Oh. My. God. I can not believe this is happening to me. I was already having the worst day at school and then I come home to this. What could be worse?
Reader, you probably need some context so let me tell you about my day. This is the day, on March 16th 2018, when my life goes from normal to practically non-existent.
My last class of the day has just ended and I am making my way to my locker when I find out that Jeff is cheating on me, with Stacy, my best friend. Then, as I am walking down the overcrowded hallway, Abby, only the most popular girl in school tries to embarrass me in front of everyone about it. I could so not deal with her then, just because her daddy's rich and owns some big bank companies around the world, she thinks she's better than everyone and that gives her a free pass that allows her to do and say whatever she wants, no matter the consequences. I simply roll my eyes at her, ignore her and walk away, she doesn't like being ignored but I carry on walking.
Thankfully, it's Friday so I don't have to see anyone from school for two full days. After I get to my locker and stuff my books in my bag, I walk out the doors of the prison-like building that is known as St. Marys school and walk the twenty minute route home to our little two bedroom house on Ashbury road in the naval city of Portsmouth in England.
Reader, that's only part one of this two-part nightmare of a day. Before I get to part two, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Sophia Larkson and I am sixteen years old. I turn seventeen in one and a half months, May 2nd to be precise, just a couple of weeks before leaving school. Unfortunately, I got held back a year, it’s extremely rare in the UK but it happens. The boys tell me I’m beautiful with my slim body, standing at 5’5, with long blonde hair that falls down my back, tanned skin and piercing blue eyes. My eyes are the only thing I have left of my mum. It’s only me and dad now, ever since mum died when I was little. I don’t remember much about her, all I do remember is that she would tell me stories before bed, about the monsters in the world. I had enjoyed them, believed in them so much I thought they were real. It’s been ten years since she passed away and my dad hasn’t been the same since.
I take a minute to take in the events of the day. I've known Stacy, literally, all my life, her parents live across the road from us so naturally, our parents had been friends but after mum died, dad kind of became a recluse and started drinking and gambling, so they stopped coming over. Stacy and I would spend almost every day together, that's what makes her betrayal even worse. She has always said Jeff was a loser who didn't deserve someone like me. As for Jeff, we had known each other for two years, after he had moved to our school mid-season, he fit into our little group nicely, being shy and kind of geeky. A few months afterwards though, he came out of his shell and was starting to be more than charming towards the other girls.
We had been dating for a year and a half. I had heard rumours around school about his loyalties, but he swore he never did anything. I was foolish enough to believe him, the rumours were in constant circulation around school, I should have known better. That day, someone told me Jeff and Stacy were spotted going into one of the janitors’ cupboards in a lower part of the school. Not very original, I know. I didn't want to believe it but I had to see for myself, even if it was just to put my curiosity to rest if they happened to not be true. So, ten minutes later, after talking myself into it and praying to all gods that it wasn’t true. I pulled open the door to the shocked and slightly guilty expressions on the faces of my now ex-best friend and ex-boyfriend. They had tried to act innocent of course, that it was a one-time thing, that it would never happen again but I didn't hear any of it. It all made sense now. The way they would cancel on our plans at the same time or claim they had places to be or the way she would constantly laugh at his lame jokes or stick close to his side. I had to be an idiot not to see it.
Now reader, this is part two of my nightmare.
As I walk up to the house, I notice a shiny black BMW X5 outside that does not belong in this neighbourhood. What is it doing outside our house? As I slowly walk inside, the first thing I notice is the smell, it smells... clean, and it’s tidy, kind of, dad has straightened the place up? Why? It doesn't matter, at least he's trying to clean himself up. I am halfway up the stairs when I hear my name.
"Sophia, could you come in here please." comes my dad's voice. He never calls on me, we have an unspoken agreement since mum died, we leave each other to our own devices, that's the way it has been for ten years. It isn't unusual to go days without seeing or talking to the other, so what has changed now?
Hesitating, I turn around and walk into the living room, my dad is not alone. My dad is sitting in his favourite chair, in his best clothes. At the height of 5’8 with a protruding belly from drinking too much beer, his shaggy brown hair and brown, sad eyes, he isn't the most handsome man around but sitting there, looking his best, he looks pretty good. He is talking with someone I can't see but as I walk further into the room he comes into view. It is someone I have never seen before. Who is this man? What does he want? At first glance, I can tell this is someone who doesn't understand the basic sense of humour. He looks to be in his sixties, with greying hair and wrinkled skin, he is wearing a full black suit under a long dark jacket and has a soft yet stern look on his face.
I sit down on the empty couch, a small smile on my face. "Hi dad, what's going on?" I say lightly, looking between the two men. They look between each other as if having a silent conversation. Now I'm worried. Dad oozes confidence, he's worried about something, but what? Did something happen? Is it bad news?
"Sophia, this is Charles,” he tells me. “He works for Aiden Livingston."
My head swings around to the unknown man. Aiden Livingston? The billionaire? Why is someone working for a Livingston here?
Everyone has heard of the Livingston family, of course, you have to be living under a rock if you haven't. They are a super rich family who make their money from running a lot of different kind of companies all around the world, from finance, sales and construction to energy, pharmaceutical and even health care. If you walk into any big, successful building you can be sure a Livingston owns it. It's only the four brothers that are still around ever since their parents, Margaret and George Livingston, were killed in a car crash four years ago going to some fundraiser. Aiden is the youngest at twenty-five, then it's Edward at twenty-seven, Mark at twenty-nine, and the oldest is Henry at thirty-two. They don't appear in public much anymore, not since the accident. Aiden much less so. They can be a little bit of a mystery at times.
"Yes, well, Sophia, there's no easy way to say this but Charles is here to take you to your new home at the Livingston estate." Dad looks at me with a weary look on his face as if he couldn't figure out what my reaction would be.
I look at him then at Charles, then back at him and burst out laughing. After a few minutes I realise they don't join in, dad is wide-eyed, as if he doesn't know why I am laughing. That's when I realise, he's serious. "What!" I exclaim. "What do you mean new home? Dad?" This has got to be some kind of joke. I look at Charles who hasn't said a single word since I came in. "No, I won't go, you can't do this to me. What the hell is going on? Are you kicking me out? Why?"
"Soph..." a small sigh escapes his lips, "You know how much we're struggling lately, I saw the private ad online for a wealthy businessman wanting female company, for someone to go and live with him, the money could really help us. Besides, it's too late. It’s all been arranged, you will do this, there's no backing out now." The look of pain I see on his face is minimal. I look at him with disgust. He’s selling me? To a complete stranger? All because he was so much in debt because of his gambling and drinking problems? I don't say another word, instead, I stand up, then storm my way upstairs to my room and slam the door.