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Chapter 6

Four horrible weeks passed by and the only good news I received in a while is my economy class ticket to Miami along with my daily schedule for the retreat. Departure will be after a week from today and the reatreat will last for exactly seven days. I requested in a open letter to take my annual leave of eight days right after the retreat. It got me a glare from Cathy and later a deadly stare from Ilene. In the open letter I stated clearly that I will change the return date of my ticket to match with my annual leave and I will cover all my expenses after the retreat ended including the ticket date change fee. I needed some time for my self alone, may be spend time in a white sandy beach just to think and reflect on my self. I thought three more days in miami and 5 days at my parent's place will help clear up my mind. The last couple of weeks, I've been lucky enough that no one on Cathy's list of buyers complained and I made sure every order is delivered on time. I even cross checked the orders before its sent to the store for delivery. That paid off. I never heard from Sam after his little visit to my house with soup. I overheard one of the employees from the travel unit complain about the load of work due to the retreat and the endless travel arrangements. He said that he arranged travel for Sam abroad twice this month. To bejing and Singapore. Busy guy!

The week went dragging by like it always does. My flight date on the ticket shows Saturday at 7 pm. I did an online check-in and selected my seat around the front by the window on friday. I had my whole Saturday to get ready and to pack up. Saturday at 5 pm I am at the airport with my passport and carry-on luggage at hand. I hate being late and run around the airport to catch a flight. It's stressful,so why not get there early, grab a cappuccino at one of the cafes around the gate and relax untill my boarding time. That's exactly what I did. I was one hour early at the boarding gate, sipping my cupuccino and flipping through Elle magazine I bought from duty free. Oh how I love traveling! I was dressed light for the plane ride. I wore my flat black ballerina shoes , beige khaki skinny pants, black blazer, white chiffon shirt and bright pink scarf. The scarf will come in handy when the AC gets really cold inside the cabin. I was looking at a picture on the magazine, chareliz Therion wearing gold for Dior perfume advertisement and I put my feet up on my carry-on luggage feeling relaxed.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and saw Sam. His hair is messed up and overgrown, he wore black jeans with blue back shirt and lazy man shoes. He looked younger. He smiled and said "you look different?"

"I was about to say the same thing to you." I smiled back.

He took a seat next to me and looked at the way I sat "you looked relaxed?"

" I love traveling, my parents and I used to travel at least once a year on summer vacation, that is before I went to business school and money became tight."

"looks good on you, relaxing!" he said and put his feet up on his carry-on on as I did.

"so what happened to Bangkok?"

"last minute change of plans, tight budget."

"Miami sounds good to me, although I was looking forward to Bangkok."

We looked at each other smiling and I noticed an elderly women looking at us with a sweet smile on her face. I returned the smile, tucked my hair behind my ear and looked down at my magazine.

" you need something to drink? He asked. I pointed to my cup and said" I already have one. "

He nodded" so anything new around office? "

" nope! It's all the same. But I got a cat now. "

He raised his eyebrow in surprise" really, a cat? "

" my parents came to visit two weeks before over the weekend and my mom surprised me with the cat."

" does she have a name?

"nope! not yet, and it's a he. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep him. I don't hate cats but I prefer dogs. Besides this cat is full grown, he creeps me out when I find him sitting on my window couch staring at me with his green eyes. I gave up my favorite seat in the house to this intruder and it sucks. " he threw his head back and laughed, the terminal echoed his laughter and we got glances from fello travelers. I looked around and noticed Ilene and her group of friends staring in dissaproval. I shift uncomfortably and put my feet down. He looked at Ilene and the group of friends staring at us and said

"ohh look, your friends from office" he said sarcastically.

"yeah, thanks for pointing that out!"

"you're welcome"

"so what's your seat number?" I asked hoping I'm not by any chance going to sit with Ilene and one of her friends.

"I'm business class my dear!"

"wow, you are a VIP to Northon I guess?"

"yeah, something like that."

" I used to travel with my parents a lot, and this one time we got a chance to be upgraded. It was a wonderful experience. I thought it was a random selection, since the economy was full, but my mom swore it was because we dressed to impress and told me to always dress well incase they are considering upgrading. "

" is that why? "he said and gestured to my outfit.

