“Where do you live?” Axel asked once she got in his car. He once again offered her a ride and to his delight she accepted.
“I will get down at the bus station if that’s not a trouble.”
“I can drop you at your home. You don’t have to take the bus,” Axel insisted, his jaws clenched for some unknown reason.
“Um... I am going to my parent’s place today. My dad said he would pick me from the bus station,” she explained, her tone becoming softer at the mention of her father.
Samantha wondered why he sounded so disappointed all of a sudden and why she felt the urge to tell him the truth. She could have blatantly refused his offer and told him to drop her at the bus station, but she didn’t. A part of her felt bad for not letting him drive her to her place.
“I will get down here,” she said, pointing at the approaching stop.
Axel nodded and stopped where she asked him to. “Come over tomorrow morning.”
“But, your hands are fine,” Samantha stated with a puzzled look.
“I thought I could use some company while driving.” Axel shrugged. “So, what’s the occasion?” He changed the subject and bit his tongue. What’s wrong with him these days? Why would he want to know about her?
He had noticed that she had freshened up and applied her makeup. Something she never did before. At first, he thought she might have a date, that was another reason he offered to give her a ride. He had to know. Though he knew it was none of his concern, for some selfish reason he had to make sure that there was no one else in her life.
“Oh, just a family dinner. It’s my birthday today,” Samantha replied.
Axel didn’t know it was her birthday. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t know it was her birthday, or he didn’t wish her. Not that he wished her last year. Samantha scolded her mind for even expecting it from him.
Axel felt like a fool for not knowing her birthday. Why? He didn’t know. He shouldn’t have cared about it, but he did. That was a first. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t care for her. Axel frowned and looked up when he heard the car door being shut.
“Sam!” Axel called. “Many more happy returns of the day,” he added with a smile and watched in satisfaction when her lips curled upwards.
Samantha’s face lit up with a huge smile as she nodded. “Thank you.”
Axel sat watching for a moment as she walked away before driving off. He may have missed it today and he would make it up to her tomorrow, he grinned like a Cheshire cat at the thought. He needed to buy her a gift. Instead of heading home like he planned to Axel turned his car in the other direction that would take him to a shopping center.
Sara and Henry gave him a puzzled look when Axel entered his home with a huge grin on his face. He just hugged them before going to his room, climbing two stairs at a time.
“Henry, did you see that?”
“Yes, my love.”
“He’s smiling again–a real smile.” Sara’s voice cracked with the overwhelming emotions that assaulted her at once. Her baby boy laughed again. She’d never seen him this happy in ten years.
Henry grinned in response and they both knew who the reason behind his smile was.
Samantha was grinning like an idiot when her dad’s car stopped in front of her.
“What has my beautiful daughter smiling like this?”
Her grin only widened at the sight of her father. She couldn’t tell him the real reason for her smile, Axel wished her a happy birthday. She didn’t understand why it mattered so much, but it felt so special.
“I got promoted today.”
“To what, senior secretary? You know I will allow you to rule my empire and why would you want to work for someone else? And that too as an assistant. You are far too capable than that. You are my daughter and you are born to rule, not serve,” her dad ranted.
Samantha rolled her eyes at his usual banter. “Dad, you know exactly why I don’t want to work with you. And, I’m the new General Manager.”
“Now, I am happy.”
“At home. Waiting for your arrival. When are you moving back, Sam? You know how much your mother misses you,” he complained.
“Soon, Dad.” She smiled. Now she had achieved her goal, she didn’t see why she can’t go home. She wanted to build her career on her own after her studies. Her dad no longer bothered her to quit and come back, she was glad to be home.
She must buy a car if she moved back and the privacy she had so long would be gone. But it didn’t matter if they allowed her to follow her dreams.
“In fact, I will move in this weekend,” she added.
“Excellent!” Her dad beamed as he threw his free arm around her shoulders.
Samantha leaned towards her father, relaxed and basking in the comfort. She missed her family so much and she couldn’t wait to see them again. She almost sprinted out of her father’s car when it stopped in front of her favorite place in the world, her home.
“Mom!” She hollered and was soon tackled by her siblings.
“Ouch! It hurts,” she wheezed.
“Quiet! You didn’t come to see us for two weeks straight,” her younger sister scolded while her younger brother nodded in agreement.
“Happy birthday, Sammy!” They shouted in unison making Samantha beam with joy. Though it was only two weeks, she missed them so much.
“There you are. I am so angry at you, Samantha.” Her mother’s stern voice reached her ears. Samantha whipped around to see her mother’s lips twitching as she tried to keep up a stern front.
“Mom!” She launched herself at her mother, showering her with kisses. Her mother chuckled as she returned her affection. It was a way to cool down her mother, and it always worked.
