The days passed normally and a bit quicker than I want it to be. Since I had to reschedule some of Julian’s work, there wasn’t any time for us to relax. Thus a formal date had to be postponed. By Friday night, I tried to persuade him to get the afternoon off after the meeting next morning. I’m still shivering at the daunting idea of meeting his parents. I’m positive that Jensen and Kyla would be there, which could lead to a disastrous public announcement of our relationship. It’s not how I’d picture that news to come out. I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to tell everyone we were officially together.
The number of people who knew about us being together could be count on one hand. There was Kyla, who constantly had hawk-like eyes on us, and Jensen, her husband and Julian’s brother, who clearly would know by default. Then there’s Kyla’s secretary, who just happened to be as perceptive as her boss. My best friend, April, and her sister, Amy, because one works at the same place as I was while the other knows all of my secrets.
It wasn’t a treat to tell my best friend a couple of days after the official day Julian and I decided to be exclusive. However, she easily came around with the news itself.
“I’m annoyed you took your time to even tell or call me that you’ve finally bagged and told your feeling to Mr. Hunky. I mean, didn’t I say you’ll lose to that man? Tell me the details.” She squealed like a hormonal teen.
I had to push away my cell phone from my ear.
I’m glad I was alone in the living room of the apartment while Julian had to take a few business calls in his study. By the time that phone conversation finished, Julian was still in his office working. So I decided to make my way to the guest room to sleep. Though I had been sleeping with him on his bedroom upstairs, I wasn’t that bold to just ran up there and make myself at home. However, the next day, it didn’t matter which room I slept in. I woke up under Julian’s warm embrace.
Saturday morning, I was on edge than normal. Everything was business as usual but I wasn’t looking forward to an afternoon off. While I sat in the meeting room beside Julian, taking notes, I tried to think of a way around his offer of meeting his parents. Then a sudden rush of guilt came over me.
I haven’t even seen my parents for a couple of weeks since I got this job.
Now I have an afternoon off, I could take this time to visit them – like a diligent and good daughter should be.
When we’ve wrapped up the meeting, I hastily gathered the files on the desk while Julian idly chats with a handful of architect and engineers. I waited until they’ve all exited the conference room to make my move. It was now or never before he’ll find ways to persuade me otherwise. And he’s becoming good at it, or I’m losing my touch.
“Julian, I don’t think I can go with you and meet your parents. Since I moved all of your schedules for the afternoon, and I don’t get the much day off since I started working as your secretary, I want to take this opportunity to visit my own family. It’s been weeks since I’ve seen them.” I said under one breath.
He looked at me with a poker face. The room was eerily silent now that we were alone. When he still didn’t reply a minute later, I spoke up again. “Julian did you…?”
“I heard you.” He suddenly interjected and got out his phone from his pocket.
Not sure what he was about to do, I waited until he spoke.
“Jeffrey, we’re done here. Please have the car ready.” He instructed.
“Oh… um… is that a yes, then?” I asked, unsure what was happening.
“Come on. I’ll drop you off on the way.” He informed as he made his way to the door, gesturing for me to follow.
I barely caught what he said. “What? Could you repeat that?”
“Where’s your parent’s place? I’ll drop you off.” He said again as we walked the near-empty halls of the office. You could count the people present doing extra work on the weekend as most take their day’s off.
“Wait… I didn’t ask you to drive me…” I argued but my words fumbled as I tried to catch with Julian, who was walking at an incredibly fast pace.
Before he replied, he stopped and spun around, startling me a little. I lost a bit of my footing but quickly regained it. “I’m not letting you commute or take an Uber when I can do it myself, Zoey. I’m already here.” He made his fair point, but I’m not letting him get near my parents when I’ve avoided the chance of meeting his parents.
“My parent’s place is a long drive from here. You’ll be late for your lunch meeting. I can’t allow you to be late for your parent’s meeting – and that’s me as your secretary speaking.” I argued back.
Julian smirked. “You’re not backing down easily, are you?”
“And so are you.”
“April will tell me.” He dared.
“What? No, she won’t.”
“We’ll see,” he grinned mischievously and got out his phone. However, he didn’t make a call this time. It was a text. “Let’s head down the lobby. Jeff’s by the entrance already.” He informed.
I was hesitant to follow him. But there was no other way to make an excuse since I had all of my things with me already. With a heavy heart, I followed him. Once inside the car, Julian received a text. A triumphant grin crossed his face. He then showed me the message on his screen.
