Chapter 12: Leah is tied to her throne.
Leah ran ahead of us towards a black range rover. Max opened the door and settled her in the baby car seat.
“I think I am too grown up for this car seat,” Leah suggested.
“No Leah. You are just 6 years old.” max sighed as if he had this argument a hundred times already.
“I am 6 years and 3 months old Maxy,” Leah whined.
Max finished securing all the straps and turned around opening the passenger door and looking at me. I went and sat beside Leah on the backseat. He just shrugged and went to the driver’s seat.
“But maxy...I feel like a zoo animal. And it is not cool.” Leah continued.
“What is the spelling of broccoli Leah?” Max asked revving the engine. Leah looked at me with pleading eyes.
" its B-R-O-C-C-O-L-I,” I told her with a smile.
She beamed at me and firmly tried to repeat, “B-R-O-K-O-L-Y.”
“Even after cheating you spelled it out wrong.” max told her.
" But I don't even like broccoli,” Leah whined.
" Doesn’t make a difference.” max shrugged.
Leah deflated like a balloon and turned to me, “crystal tell him I am big enough for seat belts.”
“No Leah. It is for your own safety.” I told her. She looked crestfallen.
“Besides you look like a queen sitting on her throne. See, I don't have a special seat like you. You are the queen, Leah.” I grinned at her.
“Why am I tied to my throne then?”
“Because we want you to sit on your throne.”
She pouted; I gave her a flying kiss. She smiled back.
“Put the music,” she said jumping slightly on her seat.
Max sighed again and started the music player. ‘Shape of you’ started playing.
“Sing with me,” Leah said.
I smiled at her apologetically, “I am not good at singing.”
“How can you say that without singing?” she asked.
I mulled over that and shrugged. We both started singing the chorus. I realized that Max was driving. Nothing gave me as much joy as annoying him so I started singing off-key in a very loud voice.
Leah caught up with me and started doing the same. Max gave us an incredulous look. The second verse started and I didn't know the lyrics so I started yelling loudly.
“lala laa laala la lal laaaaaa. Yaa yaaaa ya yaaaa yay. We talk ladeee da daaa daa. Ooooo ooo oo oooo.”
Leah joined me and we both started singing-yelling loudly. Max snapped the music off but we continued singing.
He stopped the car right in the middle of the road and twisted back to glare at us, “will you two stop yelling like a band of banshees?” he bellowed.
“You are the one who is yelling now,” Leah grumbled.
I gave her a high five. But max looked furious, his jaw was twitching.
“Hey, your jaw is actually twitching! I thought that happens only in books.” I said. He took a deep breath and started the car.
“No one is going to sing now,” he said.
“No... wait, Crystal, you cant call me Maxy!” he fumed.
I grinned at him, “why not?”
“Because you can't!” he said. Leah giggled.
The car finally stopped. I started unsnapping all the straps around Leah and helped her out of the car. Max stood behind me looking at me weirdly.
I raised a brow at him. He just shook his head and entered a tall building. Leah grasped my hand and pulled me behind max.
The lobby looked very posh with leather lounge chairs and golden lighting. There were vases of Calla Lillies and modern paintings. Max nodded at the man behind the reception and moved towards a different elevator than the ones others used.
“Why are we going in this elevator?” I asked him, entering the elevator.
He typed in a password and the elevator started moving, “because its the only elevator to the penthouse.” he replied.
" you live in a penthouse ?”
“Richie rich,” I mumbled under my breath.
" what did you say?”
“Nothing ” I chimed just as the elevator opened to the foyer.
Everything was way too grand. Max stepped out and Leah had to drag me forward. All the grandeur was making me feel nervous.
I stood straight with a neutral expression as he opened the door. Leah ran inside after throwing her shoes. Max picked them up and neatly kept it on the shoe rack. I followed suit. He closed the door and I just stood a few steps into the house staring at the customized ceiling and paintings on the wall.
“You can go inside. You know that right?” he asked me.
I nodded at him and stepped on the cool marble floors. The penthouse was much more luxurious inside. Every single thing sparkled and glittered. I kept my hands firmly at my sides; who knew if I knocked down a vase it may cost me a fortune.
Max gave me a weird look, “why are you looking as if you are going to face a dragon?”
I just looked at him and shook my head, “where are your parents?”
“At their house.”
“Isn't this their house?”
“No, this is my house.”
I looked at him with suspicion, ” you mean the house your father bought you?”
I quickly regretted my words; they sounded harsh.
Surprisingly max scoffed, “no, this is the house that I bought from my own money.”
" what do you mean by your own money? You work?” I asked him.
