Chapter 16: An ax murderer texts me
You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone.
- Maya Angelou
I sat on the bench seat by my window in a violet robe and watched mom create havoc in my room.
After coming from school, mom had rushed me to her favorite spa. There I had to undergo one hour of extreme torture in the form of full-body waxing, pedicure, manicure, and hairstyling.
The result? I felt like a turkey about to be pushed into the oven for thanksgiving dinner.
“I think the red skirt is nice,” I mumbled.
Mom picked a red midi skirt and threw it abruptly muttering, “Too red riding hood.”
I watched her reject a few more outfits for another 10 minutes before she groaned, ” you don’t have enough dresses!”
“Are you kidding me?” I eyed the pile of clothes 2 feet high and completely covering my queen-sized bed along with all the dresses that were spread out on the floor of my bedroom like a carpet.
“You don’t have any dress meant for this occasion. And you are just sitting there and not even helping.” Mom whined.
I sighed and picked a green chiffon skater dress, ”how about this?”
“Too party.” She quickly rejected it.
I picked up a cream sheath dress with full-length sleeves.
“That’s too old for you.” Mom said frowning.
“Then why the hell did you buy it for me?” I sighed.
She sifted through a few more dresses. I picked a novel and started reading it.
“Are you ready?” Brad asked entering the room still in his sweats.
“Crystal doesn’t have any dresses.” Mom complained.
Brad looked at the dress dump that was my bedroom now and asked, ”she doesn’t?”
Mom nodded solemnly. Brad and I exchanged wary looks; which amazed me. Since when did brad and I become so comfortable with each other?
“I think you should quickly choose a dress. We have to be there in less than an hour.” Brad spoke.
“An hour?!” my mom screamed.
I glanced at the clock in my room. Fifteen minutes had already passed by.
“I am not even ready yet!” mom panicked.
Brad and I gave her puzzled looks. Her hair and makeup were done and she was already wearing her jewelry. She had even laid out her dress for the evening. What was she talking about getting ready?
“Okay, the blue one or the green one?” Mom asked turning to Brad.
“The blue one,” Brad replied.
“Crystal, wear the green one.” Mom pushed a jade green short dress from some designer into my hands.
Brad just smiled and shook his head. Why ask if she was not going to follow the advice? Brad slipped away with a good-luck-to-you smile.
I slipped into the dress.
Mom zipped me up and gave me a pink pearl pendant and earrings. She helped me tie my hair in a complex updo and forcefully put some makeup on my face before rushing to get dressed.
I glanced at all the clothes strewn around me and decided to clean up later. I was trying to decide if the smoky eye looked good on me when my mobile chimed. The text was from an unknown number.
Unknown number: I am sorry, crystal.
I stared at the message for a few seconds. Unknown number…knows my name…spelled my name correctly…and even used punctuation marks! I was seriously getting scared now. What if it was a high functioning sociopath?
Me: who are you?
I sent the message before I could chicken out. There were a few seconds of nothing. Then, an emoji. An emoji with closed eyes and a closed-lip.
Unknown number: ax murderer.
Okay, so no self-respecting ax murderer will send an are-you-kidding-me emoji and then declare himself. Which meant...
Me: pookie bear?
Unknown number: why do you always have to use such stupid names?
Ah! It was max! I grinned.
Then I realized that I never gave him my number.
Then I realized that I was not talking to him; I was mad at him.
Me: not talking to you.
Pookie bear: oh come on, you were talking to me a minute ago.
That is because I didn't know it was you. Mom called me. I slipped my mobile in my clutch and teetered down in my strappy high heels. It was raining heavily outside and the temperature had dropped instantly.
“Get your coat, crystal.” Mom drawled.
“Which one? Because you bought me a thousand different coats.” I retorted.
“Not a thousand. I just got you different types of them. Wear your black trench coat.”
I sighed and made my way to my cluttered room taking some time in finding the desired item. Before getting in the car, I extended my hands and felt the icy cold raindrops splatter across my skin. An instinctual grin crept on my face and I giggled.
“Sweetie, get into the car before we get late,” Mom called out from the passenger side.
I scrambled and got into the back seat. Throughout the car ride, mom was a bundle of nerves and my mobile kept getting messages.
“Switch that mobile off!” mom screeched so loudly that I got startled and quickly switched it off.
‘Divinity’ was utterly beyond my imagination. It was a cluster of one-storeyed buildings with glass sections that showcased the rich guests laughing and enjoying.
Our car entered a circular driveway that had a huge complicated fountain at the center. The golden lights and glittering glass was so elegant that I felt intimidated by it. Now, I was truly nervous.
“Stop looking like we entered Charlie’s chocolate factory.” Mom snapped.
I closed my mouth shut. She was nervous and she was getting angry with me. Figures.
“Now, listen, crystal, whatever she tells you, don’t get angry. You are not being sarcastic. Actually, just keep your mouth closed.” Mom told me while keeping a perfectly social smile on her face.
