Every time you walk away, it aches
I know it’s the pain of heart break
I beg you, please stay, let’s have a retake
This time, I promise to make a better mistake.
“You have a meeting with the France people at eight in the evening. I’ve also booked a suite for you at France.” Steve spoke, glaring at his notepad. “Gregory wants to have a chat with you, and he is waiting at the pub, the usual one.”
“What does he want this time?” I muttered under my breath. It was the third time, he wanted to talk to me about the hotel we were fighting to have on our side. I had managed to get rid of him all the other time. “Did you give him the appointment?”
“Err… yes.” Steve looked up from his notepad and gave a nervous laugh. “You are free till your flight at six.”
I rubbed my brows and sighed. I have to meet him one day or the other. “Fine.”
I walked past Steve. “Wait here, I’ll be back soon.” I turned my heels towards the ‘staff only’ area of my restaurant.
“Ginger!” Dylan was shouting at a corner. “Why can’t you put ginger in that dish? Just because you have a name Ginger, doesn’t mean that it comes naturally with anything you do!”
I smiled at my best friend and walked towards him. I could see Joe shake his head as he stuffed the turkey in the oven. The place remained exactly the same since the last I saw, except that Dylan was at the head post.
“Enjoying the position, are we?” I asked as I reached them, with a sly smile on my face.
“Miles!” Joe said, turning towards me. “You should take this guy down from it. Look how he is using his powers over us!”
I laughed. I jumped up to sit on the side slab of the kitchen. A few heads turned towards my side to see me and then quickly averted their gazes and continued with their work. I ignored them.
“So, tell me what did he blackmail you this time?”
Dylan was a better at management along with his cooking skills. It was one of the reasons why I had chosen him to be at the head post. He knew how to make one flinch and make sure that they delivered what was supposed to be done. Joe on the other hand was a softie. He couldn’t hurt a fly with his bare hands. So when I made Dill as the head, Joe did not seemed biased by that idea.
“It was one of Saturday nights and this idiot wants to hang out with his new girlfriend.” Dill just rolled his eyes.“I told him that if he steps out of the area, he will lose his job.”
“Just look at him, swaying his ass with all his idiotic authority over us.” Joe complained, though I was sure there was no hard feelings about it.
Joe and I both stared at Dylan, who just shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest. I let out a small laugh. “Easy there Dill, don’t you remember that party eve?”
“What party?” Dylan put on an innocent face, while Joe seemed satisfied.
“The one where you wanted to bang that girl as she was an eight in your beauty scale?” I recalled that evening for him. It was not less than few weeks ago. We were at the staff only area, rating girls (on demand from Dill, of course) when Dill saw her. “You tossed your apron at me asking me to complete your task and you went out with her.”
“That’s not fair, Miles.” Dylan wined. “It was a matter of my pride. I hardly see any girl with a rating more than six.”
“That’s because you are a jerk, rating girls.” Joe said, checking on his turkey. “That explains why every girl you had went out before, spits at you when she sees you now.”
I laughed, swaying my legs down the counter. “They really do that?”
“This girl, I don’t know her name, Clara, I guess.” Joe said, laughing.
“Joe—” Dylan pointed a finger at him. “Don’t”
I gestured Joe to continue and ignore Dylan.
“Yeah, Dylan had gone out with her the last night and the following evening, she came to this exact spot,” Joe advanced a few steps to show the precise location where it had happened. “Exactly here, she called his name out loud. When he went forward, she spit at him and turned her heels away.”
Joe and I, both burst out laughing, while Dylan crossed his arms tighter and turned away.
“Logan!” Dylan shouted, not bothered by our laughter. “Get your damn shoes off my kitchen!”
“God, I miss you guys.” I said, wiping a tear from my eyes. I don’t remember the last time I had laughed so much. “So, who’s this girl, Joe?” I asked after a while.
Joe rubbed his neck nervously. “Just someone I met in the market—”
“Just ask him how?” Dylan smirked.