The whole house was filled with different paintings. And all of them were beautiful and mesmerizing. I turned towards max after examining a painting in gray and blue on a rainy day. Max was giving me an are-you-kidding-me look.
“I love the paintings in your house. Who is the artist for this one?” I asked pointing towards the painting.
" All the paintings in this house are mine,” he told me moving towards the sofa.
“You are an amazing artist,” I muttered as I stared at a painting of a temple by the sea.
“What did you say?” he asked in shock.
“I said you are an amazing artist. Now don't go all egoistic on me.” I told him with a smirk.
He rolled his eyes and settled on the huge white couch beside a bouncing Leah. The couch made a ‘U’ around a huge LED T.V and behind it, a whole section of the wall was replaced with floor to ceiling glass window to show the New York skyline. I went and sat on the other side of Leah.
" put on rapunzel today,” Leah said bouncing all around.
“But you already saw that.” max countered.
“But I never saw it with crystal,” Leah replied.
Max reached towards the shelf containing stacks of CDs and perused through the collection, “I don't think it will make much of a difference.”
“Tell him, crystal.” Leah turned to me with a pout.
“why will he listen to me?” I asked her as I settled a white furry pincushion on my lap.
Leah grinned widely, ” Because he likes you.”
I sat up straight and slowly turned towards max who was gaping at Leah.
“I don't!” he sputtered.
" he has a ...crush on you,” Leah said.
“What?!” max exclaimed with his eyebrows raised to the highest level.
Leah crossed her tiny arms and reverently nodded.
I looked at her, “why do you think so?”
" Because he said you like harry potter so he read all the harry potter boo-” max covered Leah's mouth.
I slapped his arm and he quickly pulled back.
I lifted Leah to my lap, “what were you saying ? He read all the harry potter books?”
Leah shot a mischievous glance at max. I gave him the stink eye. And max looked scared.
“He read the books on the same day by staying up all night,” Leah said with a smirk.
I looked at max but he was moving towards the open kitchen.
“Max....?” I called out.
I was seriously confused. Did Max read the whole series? In one day?
“I read them because they were interesting. Not for you.”
“Oh, my sweet potato loves harry potter!” I gushed.
Leah started laughing and max gave me a disgusted look.
“I will get the ice cream,” he said.
The movie started and Leah took two bowls of ice cream and passed one to me. Then she settled on my lap and leaned her head on my chest getting comfortable. We watched the movie while finishing bowl after bowl of ice cream. After all, max had bought the whole chocolate section of the store.
“Another movie!” Leah chimed and dived to find another CD.
I looked at Max.
“she is a movie maniac.” max explained with a bored expression.
The movie started and I stretched my legs. Leah hopped on my lap again and I wrapped my arms around her. Max groaned loudly as ‘barbie and the school champs’ lit up the screen.
“Stay for dinner,” Leah said after 2 hours.
The credits were rolling on the screen and max was asleep.
“I don't know Leah....” I started but Leah hugged me tightly, ” please crystal ?”
I sighed at her and called my mom.
“can I stay over at a friend’s house for dinner ?” there were a few seconds of silence on the other end then, “when will you be back?”
“Probably by 8.”
“Okay. Have fun.” mom said cheerily.
I bid her goodbye and looked down at an eager Leah.
“I will stay for dinner.”
Leah squealed so loudly that max woke up with a start.
“What happened?” he asked.
“crystal is staying for dinner.” Leah started bouncing on the couch.
I gave max an apologetic smile.
“Oh. Well, I better get started on dinner then. ”
“I will help you,” I told him.
“You know how to cook?” max asked me in amusement.
I gave him a dry look, “of course I can cook. But I am not good at it.” I told him.
“I will help. I will help.” Leah jumped and ran towards the kitchen.
We made a quick meal of lasagna. Halfway through the dinner, Leah slept with a spoon in her mouth. Max smiled at her and picked her up to put her to sleep in her bedroom.
I collected all the dishes and cleaned the marble counter and dinner table.
“You don't have to do that.” max said as he took the tablecloth from me.
" why don't you stay with your parents ?” I asked.
The question had tossed and turned in my head about a million times thus it became impossible to hold onto it anymore. But as I watched max struggle with an answer I knew it was too personal.
" you won’t understand crystal. You have parents who are not divorced,” he said.
“Your parents are divorced?” I asked him.
He started packing the leftover lasagna.
“They were. Briefly. Then they reconciled.”
“Oh,” I said trying to figure out max’s story.
" Like I said you won’t understand,” he said as he kept the lasagna in the refrigerator.
“Even my parents are divorced,” I replied in a timid voice.
He turned towards me and then his eyes lit up as he understood something, ” Brad Gartlet isn't your father?”