I frowned deeply. I was just supposed to sit there like a doll?
“Please crystal don’t give me a coronary.” She mumbled the last part while touching the platinum cross slung across her neck.
I noticed the change in Brad and mom before I saw Brad’s mom. I did not understand what the entire ruckus behind Brad’s mom was until now. Her sharp brown eyes assessed every step we took. She was leaning back against the cream leather chair with her legs crossed and a wine glass tipped closed to her maroon lips.
There were waiters standing behind her like attendees to a queen. She executed power and somehow I just felt that much more thrilled to meet her.
A sudden thought occurred to me and I whispered, ”mom you didn’t tell her about my hospital visits, right?”
Mom glanced sharply at me and shook her head. I exhaled in relief.
We neared Mrs. Gartlet and just as brad was about to greet her she held a finger up.
Turning her gold wristwatch she primly announced, ”we were to meet at seven. It is 7 and a minute. Always late, aren’t you?”
She said the last part while looking at mom before settling her hard gaze on me. I looked at her coolly and turned my wrist to glance at my own watch.
“It's 7 precisely. I think you should confirm your time before accusing others.” I told her icily and flashed a smile at the end.
“You will understand that I don’t change the time to suit my needs.” She replied back.
“Well, CNN news channel seems to think this is the correct time. Besides, I really do not think you are that powerful to bend time. Though no one really is that powerful.” I said smoothly.
She slowly straightened up, all the while glaring at me.
“And I suppose you are the newest gold digger.” She said haughtily.
Before I could conjure up a response, mom’s hand clenched around my wrist and her nails scraped against my hand. She was desperate for me to stay quiet so I swallowed my words and just gazed back at Mrs. Gartlet.
“Mother. How nice to see you again.” brad greeted her stiffly.
Oh, she is a mother now. However, Mrs. Gartlet nodded at him while glaring at me. I stared back at her defiantly.
“Mother, this is crystal. Jade’s daughter.” Brad continued.
“Oh good. I am glad she had enough intelligence to name her child according to her social status.” She said while settling down on the chair.
I clenched my jaw and willed my face into neutrality. How dare she call my name cheap?! Three waiters appeared from nowhere pulling out chairs for us and draping napkins on our laps and arranging the cutlery for us. I was glad they did that or else I would have seriously stabbed Mrs. Gartlet in her eyes.
“What would you like to have?” a waiter with slicked-back hair asked us.
I picked up the heavy leather-bound menu and quickly glanced at the dishes. All of them had names that took five minutes to utter and each dish cost a hefty price. Just the water here could buy me a crateful of books. Everybody placed their orders and I realized too late that Mrs. Gartlet was scrutinizing my every move. I closed the menu and gave my mom a meaningful look.
“She will have whatever I have.” Mom quickly told the waiter. He bowed and left.
“So she doesn’t have a taste either.” Mrs. Gartlet piped. I raised one eyebrow at her indignantly.
“And she has an attitude problem.” Mrs. Gartlet added.
I was seething. This was getting harder and I was made to endure this form of torture without opening my mouth. Throughout the dinner, she insulted mom and me and heavily reprimanded brad.
When she mentioned my dad, I was so furious that I bent the silver fork in half with just one hand. She had enough sense to look scared of me, but it lasted only for a few minutes.
Mrs. Gartlet was ranting on about plastic fake-ness when I felt a sudden change in the room. The staff seemed to become even sharper and efficient. A little while later I heard the guests murmur slightly. However, of course, I did not have the luxury of glancing back since Mrs. Gartlet was busy describing how some women are just so good at using men to meet their own selfish needs.
“Crystal?” a deep voice asked from behind me.
I straightened up instantly and almost choked on the minute bite of tiramisu in my mouth. No. no this was so not happening.
I took a deep breath and slowly turned to glance at Maxwell Wester standing with the golden lights shining behind him like a Greek god. He was wearing a navy blue tuxedo paired with a white shirt and gleaming silver cufflinks. Two buttons of his shirt were open and the sleek lines of his collarbone abruptly snagged my female desire.
He looked too hot. Nevertheless, I was angry with him.
He moved gracefully towards us and quickly took Mrs. Gartlet’s hand pressing a kiss at the back of her hand, “ crystal never told me that her family was blessed with beautiful ladies. I am Maxwell wester.”
I saw everyone’s eyes widen but mine just narrowed. He was flirting. Flirting with an old woman? Brad stood up and shook his hand. Hello? What was wrong with brad? Did he forget that I had damaged max’s car?
Max next kissed mom’s hand and complimented her too. Either he was drunk or he was playing a very clever game. He turned to me and I glared at him.
A smirk formed on his lips and he asked in a very serious tone, "can I touch you?”
I blinked at him confused and nodded absent-mindedly. Touch where…he gently took my hand in his large warm one. And, bent just close enough that his breath was heating my cheeks up and he was all I could see.
