Flames of a Lie

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Chapter 4

I don't know why but her excited words were giving me a bad feeling.

I looked at her broad smile with wide furrowed eyes as they were giving me a feeling of uneasiness. I have seen this smile on her face many times in my life on this earth. Every time she smiled like this we were in great trouble. I was feeling like soon I'm going to be in more trouble than in the past.

But the mischief in her eyes dims a bit as she sees my state. I was standing in front of her drenched in mud. My face was too covered in mud water. I shivered a bit as the cold breeze from the open window touched my wet body.

"Who are you? How did you enter this place" she shouted in panic as she was now looking at me with wide eyes. "Oh God, why do you have my friend's keys? What did you do to her" she exclaimed in her panicked voice while trying to find something to scare me.

"Sophia, calm down it's me," I said as I put the keys in the bowl. She moved her shocked eyes all over my frame like recognizing me.

"Sage, What happened to you," she asked in her concerned voice while coming near me. As she came near me her furrowed gaze fell on the puppy I was holding in my hand who was now barking in a low voice like telling us I'm too present here don't forget me.

"Oh, what do you have in your hands" Sophia exclaimed in her awe voice as soon as she saw a puppy in my hand. She instantly took him from my hand and lifted him towards her face to look at him properly. Compared to me he was doing great. There was not a single drop of mud water on him as I did my best to not let his already shivering body get damp. I moved my eyes all over the house.

"Is Eric home yet?" I asked her in my hush voice as I didn't want him to kick my puppy and me out. It's one of his rules that pets are not allowed as he hates them.

"No he has still not returned from the office," she said while cradling my puppy like a baby. He yawned as she rubbed his stomach. I looked at the wall clock and it was almost time for him to return home.

I need to hurry inside my room before he finds us with a new member.

"Aww he is so adorable," she said as the puppy yawned more as she looked at him lovely.

"Let's go inside my room we will talk there," I said while taking her hand and pulling her in with me going inside I locked the door.

"Now that we are inside tell me what happened to you. What kind of storm made you look like this and where did you get this cute little pumpkin" she said as she scratched the back of the ear of my new peat.

"I will tell you everything first I need to take a bath. The mud on my body is making my skin itch" I said while taking my hair out of the hoodie cap. They were wet too. I need to wash them too. Sophia nodded her head as I took out my clothes to change into. "And don't let Eric see him or else he will kick three of us out at this instant," I said in my cautioned voice.

"I know," she said with the same concern in her voice while trying to hide the puppy in her arms as if Eric's blue eyes had already found us.

"Take this," I said while handing her my spare towel so she can wipe his little wet body and then wrap him in it.

Taking my bathrobe I went to take a quick hot shower as I don't want to catch a cold. I scrubbed all the mud away from my face and the body. I then stamped and conditioned my long hair as I love them so much. I have kept my hair this long since high school. I take care of them more than my skin.

Wrapping my body in my bathrobe I went back to my room while looking all over the living room to see if Eric had come back from his work but he was nowhere to be found. I took a deep breath of relief and ran to my room to change. Reaching my room I again locked it from inside. As I turned I found Sophia was making the puppy drink milk from a small bowl.

A smile stretched to my face as I saw her lovingly patting his head. She always loved animals. He needs loving people in his life to take care of him and I will make sure to be that person. I took my clothes and started changing into them as I slipped out of my bathrobe. After five minutes I was done wearing my clothes.

"I'm already in love with him," Sophia said with a big smile on her face which made me smile back at her.

"You know my heart cried when I saw him shivering in a small cardboard box. He had scurried to the corner, howling in his small voice as heavy rainwater was splashing on him" I said in my unbearable voice as I remembered how he was shivering because of the cold wind. "Who leaves a small puppy like this in heavy rain don't people have little compassion in their heart here," I said in my little angry voice as I thought what would have happened to him if I had not found him. Just the thought of what would have happened to him made me furious and sad at the same time.

"Do think too much about it because now he is in safe hands. Come here sit with me," she said with a small smile on her face while taking my hand and made me sit on the bed while handing me a steaming mug of coffee. She must have made it when I was taking a bath.

