When Monday came around again, it was only my wishful thinking that the lack of presence of Rufus and Julian would lessen a bit of my work load. Oh no, if I thought I had enough last week, this week I felt dog tired going back and forth from different ends of the business district to personally attend meetings in Rufus’ stead. Though it wasn’t the first time I’ve sat in a conference with high ranking company officials, this was another level. I had no one there to guide me. I was alone, sitting in the room, taking notes about upcoming projects and proposals to be made. At least nobody bothered to question my presence. Rufus might have arranged everything before he left, which was likely. For that, I’m grateful.
As the days passed, I got used to the amount of workload. Once I got around and paced myself, identifying the most and least important job to do first, I decided to give myself needed a break. So I set aside an hour for lunch, which seemed fair. However, after personally sending some documents to an advertising company the Hawksley Holding have ties, lunch had to be skipped. I was about to make a short detour for a take-out until I felt my phone vibrated on my purse. I pulled it out and surprised to see Julian’s name flashed on my screen. Knowing how expensive international calls was and curious why he actually called me, I clicked the answer button and greeted.
“Hello, Mr. Hawksley. Is there something you need at this hour?” I inquired my usual premediated question whenever my old bosses called me during my break time, which was too often.
“Where are you right now?” He countered, ignoring my question.
“Wha…” I paused, thinking whether to reply. But he was thousands of miles away, so I’ll take my chance. “I’m on my lunch break as of the moment, Mr. Hawksley. Where I am really doesn’t matter, I’m eating, or going to eat to correctly put it,” I replied firmly.
“Where are you having lunch?” He asked, not even bothered by my tone.
“I’m still heading towards the bistro. Why are you interested where I am right now?” It’s my turn to be asking questions.
“I’m back in Chicago. We need to talk.” He brusquely informed. Not even fazed by what his words would mean.
“Wait. What? You’re back?! Aren’t you supposed to be in England for a week or something? From Rufus’s email yesterday, he told me he’s still in England.”
“Rufus is in England. I’m not. I got back this morning. Actually, I’m on my way back to my apartment. Now, mind telling me where are you? We need to talk.”
“Rufus is in England? Why isn’t he with you? Aren’t you two supposed to be inseparable? Did something happen?” I pressed, still shocked by the news.
“I’d rather discuss this face to face. If you aren’t going to tell me where you are, can you get yourself to my apartment? This is important.” Julian sighed in defeat.
“I’ll meet you there in half an hour. Would that be okay?”
“Good.” Without properly saying goodbye, Julian cuts off and ended the call.
“Rude, much,” I muttered to myself before heading towards the bus stop.
Based on my calculation, I’ve arrived at Julian’s place about fifteen minutes ahead of time. I only told him I’ll be there for half an hour since I’m taking a short trip towards the coffee shop across the street. Once I got a good cup of coffee and getting another one for Julian if he needs it, I headed towards the building. Since they already knew who I was from my last visit, there wasn’t much a hassle getting in. But I still sported the visitor ID pass.
Arriving in front of his apartment, there were too many emotions and questions swirling around my head. Plus, my empty stomach wasn’t helping my case. I pushed aside my personal issues and confidently faced the unknown. As I rang the doorbell, it didn’t take a minute for Julian to get to the door.
I felt a bit relieved seeing him dressed for work, rather than looking like he just got out of the bath from how he looked last time. And if I’m trying to be honest, there wasn’t much difference between those two look. It’s a sin to still look good with wet hair.
“Glad you got here on time… is that for me?” Julian studied the two cup of coffee.
“It’s caramel latte,” I informed.
Without waiting for me to offer which cup, Julian got the one on my right and took a sip. I reached out towards him in surprise. As he continued drinking, I hid my embarrassment and bit my lips. Finally, he noticed my expression.
“That’s my cup,” I muttered dejectedly before sighing in defeat. “Anyways, go ahead. I don’t mind. There’s no difference between the cup anyways.”
“How did you know I liked caramel latte?” Julian asked as he gestured me to go in.
I walked in and replied. “Rufus told me.”
“He just told you, offhandedly?”
