That was it. The final straw.
No more pity party.
Throwing remaining contents of the melted ice cream, I fall back on bed. Roger’s words resonated in my ears in a loop. I didn’t mean anything to him. Babydoll was merely a word for
I plopped my elbows and sat up on bed. Dialing dad, I scanned the ceiling, waiting for him to answer. The moment he picked up, a storm of words bowled over.
“Xavier told me you went back home!” Dad’s spiked tone narrated his state. He was mad and rightfully so.
“No, I don’t want to hear again that you miss your clothes or bed. Come back.” He admonished. His anger radiates even over the call and I obediently nodded. It was hardly a week since I shifted to the mansion, only to come crawling back at my place. Dad was enraged by my undulating act. He was expecting me to stay back at the Oswalds’.
Since the day, Roger and I exchanged words, I was spun out. I wanted some space all for myself. Although the mansion had lots of space to begin with, I was still under dad’s supervision there. I craved for independence, even if for a night.
“Arin, my child,” dad’s voice wavered. “Is it because someone said something? Did Stella?”
Pfft. I wish. It would have been less heartbreaking, had it been her.
Before my answer, my room buzzed up again. Dad was quick to pick up on the background noise. “All the food and luxury in the world and there she goes, ordering greasy, unhealthy food.”
Laughing at his statement, I opened the door.
Roger appeared at my doorstep. In reflex, I shoved the door onto his face.
“Dad, I will call you later.” I stand, watching the closed door, composing my ragged breaths.
When the doorbell rang again, I knew it wasn’t an imagination. Ready to blast off the entity on the other side, I quickly opened the door. Roger smiled, holding onto a brown paper bag flinging from his hand.
“Ice cream won’t do as an apology.” I said, walking in.
He walked close behind, shutting the door.
“This isn’t ice cream. It’s your favorite. Oil fried unhealthy, heart attack inducing food.” He said, rattling the brown bag again.
Anger was a funny emotion. When you detest someone, it would spew. But if that same person stood next to you with a charming smile and a coma inducing food container, it was nowhere to be found.
I know, I shouldn’t forgive him. After what he said to me, I should have shoved the door at him, never to open again. But Roger was playing my weakness. Laughter. He was making me, or atleast trying to make me laugh.
“I didn’t order this..” I said, pointing to the bag and hooking my eyebrows in retort.
He smiled and placed the contents on the table. “I know, I did it. After calling my doctor, asking him what majority of his obese patients ate.” He was successfully in getting a smile drawn on my face. I reached out to take the bag but he pulled it back. “No, no. First things first..” Wiping his hands together, he proceeded to move closer. I involuntarily stepped back.
Tracing upto me, he held my shoulders, gazing into my eyes. I was quick to put on my ‘annoyed at his rude behavior’ mask.
“I shouldn’t have said that..” He said, words only merely air yet, infused with an apologetic tone.
“But you did.”
Surrendering his hands in the air, he moved back. “And there is no excuse for my behavior..”
“You think,” I scoffed.
He walked closer again but this time, I stood my ground. Being close to Roger always had me on alert, weak at my knees. This time was no different. My brain kept pinging me not to do anything stupid while my heart leapt from its place, hoping to be held again and be kissed.
When our distance was reduced to merely inches, I looked away, knowing the coldness of his gaze and tipping smile would only hurt me. Roger didn’t come here to make me his. That was my stupid, unrealistic daydreaming.
“We both can’t keep doing this to each other..” Roger said, nearer to my ears. His warm breath hitting the pulled up nerve near my neck. It took all my inhibition to not turn.
My teeth gritted at his words. I was hurt by him. So I hurt back. “You, more than me.” My jab was evident on his face but he was quick to move back and hold out his hand.
“What are we? 15?” I said, eying his extended hard. He looked at it and back at me, a puzzled look dancing on his face.
“This is what people do.”
“During World War II.” I rolled my eyes. “Grow up, grandpa.” My move was halted when Roger pushed me back against the wall. This time, it wasn’t the ‘friendship handshake’ man but the one whom I hadn’t had a chance to encounter in a long time, who took the reigns.
“You really have to be-” He swallowed his words.
Punished. Yes I knew what he wanted to state. I had knows Master’s words, his actions long enough to know, what my bratty act did to him. I knew what challenging his control did to him. What remained a question was, why was it affecting him?
He clearly didn’t want anything to do with me.
“Say it.. I dare you.” I know. I should really be punished for mocking him. Have I learnt nothing? He didn’t care about me, about us yet, a hope lingered in my heart.
“What are you, seven to say that?” He slid back, exhaling whatever held up air was inside his lungs and fell over the sofa. “You don’t have to shake hands, Arin. I just hope we can be friends.”
I was too hungry to mind his statements. Only when he grabbed my food boxes, did I concentrate.
“Give me that,” I protested.
“I will when I want to, and when you stop with the hot and cold act.” I was fuming. His demand for forgivingness seemed more like a demand than an apology.
“Then you will starve.” He opened a box, inhaling the food and smacking his lips. His cringe was obvious.
“Eat it.” I was riling him up. He looked at me, wide eye and with an ajar mouth. “Go on. I can starve. If you love this so much, eat it.”
