The interview went live as scheduled. Susan couldn’t contain her squeal of delight when she saw Rome coming into the lounge with Alex. But once they were seated in the plush, elegant setting and the cameras started to roll, she turned serious as she eloquently threw questions at him.
Susan asked him when he started to have an interest in racing. He indulged her with what the public already knew about him. Like almost all racers, he began go-karting during his teens. He won in a few competitions. In between studies, he enrolled in a racing school and secured the necessary licenses, hiring a racing coach. He participated in junior formulas in the United Kingdom as well as in Malaysia and Australia in his spare time, juggling college and post-graduate studies with racing. Four years ago, he quit his job and decided to go full-time. As luck would have it, his exceptional racing style was spotted by the Kazuki Japanese group at the Japanese Grand Prix. They offered him a place in their team. He worked his way up by accumulating points before winning the championship two years ago.
Susan listened intently and commented that his successful climb up in formula car racing was nothing short of meteoric.
As the cameras rolled, Alex’s eyes fastened on him, noting his handsome face and his tasteful choice of clothes. She marveled at the way he answered Susan’s barrage of questions, charmingly replying with wit and ease. This was his first time doing a live interview, but he’s killing it. She couldn’t be more happier. She knew he was being extra polite and well-mannered to avoid the issue on Kazuki’s temporary walking orders due to his scandalous behavior. She prayed Susan wouldn’t mention it like she promised. True to her word, her friend just kept nodding and smiling, letting Rome drone on.
All was going well. From behind a cameraman, Alex smiled to herself, feeling proud of her achievement. Tomorrow, she’ll schedule another interview with another network, if Rome would be amenable. Her mind was already planning out his itinerary for next week.
Suddenly, she noticed Susan leaning forward, primly placing her hands on her lap, squaring her shoulders. Alex felt a spark of fear course through her. She knew Susan too well. When she did that, she has something on her mind, and nothing—not even a natural calamity—can stop her. “No, no, no, Susan,” she whispered fearfully. “What are you planning to do?”
Her friend’s voice dripped like honey, her face full of childlike curiosity. “I’m just wondering, Mr. Alvez. You said you quit your job before you decided to go full-time into racing.”
“Yes,” Rome agreed, a smile plastered on his face. “I figured why not devote all my time to my hobby and make money out of it?”
Susan let a second or two pass before she followed it up with another question. “I agree. And what did you say was your previous job?”
His smile faltered. “I didn’t say. It doesn’t matter. I race cars now.”
“Of course it does, Mr. Alvez. I’m sure your fans would like to learn that you don’t just have capable, racing hands. You have an intelligent, academic mind as well. Obviously, they’d want to get to know you better, the man behind the fastest wheels this side of the world. After all, we know almost nothing of you before your astounding success as a racer. So, what was your profession before you raced?”
Her tone, although sweet, was firm and demanded an answer. She knew she had him cornered. His smile was now definitely absent. Alex noticed the deep crease on his forehead and she sensed his face was slowly shutting down.
“I was a doctor,” he snapped in reply, his whole body stiff as a rod.
“Impressive,” Susan’s brow smugly arched, and Alex suddenly realized she already knew about it. Panic sneaked into her. Why, oh, why did she tell her to use her research prowess? She should have kept her mouth shut. But where and how did Susan get her information, when even she was not privy to it? Come to think of it, Susan was right. There was no mention of anything before Rome’s racing career in all his promotional biographies. Was that intentional?
The reporter continued. “It’s very rare for a car racer to successfully juggle racing and attain a college degree and a specialization. But in your case, you did. You’re quite an overachiever, Mr. Alvez, and very humble, too. What did you specialize in?”
His lips thinned. Alex watched as the tips of his ears turned red before monotoning, “Cardiac surgery.”
“Amazing!” Susan swooned. “Imagine, a heart surgeon turned car racer. Although I can’t imagine why you’d suddenly turn your back on such a noble profession which you spent almost half your life studying and specializing in.”
His answer was curt and crisp, telling her in no uncertain ways that the topic was forbidden. “I have my reasons.”
“I’m sure you do, Mr. Alvez, I’m sure you do, and I respect that,” she purred. “Okay. Well, then, can you share with us some of your memorable moments in the medical profession?”
Rome turned to his left, his eyes zeroing in on Alex. She jerked backwards, staggered by the deep, agonizing blackness she glimpsed there. It scared the wits out of her. Her body shivered in fear. Gone were the charm and easy camaraderie Rome portrayed just a few moments ago. A veil of shadow had dropped over his face, shutting it down from everyone and everything.
Frantically, she waved her hands from her place behind the cameras, begging Susan to stop. But her friend was completely oblivious to the change in his demeanor. If she was aware of it, she blatantly ignored it.
“Memorable?” He spoke through clenched teeth.
Susan persisted, ignoring the turmoil she was presently creating. “Yes. I’m sure there were many. Being a surgeon must be exciting and fulfilling, surely? You get to save lives and heal ailing hearts. That would make all those long years of study and training worth it, right?”
There was a long silence as his eyes narrowed to slits, his nostrils flaring. It lengthened considerably, uncomfortably. Murmurs and shuffles of feet started to be heard. Susan just kept smiling, waiting for his reply, but Alex saw her bottom lip quivered a bit, a sign that his glacial stare was getting on her nerves, too.
After what seemed like forever, Rome turned her eyes on Alex as he growled—literally growled—spitting out the words: “Memorable, you say? Does my fiancee… dying under my scalpel …count?”
Alex gasped, as did everyone there. Groaning, she covered her face with her hands. She knew she was now officially jobless.