My Last Valentine Day With Boss

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Chapter Four: The Invitation

For the first time in a long time, Laura was in a good mood. Having lunch with Emma was refreshing. They both talked the whole time, and Laura realized that Emma also didn’t have any friends. Maybe they could eventually even become friends.

Once they were in the office, time flew. It was only 4 pm, but everyone was already leaving. The office was closing earlier, just like it does every year on this important date. Laura had just begun to pack her things when she was approached by James. Emma smiled at them and left.

“So… Have you considered my offer?”, he asked with a quirky smile.

“I thought it was just an excuse.”, Laura said.

“No. I told you that I meant it. I want you to be my date tonight.”

Laura laughed. James looked at her with a serious and confused expression. He was being serious, and she couldn’t understand why.

“As if.”, she started. “I don’t even have a dress.”

“Then we’ll get one.”, James suggested.

His charm was undeniable. Those blue eyes were piercing her soul and his expensive black suit was flattering. James really was a dream guy, so Laura couldn’t understand why he had invited her. Her silence took too long, and James took it as a yes.

“Then it’s a date!”, he announced. “I’ll be at your house at 7.”, he finished, right before leaving.

Laura was standing still and her vocal cords could not even make a sound. She picked up her bag and noticed that she was shaking. Why was she getting all nervous again? Well, this time, she could use the excuse of the dinner instead of being nervous because of him. There was no way that she would ever admit that.

Everyone would see her at the event, right by James’s side. Was she ready for all that attention? Would he throw her away like a piece of garbage when the night was over? That is why she always avoided men. They have no feelings and they are always such jerks. Why didn’t she refuse his request? Maybe, Laura was happy for making a new friend at work today and she let that cloud her decision. But happiness is something that she has not felt in a long time.

She got out of the building and went back to the subway station. During the ride home, both on the subway and on the bus, she kept thinking about James’s true intentions with her. And what was the secret about her neighborhood that he so desperately wanted to hide?

Laura had decided that she was not going to the dinner party. When James was to arrive at her place, she would just refuse his invitation. In her mind, he would not be able to force her. But why does she feel like she, deep down, wants to go? Why does her mind keep replaying James’s pretty face on a loop? Laura wanted to take the opportunity so that she could spend more time with him. But what if he rejected her?

When she arrived home, her mother was already there. It was only 5.15 pm, so she also left work earlier.

“Already home?”, Laura asked her mom.

“Yes. Mr. Boone will attend the dinner later tonight. You know, your company’s dinner.”, she clarified.

“That’s odd. He never went before, did he?”, Laura asked.

Mr. Boone, or just Howard, was a businessman that grew up with Linda. He was born poor, like the rest of the people there, but then he started to run some shady businesses and mysteriously got rich. He also thinks that he is better than everyone else now, so he hired Laura’s mother to be his housemaid.

“Yeah, I think so.”, Linda replied.

Laura thought that it was odd, but she forgot about it. She had something else to think about. Since she was not used to having someone else home, she decided to go to her room, in order to have more privacy.

She starting thinking about saying yes to dinner. What did she have to lose? She liked the way she was feeling at lunch earlier today when she was with Emma. They were being friends. And Laura has almost forgotten what being with someone was like. If she wanted to be with James, why couldn’t she go? Was she supposed to live that monotonous boring life forever? She had to take some risks at some point.

In a bold decision, she decided to get ready. First, she had to take a bath. Laura wanted to make sure that her body was smelling the best if she was going to meet all of those fancy people. And, honestly, she would also appreciate it if James liked how nice she smelled.

She went into the bathroom and picked up her best bath bomb. This one was expensive, and Laura was not sure when was she planning on using it. Well, this was the perfect chance to do so! She filled up the bathtub and placed the bath bomb in the water, which quickly dissolved and irradiated a magical scent. It was good stuff.

Laura went in and started to rub her entire body with its foam. She was going to leave home smelling wonderful. She got out of the bath and decided that she was going to curly her hair, something that she usually never does, but this was a very special occasion. By the time she was done, it was already 6.30 in the afternoon.

“Shit!”, she thought.

She goes to choose her best outfit, just to realize that she had nothing that could even remotely suit such occasion. Her closet was full of oversized sweaters, leggings, workout clothes and other comfortable sweaters and pants. Not only was that what she wears to work every day, but to the grocery store too. And those two are about the only trips that she makes when she leaves the house. She doesn’t go to parties, and maybe she really shouldn’t attend this one either.

