Elegant Deception

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The party lasted longer than April expected. We’d hurriedly made our exit. And it wasn’t easy. The guest took turns giving me well wishes and goodbyes. But the time I’ve reached the main door, April was tugging me out of the door.

“Mom, we need to go now, or we’ll be late,” April argued hastily.

“Oh! You’ll make it. Just give me a few more minutes with your sister.” She countered sarcastically.

“You know I can just come over for a visit tomorrow, right?” I interjected. I’ve always gone and visited them every Sunday.

“Are you sure you’ll be well enough to visit us tomorrow? I want you to have fun, honey. Let loose sometimes. Make us worry other than your lack of marital options.”

“I don’t even have relationship options, mom. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves there.”

April knew where the conversation was going and hastily made a quick exit to the waiting car parked in front of the house.

“Mom, are you going to start arguing about this again?” I asked dejectedly.

“No. I’m not going to do that to you on your birthday. But just a reminder, you’re thirty, dear.”

“I know, mom. And what’s wrong with being a single, workaholic, and an independent thirty-year-old.”

“Nothing.” It was then dad jumped in, seeing my mother’s eyes sparked at my retort. “And I’m proud that you’re a confident and independent woman. Whether you have someone or not is really not an issue, honey. Your mother’s only worried that you’re too alone.”

“Well, I’m not. Okay. And I like being single.” I replied.

Mom snorted and decidedly let me go. “We’ll see.” She muttered. “Anyways, good luck on your other party tonight. And please make sure your sister doesn’t go overboard.”

“I’ll try, mom. No promises.” I joked.

Dad gave me one last hug and a kiss on the cheeks before letting me jog towards the car, where April had finally rolled down the window and started calling for me to hurry up.

“So what’s mom’s angle this time?” April asked as I safety got in the car.

“It’s pretty basic. I’m thirty and lonely. Thus, it constitutes that I need a man to make my life less miserable - which really only make it complicated than better.”

“Well, I’m glad I’m out of that conversation with her. Just because she lucked out with dad and married her high school sweetheart, it doesn’t mean it’ll be that easy for us.” April said.

“I agree.”

When we reach the mall, Jeffrey offered to stay and wait for us. For his sake, I gave him enough money for some snack and coffee. I’m sure it’ll be awhile for April to be content with what I’ll buy.

About three and a half hours later, and this doesn’t even include shoe and accessory shopping, I was right. Jeffrey decidedly left more than an hour ago. He promised he’ll be back on time to get us and arrive not a minute too late for my own party.

“God, I’ll take note to give something expensive for Jeffrey and his wife for Christmas. If that guy wasn’t an acquaintance or a saint, he’ll already leave us the minute he dropped us off.” I stated begrudgingly.

“Oh! Stop mopping around about that. Jeffrey knew what he got himself into. I warned him beforehand.” April informed.

“You warned him?” I scoffed. “Did it consist of false promises of being on time, because I know what that’s like?”

She rolled her eyes, knowing she’ll lose that argument with me.

By the time we were done, it was dark out. Jeffery was kind enough to keep his word. He picked up and drove us to the venue.

Once we arrived, I expected to see at least an okay-looking bar that’s located in the so-so part of town. However, my sister surprised me yet again. This wasn’t something a thirty-year-old, single, and independent woman working in a white-collar office job could afford to celebrate a birthday. I’m not even sure I had the bank account to pay for it until I reached fifty – at least. The venue was at a four-star restaurant that had a private function room. Per my sister’s words, the room also has its own bar and DJ booth.

“It’s the classiest yet tasteful venue Zoey could offer. And I know you’d prefer it to be in a public place, like a bar, but I know you’d rather have a more intimate place. And this isn’t so bad...”

“My god, April. I said I’d agree on certain things, but this is too much. How much does this place even cost?” I hissed rashly while we were still privately in the car. But I was well-aware of Jeffery eavesdropping.

“I know you’re frugal on certain things...”

I snorted in disagreement. But she continued without looking offended by that response.

“... but Zoey offered. And it’s a lovely venue. Plus, Julian knows the owner of the restaurant. So it doesn’t cost much. Mostly, we’re only paying for the drinks.”

“And who do you think is paying for that?” I prompted in annoyance.

“Not you, for what I know,” April replied.

“What do you mean?” Now I’m confused.

“Well, the party at mom and dad’s place were covered by them. So thank mom and dad on your next visit. And this party is sponsored by Hawksley Holding Inc., per what Julian wanted me to tell you when you finally asked about the check.”

I gasped both in shock and disbelief. “What? No! Why? Why would Julian do that?”

“Zoey was the one who actually asked him on my behalf...” She finally admitted.

