“Amal, do you know who that is!”
My cousin Sophia yanked my arm as Oliver, the man who I’d spent most of the night talking to, took a phone call. I looked back at him and then again at Sophia. I didn’t realize it then, but this was about to be a pivotal moment in my life.
Let me rewind.
When I walked out of Melrose High back in June, I thought the only difference the summer would bring was being able to call myself a senior the next time I walked in.
I was so wrong.
My life couldn’t have changed more drastically than it did in those two short months. It all started in June when I came to visit Sophia in the forever frozen land of Toronto.
Sophia…wasn’t like me. I’d spent years conforming to the perfect image of a good Pakistani daughter. I mean, all those years of studying instead of going to parties I wasn’t invited to. Okay, so I really had no choice but to be the good Pakistani daughter. Most of my academic life was spent being the quiet nerd everyone liked but never hung out with. Which is cool with me, more time for SAT prep, I guess.
Sophia would never know the struggle of trying to get 11 likes on Instagram because she’s one of those pretty girls that has thousands of followers without really trying. She taught me everything I knew about perfecting winged eyeliner and explained to me why Kylie Jenner was so relevant to our generation (her words, not mine).
My friends back at home couldn’t be more different. I had best friends like Lane, math whiz and proud president of the Latin Club, and Chloe, the self titled theater nerd.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Lane and Chloe, but I was more desperate to break out of my shell than Zayn Malik was to leave One Direction. When Sophia suggested we go out to an ‘industry’ party the last week of my trip, she didn’t have to convince me twice.
It just so happened that this party Sophia was dying to go to was the final event of a huge music festival. There was going to be celebrities, music artists, other pretty Instagram girls who have thousands of followers for no reason…pretty much everything Sophia was into. She talked about it so much I was actually hyped up to go. That is until it was time to get ready. Maybe I wasn’t as ballsy as I wished to be.
Sophia exhaled a long and heavy breath as she marched into her closet. Something tells me she wasn’t excited to see my full-sleeved dress and tights. I sat on her bed hunched over and defeated, and watched as she brought back a pile of dresses in her hands.
I stared at them confused by what I was looking at. “Is this a knee brace?” I asked as I picked up a strapless dress with the sides cut out. “What am I suppose to wear over this?”
“Nothing” Sophia stated while crossing her arms. Her foot began to tap as the silence and her impatience grew.
I held the dress up in front of me scared as to how I was going to contort my body to make it fit.
I stood in front of the mirror mesmerized by what I saw. It was me, but almost as if I were looking into the future. Not like my actual future, but a future in which I’d taken the wrong path in life and ended up working nights at Hooters. And weirdly, I was into it.
I wasn’t sure why Sophia was so freaked out about getting us into the party. Maybe she was worried that I was too inexperienced and would’ve caused some trouble at the door. I couldn’t blame her. If it hadn’t been for my giggling reaction to Sophia telling the security guard that we were part of a group of hired girls to “look good” we could have gotten in quicker.
“Oh my God! That’s The Weeknd!” I pointed towards the VIP lounge across the venue. “Sophia look! That’s The Weeknd!”
Sophia let out a sigh as she smirked and wrapped her arm around my shoulder. “There’s gonna be a lot of famous people here. Just remember to keep your cool or else we’ll get kicked out.” She knew this was a world I was unfamiliar with. One that I dreamed I could have been a part of if I wasn’t so scared to let loose.
I felt a gush of blood rush to my cheeks.
Sophia excitedly waved her hand when she’d spotted her friend. “Hey, there’s Lo!” She gestured for us to come to her. “Come on!” Sophia tugged at my arm, but I hesitated.
I was so excited to finally be in this atmosphere and suddenly it all just felt overwhelming. The music was too loud, it was hot as hell, and I felt like I needed a rape whistle by the way people were touching me. I just wanted a moment take it all in without her watching my every move.
“Go ahead,” I wiggled my arm free from Sophia’s hand. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
“You okay?” She looked concerned, as if she’d made the wrong decision to bring me, but I nodded my head in reassurance. “Fine, but don’t drink anything anyone gives you. And stay in everyone’s eye sight.”
Just like that Sophia disappeared into the crowd.
I decided to get some fresh air and stepped outside. It looked like almost everyone else had the same idea. There were so many people I hadn’t even noticed the pool with its glowing neon lights.
All I wanted to do was meet someone new, tell them some ridiculous made up story about my life, and go back home to LA and spill all the juicy details to Lane and Chloe. The only problem? I didn’t know how I was supposed to approach anyone.
Instead, I headed towards the bar. “Can I get a lemonade, please?”
