Elegant Deception

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Six

If you told me I’d be spending most of the night arguing with the bartender about the points of doing a speed dating my sister had roped me in, I’d say you must be drunk to start seeing things. Yet here we were.

Though it may seem frustrating, this was the first time since I entered the party that I felt alive.

“Okay. I’ll agree on some of those truthful observations since it was evidently pretty obvious. However, there are some things you’ve said that weren’t true.” I stated after he pointed out his presumptions.

“Which are?” He arched his eyebrow.

“I’m not drunk yet. And also, I’ve been miserable even before I entered the venue...” I trailed off, hearing the dreadful confession.

“Hey... I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel miserable on your birthday... I shouldn’t have open my mouth like that. It was rude of me.” He said.

I studied him for a moment. His expression was genuine, or he’s just a good actor. But I don’t know him enough to be rude and not accept his apology.

“Apology accepted.” I smiled and took a small sip from my drink. “But I got to admit it. You were right on the mark - on certain things.”

He didn’t say anything but arched his eyebrow in response.

“Well, nearly all of it.” I wasn’t ready to give this stranger the pleasure of seeing through my facade because he’d been ogling at me. At least, I’ll leave some mystery. “Those men weren’t my cup of tea. I don’t know what my sister was thinking of organizing that soiree. She knew I haven’t dated anyone seriously in years. Why would it change now that I’m thirty?” I scoffed.

“And how did you get yourself roped into that in the first place?” he chuckled and asked.

I briefly looked around and noticed one of my guest waiting by the other end of the bar counter. “I’ll keep this short since I seem to be keeping you from your job. I don’t want to get you fired.”

He noticed where I glanced and kindly signaled his new customer to wait a moment. “No worries. Partly, my job is to entertain my customer as well. And since this is an exclusive party dedicated to you, I’d hardly get in trouble when you’ve insisted for my company.”

I laughed. “Insisted is a strong word.”

He smiled and slowly moved towards the other end of the counter. “Excuse me for a moment.”

I nodded and gestured him to go on.

It wasn’t a long wait since the man only asked for two beers. Also, it was then I noticed how slow my party was when the bartender wasn’t busy handing out drinks. I was about to make my exit when he pointed out my nearly empty glass.

“Do you want to bring another glass with you? Now, I presume that you’re heading back to that speed dating thing.”

Him pointing that out blatantly change my mind. I briefly recalled the previous conversation with those men. It only reminded me why I’ve been single all this time.

“Since you put it that way, I’m not leaving this bar until my own sister picks me up and send me home drunk enough,” I said.

“I don’t want to be the cause of your hangover tomorrow.”

“You won’t. This will be a personal choice.” And said and chugged the remaining contents of my glass. “Please. I’ll have another glass.”

“At least, tell me you have a limit for tonight?” He inquired.

“Nope. It’s my birthday. I’m allowed that choice... even my parent’s urged me to let loose,” I stated confidently.

He looked hesitant for a moment to get me another glass but he got it nonetheless. Yet before handing it over, he said, “Out of my conscious, I will cut you off when I see you had enough, okay?”

“Kind of you to care about someone you don’t know…”

He cut me off. “Just from our conversation tonight, I know a little.”

As I was about to reply, another guest interrupted us to get a drink.

He smiled apologetically as he excused himself to attend to them. By the time he was done handing out their drink order, I was interrupted by my sister. Finally.

She looked annoyed.

“What are you doing?” she scolded.

Not fazed by her mood, I held up my drink. “Drinking.”

“For half an hour?” She sternly remarked.

“Well, I finished the first one I had and since I was here, I got another,” I replied like that was an acceptable excuse.

She stared at me for another moment. Her eyes squinting. “Are you drunk?”

“Excuse me?” I quipped. With her suspicion, it wasn’t the right time to lose my balance.

“For god sake!” She hissed under her breath as she grabbed my arm just in time before my face was halfway towards the floor. “No! You’re not getting drunk now. It’s your party,” she scolded. “And you haven’t even thanked Julian and Zoey yet.”

That silenced me for a moment.

I momentarily held up my hands in defeat. “Sorry. But, you did say I should have fun.”

