This story is by Hailey Sherrell and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She was a hundred feet away from him, looking stunning in a flowing blue dress that stood out against the red carpet at her feet.
Matteo watched her out of the corner of his eye. Had they been alone, he would have strode to her in a heartbeat, taking her in his arms and kissing her until she made that happy little giggle that had made him fall in love with her.
But he couldn’t, because they were surrounded by screaming people–idiot teenage girls and grown men looking for profit–and Matteo had to put on a show. If he didn’t, the girls would lose interest, Matteo’s next album would be gone, and soon enough the men looking for profit would drift away as well.
They’d been putting on a show for months now. Matteo wasn’t going to ruin it now.
Even if it was their anniversary.
“Matteo! Over here!”
A fake smile plastered on his face, Matteo did as the paparazzi told him, turning to show off the plain black suit that was exactly the same as the plain black suits of the rest of the men on the carpet. Not like Amber’s gorgeous blue dress, which Matteo had to actively focus to keep his eyes off.
“Matteo, could you tell us who the inspiration was for your latest album?”
A microphone was thrust in his face. Carefully not looking at Amber, who had left her blonde hair down and gently curled tonight, Matteo answered, “Nobody. Actually, Ice–the lead single– was about how winter is my favorite season.”
Matteo risked a glance at Amber, who was suppressing a smile. She’d been listening.
The unconvinced journalist was swept back into the crowd.
Matteo’s answer had been relatively truthful. The song had been inspired by winter and ice. Matteo just hadn’t mentioned who ice reminded him of.
There was a brief break, when both of them were being left alone and unwatched as they waited for new interviewers. It was a bad idea, and stupid, and Matteo’s manager was going to kill him, but he couldn’t help himself. Matteo walked over to Amber. As he passed, he whispered in her ear, “Happy anniversary, lovely”.
Amber’s eyes widened before a huge smile took over her face. Matteo grinned in response. The glare of his manager was entirely worth it.
Amber wanted to go to the ice.
It had been all she could think about for the last two hours (well, that and the gorgeous boy who had whispered such sweet things into her ear an hour ago, but she was trying her best not to focus on that).
When Amber was at the rink, she knew who she was and what she was supposed to do. She was at home.
Here… not so much. Most of the time Amber felt out of place at red carpets. She wasn’t some famous singer, like Matteo. She was an athlete.
It had been a year since Amber’s record-breaking first Olympic gold, but she still didn’t think the paparazzi would ever be something she could get used to. Without Matteo’s help, Amber would have exposed their relationship ages ago. Amber didn’t love the secrecy, but it was important for Matteo’s career, and she would never do anything to mess that up.
Over the course of the night, Amber and Matteo had slid closer to each other, until Matteo was standing directly next to her. Matteo’s manager had been getting progressively more tense, practically ignoring the rest of his clients in favor of monitoring Matteo.
“Amber, how are you planning to increase the difficulty this Olympic season? Natasha Trokovsky’s triple Axel is going to be hard to beat.”
Amber blinked, turning her attention from the heat radiating from Matteo’s side to the interviewer in front of her.
“Well, I’ve been working hard at the rink. I’m very hopeful for this season.”
Amber glanced at her watch as the woman faded back into the crowd. If they wanted to make it to their anniversary dinner, they had to leave soon.
“Amber! To your left!”
Amber turned, expecting to smile for a camera, only to find a microphone shoved in her face. Taken off guard, Amber stumbled backwards, tripping on her skirt and falling into the guy next to her.
A pair of steady hands grabbed her. Amber turned, smiling, expecting to see Matteo.
“Are you alright?” the man asked with a distinctive German accent. Not Matteo, then. Amber must have fallen to her left, not her right.
“I’m fine, thank you,” Amber said with a smile, righting herself as best she could. She could feel Matteo’s eyes on her. “I’m fine,” she said again, louder. Matteo gave her a small nod and a smile before turning back to his interviewer.
“You should be more careful,” the man said, his hand lingering on her arm. Matteo’s attention shot back to them.
“I’m alright,” Amber said for the third time, extracting her arm as carefully as she could.
“Amber, I didn’t know you had a secret beau,” the man with the microphone said.
“Is this a serious relationship? A casual fling? Are you pregnant?”
“No, I’m not pregnant!” Amber said quickly. “And we’re also not-”
“Amber! Over here, please!”
With a perfunctory smile, the man moved away.
Amber glanced worriedly at Matteo. He was standing ramrod straight, with his hands balled into fists in his pockets.
It hurt to see him like this, so upset.
Amber glanced at Matteo’s manager, who was watching them with narrowed eyes.
Screw it. It was their anniversary.
Amber took a step backwards, stepping on the hem of her dress and falling–to her right this time.
Matteo let out a surprised grunt as she fell headlong into him. They crashed to the ground, the cameramen scrambling to get out of the way. Matteo’s arms came around her, and Amber felt at peace for the first time since stepping on that carpet.
The cameras flashed, and Amber forced herself to pull away.
“Happy anniversary,” Amber whispered as she got back up, brushing dirt off her dress.
Matteo’s manager started pushing his way through the crowd towards them.
But Matteo smiled at her, and it was utterly worth it.
Professional athletes don’t fall twice in ten minutes by accident.
His manager was well aware of that fact, and Matteo had received an earful after Amber had fallen on him. Nobody wanted a teen heart-throb in a relationship, telling the world would be breaking his contract, et cetera, et cetera. It was nothing Matteo hadn’t heard a million times when he first started dating Amber.
Matteo was back to answering questions about the inspirations for his songs, while poor Amber was stuck being interrogated about her mysterious lovers.
Matteo wasn’t sure he had ever seen her so uncomfortable. Her pretty dress had dirt stains all over it, and the hair on one side of her head was sticking up oddly. Matteo had been trying to come up with an innocent way to fix it for the last twenty minutes.
Amber seemed to be on the verge of tears. No matter how many times Amber denied being in a relationship, not one of the reporters believed her.
Amber already hated being in the spotlight. To be interrogated in front of the world about her private life, and worse, to have to lie about it–this was practically Amber’s worst nightmare.
And it was all Matteo’s fault, for being so stupidly jealous.
“So, Matteo, who was the inspiration for your latest album?”
“Well, it’s not really about-” Matteo paused, glancing over at Amber.
Even with her dirty dress and her messed up hair, she looked gorgeous. Matteo couldn’t believe his luck, to have been with her for two years.
Matteo turned back to the interviewer. “Actually, it is about somebody,” he said. “I have a girlfriend.”
Amber’s head snapped around. Matteo’s manager shook his head angrily, holding up his phone in warning.
The interviewer looked shocked. “And who is this lucky lady?”
“I haven’t wanted to say anything because my managers were pushing to keep it quiet” Matteo said, ignoring both the reporter and his manager. “But I’ve been in a committed relationship for two years.”
“With who?” The interviewer was practically bouncing on his toes.
Matteo glanced at Amber again. She was staring at him, interview entirely forgotten.
Screw it. It was their anniversary. It was their anniversary, and he was in love with the most wonderful woman on the planet.
Matteo strode past the interviewer and grabbed Amber’s face, whispering, “I love you,” before kissing her for all the world to see. The camera flashes were like fireworks behind his closed eyelids.
When he pulled away, Amber was smiling. “Happy anniversary,” she said.
His manager walked away in disgust, phone held to his ear. Matteo would not have a studio to go to on Monday morning.
But Amber kissed him again, and Matteo forgot all that.
He had Amber, and the rest was unequivocally worth it.