“Vodka lemonade?” The bartender questioned.
I pursed my lips, “You know, on second thought, I’ll take some water.”
The bartender gave me a weary look as he handed me a small tumbler glass filled with ice water. I wanted to head over to the poolside, but in pure clumsy Amal fashion I bumped right into some guy wearing a suit. He yelped as the cold water seeped through his tucked in dress shirt.
I gasped as I held my hand over my mouth. “I am SO sorry!” my voice cracked from embarrassment as I shouted over the blaring music.
“Shit!” He took the napkin he’d been holding under his drink and began to dab his shirt. “It’s okay,” he mumbled.
“Are you sure? Do you need more napkins? Of course you need more napkins I just spilled my entire drink on you.” I turned towards the bar to grab some extras. “Leave it to me, right? Seriously, I don’t know what’s gotten into me. Oh, who am I kidding, I’m always like this!” I felt a pit in my stomach. I was so nervous I was talking a mile a minute.
“Don’t worry about it.” He laughed at my foolish behavior. His green eyes sparkled as he looked up at me then down at his shirt and then back up at me again. “What were you drinking? Let me buy you another one.”
“Oh” I became flustered. This was my chance to become someone else, but I just didn’t know what to say. “Water,” I hesitated to smile. He was probably going to think I was so lame.
“Designated driver?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders awkwardly. “Something like that.”
The corner of his lip drew up into a wickedly mischievous smile. His hand jolted out in front of him waiting to meet mine.“I’m Oliver, by the way.”
I stammered for a second and gave him my real name. “Amal” I slowly shut my eyes as I realized my mistake.
“Nice, like Amal Clooney.” He raised his brows waiting for my response. I was preoccupied examining the golden brown shimmer in his side parted quiff. His hair was so perfectly made it almost felt like I was in a trance.
“Yeah!” I snapped back to reality. “Yeah, like Amal Clooney.” My lips quivered as I awkwardly smiled.
There was a second of silence which felt more like eternity. I was thinking of the suavest things to say, but nothing was coming out.
“Well, you’re definitely more beautiful than she is,” he casually said as he tried to step past me to the bar.
I furrowed my brows. “What?” I asked wanting to make sure I heard what I hoped I thought I heard.
He leaned into my ear and repeated himself. I got a whiff of his sweet-smelling cologne and I wanted to faint.
I stood in perfect statue form as he ordered a couple of drinks. He turned back towards me and replaced my empty glass of water with a new one.
“Hey, you wanna sit for a minute?” Oliver asked pointing towards a line of private tents across the pool.
Sophia’s voice popped into my head, And stay in everyone’s eye sight. I stalled as I debated whether I should join Oliver or not.
He picked up on my reluctance and put my wandering thoughts to rest. “Don’t worry, there’s other people. It’s just the music isn’t so loud over there.”
That’s all I needed to hear. “Sure,” I agreed and followed him.
He seemed to have a lot of friends here by the way everyone was greeting him. A one minute walk over ended up taking ten minutes because of all the people who stopped and talked to him along the way.
“I’m so sorry about that” He smiled as the two of us sat down. “So, are you from around here?” He asked.
“No, I’m visiting from Los Angeles.” I wanted to face palm myself. How could I have so easily forgotten again? Making up a fake life was hard.
Oliver’s eyebrows perked up. “So am I! How come I haven’t seen you around?’
“I…I…” Okay Amal, remember, fake story, fake story! “I’m not sure. I’m a senior at UCLA so I’m always on campus. Maybe that’s why?”
“UCLA?” Oliver leaned away from his chair. “I’m a senior there too.”
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.
I tried to smile hoping he wasn’t going to catch me in my lie. “What school?”
“Business,” he slightly turned his head wondering the same about me.
“That’s probably why you haven’t seen me. I’m in the school of theater.” I turned away from him and let out a sigh of relief. I couldn’t have been happier that Chloe had taken me on her college tour of UCLA.
Oliver and I spent most of the night talking in the lounge. Once the walls started falling down, it was so much easier to talk to him. We ended up having a lot more in common than I thought we would.
I felt my phone buzzing in my purse. It was a text from Sophia asking where I was. I figured she was ready to leave, so I told her to meet me by the poolside.
“I’m so sorry, I have to take this.” Oliver excused himself and walked to the other side of the tent. I could tell there was something going on by his low and stern voice.
“Amal!” Sophia waved for my attention. I looked over at Oliver to say goodbye, but he was still on the phone. “Amal!” Sophia’s voice grew with excitement. “Do you know who that is!”
I looked back at him and then again at Sophia.
I would have never expected her say what she said next.
Read the next installment.
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