Suddenly, the doorbell ranged. Could it possibly be James already? Her mom opens the door and greets him, telling him to step inside. While still in her bedroom, Laura desperately dresses a green shirt and some basic dark blue jeans. There was nothing better to wear. Besides, James said that they could go buy a dress, so why wouldn’t she accept that offer?

She sprayed herself with her best perfume and nearly emptied the entire bottle. Then, she put on her wedding shoes, which is just a nice pair of black shoes that she wears to every wedding she ever goes to. Finally, she got out of her bedroom and heads downstairs.

James is sitting at her kitchen table, eating something that her mother offered him.

“There you are, sweetie.”, Linda says. “I baked some cookies. You didn’t tell me that you were going out tonight!”.

“She didn’t?”, James asked, surprised.

“I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go.”, Laura confessed.

James got up and took a good look at Laura. Maybe she was dressing too ordinary for his liking. He, on the other hand, had a nice grey suit that irradiated to be custom made from very expensive materials. James stretched out his hand and Laura grabbed it.

“Let’s go, then.”, he said.

A simple goodbye to her mom was enough. Laura was happy that she was living in her house now, but it was also kind of sad that they were not spending any time together. James opened the door and signaled Laura to go first. He did the same thing in the car. It was a very expensive and beautiful car too. She is used to the smelly odor that comes from the bus seats, not to heated leather.

It was strange that they were both inside his car, driving to one of the most important parties in the state, without even knowing too much about each other. Laura knew that she felt something for him, she just could not explain it yet. But she wondered if he also felt something for her too, or was it all just an act?

“We need to go get you a dress.”, James said.

“Okay.”, Laura agreed.

The radio was on, but it was so low that it was barely noticeable. The dash lights were lighting his face, and Laura took a good look at him. She was incredibly attracted to him, but she felt that he would never look at her that way. She is not pretty, in her opinion.

“Why are you staring at me?”, James asked, smiling.

Laura got embarrassed. She didn’t even know what to say.

“I don’t know…”, she said.

“Is there a problem?”, he asked her with a more serious tone.

“I don’t know why you’d invite me.”, she confessed.

“Why not?”

“Because I’m nothing like the other girls that you usually bring.”

“Don’t say that. You should not think so little of yourself. You are actually really pretty.”

Did James just tell her that she was pretty? Okay, now her heart was ready to pop out of her chest. But what if he was just being nice and polite? He probably does not feel that way about her anyway.

“It’s true. We have barely even spoken. I have a feeling that you’re just using me…”. Laura’s tone was serious and sad. She was regretting getting in his car.

“Why would you think that?”, he asked upset.

“Because you want me to keep your secret.”, she revealed.

“Yes, I want you to keep my secret. But that’s not why I invited you.”

“Then why did you?”. She sounded angry and that was making James get angry too.

“Because, for the first time in my life, I am single!”, he shouted. “I can’t be a failure to my family like that.”

“So, you just want me to be your escort? Because being seen with a different girl every year will make your family proud?”, Laura shouted.

“Yes, for my fucked-up family, that is a success!”, he shouted back at her.

Laura’s expression changed. She was not expecting such a response.

“Since I can remember that my father cheats on my mom with everyone!”, he continued. “You don’t know my father. You don’t know how much he pressures me to be like him!”.

“You’re an adult. You control your life.”, Laura said.

“I only wish that was the case.”

James got sad; she could hear it in his voice. Like he was just about to burst into tears. She felt bad for him. For one second, she wanted him to cry on her lap while she massaged his head. But that was not going to happen, because she was still not okay with the fact that he was just using her.

“I don’t want to go anymore.”, she said.

“What? Why?”

“Are seriously still asking me that? After all of what you just said?”

“I was just being honest! That does not mean that I do not want to enjoy your company and to be with you. Otherwise, I would’ve just invited somebody else.”

“Why would you want to be with me? I’m nobody.”, she said.

“Don’t say does things about yourself. You seem like a nice person and I would like to get to know you better. Can we please just go buy a dress and then you’ll decide if you still want to go to the party or not.”

“Okay.”, she agreed.

The car was taken by silence until they finally arrived at the mall. But it was not any mall, it was one of the most expensive malls in the country. Laura has never even been there because she cannot afford to shop at any of its stores.

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