“Dad?” I called, my fisted hand hovering over the door to knock. “May I come in?”
“Yes,” a deep voice called from inside.
I took a deep breath and pushed open the door, my other arm cradling files upon files. It opened up to a fully furnished, modern office with white wooden flooring and dark grey walls. A sleek black table stood at the centre, an extensive drawing sheet covering half of it, cluttered with pens and pencils. Behind the table sat a cushioned armchair, swiveled around to face the bookshelf set against the wall, stacked high with books, awards, papers and magazines and the ceiling-to-floor windows that stood like sentinels on either side, offering a breathtaking view of the city beyond. My breath caught in my throat again at the luxury of it all and the raw beauty of power that this office exerted.
And behind the armchair stood my father, fingers steepled together over the headrest as he pierced me with his intimidating gaze. I squirmed under his eyes, uncomfortable under the scrutiny that he always seemed to regard everyone with.
“I’m doing it again,” he stated, referring to our previous talk where I had mentioned how his stare was a little unnerving. I nodded, pursing my lips to suppress a small smile. How far along we had come. When I had first been taken under the care of my father after my mother had practically disowned me, he had been very...closed off. After a few months, I realized it was because he didn’t know how to show affection. My father hadn’t left me at birth because he was disgusted by me as my mother had so kindly hinted at every so often or because he had a secret girlfriend at the side, oh no, that thought was laughable now. He had left because he had entered matrimonial relationships with his work and refused to part with it. Plus, there was the fact that he didn’t really know how to function socially if it wasn’t about business. It was only two years later when I finally managed to shred some of his double-steeled walls and he began to grow more comfortable around me, if you could even call it that.
At first, he had showered me with jewelry and all kinds of expensive gifts when he caught wind of how depressed I had become. I think at some point, he had felt sorry for me and might have even regretted leaving me in the first place. He was angry at my mother and cut off all contact with her after what she did to me, I’m still surprised that he believed my side of the story. But soon and with great astonishment, he found out that I preferred chocolates and sweets over all the handbags and heels he had got me from Gucci and it was then that he began warming up to me. In fact, he confessed only a few days ago that he had expected me to be like my mother, demand expensive gifts from him and rob him of his money. It was apparently also the reason he had been so disappointed that I was born a girl.
Well, I proved to him just how beneficial I could be and safe to say, he was pleased with my work.
He shook his head and gestured towards the leather chair in front of the desk. I took a seat and began leafing through my files, looking for the paper I knew he wanted. He nodded with satisfaction when I retrieved it and looked over it while I sat back and watched him.
“When’s the new term starting?” he asked, not looking away from the paper. After everything that had happened in my hometown, I had decided I needed a change, to give a fresh start to myself and changed not only my look, but also my mindset towards the world. When I came to know about Dad’s firm, I immediately set out to look it up and gather more information before I asked him whether I could work for him. And to my surprise, not only had he accepted, but I enjoyed the work. At first, handling college as well as work became a little too much for me but after a few months, I managed to slip into a schedule that let me do both my schoolwork and interior designing. And when I had exams, I just asked him for a few days off and he agreed, although he made me cover up for it in the coming weeks.
“In a week,” I answered, peering at the design he had laid out before him on the table. “What are you working on?”
“A penthouse to be furnished that’s giving high pay. Apparently, his kids haven’t matured from their teenage years and so he wants them to build their home and work for it.” He let out a little derisive snort at the end. “They are about your age if I’m not mistaken. And their term starts in a week too so they want it to be done with at least within the week after.”
“Oh. Who are you planning on giving this job to? Luke is still on the mechanic’s one and James has his pregnant wife to look after and—”
“You,” he cut off my rambling. At my ridiculous look, he explained. “I know I haven’t given you any important jobs such as this since you started working and certainly not alone, but you have proved yourself capable enough and I want you to do this.”
“But—” I broke off at his look and groaned. “You want to throw me out of the house. I knew I shouldn’t have told you about the movies I binge-watched that night,” I grumbled under my breath.
He cracked a fraction of a smile and didn’t bother trying to deny my spot-on assumption. “I’ll take that as a yes?”
“Can I work with Elias?” I asked hopefully.
He frowned. “I still don’t approve of you hanging out with that insolent boy. But yes, if you really need to, you can take up his help but he won’t be paid any more than he already is. Make sure he knows.”
I laughed, remembering the playful argument Eli had the other day with my father for a raise. Having your boss’s daughter as a best friend had its perks is what he said when my father had stormed away without a reply. Yes, Dad was the king of stinginess when it came to salary. Unless he thought we did an adequate job and we were confident that we did, we couldn’t dare ask him for a raise and he had explained very generously the other day that it included me too.
Anyway, since then, Dad hasn’t been the biggest fan of Elias.
“Oh, I will,” I grinned. “Now can I go for my lunch break?”