" I looked down at my self and said "oh no this is not dressing to impress, this is 'dress to comfort."

"okay, if you say so!"

We heard announcements about business class passengers to board the aircraft. "that's you!"

"I have to sit in there for 4 hours, so why rush?" he said and stretched out his legs.

We sat there Untill almost all passers boarded, I cought Ilene gawking at us while boarding. When the last call to board is made, we got up and went to the gate.

I took my seat at the window , next to me sat a guy wearing sun glasses, shorts and Hawaiian print shirt already on vacation mode! I fasten my seat belt, put a cream on my hands and face, arranged my scarf and start to scroll on the screen looking for something to watch. It was a toss up between Moana or les misreables. I always wanted to finish watching le misreables, I love the story but there's something about a musical that puts me off. So I decided on Moana,musical on cartoon characters is more acceptable. The captain announces for the cabin crew to prepare for take off. Thirty minutes later they started serving dinner. The smell got to me first and my appetite was gone. As I poked the white tasteless chicken with my fork, the guy next to me was almost done and is now looking at my plate of untouched food. I took the cheese stick and the juice, I smiled and said "I ate before the flight, would you like to have this?" I pointed to my plate. He smiled, nodded and took it. I was relieved. I took a bite from the cheese and sip my orange juice and watched Moana sing about the ocean calling her. Then I started to drift off to sleep. I woke up startled. I looked over to see the guy next to me, who now has taken off his sunglasses, gawking at me. Pervert! I covered my self with my scarf and looked at the dark screen. I guess the movie ended. I looked over the window and it's dark. Nothing to see. I tired to fall back to sleep, but I couldn't. I scrambled for other movies on the screen and decided on a documentary about haute couture. It showed three elderly women in Paris making couture wedding dresses. I flipped through my magazine and regretted not buying a book from one of the duty free shops. After about an hour and a half,the captain announced that we are landing shortly, informed us about the weather and wished us a pleasant and safe stay.

After landing I took out my carry on from the over head locker and got out as soon as I can to avoid lining up and running in to Ilene. I'm good at laying low. I reached at the exit door wondering if the company has prepared a ride or do we cover the expense. Sam appeared next to me, a little out of breath and said, "which hotel are you booked in?"

I took out my travel plans and read the hotel name out loud.

"OK let's go." he replied and we exited the doors. The warm breeze was refreshing in contrast to the freezing cold terminal.I took off my scarf and blazer off and tucked it in my carry on while Sam talked to a cab driver over the window. He gestured for me to get in. I hopped in with my carryon on my side. He looked at the bag and said

"let me get that for you"

I shook my head in no, he looked at me confused and turned to take his luggage to the trunk. He got in to the cab on the other side. I was sandwiched between my luggage and Sam. He looked over the bag and said "what's in there? Anything the customs shouldnt know about?" I tapped my luggage, smiled and said

"I got the cat with me, I can't just leave him alone in that apartment. He will die of lonelyness."

He scoffed "so how was the flight?"

"it was fine, except the pervert next to me who wouldn't stop staring at me while I slept through Moana?"

"who's Moana?"

"it's a movie."

"and the pervert.. Did he bother you?"

"nope I just ignored him, he was a harmless one but I couldn't sleep afterwards." I yawned and said "I'm so tired."

He shifted closer to me and put his arm on the back of my seat casually. That simple gesture set my heart beating fast and my breath catchy.

"it's good that you are tired, you will get a good night's sleep."

I managed to say "uh-huh" his scent was a mix of cologne fresh laundry and light perfume. We sat like that for minutes, I was pretending to look out of the window while he scrolled his phone.

He tapped my shoulder and said "we are here!" I got out and looked at the hotel and my heart sank, this was not what I had in mind. This is not a hotel, it's more like a motel. There is an empty swimming pool right in the middle and a couple of over weight men smoking at the lobby. And two teenage looking boys with oversized back pack passed by . I looked around to see that Sam is still inside the cab talking to the driver. He got out and his face fell.