She pursed her lips. Probably holding back her anger. It was very unlike April. If this were any other day at a club, with music blasting in the background, my little sister would be in the dance floor twerking her butt off. But tonight, even with the techno music enveloping the room, we’re in a sophisticated venue. So she was calm and professional. Plus, she was the head organizer for my party. She had to be sober to keep tabs on everything.

“Well...” She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. “I’ll take it back now. Please, be you. Be normal. I don’t want you to make a fool of yourself”

“Now you say that? Maybe, just this once, I’d like to loosen up a bit. You did point out how stiff and bland my life had been.”

“And you want to do this now of all days?” Her voice rose an octave higher.

“Yeah! Why not?” I challenged.

She looked torn and frustrated. And I felt bad for being this intoxicated to say these things to my sister. It was unlike me as well.

“Fine. Do what you want? But when you start doing anything foolish...”

I interjected before she finished her sentence. “I’m confident you’ll haul me out here before I get to the dance floor,” I cheekily said.

Finally, my sister’s serious expression cracked. She then smiled and chuckled. “Oh! I’ll make sure you don’t take a step closer to that. I know what you’re like drunk and dancing. You’ll be mortified if people got a video of that.”

“I’m not a bad dancer. I got moves.” I snorted, feeling a bit offended.

“Yeah... no. You’re as bad as Dad. There’s no question how you’re his daughter. I just fear the day you’ll have your first dance on your wedding day.” Now, she was back to her upbeat - and a bit affront - self.

I grumbled under my breath. “Well, I’ll make sure I won’t embarrass the family.” I sarcastically replied.

Before April was about to go, she finally noticed the bartender. In the corner of my eyes, I noticed my sister doing a double take on the guy. Since she didn’t say anything nor react further, I didn’t question her.

“Please, another glass,” I said as he was near.

“Of course,” he replied.

He then noticed April standing idly beside me. “Do you need anything as well?” He turned to her.

“No, thank you. But can I ask you to watch my sister?” She didn’t even hesitate for a moment.

He smirked and nodded. “Of course. As long as she’s here by the bar...”

I held up my hand, not to be rude as I interrupted him. “Yes. I’ll be here for quite a while.”

“Okay, good. Thank you.” April said. She momentarily paused yet again before making her way back to her group.

Once she was gone, Dean looked amused by my sister’s request.

“Are you kind-of a problematic drunk? If so, I’ll have to start cutting you back some drinks.” He lightly teased.

“Oh come on. I’m not. And you promised me drinks and company.”

“Did I? I can’t seem to remember...” He trailed off coyly.

I rolled my eyes and chug the last content of my drinks. Then I handed it to him. “Just get me another drink. I promise not to make any rucks after I finished that as well.”

He shook his head and got my empty glass. “I’ll hold you to that.”

But it was a lie.

I was already knocked out from my socks. I could no longer hold my ground. So I was mostly holding to my dear life by keeping my head down on the counter. I groaned from internal discomfort. Even in this drunken state - and probably a moment of regret as I nursed a hang-over, I knew I was at my limit.

“That’s it. She needs to head home. I don’t want people to see her like this.” In my near unconscious state, I could still pinpoint that voice anywhere. It was April.

“What do you want me to do about that?” His deep voice might take some time to process but I was a bit aware it was Dean talking to my sister.

It was confusing as to why she was even having this conversation with him. He was no one. A man I’ll forget tomorrow.

“I don’t want to bother Zoey or Julian after they’ve kindly offered this place for us,” April grumbled under her breath. “But I can’t take care of my sister when she’d neglected to take care her own guests tonight.”

Dean snorted. “I’ve been watching her for most of the night. And half of it she spent it here by the bar. Are you sure these people are here for her?” He sounded accusatory.

I wanted to defend my sister and guest. But I wasn’t capable of making any retort in my conditions. I could only groan and grunt in agreement or disagreement. I was of no use.

“Who are you to judge me for this? You don’t know me or my sister.” April argued back.

“From what I see, and how she’d been talking, I think I understand enough. You should have been more forthcoming with her. She might have wanted something else because a woman like her don’t drink without purpose. She’s depressed.” He countered in the same intensity.

