The First Step
It’s a mistake that I fell her for her charm. That I did what I wasn’t supposed to do. She was drunk and I took advantage of her.
How could I be so blind?
My mind unraveled with flashbacks, playing in a loop. If I was not careful enough around Arin, I might as well slip back into my old ways. The ways that hurt me before, drilled holes in my soul and battered my body to never trust anyone. The way that almost reduced me to ashes, I couldn’t rise from.
The whole night I tossed and thrashed in Xavier’s bed. I saw relief washing over his face when he saw me exiting Arin’s room. That lovesick boy must have assumed I would spend the night with her.
Xavier was nothing if not helpful. Maybe it was time for me to repay him.
The office buzzing was a little louder for me today. Well, it had to be. It wasn’t a normal day either. The Oswald’s’ were here, everyone of them. Hashing out finer details of the merger deal at the Murphy’s, it was the day when we would negotiate business terms for our benefits.
Accommodating half the Oswald staff into our our office was a task which Mrs. Rose and Georgia happily undertook. I knew difficult when I see one but those two girls made it look like cakewalk.
The new members only had one word on their mind and one person in thoughts- Arin.
Her previous place had become some sort of a shrine for almost every visitors. Everyone wanted to see the lost and found heiress. I was alarmed by the number of footsteps I heard since morning, all halting their strides near her cubicle before moving back. Arin had gradually sneaked up to become the nation’s sweetheart. The girl, whom I was drawn to. The same one, who could so easily be corrupted.
I tried my best to avoid the crowd, walking into the boardroom. The only other person present besides me was the one, whom I tried hard to avoid. Since the night at the party, Arin and I didn’t interact. She ensured I never faced her in office, and so did I.
With the understanding that the current situation was impossible to avoid, I struck a casual hello as the door automatically creaked back shut.
Without meeting my face, Arin nodded her reply. Her gaze remained fixated on the documents scanning each and every word. My feet paced slow, watching her strum her paint chipped nails on the mahogany tabletop, creating a soft echo in an otherwise soundproof room.
I sat opposite to her on the long table when her gaze met mine and her hoarse tone blurted. “Oswalds’ sit there. Murphys’ are here.” I saw the placeholder when her index finger pointed.
Peering back at her documents, she didn’t look when I placed myself besides her. Without disturbing the surrounding air, she tried her best to pull her chair away. There needed no further clarification that Arin too was avoiding me.
“If Oswalds’ sit there,” I pointed to the deserted opposite side of the table. “Then aren’t you supposed to..” It was only meant as a one liner limerick but Arin was too focused to cut off my words with a stern reproach.
“People who work at Oswalds. Not every Oswald. Clear?”
“More than clear!”
The doors flung open. The devil and his spawn spewed through them. Stella Oswald with her father grinned at me with the shamelessness of a thief, used to getting caught.
Stella scanned the room, eying us. “There you are. How are you darling?” I didn’t bother caring for whom she spoke to. All I could do was watched Arin through the corner of my eyes. Something inside made me watch her expressions instead of acknowledge the entities present in the room. With no answer to her question, Stella drove up her words. “That’s no way to treat a guest, Roger.”
Stella’s nasal torture reverted after bouncing off the walls. Arin, driven by curiosity, moved her documents aside, peering at her cousin’s vicious act.
“Our guests, Charles and Xavier are very well taken care of, Stella.” I said. As if my words hurt her otherwise impenetrable skin, she scaled back and bore her gaze over to her next victim, Arin.
“Enjoying the Fiancé status, Darling?” Stella chirped in her demented tone, trying to irk the statue of calmness sitting besides me.
Arin smirked, but didn’t let out a word. With a shift in position and a hand kneeling onto the armrest, Arin slid back towards me while keeping her sight fixed on Stella. “Oh I am enjoying it more than you, Stella”
With pulled back claws, Stella cringed her face and retreated onto her seat. Malcom continued his word of advice to her, whispering near her ears. I tilted over to Arin, trying hard to fight her vanilla and lavender scent which still reminded me to the first time we were close. “Good one.” I chuckled.
Her smirk continued as she gazed at me completely. “Oh, are we friends now? I thought you weren’t supposed to walk down this road to talk to me either. You know, the Oswald girls!”
Her anger, riled emotions was on point. I left her at the hotel without any explanation. It was my guilt eating me on the inside for treating her in the worst ways. I was punishing her for what Stella inflicted upon me. I was sure Arin would have felt like she wasn’t good enough for me. It was not my intention but sadly what I ended up making her feel.
“Can we talk after this?” I said, trying to rectify my mistake. My eyes pleaded to her but the scorn she held scared even gods. I was a mere mortal.