"what in the world.." and turned to look at me. "are you sure this is the hotel name on you schedule?"

I took the paper out and read it out loud again and asked "where does yours say?"

He didn't need to check his schedule he shook his head and said " Im staying at The Gabriel." he looked at me apologetically and said "you are coming with me?"

"no I am not! I am staying here like everyone else. If the managemt thinks this is what a clerk from the main branch deserves, so be it!"

"that's the thing.. no one else from the office is here, there should be some explanation for this."

I nodded in realization that this has got to do with my supervisor and my newly made enemies.

"its too late to do anything now, I will stay here for the night and I will check with the the travel unit tomorrow morning. There must be some kind of mix up."

"no your not staying here!"

"yes I am!" with that I grabbed my carry-on and head to the lobby leaving disappointed Sam standing.

I had an awful night and haven't slept at all. I bought a coffee at a close by Macdonald and checked my schedule. I have the whole Sunday for myself and monday morning conference at The Gabriel's for management presentation. This is the part where the managemt team sat at a conference table on the stage, told us how we matter to the company and without us Northons wouldn't have been a success. Bullshit!

My phone buzzed and I got a text from an unknown number , "where are you?" I guessed it was Sam

I replied"who is this? "

He replied " I've been watching you! You've been a bad girl! "

" is this... Santa? I promise I will be good next year. Crying imoj."

"seriously, where are you?"

"seriously, who are you?"

"dammit zoey, it's Sam!"

"oh hi Sam grinning imoj.im at Macdonald next to the hotel."

"I'm on my way." I Saved his number as Sam Sam on speed dial.

After 20 minutes Sam walked over to my table and sat down.

"hey, you look fresh." I smiled

"you look... a mess!"

I held my hand to my heart and looked hurt.

"how was your night?

" awful! The AC did not work, I was sweating like crazy so I opened the window for fresh air and a roch this big came crawling in the window. " I showed him the size with my index finger and my thumb.

He was looking down and was quiet, he looked up with an expression I couldn't read." what's wrong? "I asked

" let's eat breakfast I'm starving"he announced.

"yeah sure, I will have a doughnut."

"a doughnut for breakfast?"

"why not?" he left and came back with two full classic Macdonald hearty big breakfast. Beacon, egg, cheese and biscuits. I realized I was hungry after the first bite and ate quietly. When I felt full I sighed, looked up at smirking Sam and sipped on my coffee.

" so you have any plans for today?" he asked

"nope, i just need to talk to the travel unit to change the hotel reservations and may be nap in the afternoon to compensate for the lost sleep."

" that's done , I made calls on your behalf and your reservation is now amended. The travel unit apologized for the mix up. They have no clue how that happened."

"you didn't have to do that!"

"what you mean is Thank you!"

"thank you!" I always wondered why he is nice to me? And why I felt so comfortable hanging out with him and No one else? I know he doesn't have any intention of dating me. Could it be may be he doesn't have many friends, and like me, he wants to just hang out with someone different than his normal group of colleagues? I woke up from my thoughts. he was studying my face and said

" i dare you to tell me what you were just thinking, and if you do that, I will return the favor by accepting a dare from you. Consider this a dare game. So what were you thinking?"

"I... I was just.. Why do you hang out with me?" I blurted it 2out.

"was that your thought?" I nodded, he threw his head back and laughed carelessly. I was annoyed. I waited patiently. He looked at me

"are you done laughing?" I asked annoyed

He nodded and smiled. "why do you think I hang out with you?"

"I don't know, may be because you have no real friends to hang out with or that you find my simple way of living amusing?"

"I admire your honesty , but I do have lots of good friends, unlike you, and yes I like your simple way of living. But I hang out with you just because."

"just because? That's not an answer?"

"yes it is!"

"well it's not a good enough answer for me?"

"it's good enough for me!"

I was pissed off, I got up to leave, he stood up and said "you are so cute when you are angry, you remind me of my 10 year old twin nieces. Although they have a temperament better than you."

Now I am on my boiling point, I narrowed my eyes and marched out before I say something that I am going to regret later.

