As we entered the bar, we were each enveloped in a hug by Aunt Gwen, she squeezed me in a tight hug longer than it was necessary and I immediately got what she meant by that gesture, it was her way of comforting me that all will be well. Jemi must have told her about the broken engagement, she was a firm believer of the phrase, how action speaks louder than words.
We each took our seat, Aunt Gwen sat opposite us. The interior of the bar resembles that of the traditional pubs in London, one might think one was in London if you would just concentrate on the interior and not on the fact that they were in New York.
“What do you guys like to have, I just hired a new Chef just two weeks back, straight out of culinary school but his cooking is divine, cooks like a professional,” Aunt Gwen sounded very impressed.
“Wow he must be really good then, its unlike you to praise someone so much and let alone get impress so soon,” Jemi returned which I agree totally. Aunt Gwen was a tough woman to impress.
Glancing at the menu,” I’ll have the beef sliders, potato wedges and a small portion of the garden salad.”
“I’ll have the same too,“Jemi stated.
“What about drinks,” asked Aunt Gwen.
“Not in the mood for alcohol, I’ll just have a mock tail.” I replied.
“I’ll have a tall glass of dark beer.” said Jemi.
“I’ll go and place the orders then,” Aunt Gwen left us to place our orders.
Something was bothering me and I have been treading to do this for a long time, I thought I better ease my mind and tell Jemi about it, “Hey Jemi I have been procrastinating since I got back from Greece as to how to go about cancelling the orders I made for the wedding.”
“Don’t worry Ell, I took care of it when you were in Greece, I didn’t want you to go through it, so I took the liberty of doing it for you. Hope you don’t mind.” She turned to face me.
No sooner I heard that, my eyes became misty with tears and I just hugged her tightly,“thank you so much.” I was so touched by her love and care for me.
She gave a fake cough, “help can’t breathe,” I released her as we both started laughing.
Taping my cheek with the tissue, “seriously Jemi I don’t know what good I did that I got a friend like you, thank you so much, I’ll never forget this as long as I live.”
She shrugged,” Oh come on Ell no formalities and stop saying thank you, I know you would do the same thing for me. But Ell about the wedding dress, Mic and I thought we will let you decide on what to do with the dress.”
Ah!! Yes the wedding dress, it was suppose to be a gift from Mic for my wedding, I wanted to have a beach wedding you know. But Richard insisted we have a court marriage instead and have a small reception at his family’s home in the Hamptons, actually that was what his mother thought was appropriate for us, and I reluctantly obliged because to me I felt it didn’t matter where or how I got married as long as it was with Richard. So my dream wedding dress had to take a back side and instead I told Mic to design something practical and simple, it was a Grace Kelly inspired wedding dress but the shorter version.
Now that everything is over between us, I have been doing a lot of thinking about us and I came to a realization although too late, that how stupid and weak I was to let him treat me the way he did all those years.
Taking a sip of the coconut flavoured mock tail which the waiter brought just now,” I am thinking of telling Mic to keep it in his boutique for sale.”
“That’s not a bad idea actually.“Jemi nodded in agreement taking a sip beer.
“I’ll go and meet him after lunch and see what he thinks about it.”
“Yes do that.”
Just then Aunt Gwen came followed by the waiter with our food, she ordered the same thing too. She took her seat and once the waiter left placing the food on the table,“Bon appetite ladies.”
“Bon appetite.” we said in unison.
I took a bite of the beef slider and it was so good, the meat was juicy and seasoned beautifully, “It’s so good, truly your chef is an amazing cook.”
Once we were done with the food we were just making small talks and I realized Aunt Gwen has a new tattoo on her neck and it looked like a Phoenix bird spreading its wings taking a leap, it was so eye catching, curious I asked her, “Aunt is that a phoenix on your neck.”
“Yes it is, it’s just one week old. I like the phoenix bird of what it represents; I always rise from the ashes.”
“Yes though a mythical creature, it is beautiful. Rise from the ashes; that is what I should do.” I heaved a deep sigh.
“You will be fine Ell don’t worry,” Aunt Gwen assured giving me a gentle smile.
“Thanks Aunt,” I returned her smile.
Jemi excused herself to go to the washroom and Aunt Gwen excused herself too, to make a call from her office. Alone, my mind drifted towards Dominic wondering what he must be up to, just then my phone buzzed with the message tone and think of my devil and he messages, “how is the lunch going on so far.”
“Just done with lunch, I enjoyed it, what about you?”
“Good to know. But I am jealous that others get the chance to spend time with you but I can’t. My secretary went to fetch the lunch for me.”