Not that got me to get a bit physical. I lightly slapped her arm in frustration. “What were you thinking?! That’s wrong in so many levels!”

“Well, they offered...”

“God! You don’t have the decency nor shame sometimes.” I huffed and finally got out of the car. “I’ll go talk to Mr. Hawksley. I’ll be sure to pay some of this because I’m not letting my boss pay for my party. That’s not giving a good impression to my co-workers.”

Thankfully, April heard my rant since I wasn’t in the mood to repeat it to her if she asked. “Is that what you’re concerned about?”

“Julian’s neither a family or a friend, April. Of course, this is crossing a line.”

“Well, he considered himself as your friend... from our last conversation.”

I stopped on my tracks for a moment at her remark. But I won’t be roped into her delusion. “I’m talking to him now,” I muttered decidedly and continued marching inside.

It wasn’t difficult finding the private function room. There were actually signage’s with my name written outside the door across the main entrance. April caught up to me quickly before I got to the doors.

“Wait! Wait! Don’t go in yet! You’re the main guest. You need to arrive last for this...” April stated like our previous conversation didn’t happen.

It took her a moment. But when she saw my expression, she clasped her hand and took a step away. “Okay. I’m sorry. This wasn’t the right time. Please, you may enter. I’m sorry again.” She said and opened the door for me.

I rolled my eyes and walked in.

I was focused on finding Julian and talking to him. However, once I got in the venue, I was nearly bombarded with familiar faces as they walked up to me with good wishes.

The first from the line of people was my co-worker, Sean. He was sporting a casual look, a plain black shirt, and denim jeans. With him were Rhea, who had a man trailing behind her. My guess, it was her boyfriend who was a nurse.

“Happy birthday, Amy. I never thought thirty would look good on you.” Sean lightly teased.

“Thank you. All I’ve been hearing from people was that I’m old. I should be engaged or married with kids by now.” I dryly jested.

“Oh please. I never pictured a workaholic such as yourself to settle down at thirty. Forty maybe.” He teased.

It was then Rhea jumped in. “Don’t listen to those people, Amy. We have our own paces. And love isn’t a race. You’ll find someone in time.”

“Yeah, and I think the time is now. Because I’ve not seen this many single straight men in one room since my college frat days. And I used to be one of them.” Sean pointed out sarcastically.

I chuckled at his remark.

“Well, maybe there is someone here for you, Sean. Don’t be put out.” I offered in comfort.

“No. I’m sure this is a straight party. But I’m fine with it. You can have this night to mingle, Amy. You’re thirty. Get laid already.”

I flushed at his straightforward comment. “You make it sound like I haven’t for a while.”

“Well, have you?”

I knew that’ll only put me on the spot. So I evaded the question and asked about Rhea’s companion.

And my guess was right. He was her boyfriend.

However, the topic about my relationship status didn’t die down when my sister walked up to me with an unknown man in tow.

“Amy, there is someone I’d like you to meet,” she sweetly said as I nearly finished chatting with Sean and Rhea.

Before I could have said something, the man with my sister reached out his hand to me. “Hi, happy birthday,” he greeted.

“Thank you,” I replied with a smile.

“Joey, this is Amy. Amy, Joey.” April swiftly gestured between us. With a smile, she slowly stepped away as Joey moved closer.

“Hi! So how do you know my sister?” I asked.

“We worked at the same place.”

“Oh, so are you one of the bosses, the lawyers, or a fellow secretary?” I guessed.

“I’m one of the lawyers. Well, I’m only an associate at the firm, but I’m working my way through to be a junior partner.” His response sounded premeditated. But I didn’t think much and willingly asked more about his connections with my sister.

By the time we got a bit personal, it was then I noticed my sister was gone. So I had no choice but to talk to him. Though the conversation wasn’t entirely dull, however at one point when he boasted about his high standard educational background, I’m not sure anymore. As I was about to have enough of this conversation, my sister emerged again. This time to take me away from the lawyer, Joey. He didn’t seem to mind at the abruptness.

When I thought she was helping me get out of a slightly sticky situation, she averted toward me another man. It was then a red signal alerted my brain. Before she got away again, I reached out and grabbed her hand. And left the new guy with only a short ‘thank you for being here’, I got my sister a good distance away from any eavesdropper.

“What the heck are you doing?” I angrily asked.

“I know you won’t be mingling in this party. So I’m giving you a little push.”

I pursed my lips at her lame excuse. She had a doubtful innocent look. Yet not once she looked nervous.

“Fine.” I breathe in defeat.

She dropped the act quickly. “Great. I have a couple of guys here who I’d like you to meet. Like a speed dating,” she said, all smiles.

Now, I’m appalled.

“What?” I groaned. She worked with lawyers for nearly three years now. It explains why she has a good poker face.