Narmadha Deshmukh, her beloved mother, can never hold grudges longer than a few seconds, especially with her kids. Samantha looked at her mother, who still had no single grey hair and looked younger than her real age. One would never say she was a mother of four children. Narmadha still looked as if she was in her early forties while she has just turned fifty-two.
Samantha’s mom had a fair skin tone, unlike her. Narmadha was taller and had a lean figure which Samantha envied so much. When Samantha became too self-conscious about her body, her mother always said she was perfect and she took after her grandmother, Vaishali, who was a plus-sized woman with a wheat-colored skin.
Samantha has always been the odd one in the family. She was the shortest, standing at only five-four and fattest, according to her. Her elder brother Eric and younger brother Ryan took after her father, who was a handsome man himself.
Her father, Gregory Zander Sinclair, was tall and had a well-built frame. He now sported a salt and pepper look, which Samantha loved so much. Her younger sister looked so similar to their mother. However, Samantha was the most loved of them all. She was her father’s little princess and her siblings admired her.
Samantha was greeted by her favorite sister-in-law, Amelia and her elder brother Eric. Her brother was only twenty-eight, yet they got married because of her mother’s no premarital sex policy. Narmadha had Eric and Amelia married when she discovered her son dated Amelia for over two years and kept the news from the family.
Samantha let go of Amelia and caressed her prominent belly, her insides filling up with joy thinking about her little niece or nephew. At first, Amelia wanted to postpone the baby for at least two years, but living with Narmadha changed her views about starting a family.
Amelia giggled when the baby moved within her. Samantha knelt, cooing incoherent things to the baby as the family surrounded her–sharing the joy.
Samantha’s family whisked her to their grand living room now decorated with balloons and colorful ribbons. Her favorite White forest cake topped with fruit delicacies sat on the small table, waiting for her.
The birthday celebrations and the games afterward blew her mind away as usual. Twenty-four gifts were wrapped in gift boxes of different sizes, and Samantha once again felt like a little kid, opening the different presents. Each birthday was better than the last one. A small box placed on top of the gifts caught her attention and the fun part of opening the gifts was she had to guess who bought what as there were no names written on the box as always.
Samantha tore the wrapper and her eyes widened when she found a car key inside. Her insides bubbled with joy, and she grinned from ear to ear as she sprinted towards their garage. Sure enough, there was a brand new Porsche, which sat on her reserved spot. Her jaw dropped as she took in the view of her new car, her eyes almost popping out of her sockets.
“Porsche 718 Boxter S, just for you. I know you don’t like expensive cars. Anyway, this is something I thought you would like.” Eric grinned.
It was her favorite blue color and somehow Axel’s blue eyes flashed in her memory. She squealed and ran towards Eric, engulfing him in a bone-crushing hug.
“Thank you,” she mumbled into his chest. The car was just something she liked, simple yet classy. Perfect.
“You’re welcome,” Eric grinned.
By the end of dinner, Samantha leaned back in her chair, pushing the empty plate aside, unable to take anymore bite of the food.
“That was delicious,” she hummed, patting her stomach.
“Stop it. You act as if you’re pregnant,” Amelia giggled and swatted Samantha’s hands off her tummy.
“I am pregnant with food,” Samantha pouted in response, making everyone laugh.
Everyone at the table knows of her love for food. Samantha used to be self-conscious during her teenage years. She subjected herself to severe dieting and exercises, which never worked out and she only continued to get curvier as the days went. Her mom made her see everything in a different light.
She grew up seeing things on a positive note and as her father once said, a man attracted only to your outer beauty is not worthy of your love. Choose a man who sees and wants you for you, and not for how you look.
Somehow she zoned out after that. Her mind kept going back to Axel and the recent development in their professional relationship.
Call me Axel...
Many more happy returns of the day...
He looked so beautiful when he smiled.
Why doesn’t he smile often?
“So Sam... Who is that lucky man?” Amelia asked, dragging Samantha out of her thoughts.
“Huh!” Samantha’s eyes widened as she shook her head. “What are you talking about? There is no man.” She tried to mask her surprise.
“Says the one who is laughing all by herself,” Amelia countered.
“If it’s the boy who defended you the other day, then you have our blessings,” Gregory announced, taking her off guard.
“W-what? No, you’ve got it all wrong,” Samantha denied, though her expression said otherwise.
“I know what I saw, Sam. That boy likes you. I have done my research on him and he doesn’t date or seen with any girls. Axel has a reputation for being ruthless and arrogant, but he doesn’t have a single bad habit. He doesn’t smoke, drink or engage with girls,” Gregory explained.
“Dad, speaks the truth. Axel likes you,” Eric supplied.
How would Eric know that?
“He does?” Samantha frowned. She couldn’t help the small flicker of her hope in her heart. A small smile spread across her face at the thought and his recent change in behavior seemed to prove her father’s claim.
Did she like him?