Chapter 1 - The Letter
“No way! You have to be lying,” I laughed when Amanda told me about her terrific date from last night. She shook her head, hardly managing to keep herself from laughing, too.
“Do you really think your dear assistant would lie to you? I swear to God he called me Samantha even after I had reminded him four times that he got it wrong! Way to make sure I wouldn’t call him again. He probably saved my number as “Samantha” also.”
I chuckled, flipping through the papers she had brought for me to look over. We had a lot of work these days but I didn’t complain. Having finally managed to snag that big client we had been warming up for months was a great achievement for our young company.
“How’s it going with Tim by the way?” She eyed me with curiosity from between the piles of file folders she had brought over on my desk.
I glanced at her with a smirk. “You know, he would kill you when he heard you calling that. He’s obsessed with his employees calling him by his full name for some reason.”
Amanda rolled her eyes and opened another folder to place there the papers I had signed. “Tim, Timothy, who cares? Even if he is your business partner, you still own most of the company. And anyway, you’re my boss not him.” She closed the folder with a snap and glared at me. “But you didn’t answer my question.”
I shook my head, feeling slightly helpless. “There is nothing to tell. We are nothing more than business partners.”
She snorted. “Yeah right! He has been trying to ask you out for how long? Two years, if I remember correctly.”
I stopped scouring the contract I had to sign and placed it back on the table. Looking into her demanding hazel eyes, I sighed. “I just don’t feel it with him. It’s nice to be friends, but nothing more. We work well together as partners and that’s good enough for me.”
“But he isn’t that bad. He’s pretty good looking and tall, too. Even though he’s 28, he’s only six years older than you,” Amanda pressed on. “I’d at least give him a chance.”
The age difference had never been a problem for me.
I shook my head with a sad smile. “I think I’ve had enough of having relationships for a while. Besides, I don’t have time for it right now when keeping the client depends on our performance.”
She eyed me, her large eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Are you still upset because of that jerk, what-was-his-name you dated two years ago? That man was crazy to leave you like that!” She raised from her chair to take the folders back to the shelf. He heels clinking angrily on the stone floor. “He didn’t deserve you anyway.”
I chuckled and went back to signing the contract. “His name was Harry, and no, I’m not upset at him anymore. I just feel like work is more important for now.” Although he was part of the reason why I thought so. His reason for leaving me had hurt me too deeply and it had left a scar that was still healing.
“You are just too much. I don’t feel that I can support you with your dreams when I feel like I’m the one who has to always look up to you. It just doesn’t feel right.”
Those words he said on the day he finished our relationship still rang clear in my ears. I had been extremely confused and angry, feeling that such a reason for breaking up after 18 months of happily being together was complete bullshit. I felt betrayed, the pain in my heart making me almost lose sight of my goal.
But then I saw a picture in an article about a young, but extremely successful entrepreneur with piercing grey eyes. And I remembered. I remembered why he was on the other side of the world while I was still in San Francisco. And the words he had once told me.
“You don’t need me to be great because you’re already great by yourself.”
I glanced at the calendar on the wall and stared at the date absentmindedly. It had been four years and three months since then. Since we started the game. Was the game still continuing? I didn’t know. But I knew one thing.
I had won. Because I had moved on.
“Scarlett, do you think you could come to the party tonight? It’s going to be extremely boring if I have to go alone. I was counting on my date but after what happened yesterday I don’t even want to hear his voice.”
I checked my calendar. “Sure. But I need to finish writing the proposal for that tech company we found.”
She groaned, already knowing my habit of forgetting myself in work. Picking up the last folders she started moving towards the door. “I’ll help you with that but you have to promise that when even the two of us can’t get it done by six, we’re going.” She sent me a stern look when she opened the light wooden door.
I raised my hands in defeat. “Alright, alright. As you say, Boss.”
“I’ll get the papers.” She smiled smugly and closed the door, leaving me in my small comfy office all alone. I smiled to myself and continued flipping through the papers. What would I do without her?
The door suddenly opening again made me look up. “Um, you have a visitor.” Amanda sent me a weird look that told me this wasn’t some usual client.