“Fine, I was buying fish in the yard.” Joe frowned at Dylan. “Happy?”
I hid my laughter and winked at Dill when Joe was not looking. A cooker from the other corner of the kitchen made a whoosh sound, making it seem as if it was making fun of Joe too.
“She’s nice.” Joe said, after some time. He took the turkey out of the oven and started slicing. He took the cooked potatoes and started mashing it.
“Please,” Dylan said, keeping a hand in front of Joe to stop. “She’s hardly a five.”
I rolled my eyes, with a slow smile. “When have you ever given a ten?”
“Exactly.” Joe said, high-fiving me.
Dylan brought out a glass of water and poured on the curry he was preparing. “I did give a ten to Megan.” He muttered, too low that I couldn’t hear.
“Dill,” I said, my mood slowing becoming blue. “Not again.”
“Come on, Miles.” Joe said, wiping his hands on his apron. “I agree that you both have made mistakes; can’t you leave that all behind and move on?”
“Oh, trust me,” I said, jumping off the counter. I grabbed the turkey slices and the potato smash and started mixing them together— a way to make myself comfortable as the air in the room seemed to become heavy. “I really am moving on.”
“You are still in love with her, aren’t you?” Dylan said, slowly, with a low voice as if he realized that the earth was not flat.
“No!” I said, pushing the utensils away from me. It made a cling sound as it hit the walls, making the other staff people wonder what was that all about. I lowered my voice. “I don’t love her… anymore.” I said looking away.
“But you don’t hate her either.” Joe said, casually reaching for meat-potato mix.
I closed my eyes to control myself. I could see her face— fair and perfect. Her turquoise blue eyes shone brightly, as the sun rays hit her face, giving gentle shadows along her jawline. “Miles.” She said, just as I opened my eyes.
“I’ve had this conversation for more than hundred times already.” I muttered as I washed my hands in the sink and walked out of the kitchen.
So much for staying behind and talking to my friends.
Steve was still outside, looking out of the window. As he saw me approach, he stood up formally dusting his pants. “Sir?”
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. I shouldn’t let her control me. I shook my head, “Where am I meeting Gregory?”
Gregory Hatters was one of the very well-known executives of the famous ’Hatter Enterprises’. It mostly includes ship building and marketing. But from past year, he’s been keen on getting his hands on hotel management.
To my surprise, he did go on flying colors, achieving names in that area too. I have a hunch that it was because he was already famous, but who’s to know. He had been my severe competitor since then.
“This room, sir.” Steve said, as we walked across a series of stretched corridors, which likely seemed like the same song that’s been playing on a loop.
I nodded at Steve and stepped along the way which he lead. Towards the right, at the fifth room, if I’m right, Steve stopped and talked with the man who was standing outside the door. The man looked like a body-guard, with heavy arms and a tanned skin tone.
Once, the body-guard shook his head, letting us go past him, Steve and I both entered into the room. The room was more like a small house, with its own lobby.
“Should I wait here, till you are done, sir?” Steve asked, as he stopped at the entrance of another door.
“That would be nice.” I smiled at him. “I’ll ring you when I’m done.”
I unlocked the door in front of me. Bright lights illuminated the halls, which held expensive sofa sets and furniture. Gregory stood up to greet me as I went towards him.
“Thank God, I finally get a hold of you, Miles.” He shook my head. His accent was smooth and though he was from Italy, his accent was British. His nicely shaven head shone as he bobbed his head acknowledging me to sit down.
“Good you see you too Gregory.” I smiled, giving a formal shake.
I unbuttoned my coat and made myself comfortable. There was a big glass wardrobe, filled with all the types of alcohol that one could ever imagine. Across it, at the corner of the wall, there was a camera that recorded all the events in the room.
“I heard that you were desperate to talk to me.” I started.
Gregory gave me a smile, “Oh, Miles, you are always in such a hurry. Why don’t we chat over a glass of whiskey?”
