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I woke up the next morning with cold sweat stuck to my forehead and a thudding heart in my chest. There was a heaviness settled in my heart weighing down my confidence.

Today was my mom’s surgery.

I hadn’t told anyone about it, not even Master. Luckily he had handed me the first installment of my sum in the morning. I couldn’t believe that I was actually being able to pay for Mom’s surgery so soon.

After Master left for work I visited the hospital. Em was present too.

“Mom.” I hugged her burying my face in the crook of her neck.

“Em says you’ve got a new job?” She asked.

“Yeah, it pays well.”

“Don’t overwork yourself, kid. You look so tired.”

I was tired because for the major part of the morning Rafael was in me. I was relieved that he did that. It actually helped me elevate some of the tension. Though only for a few moments, I was able to forget about my worries and I was grateful for that.

I did show him just how grateful I was. He was a happy man when he left with his laptop.

“I’m fine, mama.” I smiled for her.

“Take care of yourself for me, dear.” She said with creases of worry on her temple. That was my mom. She was sick on the bed yet she worried about me.

“I will.”

The doctors arrived and mom was shifted to the operation theater.

“You’ll be fine, mom. Don’t worry, okay? We’re here.” I took mom’s hands in mine and gave her a gentle squeeze. She was so fragile like a glass doll that I was afraid to even touch her. Her body was so weak that she could barely give my hand a squeeze back. I choked back a sob because I had to be strong for her and Em.

Dr. Clark assured us that everything would be fine but I was still worried.

Hospitals always scared me. First my Dad spent the last of his days in Hospitals and now it was my mom. I couldn’t bear losing her nor I could see her in so much of pain. To her, losing all of her beautiful long hair was heartbreaking and to see her suffer was a cruel punishment for all of us.

Sometimes I asked God why he did this to her of all the people. She had already suffered enough with my Dad’s demise. Why did he always make the innocent ones suffer?

I was sitting outside with my sister’s head rested on my shoulders. None of us spoke probably because our thoughts matched. Minutes passed and it was close to an hour now since the surgery began but I felt as if it had been ages. The doctors had assured us that they’d take care of mom and to return home and be back tomorrow but neither of us moved. My eyes felt droopy and I fought to keep them open.

Suddenly there was a tap on my shoulder and I woke up with a jolt awaking Em as well.

I looked to my right to see Master towering above us. I immediately straightened.

“Mas...” I remembered Em was with me too so I stopped myself from saying the word. “Mr. González, what are you doing here?”

“I called home but you weren’t picking up so I called Paul if you were out. I was worried.” Seeing my confused state about who Paul was he clarified. “Paul’s my driver.” I nodded. “He said you were in the hospital. I called here and found out that you were attending to your mom’s surgery. Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

“Because I thought that you wouldn’t...” Let me attend to her. I looked at Em who was listening to us carefully.

“You think I wouldn’t let you come for your mother?” I nodded. “Id never stop you from meeting your family, Sienna. I know your family means to you just as much as mine means to me.” I never thought he’d understand. But I was glad he did. It would be very difficult to argue about it when the surgery was being paid by him.

Technically I was paying for it but it did come from him.

“So you came here for me?” I asked genuinely appreciating his thoughtfulness.

“I remembered you told me about your mother so I thought I should come to support you.” Rafael González, CEO of González Incorporations was here, leaving all of his work for me? Was I dreaming?

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Mr. González. Really, I appreciate it.”

“Is anyone going to explain me what’s happening here?” My sister looked confusedly between us. I forgot that Em didn’t know about Master.

“Oh, Em, this is my boss, Mr. Rafael González.”

“Mr. González, she is my sister Emily.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. González. It’s very kind of you to think about my sister.” Em smiled sweetly before extending her hand.

“Rafael’s fine. I hope you two are coping up with your mom’s health. If you need anything, I’m here.”

“That’s fine. Thank you.” I answered for both of us. It was already too much that he was here for us. For me.

When Em went to freshen up, me and Rafael stood awkwardly in the center of the corridor. He was looking down at me with deep eyes full of concern. It scared me to be looked upon in that way by someone who was so distant from me yet felt familiar.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t call you Master. I didn’t want Em to freak out if she heard me call you that.” I hope he wasn’t going to punish me for that.

“I understand. People usually don’t get that there can be other type of relationship that involve all the aspects of a usual relationship except the romantic part.”

He couldn’t be more right. People didn’t understand that there could be two individuals who could derive mutual benefit from each other and not be romantically involved. Me and Master were exactly those two individuals. Could my sister ever be able to understand the nature of our relationship? She was old enough to understand but would she? Em was kind by heart and very innocent too. She had a big heart and I was sure she would understand and not judge me. Her support meant everything to me and if I didn’t have her I’d never be able to make it this far.

Suddenly tears welled up in my eyes. Something close to loneliness took over me.

What if Mom didn’t make it out alive?

What if she left us like Dad?

What would be left for me then? Em was beautiful, smart, kind and most of all she would have a college degree next year. She’d have a good job, a proper home, and a boyfriend.

What would be there for me? No one would want to date the simple, boring old me.

The money Rafael would pay me would be over by the time I’d pay for treatment, a new home for us, Em’s fees.....I began the mental calculation. The final balance that would be left would be nothing compared to what I imagined earlier.

Will I always be alone?

Will I...

“Hey.” I was shaken awake from my wild imaginations when Master shook me. “What’s wrong?” I lost it and hugged him tight burying my face in his chest. The tears rolled out easily as I imagined wild scenarios in my head.

It was a moment later but Master’s hands came around me holding me close. I welcomed the comfort of his warm embrace. I needed it.

