“Dad what’s the matter?” I asked, watching my dad standing in front of me, fuming. He was always the calm figure for me but today he’d beg to differ. He wasn’t behaving normal either. Pacing in his room, he remained silent with soft grunts emerging at times.
Upon being informed by the help that he wanted to talk to me, I assumed that it was due to his busy schedule that I was summoned. With me having moved into the Oswald mansion, dad could visit me a lot more than when I stayed in my previous matchbox apartment. So it was strange when he couldn’t climb a few flights of stairs to talk. But again, I wasn’t handing the Oswald business to know, how precious every moment was. Hence I adhered to his wish.
With a non-responsive attitude, dad walked around some more while my gaze followed his pace around the room. The beige coloured room study of his only had mahogany furniture with a burgundy touch to it. In contrast to the pale of the wallpaint, the dark of furniture hit the right notes. Dad’s study balanced simplicity and sophistication.
It was only when Roger knocked at the paneled door and entered that I realized the gravity of the situation. Placing himself on the chair across his intrinsically carved desk, dad crossed his legs while Roger stood, head hung like a student receiving detention.
His expressions were blank and he didn’t even take a seat. It was all the more reason for me to worry. My mouth soured and sweat beard appeared on the back of my neck, all awaiting the moment one of them cracked. I always assumed dad liked Roger. But my assumtion was put to a backburner when dad peered at my fake fiancé.
With a command in his voice, dad spoke sternly. “You think this is some kind of a joke? Marrying my daughter?”
My eyes widened upon realization, he had somehow come to the know of our ruse. Did Roger tell him? We decided not to, until everything was perfected enough to be revealed. God! we didn’t go over our stories. Hell, we didn’t even have a story to go over.
“May I?” Roger gestured to the chair and dad nodded. I, on the other hand straightened, trying to diffuse the situation but Roger held my hand. “Let me babydoll..”
Crap. Why was he calling me that?
Posing a statue, I let Roger dive us both to the depths of hell with his uncoordinated story.
Smiling, he began the play of the piper. “I know how it would be looking. First Stella and now your daughter..” Dad bobbed his head once. Roger continued. “I have to tell you that with Stella it was only business. We dated but the arrangement we had was purely for our companies.” Dad posed his ‘not going to speak’, crossing his arms. “Malcom knows. He was asked to help too for you know.. Brandon.”
A small crack in dad’s expression when he heard Brandon’s name, was the confirmation that he deeply resonated with Roger but was too adamant to simply agree. After all, it was his daughter this time on the fiancé line and not his niece.
Roger’s eyes traveled to me. I felt a jolt of tremor in my chest when he smiled.
“But with Arin..” rising from his chair, Roger coiled his hand into mine. Tingling sensation rose in my body and I daydreamed of night we kissed. Slapping myself back to realist, I focused on his story. It was too good a dramatic rendition to miss. When I looked at Roger, his expressions softened. Was he genuinely stating his feelings? “Arin wasn’t just my assistant.” He cleared his throat. “She was the only one who wasn’t scared to stand up to me. One who made me realize that this wasn’t just a game..”
Dad looked at me and I nodded. Watching me for truth, his gaze shifted back to Roger who continued. “And I adored her ways. I liked her even before I knew who she was..” He let out a soft cough as if the next word pricked his throat. “Oswald...and she was the one who suggested about the plan for merger.”
Another shift in his gaze towards me and I was turned into a puddle while my insides turned to mush. My palm sweat, but I was more concerned with the trembling that my entire body undertook. I was scare but thrilled. Palpitated but exhilarated. I was living on the edge today.
“Your daughter, sir, is one brainy child.” Roger’s last words were the thing that drove his oration home. He knew how to compliment a daughter because that would set course for the word’s arrow to hit straight where he intended. Dad’s heart.
Shuffling between dad and Roger, I tried focusing on the first one to break. Roger’s half-baked truth amidst lies wasn’t easily detectable but dad wasn’t a simpleton either. It was only when he rose and walked to me, I felt as if my legs gave up their functionality.
Dad held my shoulders and stared at me straight as if trying to read my expression. He wanted genuineness and I wasn’t aware if I was indeed delivering one.
“Is this true?” He asked, his voice soft as melted butter.
Roger’s soft hand squeeze pulled me back from the state of nervousness I was floating in to nod vigorously. Pulling me onto his chest, dad let out a soft sob before speaking. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. I can’t believe, I missed all the signs.”
“Signs?” I emitted signs?
Dad beamed. “Yes, when I told you Roger was marrying Stella, you were visibly sad. I could read you but I never understood why you were diminished with the news.”
Crap. The embarrassing part was Roger, who wasn’t aware of any this, now knew everything. I wished the floor would part in two and swallow me whole. There was only a level till which I could endure his smirking looks.
“Ohh babydoll.. You were sad?” Roger’s voice floated to me, I tried not looking at his gloating face. It was clear that he was mocking me, worse was that I had to play along.
