Xavier’s knuckles turn white, gripping the steering and he fists the horn a couple of times before placing his head over it, “It was all my fault.”
The honk from the parked car was disturbing the passersby on a Saturday morning, some on whom even flipped their fingers at us. What was more concerning was Xavier’s behavior.
He didn’t speak or move from the time he placed himself inside the car. Besides driving, which I was glad that he didn’t do in his thought wandering condition, he didn’t want to talk either. I made another hopeless attempt. As all others have failed but this time, I tried something new.
Picking his clenched hand from over the steering, it took a lot of strength to pull it towards me. He was reluctantly withholding it. The tension between his fingers were felt by my muscles.
“If you don’t tell me, then how can I make fun of your sissyness.” I asked, hoping it would get him to react. Through all his sad and mysterious expressions, a smile erupted. A small yet beautiful one which was followed with a huffed air release. Loosening his grip, he eased into my touch and his shoulders moved to support his head turn. "Tell me.. why are you beating your self up?“.
Xavier signed and growled from the inside and his head shook before he looked back at me with pleading eyes. “Remember the time I told you, I’d take care of things.” As my thoughts wandered to which part he was referring to, he quickly blurted, “The day when you found out about Stella..”
“Oh yes,” my body and mind were in complete attention. Stella’s name always had that command over me. You know, once bitten, twice shy. That kind of thing. “What about it? And how is this related?”
Xavier nodded to himself as if he was convincing his body to let him speak. If there was something so difficult that was to be said, even I needed to be prepared for it. Inhaling, I held up my breath till he uttered his first words. “Roger didn’t do it. I asked him to tell you to be his fiancé.”
The air held back deflated through my mouth. The entire day, since morning ran as trailer in front of me. I felt dejected. Xavier proceeded to convey the whole story. The parts he told me he would do and the others, which I had no idea would be done. By the end, it was clear that Roger only cared about a successful merger for was willing to take any Oswald girl who would present herself. The subsect of it was the understanding that he jumped the gun.
Xavier was supposed to be the one to ease me into the news. The news about Roger wanted me for nothing more than to enact being a toy. Upon uttering those thoughts which engulfed my soul, Xavier was quick to defended Roger. “You are wrong here.”
Bending over to strap me in place while I sat like a lost child, he strapped his own seatbelt before driving. The flying buildings and shops were blurred as tears formed again. It has a tendency to come sooner than expected nowadays. Maybe I might be having my period.
Xavier drove for long. And for long I sat in silence, eating up by the thoughts of being unwanted. Of carrying the knowledge that Roger had known about me and yet, he wanted nothing to do with babydoll. I pitied my foolish brain which thought something could blossom between us, something could grow in desert. What I learnt was jarring. Only cacti grew in arid weather and places and I was crazy to think, I was could have watered Roger’s heart back to its former greenery.
The car screeched to a halt a children’s park and Xavier got out. He didn’t ask me to come and simply trotted to stand near the higher benches overlooking the swings and slides. If he was employing reverse psychology, it was working. Unbuckling my belt, I walked over to the bench and place myself besides him. He didn’t waste a minute more to continue.
“Roger doesn’t treat you like an assistant.” I blew raspberries at those words. He knew my mocking attitude, smirking at which, he replied, “I know when a man is miserable about a woman and when he wants to genuinely be with one.” He turned to face me, hands placed on both sides of my face and fingers lacing into my hair. “He was miserable with Stella. With you, he can’t stop talking, keeps calling me and asking..”
Words halted again as he pulled his hands back and turned to face away.
“Would you just finish?” I was annoyed to utter words so harshly but it was true. I was done with suspense. I had a lifetime of suspense in these few days itself. Oswald, Stella, my second job’s reveal and now this. I didn’t think I could handle it anymore.
Xavier didn’t seem to have taken offense when he said, “He keeps asking about what Stella did to you and how all of his plans could benefit you.” Surprised at his worlds, my brows arched and I waited for him to finish. “Ya. That cunt doesn’t know he might have feeling for you.. he isn’t like..”
Another long stretch of wordily drought later, he sighed. Xavier stood and walked away from me and this time, it was me who strode up to him holding his hands to cease his body from moving. “He isn’t like what?”
Xavier nodded sideways and placed his gloved palm over my shoulder with a forced smile. “You both are lucky to have found each other, you know..”
Forcing a confession out of someone wasn’t as fun as it looked. It might appease some but for me, dredging someone’s past and getting them to speak their suppressed feelings didn’t sound like a thing which needed to be done regularly. With Xavier’s tight lipped attitude, I wanted to protect myself if he was indeed hiding something further. Something which might hurt me the most later.
“Tell me. You can play all you want with your girls. Heck, they might like you for it, but not me. I don’t like running around in circles and talking random things without getting to the point.” Harsher words were never spoken before and by the time I was done with my rant, I panted. Maybe it was the vigor with which I stated it or the way both these men decided things for me without involving me at all. Whatever it was, it spewed out like a volcano.
