Chapter Ten - Daniel
I knocked on the door of Jackson and Amber’s apartment, even though it was almost midnight, even though I hadn’t called. The thought of going straight back to my empty apartment filled me with a dark abyss. I heard footsteps from with, and a sense of relief washed over me. I wasn’t going to have to sit this out alone.
Kyla hadn’t just walked away from me, she wanted us to go our separate ways business wise too. I had royally fucked up and now I had lost her.
The door opened and Amber frowned at me. “You’re not due back for three days.” She murmured.
“Can I come in?” I replied.
“Of course.” She stood back and let me walk through into the living area. The smell of popcorn wafted through the apartment and up my nose. Some action movie was playing on the TV, I had interrupted an at home date night. Jackson hit pause and looked over at me.
“You okay dude?”
I shrugged. How was I going to verbalise everything that had happened in the last few days. Amber had been right, her warnings were with reason and I stupidly hadn’t listened.
“I messed up.”
Amber closed the door and walked across the floor until she stood beside me. “Sit down, I’ll get you a glass of whiskey?”
I nodded and walked over to the couch. I felt numb, so burned by my own mistakes that my nerve endings had staged a protest along with my brain. Amber walked back over to the couch a minute later with three glasses of whiskey. She handed me one and then sat down beside Jackson. I stared into the glass, the last glass of whiskey I’d had was the night Kyla and I…
I placed the glass down on the coffee table and leaned back on the couch, letting my head loll over the back.
“What happened.” Amber said gently.
“You were right.” I whispered. “You may as well say I told you so now, because you were 100% on the money… with everything.”
Amber sighed. “Daniel, You know I’m not like that. I want nothing more than for you to be happy. But you’re not are you.”
I sat up and looked at her. “If you had asked me that 48 hours ago I would have been able to say yes and mean it.” I picked the glass up and drained the liquid. “But then I messed it all up. She hates me.”
“She… being Kyla?” Amber whispered.
I nodded. “Before we left I saw her fiancee in a bar. With another woman and they weren’t just friends. I chewed him out, told him what I thought and then left the bar. But I kept it from her.”
“Daniel!” Amber gasped.
“Dude, why wouldn’t you tell her?”
“I was scared.” I admitted. “Scared she’d back out of the deal.” I closed my eyes and bit my lip, now wasn’t the time for half truths. For a guy who despised lies I had told too many of them recently. “But mostly I was scared of being the one to hurt her with the truth.”
I looked at Amber whose eyes were wide. “At the time I guess I told myself it was due to respect, but if that had been the case I would have told her right away.”
I looked away, glancing out the window. “I think I had feelings for her before this plan was even thought of, if I think about it now.”
I hadn’t spent much time dwelling on my past thoughts of Kyla, our business arrangement had always been so easy despite our checkered past, that I figured, at least professionally we meshed well. I put everything down to that fact, my respect for her, the fact I enjoyed her company… but if I looked back now, it seemed almost obvious to me the fine threads of my feelings towards her had been sewn throughout time.
“You didn’t want to be the one to tell her, because you didn’t want her to look at you differently.” Amber murmured.
“I was in the same bar as her fiancee, to do the same thing. I was there to find a hook up. I saw him because maybe, just maybe I’m cut from the same cloth.” I spoke the words aloud, as I allowed myself to even think them for the first time.
“You love her?” Amber murmured.
I nodded. “Yes.”
“So what happened? In London?” Jackson asked.
“He accidentally outed himself, and I was there. Her hurt killed me you know. I had to take care of her, and one thing led to another.”
Saying it now, I wondered if maybe it was all one sided. Maybe for Kyla it had been just sex, maybe she really was just truly hurt about the fact I kept something from her. Maybe she wasn’t hurting about us right now. It would be better that way.
“But then Warren Star’s daughter had these photos, one that showed Jeff and me in the same bar. She realised I knew and ran. She doesn’t want to work with me anymore. I broke the trust.”
I kept the details simple, thinking about the last few days in detail filled me with such regret that every time it played over in my head my stomach filled with a heaviness I couldn’t get rid of.
“You have to tell her how you feel.” Amber said
“I did. She didn’t believe me.”
“Then you have to make her believe.” Amber smiled. “You have to keep telling her, until she realises you know you made a mistake but you’re not giving up.”
“She’s never liked me like that Ambs, you remember high school don’t you.”
Amber went to speak, but Jackson shook his head and sat forward. “You don’t remember do you?”
“The party, sophomore year.” Jackson breathed out.
“Spin the bottle.?” I guessed.
“You blew her off and that’s when her attitude toward you turned hostile.”
I frowned. It was so long ago and I had been such a tool that I couldn’t remember one party from another. That one was different though, Because it was the one and only time Kyla had been close in over a decade of knowing each other… well until recently.
