Chapter 49 - “It’s Mrs. Downhill, thank you” [Republished]
Mike and I got in his car and he drove us back home in a heavy silence, none of us daring to look at each other.
Why do I feel like a teenager taken home by her father after a night out where she gracefully managed to make a fool of herself?
Mike was so pissed off that I could feel the vibrations of his anger all through the space around us.
And then his words resounded in my head.
Lucas was out of the city. God, I felt stupid.
I made an ass of myself looking like a slut, getting drunk and wearing no panties, and he was not even around.
I finally turned my face to Mike, his eyes staring on the road, reeking of anger with his jaws clenched so tight that I could see the bones coming out.
“Are you angry at me?” I asked him in a soft voice, hoping to smooth his anger.
He didn’t answer nor made a move, as if I said nothing.
I let him be and shifted my glare back on the window and we continue driving for ten minutes more, in complete silence.
“I am not angry, Rebecca,” he finally said. “I am disappointed and I feel fucking hurt because I can’t help you.”
I snapped my head towards him, confused. I knew what he meant, and I knew just as much as he knew that only one person could help me. What I couldn’t understand was why Mike had to feel guilty for it.
“Nobody can, Mike. It’s just ... that’s how my life is. I don’t have another. I just need to make in peace with it. And that takes time,” I replied and continued staring outside.
For the rest of the trip, none of us said anything. When we arrived home, I went straight to my room.
I removed my clothes and got under the hot water of the shower, trying to relax my muscles and get rid of the headache that was throbbing in my temples. Once done, I put on a loose t-shirt and a pair of leggings and went downstairs for a coffee.
I was in a deep need of a strong coffee in my system to wake me up. Today I was supposed to attend the reception.
Mike in the kitchen already, sitting on one of the barstools around the kitchen island and having his coffee.
Walking past him, I ignored his presence and I filled a cup of coffee for myself, leaving the kitchen and exiting to the patio.
I felt the need to be alone and take in everything Mike told me yesterday.
Should I give Lucas a chance? Is that what he has been waiting for?
Somehow it makes sense since I am the one that has run away. I am the one that has left him behind without any sort of communication.
But then again, nothing stopped him before to come for me when he really wanted to.
And he didn’t do it this time. I felt him more distant than ever.
Even towards the end of marriage, I never felt him so distant, never felt lonely.
There were nights when I could feel him next to me and those were the nights with the best sleep I could ever wish for and the best mornings to wake up to, feeling fresh and rested, even though each time I was waking up alone.
But now it felt all so different. I couldn’t feel him anywhere around me and it was hurting me, making me feel empty, drifting through every day without a purpose.
I heard some files thrown harshly on the table next to my sunbed, and it made me snap out of my thoughts. Lifting my eyes towards the source of the noise, anger takes me over seeing Mike next to me with the same tensed look in his eyes.
“Would you cut the fucking attitude, Mike?!” I shouted at him, having enough of his anger.
“Now I am having attitude?! What about you, Rebecca? What do you call the life you’re living? You are off all the time. You make everybody feel like idiots and guilty. You consume yourself and hurt yourself as if your life has stopped and you are just waiting to die,” he replied.
“Maybe I am waiting to die. Maybe I do feel like my life has stopped, Mike! Maybe I do have the right to have attitude. It’s not you that has been sold by your father like a piece of meat in change of money. It’s me! It’s not you that has been beaten for years by her brother. It’s me, Mike! It’s not you that has lost the love of her life. It’s me! It’s not you that lost a child. It’s fucking me, Mike! So tell me, what is there for me to live for, ha? I am his and I am not his. I want to live my life in a way that is not being haunted by my past, and here all I have around me is my past. You see that bush over there, Mike? That’s where Peter broke my arm when I was fifteen. Do you see that window up there, Mike? That’s the office where my father told me that I was made to sacrifice for the family. And this corner over here? It’s where my mother and I used to sit when she was teaching me what an obedient woman meant and I loathed it!” I shouted back at him, pouring my heart out for the first time.
I had all the fucking rights to be angry! I had the full right to be hurt and angry.
Mike’s eyes softened and were now staring back at me with pity.
“Don’t fucking dare to pity me, Mike!” I shouted once more with a suffocated voice, but it didn’t reach his brains as the look in his eyes never changed.
“You lost a child...” he mumbled.
My lips started to quiver and my vision became blurry with tears pooling in my eyes.
“And it was my fault. I tried to kill myself knowing I was pregnant. I killed it, Mike. Now, they say the first person you kill always haunts you. Well, my child haunts me. And it is torturing me,” and this is the moment I can’t hold back my tears anymore and start sobbing.
Mike crouched next to me, grabbing my hands and rubbing circles on the back with his strong thumbs.
“I didn’t know, Rebecca. I am so sorry,” he whispered.
“Don’t be sorry. It was not your fault. Stop being fucking sorry for things that are not your fault,” I said, wiping off my tears and pulling my hands from his grip.
“Rebecca, Lucas has never had a relation again since you left. I know because we have been working together and seen each other quite often,” he said and then paused, trying to gather his courage to continue.
“He contacted me soon after he came around from his coma and got out of the hospital. He came up with the idea of managing Downhill Inc. until you would be back. He has asked me to inform him of each and every step you do, he has been watching you from far and always has had your back,” he continued and sobs rolled out on my lips again, unable to control them.
He took a seat on the sunbed next to me and pulled me in a warm hug and I cuddled at his chest.