"Thank you, I need it so much," I said as I started sipping on it while rubbing my wet hair with a towel with another hand. She looked at me for some time. It made me raise my eyebrow in question to which she moved her head in no.

"Why were you drenching in dirty water? Did you fall while coming back home? Are you hurt anywhere" she asked in her worried voice while looking at me to find any signs of injury.

"Sophia I'm fine I didn't fall on my way," I said while making her stop from checking my body.

"Then how did you get so dirty. For a second I too didn't recognize you like your face was covered in mud. I only recognized you when I saw this lucky charm bracelet I gifted you on your last birthday," she asked in her detective tone while folding her hand on her chest, making me chuckle.

"I was covered in the mud because a rich snob almost had his car run over me and the puppy," I said while clenching my fist in anger.

"What" she exclaimed with a horrified look in her eyes. I explained everything to her before her anxiety goes to the next level. "People are so difficult this day. If they have money they think all the world will bend to their feet. If I was there I would have punched and broke his nose and told him to fix it with his money" she said in anger while curling her hand and punching it in the air.

"I too wanted to do that but I didn't want to show my puppy that in his new house violence is used," I said in my firm voice to which Sophia nodded her head in yes.

"I'm glad both of you are safe. Rich snobs like him don't deserve our life a single second so let's forget about him and let's talk about more important things," she said which made me look at her. "So what are you thinking of naming him?" she asked in an excited voice. It made me look at the puppy who had now curled up and was sleeping peacefully with a towel wrapped around his small frame.

"What do you suggest," I asked her as she seemed excited to name him.

"What do you think about Mint," she asked in her excited voice.

"Mint" I chuckled at her choice of name. "Why did you choose this name," I asked, still chuckling. Well, the name is cute but I want to know why she chooses this name.

"Because he has entered your plane soda life to give it a refreshing touch," she said in her happy voice, making me laugh.

"What!" I laughed more listening to her explanation behind the name.

"Yes he is your lucky charm, you brought him home today and I got a perfect job for you," she said, making me move my head to let her continue as I sip my hot coffee.

"Sage, what do you think of cutting your hair," she asked while taking a long strand of my hair in her fingers and twirling it.

"No," I said, almost swallowing the hot coffee and burning my tongue while taking my hair away from her hand. "I'm not cutting my hair, you know how much I love it. I won't take any job in which I have to cut my hair. It's so inappropriate to demand such a thing from an employee" I said in my firm voice while moving my head in sheer no.

"First listen to me then if you don't want to do it then it's ok but first listen to me carefully," she said in her serious voice while taking my hand. I took a deep breath as the thought of my hair getting cut scared me. But I have to listen to her and If I don't want to, I can refuse. I took one more deep breath and looked at her.

"Ok tell me," I said while biting my lower lip like making myself ready to hear what she has to say. She gave me a small smile and took out a brochure from her bag.

"What is this," I said as she handed me it.

"Look at it at least," she said with a smirk on her face which made me look at the brochure with knitted brows. It was an advertisement for a cooking competition and the grand prize was thirty thousand dollars. The composition was organized by the Villin group of chains and restaurants. And the winner will not only get the prize money but also a job as an intern in a personal team of Mr. Xanthus Villin the owner and chief chef of the Villins chain of restaurants. My eyes sparkled with hope as I read all the things again.

"Oh my God, this is the opportunity that I needed. This is the first time I ever saw an organization hiring people based on their talent and not on the amount of work experience they have on paper" I said in my hopeful excited voice with a big grin on my face.

"So you will cut your hair now," she asked with raised eyebrows.

"Why do I need to cut my hair? Nothing is written like this," I said in my confused voice while looking back at the brochure to find that criteria.

"It's here," she said with a small smile while pointing out to me that norm to help out. I read what was written there and all the excitement all the hope everything drained out of me. Only men are allowed to participate in the competition. It was written in the corner of the advertisement.

