Chapter 1 : Coming Home
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His neck is turning red, which I’ve come to know as a sure sign that he’s getting angry. Good. I can work with that. Do I ever hate it when they cry. Blokes can be very emotional, I’ll have you know.
I lean forward, pull out a second bag so as to finish packing. This, of course, is quick and effortless, all thanks to the nifty little spell I’ve perfected over the years. When you date and break up with as many guys as I have, the process of getting out of their place needs to be simple and painless. On my end anyway, since I’ve yet to find a guy that handles the breakup well.
You’d think they’d know it’s coming. Most of my relationships have been in the papers, so it’s no big secret that I’m not in it for the house, kids, and crup. A past lover dubbed me the mantis, something writers have ran with. Months later I laughed my way to the bank, because all the nickname did was give me inspiration for a new line of handbags.
“That’s all you have to say?”
“What more is there to say, Nico? I had a blast, but our time’s up.”
He laughs, a mirthless sound, and I tilt my head to the side as I observe his face. He really is beautiful, and I’ll miss having him by my side at parties or on the carpet.
“They said you were a heartless bitch.”
I shrug and lift my bags into my hand. “Cheer up, honey. At least you’re famous now.”
He’ll get his fifteen minutes, at least.
I exit his apartment without a backward glance. Something shatters against the door I pulled close seconds ago, but I barely hear it. Slipping a stick of gum into my mouth, I walk towards the sleek, black car that’s waiting in the driveway.
“The airport, Graham.”
My highly efficient driver slips behind the wheel and begins weaving the car through traffic. I dislike New York almost as much as I dislike London, but I have to be here more times than I’d like to be. People think I love it here, but honestly, I prefer the little places. The places where the neighbours want to bring over homemade cookies, and don’t lock their doors because what the hell is a burglar, anyway? The places where everyone knows your name, and where mom jeans, hair curlers and sensible five-year-old shoes are the height of fashion. It’s just more relaxing, and I get the time to think without all the background noise. I’d like to go to somewhere like that right now, but my little sister’s wedding is coming up, and I have to be there for the hen night. Not my thing really, but it’s family. I couldn’t say no.
When we arrive, Graham retrieves my luggage from a boot that shouldn’t have been able to fit them all. I’m about six steps inside when I hear a high-pitched screech, followed by thundering footsteps. I turn to the girl, whose rapid-fire speech has me dazed, and paste a smile on.
“Slow down, honey.”
She takes a deep breath. “I have all of your movies. You were a great actress.”
I chuckle. I was in a bunch of films when I was a kid. Mum’s a muggle, and she had me take classes when I was younger. I was a hit back in the day, but I got booted off the set of a couple shows for my temper tantrums. A lot of things used to break in my dressing rooms, and not all of them were thrown. My magic was displaying itself, and before something exploded in front of someone it shouldn’t, Mum reluctantly ended my career.
She’s still disappointed that I turned out to be a witch. I wasn’t, because I got to go to Hogwarts. My time there was the best years of my life. I quit before seventh year though. Long story that I’d rather not talk about, but I eventually resumed my career. Did two films, one of which I was the lead in, and then called it a day. My true passion had always been fashion, and so I pursued that. Mum’s pleased. She’d rather have me designing than doing something magic-related. I’m far more well-known in the Muggle world, you see, and so she gets to brag to her friends at work and show off all the free stuff I send her. It’s much easier to tell a fellow Muggle that your daughter’s the Emelia Church, than to lie and say she’s a police officer because she can’t say auror.
“And I’ve been trying to get my parents to buy me something from your line, but they say I must make honors first.”
She jabs her thumb over her shoulder while rolling her eyes, and I chuckle again. I look behind her to the brunette couple standing in hearing distance and carefully observing the pair of us. The parents, I correctly deduce. The man has the same upturned nose and grey eyes as the freakishly tall, dark-haired teen standing before me. If I wasn’t in stilettos, she’d tower over me.
“Parents know best, right?”
She shrugs. “I guess.”