“Yes, why won’t I be?” If he could play, so could I. “Sharing you with my cousin wasn’t what I thought of when we decided to keep our relationship private.”
Take that Roger monkey. Let’s see how you dodge this one.
“Oh darling, I wanted to shout it out from rooftop. You were the one who took that promotion of yours too serious to let out relationship see the daylight..”
Dad rattled me as if I was some doll who did wrong. His hold lingered over my shoulders. “You wanted to keep things about Roger private? You didn’t even tell me?”
I fought to find words. “I..dad.. actually..” My reaction was that of a deer caught in headlights. As much as Roger was a pain for me previously, he bestowed his help.
“Charles.,” Roger intervened. “She wanted to and after everything with Stella settled, she would have too..” Letting off my hand, he looked square at dad and as fake as those wordings could be, he stated it with utmost genuineness. “Arin means the world to me Charles and I would be the happiest man if you could see from our side.. what we have.”
Holding my hand again in his final delivery, Roger gazed at me with his continuing soft and kind expression. My stomach did the happy flip again, churning up butterflies into my thoat. I was chocking on words and the rumbling in my chest echoed in my ears. Roger wasn’t making it easy for me to get over him. He really knew the torture drill and I was the one standing at the receiving end.
After another hour passed with dad beaming about our news and planning what he always had in mind about my engagement, we bid our adieu. I wanted an out from today’s play and the only way was to tell him about impending work back at office.
Walking back to the car I remained silent. Today wasn’t what I wanted. It was never what I assumed would occur. Dad was the collateral in all this. He wasn’t supposed to get involved.
“He will be fine.. you know.” Roger’s voice snapped me out my thoughts. He held his sight over me when talking further. “I know he wasn’t supposed to know.”
Ya. Right. And only if he had been in another country would that have been a possibility. Looking at the past, I realized how foolish we were in assuming, out plan was foolproof. It was only now, standing in the aftermath of carrying the liability of a collateral that I could see the idiocy we planned around us.
Roger was quick on that thought too. “We have to think of something else now..”
“To get you out of it when it’s time.” He said those words with such carefree attitude that I felt as if his heart was made of stone. Not feeling a pinch of emotion when talking about letting go of me after the job. As if I was merely a toy for him. Toss away after play.
Reminding myself that this was all on me and none forced me to do it, I seem to be laughing at my own fate. Here I was, thinking our close proximity might change things between us but it had only made things more complicated.
My office view was far better than Roger’s. The office, thanks to our contract, held the view of majestic Thames at a distance. A soft, warm tone welcomed me as I turned gleefully towards it.
Mrs. Rose grinned ear to ear, entering my cabin. “I always knew you would suck me up the minute you have your turn.” Embracing her, I rejoiced over my decision to bring her as my aid. Mrs. Rose was, to this day, my voice of reason. Getting her as my secretary was even far better than the view I held from my office window.
As she walked back to her cubicle, another knock drew my attention to the door. “Enjoying the view..” Roger leaned against the door, smiling more than his usual dosage.
“I though we come here to work,” I said, mocking him with my tone. “I didn’t know watching the ourside world was what we did.”
He chuckled, walking in and placed himself on the opposite side, hands tapping the armrest as he looked around. The sight, Roger sitting where I used to, was too good as I ended up uttering, “Ready for your dictation?”
His head turned, gaze sliding back and he carried a smirk so mesmerizing, my breath hitched. Leaning over the table, he knew I was playing with him but I never knew he would too. “I give dictation, not take them, babydoll..”
“About time we change that, don’t you think?” I didn’t know what food I ingested or what I drank to have a burst of courage, not only to mock but engage him for a round of playful banter.
‘Roger never yields’ was Mrs. Rose’s statements whenever we talked about his perseverance but now, it was on full display. I was witnessing the man who help the power to destroy me, toy with me. “You know, I can be open to change. If you are..”
I didn’t understand his context. My face rested on my knuckles, watching him intently. “What do you propose?”
What was the worst he could have stated? Prepared that his demand would be rollicking, I was surprised when he stated the opposite.
“Photo shoot..” he tapped the tips of his fingers together, matching my gaze.
“Ahh yes.. For the corporate magazine.”
Rumbled laughter made way through his chest as he said, “You indeed are funny”
“What did I say? It’s something else. isn’t it?” I was sure, this would go down as the first of my blunders in my official capacity. But Roger was kind to not make an issue out of it. Infact he let it slide and only nodded in acceptance.
“I meant a couple’s photo shoot, babydoll..”
My index finger moved between me and him and Roger’s nod indicated I was on track. “I thought you hated shoots?”
Pushing off the chair, he walked towards the door but not before showing his dimpled side and that alluring smile. “I still do. But your company is hard to resist..”
Hope you liked this chapter.
What do you think will happen during the shoot?