"What kind of stupidity is this? Why can only men apply? Why don't these people give a fair chance to women? Why are they still living in the delusion the same as in the seventies that women are less than men? They don't have the right to vote to work with the same opportunity as men'' I said fuming in anger. For the first time in weeks, I felt like I could get that job based on my talent. Finally, I can have a job after being jobless for a week but everything was snatched away from me like a flame from a moth.

"Because Xanthus Villin doesn't hire any female staff in his personal team. He has a very strict rule about it" she said in her firm voice while moving her head in disappointment.

"What a misogynist he is. I so want to prove him wrong. I have more ability to work in his team than any person who has nothing to offer in return except the tag that he is declared male by a doctor when he was born. I so want to dress like a man and win the competition to show him the truth" I said in my angry voice as I crushed the paper in my hand.

"That is exactly what we are going to do. You are going to dress like a man and participant in the competition to prove him wrong to show him you deserve that fair chance than anyone else present in the room" she said in her firm voice while looking straight into my eyes. Listening to her words I looked at her with shocked eyes.

"You are joking right," I said with a small anxious smile on my face. The bad feeling I was feeling started to rise listening to her words.

"No, I'm not thinking about it, Sage. You need the job and this is the perfect golden opportunity for you. I know with your skills you will win the competition. Think about what you will get once you win it. Thirty thousand dollars will not be a good start amount for you to help your dad with getting your restaurant back" she said in her serious voice making me look at him with thoughtful knitted eyes.

"What if they find out I'm a woman dressed as a man during the competition and if they didn't then what will happen when I join their personal team. Remember If I win the competition then I have to work there as an intern and what if they find out at that time that I'm a woman. After they find out I will be in such big trouble" I said in my panic-filled voice while still thinking what will be the consequences if they find out my lie.

"Sage stop overthinking and think about how you will get the things if you win this. Listen to me first you don't have to go to work there for a lifetime. You will leave that job after six months with enough money in your hands and go back to your town and make King's dinner even bigger with the experience you get here. Do You even know what a personal staff intern salary at Villin is?" she asked me in her uptight voice. I moved my head in denial.

"They pay fucking fifty thousand dollars to an intern" she almost screamed. Listening to her words my eyes widen in shock. "Just before discarding this plan out of your brain, think about it. If you maintain your disguise until the end, you will have enough money in your hand to secure everyone living in your family. Elijah will be able to go to his business school, mom and dad will run the restaurant happily" she deciphered it to me in the words where I could even think of discarding this plan in my brain. I bit my lower lip while thinking hard about her words.

What she was saying was making sense. It was making more than sense. If I successfully hide my gender undermans disguise for six months I will have more than enough money in my hand to solve my current problem. Once my period is over I will leave the job and in a month anyone won't even remember I was working there.

"But how. How will you make me look like a man? And how I'm supposed to hide this'' I said in my troubled voice while pointing at my chest because I have more boobs than average.

"Don't worry my friend. I will take care of everything but first let's start with your hair" she said with a big grin on her face and with an evil glint in her eyes. I swallowed hard as this all play has already started to give me a bad feeling. Next thing I know she made me sit in front of the mirror with scissors and comb in her hand. She had come here ready with everything. She spread water on my hair and was about to cut my hair.

"Stop," I shouted in my anxious voice. She looked at me with questioning eyes. "Can we cut my hair after I win the competition? What if I don't win it? Then sacrificing my hair will not be worth" I said with a sheepish smile on my face. She rolled her eyes and puffed out a deep breath out.

"Darling you have to give the sacrifice of small things to achieve big things in your life. So now keep quiet and let me do my work" she said and cut the first strand of my long hair. What she was saying was right. I bit my lip in resentment and looked at the almost crying reflection of myself in the mirror. It burned my heart as she cut more of my lovely precious hair. A warm tire slipped out from the corner of my eyes as she cut all my hair till it was my ear. After giving such a big sacrifice I was so determined to win that competition.