I sign the bag she holds out to me, and before I know it, I’m surrounded. This happens a lot, but it’s something I have no aversion to. I like giving out autographs, like talking to people, and especially love having my picture taken. Some people have no clue who you are, but they attack you all the same because others are doing it. It’s time-consuming, but I’ve never been the type who can’t take the time out to chat with the people who are padding my bank account. I come off as likeable (outside of relationships, anyway), and they’re more inclined to spend an entire paycheck on a dress.
When I’m through with the last person, I get everything sorted out and board the plane. I’m aware that there are quicker ways to get home, but I’ve never liked portkeys. Whenever I get to my destination, I’d spend the rest of the day throwing up. And since I can’t Apparate (lost all my hair when I took the test, and never tried again), I’ve had to settle for airplanes. No private jets for me. I’m very frugal when it comes to air travel.
Leaning back, I close my eyes and settle in for the long-arse ride.
Graham’s collecting the luggage while I’m standing off to the side. I’m rummaging through my handbag when the next thing I know, I’m being barreled into. I laugh and hold onto Francis, who I should have known would have been here waiting for my arrival despite the ungodly hour. She’s always been a mother hen. When she finally pulls back, she waves her hand in my face.
“Merlin. Not you, too.”
I pull a disgusted face at the diamond sparkling on her finger, but really, I’m happy for her. She knows I am, for she merely grins and loops her arm into the crook of mine as we walk toward the exit.
“Tell Graham to go ahead. Ethan’s waiting for us.”
I take it Ethan is her fiance. I haven’t heard of him, but that’s probably my doing. I’m always far too busy for frequent phone-calls (unless business related), and I rarely check my personal mail. Then there’s the fact that I hate owls, so everyone who knows me in the wizarding world knows to never send me one. That doesn’t leave much time for catching up, unless we’re in the same place.
I signal to Graham, who nods to show he understands, before I give my full attention to Fran. “So, how’d you two meet?”
“At work. He’s the new photographer.”
Fran’s been working at the Daily Prophet for the last eight years. I’ve kept every piece she’s ever written. Not just because she’s my sister, but because I’m proud of her.
“We’ve only been dating since May, but this feels right, you know?”
Merlin. A month? I hope she knows what she’s doing. I’m not one to cast judgment, considering, but doesn’t it take longer to get to know someone? Nonetheless, I offer up congratulations.
“You better let me design the dresses.”
I did so for our younger sister, Alison (the one whose wedding I’ve flown out for), so it’s only fitting that I do Fran’s as well.
“Of course,” she says, just before we come to a halt in front of dark blue car. There’s someone leaning against it, hands stuck in his pockets and feet crossed at the ankles. “This is Ethan. Ethan, meet Emelia.”
I arch a mental brow even as I extend a hand. He’s not what I was expecting. Francis has a certain type, and Ethan doesn’t exactly fit the mold. He has a few extra pounds on, and if I’m not mistaken about his age, he’s turning prematurely grey.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” he tells me after we shake hands. His arm goes around Francis’s waist almost immediately, and I suppress a smile.
“And I hope you don’t believe everything you hear,” I return.
“I wouldn’t be in the right profession if I did.”
I smirk and slip into the backseat. Fran chatters away the entire journey. I learn that Ethan just recently won a photojournalism award, has two kids from previous relationships (red light, if I’ve ever heard one), and is basically the best thing since caramel. He must have slipped her a love potion. There’s no other explanation for this whirlwind romance.
I’m glad when I spot the familiar driveway that leads up to my parents’ place, because if I hear one more word about how great Ethan is, I’m liable to fling the door open and hurl myself out of the moving car. People in love really make me sick.
I exit the car before Fran and Ethan, and pretty much run to the front door, where Dad’s waiting. He scoops me up and spins me around.
“Welcome home, Emmy.”
I hate that nickname, but I smile anyway. “Hey, Dad. Please tell me that’s an apple pie I’m smelling.”