“You are looking gorgeous.” He whispered while looking straight into my eyes and then pressed a feather-light kiss on my knuckles.
My heart flew out of my rib cage and I clenched my thighs together. I am angry at him, I reminded myself. He called me immature. That brought up my anger and I tethered myself to it.
“I am so sorry. Please forgive me.,” he told loud enough for everyone at our table to hear.
From the corner of my eye, I saw my mom glance at me questioningly. As far as she knew I never stayed angry at anyone, not even Donald Trump. I could also feel Mrs. Gartlet’s eyes on me. Max had me truly trapped. I glared at him and he smiled back innocently.
“I forgive you. In fact, I was never angry at you.” I told him with as much artificial sweetness in my voice as I could manage.
“yes.” I gritted out. Max straightened up with a huge triumphant smile on his face.
“Make sure they get the best service.” He told the waiter standing nearby.
The waiter bowed deeply and max flashed another perfect million-dollar smile before excusing himself. I watched him go to some other glass ensconced area that was luxuriously private. When I turned back, Mrs. Gartlet had her hawk eyes pegged on me.
She stared at me for a while before raising the glass of wine to her lips, “so your mother taught you how to snag rich boys too?”
This was it. I had enough of her insults. I glared back at her with a ferocity that would have killed any normal human. Mom clutched my hand beneath the table urging me to stop myself. I calmed myself a little but that did not stop the retort that flew out of my mouth.
“What is the use of being a beautiful girl if you couldn’t wrap a guy around your fingers?” I raised an eyebrow at her and gracefully put a bit of tiramisu in my mouth.
If this goes down then I will go down fighting. I expected a humiliating insult from her but she smiled deviously at me. Her maroon lips curved just gently enough and her eyes glittered. At that moment I realized that she really was a beautiful woman.
“I knew you had more spine than your mother.” She said. I narrowed my eyes at her in question.
“I knew I would like you the moment you smiled when you looked at me. As if you accepted a challenge.“ She said while standing up gracefully.
“Brad. You can bring her to the Cobain wedding on Sunday.” She said while looking at brad and walking away.
“And crystal, I hope to talk to you again. Preferably when you are not biting your tongue back.” she smiled at me and I smirked back at her. She wanted me to be sarcastic. Hell yeah!
The moment Mrs. Gartlet was out of earshot brad and mom jumped and hugged each other.
“she loved her!” mom squealed and brad nodded vigorously.
“I am so happy! Of course, she hates me. However, she loves crystal!“ Mom said with a huge grin.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. My nerves were frazzled and I was not sure whether to frown or grin. If Mrs. Gartlet liked me then why did she insult me so badly?
Then there was max…max! He just waltzed into the middle of our dinner and asked for an apology. Even though I was angry at him before it seemed too trivial right now. Anyways it was due to his interfering that this dinner finally ended, albeit a serendipitous end.
I glanced at my reflection in the ornate mirror. My cheeks were slightly flushed and my teal eyes were glittering with happiness.
I was looking good. I smiled at my reflection, exited the bathroom happily…, and collided with a hard wall. More like a hard wall in a suit. Large hands clamped around my shoulders. I looked up to see max. He was looking down at me with a deep frown. I grinned at him and his frown softened into a millimeter smile. However, he still looked troubled.
“What happened? Why are you furious?” I asked him.
He looked surprised, "I am not angry.”
I gave him an are-you-kidding-me look.
“Seriously who is bothering you?” I asked softly while mindlessly running my hands over his biceps.
His hands were resting on my hips and he was just slightly tilting his head down since I was in my 4-inch stilettos.
“My dad.” He answered abruptly then shook his head as if shaking out some daze he was in.
I shrugged, "it’s okay. Do not worry about him. You are your own person and even though he may seem to control you. You should know what your worth really is.” I spoke what was in my mind.
I wasn’t even sure if that was what max’s problem was. But he looked shocked then he mulled over it and gradually gave me a smile.
Before he could say anything I hugged him tightly, ”thank you. Because of your nosy attitude, brad’s mom admitted that she liked me. “
He hesitated only for a second before hugging me back tightly. Warmth spread over my body and even though he was all hard muscles, I just wanted to snuggle up to him.
“bye,” I told him softly after a few moments and pulled back.
He smiled at me and replied just as softly, “take care.”
I smiled one last time at him before turning back to my table and to my mom. I felt max’s eyes on me all the way back. And even when I was sliding into my bed, I could feel the warmth when he hugged me. I settled down on my pillow with a smile. My mobile notified me of a message
Pookie bear: goodnight.
I grinned at the message and texted back quickly.
Me: sweet dreams pookie bear.
Pookie bear: you are so annoying.
Me: I know!
I locked my mobile and slid into my covers with a huge grin.
Maybe max was not that bad.
Vote and comment!!!
Thank you so much for reading.