“No. He gave me a profile pertaining to your likes and dislikes.”
“Don’t you think that’s violating my privacy?”
“I’m the one encoding your daily schedule, reserving your lunch and dinner meals, and sometimes make a call to deliver you food here. Also, at one point, I did get your laundry. It’s part of my job to have this information, Mr. Hawksley.” I defended.
“So it was you who ordered my dinner last Thursday?” He asked in surprise.
“Who do you think it was? Mr. Fletcher called in that you’ve canceled your dinner meeting and you were heading back to your place since you weren’t feeling well.”
“I thought Rufus does those things.” He stated in thought.
“He used to, based on the task he’s giving me,” I observed. “Not to sound rude or anything, but you’re such a busybody. Can’t you even pick the right pair of socks without consulting Mr. Fletcher?” I asked lightly, not to make it ruder than it sounded.
“Since he left me, maybe I couldn’t.” He murmured softly before gesturing again inside his loft.
“What?” I asked, unsure was he said.
But he didn’t phrase his words again and escorted me inside. My thoughts quickly shifted as we walked further in. When I saw the floor to ceiling glass, giving us the whole view of the building around us, I stopped on my tacks and gapped. The living room screamed luxury. Everywhere I looked seemed like it was touch by an expert’s hands. I wouldn’t be surprised there was a hefty price tag even the small vase placed immaculately on top of the table in front of the leather couch.
“Wow,” I said out loud.
“Thank you.” Julian cheekily replied. “Please settle down and make yourself comfortable. Since I wasn’t supposed to be here, I don’t have anything for lunch.” He pointed out a bit too obviously.
“I’ll call in one of your favorites restaurants to deliver.” I offered and pulled out my phone from the inner pocket of my blazer. When I was about to call, I looked at him, who had been studying me this whole time. “Since you’re here, do you have a request? Would you rather eat something in particular?” I finally asked.
Julian smiled and shook his head. “No. I’m fine with anything on whatever list Rufus had given you. If you want, you could order one yourself. I’ll be in office to make some calls while you do that. I’ll be back in a few.”
After I ordered in for delivery, I started walking around the apartment, studying the tiny details. When I reached a counter table, I picked up one of the picture frames neatly placed between two well-maintained flower vase.
The picture frame housed a familiar, yet young looking Julian with a much younger man beside him. From the similar features they had, they must be related. I picked up the other one and found the same man with him, this time they were with two new unfamiliar faces. One was a brunette woman, who was poised and elegant in crème white dress. The other was an older man, who dressed in a dark grey suit. His dark hair had streaks of white.
“What time would the food arrive? I’m famished.” I jumped around, nearly letting go the picture frame on my hand. “Oh! Sorry for startling you.” He added, noticing my expression.
“It’s okay… I was looking at the…” I stuttered and trailed off as I returned the frame. I cleared my throat and added. “The food would be here in a few minutes or so.”
He nodded and headed towards the couch across the plasma screen television, which took most of the view across the room. He settled on the huge leather couch and grabbed something from the coffee table, which was a brown envelope. I watched him pulled out its content while I stood by the frames on the sidelines. When he noted I hadn’t moved, Julian glanced up and gestured his head for me to join him.
“Have a seat, Ms. Curtis.” He verbally added when I still hadn’t budged.
I grimly followed and took a seat across from him on one of the single couches. Julian arched his eyebrow and gestured towards the empty place on the other end of the couch he sat. “I promise I won’t bite,” he smiled sweetly, which looked so fake.
I huffed in defeat and with a brave face sat down across from him.
“See. It wasn’t so bad,” he pointed out with a chuckle as I visibly relaxed.
I rolled my eyes and averted his attention towards the papers in front of him, which were the content of the envelope. “What are these?”
“Rufus handed it to me when we got to the airport. We had to head back, well I had too since it was a hassle to leave on Friday only to head out again for New York. Then, Rufus told me he wasn’t coming back. The old man really fooled me, and I thought I knew all of his tricks. Damn.” He muttered the last word mostly to himself.
“What is it?” I pressed, eying the papers when he evaded the question.