“I don’t drink.” I said, declining his offer. “But you go on,” I gestured him as he started pouring a glass of whiskey.
“It’s 1873.” Gregory said, holding his bottle up to his eye level as his green eyes shone brightly against it.
“That’s okay, I’m good.” I said, giving him a polite smile. “So, tell me what am I doing here?”
“I was coming to the point.” He said, taking a sip from his glass. “I heard that you were going to France tonight. For the Hamilton hotel I suppose?”
How on earth did he get to know about that?
“Yes.” I said, not giving away. I played poker face, non letting him know that I was shocked to hear it. I crossed my leg, right over the left and rested my hand on top of them. “I was wondering if I could take the hotel under my care.”
“What a coincidence, Miles.” Gregory laughed. “I was thinking the same.”
“Bad timing Gregory.” I said with a sly smile. “I’ve already talked with those authorities and they are okay with our services.”
“That’s what you said to me when you went to Chailey.” He grunted. “You have been snatching away all my business. And I can’t stand to it.”
I shrugged. That was not my problem.
“As far as I know, the shipping and marketing are going very well for you, isn’t it?” I said, leaning towards him. “And I don’t remember talking that away from you.”
“You do mock.” His eyes were full of anger as he leaned towards me, our faces only inches apart. Though Gregory was in late fifties, he had a sense of authority around him that would make anyone respect whatever came out of his mouth. “I want you out of my way.”
“I still don’t understand why I’m here.” I said, leaning away from him. “I mean both of us have done our share in getting the hotels, but it’s up to them to choose who’s to be in charge.”
“I want you to back off.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, not able to control my laughter. “Are you for real?”
“Look,” He said, placing his glass away. For someone with no ambitious heir to handle his business after his time expires, he was sure intense on getting his hands into the business. “I’ve been in managing even before you were born. I know what I’m doing.”
I nodded, even though I didn’t know where this conversation was headed to.
“France is my daughter’s favorite place and I want to run a hotel there.” He said. “I’ve extended my financial and statistical targets just for her sake. I have also cleared up my trouble shooting problems. I’m all set.”
“I understand Gregory, but I don’t think stepping down would do me any good.” I said. Our security systems and monitoring the staff is the best. I’m not willing to sacrifice Hamilton hotel for his sentimental issues.
“So, I want to buy it from you.” Gregory said in a low voice. “I’ll give you twice of what they pay, just for you to back off.”
I chewed my inner cheek, letting his offer go into my head. Hamilton hotel was the most well-known hotel and is very much in demand. The only reason I put it into consideration was that it would give me millions of turnover annually and letting it all go, didn’t seem like a good idea.
I had a meeting with the hotel manager last week regarding the annual profit report. According to it, the annual profit was over twenty million excluding the bonus. They were willing to make an agreement with us for half of their annual profit with thirty percent of the bonus along with incentives.
But Gregory’s offer was not even close to what profit I would earn there once the hotel was under me. If I agreed to it, I was sure that I would be in a great loss.
“I’ll pass Gregory.” I said, getting up. I buttoned my coat, a signature move to let him know that I wouldn’t be staying to hear more of his bargains. “It was nice meeting you.”
“Think about it Miles,” He said, standing up. “You won’t have to deal with all the issues and travelling hours together when there’s security problems which is so often there.”
“I’m willing to take risks here Gregory.” I smiled. “And we are good at what we do.”
“Ah, I like the young spirit.” He said, with a knowing smile. “Okay, I’ll triple the rate. What do you say?”
“Triple?” I asked not able to believe I was auctioning along with him. “Make it four times.”
“That’s a little too much, son.” He said. “I don’t understand why you are so adamant on talking over that hotel.”
“Four times the actual pay of the hotel, I’ll back off.” I said, ignoring his comments. “I’m sure it’s more than what I rate it, but I’ll settle for this.”
