“Dear god, how could this have happened?” My mother squeals holding out her arms and pulling me into a rigid embrace. I catch a whiff of her perfume, the same scent she has been wearing for years. The scent brings me back to much simpler times before the incident, and I begin to feel nauseous.
My mother lets me out of her grasp, but her hands remain lightly gripping my arms. Does she seriously think I’m going to run away? In these crutches? For a while, she looks into my eyes, the wrinkles around her eyes more prominent than I last remember them. The whites of her eyes have a pinkish hue, indicating that she might have been crying. What does she have to cry about? She has everything.
“What’re you doing here?” I say bitterly. I need to make sure that she knows I haven’t forgotten about what she did all those years ago. I would never forget something like that.
“I want you to come home,” her voice cracks between the last two words. Either she has been crying, or she is a great actress. Knowing my mother and how conniving and manipulative she can be, my bet is on the latter.
“Come on, Elise, you don’t want that,” I grit my teeth when I say this. Her eyes flicker from side to side at the mention of her name and her arms fall to her side. Am I being a bitch by refusing to call her ‘Mom’? I left for a reason, and I want nothing to do with her.
“Why are you like this, Hadley?” her eyes pierce into mine, making me uneasy. Why did she have to show up here and ruin my good mood?
“I don’t need to have this conversation with you,” my voice grows louder. “So, tell me. Why are you here?” I ask this despite knowing quite well that she’s only going to avoid the topic. She sighs.
“I want you to come ho—”
“Bullshit!” I spit out. “You don’t care about me. You never did, at least not since Angela. I’m going to ask you one last time. Why…are…you…here?” My face burns up from anger. Fortunately, the parking lot is empty, so nobody is present to witness this showdown.
“Calm down,” my mother is fighting to keep her composure. As a co-founder of Cybersive, the family run technology business, my mother has a certain reputation to uphold.
“Come work for the company, Hadley,” she says sternly.
“No.” I say and turn away from her. If I stay here any longer, I am definitely going to end up back in the hospital. My mother does not care whether I return home or not. Her only goal is to have me under her control. She absolutely despises disorder, so when I chose to work for a company other than the family business, she would not have any of it.
“You are being such a child,” my mother stomps her food down. I pause in my tracks for a split second, but continue walking away from her. I don’t have the energy to deal with her right now.
“Hadley,” she calls out, but I continue to walk away. My phone beeps and I see that Naya has just texted me that she’s here. I look around and see her silver Chevy parked on the far side of the parking lot.
“Hadley,” I hear my mother calling out to me. I have to give it to her, she’s persistent. Suddenly, I feel an arm grab me by the elbow and spin me around.
“I know about Adrian,” my mother says, her face fuming. What is that even supposed to mean?
“What the fuck?” I say pulling my arm away from her, “Whatever you’re thinking about, it isn’t true. And even if it is, who are you to judge me?”
“So it’s true,” the look in her eyes is discerning. I know I’ve said some pretty hurtful things in the past and even today, but something tells me I’ve hurt her more than I can account for.
“Mom,” I’m surprised at how soft my voice gets, “I didn’t mean to yell at you. Now is just not a good time.” I look down, trying to avoid meeting her disappointed gaze. No matter how much I despise the woman’s manipulative tendencies, I cannot hate her. She is my mother, after all, and there have been many a times when she could have thrown me out but didn’t. I suppose I should thank her for her generosity.
No! Who am I kidding? I want nothing to do with this woman.
“Look, I know why you’re here, so what’ll it be,” I say, my face deadpan. I can’t be emotional, not now. Emotions are what got me in the hospital in the first place. My head hurts just thinking about it.
“Alright, Hadley,” my mother says. She sounds annoyed. Good. I’m done pretending that we have a loving relationship. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a cellphone, which she holds out to me. I take it form her and feel my stomach knot when I recognize the number on the screen – Noah Foster.
My vision is initially hazy, but soon clears and I scan my surroundings. I am lying on a white, tufted leather couch in an office. When I realize whose office this is, I bolt upright.
It’s Adrian’s office.
Gosh, this is so embarrassing. Today, out of all days, I have a fainting spell, and that too in an elevator. I have to admit, though, this still isn’t as embarrassing as the time I passed out mid-sentence during my school’s Science Fair in junior year. Needless to say, I have yet to peak.
I prop myself up onto my elbows first, then slowly sit upright. I begin to stand when a hand lands on my shoulder from behind me and firmly pushes me back down. I whip my head around to see Adrian’s assistant, Natalie. She sees the shock on my face, so she abruptly lets her hand drop and looks down at the floor to avoid meeting my gaze.
“Adrian wants to speak to you before you leave,” she says, still staring at the tiles below our feet.
“Natalie, I’m in a hurry,” I say, sounding out of breath for some reason, “I can’t stay.” With that remark I grab my bag and head for the door. I see Natalie begin to open her mouth in my peripheral vison as I walk away from her, but I’m already at the door before she says, “Wait!” Too late, I’m already reaching for the door handle.
I’m about to push the door open when it opens up with ease as someone on the other side pulls it open. I don’t process this change in time and walk straight into the person. I pull back and mutter an apology. Great, more embarrassment.
“Hadley?” I know that voice. I look up to see Adrian looming over me. I notice a slight stubble beginning to form on his face along and he’s wearing his glasses. He never wears them unless he’s been working late and hasn’t had the time to put in his contacts. The Becker project really has affected him more than I thought.
“I’m sorry, I need to leave,” I say looking past him. I’m not lying. It’s true, I really can’t stay here or else…
“Just a minute, please,” he says. Seeing as he is blocking the door, I see no way of getting past him anytime soon, so I guess I’ll have to stay.
“Fine, “ I sigh, and he grins.
“Perfect” he says and directs me toward the couch I was lying on earlier. “Please sit.” I sit down as he says even though every inch of me wants to make a beeline for the door. I notice Natalie has left the room, leaving Adrian and I alone.
“First of all, how are you feeling,” Adrian asks to which I smile and nod. “Good. If you need anything let me know,” – I nod again – “Seriously, Hadley. Don’t be afraid to let me know.” What’s his deal? I get it, he’s a helpful guy, but this is weird. He’s my boss.
“Alright, I will,” I say. I’m hoping that my talking will get him off my back at least for the time being.
“Great, so let’s talk business, shall we,” he says grinning from ear to ear. Something is seriously off about him today. He’s never this happy.
“Have dinner with me.”
Wait, what? Seriously? This is the “big” thing he wanted to talk to me about?