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The Perfect Partner Program

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I dropped my bag just inside the door and gave it a hard enough kick to make it slide into the opposite wall with a loud bang. I imagined it was George’s head, and it gave me a slice of satisfaction. But I needed another outlet for my anger, so I threw my keys across the room as well.

Go to hell, George Carter,” I said into the empty house. What did he know anyway? Well, according to Renée, everything that was needed to be the perfect boyfriend. She was going to freak out when she found out that George had broken up with me. It had been her dream to have him as her son-in-law because that would make up for the disappointment of having me as her daughter.

I was so caught up in my anger that I almost threw my phone as well when it started to ring. I didn’t have to check the caller ID to know who it was. I knew that it was Renée.

Yes?” My tone was biting and unwelcome, indicating that I was too upset to talk. As the woman on the other end was my mother, she should have heard that and asked how I was doing, but no. The first thing that came out of her mouth was just more proof that I was a big flaw in her perfect life.

What did you do to make George break up with you? How could you?” My empty hand curled into a fist. It didn't come as a surprise to me that Renée already knew about the breakup. George’s mom probably called her the minute I'd left their house to tell her what happened.

I started counting backward from ten to restrain myself from screaming at Renée. There was no use in arguing with her, anyway. I’d learned that a long time ago. I sighed quietly so that Renée wouldn’t hear it on the phone. “I didn’t do anything, mother. It was more what I didn’t want to do that caused him to end it.”

What in the world do you mean by that, Isabella?”

I closed my eyes and tried to gather strength as I realized I would have to tell Renée something I had dreaded for months.

I told him that I don't want a debutante ball,” I said quietly, but it was loud enough for my mother to hear, and she absolutely exploded.

What?! Isabella, have you lost your mind? We've planned that ball for years. Several very important people are going to be present, and your relationship with George was supposed to be introduced to society,” my mother said with panic lacing her nasal voice.

It's not for me, Mother! I don't feel comfortable with all the dresses, and the flowers, and the ushers, and just everything. And the fact that George broke up with me because of a party clearly shows we weren't right for each other.” I rolled my eyes as I said that as I realized that I wasn't truly upset about my relationship with George ending. We had never had a deep connection, because it had been arranged from the start that we were to date, and I had always thought of him as a boring guy with a proverbial stick shoved up his ass.

That’s impossible. You and George are the most talked about couple in town. Everyone believes you're perfect for each other. And I know I raised a debutante, so you are going to go through with this, whether you're comfortable with it or not,” my mother insisted harshly. It was in situations like this that I wondered what my dad truly saw in my mother.

My father, Charlie Swan, didn’t have a lot of money growing up. He wasn’t exactly poor either. His family could have been called strictly middle-class. They got by pretty well, but they never spent any money on unnecessary luxuries.

My grandparents, Geoffrey and Helen Swan, believed in hard work and that you had to earn your respect, but they were never cheap on love. When they died last year, Dad and I had been heart-broken.

Charlie was an aspiring deputy when he met my mother at the age of twenty-four. He had recently graduated from the police academy, and he lived in a shitty studio apartment in one of the dirtier neighborhoods of Seattle.

He had been called to investigate a robbery that had happened in the suburbs.

My mother, Renée Higgenbotham, was nineteen and the daughter of a wealthy CEO who was a neighbor of the family that had been robbed. She'd had friends over, and like all teenage girls, they lived for gossip. They wanted to know what was going on across the street, and when they saw the handsome, dark-haired, young police officer, they convinced Renée that if she flirted with him, he would probably tell her a thing or two.

She charmed the pants off him—almost literally—and Charlie fell head over heels for her.

At first, they sneaked around with their relationship, since Charlie wasn’t what the Higgenbothams' wanted for their daughter, but when Renée found out that she was pregnant at the age of twenty, everything changed.

She had run to her parents, crying her eyes out, and they’d threatened to revoke the trust fund they’d set up for her unless she stepped up and married the man responsible for the predicament she'd found herself in.

She had reluctantly agreed—her intention had never been to become that serious with Charlie—and they got married as soon as the wedding was put together, which was only two months later since they had to act fast before Renée started to show.

The marriage wasn’t a happy one. Charlie tried as hard as he could since he was still very much in love with Renée, but in return, she did everything she could to show how unhappy she was. She even went as far as to threaten with having an abortion and had Charlie not begged her on his bare knees, I would never have been born.

Once I was born, Renée started an affair with the man she’d wanted to marry from the start—a lawyer named Phil Dwyer—and she didn’t even try to keep it a secret.

Feeling absolutely miserable that his wife was so unhappy, Charlie buried himself in his work, which caused him to advance very quickly. Only five years after I was born, he was promoted to Commissioner, and a whole new world opened up to him. He was suddenly viewed as a socialite and was invited to all kinds of events and parties.

Renée was delighted and she dropped Phil faster than a hot potato. She finally had the husband she’d wanted.

Charlie thought that Renée had changed and that their marriage would become better and it did, in a way. Whenever he was nearby, she was the ideal wife and mother, but whenever she was alone with me, she didn’t hesitate to show me how much she still blamed me for how her life had turned out.

She wasn’t supposed to have kids until after she was married to a successful man, and she would preferably have been at least twenty-five when that happened. Instead, I came five years earlier, conceived during a night of teenage rebellion, fathered by a man that was the complete opposite of what Renée wanted.

So it was an understatement to say that I wasn't my mother's biggest fan.

Luckily enough, I still had a decent childhood. Whenever my mother tired of me, she shipped me off to my grandparents, who lived in a neighborhood full of kids my age, and I got to play and just have fun. Dad would come and get me in the evenings and we'd have dinner with them before going home.