“Lucky aren’t they.”
“Cheeky are we. So baby for how long I’m I in probation to meet you.”
“Haha very funny Dominic.”
"For you anything baby,I can be funny, serious, stupid anything.”
“Yes that too.”
As our messaging progressed my smile grew wider and wider, I was still smiling when our messaging ended.
“Wow who is the culprit of that smile, “Aunt Gwen grinned as she took her seat.
“A hunk by the name King,” Jemi winked at me as she sat down.
I just smiled blushing.
“He must be something, because girl I haven’t seen you smile this way in a long time.” Aunt Gwen looked at me amusingly.
“Guys I think I’ll wait outside for Robin. He said he’ll be here in ten minutes.” Jemi stood up checking her phone.
“I’ll also move out now,” I stood up.
Aunt Gwen walked us till the door,“don’t be strangers okay and once its official with your man, make sure you introduce me to them.” She hugged us both.
“I don’t know about me but Ell will introduce you to him soon.” Jemi smirked.
I just shook my head letting out a soft laugh.
Once we bid our final goodbyes we walked out of the bar.
Mindlessly looking at the road,” I wonder what’s taking him so long.” Jemi muttered.
“Impatient much.” I teased.
“Very funny Ell, oh there he is.”
I looked to my right and I saw a guy stepping down from a Harley Davison bike, he was carelessly combing back his hair with his fingers as he took out his helmet from his head. He had dark blond hair, which reached below his ears, a little lighter shade and it would have matched Jemi’s hair color. He was wearing a ripped black jeans with a grey V neck T-shirt, he had nice tall frame must be at least 6feet or taller. He was quite good looking totally my friend’s type; that easy going laid back look. As he approached us he lifted Jemi up in a hug and once he put her down, Jemi introduced us, “Robin I want you to meet my sweetheart Ell, and Ell this is Robin.”
“Hi nice to meet you Ell, “he smiled extending his right hand.
Shaking his hand,” Nice to meet you too Robin,” I smiled back.
“Shall we leave?” He asked Jemi.
“Sure,” She returned and turned towards me giving me a hug, “I’ll see you later Ell.”
“See you, have fun,” Releasing our hug I glanced at Robin, “please take care of her Robin.”
“I’ll do Ell, don’t worry, “he smiled and they walked towards his bike and drove off.
I hailed a cab to Upper East Side Manhattan to Michael’s boutique. He had done so well for himself, just last year a renowned fashion magazine named him as the upcoming out of the box fashion designer on the rise.
Finally reaching his boutique I walked towards it, the place was buzzing with people. No sooner I entered the boutique, a slivery voice called out to me gesturing me to come straight to his office. Once I was inside his office, I was greeted by a tight hug and as he released me I smack the back of his head, “you evil imp.”
“Ouch what was that for.” He frowned rubbing his head.
“That’s for the stunt you pulled in the club last night,” I returned taking a seat on the white leather sofa.
“Oh you mean giving your number to that hunk, you’re welcome, “he waved his hand in the air nonchalantly and sat down on the sofa beside me.
I rolled my eyes in disbelieve.
“Did he contact you?“He asked curiously.
“Yes he did but of course I ignored.”
“Why? Why would you do that? Oooh I know why.” Giving me a sly smile,” Someone by the name Dominic has occupied your time fully.”
“News sure travels fast huh.”
“Of course duh there is no secret between the three of us.” He shrugged.
Taking a sip of water from the glass which his secretary had brought,” hey Mic I actually wanted to discuss with you about my wedding dress, I was thinking if its okay with you, instead of me keeping it, is it okay if you keep it in your boutique for sale?”
“Whatever you suggest Ell, I have no problem, so long as you are happy.”
I hugged him, “thank you so much Mic, and I am sorry I couldn’t do justice with your hard work by wearing it, it’s difficult for me to even look at it.” I sighed.
Rolling his eyes dramatically, “I’ll smack your ass Ell if you keep saying sorry, and this dress is nothing, I’ll forever be designing your clothes and remember you and Jemi will always be my muse, so wipe that sad frown from that pretty face, we don’t want any wrinkles appearing too soon.” He admonished.
We both laughed as he said that, this is what I love about Mic, he can always turn an unpleasant situation into a pleasant one. Just then there was a knock on his door it was his secretary informing him that his VIP client has come for her final fitting.
“I’ll be there in ten minutes Ronda, meanwhile be entertaining her.“Mic instructed his secretary as he turned to face me.
