Chapter One: The Trigger
“Where is it?” Cleo Devon asked.
Cleo’s rant filled the room. The staff at the fashion house was speechless. They did not know how to control the designer’s anger. The gown Cleo designed for his VIP “friend” disappeared. No one knew where it was.
Amelia Faux just sat on her sewing table. She was only a new seamstress in the fashion house. Saying something would be inappropriate. Her eyes shifted to Alex Kemp, the American intern in the uprising French fashion house. The twenty-two year old Alex sat on her designer’s table unaffected, but Amelia could see a small smile on one of the edges of her lips.
Amelia saw what Alex did. The intern took the design. Alex turned to Amelia and their eyes met. The intern raised an eyebrow at Amelia and moved her eyes away.
Amelia silently laughed. She could not understand it but she was attracted to Alex. It was not new to her. Growing up with four older sisters, she had learned to admire women. She appreciated the way they dress and the way carry themselves. That’s all. Nothing else… except for Alex.
There was just something about the intern. The way she looked at Amelia, her smile, the way she moved, and her electrifying touch, awakened a weird feeling in Amelia.
It was a different feeling. Amelia had never felt it before, even with her fiancé, Philippe DuPont. She had admired many girls, but her admiration to Alex was different. She wanted to be close to her, touch her and sometimes – wondered how her thick lips would taste like. It was exactly what she thought as she continued to look at Alex.
“Amelia, did you see it?” Cleo asked.
Amelia quickly shook her head. She told the truth. She did not see the design, but only knew who took it. Cleo always hated it when you answer beyond what he asks. She thought to herself.
“I want you to find that design tonight!” Cleo yelled. “You know what that design means for our company and our careers.”
Cleo straightened his neck scarf fashionably and walked out of the working area. The staff breathed deep as soon as he left. Amelia looked at Alex again. The intern was still the only relaxed person in the room.
“Why couldn’t he just draw it again?” Sylvia, the pattern maker, said while rolling her eyes.
“Because it was not his design,” Alex cut in. “That lying, bitchy designer is a fake. A counterfeit.”
The other designers on the other side of the room laughed. Alex looked confused. Amelia found her confused face pretty and cute.
Alex turned to Amelia and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Welcome to the real world, honey,” Amelia said. She stood and brushed the hair off Alex’s shoulders. She paused when she saw the smooth skin behind Alex’s ears. An urge to smell the spot sprung in her mind. She quickly stepped away from Alex and continued, “It’s not a new thing in the designer’s world.”
Alex’s eyes widened. All her aspiration to be a renowned Parisian designer crushed before her.
Amelia gave Alex a soft smile. The intern was not the first to lose her design to Cleo. Amelia laughed proudly on the inside. She was amazed that Alex had the guts to take what was really hers.
“That’s unfair,” Alex said. Her voice was full of frustration.
“I know,” Amelia told her. “You have to lose some to win some.”
Alex groaned and said, “I want to wring his neck.”
“You need to let it go,” Amelia whispered. “Keep the design until you are ready to launch your own line.”
Alex smiled sweetly at Amelia. The smile mesmerized her. Alex shook her hand on her face to get her back on focus. She blushed. Alex laughed a little. That laugh. It was different. It was suggestive. How? She did not know, but it was enticing.
“Can we have lunch together?” Alex asked.
Lunch. Darn it. Amelia quickly took her purse. She looked at Alex and replied, “I’m sorry. I have a lunch date with Philippe.”
“Philippe?” Alex asked.
“He’s my fiancé,” Amelia told Alex. “Let’s have lunch together next time. Tomorrow maybe?.”
Alex replied with a quick shoulder shrug. She looked disappointed that Amelia turned her down. Her disappointed eyes made Amelia hesitant to leave. It was the first after almost five years.
Philippe became Amelia’s life since they moved in together, five years ago. He was always the first in her priorities. He was going to be her husband. Of course. He had to be the first.
Amelia let go of her purse and playfully placed a hand on Alex’s cheek. She sighed and said, “You know what, that lunch date is not really important. We always have it. Having lunch with a new friend would be better, right?”
Alex’s face lit up. She smiled widely and said, “Great. I’ll get ready and see you in a few.”