I stood on the sidewalk waiting for him. He took my arm and led me to the parking lot. We stopped at a small red car and he gestured for me to get inside. I did and he explained

"it's a rental"

I nodded in understanding and said

"I know I have an unresolved anger issue but please don't piss me of like that specially in public, where I will regret my actions later on."

He looked at me in the eyes and said

" you don't have anger issues, if I have said something like that to another women, that would've earned me a slap. You walked out instead." and started the engine and drove. He parked at my hotel.

" I will go in and get my things. " he nodded and turn the radio on.

I have already packed my bag. So I just need to get it, return the key and left. I unlocked my door and head to my bag and was about to leave. My heart cought in my throat, there was a man laying on my bed watching my every move. I was in a hurry I didn't notice. "I thought I was invisible for a second" he said and started to get up. I was overthinking if I should run for the door, get my phone or scream for help when he came and grabbed me by my wrist and threw me on the bed. My phone fell on the floor. I opened my mouth to scream, he took a knife out and waived it on my face,

" try to squeal and you are dead princess." He tore my shirt open and start fambling for my zipper.

"please don't do this" I begged.

He replied with a slap on my face to shut me up. It was hopeless. All my life I was scared something bad will happen to me, always expecting the worst, now is the time. I accepted my fate, I closed my eyes lay still while he struggles to open my jeans and cursed at the ungiving zipper. He was snatched from top of me and I thought he fell. I looked up and saw Sam with a dark expression on his face. He looked at me then turned to the guy and started punching him. I got up and saw blood all over the floor. The guy's face was stricken with blood it was horrible.

"Sam stop, you will kill him" I screamed. He did not bother to look up as he continued punching the already unconscious guy. I played out a scenario in my mind where the guy dies, Sam is arrested and I am a witness to a brutal murder.

"stoooop" I screamed and grabbed his hand, dripping with blood. I have never seen so much blood in my entire life. He looked at me and it's like he woke up. He shook his head and said "are you okay? Did he hurt you?" I shook "no I'm fine, let's just get out of here." he looked me over and stared at my torn shirt and said "you need to change." he turned around to see the guy who is now mumbling something about not knowing I wasn't alone. I opened up my luggage and took a black t shirt and slipped it on as quickly as I can. I grabbed his hand and my luggage with my other hand and said" let's go. " he stood there watching the guy with a deadly look." Sam please! Let's get out of here? " I begged. He squatted on the floor and took something out from the guys pocket, he nodded and we left. The car ride was horrible. I keep recalling how the guy was going to destroy my life within minutes and how Sam came to the rescue. I looked at him, he clenched his jaw and he was holding on to the wheel so tight.

" how did you know I was being... attacked?"

He looked at me in confusion and said

"you called me." I remember holding out my phone but I didn't dial any number. I checked my phone and remembered that Sam's phone number was on the speed dial. Fate was smiling up on me after all. I sighed. We drove in silence and he parked, got out and took my carry on with him and led the way. I followed him through the lobby looking down the whole time feeling extremely tired and let down. We got to an elevator and got out on 3rd floor . He opened a door reaveling a luxurious sweet, spacious living room, kitchen at the corner and bay view. I was marveling at the room while he stared at me. I looked at his hands and said" let me clean that up." I was heading to the kitchen but he held my arm and said" let me take care of you first. "

" I am fine, really he.. he... didn't.... do anything" I stuttered.

He pointed to the full length mirror by the door. I turned around and I froze

"oh my goodness "

" yeah, that asshole ... I will make sure he will rot in a prison cell."

The left side of my face was a blend of red and purple blue from the slap, my bottom lip is cracked open and has dried blood, my hair is a mess. I turned around and suddenly I felt so tired with all the crap happening to me at office and here, when I finally thought I will have a great vacation in along time and this happens. I cover my face with my hands and start sobbing. Sam came over to engulf me in a bear hug. I cried holding him for what felt like a life time. He didn't let go even after I stopped crying. I finally pulled back wiping my eyes and giving him a reassuring smile. He breathed out and said "you can freshen up and change, I will be at the kitchen." I went to the bedroom and closed the door and start to take my clothes off , I heard Sam talking on the phone. I went to the luxurious bathroom and scrub my self with scented soap but I could still smell the cigarette and sweat of the guy. I try to push the image at the back of my head and concentrate on cleaning up. I wore the oversize white hotel bathrobe and head to the living room to get my luggage. Sam was sitting at the kitchen stool when I walked in, he was busy holding a spoon... on ice cubes? He tapped the stool next to him for me to sit on. I walked slowly and sat down. He brought the spoon to my face and hold it. "uhh it's so cold!"

