"I will send someone to fetch you." He said, his sighed answer hitting the speaker.
Even after a legitimate attempt from me to hide my call, Mrs. Rose seemed to have noticed my covert operation of hiding into my desk, whispering like I was delivering nuclear codes over a call. She stood up from her place, her furrowed brows evaluating my lean into my chair.
"No need dad." I mumbled, trying hard to end the call. Mrs. Rose seemed to have noticed my sudden change in attitude. I rarely took personal calls in office. Given that I spent half my night talking to strangers, detested calling friends and near family members. Text was my preferred mode of communication. "I can come home alone. Bye dad, talk later." I speed my words and ended the call, tossing up straight on my chair.
Mrs. Rose stood a few feet away, hands clasped over her chest as she walked the distance. Her lips curled up and pressed onto a side, one of her classier trademark smiles whenever she assumed there was more to the iceberg than the surface. In my case, it was true. But I was still not ready to reveal my true identity.
Waving my hands dismissively, I managed to topple over my coffee mug. "It's not what you think." I tried explaining my my face and eyes frozen over her while my peripheral vision cleaned up the spill.
Pulling out rolls of tissue up like some sort of animal, digging its way into the earth for hibernation, she moved over the spill and cleaned it in one swift motion. "I was young once too, Arin. I can understand.." She straightened, tossing the now brow liquid dripped ball of wetness into the trash.
The problem was, she literally didn't understand. What she assumed the caller to be, was exactly the opposite of who he was.
"It's not what you think.." I reiterated like a broken record, trying hard to conjure words from the air.
Our bay till the pantry was barely ten feet away. I took hold of her elbow, tracing her path in parallel with mine and holding her hostage between the filing cabinets on the left and the brightly lit ally to the panty on the right. In between the smell of coffee bean roast aroma spreading through my senses and the musty smell of age old papers and documents from their filing cabinet morgue, I narrated the upheaval in my life since the day dad decided to contact me.
By the end of my too much hand waving and nearly tearing up narration, Mrs. Rose dropped open her jaws and stared at me as I drowned in words and gestures.
"Please say something," I begged as she stood still, a statue in astonishment. "Blink if I need me to call an ambulance for you."
She swat me with the back of her hand. I didn't hurt. I wouldn't even harm a fly.
"I am not that old you know." She said, blinking up constantly as her mind registered my dad's news.
"I am sure you aren't but I wanted to ensure I don't kill you.."
She immediately moved to the most critical of all questions. "So how is he? Charles?"
My heart pounded while dad's kind act drifted through my mind. "He is the best, Mrs. Rose. He is.." and then I chocked on my words.
Tears brimmed my eyes. She held her palms to her mouth, like she was hoping for a miracle and it happened. An orphaned child found her father. A kind, caring man.
She trapped me in the clutches of her hand and body, patting my head and airing her words. "I am so happy for you child. You deserve all the happiness in the world."
My almost on the verge of tears situation turned to flooding up mayhem. In the secluded corner of the pantry, I hid in the arms of a caring lady, weeping with happiness. Weeping as my heart couldn't contain the joy I found.
Mrs. Rose was right, her blessing was on point. I deserved happiness and so did dad. He was living with the hope meeting me and mom one day. With the lingering optimism that she would forgive him someday. Mom and dad lost their time to make up but I wasn't willing to waste any more of mine, playing around doubts and delusions.
I wanted to tell him, I was ready. I was prepared to be known as his daughter and hoped to uphold the name, so coveted in this world. It was a blessing I was touched with and I was foolish to hang back, watching from a distance as time proceeded. I was stupid to think, dad would leave me someday like mom. I was safeguarding my heart from any prospective pain rather than live in the moment.
It was right there, the truth about dad. He has sacrificed his right over me for mom, given up on the best days of his life while holding her near to his heart and wallet. I wasn't ready to make him suffer more for my doubts. He wasn't going anywhere I needed to nail that postulation from all the evidence he provided, not marrying, not moving on.
After narrating briefs about about dad's brother and that annoying little twat Stella, we shifted get back to our workspace. By evening, I was done for the day, both mentally and physically. I just wanted to fall on my mattress and sleep for all eternity.
Dad's text chimed up as I waited for the lift. He had sent a driver for me, car parked in the lot.
It was no hidden fact that dad was making up for all the years he missed being around. His small gestures pulled at my heart strings. He knew me well in a short span for a few days, I would take a sub to his place. He already got the understanding from the earlier call, I wasn't ready to misuse his affection. Yet, he displayed it nevertheless.