“Let them in then.” I collected the scattered papers quickly and put them in a neat pile before a tall man with long hair tied back stepped in.
“Brandon?” I stood up in surprise. It had been years from the last time I saw him. I thought he had moved to England after graduating from college.
He smiled brightly and crossed the distance between my desk and the door in a few casual strides.
Brandon looked a bit different from what I remembered. His easygoing attitude was still visible but his formal attire and neat goatee made him look much more mature.
“Hey, Scarlett! Looking even better now than I remember.” He kissed me on the cheek before flopping comfortably into the visitor’s chair. Slowly, I slipped back into my seat and entwined my fingers on top of the desk. I was a bit shaken by the thought of what Brandon’s visit meant. This couldn’t be just a coincidence.
“I see you’ve done a great job with your business.” He tapped the armrest with his long fingers while letting his eyes travel around the room.
“Yeah, it’s been a good year. We’re still young on the market but we’re steadily getting more visibility.” I glanced down on my hands that were trembling slightly. Why was I feeling so nervous all of a sudden?
Brandon hummed his approval and his eyes finally stopped on me. “Christian told me that you won that StartUp of the year title.”
I blinked in surprise. He knew? Had he been following my progress throughout the years? I felt a wave of warmth rush into my heart but there was also a slight tinge of guilt.
“I just arrived from London a few hours ago.”
His words made me pull in a sharp breath with anticipation.
I watched as he leaned forward and pulled out a small white envelope from his breast pocket. Willing my hands to be steady, I accepted the letter when he reached it out for me.
In deep red ink was written my name in the same elegant handwriting I had last seen four years ago on a similar envelope. Red. The nickname he had given me at that time seemed extremely intimate to me now. No one other than him had called me that.
“I don’t know what’s in there but he told me to make it my priority to deliver this to you as soon as I arrive. He was awfully impatient.” He winked, making me cheeks tinge with color.
I touched the red lines on the paper but didn’t open it. This was meant to be read privately.
As if sensing my thoughts, Brandon stood up. “I’ll get going now that I’ve completed my task.” I stood up to send him out. When we reached the door he stopped and turned around to look at me seriously. “He has been waiting for this you know.”
I felt how my heart tightened up at his words. Was I the only one who won the game? Was he still…waiting?
When Brandon was gone, Amanda sent me sneaky glances but didn’t ask anything when she saw my face.
“Amanda, I’m going to take a break for half an hour. Can you make sure no one will enter or call while I’m resting?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll make sure no one will disturb you.” She looked at me with worry when I closed myself into my office.
I stared at the envelope, for some reason feeling like my heart was under pressure. Carefully ripping it open, I found two folded sheets of paper. My fingers had stopped trembling and seeing the letter made me suddenly feel calm. I took in the familiar lines on the paper.
It is finally time to meet again and take a look at the results of our Game. I know this letter is late by three months but I thought you would refuse to fly to London when your company needed you. Now that you have managed to solidify your position, I think it is time.
With the letter you will find a flight ticket for a plane that departs on 15th November. It is still your choice if you want to use it to meet me again. In the case that you don’t come, I’ll silently take it as a sign that the Game has ended between us.
I will be waiting for you to come, so that we can finally put an end to this Game.
15th November. That was in three weeks. I opened my calendar with a small frown. I was going to have to cut it tight if I wanted to go. But I had to go. Even when I had won and moved on. If he hadn’t, I wanted to make sure that he would hear it from my own mouth.
I unfolded the other paper that had flight details and my flight ticket number. First class. Why didn’t that surprise me? Noticing a small note attached to the paper I couldn’t help but smile.
I know you’re probably not so happy that I bought you the tickets and didn’t let you pay but just so you know, they’re non-refundable. And I won’t tell you how much they cost.
Shaking my head with a wide grin adorning my face, I folded the letter and placed it back into the envelope. He was still the same. Completely disagreeable when it came to paying. I guess I hadn’t changed in that aspect either.
Taking out my phone, I dialed a number and waited.
The line connected and a crisp male voice answered. “Hello?”
Leaning into my chair I turned it to face the beautiful San Francisco’s Bay that was visible from the tall window.
“Hey, Timothy. What do you think about expanding our business to England?”