He tried. I could tell. But when the chopsticks came closer to his lips, he dropped it back alongwith the contents. His eyes begged for forgiveness and he kept looking at me, waiting for me to speak.
“You don’t eat any of this, do you?” I pointed to the food at the table. Patting his rock hard abs, which sounded like he was hitting wood with his knuckles, he proudly stated his answer. It was obvious. I should have known.
Roger looked at the food and back at me. “Why do you like it?”
I shrugged, picking up his box and devouring its contents as if this was the last meal, ever. He watched me with part amusement and part despair. I was his opposite. Complete. I assume, he must have regretted getting me to sign that contract now.
But to my surprise, he acted differently. He picked up another box and took a bite of an oily egg roll at a lightning speed. I was shell shocked at his behavior. Washboard abs men don’t eat grease. They only eat air. At least that’s what I thought.
’Not so bad,” he smiled, chewing the contents in a slow motion.
I scoffed. “Not so bad? Are you kidding me. It’s the best.”
Our talks continued for almost an hour while I sat, curled up on my bed and finished the last of the content. When I leaned back on the headboard, ready to be lulled into a coma, Roger straightened up.
“Not so fast.” He said. “I got you food but what about me?”
“What do you want to eat?”
He rubbed his hands together as if he waited for me to say it all along. When I couldn’t think of his gut requirement, he lent his hand. “Walk with me..”
Dragging me down the stairs, Roger had me shivering in the cold while he trotted as if it was a summer night. I wanted to shove ice down his shirt to make him realize what I suffered but that involved touching him. I wanted to avoid being in close proximity with him. He wanted us to be friends and I was determined to prove, I could do that.
A cup of cocoa in hand, we walked over to the snowed in park bench. Looking at the shimmering city, the Christmas lighting and the wonderment of the place, I sighed.
“December is my favorite month” Roger said, eying the starry affair of the distant buildings.
“Why are you telling me that?” I asked. He turned to me, smiling.
“I don’t know. I felt like.”
I grinned, unable to hold my smile. “Mine is June.”
“You like summers?” He asked, eyebrows hooked into his hairline. I nodded.
Yes, we were opposite poles of a magnet. Before Roger could state another fun fact about him, I was quick to toss the dreaded question.
“If you don’t mind, can you tell me what happened with Brandon?”
Roger looked away. Silence crept between us and I almost gave up on the hope of his answering when he turned, facing me. “He isn’t a good man.. he.. my mother. Brandon was an alcoholic.. he used it beat..”
Quick to halt his piercing words, I spoke. “Say no more.”
Dredging past wasn’t what I intended tp drudge up. With Roger’s sadness came his anger. Brandon wasn’t a good man. That much I knew from Mrs. Rose. But she never told me the full story, telling me it wasn’t her take to narrate.
But now I understood, why Roger detested Brandon. Nobody could have a happy childhood with an abusive alcoholic father.
“Is you mother?” I didn’t pry but the question felt like walking on thin ice. I could fall into the frigid water with one wrong step.
“No she isn’t.” roger said. His tone flatlined, like the incidence didn’t hurt him anymore. “She died when I was 8. Brain hemorrhage.”
My eyes scanned him as my hands travelled to my gasped mouth. I didn’t expect that to be an answer.
“Was it an accident?” I asked, feeling the pain in his eyes even when he shoved it away. He nodded.
For the first time I saw Roger visibly sad. His eyes held tears from memories. He looked straight up, trying to fuse them back into their ducts. The corners of his eyes glistened. “It was made to look like an accident. Fucking Brandon took a bat to her head.”
The lawyer in me must have been the most riled. I held his hand and blurted out. “He wasn’t convicted?”
Roger let out a huff of air as if he didn’t have any hope for the country’s justice system. “Lack of evidence. Brandon was acquitted.”
My hands pressed against his, a gentle squeeze to remind he wasn’t alone. In the cold snowy night, we sat together on a bench, reminiscing about the ones we lost.
“How about you? Anyone in the family who deserves such hate?” he asked, clearing his throat.
“Oh yes. Stella.” As if words could pull out someone from the dark dungeons of bad memories, my words played the help Roger needed. He laughed, nodding in affirmation.
I thought I would never be able to see that smile again. Roger tuned to me and gave my hand a squeeze too. A reassurance that we were in this together. The distance between us remained the same, it felt as if our hearts connected over pain.
Before I could think of anything else, Roger’s phone vibrated. He loosened his grip over my hand but kept it held together. Worry and anger swirled in his eyes as he nodded and hummed onto the caller’s words. By the end, he placed both his hands over his face and growled. It was loud enough for passersby to notice his frustration.
“What happened? Something with the merger?” I asked, standing next to him, running circles over his back.
He nodded sidewise, retaining his bent position before kicking some snow with his feet. I carefully placed a hand over his shoulder, supporting his straightening. Whatever the news was, warmth in winter could never be enough. So was compassion.
Sighing, Roger turned over his shoulder. Anger reddened the side that looked over to me. Frustrated words drew up when he said. “Brandon. He moved up the court dates”
How was this chapter?
Do you think Roger will stay good to Arin or will find ways to screw this up too?
Let me know in the comments.