I looked at it disbelief. The message had the exact street address of my parents on it.
“When did you and April exchanged numbers?”
“We didn’t. I asked Amy and she obliged to help. She asked April for me, obviously.”
“Damn, you win this time,” I huffed in defeat.
He couldn’t hide his amusement and snickered.
After a couple of failed attempts at turning back, or getting myself out of the car, we’ve finally arrived in front of my parent’s townhome. I felt my stomach dropped and curled with nervousness as what was about to happen. Being with Julian for the past week, I’ve caught on his character and habits. And one of them was how manipulative he was to get what he wanted. Something you’re not prepared of. And the fool that I am, though I saw right through it, I’ve lost my ability to block his advances. What have I become after falling for this man?
“Is there any way I could make you go?” I asked not even trying to skirt around the obvious.
Julian chuckled and shook his head. “Not really. You could try though,” he offered coyly. “One way or another, I will meet you parents, Zoey.” He added when I didn’t move.
He was right. “Okay. Fine. Let’s go then,” I groaned and gestured him out.
Julian grinned. He got out of the door and offered a hand to me as I got out, which I took with a heavy heart.
“I’ll behave. I promise,” he stated.
“I’ll hold you to it.” I scoffed.
I led the way and walked up the flight of steps before knocking on the door of my parent’s place. When there wasn’t an answer, my heart was slowly bubbling in the hope they might not be home. Then I heard a voice across the door. It was my brother, Mateo. If he’s here, the possibility of my sister being present was fifty-fifty.
“Who is it?” he called before opening the door ajar.
“Matt, it’s me,” I replied with a smile as he popped his head out of the door.
“Zoe, you’re here. It’s been awhile…” He greeted and opened the door wide enough. But then trailed off when he noticed Julian behind me. “Who is that?” He addressed him like he wasn’t there.
“Matt, this is…” I suddenly choked up and I gestured to Julian, who reposition himself beside me.
When I didn’t continue, Julian quickly picked up where I left off. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Julian Hawksley, Zoey’s boy…” I didn’t let him finish as I elbowed his stomach, causing him to stop and coughed at the impact.
“I think you’re familiar of him, Matt,” I stated with a feign smile.
“Hawksley… him?” Matt gave him a good head to toe look. “This is bad.” He muttered in worry.
My heart suddenly dropped again. “No. Don’t tell me.”
Mateo could only nod in reply.
We might have been lingering by the door for far too long since my father came along to look for Mateo. When he saw me and Julian by the door, his smile suddenly turned guarded.
“Oh, hello there,” was the only words my father could utter.
“Hi, dad. I came by to visit,” I greeted with a weary smile. Mateo finally allowed us to enter the premise. I gave him a brief hug. “And I brought, um, my boss with me…” my words sounded uncertain. “This is Julian Hawksley. Remember? I told you about the man I’ll be working for.” I tried to smile more genuinely, trying to ease up the awkwardness of bringing your boss to your parent’s house. There was definitely no logic for this.
“Yes. Yes, I remember.” My father looked stiff as he held out his hand to Julian, who was all smiles as he accepted his outreached hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Curtis. Zoey had been doing a great job taking care of my business.” Julian said.
My face heated up at the hidden innuendo. However, my father’s didn’t catch on. But it wasn’t the case with my brother, Mateo. He caught my gaze and glared at me. I hastily looked away like a guilty criminal and changed the subject.
“So, is everyone here today?” I asked my dad since for sure Mateo wasn’t in the mood talking to me right now.
“Yes. Kathy and Jeremy are here. It’s great they got another afternoon off at the hospital. Kathy and your mom are in the kitchen getting lunch ready. Is your… um… boss staying with us for lunch?” He inquired and peered around at Julian, who walked behind us with Mateo.
“If it won’t be a bother, sir,” Julian replied in my stead.
“We’ll love for you to join us. The more the merrier.” My father conversely responded, unsure whether to be thrilled or not.
With the possibilities of how this afternoon would pan out, I had to make sure the rest of my family – more importantly, my older sister, Kathy – knows the limit of what they’re allowed to talk about around Julian. Of course, there would be questions. And I’d take every bullet that would come my way one at a time – I hope.
“I’ll join mom and Kat in the kitchen. How about you show Mr. Hawksley around the house, dad?” I asked.