“I wish,” she sneered. “But it’s a mistake. We can’t cross over. Atleast I can’t.”
Arin quoted what I said at the party before abandoning her. Frustration streamed from her eyes, guild spewed from my chest. If only, I could explain to her, what I meant to say wasn’t what emerged. What I wanted to do to her wasn’t what happened. Arin held a special place in my life and work. But she would never come to know of it. I would always hold it as a secret in my heart.
As others stomped in, the boardroom was filling it with muffled chatters and hushed chuckles, I whispered to Arin before pulling back. “Will talk later..”
She nodded on my words, biting into her lower lip. I knew then, it was her way of supressing her words from lashing out. After all, my babydoll knew better than to address her blood rush triggering nerves in public.
With the meeting in full swing, both sides argued their points. Xavier and Arin were both at loggerheads like mad dogs, ready to maul. The ceased being friends at that point. When Charles intervened for Xavier, I too came to Arin’s rescue. Truth be told, she didn’t need one.
Checking his sheets and laptop screen, Charles conducted his reply in a softer tone. “We can have the place of work at Oswald building and you can have Murphy’s as the technical support place. Employees won’t have to shuttle unless they want to.”
Before I could state my opinion, the levelheaded Arin spoke. Her words were carefully placed and she wasn’t playing her dad with theatrics. She was convincing him with logic.
“Technical activity is higher at Oswalds.” Swiftly, she turned her laptop to project bars and graphs, stating her point. The room fell silent, watching a newbie playing the experts. “So it would always be beneficial to retain Oswald at its technical stronghold and Murphy’s as the base for operations.”
Charles and Xavier looked at their papers, ruffing through them before siding for discussion. Arin, fell back on her seat, her posture relaxed, knowing she won this round. Charles looked up every next second at me and her and though he was deep in conversation, his gaze exude pride for his daughter.
When he pulled up, his posture relaxed. He smiled and sighed as if he didn’t have much else to speak. Having known tips and tricks to business, it was my turn to impress.
“You know what.” I cleared my throat. “As a matter of goodwill, we can accept your point, Charles.” I felt Arin’s intense gaze shift over my face. Her mouth fell ajar upon hearing my words. She pulled me closer, placing her cold palm over my wrist. “I got this.” I said, smiling at her innocence, naive attitude.
“I know you do. I got this too..” Her words spewed through gritted teeth.
But by then, the decision was made. With a final handshake, the meeting adjourned. Xavier and Charles would personally look into the final work put into the contract but I wasn’t sure if Arin would do the same. She trotted out of the room quicker than the wind and didn’t even bother waiting when I called onto her.
Charles’s voice floated from behind. “She got that anger from her mother.” Beaming Charles reminded me of my mother who used to have that proud look on her face over my accomplishments. Arin was lucky to have him.
“Any way to know how to get around that?” I asked, rubbing the back of my neck. He laughed and placed his large hands over my shoulder.
“She will see reason.”
“I doubt that..”
He chuckled at my misery. “Arin is logical. Although, it would take time for the logic to kick in..”
I knew at that moment Charles recognized my business decision. There were times when we shouldn’t play out strength but someone else’s weakness. Letting Oswalds have their way today would only be beneficial for us in the future. It was like a favor they owed us.
By evening, chatters died and the staff was busy at work. The morning enthusiasm had died down too. Still, it wasn’t difficult to spot a fuming kettle of a human, ready to spill out her anger, standing in a corner of my office.
“Why did you do it Roger? We had them under our thumb?” With an intonated voice, she walked over when I closed the door. She was aware of the soundproofing in my office to let her voice rage up. She tossed her files onto my table before walking around. “Days.. days of hard work you tossed away in a minute, Roger..”
I could have pacified her. Explained her the reason for my decision. However, with her anger, mine too resurfaced. “You don’t have to question my decision. I know what I am doing.”
She scoffed and it enraged me further. Although her fumes were dying down, she still wasn’t ready to accept defeat.
“I thought. I..” she walked around the area before peering at me. It wasn’t tears she carried but sadness that swirled in her eyes. “I thought we had something.. I mean after the party.. I thought you would understand what it meant to me, this deal.” Her hand gestures at us and her words conveyed the effort she poured over the deal.
All I could do was rack up excuses. “You think what we did made me owe you favors? If that’s the thing then there’s a throng of women who would state same..”
Decisions. They say you shouldn’t decide anything when anger rages inside. And not speak either with words boil on the inside.
I did both. I decided to break her heart as if it meant nothing to me.
But with everything happening around me, it was needed. I couldn’t have another Stella in the making. After all, Arin and Stella carried the same blood bond.
How could they be much different?
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