“We almost kissed. We had to do seven minutes in heaven… Kyla was her usual charming self and I was an asshole.” I replied dryly. “I left with a sore cheek and a bruised ego.”
“She was dared to kiss you again, in front of everyone and she almost did, but you cut her off and told her she had missed her chance.”
I blinked and nodded. I remembered, I’d been more of an asshole than I thought... no wonder she had never liked me. If I had met teenage me, I wouldn’t have liked me either.
“I remember, I don’t know what that has to do with the here and now.” I grunted.
“She liked you.” he said simply. “She never said it, but I was observant.”
“Well whether she did or didn’t is of no use to me now.” I replied. “Because she hates me now.”
“She doesn’t hate you Daniel.” Amber smiled. “You’re too hard to hate. She’s hurt.”
“How do I fix it?”
“Time.” Amber shrugged. “And a good ol’ dose of world famous patchwork family grand gestures.”
“I agree with my wife.” Jackson added. “And if you need help, we’re all in bro.”
I left Amber and Jackson’s shortly before 2am. The had offered me the couch, but after their idea for me to try win amber back with a grand gesture I knew I needed to go home and brainstorm. I walked into my apartment and noticed the whiskey we had shared the night before we had left was still sitting on the bench top and our Coffee mugs from the morning we left we still sitting waiting to be washed. I swallowed hard, a ball of emotion was stuck in my throat however and I knew I had to do something now.
I walked into my office and sat down at my desk. I stared at my computer for a while, before finally opening my emails. I had a few messages from clients and one from Warren with details about a conference for next week. It was nothing I couldn’t take care of when I returned officially on Monday… If I returned. Kystar was Kyla’s baby, she had dreamed the idea up and if she wanted me out of her life when it was all said and done. I would walk away. I owed her that much. But right now I was still a part owner, with all the clout that gave me.
I composed a message for Tom, asking him to organise a press conference for the afternoon. I had a big announcement to make about the future of the company.
I’ve organised the press conference for 1pm in the meeting room in the office. I’ve sent messages to all press and there should be a spectacular turn out.
Will Ms Hallister be attending as well?
I sighed as I read the email before replying.
Thank you for that. I will be in the office at 12:30 to go over things with you. No, Ms Hallister will not be attending.
I turned my computer off and showered. Dressing in work appropriate clothes before leaving my apartment for the office. I parked my car, noticing Kyla’s empty space and frowned. I really didn’t want things to end like this. My plan had to work.
I rode the elevator up to the top floor, and I must have looked like a bear with a sore head, because the staff I passed along the way ducked and dived to avoid me. I pushed open the office door and noted Tom was on the phone. He looked up at me and smiled before quickly ending the call.
“Mr Jackson, the room is all ready. I ordered in some refreshments as well.”
“Thank you Tom. You’re as prepared as ever.” I replied. Thankful he had remembered something that I had forgotten.
“I’m prepared for the media’s arrival sir, the actual conference is another story.” He replied standing. “Can I assume the meeting in London went well?”
I felt my jaw clench and my teeth grit. The meeting had been a mess, even if we got the result we went there for, everything else was fractured.
“Oh no.” He replied.
“Look, if anyone calls to ask, just tell them I have an announcement to make.” I replied.
“Sir, forgive me for crossing the line, but shouldn’t Kyla be here if you’re making a business announcement.”
I nodded. Tom was crossing the line, but ultimately I knew he was doing it out of loyalty. He respected Kyla. “You’re right. She should.” I admitted. “But this isn’t a business announcement.”
Tom frowned, he folded his arms across his chest and shook his head. Then suddenly like a bolt of lightening the frown faded and he smiled.
“You mean….” He didn’t finish the sentence, but I could tell he knew what was going on. It was my turn to frown. How the hell did he know? When I’d only just realized it myself.
“Yes Tom.” I replied. “But I messed up and she’s gone AWOL.”
“Hence the press conference.” Tom said nodding. “Clever!.”
“Well I don’t know if it’ll work. But I have to try. Right?”
“Well if it’s any consolation, I’ve watched you two dance around each other for the better part of a decade. You clearly think the world of each other.”
I laughed. “How come everyone else could pick up on it but not us.”
“The eyes see what they want too. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to something that never was. For one reason or another, you both held on to the past and ignored what was happening right in front of you.”
“Very perceptive of you Tom.” I replied, Surprised by his opinion.
Tom just shrugged. “The eyes see what they want too, but a fresh set of eyes see the truth.”
I looked at the clock on the wall. The media would be arriving soon, and I hadn’t yet been in the office. I pointed to my desk and mentioned needing to make a call. Tom disappeared to finish off the preparations for the conference.