What’s got in your mind, Amelia? Amelia questioned herself. She was going out for lunch with a friend. What’s wrong about that? But, deep down, she knew that it was not just an ordinary lunch date with a friend. She wanted to know Alex – to be close to her – for another reason that was strange even for her.
Amanda looked at Alex, who was talking to the lady bartender. The two of them looked comfortable with each other. It even seemed like they were flirting. Amelia’s lips twitched down. She did not know what she was jealous of or disappointed with. Alex invited her to have a lunch in a nearby bar and restaurant and abandoned her for the bar tender.
Amelia met Alex’s eyes. She forced a smile and raised the menu, which had been on the table for more than ten minutes.
Alex nodded. She turned to the bartender and spoke something. The bartender leaned close to her and whispered something.
Amelia fidgeted on her seat. She was curious about their conversation. Her eyes widened when the bartender kissed Alex on the mouth. Kissing is common to the French as greeting, but Amelia found the kiss malicious. She finally found a reason to be jealous.
“I’m sorry,” Alex said with a charming smile. “Terry is an interesting woman.”
“I’m pretty sure she is,” Amelia said while holding her disappointment with a smile.
“She invited us to her party this Saturday,” Alex said. “An exclusive one. Just for us. You get what I mean, right?”
“I can’t,” Amelia answered quickly.
Alex was flustered when Amelia’s lack of hesitation. She gave her a puppy look, but Amelia kept her stand. Alex sighed and asked, “Why?”
“I have to attend a family dinner with Philippe.”
Alex raised an eyebrow.
Amelia could sense sarcasm on Alex’s look. She wondered if her new friend saw through her lie. Yes. It was a lie. She did not have plans with Philippe. Her fiancé would not be around on that day. Philippe was a subway operator. He has night duties on Saturdays. Amelia would be alone, working on some dresses or shirts for her and him.
“You are not really getting married, are you?” Alex asked frankly.
Amelia snorted at the question. She was a bit offended, but she viewed it as an impulse of a 22-year old. Of course, she was getting married. She and Philippe moved in five years ago and lived like husband and wife. They only need to make it official.
“I am,” Amelia answered calmly. She took the menu and looked at the content.
Alex pulled the menu away and asked, “You are lying. You don’t want to get married.”
“Of course, I do!” Amelia replied with a raised voice. She turned red when the people in the restaurant turned to her. She lowered her voice and said, “You have only been here for a week. Do not act like you know me.”
“Takes one to know one,” Alex winked. Amelia became confused. Alex glanced at the bartender and looked at Amelia. She smiled and said, “You are one of us.”
Amelia’s mouth dropped open. Alex laughed and repeated, “You are one of us. A lesbo.”
Amelia was about to object when Alex suddenly added, “Or perhaps, you are just a Kiki.”
Amelia became more confused. She understood what Alex said, but a part of her objected the idea. I am not a lesbian. She wanted to declare right there and then, but she hesitated. I don’t have to prove anything, she thought.
“I can’t believe I sacrificed a lunch date with my Philippe for you,” Amelia uttered. Her voice was shaky with her withheld anger.
Amelia grabbed her purse and placed a few Euros on the table. She drank a glass of sparkling water and walked away. Her heart pounded heavily on her chest. Alex’s conclusion made her panic. She turned to the young intern. La pute! She angrily thought when she found Alex with Terry in the bar.
Terry caught Amelia looking at them. She smiled sweetly and whispered something to Alex.
Amelia gritted her teeth when Alex giggled. She quickly walked out of the restaurant. A lesbian? The word sprung in her head again as she crossed the street. It never crossed her mind that she was a lesbian. She had nothing against lesbians, but she had everything against being one. I just can’t be a lesbian! She insisted on her mind.
Nothing around her had room for lesbianism. Her parents raised her as a full-pledge Catholic, where heterosexuality was right and homosexuality was wrong. As she grew up, she accepted that homosexuality was a choice and it was neither right nor wrong. But, the stigma of being found as a homosexual was too much for her to bear. What would her parents think about? Her sisters? And most of all, Philippe?
“I can’t be a lesbian,” Amelia repeated to herself. She shook her head and restated, “I am not a lesbian.”