Clandestine Heart

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Chapter 7

One word is too often profaned, for me to profane it;

One feeling too falsely disdain’d, for thee to disdain it;

One hope is too like despair, for prudence to smother;

And pity from thee more dear, than that from another.

--Percy Bysshe Shelley


Tristan was in the Asiate, the modern American restaurant that perched above the city on one of the famous hotel’s thirty-fifth floor. He was sitting mutely, looking out the sixteenth feet ceiling to floor window in which showcased panoramic views of Manhattan skyline.

Across the table, Phoenix, did the same thing, though it only lasted for less than two minutes, before his natural manner, who could not just sit and say nothing, took over.

“Tristan, how’s the business? Are you still going to take over the acquisition that Jim Hardy offered?” Phoenix started the conversation as he turned his attention to him, talking about the project Tristan had been doing lately.

Tristan, who was sitting at the same position shrugged indolently and muttered softly. “Business is fine, just like usual. And Hardy is still giving a hard time about the price.”

“No closure yet?” Phoenix smoothed the wrinkles in gray tailor-made designer suit’s sleeves. He had a cut a dashing figure and obviously he knew it.

“Like I said, Hardy is still giving me a hard time.” He restated absent-minded. His sights did not leave the scenery in front of him. As far he could see, though the view was beautiful yet, there was roughness under the cloudy, gray sky. This time of the year, was the kind of season that made people keeping to stay inside at their places.

Phoenix studied Tristan’s face. He was not blind to see that he looked extremely tired. Seeing the dark circles around his eyes and the deep scoring of lines between his mouth and nose made him feel the urge of sympathy towards him. Normally, Tristan was the epitome, sleek sophisticated professional. However today the designer navy dark blue suit was creased. And there was a scratch, which looked suspiciously like razor cut marred the olive clarity of his cheek.

Phoenix sighed to see his friend’s expressionless look. The change in Tristan had been inevitably clear over the past six or seven months. He had hardly laughed, even smiled or shared some jokes. It seemed Tristan had drowned to his own lonely world and engrossed with work only.

This lunch was actually Phoenix’s idea. The reason why he had asked him today was because of what had happened on his birthday a week ago. He really wanted to breach the subject but he didn’t know how to say to him with addition regarding the holiday that they had decided to spend together and it seemed only Tristan had not given any opinion or showed any enthusiasm.

Phoenix cleared his throat. “By the way, you’re still planning to spend Christmas with us, aren’t you?”

Tristan eventually turned his attention towards his best friend then he nodded slowly. “Of course. I thought we’ve discussed about it a month ago that all of us will spend the Christmas at my villa.” He said, his voice matter-of-fact. He let out a small breath. “Why did you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Phoenix shrugged his bulky shoulders. “I thought you might change my mind.”

“Why would I change my mind?” Tristan asked. He frowned to hear Phoenix’s vaguely statement that might indicate something. His dark eyes seared into Phoenix.

“Well, I just thought…” Phoenix paused as if he wanted to say something, yet he changed his mind. “We thought that something might come up with your busy schedule.” Then he opened the burgundy leather book menu, pretending to read.

“Are you implying of something?” Tristan asked suspiciously. His voice challenged him.

“Of course not.” Phoenix said, too quickly and kept avoiding the eye contact as his eyes never left the menu. He really wanted to talk Tristan. Liam and the rest of his friends had already mandated to ask what had troubled him lately. They worried about him.

But looking at Tristan’s defensive gesture, Phoenix really had a doubt to even begin this sensitive subject.

“Really?” Tristan asked, taunted.

Phoenix let out another sigh, this one tinged with restlessness. “Look, we just worry about you.” He said quietly.

Tristan’s laughter was harsh. “Worry? Am I hearing it, right?”

“You can think whatever you want, but that’s the truth.”

“I don’t need all of your concern.” Tristan said, the steel in his tone did not match the easy way he sat, the tilt of his head and that hot gilded gleam in his eyes.

“Fine.” Phoenix replied simply. “Now can we order first? I’m starving.”

“Alright, then order.” He said with stuffy sound.

“What would you like to have?” Phoenix asked without altering is eyes from the menu.

“Just simple, tenderloin medium rare.” Tristan uttered without even bother looking at the menu instead his gaze had already returned to the sky view outside the window.