“I’m sorry Ell; I’ll try to drop by your place tomorrow evening okay. We have lots to discuss about especially about mom’s upcoming charity ball this Saturday.”
“It’s okay Mic, I understand, I’ll see tomorrow then.”
He walked me towards the door, “take care of yourself Ell, I am always here for you, if you need me and do give a chance to that hunk.” He said in all seriousness as he released me from his hug.
“Which hunk.” I smirked.
“Now we are talking. It is good to sample on different dishes but Ell my vote is on Dominic, “he winked.
“Yes sure you do Mic, sure you do,” We both laughed.
“Bye Mic and do give my love to your Mom and Dan of course.”
“Sure bye Ell.”
Once I was out of the boutique, I decided to take a stroll around the park which was just opposite the road, for a while and go home. At the entrance of the park, there was a small newspaper and magazine stand, I thought of buying a fashion magazine to pass my time at the park.
As I was browsing through the rows of magazines, my eyes caught the picture of a familiar person with a woman by his side on the cover of The Society magazine, which was a weekly tabloid magazine. Although my brain was telling me to ignore it, I just couldn’t, I bought the magazine and went inside the park, walking for a mile taking long strikes as I searched for a bench to sit.
Once I found an empty bench to sit on, with shaky hands and heart beating wildly, I flipped the magazine frantically looking for the cover article. It was titled THE NEW IT COUPLE; my heart felt like someone had mercilessly squeezed it.
There he was holding her smiling widely, I know that smile it was a smile of contentment. She had a long silver blond hair, perfect smile and a petite figure, her head was leaning on his chest and her left hand delicately placed on his chest, showing off that massive engagement ring. This was bigger than the one he gave me, not that it ever bothered me but I couldn’t help feeling upset about it. The article started with the interviewer asking him for how long they have been dating and his answer was; for a year and that he had never been in love before just casual relationships, she was his first love.
That was it, I couldn’t read any further, tears started rolling down my cheek, so all those times we have been engaged he was seeing her? All those times he said he was busy or going on months for his so called business trip he was with her? How come I never knew, why was I so blinded to see all.
I feel so used, humiliated and hurt. It was like someone was poking me repeatedly with a sharp knife on my heart, the excruciating pain in my heart was too much to bear,” Stupid! Stupid!,” I screamed in my head. How can a person hurt someone this much, why did I ever..I let out a loud sob, my shoulders shaking as tears were raining down my cheek. Taking out the tissue from my clutch I wiped my face. At least the waterproof makeup with not make me look like a raccoon, thinking that I let out a bitter laugh.
I somehow managed to compose myself and thought I would go and have a drink just to calm my nerves and go home. As I walked out of the park, I threw the magazine in the trash can, yes trash that’s what he is.
I walked inside a bar and ordered a red snapper and sat down on the bar stool. The alcohol did its magic by calming my nerves although just temporarily, but I needed it desperately, I was on my second sip when a deep voice said, “I think it’s our destiny to meet like this on a bar over drinks,” Saying that he took a seat next to me, and ordered his drink.
I glanced at my right and immediately recognized the person before me; it was the guy from the club last night, Sebastian Collins. He was wearing a dark maroon suit with a white shirt where he left the top two buttons undone; he was looking very dapper and handsome.
“I don’t know about destiny, but I came here to enjoy a drink,” I returned flatly as I took another sip of the red snapper.
“Interesting, how is that a girl like you drinking alone.”
“What do you mean by girl like me?” I raised a brow facing him.
“I mean you are gorgeous and it’s a sin to be alone, drinking by yourself.” He returned, blue eyes locking with my emerald green.
“Smooth talker aren’t you, do you hit on girls always this way, and does it always work?“I mocked him giving him a smirk.
“Yes I do and it always works but somehow I am failing to charm you, I might be losing my touch.” He chuckled.
Despite my initial irritation towards him, I burst out laughing and he joined me.
Once we stopped laughing, he gestured his hand towards me, “I think I started off in a wrong way, let’s start over again, hi I am Sebastian Collins and you are?”
Shaking his hand,” I am Arabella Dickens.”
“Pleasure to meet you Arabella.” He smiled releasing my hand.
“Like wise.” I returned his smile.
Taking a sip of his drink, “So what’s your story Arabella or Bella shall I call you that?”
“Yes sure no problem,” Since he was still waiting for me to go on, I began,” Hm let’s see I realized today that I was living a fake life for the past six years and made a complete fool out of myself, trusting the wrong person. I thought I knew the person so well, but turns out I was wrong, that person seemed like a complete stranger to me,” somehow saying that out made me feel so much lighter, like I finally found my closure.