“Nope. He is my stepfather.”
Max continued to stare at me.
Something about his demeanor just prompted me to blurt out everything, “my mom left us when I was 13. She got married to Brad and came back to ask me to be her maid of honor. I threw a huge tantrum and refused to even turn up at her wedding. But just a year back my father got a huge project. He was asked to go to Iceland and do nature photography...so I came to live with my mom.”
“Just like that?” max frowned at me.
“Just like that,” I told him with a smile.
“I mean aren’t you angry at her ?” he asked leaning against the tabletop.
" I was angry three years back. Now I am not.” I told him with a small smile.
“But why did she leave you?” he asked. A vivid image of that day came into my mind.
I remembered the argument between mom and dad. I was too sleepy. When I woke up in the morning the house was too silent. The kitchen was turned upside down and my dad was kneeling near the fridge, sobbing.
When I asked him what happened, he looked at me with anger and told me that I was the reason behind everything. He threw my mom’s letter on the kitchen floor and walked out of the house.
“My mom was fed up with poverty. Dad was really very upset. The morning she left even dad went out, he came back the next morning drunk and sobbing. It happened for a few days but then everything went back to normal.” I told him.
I was the reason for everything.
My hand started trembling and tears blurred my vision. I went to the sink and turned the blue knob on the tap to its extreme. Ice cold water shot out and numbed my fingers. I took a scrub and started washing all the utensils.
“You don't have to wash them. I have a dishwasher. ” max muttered. I ignored him.
“Crystal?” max approached me and put a hand on my wrist.
“Shit! This water is too cold!” he exclaimed.
He pulled both of my hands out of the sink and held them in his large ones.
“Are you trying to freeze your fingers?” he asked me angrily.
I stared at the insignia on the breast of his sweatshirt.
“No,” I said thickly.
Holding both my hands in one of his he started the warm water and held my hand underneath it.
“I can take care of myself.” I hissed and tried to pull back.
He held my wrists with an iron grip.
“I know that. It's just that you don't know how these knobs work. Even the plumber got confused.” he told me as he stood behind me.
His hard chest pressed slightly against my back engulfing me in his arms. His warm breath fanned against my temples sending delightful shivers through my body.
He smelled fresh. Like a citrusy minty smell. My heart started beating faster and my face felt warmer. He just stood there holding my hands in silence. I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself.
It is nothing special. It is supposed to be nothing special.
“I think my hands are warm enough now,” I told him and tilted my head back to glance at him.
He looked down at me gazing into my eyes. I found it very difficult to move and by now my heart was running a marathon in my chest.
Finally, he released my hands.
" Yeah,” he said and moved just one step back.
Before my cheeks could turn into tomatoes I blurted out, “it's getting late. I have to go.”
I rushed to the couch, picked my purse and mobile, and bolted to the doors.
" How will you go home?” max called out somewhere from behind me.
I faced the doors and spoke, “Uber?”
I heard him exhale loudly, “no need. I will give you a lift.”
I wanted to run away and he was not letting me do that! As he passed by me towards the door, I started feeling tingly and woozy. Down to his car, I found it difficult to even look at him without blushing. It was pathetic. I was pathetic.
I got into the passenger side of the car and sat quietly with my hands folded over my lap. All through the ride, I stared outside the window letting silence reign inside the car.
I felt max glancing at me several times but I ignored him. Everything I tried to keep back threatened to come spilling out of me. My hands felt too cold and my stomach was sunken to the road passing below me. My emotions were going haywire.
Max turned the car to my street and stopped right in front of my house. I was too tired to ask him how he knew my address, so I simply opened the door and stepped out.
“Crystal?” max called out tentatively.
“Yeah?” I asked him in a small voice.
He looked at me hesitantly before saying, “I am sorry.”
The lights from the dashboard cast shadows on his face. In the low light, his high cheekbones looked defined and his jawline looked sharp enough to cut diamonds.
“What are you sorry for?” I asked him. And then a sudden monstrous thought reared its head.
“Are you pitying me?” I asked him in annoyance. His eyes widened and his mouth formed an ‘o’.
" no.” he shook his head vigorously. And just like that, the monster went to sleep again
“ah, you are apologizing for getting me into trouble?” I smirked.
“You get yourself into trouble. You invite trouble.” max spoke.
“As if.” I scoffed.
He tilted his head and looked at me like a predator watching its prey.
“Bye. Good night. Sleep tight.” I grinned at him and closed the door but not before seeing the small smile on his face.
I entered my house and turned back to wave at max and closed my door. Only then did I hear the soft purr of his engine and he left.
so here is the next update. If you like it please comment and like. And keep reading!!!
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