“I don’t know. I didn’t look on the flight back here. I was too pissed at the old man. Did you know what he did? He put on a farce, followed me to the airport, only to leave me by the check-in counter. It turns out he planned it all along. And my father knew.” To my surprise, I never expected him to be one of those people who runts about their frustrations. It sorts of clashed with his public image. Without looking at its contents, Julian handed the paper to me. “Here. You read it.” He tersely commanded.
I pursed my lips, holding back a retort and got the paper from him. Without looking up in his direction, I briefly read through the paper words with focus. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the paper I understood it wasn’t for him. I hastily grabbed the enveloped and flipped the back, and there in black ink, my name was neatly written on top.
“Didn’t you at least read the back and see for whom it was addressed? This isn’t for you. It’s for me.” I informed and gone through the paper again, finally realizing what it incased.
“For you? But Rufus handed it to me… I thought it was meant…” Julian argued but I held up my hand, telling him to stop talking for a moment. And to my surprise, again, he actually did.
“These are instructions and insights about my transition as your official secretary. I think Rufus wasn’t kidding about any of this. He really isn’t going to…” I trailed of as my thoughts caught up with what this meant for me. “Oh no. Goodness no. I can’t… I can’t be your personal assistant. I mean, I can be Mr. Fletcher’s right hand. But not you. You’re the CEO, a public figure, the Julian Hawksley. I might have worked for some sleazy as men before, who were in higher position in a company, but never some whose… the actual big boss. I have some connections, but not everyone’s phone number is on my speed dial – like Mr. Fletcher. I’m not him. I don’t know if…” I trailed off as I realized I was hyperventilating.
“Whoa, easy, Curtis. Easy. Breathe.” Julian nearly jumped towards me and held my hand and started caressing my back in a soothing rhythm. “I know this is unexpected. And trust me, I’m surprised as well when Rufus told me he was staying in England for good. Here I thought break-ups were bad, but this… this was something else.” Julian scoffed while he continued calming me down, which was actually working.
“Mr. Hawksley, as much as I want to help you and do this job, I’m not Mr. Fletcher.” I calmly stated, trying to make it easier to say I quit – again.
“I know you’re not him, Ms. Curtis. And I don’t really expect you to be him. Rufus hired you and trained you for a reason, which now I’ve just realized for what reason,” he sighed in defeat and slowly got back to his side of the couch. “I should have known there was something up. After I’ve pester the old man to get someone to help him out with his workload, he suddenly hired you. I mean, he had asked for help before… and really, it was mostly just my ploy and mess with my little brother… but that’s not the case. Rufus hadn’t taken an interest to look for someone to work with him. Well, it would seem he wasn’t really looking for help. He was looking for someone to replace him.”
“Did he tell you why he’s leaving you?” I finally asked the elephant in the room.
Julian looked away as I watched his shoulder slumped in defeat. “No. We didn’t really get to that part. I was too angry to listen to his reason at that time.”
“How about we call him?” I offered.
“I don’t really want to talk to him right now.”
“Then, should I call him?”
“Whatever gives you peace, Ms. Curtis.” His words abruptly gone distant.
“Before I call him, I want to say that I’ll stay and be your personal assistant for now while I try and make out of what’s happening with Mr. Fletcher. If it is okay with you?” I inquired, deciding it was the best case for now.
“I wouldn’t choose anyone else for the job. Besides, Rufus chose you himself to take his place.”
Briefly, his words put a smile on my face. However, Julian still seemed distant. His phone suddenly vibrated from his inner blazer pocket. He stood up and briskly headed towards the other end of the room where he had gone. “I’ll be in my office. Call me if the food is here. We’ll talk about my schedule after we eat. I won’t be going to the office today.” His chilling tone sounded the same as when he apologized to me when we first met. It didn’t feel like I was talking to the same man a few seconds ago.
Then I knew it was his professional façade. So I straightened up and watched his retreating back before replying, “yes, Mr. Hawksley.”
As he disappeared around the corner, I felt my heart sink how easily he changed. I used to say to my employers I’d rather have a professional relationship with them. But with Julian, after seeing a different side of him, I wanted to know more.