Xavier’s eyes carried sadness. It seemed to have lost its shine. All I could witness were his glassy expressions. “Why does everyone assumes that I have so many girls to sleep with? What if I am a one woman?” His tone flared and his voice, raspy, hit my ears.
My anger faded at his question. Did I just placed a hand on his aching nerve?
“What if I don’t like sleeping around and most times I’m either reading or helping in the business?” It was Xavier’s turn to rant and boy did he do so. With wide eyes and huffed breaths, he stared down at me. All his concern faded away. All that remained was a primal, animal instinct. “Simply because I don’t change people’s idea about me doesn’t mean it’s true..”
He stepped up, his words and intense stare made me scramble back. Holding up my hands in surrender, I called out his name softly but it didn’t affect him. “What if, helping you means that I can see you happy when you will be with someone even though it would..” he stopped and panted just like me, the blood boil with his rage radiated to me as I moved closer. “..even though it would kill me.”
His words were enough for me to leave my inhibitions behind. My fear, my scared state of being, everything vanished into the crisp cold air. What remained was me, stripped of all feelings, all emotions. Ready to do another mistake.
We all make them, I do it a lot more than anyone. My biggest one was daydreaming about Roger and assuming Xavier to be a playboy. Xavier’s words helped seek clarity. But as was with mistakes, it reared its head when I thought I wouldn’t make any.
Pulling his lapel, I grabbed and moved him closer, kissing him with a force that knocked him out. His legs gave up and he bent, taking my support. Devoid of guilt, the touch of our lips made me want Xavier more. He placed his hand gently behind my head and deepened his tongue play.
I too leaned in, wanting more. Slowly we faded into the morning with the chirping birds and the wintery breeze hitting us. Embracing me, Xavier broke our warm kiss and sighed into my hair. My height was exact for him to hold me and kiss the top of my head. His act always made me felt protected. Breaking away, he pulled me to look at him.
“Thank you for that..” mere whisper, his voice meant what he said.
I smiled, feeling the pain which he would have gone through, helping me be with a man whom I liked. Mine was an unrequited feeling and so was Xavier’s. We were both cursed to feel the hurt on the inside which created a ripple effect and emanated throughout the body. The feeling of loving someone and not being able to have them. The despair of still continuing with it.
“Thank you for everything, Xav.”
He smiled and embraced me again. Although, knowing we wouldn’t be able to be together, I found that he was the perfect one for me on papers. But as the heart wanted what it did, mine was aligned someplace else.
Reality needed to be faced again but carrying the knowledge that I had a man who would help me at every step of the way, I felt the broken confidence mend back. “I have decided..” I said, dragging a long breath.
Pulling my phone, I dialed Roger who picked up within a ring. Placing on speaker, Xavier held me into his embrace, listing to me spew on orders over the call. “I will be your fiancé till the time the deal is finalized. I need a cubicle to work and Georgia would be my assistant.”
Roger was elated when he said, “You can have Mrs. Rose..” That was exactly what I wanted to begin with. But I knew if I asked for her, he would state a stern no. So I played my cards and they all landed perfectly. Roger realized soon enough, what he lost in bargain to say, “Wait. No. You can have Georgia..”
“You already accepted. A verbal contract is binding.” I said, my insides feeling velvet again. But this time, it wasn’t because of Roger’s voice but due to my decision to take hold of my life.
With papers ruffling in the background, I could hear him. He must be searching for Stella’s contract, thinking I would be negotiation over a call. Instead, I caught him off guard, again. “Deliver the contract to me. I will have to read it thoroughly.”
His voices came across soft. “Didn’t you do that in the morning?”
Bitterness engulfed the inner lining of my mouth. I felt sadness creep up but this time, I was determined not to let Roger kick me around. “I did. But the difference between you and me is that I wouldn’t sign anything after only one read..” I might have jabbed his pride and ego for he whispered, ′Hey’. Kick them when they were down was what I went with. “I didn’t say anything wrong, Roger. You had Stella as the deal. I can only assume what was the conditions upon which you agreed to have her..”
As always, he was quick with his rebuttal. “I didn’t know that babydoll was ready. You know, I was prepping her for this.”
Xavier looked at me in confusion and I dropped off the speaker to keep my secret intact. Placing the phone over my ear, I whispered, “Also you don’t touch me against my will.”
His sigh hit the speaker. “No. I wouldn’t. Unless you want to..”
“I wouldn’t..” Another sigh from him transported be back to the call days. The only different was that I was standing in a children’s park, held by Xavier and negotiating my life to play a part.
A part, which I though Roger would happily offer in reality. A part, which I dreamt of since the day I saw his payment towards my call. A part, which now knew that once this was over, I might become a mere shell of a person, a replica of someone I once used to be.
Still, I did it anyway.
Hope you liked this chapter