Garret’s POV: Dinner at the Kensington Estate

Here’s another scene from Choosing You written in Garret’s point of view. This is actually a series of scenes that take place before and during the dinner hosted by Pearce and Katherine Kensington, welcoming Jade to Moorhurst College as the scholarship recipient.

Here’s what Garret was thinking that day…

Orientation starts in a few minutes and I’m standing here listening to a guy from my floor tell me about his summer internship at one of the investment banks on Wall Street. His dad’s an investment banker and got him the internship and has already secured him a job there after graduation. The guy won’t stop talking and I feel like I’m stuck at one of my dad’s parties where people just stand around bragging about themselves for hours.

“My dad says I can easily make a half mil the first year,” he tells me. I don’t act impressed so he looks at the guy standing next to me. “And that doesn’t even count bonuses.”

As he tells us his projected earnings for year two, my phone rings.

“I gotta get this,” I say, holding the phone up. They walk off and I answer the phone without checking who’s calling.

Before I can say ‘hello’ I hear my dad’s voice. “Garret. Dinner’s at 7:30 tonight. Don’t be late.”

There’s no “Hi.” No “How are you doing?” He just starts barking out orders like he always does. And he wonders why we don’t get along.

“I can’t make it,” I tell him, knowing he won’t accept that. But I forgot all about this dinner and now I don’t have a good excuse prepared for why I can’t go.

Every year we have this welcome dinner for the scholarship recipient, but it’s usually just my dad and Katherine. In the past, Lilly and I would eat dinner early and then hang out in our rooms. But this year, since I’m also a freshman at Moorhurst, my dad insists that I be there. Actually, he’s not insisting. He’s forcing me to go. He’s not giving me a choice.

“You’ll make it,” he says. “And you’ll be dressed appropriately. Suit and tie. Actually I want you there at 7 so you’re at the house when she arrives. I have a late meeting and may not make it home until dinner starts. You know how Katherine gets. It’d be better if you were there to greet the girl.”

What he means is that Katherine hates these dinners because she’s uncomfortable around poor people. She doesn’t want them in her house and she definitely doesn’t want to eat dinner with them. But my dad tells her that helping the poor makes us look good and Katherine’s all about boosting the Kensington name, at least when it comes to her standing in certain social circles.

“I can’t go. I have other commitments.”

“You’ve known about this for weeks, Garret.”

“I know, but I forgot and now my schedule’s booked.”

“Then clear your schedule because you’re going.”

“I told you I’m busy. I don’t have time.”

“You’ll be there, and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

“I don’t need to—”

“Why are you arguing about this? You’re acting like a child. It’s just a simple dinner. It’ll be over in two hours. And I’m not going to excuse you from a commitment you’ve already agreed to.”

“It’s one time. Let me out of this and I promise I’ll—”

“Garret!” He yells it. “This discussion is over. I’ll see you tonight.”

I take a deep breath. “Yes. Fine.”

He hangs up. I take a seat on the bench behind me, gripping the phone so hard I feel like I might shatter it.

“Hey. How’s it going?”

I look over and see Jade sitting next to me on the bench. Damn, she’s beautiful. Those jade green eyes, that flawless skin, those perfectly-shaped lips. Just a hint of pink across her cheeks is the only makeup she’s wearing. I’m still shocked by the fact that she doesn’t coat her face with the stuff like every other girl I know does.

“Hi, Jade.” I sit up straight and smile, hoping to hide my anger. “Did you get your orientation packet yet?”

That was a stupid thing to say. I can clearly see the huge binder she’s holding. I prepare myself for one of her insults, pointing out what a dumb statement I made.

But instead she says, “Yep. Got it right here.” She holds it up a little. “So do you wanna have lunch later?”

She’s in a really good mood. She actually seems happy to see me. And she’s asking me out? I know it’s only lunch, but still. The past few days I’ve had to practically beg her to go out with me. And although she’s been slowly warming up to me, I still can’t tell if her insults are some type of flirting technique or if she really doesn’t like me. But right now, it seems like she does like me.

That’s just great. She starts to like me just as she’s about to find out who I am.

Should I just tell her now and get it over with? If I don’t, she’ll totally freak out at dinner tonight and cause a scene and my dad and Katherine will never let me hear the end of it.

She’s waiting for an answer about lunch but my mind is still deciding what to do. I can’t tell her the truth. Not now. I’m not ready to. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to explain things in a way that won’t piss her off. I need time to think about this. Maybe if I say it right, she’ll understand where I’m coming from and why I didn’t want to tell her I’m a Kensington.

Who am I kidding? She’ll never understand.

“I can’t,” I say. “I’m busy.”

“Oh. Okay.” She looks disappointed, like she really wanted to have lunch with me. “Well, we could go on a run this afternoon. I’ll even go slow.”

She smiles and I feel a twinge of pain in my chest. She’s trying to be nice and I can tell it wasn’t easy for her to come over here and ask me to lunch. And then I turned her down and she tried again, asking me to go running with her. She’s making a real effort. For me. A total jackass who’s been lying to her for days.