My father studied my expression. With a nod, he turned to Julian and guided him away towards the living room. “Please, Mr. Hawksley. Welcome to our humble abode. If I may I ask, how does one run a huge company?” My father lightly inquired. He understood my need of a hasty escape. I had to see my mother and sister before they see Julian.
When I entered the kitchen, it was Kathy who first saw me. She greeted before my mom, who was busy stirring something that smelled mouth-watering on the pan. “Hey, Zoey! I didn’t know you’re coming over this weekend l. Are you here by yourself? I heard other voices other than Matt and Dad.” She put down the fork, which she used to pick on a salad.
Kathy wasn’t one to wait for the food to be served. She’s the type to say she’ll help but ended up only there to be the food critic – which means eating chunks of the food.
I took a deep breath and seriously glanced between them. “Before I’ll say anything, I want you two to listen to me first before you’ll jump to conclusion or,” I paused and pointed at Kathy, “dramatically hyperventilate.”
“What? Who is it?” Kathy pressed. Looking more interested at the unnamed visitor I brought with me.
“Is it Ben?” My mom asked. “Did you two finally have a talk and decided to move things along?”
I was suddenly overcome with guilt. I’ve forgotten to tell her about Ben and I breaking up. Though it’s hardly been a couple of weeks since it happened, I should have called her within the week that it did. I’ve always kept her up-to-date with my life. However, with how fast things had gone with my work and personal life overlapping, it was difficult finding time to breathe and give her the news without giving her another thing to worry about. This past month alone was a rollercoaster with quitting my old job and then getting a new one. Then with Ben, when she’d just been hoping things were going somewhere, things suddenly fell apart. I wasn’t ready for another heartbreaking conversation with her. But I can’t avoid it forever. Not with Julian here.
“Mom, I’m so sorry.” I paused to clear my dry throat. “I didn’t mean to forget telling you about Ben and I… I was too wrapped up with what happened… and I was busy with work… and then I got swept away by…” I stopped short before I spilled the beans.
I reconsidered my words. It would be too much for her to process knowing I’ve broken up with Ben and not a week later I’m in a new relationship, who happened to be my boss.
“What happened between you and Ben?” She pressed, while I tried to decide to let it all out of the bag.
Kathy was silent, which was rare.
I took another deep breath and decided to tell her one news at a time. “Mom, Ben and I broke up a couple of weeks ago. I found out he’s been cheating on me for months while he’s been away.” My voice was monotonous. I know I’ve moved on from him, but it still hurts to remember. Betrayal like that never fades easily even if you found salvation to believe in love again.
It had taken her a moment but she finally got around it. “What? When? How did you find out? How did this happen?”
“I don’t want to get into details. It’s not good to be discussing something so… so sad before a meal. I might not be able to stomach this much food.” I pointed out the dishes neatly placed on the kitchen counter.
Both of them stunned in silence at the news. But that wasn’t the only reason.
I didn’t notice Mateo entering the room.
“What? Did Ben cheat on you? That Prick!”
I jumped around as he cussed.
“Matt… ah… yeah… he did. I found out about it a couple of weeks ago. So I quickly broke it off with him.” I rigidly stated.
“How did you find out? Did you give that prick a good smack on his face?” He looked geared up for a fight. “If I see him around here, I’ll give him a good beating.”
“It’s okay, Matt. Don’t waste your time with that idiot. I’ve made peace with it.” I muttered with a weary smile.
Suddenly, Mateo walked up and gave me a light pat on the back.
“Is that why you’re with the guy? Is he a rebound or something?” He asked a bit awkwardly. But he was able to choke out the words.
“So you’re here with a guy!” Kathy squealed and suddenly ran out of the room towards the living room.
I quickly caught up with her. Before I could warn her or say anything, she was by the threshold of the living room, her mouth and eyes wide open in awe.
“You’re… you’re…” she stuttered.
“Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Julian Hawksley. Zoey’s boy… I mean, boss.” His mischievous grin was on purpose just to put me on edge.
This is not a good way to start the afternoon. Ugh.
Thank you so much for your patience. To those who just join in this journey, and those who followed the story from the start, thank you for the support. I have about a few more chapter left on this novel. And it's difficult writing the concluding chapters. These characters had been part of my life for nearly a year now. WOW! I know. But thank you for staying and patiently reading chapters each week.
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