I read and then re-read his message till the lift descended into the parking. Once the metal door creaked open, Xavier stood up from the hood of the car.
He waved at me and I stood, holding onto my breath as I watching him walk closer. "What are you doing here?" were my involuntary words.
His lifted smirk and the nonchalant attitude remained in place, taunting me. "Well, uncle wanted to bring you home so I convinced him that I would be more than happy to do it for him."
I rolled my eyes inwards. Although everything about us was totally and utterly wrong, I still liked hanging out with Xavier. I know, nothing could ever happen between us but the fact that he was always ready to be there for me, made me dance up in joy. Little things in life, you see, made my day.
With my decision to move away and severe ties with the past, I had met with a new wave of confidence, spiraling up and flushing me every time I was revisited with Roger's thoughts. The pride in being Charles Oswald's daughter, the confidence of being an Oswald myself. There were days, when I had to manually ground my skyrocketing plane, not to be boastful and rude to anyone.
"You don't have anything else to do? Other than escorting people?" I said, walking out to with him trotting besides me.
The corner of his lips lifted, creating a beautiful smile yet, it was his eyes that spoke volumes. The shine in them reminded me of my mother's. So full of life and bubbling with enthusiasm about everything, she and Xavier would have loved each other's company.
Xavier's voice floated across. "I would say I only escort people whose company I love.. one being you.."
"And the other being the Beatles?"
He chuckled, soft gasps of air on my ill humored take. He opened the car door for me, gently hovering a hand on my lower back as I turned towards the driver's seat.
"Do you want to drive?" he asked.
I nodded, half apprehensive of it being a trick question and the other half hoping he was genuinely asking. Xavier placed the keys in my hand, bowing afterwards. I couldn't help laugh.
"You don't mind?" beaming with joy, I asked. Not many people would be willing to lend their car's fate in someone else's hand. Xavier's eye rolling confirmed his answer.
Before I could slide into the seat, the elevator behind us chimed up, two narrow lots away. Roger walked out, his eyes scanning his phone and his steps lumbered, without any direction from the brain. When he looked up, scanning the parking lot, those uncoordinated steps suddenly fell in attention and carried him across with the confidence and stride held in office. His high held shoulders and tipped up head oozed a sense of control from the man. He walked as if the whole world was at his feet.
I tugged onto Xavier's collar, someone managing to pull him closer.
"Easy there daring, I can't wait to have you too." He smirked, winking at me. I let go of his attire, yet keeping my lean.
"Don't tell my boss who I am!"
Before Xavier could understand, his cogs could churn up, Roger's called out his name. He was right behind Xavier. Xavier winked at me and my heart lurched. Was he going to play along or spoil everything?
"There you are.." He moved closer to the man, who straight pose arrested my gaze on him.
Roger eyed Xavier, then me before shifting it to him completely. He drew up an awkward line across his lips, probably misunderstanding the entire situation. As clearly instructed, Xavier played his part well.
"So.. leaving home so soon? I thought you were the night owl." he said to the man who had pulled all nighters in office more than a socialite pulling a rager.
Roger didn't display any emotion on his words. "I was. Infact, I am just heading home for a quick nap before I come back again.."
As true to his nature, Xavier didn't miss a beat to mock. "Enjoy life Roger. It will slip out of your hands when you least expect it."
Roger's gaze immediately fell on me. "I intend to."
My brain might have short circuited. I didn't feel anything but numb. No sensation at all. All I remembered was Roger's gaze shifting off me and I could breath again.
"Can we go?" like a forced statement, I uttered.
It may have been the constant ignoring of my presence by these two men or that one of them thought I was sleeping with the other while the other happily concluded he had a chance for it.
"Yes yes we can.." Xavier said, wrapping Roger into a handshake than turned into a manhug.
I turned and got inside the car after sliding the keys back to Xavier. All the excitement to drive back home faded after this encounter. I blamed Roger for it. Why did he have to ruin everthing? Couldn't he have left a little while later?
Before we could leave the lot, Roger's car stood crossed in our way.
"Good night Xav.." he smiled, tipping his head.
Xavier reciprocated. Roger's sight fell on me.
"Take care Arin." His voice was soft, dipped low and it hardly took seconds for me to feel the blood rush through my cheeks as I witnessed his beautiful smile followed by a nod. He drove away after leaving me in a pile of broken desires.
