12 - Rocky Start
The clip was a ten second video of James on the balcony of the second floor, looking out across the vast garden of the mansion. The video looked like it was taken from behind him through a doorway.
After a few seconds of silence, Shine whispered in a sullen voice from behind the camera.
“What's on your mind, James? You’re not thinking of leaving me, are you?”
It has been four weeks since James started working with the Maldens. It has not been work really because of the arrangement he has with Shine and since he explained his "relationship" with Shine to her parents, they recognized the situation as part of him taking care of her.
He has at some point, considered resigning. It was getting harder for him each day not to fall for her and he's not sure how much longer he can keep playing his part without giving in to the constant yearning to kiss her.
"Mal?" Shine asked from the other side of the table while they had lunch together.
It was one of those days when they were left all alone with her parents and sister at work and her brother in school. Today, James was awfully silent, seriously contemplating if he should keep working with the Maldens.
"What's wrong? You're quiet today." She frowned.
He reached his hand across to hold hers and smiled. "Nothing. I'm fine. Just thinking of something."
"How are they?"
"Who?" He looked at her confusedly.
"Your family. You must be missing them so much." She said, thinking that must be his problem.
She squeezed his hand and he sighed.
"Yes. I really miss them. We talk on the phone every day but still..."
"But still it's different when you can't be with them. I understand that. That's how I felt when I was still in New York." She looked at him determinedly and stood up. "Let's go then."
"Let's go. How far is your house? Two? Three hours? I would have loved to drive us there but you know with my hands getting weaker and my legs suddenly twitching you would have to do it." She said as if the things happening to her body were as normal as blinking and sneezing which saddened James in a way but also made him admire her resilience more.
"Are you sure?" He gaped at her, still quite not believing what he was hearing.
"Yes, I'm sure. I'd love to meet your family." She beamed. "Come on. Get your lazy ass off that chair and drive."
"But your parents..."
"I'll call them. Besides, I'm with you. I'm sure they're okay with it." She said.
Within a few minutes, they were in her car, driving to his house.
"So, Mal, tell me about your family. I want to know more about how this amazing guy I am blessed to be with everyday came to be." She smiled.
He blushed and grinned as he quickly glanced at her before looking back at the road.
"Well... We're not perfect. We have been through really tough times especially after Mom died. She's always been the one who kept things together for us so when we lost her, we sort of fell apart. My Dad and I fought a lot, maybe because we were both still dealing with the pain of loss and faced with all the new responsibilities. Dad really worked hard to help me finish college even though we were already neck-deep in debts due to Mom's failed treatments. The hospital bills and the chemo drained our savings. I really wanted to help my Dad but he refused. He always got really mad when I took part-time jobs in secret because he wanted me to focus my attention to my studies." He sighed and she instinctively placed her hand on his shoulder and gently kneaded his tensed muscles.
"My younger sister Rina lost her focus on her studies. She met some bad company and almost failed her classes but it's a good thing that she realized her mistakes before it was too late. She worked hard to pass that year which she did. She even finished at the top of her class." He beamed proudly.
"Our youngest sister, Angel, is the most pitiable. She didn't know Mom. She was too young to remember how Mom loved her so much. We all worked together to take care of her and raise her with enough love to make up for what she missed. It's a good thing that she was born with a kind and loving heart. She's really smart too. Top 1 in her first grade class." James then glanced at Shine with a smile. "She's a little mischievous too. I think you'll be instant friends."
She laughed. "Because I'm mischievous? Is that it?"
"Yes. The most mischievous." He grinned then his voice fell serious as he looked at her. "And the most beautiful."
It was Shine’s turn to blush as she turned her head to the window and watched the trees they passed along the expressway.
After a few minutes of silence, she looked at him again and said. "Thank you, James."
"For what? I should be the one thanking you because you not only suggested for me to go back home but accompanied me too. So, thank you, Shine."
"You're welcome." She smiled. "Thank you because you let me go with you."
She then laid her hand on his arm and leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Also thank you because by telling me your story, you gave me another reason to hope."
"Really? How?" He asked.
"I realized not all rocky starts end up going from bad to worse. Something wonderful could come out of a very difficult situation. Like you, James." She smiled as she gently rubbed her cheek on his shoulder and whispered. "You're wonderful."
"Now I have reason to hope that something amazing will come out of this whole thing." She said and James knew exactly what she was talking about.
And something did.