He grins, wire-framed glasses sitting precariously on his nose. “Hot out the oven. I think there’s vanilla ice-cream in the freezer.”
I’m gone before he finishes his statement, and his laughter follows me all the way to the kitchen. I’ve already assembled a plate by the time everyone else enters. They get their own dishes while I clean my fork.
“Man, Dad. I’d come home every weekend if you promised apple pie.”
It’s a lie, and we both know it. Mum drives me mental far too often, so I usually can’t wait to be gone.
“I would, but I know you can’t work too well from here.”
That too. Being in London always stifles my creative mind.
“Where’s Allie?” I ask in between bites. Dad should be a professional caterer or something. Too many people are missing out on his amazing dishes.
“In bed. She said she’ll see you bright and early.”
“Yipee,” I say without enthusiasm. I’m not that much of a morning person, unless hit by the inspiration bug. “And Mum?”
My brows knit. She’s upstairs working out at this hour? It’s bleeding midnight.
Francis senses my confusion, for she says, “She insists she has to lose a few pounds by the wedding day. Somehow she’s convinced herself she’s gotten fat.”
I snort. Mum’s a size smaller than me, so unless she’s been devouring boxes of brownies, I don’t see how that’s possible. But it’s Mum, so I won’t even try to figure that one out.
The woman in question enters just as I’m about to help myself to another scoop of ice-cream. A banana yellow towel is draped around her neck, and she uses the end to dab at her glistening forehead.
“Thought I heard voices up here,” she says before dropping a kiss onto my cheek.
I look her over as she fetches a bottle of water. For a woman her age, she’s absolutely scrumptious. No one could tell that she’s had kids, really. And she has legs that would put most women half her age to shame. How can she possibly think that she needs to drop weight? She looks much younger than she actually is, and can be mistaken for my sister. We actually look a lot alike, with our equally dark brown hair and blue eyes. She’s much prettier though.
“Hi,” I tell her. She doesn’t hear me though, because she’s too busy laying into Dad for baking the pie. Something about calories and not being able to fit into dresses. I help myself to another slice, just to annoy her.
“So, Em,” Fran starts loudly, drowning out the argument, “how’s Rico?”
“Nico,” I correct as I collect a crumb with my index finger. “And I don’t know. We broke up.”
“Sorry to hear.”
I chuckle. “Why do you always say that? There’s nothing to be sorry about.”
She shrugs. “You never know. What if I didn’t say it and you were actually suffering?”
Good one. Me? Suffer because of an ended relationship? Ha.
Before I can answer, Mum adds her bit. “You broke up with Nico? He was such a nice boy.”
“You said that about Michael too,” I say.
“Yes, but Nico was nicer.”
“You never met him,” I point out, brow arched.
“So? I saw enough of him in the magazines, and his comments were funny. And he was very good-looking.”
I roll my eyes. “That’s all good and fine, but his seven months were up. Besides, there wasn’t much chemistry there.” I pause, then with a wicked grin, add, “Outside of the bedroom.”
Dad has somehow vanished from the kitchen, Ethan pretends to be engrossed in the Evening Prophet, and Mum’s mouth has fallen open.
“What?” I ask innocently. “It’s the truth. Nico’s as dull as a pet rock. The only time he could keep my interest was when--”
“I’m not listening,” Mum interrupts, and actually places her hands over her ears. “In fact, I think I’ll go up to bed. Good-night.”
I snicker as she rushes from the room. Getting rid of her is sometimes far too easy. With her gone, Fran and I settle into conversation until we both decide to retire for the night. I need a decent few hours of rest if I’m going to be up bright and early.
Collapsing into bed without even changing, I’m out like a light almost instantly.
Disclaimer: Rowling owns the Harry Potter Universe and everything in it. Characters that you don't recognize belong to me, however.
A/N: So, this is different from what I usually write, but I had an idea, and decided to run with it. Not much happens here, but things will pick up. Emmy has her moments when she's a very unlikable MC, but not everyone is perfect, right?
Thanks for reading!