“Would you like to have wine?” Phoenix asked, it seemed he was still contemplating to make decision for his lunch. “You’re not driving, right?”

Tristan shook his head then replied. “Go with Red.” He replied muttered languidly.

“Great, red wine it is then. Any particular favor?”

“No.” Tristan replied shortly, his voice gruff, and still did not look at his companion.

“Alright, then I’ll choose.” Phoenix’s face was still burying behind the menu list when a waitress came and stood at their table patiently ready to take their orders.

“Ah okay, I want to order…” Phoenix halted in the mid of the sentences as he glanced up at the waitress. “Lara!!” His face looked surprise to see her serving them.

Tristan did not move. He had been incapable to move since the moment Phoenix uttered her name and sensed her presence. He felt rigid on his seat as if Phoenix’s surprise tone had sent alarms all over his body.

“Hi P.” Lara greeted in a whisper, she apprehended who Phoenix’s companion was.

It took a tremendous amount of strength for Tristan to maintain his remote expression when he finally turned his face around to see her. Slowly he felt something raw inside when his eyes caught Phoenix stood up and gave her a light kiss on each of her flushed cheeks.

“Hi Lara.” Tristan greeted, that raw thin in him seeming o tie itself into a knot. Because although he knew Phoenix had Rosalie, yet his gesture towards Lara had brought the shimmer of anger inside. Emphatic.

Lara looked stricken for a moment and she hesitated to throw him a glance, though eventually she did. “Hi Tristan.” She replied, bristled. She bit her lips as if she tried to compose her emotion. “I didn’t know you guys like to have lunch here.”

Phoenix’s eyes shifted from Tristan to Lara and wondered to see the awkwardness between the two of them. Then said after a moment of silence among the three of them. “Very occasionally. I didn’t know you work here.” He retreated to his seat.

“No, I don’t work here.” Lara dropped her gaze to the tabletop before she lifted up her eyes towards Phoenix’s as if she did not want to see Tristan or pretend he was not in front of her. “I just took over one of the girl who’s sick today. It’s kinda impromptu job.” She added smiling, again only to Phoenix.

“That’s good.” Phoenix nodded his head.

Lara nodded then she lifted the note and the pen on each of her hands. “What would you like to have?”

Phoenix looked at Tristan who was sitting motionless across the table. “Hey, what do you want, just now?” He observed intently when Tristan didn’t take his sight away from Lara.

Tristan reluctantly shifted his gaze to Phoenix, half infuriated. “Tenderloin steak, medium rare.” He intoned.

“Ah yes, our friend here, wants to have Tenderloin steak medium rare and as for me, I’d like to have a roasted quail please.” Phoenix said, giving his renowned smile.

“Do you want some artichoke before the main dishes?” Lara asked to Phoenix.

Phoenix considered for a moment then asked Tristan. “Do you want some appetizer?”

Tristan shook his head wordlessly.

“I guess not then.” Phoenix answered still tugging his smile on his face.

“Do you fancy for a glass of wine?” She offered, her eyes stayed still avoiding Tristan as much as she could by keeping her face straight to the friendlier face belonged to Phoenix. She did not mean to be hostile as at this moment, both of them were the guests in this restaurant. However preventing Tristan’s fathomless eyes was the best choice for her.

“Yes bring us a bottle of wine. Red wine, the best one you have.” Phoenix replied on behalf of both of the men.

“Certainly.” She said, little bit trembling. Tristan’s silence has brought the shiver within her. She started to wonder if he regretted to have lunch here and saw her serving them. “I’ll be back with plain water for you.” She added, pushing the note and the pen in front of the chest pocket of the brown apron.

“No worries.” Phoenix grinned widely. “Take your time.”

Lara acknowledged Phoenix’s friendly gesture with a smile and a nod before leaving them.

Tristan saw her thin figure as she strode to the kitchen door.

His immersed gaze did not go unnoticed by Phoenix.

Tristan face was masked with frozen expression but Phoenix had not known him only yesterday. For a concise moment, Phoenix saw a flash of longing in his eyes, but it was only a moment as once Tristan blinked, the longing gaze had vanished.

Phoenix cleared his throat, trying to make Tristan’s attention returned to him. “Tristan…”

“What the fuck did you do just now? Why did you have to hug her in front of everybody?” Tristan’s accusation towards Phoenix was destroying his expressionless façade mask as his eyes snapped with fire.