“It’s the person who is the fool out here not you. You were genuine the whole time, but it was that person who had to keep covering their steps and keep changing their mask and I am sure they themselves don’t even recognize who they truly are. It’s sad in a way for that person, but for you I should say move on and be glad you are out of that person’s life.” He finished.
“Very wise words indeed, so what about you Sebastian, what’s your story?”
Looking at me thoughtfully, “well all my life I have been running away from commitments fearing of barring my heart out to that person and in turn getting hurt, but I want to stop running and commit myself wholly now to a serious relationship.”
Casually keeping my chin on my left hand facing him,“have you found her?”
“I think I do, “he looked at me with unreadable expression.
Suddenly the atmosphere for some odd reason became a bit uncomfortable, he looked away quickly and I gulped down the last of my drink and as I gestured the bartender for the bill, Sebastian beat me to it by paying the bill for both of us. I thanked him for it.
“I think I’ll call it a day.” I said getting down from the bar stool.
“Shall I drop you please, now that I have behaved myself and I can at least pass myself as your friend?” He smiled bashfully at me.
“Thank you Sebastian but I’ll hail a cab.”
“Please Bella, would you wound the heart of your newly acquired friend?“He clutched his heart giving me a wounded sad look.
I just burst out laughing and unconsciously smacked his chest with the back of my hand,” okay okay. Don’t be such a drama king.”
“Thank you.” he laughed.
The drive to my place was met with heavy traffic but it didn’t bother us because he was continuously cracking jokes and I laughed so hard, forgetting all the pain I felt earlier. He was so easy to get along with, even though he was very good looking, I didn’t feel any attraction towards him like how I felt about Dominic the first time I met him. I think I’ll keep this friendship with Sebastian, I thought.
Finally after an hours’ drive he parked the car outside my flat and walked me towards the elevator.
“Thanks for the lift Sebastian.” I smiled.
“Any time Bella, so I’ll see you again or I’m I dismissed for good, “he teased putting his hands on the pockets of his pant.
“I don’t make friendship just to break it Seb.” I smiled as I stepped inside the elevator.” I’ll see you around.”
“I like the name Seb. See you around Bella,” he returned as the elevator door closed. I didn’t miss that flicker of longing emotion that passed his face. I wondered why it was so, but brushed it off.
Finally in my room I showered and changed into my white pajama shorts with purple polka dots and purple string top and decided to call Dominic. He cut the call after three rings and called me back instead.
“Hi reached home?” He asked.
Just hearing those three words from him gave me a butterflies in my stomach,” a while ago, what are you up to?” I asked sitting down on the sofa of the living room.
“I am on my way home.”
“You shouldn’t be talking on the phone while driving Dominic.”
“Baby it’s so nice to hear you care for me like that, but Arthur is driving not me.”
“Staying home or you have plans.”
“None, I’ll be staying home, may be catch up on my reading, have dinner and watch Game of Thrones.”
“Game of Thrones? why don’t we watch it together, I mean I’ll call you, we can talk over the phone and watch it together, since I am still kept under probation by you I can’t physically be present there.” He chuckled.
I laughed when he said those last words, “okay sure that sounds nice.” We hung up after talking for a while and I got back to my reading.
It was just fifteen minutes before the show started and I was just about to call Dominic, then he called me.
“Done with dinner?”
“Yes I did, ready to watch the show with you now.”
“Me too” I smiled as I switched on the TV and pressed the remote button to HBO, the show haven’t started yet we still had ten more minute, leaning my head on the sofa lazily and twirling my hair with my index finger,“hey babe who is your favourite character in the show?”
Before I realized what I called him came his excited voice, “did you just call me babe?”
My eyes widen, realizing what I said. Sitting up straight blushing profusely I cleared my throat,“I...I didn’t, may be something is wrong with your hearing,” I smacked my forehead biting my lower lip mortified beyond believe. I wanted to just poof and disappear.
He chuckled,” I love it when you become all nervous and especially when you blush, which I am sure you must be. Baby I’m a happy man right now.”
“Okay,” My voice raising few octaves high out of nervousness.
And thanks to God the show started so we didn’t had to continue with the awkward conversation.
“It’s Tyrion Lannister. What about you.” He asked.
“Arya Stark, although I like Tyrion too.” The conversation died down as we began watching the show. During the middle of the show I did my usual stunt by crying when an emotional scene came up, it was when Arya Stark finally came home to winter fell after a long time. I try to sniff softly, so he won’t hear me, but I failed because his concerned voice asked me, “baby are you crying?”
