The Fiance - Stefanie London



I DON’T OFTEN use dramatic, sweeping statements—which is a miracle given my family are gold medalists in making mountains out of molehills. But I’m going to use one now:

Today is, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.

I sit across the dining room table from my mother, matching her determined stare with one of my own. Seriously, if I could turn the woman into a stone gargoyle and stick her on top of a Gothic mansion for the rest of eternity, I totally would. At least then she could torture someone else.

“No.” I say the word with a conviction that drills right down into my bones.

“Ava.” My mother stretches my name on for several beats, doing her best to infuse it with that guilt-inducing tone she does so well. “You haven’t heard me out. This could be such a good thing—”

“No,” I repeat. “I’m not sure how I can be any clearer.”

I glance toward the lounge room where a man is chatting with my grandmother. I catch a glimpse of him through the frosted-glass sliding door. He’s little more than a shadowy figure, but my brain sketches in all the details: receding hairline, puffy lips, sausage fingers and a smile that makes me shiver for all the wrong reasons. His mother and mine are best friends, which means he’s been coming around this house for as long as I can remember.

In my head, I call him Anthony McCreeperson.

My mother huffs. “But—”

“I am not marrying him.” Why do I have to stand my ground on this? “I don’t care what you promised him...or his family. I don’t care how much livestock they offered you.”

My mother frowns, the lines in her forehead deepening. “Livestock, Ava? What are you talking about?”

“Isn’t that how brides were bartered back in the day? With goats...or cows or something?” I know I’m not making any sense. I was in a bad mood when I arrived and now, I’m...livid. “And I guess you’ll have to let them know I’m not a virgin.”

Barely. I was a late bloomer, but she doesn’t need to know that.

“You’re being ridiculous,” my mother snaps, keeping her voice low. “He’s a good man with a good job and he comes from a good family. Why is it crazy to think you would make a positive marital match?”

Correction: Anthony McCreeperson is a fedora-wearing sleaze ball with a job at an electronics store owned by his equally creepy uncle. He’s thirty-four and still lives with his mother. He once told me he had no plans to leave because his mum still does all his washing, ironing and cooking.

Yeah, he’s a real catch. Not.

Unfortunately, when it comes to who would make an acceptable husband for me, my mother sets the bar so low that even Anthony McCreeperson can stumble over it. Employed? Check. Legally able to marry? Check. Penis? Unconfirmed, but for the sake of this argument...check.

End of checklist.

“Because he’s...” I shake my head. “I’m not attracted to him at all.”

“Don’t be so superficial.” She frowns and gives me a pointed look. “None of us are perfect.”

I let out an annoyed puff of air. Okay, fine. I’m not exactly a Victoria’s Secret model. I’m not skinny or tall and I don’t have Barbie proportions. I’ve got athletic thighs from years of playing netball and my hips like to bump into things. But I’m okay with all that.

No, scratch that. I like my body. Some days I even love it.

Being plus size doesn’t mean I’m automatically denied a relationship built on mutual attraction. Some guys like a vertically challenged woman with a curvy figure. I don’t have to settle for the first warm body who shows interest.

“Wanting chemistry is not being superficial. It’s a bare minimum.” I roll my eyes. “Besides, how do you know I’m not seeing someone already?”

The scoffing sound she makes cuts me deep. Does she really think I’m that un-datable? “Well, you haven’t brought anyone around. You haven’t even mentioned a name.”

“Maybe because you and Grandma are like a pack of hyenas with this stuff. It takes a while to figure out whether a person is long-term material, and I’m not going to bring a guy home unless I think it’s going somewhere.”

“You shouldn’t even be considering short term, Ava. Do you think you’ll be able to waltz into your thirties and pluck a great guy off a shelf at the husband store? It doesn’t work like that. Trust me, I know.”

And this is the crux of her argument. She waited too long,