“Yes,” he nodded and waved to the paper on his desk. “I’ll have this sent to your office by the time you get back and I want you to generalize the designs before you meet the clients. They are boys and if they haven’t grown up from their teenage phase yet, you know how they’ll prefer it. But anyway, make the necessary adjustments after you meet them but get started on it now because you have to get this project done by the 28th.”
“Yes, sir!” I mock-saluted him and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. He stiffened under my touch before relaxing and patting my head. I internally laughed at his awkward display of affection and bounded away. Ever since I had discovered that I would have to reach out or I’ll never have the father I have always wanted, I had doubled my efforts until I could make him feel comfortable around me and set on getting him to open up to me like a father would with his daughter.
So far, my efforts hadn’t yielded too many results and it had been 4 years, but I liked it. I liked working for his affection and not giving him a reason to be disappointed with me because all the people I had known in my life eventually did and I didn’t want that to happen with him.
Whistling my way out of the office, I dropped in at my office to grab my purse and took the elevator down to the 2nd floor where I knew my impatient friend would be waiting.
As expected, there he stood, dressed in a button-down shirt and white-washed jeans, tapping his foot on the floor in a staccato.
“My favorite bitch,” he screamed dramatically, throwing his arms around me. “You are 58 seconds late.”
I rolled my eyes with a laugh and pushed him away. “Okay, dramatic ass, I’m here now. Let’s go.”
He smirked and I slapped a hand over his mouth before he could utter the innuendo. His smirk only widened and a second later when something disgustingly slimy and moist touched my palm, I found out why.
“Ew, you disgusting pig,” I scowled, wiping my hands furiously on my skirt. “Ew, ew, ew.”
He only laughed and slung an arm over my shoulders. “I’m your disgusting pig,” he winked.
“So I have an offer for you,” I started, climbing into his blue Camaro. He started up the engine, shooting me a curious glance.
“You decided your heart was being a miserly bastard and wanted to pay for lunch today?” he offered hopefully.
“No,” I stated dryly, rolling my eyes at him. “You talk like I never pay for lunch. Anyway, that’s not it. So guess who just got a huge project to finish in two weeks?”
“Oh em gee!” he squealed, thankfully managing not to veer off the road. “I’m so proud. So your offer is a treat?”
“No. You’re my partner.”
“What?” he complained but I could see from the way his eyes lit up that he wanted to do this. “But I won’t get extra pay, will I? Actually, don’t answer that.”
I ignored him and carried on. “College boys. I’ll get all the information I need by the end of lunch. And we’ll be meeting them tomorrow but I want to go get a look at the penthouse and note down the general stuff they’ll need.”
“Alright. Sounds good. I’ll be in the car. You pack up after we are done with lunch and we can get on with it. So, now the real question. Are they hot?” he wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“I haven’t seen them, have I?”
“What a pity.”
The rest of lunch passed uneventfully with us just bickering and goofing around. My mind was mostly distracted by everything i could generalize before they shared their opinions and changed what they wanted. By the time we had reached the 33rd floor in their apartment, I was already bursting with excitement. My very first project. I needed to do this right.
My first step into the penthouse and it whisked the breath right out of my lungs. It was a beautiful two-storied open space with ceiling-to-floor windows stretching out along the walls on either side. I could just about picture the magnificent and plush couches that would face the rolling city below and perhaps a fireplace to add to the atmosphere.
“Alright. So let’s get started. What do you think they wouldn’t be too particular about?” Elias asked, fingers brushing against the bare walls. “Probably will want to choose the color theme...but what about the type of furniture? Kitchen? Entire black and white marble and maybe hints of brown? And light oak laminated flooring? If they want it changed, it won’t be such a hassle to remove but I doubt they’ll care about the flooring. And lighting? A big crystal chandelier hanging over the living room and other LED lights?” Yup, he definitely was just as enthusiastic.
“Yeah,” I nodded along. “And a spiral crystal teardrop chandelier along that winding staircase would look astounding! Their father’s already paying a huge amount to get this thing furnished so I’m guessing he wants us to use it well. An elegant oval coffee table surrounded by...let’s say Chester leather sofas?”
Eli shook his head at that. “They are guys. College guys,” he emphasized. “Which means half of the time, they’ll have their friends over. And you know the stuff, especially if they are still hooked on to their high school days, they’ll want to throw parties and sling girls on their arms. Wouldn’t individual couches—say loveseats and a chaise lounge suit better?”
“You’re right. We can confirm with them tomorrow but for now, let’s get to work with the measurements.”
And by the time night had fallen, my mind was buzzing with nothing but furniture and designs and numbers. I was so exhausted that day that I couldn’t even work up the energy to change and just collapsed on the bed. What I didn’t know was that this was not only going to become an everyday thing but it was going to get a lot worse. The last image on my mind was my life back home and how much had changed. How much I had grown up. My high school days were gone and even though I missed a majority of my earlier life, this was just so much better. I was actually doing something for myself!
But no amount of convincing could feed the hole that threatened to rip my chest open. After all, i had left some part of myself back there. With them.