“No” I said in a nasal voice, and paused the TV.
“Please tell me? Did I do something wrong,” his voice was full of concern.
“It’s just me, I’m a crier, I always cry when any emotional scene comes in a show, Jemi tells me I provide the extra special effects for the show, “I chuckled.
“I see. How adorable.” I swear he was smiling right now.
After my not so gracious interruption we went back to watching the show. Once the show was over, we continued conversing and debating about the pros and cons of the episode and once we were done, Dominic asked me if we could do video call instead. To which I agreed and hung up the call and quickly got ready for bed. I nervously received the video call.
“Hi,” I was greeted with his hauntingly grey-blue eyes, his smooth velvety deep voice, sending shivers throughout my body, I blushed profusely seeing him so up close. He was wearing a white round neck t-shirt, his head resting on the head board of the bed.
I bit my lower lip to try to calm my nerves, I was finding it difficult to breathe, only he would make me feel this way, I whispered out a difficult Hi back and smiled.
“I miss you. I want to hold you and kiss you and wake up next to you.” His voice was smooth and full of wanting.
I blushed again; I could feel my cheeks burn, my toes curled out of nervousness at the thought of him kissing me. Despite everything I missed him, so I plucked up the courage to say it back, “I miss you too.”
He was grinning from ear to ear,“you don’t know how happy I am to hear that, baby can we meet please, I can come there now if you want me to.”
I wanted to say yes so much, but I realized I have to be careful; I shouldn’t make my emotions take over the situation. I have to take it slow with him this time, I want this, whatever that is we have, to work, so I said instead, “There is a charity ball this coming Saturday, it is organized by my friend’s mother Sandra Coban, will you escort me to the ball?”
“Of course baby, anything for you. By the way is Sandra Coban the famous renowned interior designer?”
“Yes she is, you know her?”
“Yes I do, she was the one who designed the interiors of two of my hotels in Tokyo and Monte Carlo.”
“Oh I see, small world.”
“Yes it is, I actually received an invitation for the event last month, I have been thinking of asking you to come with me. But now since you asked me I am so happy.” He smiled.
Our conversation flowed into hours and finally hanging up I dived into deep slumber.
As the call ended, Dominic with his head still leaning on the head board, his mind was fully occupied by her, “you will be the death of me Arabella,” he said out loud.
One thing was sure for Dominic, each day his feelings for her grew more and more, he was crazy about her and it was driving him insane. He was brought back from his deep thoughts of her, when the door bell rang. Wondering who it was this late he walked downstairs to get the door and as he opened door it was his best friend Sebastian Collins looking rather frazzled.
“I need a strong drink, “he said as he walked towards the living area.
“Bad day?“Asked Dominic.
“Not exactly,” replied Sebastian.
“Interesting,” said Dominic and walked towards the bar to pour two neat glasses of Glenfiddich’s 50 year-old single malt scotch whiskey and walked towards his friend who was standing outside on the balcony leaning on the steel railing overlooking the brightly lit city before them. He handed the drink to his friend.
Sebastian gulped the whiskey in one shot that amused his friend greatly who was sipping his drink and silently observing him.
Keeping the glass on the stool beside him, Sebastian still looking at the glimmering city before him, he finally spoke up, ” I am crazy about this girl Nic, I just met her twice but she is making me feel things I have never thought I was capable of feeling, I even had sex with two different women last night and this morning, but she won’t leave my head. Its like she is all I want.”
“Seems like she is quite the woman.”
“She is, she is amazing, nothing like the women we meet in our circles,“rubbing his hand at the back of his neck he continued, “and the funny part is I asked her to be her friend because she was ignoring me like the plague, I thought that way she would at least warm up to me, I swear she is driving me insane.” He finished sounding very frustrated.
“So you want to bed her or?”
“No not just for sex, of course not, I want her to be mine, I want us to be exclusive, she is so much more special to me than just indulging in mindless sex.”
They both were silent as they stood watching the glimmering city before them. Both in deep thoughts about the woman they were so captivated by and insanely crazy about. Little did they know it was the same woman that occupied their mind. Somewhere in Brooklyn, someone was sleeping soundly, quite oblivious of the fact that she have unconsciously captivated the hearts of two of Forbes’s richest and most eligible bachelors. The night was still young, and still long hours before sunrise, only time will tell whose heart SHE truly long for. But tonight just for now, let them mused in the thought that her heart might actually belong to them.