“Triple is my final offer, Miles.” Gregory said. “I must warn you of the consequences though.”
“Well, I’m ready to face it all.” I said, buttoning my coat. “I’m really flattered that you called. I’ll be meeting you tomorrow at France then?”
“Meet you then.” He said, his eyes cold as he watched me.
“Let’s just leave the managers there to decide.” I smiled as I protruded my hand forward to shake his.
He gave me slow nod. “Wish you luck son.”
“You too, Mr Hatters.”
I made myself out of the room into the lobby where Steve was waiting. He was on the phone and when he saw me, he quickly cut the call and looked at me expectantly.
“He wanted to buy his way to the hotel.” I said rolling my eyes.
“Did you agree to it?” Steve asked with wide eyes. “I should have made more calls and should have let you known what the matter was.”
“Take a break Steve.” I said, walking out of the lobby towards the long corridors. This boy was one of the best guys that I’ve hired so far. He even works overtime to make sure that I’m in my right path. “I asked him to pay me four times what they pay at France and he backed off.”
Steve gave a bright smile. “I spoke to one of the authorities of France just now, and they say that the chances of us holding it are more than Hatters, as their trouble shooting is not as good as ours.”
I gave him a side smile, as we walked out of the building. But what did Gregory mean when he said that I must be warned of the consequences? Would he hurt me? My family? Or… her?
Is she okay now? Or did Gregory send his men right away to her. I’m sure he had seen the news of how close I had been with her for the past years, will he dare…?
“Steve, I’ll meet you at the ‘Jackson’s toast’ within ten.” I said. “Take the cars along with you. I want to have a run on something.”
“Sir, the media?”
“I’m sure you can veer them in the other direction.” I said, winking at him. “I’ll take the smaller car, so no one gets to know about that.”
“Okay sir.” He said and walked towards the guards who were waiting by the car. The area was paparazzi-free and for once I was thankful that they were not behind me.
The driver came to me and handed me the keys and rode with the other two cars that had accompanied with us. I nodded at them and they went reversed back before heading to the Jackson’s toast.
As I sat on the car and started the engine, thoughts of Megan and the threats of Gregory raced over and over in my head. My stomach churned thinking of her getting hurt because of me.
I raced through the old roads, where her shop was present. Within half an hour, I was there and I, stealthily parked my car behind the bushes so that she wouldn’t see me.
I cranked my neck up, to see her. There she was with her skinny jeans and a white tank top, smiling at a few flowers as she smelled them. It had been so long since I had seen her smile. A wave of nostalgia hit me as I watched her.
But as soon as she turned around, I saw a guy behind her, getting those flowers out in the front desk. He was around my age, give or take a few years, mostly take. He didn’t seem to look like he was there as a customer. What’s he doing there?
As I creepily watched across the transparent window, I saw Megan laughing along with some stupid joke that he was cracking. I felt my blood boil. Here I am, tensed that she’s hurt but she… she is all laughing around that jerk.
I felt like an idiot for even turning my car towards her shop to check upon her. Suddenly, Megan came out of the shop, almost near my car, to throw out the waste into the garbage can.
Shit! I had parked just next to the bin. Thank god, my car window was tinted in a darker shade for her to see me.
I held my breath as she passed my vehicle to get to the dustbin. She stood in front of my car eyeing it and, for a second I thought she saw me. Her eyes had lost its colour, but she looked better than I had seen her at the party.
Her eye brows furrowed together in a cute fashion, just like those times when I used to tease her and she acted all angry at me. I wanted to reach out and stroke those tension lines away from her face, but I knew I couldn’t.
She shook her head and looked away. For a tiny second, I thought she heard me. But then I realized that I never spoke. She walked away towards her shop, giving another look at the car. Few moments later, she came out of the shop with a small smile on her lips as she kept all her deliveries in her SUV.
“Bye Thomas.” She called out loud before she rode away. I wonder if she ever remembers me.