I get up. “I’m sorry. I can’t.” I don’t look at her as I say it. “Maybe some other day. I have to go. My group is leaving.”

I walk away quickly before I turn around and tell her the truth. Because I owe her the truth. I know I do, and yet I keep walking away, not even looking back when I hear her tell me goodbye.

I should have told her who I was last Friday night when we met. At the time I was only worried about myself, not wanting her to reject me because of my last name. I wasn’t thinking about how she’d be hurt when she found out I lied to her. That I’ve been lying to her this whole time. The last thing I want to do is hurt her.

I’d like to think I could explain myself but I don’t think she’ll give me the chance. Once she finds out, she’ll think I was lying to her for a million different reasons that aren’t true. I can tell she’s someone who doesn’t trust people, but I think she was starting to trust me just a little and I’ve ruined that.

Now I’m even more pissed at my dad. To him, tonight is just a stupid dinner. Two hours with some poor girl from Iowa he felt sorry for and gave a scholarship to.

But to me this dinner is the end. The end of something I started with Jade that I want to continue. I’ve only known her a few days but in those few days I’ve come to like her in a way that I’ve never liked anyone else. I can’t say exactly why, or what it is that draws me to her, but I’m feeling something I’ve never felt with anyone but her.

Ever since I met this girl, she’s been in my head 24/7 and I still can’t get enough of her. It’s annoying and yet at the same time I like it. I like thinking about her. I like talking to her. I like being around her, and when I’m not, I miss her.

I have no idea why she affects me this way. Maybe because she’s so unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Or maybe I just like looking at her, gazing at those beautiful green eyes and doing whatever I can to make her smile, because I love her smile. It’s sweet and genuine and in the short time I’ve known her I’ve learned that she doesn’t smile very often, so when I get her to do it I feel like I’ve won a small victory and I find myself trying to find ways to get that smile to appear again.

But now my time with Jade is over thanks to my dad, ruining things like he always does. Okay, I admit I caused this whole situation but this dinner will only make it worse. I need more time with her. I need time to show her who I really am. Let her see that I’m not the stereotypical trust fund kid who only cares about money and being seen with the right people. I hate that shit. It’s not the life I want. It may sound great but it’s not. You can never be yourself. You’re always putting on a phony act. Pretending to be someone else. Pretending to be friends with people you don’t even like. Pretending to date girls you have no interest in.

But maybe that’s the only life I’ll ever have. If my father has a say in it, that will definitely be my life.

After orientation I go back to the dorm and decide to tell Jade the truth. Before I go down to her room, I practice different ways to tell her. But everything I come up with sounds stupid in my head, so I’m sure it will sound even worse coming out of my mouth.

I never make it down to her room. It’s now 6:30 and I see the car outside waiting to pick her up. I watch her leave the dorm, wearing a black dress, her hair straight. It’s the first time I’ve seen her hair straight like that and the first time I’ve seen her in a dress. She looks beautiful, but also really nervous, her body stiff and wobbling a little as she hurries to the car in heels. She smiles briefly at the driver who holds the door open for her. And then they leave.

I’m in my suit and tie, ready to go, like the good little son my father expects me to be. The tie feels like a noose around my neck. I don’t mind wearing ties but tonight it feels like it’s cutting off my circulation, strangling the life out of me. I loosen it up, feeling some relief, then loosen it some more and end up taking it off.

I sit on my bed, knowing I should leave now but not able to do it. So instead I kick off my shoes, sit back on the bed and turn on the TV. I flip to a football game and let myself get lost in it.

Two touchdowns later I glance at the clock and see that it’s 7:05. Shit! I didn’t mean to watch for that long. Or maybe I did. Part of me considered ditching this dinner as soon as I saw Jade get into the car. That part of me is still thinking that might be a good idea.

If I skip dinner, she won’t find out who I am. I’ll have more time. I can tell her later, when I’m ready. Except I know I won’t. I’ll never be ready. And if I skip dinner, my dad will do something to punish me. Take my car away. Or give me a new fake girlfriend. Someone I hate even more than Courtney. I’ll already be punished for being late and sticking Jade with Katherine.

I totally forgot about Katherine. I wonder what she said to Jade. Katherine’s not good at hiding her feelings for people without money. Her toxic glares. Her rude comments. Her judgmental tone. I’m sure Jade has experienced all of that by now.

I need to get over there. As much as I want to avoid this whole night, Jade needs protection from my crazy stepmother. I put my tie on, grab my phone and keys, and head out to my car.

I drive a little too fast on my way over and hope I don’t get another speeding ticket. I get them all the time and my dad threatens to take the car if I get another one.

I arrive at the house at 7:35 which means dinner has probably already started. Katherine doesn’t like to wait. For anyone, but especially me.

My dad’s black Mercedes is parked out front so he, too, must have just got here. Otherwise, one of the security guards would’ve parked it in the garage by now. I race inside and down the hall to the dining room.

The room is silent when I walk in. “Sorry I’m late.”

I feel Katherine glaring at me, but I’m used to that so I ignore her. I don’t look at Jade either so my gaze naturally wanders to my dad who smiles at me, putting on his fake I-get-along-with-son act that he does so well.

