“Are you guys okay?” My boss asks as he walks towards Cheverlie and I.
“Yeah, that was quite a shake but we’re good. Just have to clean up a few broken things,” Chev says as she sweeps the broken glasses onto the dust collector.
“Good, hopefully not much of our stock has been destroyed. Can you guys place most of them in the cupboards under the counter so if another tremor comes nothing else will be destroyed?”
“Sure thing boss,” I reply as I walk towards the counter to do just that.
“Um, Isabelle?” He calls as I step off.
“Yes?” I ask staring at him questioningly.
“Office, now.” With that he turns from us walking towards and both Chev and I stare at him eyes brimmed with questions.
“What’s that about?” She asks as she stands up with the dust collector in her hand.
“I’m not sure,” I reply as I look at the office door.
Why would he call me in there? Did it have anything to do with the news report? Was he afraid of Johnattan and/or think I had done anything bad?
“Well, get in there you know grumpy pants hates waiting,” she prompts as she throws the broken glasses in the trash can.
I nod as I allow my feet to take me to the office door. I pass customers who have shocked expressions on their faces, some talking rapidly to the other waitresses about the increase in tremors and others on their phones with worried looks on their faces.
I stop at the oak door and knock softly.
“Come in Isabelle.”
I open the door and walk into the small office. It’s cosy, warm and neatly organized. A fan is mounted above the mahogany desk in the centre of the room. There are bookshelves piled with books, papers and certificates and a caramel and chocolate rug rests on the floor.
Chris, my boss, sits behind the desk typing away on his HP laptop and slowly raises his eyes to regard my figure.
“Sit,” he says gesturing to the wooden chair with leather cushions in front of his desk.
I nod taking a seat eying him warily. He closes his laptop looking over at me before pinching his chin.
“You must be wondering why I called you here.” he starts.
“Yeah, a little. I mean you were just like ‘Isabelle, office now’ like you’re going to fire me,” I say as I lean back in the chair.
His eyes widen a bit at my statement. “Hell no, I wasn’t going to fire you. Your advice has boosted business, it has better than it was three months ago and I would be crazy to fire my star employee.”
“I didn’t know I was your star employee,” I tease as I wink at him. “I’m flattered.”
He chuckles at my actions and his cheeks heats up a little.
Great he wasn’t going to fire me but why call me to his office?
“So why did you call me here?” I ask as the laughter dies down.
He clears his throat and sits up a little straighter. “Yes. Um, you know I see all my employees as my daughters, mine to protect.”
“Good. Christina,” he whispers my name lowly and I flinch a little at it. “That guy on the news report... Johnattan. Did he... Um, touch you... Inappropriately? Is that why you’re hiding? Did he abuse you?”
I sit frozen in my seat. My eyes regard his with fear. That name, his name, sparks so many dormant flames within me. I feel both pleasure and fear as they ignite. It leaves me confused and bothered. On one side I miss his touch, his love and on another I shake in fear at the mere mention of his name. Those memories take over and I break.
“Isabelle?” He calls and I snap out of my broken thoughts. “Am I right?”
The thing I like about Chris as a boss is that he doesn’t jump to conclusions. He didn’t think I was the one at fault, he didn’t immediately take me as the bad guy. He asks questions rather than make assumptions. It’s something favourable about him. Those who don’t know the story often take it upon themselves to speculate theories about it and judge you.
I take a deep intake of breath. “No. You’re not wrong but you’re not right. He didn’t abuse me, he loved me but there are demons lurking in the shadows that not even love can defeat. Demons that take from you and never leave you alone. Demons that don’t like to see you happy.”
I cast my eyes down as tears threatened to spill. I sniffle and I hear Chris groan from across the desk.
His arms soon wrapped around my shoulders and I bury my face in his green shirt as tears spill. He soothes me and I hiccup as heartbreak takes me again. I caused all this, I left and here I am crying like a baby in my boss’s arms like I’m the victim.
Johnattan, he’s the victim here. I’m just the antagonist.
I shudder as pain gnaws at my heart and I mentally scold myself for lack of control. Damn when did I become so emotional?
A few minutes later I pull away and wipe away my tears looking up at a sympathetic Chris.
“I’m okay,” I say but we both know I’m not.
“It’s okay. We all have a past we wish to escape from, some make it out unharmed others don’t,” he breathes out. “Love. Well that can cause more pain than any other emotion. Especially when paired with betrayal. Love is the most beautiful thing but it can also be the most dangerous. ”
“You can say that again,” I mutter.
He hands me a box of tissues and I smile thankfully. I dab my eyes with it and straighten my posture as my emotions become contained again.
“Don’t bottle it up, Izzy. Talk to someone, try to let go and own the fact that shit happened, just don’t make it own you. Shit, I’ve only known you for a couple months but I can see you’re an independent woman that doesn’t take crap from anyone. Be that girl and fight those demons lurking. Show them who’s boss,” he smiles.” But do that on your own time. You’ve got a job to do.”
I chuckle and he smiles. “Atta’ girl. There’s that smile that brings in the money. Go work that smile Izzy and try to have it all the time.”
I nod at him before giving him a small hug. “Thanks I needed that.”
“Come back anytime. Daddy will be here to help,” he smirks.
“That sounds like it holds double meanings,” I state as he stands and walks around his desk to sit.
“Does it Izzy?” He teases. “It sounds exactly how you want it to.”
“Okay,” I say dragging out the word as I stand. “I’m just going to go.”