“Nothing will happen to your mom. I can tell she’s strong. She’ll fight this.”

“How do you know? You haven’t even met her.” I knew he was just trying to comfort me. But I couldn’t seem to think straight at that moment.

“Because you’re strong and you got that from your mother. She’s a fighter just like you.”

I appreciated his kindness. If we weren’t in the hospital just a few steps outside mom’s surgery room I’d kiss him for that. I tried to step away from his embrace but Master didn’t let go. Instead he wiped away my tears tucked my slightly messy hair behind my ears. Then he places a soft kiss on my lips. I was completely taken aback by the gesture. It was sweet and comforting, far more different than any of the kisses we’d shared.

I forcefully separated myself from him.

It wasn’t right for us to be close.

I noticed Em came back.

The next few hours passed by waiting for the doctors to come out. Master insisted on staying with us despite me telling him not to. I stopped arguing when he glared at me telling me silently that he didn’t appreciate me arguing with my Master.

When the doctors finally came out of the surgery room I felt my breath leave me in a hush.

He asked me to follow him to his cabin.

“How’s mom, Dr. Clark?”

“Sienna, we could successfully remove the tumor out of your Mom’s body.” Because I could hear the hanging but in the air I filled in for him.

“But?” Also the expression on the docs face told me everything wasn’t okay.

“I have to tell you that surgery doesn’t mean that everything’s going to be back to normal. Don’t get me wrong, your mom can continue living her life the way she lived and with proper diet and exercise she can live for a few more years...”

“Few years?” I felt the tears at the back of my lids. My voice broke when I spoke next. “ said!” I couldn’t form coherent words.

“I know this is tough time for you, Sienna. We did everything we could to save her but Mrs. Lake’s body could only support so much. Its a miracle she has a few years still left. Stay strong and take good care of your mother. She’s lucky she has you and Emily as her daughters who love her so much.”

I didn’t want his advice. He was a liar. He was the doctor, he was supposed to make my mom alright. This had to be a nightmare. Maybe I was still asleep and the doctors were performing surgery on mom.

Someone needed to wake me up. I wanted someone to tell me it was a dream.

“Sienna, are you alright?” Dr. Clark’s voice snapped me out of my haze.

It wasn’t a dream. It was the truth.

“How long?” I asked with the broken voice and heart.

He looked down trying to sound as sympathetic as possible. “Two years.”

“Two years?”

Christ! Two years and mom would be gone.

“Can I see her now?”

“She’s resting now. I advice you to go home and come tomorrow.”

I let my feet carry me back to where Em was. She was looking at me expectantly. I couldn’t break the hope that glowed on her face. She was only nineteen. She wasn’t ready to face the truth.

“How is mom? What did he say? Sienna?”

“Mom is..... alright now. She’s fine.” I lied to her. She smiled in relief. I knew I did wrong by not telling her the truth but that’s what seemed best.

“Can we see her now?”

“Not now. She’s not awake yet.” I hid my tears behind my smiled and pretended like the last few minutes didn’t happen.

“I’ll drop you two home.” I hadn’t noticed Master was in sight until he appeared again. I didn’t refuse his generosity. Me and Em walked in front of Master as we headed outside. It was getting darker and chillier outside matching the emotions in my heart right now.

For the rest of the car journey none of us spoke a word. I didn’t even realize when we reached home. It was just a few days back that I moved out yet coming back here felt so foreign.

“Thank you, Master, for letting me stay with my sister. I’ll be back before you wake up tomorrow...”

“There’s no need. Spend the rest of the day with you mother and sister. I’ll come and pick you the day after tomorrow.”

I nodded grateful for the time. God knew I needed it!

“Sienna.” I heard Master call my name. Turning back I saw him coming close to me.

Abruptly he crashed his lips on mine making me feel the tingling all over. The instant surge of heat spread within me whenever he was touching me. Thank God Em was already inside the apartment.

“Take care of yourself, okay?”

Was that concern in his voice? Who knew that the man beneath the tough exterior could be so caring?

“I will, thanks again for the lift.”

As soon as I went in I was met with a glaring Em. She looked like she was about to scold me really bad.

Did she see me and Master kiss?

“Care to explain why your boss was eating your mouth like a starved animal?” I blushed at the choice of her words.

“He wasn’t eating...”

“Sienna, I’m nineteen not nine, and even if I were I’d still understand what was happening. I saw the looks you two were giving each other and the kiss only confirmed my suspicion. You’re dating your boss.” Oh, sister! If that were the case, it would be easy to explain.

I chose my words carefully. “I know how it looked but I swear, Em we’re not dating. It was just one time thing and we kind of got carried away with our feelings.” I was lying to her face and I wasn’t pleased about it but a I couldn’t risk telling her the news now. I made a promise to myself that I’d come clean once mom was back.

I wasn’t ashamed of what I was doing but learning that I was sleeping with a stranger for money wasn’t exactly the type of job you wanted your family to know.

“Okay....I guess I understand. You’ve been too engrossed in your work and stuff and you needed to let it out. I’m sorry for coming out onto you like that.”

“I knew you’d understand.” I smiled and welcomed her in my arms. “Hey, how come you didn’t recognize him? I thought you knew all about him.” I remembered Em had mentioned wanting to work with González Incorporations.

“I recognized him but I just didn’t want to sound like I was stalking him.” I laughed a little at her silliness.

“So...... how was the kiss like?”

I thought for a while remembering all those times we kissed. Passionate, sweet, sexy, hungry, wild...

“It was .....magical.” That seemed more appropriate.

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