“Son, please sit down. We were just about to begin.”

My dad and Katherine are seated on the far ends of the table so I have no choice but to sit in the middle, directly across from Jade, but I still don’t look at her.

“Jade, this is my son, Garret,” my dad says. “He’s also a freshman at Moorhurst. Garret, this is Jade.”

“Hi, Garret,” she says, her tone flat.

“Hi.” I look up for just a second and in that brief second I can see that she’s pissed. Really pissed.

My dad clears his throat, which he does when he’s annoyed or uncomfortable. “You could be more friendly, Garret. I’m sure you’ll be seeing Jade at school. We’re counting on you to introduce her to some people. Make her feel welcome.”

His version of making her feel welcome and mine are completely different. My version is to make sure she’s not sitting in her room, missing home, and feeling out of place, which I know is how she felt when she arrived here.

My dad’s version of welcoming Jade is to introduce her to some people, give her a quick tour of the town, and then never speak to her again.

“Have you two already met?” Katherine asks in some syrupy sweet tone that isn’t anywhere near her normal acidic tone. “You’ve been on campus a few days now. I suppose it’s possible you ran into each other.”

I take a moment to think because I need to make a decision. If I admit I know Jade, this dinner will turn from bad to fucking horrible within a matter of seconds. My dad will ask when I met Jade and before I can answer, Jade will tell him how I’ve been lying this whole time, which will embarrass my dad and then he’ll get pissed and—I don’t even want to think what will happen next.

And then after dinner, he’ll make me stay here after she leaves and he’ll remind me, for the millionth time, that a Kensington can’t be seen in public with someone like Jade. Of course after tonight she’ll probably never speak to me again. But if by some miracle she got over her anger about this, my dad would see to it that I had no further contact with her. He’d never allow me to be friends with her and there’s no way in hell he’d let us date.

I keep my head down but raise my eyes just enough to look at Jade across the table. Our eyes meet and I hope she gets my message when I finally say, “No, we haven’t met.”

Jade doesn’t say anything and I breathe a sigh of relief. She got the message. I’m sure she doesn’t understand it, but at least she went along with it. But now she’s tapping her foot on the floor and it’s making noise and shaking the table a little. Luckily my dad is talking to Katherine and doesn’t notice. I lift my foot up and place it just above her ankle, holding it there and staring directly at her until the tapping stops. When it does, she quickly pulls her leg away and directs her eyes back to her plate.

Dinner continues and my dad asks Jade questions about Iowa and her high school and if she likes Connecticut. I just listen, keeping my eyes on the table, barely looking at Jade. Occasionally I notice her glaring at me. I can’t tell what she’s thinking but I’m sure it’s something about how much she hates me right now. How she wishes I was anywhere but in this room sitting across from her.

At 9:30 the driver comes in and goes over to my dad. “Are you ready for me to take her home now, sir?”

My dad gets up. “Yes. We promised her she’d be home by 10.”

Thank God, because I’m dying for this dinner to end. This was the longest two hours of my life.

Jade quickly stands up, probably as anxious as I am to end the night. I get up as well, followed by Katherine.

My dad goes over and shakes her hand. “It was truly a pleasure meeting you, Jade.”

Katherine stands next to him. “Let us know if you need anything. Garret can give you our phone number.”

Yeah, right. Like she or my dad would ever do anything to help Jade. They’ve never helped any of our past scholarship recipients. The phone number we give them is just the main office number at Kensington Chemical. It’s not our personal number. So if they ever actually did need something, it’d be nearly impossible to get a call through to my dad. His staff knows better than to allow some college kid access to the CEO.

“Thank you,” Jade says, smiling at my dad and Katherine, but it’s not the same smile she gives me, or used to give me. “And thanks for dinner.”

She walks over to where the driver is standing.

This is my chance. If I’m ever going to try to explain this to her, I need to do it now. I need just a few minutes alone with her. She’ll probably refuse to listen to my explanation, but I at least need to apologize. She needs to know that I never intended to hurt her. I just wanted to get to know her.

“I can take her back.” I say it casually. I don’t want to sound too eager.

Jade stands there not sure what to do, but my dad takes control as usual.

“That’s a wonderful idea. That way you can get to know each other. I didn’t even think of that. Thank you, Garret, for offering.” My dad smiles, like he’s actually proud of me for making an effort after I ignored Jade all through dinner. The irony is that if he knew how much effort I’ve already put forth trying to get to know this girl, he’d kill me.

The rules of the rich are to pretend to be nice to the poor, then step away before you actually have to get involved in their lives. If you want to help the poor, do so from a distance and make sure other people see you do it so you get credit for your generosity. Establish a scholarship in your name. Attend a fundraiser. Make a bid at a charity auction for something you’ll never use. But whatever you do, never, ever get involved with someone like Jade.

“It’s no problem. Right this way, Jade.” I walk past her out the dining room, down the hall, and outside to my car. I don’t look to see if she’s following me because I can hear her heels clicking behind me on the tile floor.

When she gets in my car, she slams the door shut and turns her back to me.

This is going to be a very long car ride.

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