Although we were following him till we took a different turn towards our destinations, all I could recollect was his smile and the way he spoke to me. He never smiled like that ever before. I have always noticed it. Well, he never smiled at all for that matter.
Mr. Rudey Ruderson, his nickname by Georgia was allergic to smiling and happy gestures. Brooding and impassive expressions decorated his face all the time. He looked like one of those western movie protagonists of the early seventy, less words, less expressions and a hooded look which could induce cardiac arrest in even the healthiest of the beings.
I could never seem to make a correlation between the lack of smile and his life. Roger had everything yet, something seemed amiss. But what? What was so grave and severe in his life that withdrew him from being happy?
Before we reached our destination, my phone chime. I pulled out the vibrating device and realize it's wasn't my personal phone. Selene name blinked up.
Your Master called just now.. What do I tell him?
I quickly text her back, knowing fully well that I had to severe my relationship with Roger as a client once my notice period was over. All that would remain would be a beautiful memory of his.
Tell him the truth.. he deserves to know
I sighed, shutting my eyes to avoid dreaming about his expressions when Selene would deliver him the news.
"Dilemma?" Xavier enquired. He tapped his fingers on the steering, playing along the light orchestra resonating in the car. He was a carefree spirit yet, noticed a minor infraction in my mood.
I stared ahead, nodding when I couldn't find words to justify my actions.
"I am told to be a very good listener?" he said.
Laughter spouted out of my mouth as I looked at him. "Is that before or after you sleep with woman?"
He too let out a genuine laugh. "Oh darling, I am knowing for my pillow talks.."
"Maybe I missed the memo.."
The rest of ride was full of friendly banter. Help welcomed us in and with a devilish grin, Xavier walked in parallel. I had a feeling it had something to do with the question I was about to ask.
"Where is everyone?"
His reply was monosyllable. "Out."
Of course. He did have something to do with all this. The planning and everything. Immaculate.
"And where is the out? You know, the garden can also be considered an out."
Placing his coat with the help, be walked towards the bar in a casual manner. "In that case they are not in the garden."
Did he plan this? To get me out alone? Am I Mr. Billionaire boy's favorite new toy?
Struggling to keep calm, I walked away from him and I hoped there was a way for me to stay away. With the help leaving us alone, I was on the verge of falling into the clutches of discomfort.
Nervous, I blurted out. "Roger this isn't funny.."
"Roger!" Xavier spined his barstood to face me.
My eyes widen, popping out of its socket as I processed my saying. The panicky feeling made me call the one name which remained at the back of my mind. My expression were of shock, Xavier's were of surprise. He was barley able to keep it together after my spilling.
"God this is fun.. real fun.."
"What is fun?" I countered. My misery was fun for him?
With the moves of a jungle cat, the man appeared in front of me in no time. "I like you. I truly do my darling. But you like someone else, it seems."
Yes, brilliant. Now we are all up to speed.
Unwilling to admit the truth, I make up sounds which didn't make sense. "I don't. You like him." His laughter echoed through the corridors and the halls of the house. How on earth was that a funny thing, was beyond my comprehension. "Stop it.. it's not funny.."
Xavier, after bouts of laughter composed himself before falling on the sofa and tapping onto its side. "Come. I promise I won't bite.." The usual smirk appeared. "Unless you want me to."
"No thanks. Please reserve it for someone else.." I scoffed. He turned towards me completely, tapping his slender fingers together. The devil's mind was at work.
"So how do we do it?" He asked.
There were all sorts of emotions and expressions on my face by now but confusion still was the frontrunner. "How do we do what?"
"What's project Stella?" I asked. If only he could talk with a semblance of rationality than making up words. My brows formed a connection as I stared hard and tried understanding what Xavier said.
He explained with mighty hand gestures, as if participating in a play. "The one where Princess Arin overthrows Stella to take over the kingdom and reclaim her love."
Grunting in laughter and heaving, I rolled away to escape his hand attack. "Wow. wow. hold your horses. I don't love anyone and I am not here to overthrow anyone.." His smile was thin lined and his face fell when my words left the bow.
"Good for you, Arin. Hope Stella feels the same way."
"What do you mean?"
He pulled me close to him before whispering. At this point I am more scared of Stella than Xavier and confused at the word play that he was conducting. "See in the papers tomorrow!"
Hello all you beautiful people
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Do let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts on the plot or characters, or any funny reference you liked.
How is the chemistry between Arin and Xavier? And what's in the newspapers? Guess..