He allowed me to cry my sorrow for as long as I need, until I had enough.
“The hair dressed and the stylist should be here any minute,” Mike said, and soon the doorbell rang. “See? I told you,” he said and winked back at me before leaving to open the front door. Few minutes later he came back to me, telling me that I was needed upstairs in my room.
It took the hair dressed and the stylist almost three hours to get me ready. My hair was curly and tied up in a loose bun with some strands of my black hair falling down on my shoulders.
I loved it. It looked like I had triple the amount of hair than I actually had, and it was shining in the lights of the bedroom.
The make-up was rather natural than heavy, and still it took two damn hours to have it done, but once I had been asked to look at myself in the mirror, I remained speechless. It was beautiful.
I was looking at my own reflection in the mirror and I couldn’t believe how my eyes were now so big and nicely shaped and it seemed that the green of them were pure emeralds.
My lips were covered by a thin layer of pink shimmering lip-gloss and now, as I was ready, I stood up and turn towards the walk-in closet where my gown was waiting for me.
The surprise of the hairstyle and the make-up was nothing comparing to the dress I was going to wear tonight.
Emerald green taffeta was tailored in a long gown with a tight waistband and some wide pleats flowing down from it. The top of the dress was all covered with lace, trailing down on the hips in asymmetric edges.
It was a full exposure of the neck and chest, with small sleeves fallen off the shoulders.
It was exquisite, almost making me wish that Lucas would be there. I didn’t care if he was with someone else or not.
And that thought only made painful knots forming in my stomach.
The ladies taking care of me helped me put on the dress, and now my reflection in the tall mirror of my bedroom was completing my confidence.
“You’re gorgeous,” Mike says and I see his reflection in the mirror, wearing an Italian suit in sharp tailored lines, holding his hands in his pockets and leaning against the door frame.
“Thank you,” I say, smiling shyly.
“Time to go, gorgeous. Come on,” he said offering me his right arm which I lightly grab keeping that silly smile on and feeling my cheeks burning.
Once outside he opened the back door of the car for me, waiting for me patiently to arrange the long large skirt of my dress. He was going to be my driver today, just like he said.
Arriving in front of the luxury hotel where the reception was going to be, I could see beams of light going towards the evening sky and a cue of the most luxurious cars waiting their moment to load off the rotten rich businessmen.
A pile of reporters was around the entrance and once I stepped out of the car when Mike opened the door for me, tenth of camera flashes.
I turn for a moment allowing them to shoot some more pictures of me having Mike at my back as my bodyguard.
“Ms. Tate, is your coming back going to trigger the sale of Downhill Inc.?” a reporter asks.
“It’s Ms. Downhill. And no, Downhill Inc. will stay in the family. Thank you,” I answered shortly and turned towards the entrance, walking up the long line of stairs.
Strolling towards the hall of the reception I see people around staring at me and some even whispering behind their hands covering their lips.
Some men had longer stares than I wished for and felt embarrassed, something that didn’t go unnoticed to Mike as I felt his hand squeezing mine.
As we enter the huge hall of the reception, Mike stops and bends towards me.
“You look amazing. It will be fine,” he encourages me before taking his place next to the other bodyguards at the door, winking and mouthing me back ‘gorgeous’ one more time.
The nerves in the pit of my stomach become tighter as I make my way through the crowd of people.
A waiter passes by offering me a glass of Champagne, which I take and smile back at him with a thank you.
“Rebecca, what a surprise to see you here,” I hear a kind voice that sounded familiar.
Looking towards my right side, I see an old man walking towards me accompanied by a woman which surely is his wife. He was an old business partner of my father, and I was finally happy to see someone that I knew.
“Mr. Rogers, I am really happy to see you,” I tell him back and stretch my hand to shake, but instead, he gallantly kisses it. “Ms. Rogers,” I turn to the older woman and we shake hands.
“It’s beautiful to see you, Rebecca. You look amazing. Is your husband with you?” she asks cheerfully, and it is obvious she doesn’t know anything about my recent life events. I take in a sharp breath to tame the demons in my stomach.
“No, actually I came without a date tonight,” I reply.
“Well, then please do share the table with us,” Mr. Rogers says, and he shows me the way to their table.
“So, are you financing?” he asks.
“As a matter of fact, yes. We do. It is a small IT startup which builds application for architecture companies. We also have a contract with them and they seem to be pretty good,” I reply with a gentile smile.
“That’s good,” he replies as we get interrupted by a voice booming in a mic. I see a tall man on the stage preparing to have a speech for the guests.
“Good evening, brave businessmen,” he greets in a strong voice and I am sure I’ve heard that voice on TV, or radio, or... something.
Waves of claps and cheers and whistles erupt around me, making me feel uncomfortable.
I close my eyes although clapping myself at the same time so I won’t look out of the general picture, but it is too much noise for me to handle so I stand up spotting some tall doors leading somewhere outside. I know some fresh air is going to do me good.
I excused myself to the two friends I shared the table with and turned around, facing the doors, but a wave of mixed cold and hot shivers spread all over me.
The room gets void of air and my chest clenched as if squeezed by an invisible claw.
I feel the need to run away, to disappear, and I start frantically looking around in search of an exit.
I have to get out of here but somehow my feet remain rooted to the ground, my eyes constantly pulled towards that spot of the room where I see him, standing in the glory of his height, relaxed and talking to a group of people and gesturing friendly, completely oblivious of my presence and my burning stare on him.
"When joy is a habit, love is a reflex."