Leila fled her father's house just minutes ago.
He tricked her into leaving France, but she would try anything else before agreeing to his devil plan. Even live on the streets homeless.
It seemed to Leila as she had squeezed her whole life inside that massive and heavy, wheeled hot pink suitcase and died only two hours after her flight landed. Dragging it behind her, she has already been missing Paris terribly.
She breathed freely and unburdened in the City of Light, and now she couldn't catch her breath here, gasping for air, not knowing what to do. Or where to go.
She felt like having no control over her life.
Paris was her happiness, and her family wanted to turn this city into her doom.
It was raining in London as always, and spring was at full blossom when she left Paris, her city.
Her new floral dress was all wet, its flowing ruffles looking so sad this soaked and hanging. All those vibrant tulips, printed in every possible color on that black silk fabric, never have looked so dull.
"Who should I call? Sam? Alice?" Leila said out loud as asking all those passers-by rushing around her. She stopped, pulling her phone out of her purse. People here even walk differently. But nobody even glanced at her, everyone only minding their own business.
And Leila already knew who she should call. Alice, of course.
The phone rang, and Leila waited. Sam was engaged, and she didn't want to upset or cause any misunderstanding between him and his fiancee, Cecilia. Not after what Sam confessed to Leila at her 23rd birthday party.
Both Sam and Alice were her best friends since childhood. But that party changed everything between her and Sam. Staying as far as she could from Sam was the best for everyone in this situation.
She was shivering, chilled to the bone, still trying to wrap that black scarf around her shoulders to keep herself at least somewhat warm. And, of course, her umbrella broke in the first few seconds after opening it.
A perfect welcome from a city that once upon a time she called her home.
Her palms were all red from pulling that heavy suitcase, her hands burned in pain, feeling all its weight. But nothing hurt as that pang in her heart.
London wasn't her home anymore, not for desperately long, too long twelve years.
She tried hard not to hate Lily Greece, but it was mission impossible.
It was Lily, her stepmother, sending her away when she turned thirteen, making her forget everything about London and estranging her from her father.
And now this.
If not for Sam and Alice following her to Paris, she would have died of grief and loneliness in that foreign country. They came when turning eighteen, saving her life when they enrolled at the same University where Leila was studying.
Sorbonne, of course. Where else would rich kids go but famous Sorbonne?
It was her father's choice, and he is still working hard to make all the choices for her.
Leila was still feeling like a fool, thinking her father had a change of heart when he called her a few days ago.
"I want you to come back to London," was the first he said.
"He misses me! He wants me near him!" Leila danced and sang inwardly, hearing him asking her to come home for the first time since she left. Her father loved her, she believed. Bob Greece is no longer Lilly Greece's puppet, Leila thought. It seems he finally came to his senses, she hoped.
Oh, how was she wrong!
"But what about my job here? I can't just leave it without notice. And what job are you offering me?" Leila was thrilled and beyond happy, thinking her father wanted her to work in his company. What else could he plan for her?
That was what she had always wanted, still dreaming of becoming the CEO of her own company one day. And Bob Greece knew it. After all, she is older than Carl, her brother, and has a diploma in business management.
"We'll talk about your job when you arrive home. Everything will be fine. Just get on that plane!" Bob Greece said to his only daughter, sending her a one-way ticket from Paris to London via email. The company never interested Carl as he always wanted to become a doctor. Probably due to his illness.
Carl was her stepbrother, and they have always got along, no matter what. Not even his mother, Lily Greece, could do anything to stop the siblings from loving each other deeply.
So, Leila did what her father asked her to do. She got on that plane.
"The company isn't doing well. But I know how you can help. It's not a real job." Her father told her over dinner, only half an hour after she arrived. She saw Lily nodding, knowing whatever help he mentioned was coming from her. Meaning Leila wouldn't like it.
Whatever Lily came up with for Leila was always against Leila's best interest.
"What do you mean no real job? What will I do in London? Tell me, or I'm going back to Paris!" Leila changed her approach, suddenly growing suspicious about her father's words. Something was wrong. If there is no job, then what?
"Ooh, you're so stubborn! You are to be married! To a billionaire!" Her father yelled impatiently, showing his true colors. She was a pawn to him, an asset, not his daughter.
He was still under the heavy influence of Lily Greece. Her heart sunk in despair, but her spirit soared, her pride rebelling. Her father wants to trade her for financial help to save the family business. Leila was aware it was all Lily's doing, her idea. But her father was to blame also, for agreeing with his wife on everything.
First, her stepmother sent her away to another country to make sure her son was the only heir to the Greece family fortune, and now, with that fortune almost gone, she was forcing her to marry a man she didn't love. A man she has never met.
Leila decided she would not have it.
"No way! I have a job and an apartment in Paris. I'm going back. You don't get to tell me what to do. It's my life. And I'll marry whom and when I choose!" Leila shouted back, only to hear Lily Greece laugh before speaking.
"Don't be stupid. How do you think you got that job?" And that was it.
Her father showed her black on white, she got fired, her landlord canceled her rental agreement, and all her credit cards were blocked. The money she had wouldn't be enough for a new flat lease and her living expenses until getting a new job.
She felt cornered.
"Alice," Leila was on the verge of tears when Alice finally answered her phone call.
"Leila! I know what happened. I'm coming to get you, and you'll be living with me. Nobody will force you to marry anyone. Now, girl, give me your address!" Her friend spilled it all out in one go. Alice was angry with Leila's family, determined not to let her down.
She heard from some friends about Leila's situation and her father arranging that marriage with some billionaire days ago. How could he do that to his daughter?
Fifteen minutes later, Alice picked Leila up. And in fifteen minutes more, two friends were sitting in Alice's living room with a cup of hot tea in their hands. And then, Leila's phone rang.
Surprised to see it wasn't her father, but Sam, she turned the screen of her phone toward Alice to see.
The scenes of her 23rd birthday party flooded Leila's mind.
It was only the beginning of summer, and the day was so hot, but it didn't bother them. They were all young and happy, living their dreams in the most beautiful city in the world, having fun. The party lasted all day, starting with a climbing Eiffel Tower in the early afternoon.
Then, cheese and wine picnic at Champ de Mars, the largest park in Paris, right next to the famous tower.
In the end, they strolled down to the river and danced along the Seine, completely drunk. Sam insisted on dancing with Leila only, and he hugged her a bit tighter than usual when the tango started.
Then, he tried kissing her.
"I love you. I think I have always loved you, Leila," he whispered. Leila winced, putting a bit of distance between them.
"I love you too. But I love you as a friend, Sam. I'm sorry." No wine could make her feel anything more for Sam.
"Answer him," Alice told Leila after seeing Sam's name appearing on Leila's phone.
"I know you're in London. Where are you? Can we meet in a bar nearby, please?" Sam asked.
"At Alice. I don't think that's a good idea, Sam, you’re engaged, be nice to Cecilia." Leila answered back, ending the conversation rather quickly, but Sam continued to text and call her.
"Leila, I think you should meet him and make it perfectly clear to him. That's the only way," Alice suddenly said, annoyed by all the noise coming from her friend's phone. If Leila can't stop him, she will.
"But I did, many times," Leila was desperate. She has tried over and over again, but Sam just wouldn't let go. "What else can I do to make Sam give up on me? I will. Just tell me!"
"Hmm, look less pretty, maybe? Sam likes you because of your pretty face! And God knows how he eats up your body with those blue eyes! " Alice winked at her, already building a plan, “How about a disguise?”