That night I cried myself to sleep curling with Mint at the loss of my lovely hair. The next day Sophia came to take me shopping for clothes and essential things that I need to disguise as a man. She was waiting for me in the living room so I changed into one of my oversize hoodies and ripped jeans. I looked at myself last time in the mirror. I miss my long hair. I felt so weird in my short hair. I exhaled in disappointment and wore my hoodie cap. Before coming out of the room I made sure to feed Mint some milk and now he was curling up and sleeping peacefully in my warm towel in one of my cardboard boxes. I need to buy him a bed and bowl and dog food too.

As I was done with everything I stepped out of my room and locked it as I didn't want Eric to find him out. I was checking my cell phone when I suddenly bumped into a hard wall making me fall. My hoodie cap slipped down off my hair as I closed my eyes shut ready to say hey to the floor but before it could happen a firm hand was wrapped around my waist and pulled me towards him. An audible gasp left my mouth as everything happened so fast. I slowly opened my eyes and they met with the most intimidating blue eyes I know.

I was pressed to Eric's bare chest with my closed fist hands resting on his bare chest. His hand was firmly secured around my waist as we kept staring at each other. His piercing blue eyes moved all over my face and to my new hair cut too. I saw how his pupils widened with this different look in it as he saw my new look. He kept staring at me until we heard a throat clearing sound. It made him let me go shortly.

"Eric boy stops drooling over her. I know she looks super hot in her new look," Sophia said in her cocky voice. It made my cheeks burn red and Erica's nose flared in anger.

"Who let you in again, don't you remember I kicked you out of the house. Do you want me to do it again," he said in his mad voice to which she showed him her tongue.

"We will play later Eric boy now I have more important things to do with her" Sophia said in her mocking tone while grabbing my hand and dragging me out of the house. I heard Eric cursing colorful words behind my back. Sophia had brought her friend's car for our day out. The mall was only thirty minutes away from the place I lived in.

"So our practice began from here. Remember you are now a man and not a woman so make your voice sound a little heavy and walk and talk like how Elijah does" she said in her serious voice as we parked our car in the parking lot.

"Yes Ma'am," I tried to say in my heavy voice while nodding my head in yes. She laughed after listing to my feminine manly voice. I was far away from sounding like a grown-up man.

We shopped for four hours in the men's section buying t-shirts, shirts, and pants of my size which were a little hard to find. We were exhausted after it and I was more exhausted than her by acting like men. So we went to the food court to have our lunch. Resting my face on my hand I was sipping on my cola lazily as my eyes fell on a very familiar figure. I narrowed my eyes more to get a better look if he was the same person or not.

But my doubts were resolved as he turned and I saw his gray eyes. He was talking on a cell phone while standing out of a very expensive brand shop. He must have come here to shop for his girlfriend so he could show off to her how rich he is. As I looked more at his face the incident of the other day flashed in front of my eyes increasing my anger.

"Whom are you looking at with the crude look in your eyes," Sophia asked and turned her head to look in the direction I was glaring.

"Ohh he is hot worth looking at without blinking," she said in her admiring voice as soon as she saw him. Listening to her l pinch her on arm to make her come out of a dream. She cringed a little as I pinch her.

"Hot my foot he is that rich arrogant man who tried to kill me and Mint," I said in my mad voice.

"What!" She exclaimed. "You know the saying is right. All tempting things are bad and this phrase goes perfectly with him" she said in her exasperating voice while exhaling loudly again dreamily.

"I know his face is so deceiving. Behind this face he is hiding so much of evilness," I said in the same tone. Looking at him, an evil plan came to my brain.

"Come let's teach him a lesson," I said while putting on my hoodie cap getting ready for my mission. I grabbed her hand and dragged her in his direction. She hurriedly grabbed all our bags.

"But how? what are you thinking?" She asked in her impatient voice as I kept dragging her in his direction.

"Just trust me and play with me," I said with a cunning smile on my face while taking the milkshake from her hand. I cleared my throat to take a little heavier voice from my throat while I took the lid off the milkshakes glass.