I gesture to the door before walking briskly to it.
“Bye Izzy,” I hear him chuckle as I step out the room in a hurry.
Damn him and his play on words.
“Oh Isabelle,” he sings again and I groan.
I look at the clock and groan again. Five thirty, right on time.
“Don’t look now but you’re Five Thirty’s here,” Chev teases with a scoff as she carries a tray over to a table.
I huff as I drag my feet over to his table at the window. I can’t seem to get a break today. I look at the man before me. Dark wavy hair, hazel daring eyes, creamy white skin with delectable, pink lips and a smile that would cause a girl to cream in her panties. He’s in a dark blue dress shirt with black jeans and blue vans.
He smiles charmingly and I mentally gag.
“Isabelle,” he says slowly in a playful Romanian accent.
“Edward,” I say bluntly. “What can I get you?”
“What I want isn’t on the menu,” he replies converting his voice to his natural British accent. “But rather standing before me teasing me nonstop with her beautiful body.”
I roll my eyes. Spare me!
“Did I mention I love a woman in uniform?”
I scoff and he raises a brow. “If you’re not buying something off the menu I have to ask you to leave, diner rules.”
He smirks. “For you Isabelle I’ll buy everything on that menu just to see your beautiful face a little longer. And trust me I can afford it.”
“What’ll you have?” I ask unamused.
He places his order, I write it down and walk away to the counter without sparing him another glance.
“He’s staring at you,” Chev states looking as annoyed as I am, as we await our orders. “Why won’t you give him a chance so, he can stop acting like a lost puppy? He’s hot, rich and I bet he’s good at a tumble in the sheets... Go for it.”
I scoff. “If he’s all that why don’t you date him?”
At this she tenses but regains her teasing attitude. “Obviously because he’s hooked on you. He barely pays any other girl any mind. He’s always after you and you don’t want a shit to do with him. This reminds me of a proverb from back home, ‘havey havey don’t want it and wanty wanty nah get it’. A lot of girls want him and can’t get him but you have him and don’t want him. Now that’s unfair!”
My order comes out and I take the tray. “That’s life for you she’s a bitch.”
I make my way to his table placing his meal on the table. When I place the last item on the table he holds my hand. I freeze as he rubs my hand soothingly.
What’s he doing?
“Why won’t you go out with me love?” He asks softly as she stares in my eyes. “Why can’t I be the Edward to your Bella? The Beast to your Beauty? I can take you from here make your life better. Designer clothes and so much money you won’t have to wait another table again in your life! Just be mine, Isabelle. I’ll take care of you. I’ve been trying for months now can’t you give me a chance?”
His eyes hold mine reaching out to me but my heart isn’t buying it. His words are soothing and hold promise but as said time and time again ‘a promise is a comfort to a fool’. He’s just another dictator, a guy who wants to control a woman and I don’t want to be dictated. The way to a woman’s heart isn’t riches unless you’re looking for a gold digger and I am not one. He’s taking the wrong approach, I can have riches if I wanted but there are things that keep me grounded. One thing I know now is that he’ll never make me his.
I pull my arm away like he burned me and glared at him leaning forward.
Let’s see if he’ll understand this.
“I am not that type of woman. I am fine where I am right now and if I want to move up the social ladder it’ll be by my own accord and not because of a man. That’s a nice proposition Edward it would’ve work but just not on me.”
I lean back and he’s a bit shocked that I declined his offer. A smirk soon makes it way to his lips and I groan.
“You’re a woman after my heart Isabelle and I won’t stop until you’re my belle,” he states firmly.
I sigh. These guys can’t take a hint. “Enjoy your meal Edward and good luck with that.”
I turn and walk away when he calls my name. I huff and turn around. “Yes?”
I freeze a little. How did he know?
“I asked and Chris told me it was today. I got you a gift but I don’t think you’ll accept. So I’ll start with baby steps,” he states. “Happy twenty first birthday Isabelle and I hope you’ll live to see many more.”
My heart warms a little but not affectionately but with gratitude. He got me, a stranger a gift. That’s sweet even I had to admit it. “Thank you Edward.”
He smiles and I return it before scooting away. At least someone remembered.
“Why is it that your 5:30 knew it was your birthday but we didn’t?” Cheverlie asks as we trod down the driveway towards her car.
“No one was supposed to know,” I say dismissively.
She frowns crossing her arms before glaring at me. “Well now we do and you’re going out with us tonight.”
“No I’m not,” I say my eyes widening a fraction.
“You are, don’t you agree Shan?” She asks the tall, model like, black haired waitress walking with us.
“Yeah, come on it’s your birthday so you gonna party,” she encourages and I glare. “You know you gonna party cause it’s your birthday. I know you know the song.”
“I am going home to sleep, I’m not going out.” Well more like try to sleep praying my demons don’t invade my dreams.
“What club do you think we should go Shan?,” Cheverlie asks ignoring my comment.
"Carnal Desires," Shanice replies. “My friend Dimitri owns it. We can get in easily without the long lines.”
“Sounds good,” Chev says as we round a few chairs making our way to hers. “Does nine thirty work for you guys?”
“Girls, I am not goin–”
“Christina?” A voice asks and I freeze at the familiarity of it.
Cheverlie and Shanice stare at me questioningly but I ignore them turning my attention to the owner of the voice. There he stands in a white Polo T-shirt with black shorts and white vans. His brown hair is cut short and neatly sits on top of his head. His green eyes stare at me with confusion, questions and a little relief.