My mother believed she’d raised me to be the perfect debutante, but Nana had raised me to be my own person. Since I respected Nana loads more than my mother, I listened to her, and simply pretended to listen to my mother’s nagging to appease her and get her off my back.

But, Mother, I—” I tried, but it was a futile effort.

We'll talk about this over dinner, but right now I can't take the stress. God, Isabella, you'll give me wrinkles if you keep up like this.” With that, she hung up the phone, and I exhaled sadly. If only I had been legal, my mother wouldn't have been able to boss me around like that, but as it was, I was only turning seventeen in four months, which was when the ball had been planned.

My mother couldn't force me to get back together with George, but she sure would try. He wasn't my type, but my mother couldn't accept that because George's family was a high standing one in the upper-class circles, and a marriage between us would forever secure her place amongst the socialites.

What I wanted was something completely different. I wanted what I'd seen was between Nana and Pops; not what was between my parents. I wanted love, passion, adventures and to be swept off my feet like most girls wanted at my age, but if my mother had her way, none of that would ever happen.

Feeling rather downhearted after my conversation with my mother, I threw myself back on my bed and began scrolling through my phone's contacts until I found the one I wanted and pressed dial.

The phone only rang twice before my best friend and sister from another mister, Rebecca Walters, picked up.

Well, it's about time you called me. Do you know how long I've been waiting? Exactly thirty-two minutes and forty-three seconds. What took you so long, babe?”

I laughed, and it felt so good to do it because it loosened the knot in my stomach just a bit. "I suppose you've already heard about George and me, then?" I asked although I knew that was exactly what Becca was referring to.

Duh! You know word spreads like a goddamn STD in this town. I probably knew before you had left his driveway. So tell me, what the fudge happened between you and dead meat.”

True,” I agreed and groaned. I threw my arm over my eyes and inhaled deeply through my nose. “I barely know what happened myself. One minute we were doing our homework together, and then the next he was looking at me as if I had grown another head and told me that he couldn't continue to see me.”

There must have been something that triggered him.”

I snorted and rolled my eyes. “When isn't he ever triggered by what I do? If it's not the way I eat, it's the way I talk or the way I dress. According to him, I don't know how to act like a girl much less a girlfriend.”

George is a motherfucker and you should be glad that you’re rid of him.”

Oh, believe me, I am! He was much more my mother’s type, anyway.”

Hence the reason of why he’s a motherfucker.”

I gagged. “Oh, eww, Sis! That’s an image I don’t want in my head.” I shuddered when the unwanted images entered my head despite my efforts to keep them out. Just the thought of my mother and George together made me want to hurl.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. But seriously, what did you do wrong this time?”

I might have mentioned that being a debutante wasn't for me and that I was going to ask my parents to cancel the ball.”

Mhm … and?”

My sis knew me better than anyone else. She knew George needed more than that to motivate a breakup. “I also told him that I don't want to study Early Childhood Education at Boston University while he attends Harvard. That I was considering following in Dad's footsteps and try to get into the military after high school.”

Becca was quiet for a second before she erupted with laughter. “Wow, you sure know how to pop a guy's fairytale bubble, babe! He must have shit a brick when you said that. I would have paid a million bucks for the chance to see his reaction.”

While I could see the comedy in the entire situation, I wasn't able to laugh, because it was still my life. “It wasn't nearly as fun being there as you think. His mother dropped the tray of snacks when he broke up with me and almost started to cry. I pretty much ran out of there, because I couldn't take it.”

Becca immediately stopped laughing and went into best friend mode. “Honey, you're better off without him and his family. Just imagine your possibilities in finding a new boyfriend. Preferably a normal one. I've heard that Liam totally wants to ask you out, but you've been off limits until now.”

I sighed. “While Liam is hot and all, my mother would have an aneurysm if I start to date a guy like him. He is just way below my league according to her.”

Who cares about what your mother thinks?”

I do while I still have to live with her. Anyway, I'm thinking about taking a break from guys for a while. Maybe I'll become a lesbo." I said the last thing mostly to myself, but Becca heard it.

Whoa, hold your horses, darling! As much as I would still love you if you were rubbing rugs instead of poles that’s insane.”

I giggled. “Which part? Me becoming a lesbo or the fact that you think I was ever rubbing George's pole?”

Bella.”

I sighed again. “Sis, look, I wasn't as lucky as you were to find a great guy, and while I definitely could start hooking up with every guy at school, that's not me, and you know it.”

I didn't say that you should start channeling your inner slut, but you can't shut yourself off either. Don't give George that kind of power over you.”

It's not George who holds the power,” I whispered out. “I would love to give Liam a chance, and I already know he's a better guy than George ever will be, but until I turn eighteen, I'm just gonna have to stay off my mother's toes. But believe me, next year, I'm out of here.”

Why don't you talk to your dad? He's always been cool. Maybe he can set your mother straight and get her off your back?”

I had to hold back the laughter that bubbled up. “Have you met my mother? Anyway, I will talk to him tonight, at dinner. At least, maybe I can still have the ball canceled and win something out of all of this.”

That's the spirit, and if that won't work, we can always eat a shitload of ice cream so that you won't fit into your dress anymore.”

I like the sound of that. I'll see you tomorrow, Sis,” I said to finish the conversation. I was feeling much better and I had to finish the homework that had been interrupted at George's before dinner.

Absolutely! Love you, darling!” Becca made a kissing noise into the phone and hung up before I could return the sentiment, and it caused me to smile while I put my phone down and fetched my homework from my mistreated bag.