Phoenix gasped to hear the allegation tone. His suspicious rose up. “What do you mean?” He asked, his eyes slit into a deep discerning as if he had never seen him before. “You mean the hug or the kiss? It was just a friendly kiss.”

“Did you have to do that in front of people?” Tristan shifted his sitting position, uncomfortable as if he had only realized he had revealed his weakness in front of his best friend. Yet the jealousy had eaten him alive inside and he was not able to stop the feeling.

Phoenix looked flabbergasted for a moment. He stared at him, lifting one hand to stroke his mouth, clearly mulling over the right approach to Tristan’s accusation he had not seen it coming. He then composed his repercussion in cool manner. “What exactly do mean? No one looked at us.” He waved his hand in the air. His eyes traveled around the surrounding of the restaurant.

“Of course they looked at you.” He said sounding impatient. I did, he thought fiercely.

Phoenix tilted his head to one side, his gaze still did not leave his friend’s face instead he studied Tristan more. “Ah, I think I know now.”

Tristan silvery eyes narrowed as he heard Phoenix ambiguous remark. “What does it suppose to mean?”

Phoenix unfolded the napkin and said calmly. “I might think that you’re jealous.”

“I’m not jealous!” He declared but even as he denied the charge, he knew that he was lying. He was jealous of Phoenix. He envied him of how he was able to express his feeling about how happy to see her unexpectedly and of how Phoenix just kissed her spontaneously.

“Then why did you react so unreasonably? As a matter of fact, it seemed that you’re also angry without reason towards Blake on my birthday. Was it because of Lara?” Phoenix bombarded him. His eyebrow arched.

Tristan fists were clenched tightly under the table and a vein in his jaw started ticking. He tried so hard no to give in to the impulse reaction and give a punch to Phoenix’s face. “That’s none of your fucking business.”

Phoenix smirked. “Perhaps isn’t. Though it’s my business since a moment ago you’re so furious without a reason about me kissing Lara. Is there something going on between the two of you?”

“There’s nothing going on between us.” Tristan lied in between his gritted teeth.

Skeptically Phoenix studied his face. “Then why did you so angry?”

“I said, it’s not your fucking business.” Tristan face tightened d a layer of eyes rapidly swathed the bare emotion in his eyes.

“Tristan,” Phoenix said carefully, as if he was afraid of what Tristan’s response might be. “I realize that, but I’m your friend. And if you have a feeling towards Lara, it’ll be great.”

“I don’t have.” Tristan said turned his face around, did not look at his friend.

For a moment, that simply hung around them. Then Phoenix blinked. “Alright then.” He lifted his hands as the sign of surrender.

Tristan flicked his eyes back to his friend then he nodded. “Thank you.”

“So have you invited her also for this Christmas?” Phoenix asked quietly. “I was thinking…”

“It’s up to Abby. She’s her friend.” Tristan interrupted in a cool voice. His tone was amiable however his dark eyes had all the warmth of the North Sea.

“I know she will, as Rosalie will love also for her to join.”

“Okay, so there’s no problem.” Tristan’s tone was flat and almost uninterested.

“But it’ll be your chalet and your jet, so…” Phoenix shrugged and left the sentences purposely hung in the air.

Tristan blinked, everything in him going still. Too still. As if this mattered. This new issue that Phoenix brought was really tempting. He diverted his tension and started to contemplate about what his friend had said.

Yet doubts crept in his mind as soon as the topic appeared. What if she refused? Was it obvious because of his ill treatment that she had the right to refuse, avoiding him?

Tristan felt the pain as the image conjuring up playing in his mind. Her gesture was vividly clear. And the way she’d served them, she had been so uncomfortable.

Slowly Tristan shook his head. “No, let the girls do that.” He let out a deep sigh. “She’s more than welcome to join but it is her decision to come.”

“Why?”

“The girls do better than me.” He said in a tone that brooked no argument, very firm. “I’ll be very busy until the time for us to go holiday. I won’t have time.”

Knowing Tristan was a complicated and tight-mouth kind of person, Phoenix reluctantly and finally gave in. “Okay, whatever you said.” He plainly stated, though the inquisitiveness really tickled him. He only needed to find out from another source. Soon.

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