I walked into my office and sat down at my desk. I could see Kyla’s empty chair from my vantage point. A pain raced through my chest and into my throat. I needed her, living without her… I couldn’t do it.
I searched on my computer for a florist then dialled the number.
“Love is in the flair. How may I help you?” a young woman’s voice exclaimed after picking up the call.
“I need to place an order. I’m not sure when the recipient will be back, so flowers might not work. Do you have anything else you can deliver.”
“Yes sir, we do plastic flower arrangements, confetti guns and helium balloon deliveries.”
I smiled and looked back over at Kyla’s office. “Do you have heart shaped balloons?”
“Actually we have hundreds. One of the girls messed up the valentine’s day order and we ended up with way too many. We have pink, silver and red. How many do you think you’ll need.”
“Hundreds you say?” this could work.
“Like, literally hundreds.”
“Could you fill a large office with them?”
“Uh yeah. Did you want to?” She sounded confused, perhaps worried this was some kind of joke.
“Yeah. I want to.” I grinned. It was cheesy as all hell, but it seemed necessary.
“It’ll be really costly. Uh hold on.”
The girl disappeared and I heard muffled talking going on in the background. Finally after a few minutes she returned. “My boss says we can do it, but we’d need to close the shop for the morning to do the delivery. The balloons, the delivery and the cost of closing the shop means your bill will be over a thousand dollars.”
“Okay.” I replied. “Place the order. I’ll pay right now. I uh, have to be somewhere in five minutes so I’ll have my assistant call to finalise delivery.”
“Uh. okay.” The girl replied shocked. “Your girlfriend is super lucky.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.” I whispered sadly.
“She will be.”
Goddamit I hoped she was right.
I walked into the meeting room, passed the roomful of press and onto the small stage where the podium was. Once I was introduced I stepped up and in front of the microphone. Kyla had always done the announcements, she had always been the one to front to the media. I could tell they were all confused by my presence. The looks on their faces said it all.
“I imagine you’re all wondering why I called a press conference. Truth is, I need to make an announcement.” The cameras poised, focusing on me, waiting for the bomb to drop.
“I am in love with Kyla Hallister.”
I smiled and looked down at the podium. Saying it out loud, in front of people whose job it was to spread news to others made me feel complete. I hadn’t thought my admission would be that interesting, but I had hoped at least a few of the journalists would run with it. So when the room went crazy, and the cameras began clicking, I was a little shocked.
I looked to my left at Tom who nodded and gestured for me to continue.
“This past week we were in London on business and I made a terrible call. I messed things up and I need to make it right. So I apologise if I have pulled you all out here under false pretences, but the only woman I have ever truly been in love with won’t speak to me and I’m sure we can all agree. Love makes you do crazy things.”
I looked around and then swallowed hard. “Any questions?”
Hands went up all over the place, i pointed to a man in a blue suit and waited for him to speak.
“Rumor has it you’re a playboy. How do you respond to that?”
I smirked and looked down at my hands. Playboy? It was a stretch to a truth now expired. I shook my head and looked back at the journalist.
“I respond by saying, Once upon a time maybe that title might have been close to the truth. But it’s not who I am now. I’m standing here telling you all how mushy I feel on the inside.” I grinned. “I’m not sure that’s a very playboy thing to do.”
The journalist nodded. “Good answer!”
I took another question, this time from a woman in the back. “So you think you can just run a press conference and say you love someone and they forgive you?” She paused. “You really are new at this aren’t you.”
I bit my lip to hold back a chuckle. “To answer your first question. No and I know that Kyla Hallister is a fiercely stubborn woman who probably won’t care to speak to me ever again.” I stopped, surprised by the emotion coursing through me. “But I have to try. I have to do everything I can to let her know just how sorry I am… and just how much I love her. To answer your second question. Yes, I am new at this.”
The room filled with amused laughter. “I think we have time for one more question.” I exclaimed as the laughter died out. I picked out a young woman at the front, eager as ever and probably new to the journalism gig. She grinned and took a deep breath.
“Mr Jackson, can I ask… How do you know it’s love?”
I smiled and thought wistfully of our night together in london, before we had crossed the line from colleagues to friends to lovers. I thought of the joy I felt around her, and the way I felt when she was nowhere to be found. My smile faded as the thought of never seeing her again took over my mind.
“Because the very thought of never seeing her again, of never hearing her voice or holding her hand or watching her laugh… The thought of her being void from my life is a life I can’t imagine living. I didn’t realise it, because I was scared of seeing what was right in front of me, but it’s always been that way. My life without her is no life at all.”
I swallowed hard. Emotion had finally overcome me and I needed to get off the stage before the media got more than just my confession. I tightened my jaw and thanked everyone for attending before leaving the room and escaping to my office. My breath burned the back of my throat and my heart raced. I had poured my heart out to the world, but only time would tell if it had worked.