outside.
"Thayer!" A voice called out from behind me. My grip on the crystal goblet tightened as every muscle in my body tensed. I'd been spotted, and not by someone I wanted to see. I took a gulp of wine that my mother's finishing school would have frowned upon while Matilda 'Millie' Pruitt barreled toward me like a heatseeking missile locked onto a target.
She gave me an air kiss on each cheek, wrapping me in an embrace with her spindle-thin arms, while I made a half-hearted attempt to do the same. Releasing me, she held me out at arms' length, giving me a once-over with laser-like precision. I'd had less invasive X-rays. "Have you lost weight?" Millie asked. "You have, haven't you? You look amazing. So much better."
"Thanks," I said, though I wasn't sure I should. Still, it was easier to go along with the pretend niceties than get dragged down into the weeds of what she truly meant.
"Love the dress. It's almost like we're twins." She gestured to the both of us in semi-formal black lace dresses. My Badgley Mischka hit at mid-thigh, with long sleeves and a plunging back. Millie's Valentino was a sleeveless boatneck that ended just above the knee. The styles differed, but the material was still too similar for my comfort. I'd have chosen differently had I known. Millie wasn't exactly someone I tried to emulate.
"Right." In reality, the only thing we had in common was thinly-veiled contempt for one another. If Millie could have straight-up assumed my life, thereby eliminating my existence, I'm sure she would have at least seriously considered it.
Quinn trailed up from behind Millie, a vision in a pale yellow chiffon cocktail dress that I couldn't have pulled off in a million years. My sense of dread multiplied, churning in my belly. Cornered by my sister and her best friend, the ultimate passive-aggressive duo.
"There's my beautiful sister." She repeated the same fake air-kiss routine, enveloping me in a vanilla-sugar-scented hug.
It was an interesting compliment, given that we were identical twins. And especially given that she was arguably the prettier one of us two. Other people seemed agree, though they'd never openly admit it. Her features had always seemed softer to me, more feminine, with fuller lips and bigger eyes. Not to mention, she hadn't broken her nose playing softball senior year like I had, creating a small bump on the bridge that our mother had not-so-subtly encouraged me to have surgically repaired. The slight discrepancy between our appearance seemed to mirror the differences in our personalities; she was known for being warm and effusive while I was, well, not. There was probably something to be said for the underlying theme of her dressed like an angel tonight while I was wearing black
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When Thayer invents a boyfriend to save face, she ends up faux engaged to her worst enemy. * Thayer Morgan has hated Bennett Bradford since he tore the head off her favorite Barbie when they were five. Sure, the head popped right back on, but the g...