Finding My Charming by Brittney Mulliner

 

Chapter 1

“Stop fidgeting, or so help me, I’ll burn your neck and tell everyone you were playing seven minutes in heaven last night.”

I glared at Ari, my best friend, through the mirror. Her threats were empty, but I scooted my hands under my legs to force myself to be motionless.

“You know I don’t like these.”

She delicately placed a finished curl over my shoulder and began separating out the next section. “It’s just a graduation party, Elle. You’ve known these people since we were in preschool.”

“Exactly. We graduated. That means we should be done with them.”

She met my gaze in the mirror and shook the curling iron at me with her other hand on her hip. “If that logic were correct, you would be done with me. I know you would rather spend the night with a book, but try to have fun. It’s your birthday party, too.”

I rolled my eyes, being careful not to move my head. “Don’t use that against me. You and I both know people aren’t coming for my birthday or for graduation. The last party you threw ended up being bigger than our prom. They heard Ari Hobly was having a party, and that’s all they needed to know.”

She swatted the back of my head with the hand not currently holding the curling iron, thankfully, and sighed. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“People from Seattle showed up!”

“Yeah?”

“We live in Portland, Ari. They came from another state!”

She let out another dramatic sigh and picked up another section of my hair to continue her work. “Seattle’s like three hours away. It’s not that big of a deal. We drove ten to see Justin live.”

“That’s completely different.”

“Our friends are coming for you, and that’s what matters.”

I gave up the fight and watched her finish.

Normally, my naturally dark brown hair hung straight down my back. Ari was the only one that ever curled it. She swore my virgin hair was the greatest thing to style, but I found it tedious. I’d much rather sleep an extra fifteen minutes than stand in front of a mirror waving a blazing hot rod around my head. Call me crazy.

We’d been best friends since we were little, and back then, we were practically twins, but now we looked like polar opposites. She had the most gorgeous blond waves that hung to the middle of her back and curves in all the right places. I was average height with below-average looks. She was a natural bombshell, and I was known as her sidekick.

“Something on your mind?”

I sat up and realized that Ari was done. She’d curled, teased, and sprayed my hair into effortless waves. As much as it killed me to admit, it looked good.

“Nope.”

“You’re holding onto your necklace. That usually means you’re focused on something.”

I dropped the crystal charm and shrugged. “Just really looking forward to tonight.” I smiled sweetly, but I knew she wasn’t buying it.

“Whatever. I can’t wait for the day that thing turns red, and you turn into a normal girl with emotions and drama.”

I cringed. “I am a normal girl.”

She turned the chair so I faced her. “Sorry. I just meant, I can’t wait until you find a guy and go all gooey and dumb.”

She tried to meet my eyes, but I focused on the reflection of my necklace in the mirror in front of me.

It was the only thing that really connected me with my family. The heirloom had been passed down to me by my sister on the day of her wedding. It had been in our family for hundreds of years, passed down to each girl. The gem in the center changed from crystal-clear to ruby red when the wearer met her true love. I’d been wearing it since I was sixteen, and it had remained clear, I’d stayed focused on more important thing than boys and crushes. There’d never been a point, since I knew I hadn’t met my one.

“No problem. Am I done?”

She watched me for a moment before nodding. “Yeah. Let’s get dressed.”

I followed her into the closet, which was about the size of my bedroom and housed all of her clothes separated by season, color, and style. The majority of the articles still had tags.

Ari was a woman on a mission. She didn’t bother browsing her personal collection but stalked directly to her summer dresses. She selected a navy one with a large floral print. It was sleeveless and looked shorter than anything I’d normally wear.

I began shaking my head, but she cut me off.

“Elle, it’ll go almost to your knees, and it has a high neckline. It’s practically a muumuu.”

I snorted but accepted the hanger.

“It’s either that dress or this one.” She held up a flowy, turquoise dress that looked like it would cover about the same as the floral option.

I reached for it when she swung it around. The back was missing. Gone. Nothing was there. I picked at the straps of the halter top and shook my head. “No way!”

“That’s what I thought. Now change so we can get downstairs. The party started two hours ago, and I should probably make sure nothing’s been destroyed.”

I slipped into the dress and walked to the mirror. She’d done it again. The waves she made in my hair go perfectly with the dress. I looked cute, maybe even pretty.

When I turned to check Ari’s progress, my little boost of confidence dwindled. She looked like a supermodel. Her tanned legs went on for days in that dress, and when she turned, it revealed her back and highlighted her gorgeous long hair.

“Oh, Elle! You look amazing! I knew that dress would look great on you.”

“Thanks. You too.”

I sighed and slipped into a pair of my own strappy sandals. As jealous as I was of her sometimes, I knew I had no reason to be. She had the biggest heart and made it a point to shower me and our friends with compliments.

“Ready?” Ari met my gaze as she tugged on my hand and hurried us down the stairs toward the pounding music and throngs of people.