Their conversation was becoming more and more dream-like from how much the bartender was defending me than my own sister. But maybe, this was all a dream. This party and the hellish reality that I’ve turned thirty with no progress in my personal life was a nightmare. Maybe when I wake up, I will be in bed beside my now-fiancé who I’ve been dating since College. And the break-up nor the idea of heading to England for a job wasn’t all real. Maybe the past couple of years was a dream?

I’ll wake up and my life was perfect as I thought it would be. With my love, my family, and my work in such a harmonious success.

Then I jolted and gasped.

I got up in such a rush, which made my head spin. It took a moment to get my barring. How did I get here in my room?

I turned to my left side - like from the dream - expecting to see someone. Then I was drenched with reality.

The nightmare did happen. And I was living in it.

My phone started buzzing, fulling up the eerie silence of my room. I searched around my bed and found it placed on my bedside table. I couldn’t remember if I placed it there last night. But most of all, I don’t remember returning home from the party either.

I glanced at the screen and found multiple unanswered calls from my sister, mom, and Sean. Even in this state, the first thing I thought was work. So I returned Sean’s call first.

He answered on the first ring.

“My God! You’re alive!” He nearly screamed, which make me flinched and pull the phone away from my ears.

“Why are you saying that? Of course, I’m alive...” I muttered dryly as I placed the phone back to my ears. My voice was hoarse from sleep.

“Well, for one, you weren’t answering anyone’s call since last night. Your sister asked some guy to take you home since Mr. Hawksley vouched for it.” He explained.

“What? What guy?”

“What guy? You know, the hunk tall, dark-haired, built guy who whisked you away princess carry-style out of the venue.” He added.

“And you sound like I should be aware of this, why?”

“Because you were the other party! You don’t remember anything? How wasted were you last night?”

I groaned.

My head started throbbing as I tried to remember anything he was telling me. “I think I had enough to keep me from remembering any of that stuff. And who is this guy you keep asking? I don’t know any guy who’ll whisk me away princess-style per your words.” I scoffed.

“Oh! Don’t make me look like a fool in this conversation. There were witnesses and possibly photos that’ll be good hard evidence.”

“What?” I started to sweat at that information. Thinking about it, if what he said was true, that’ll be a scandalous gossip. And I had a few work colleagues, who I know would gossip, invited to that party. “No. No, please tell me there were no pictures. Don’t say that, Sean.” I groaned and stood up too fast I lost my balance.

I yelped as I broke my fall with my arm, which wasn’t a good idea. Now, it felt like I’ve broken something - other than my dignity.

“Amy! Are you okay? Do you want me to call someone to your place?” He asked worriedly.

I replied a moment later after I concluded I only needed ice for the bruise. “No. I’m fine. I’ll be sure to sober up and stay in bed today.”

I could hear Sean sigh in relief on the other end of the phone.

“Good. But just in case, call someone, or your sister. Under the short time we’ve met, I’ve not once seen you this drunk and reckless before. I hope this isn’t the effect of being thirty. Because, Amy, that’s only a number. You’re young, beautiful, and still a hot commodity.”

“Thank you for that assurance, Sean,” I sighed heavily.

Since I turned thirty, all I’ve been hearing from people was an impending doom that I don’t really need. I knew all of that long before I turned thirty. Why feel bad for myself now?

“Anyways, Sean, I called not to discuss my party last night. Was there any other reason you called me? Something about work?” I quickly changed the subject.

Now, it was his turn to sigh dejectedly. “You know, this is the reason why people kept on pestering you about romance, and your life, Amy. You’re too much of a workaholic. Think about yourself for now...”

I was about to interrupt when he continued on, “... and not to worry, we are fine here, Amy. Get some rest and sober up. I’ll see you on Monday.”

“Okay. See you, Sean. Thank you for calling to see if I was okay.”

“That’s what friends are here for, Amy.”

Per Sean’s instruction, I called my sister next, which got me an earful. And here I thought the April from last night won’t make another appearance. I must have opened Pandora’s box.

From my conversation with Sean, I got a slight recollection of Mr. Bartender – Dean was his name. From what I remembered, he vaguely fitted Sean’s description of the man who carried me princess-style. Who is that man?

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