“You promised you’ll agree to anything tonight. And I promise you, you’ll like these men. There are no weirdos. They are good and well-educated men. I made sure of it,” she pointed out firmly.

“And, am I supposed to be impressed by that?”

“Yes, you should be.”

“And why on earth I’ll be remotely impressed by any of this sister. Please enlightened me. Because it would seem I’m the one overreacting in this situation.”

“Yes, you are over-reacting. I only have your best interest at heart,” she countered teasingly.

I arguably replied, “no. You don’t have my best interest here at all.”

“I do so.” She argued back and gradually got railed up. “Listen here, Amy. I know why you’re still single, or try to be single. I know what happened. I’m your sister, for god sake. Plus, how you reacted in concerns about the guest list tonight proved my point some more. You have to move on with your life. Don’t punish yourself for some regret and mistake. Learn and move on.”

I can’t believe my younger sister was giving me a lecture about relationships. But, she was right. I should move on. And it was shameful to admit that after nearly five years, I’m still a bit affected by that incident.

I said with a heavy sigh of defeat. “Fine. I’ll meet and talk to these guys. But don’t pressure me to get anything out of it, okay? I’m not sure I’m going to like any of them.”

She squealed with delight. “I’m so happy you’re finally opening up to this! You’ll love at least one. I put a lot of thinking, and the screening process to gather this group of men. I want nothing but the best for you, Amy.”

“I know I should be flattered that I have a considerate and dedicated sister. But under these circumstances, it’s giving me mix feelings. Nonetheless, thank you for the effort, April.”

“Minus that slightly hurtful comment, you’re welcome, Amy.” She sweetly replied.

I didn’t need to prompt her to get back to business. She might have foreseen that I’ll cave in. Not moment later, she was back to pulling men one after another to talk to me. Whatever system or rules she gave to these men – or threats, it worked. After one talked to me, they left willingly and allowed April to introduce me to another.

Around the seventh men, I felt my cheeks aching from smiling unnaturally. So when the seventh guy finally - and thank god he did - left after his speech about his family living in the nicer part of town, I made a break for it.

Of course, the only acceptable escape in that situation was the bar. I wasn’t rude enough to leave my own party before anyone else did.

Once I reach the bar counter, I tried to get one of the bartender’s attention. However, they seemed to me in a deep conversation. But I wasn’t really in the mood with being nice. So as a first, I hollered aloud.

“Hey! How does one get a drink over here?”

Both of them turned in unison. When they saw me, the blonde guy near me was about to approach. But his co-worker grabbed his arm and stop him. That slightly irritated me until I eavesdrop what he said.

“Just go. I’ll take care of the rest here. You need to talk to her.” He said.

The blonde bartender studied his co-worker’s expression before looking at me. With a heavy sigh, he turned back at him briefly. “Thank you, man. I owe you one.” He said before taking off.

Once the blonde was gone, I finally waved my hand to get the other bartender’s attention. Yet nothing still.

So I shouted. Again.

“Excuse me! Hello!” I waved at him manically to get his attention.

It did the job.

“I heard you the first time, you know.” The bartender finally replied and approached me with a new glass of beer.

He placed it in front of me in content. “Here’s your drink.”

I stared at him and arched my eyebrow. “Did you actually hear me ask you to get me a glass of beer?”

He stared back and smiled. “I guessed. Or, you aren’t the birthday girl who kept on asking for a glass of Heineken after talking to one guy? And this will be your eight glass, by the way, if your counting.”

I was stunned.

“Okay, stalker. The point of that game is to not be obvious to the person you were stalking.” I sarcastically said. Though, at that point, it must be the alcohol talking.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to sound stalker-ish. It’s an occupational hazard,” he replied.

“Okay. Then, you must be some good bartender to keep tabs of what drinks you serve to who, and how much you’ve served to that person.” I pointed and finally grab the glass. I then took a good sip.

“I think that I am. Thank you for that compliment. And I hope it was a compliment rather than another accusation that I like stalking my customers.” He replied wittily.

I scoffed. “It was a compliment.”

“Then, thank you, birthday girl.” He replied and tip his head like a gentlemen bow.

I chuckled at the dramatic gallantry. “It’s Amy. Not birthday girl.”

“I’ve guessed as well. But since I’ve almost made a bad first impression being called a stalker, I decided against it.” He admitted.

“No worries. I’ve had enough drinks that I might forget most of that happening tonight.” I said.

“Then, I should probably make a stronger impression,” he stated with a coy grin. He then reached out his hand to me. “Hi, I’m Dean. And I should have said this earlier, happy birthday, Amy.”

As we shook hands, though I’m drunk that I may have exaggerated, I felt something as our hand’s touch. It was hot and electrifying.

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