"it will help minimize the bruises!"

"A cold spoon?"

"yeah, I googled it." he smiled at me. I smiled back and looked down. He lifted my chin with his hand and run his thumb over my cracked lip sending tingles all over my body. He looked at me and caressed my face with his hands and quickly let go as if he remembered something. I needed to do something before I lose my mind, so I grabbed his hand and inspect the damage he had done. His knuckles were red and bruised. I went to the fridge and brought a bag of ice and held it on his hand. I had to make myself busy. He smiled and nodded. I got up and wheeled my luggage to the bedroom and before I got there I realized that I haven't thanked him so I turned to him and said

" thank you for saving me. " he nodded. My mind is telling me to go to the bedroom and close the door but I refused to listen so I added," I hope I will return the favor one day, not in this way.. I mean not in a way you... Or any circumstance but you know what I mean.. if you need my help in any way and you... I... I am here." what was that? I babbled and stuttered . I looked up at him and saw that he was struggling not to laugh and make me upset. I sighed and said

" go ahead knock your self out." and closed the bedroom door. I listened at his roaring laugh. It was music to my ears and I laughed quietly and start to get dressed. I wore a short sunny yellow summer dress and golden sandals with matching golden purse. I apply lip balm generously over the wound and tried to cover the bruised side of my face with my hair. I got out of the bedroom and sat on the white couch opossite to Sam. He looked up and smiled. I streched my arms and relaxed and said "so this is The Gabriel?" he nodded. "you are one lucky guy!"

"this is not my room my dear! It's yours."

I opened my mouth in surprise and said "what?"

"yes, I told the travel unit to compensate you for what they did. And what's that on your face?" I couldn't stop my self from grinning like a fool.

9"oh I see! You are grinning. so a 5 star hotel is what you need to be this happy?" he teased.

"oh shut up! Don't ruin my moment. In fact you are in my room so behave."

"or what?" he raised his eyebrow challanging me. I raised a cushion and threw it at him and walked to the window and gazed at the bay. So beautiful and peaceful.

"you wanna go to the beach? I've been fantasizing about sitting at a white Sandy beach and listening to the waves." he stood right next to me, too close that our arms are touching. "okay!" he replied. And gave me an intense look. It was so intense that I had to break eye contact and stare at the bay my heart racing. We stood there for a while lost in our own thoughts and he said "have you told you parents about this trip?"

"yes, they were so excited."

"and about resigning from Northons?"

I sighed "I will tell them after the trip, I am planning on staying three more days here after the reatreat and head to my parents for 5 days."

"being an only child must have been great. Me and my brother fought all the time. We were so competitive with each other."

"yeah, I had a little brother. His name was Josh, everyone said he is the spitting image of me. We both had big brown eyes and a mass of curly brown hair. We looked so adorable on pictures. My mom always took pictures of us. He was always sick though, fever, throwing up and all. He was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and he died right after his 5th birthday. I was 15 when he died. I remember taking one of his favorite stuffies to my room and I cried to sleep holding it close for weeks. My parents were drowned in their own sorrow and no one came to check up on me. I cried alone for many nights that follow."

He rubbed my back, and said" I'm so sorry"

I smile up at him"don't be, it was a long time ago and I'm sure he's in a better place now. "

" OK let's head to the Beach. "

" hmm one more thing, do you think I should file charges on that guy, so he wouldn't try that with another person. "

" he won't" I looked at him confused

"I called a friend of a friend who was in the army now working as a private detective. He will find some dirt on him for sure and help lock him up. I just gave him his full name and address. I hope the jerk gets what he deserves. "

"how did you find out his address and name?"

"I took his ID."

I nodded" good, now let's go. "

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