"God, what is she up to?" Sophia mumbled as she saw me smiling evilly. As we almost reached near him he was done talking and was about to go inside the shop but before he could I bumped into him and spilled all the strawberry milkshake all over his gray suit. Sophia gasped as I did it and he went in shock for a few seconds.

"Don't you have eyes?" he said in his angry voice as the pink container stained his expensive suit. I gasped a little at his harsh manly voice. If Eric was intimidating then this dude was ten levels up. I took a deep breath to get a grip on myself.

"Yes I do and they are working in much better condition than yours'' I said in my mocking tone while looking straight into his gray eyes. I made my voice sound a little heavy but it still had the feminine touch to it. His gray piercing eyes looked at me with a mad look in them as he heard what I said. I swallowed hard as his glaring gray eyes moved all over my face. Sophia was just standing beside me and looking at us with a little mouth ajar.

"Then fucking learn to use them so you won't bump into people and ruin their clothes," he said in his angry voice while grinding his teeth.

Look who's talking. Did he forget what he did yesterday? I just spilled the milkshake on him and he fucking tried to kill me. I just so want to punch him.

"I heard you have lots of money so you can afford to dry clean it right and If you don't then take this and shut your mouth," I said putting some money in his breast pocket. "now get out of my way," I said in my dismissing tone. I took Sophia's hand and bumped him on his shoulder to make him move. He closed his eyes and clenched his fist in anger as I did that. I saw how his jaw clenched in anger. I laughed evil inside me as I said those words to him. He deserves it. As we were a little away from him I started laughing. Sophia too joined me.

Now he will know how it feels when a person yells at you to show his arrogance with his money when it's not even your fault.

"Girl that was awesome and scary at the same time but you need this kind of attitude to deal with that kind of person. Did you see he was a few seconds away from punching you in your face?" she said in her relieved voice while breathing out as if she got away from the man-eating lion.

"Yeah I know that's why I dragged you with me," I said while breathing in relief. I was trying to teach him a lesson not trying to get punched in the face.

"Let's get out of here before he comes in search of us," she said in her anxious voice. I was not scared of him. If he comes I will deal with him but Sophia tugged me towards the parking lot.

After that, we went to my place. I put Mint's new bed and food bowl and he loved it as he stretched and slept in. The next day was the competition so I slept early. As soon as morning rays peeked inside my bedroom I woke up and got ready.

I tied the band around my chest to make it look flat. Sophia told me to tie it a little tight and I was already feeling suffocated in it but I have to bear with it. Dressed in a shirt and pants and my chest was flat I looked at my reflection In the mirror. I looked like a man who had most of the feminine features in him. You can do it. I chanted in my mind while taking deep breaths to soothe my nervous heart. I left the house still feeling nervous as hell. I thanked God as I didn't encounter Eric on my way. I don't want him to see me with his suspicious piercing blue eyes as I'm dressed as a man.

"All set to go," Sophia asked me as I sat inside the car.

"Yes," I said with a nervous smile on my face. We drove to Villins restaurant where the competition was held. My eyes widened as I looked at a seven-star restaurant. As we entered inside I was so awestruck. One day I want to make a King's dinner this big. I got to the area where contestants had to gather after filling the form where I had cut Miss and attached Mr to my name. Now I was Mr. Sage King. With a nervous look in my eyes, I was looking at everyone.

Soon a person in his late forties instructed us and made us take the designated places. My heart was beating wildly all the time and it beat fast when someone looked at me as if they had discovered I was a woman dressed as a man. I was so nervous standing with all the male participants. I felt like running away but I couldn't so I looked at Sophia who was sitting in the row of a family member of participants. She gave me an encouraging smile which made me smile. She mouthed you can do it while showing me her thumb to say best of luck. Her bright smile and encouraging words pumped some courage in me.

"I can do it," I said while closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. When I felt a little calm I opened my eyes and lifted my head with a small smile on my face. I am now determined to win the competition. But the small amount of courage that was pumped inside me drained out in a matter of seconds as my eyes met with the piercing gray eyes.

"What the hell this gray eye monster is doing here" I whispered under my breath in my shaky voice.

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