Fire and Flames

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I. The Talk

Athena

I was lying in bed, looking at the white ceiling adorned with a crystal chandelier. The room was dark and could see the sky darkening away from the French windows on my balcony.

I was bored or perhaps confused. I just graduated from Harvard with a Master’s degree in Business Management, and I do nothing but sit around all day. Ironic, right!

I want a job, but my father wants me to take over his business so he can retire early. That’s not even of any interest to me. I really want to do what I love. I don’t want to take over the business. My father doesn’t seem to care about what I want though. I went to school and got a degree in what he wanted, but it was of no interest to me. I want to be a food blogger, and start my bakery; or at least be a musician.

I laid here for a long time pondering about what I really wanted and how I was going to do it. Resigning, I sighed to myself, I wonder when I am going to have to start at Walker Industries.

“Enna come down dear!” I heard my mum’s sweet voice call out. She’s a very sweet person, I love her so much but don’t be deceived by her sweet motherly talks, she can also turn into a devil if we get on her bad side.

I got up from my bed and checked the clock, it was almost seven. I guess I spent a lot of time daydreaming.

I rushed to the bathroom, washed my face, and tied my long black hair into a high pony. I was wearing a simple t-shirt and black track pants.

I heard someone banging on my door. “Enna what are you doing? Come out fast, guests are waiting downstairs to see you” my sister Alex said sounding annoyed.

But who is here to see me at this hour? I thought to myself.

I opened the door and saw the familiar chocolate brown eyes of my sister. She had the same eyes as my mum and I. She stood there with her arms folded across her chest, tapping her right leg against the wooden floor impatiently.

“What do you want?” I asked furrowing my eyebrows; walking past her to grab my phone off of my desk.

“Did you forget that the Kingstons are having dinner with us?” she asked, sounding amused while cocking her eyebrow at me.

I stopped in my tracks, realizing that I wasn’t dressed appropriately for this dinner. I groaned and went over to my closet to hunt for a dress.

I heard Alex chuckle and walk inside.

“Need any help sissy?” she asked playfully.

I rolled my eyes “You could’ve offered it a bit earlier” I grumbled.

After rummaging through my dresses I finally found a crème lace sleeveless dress that reached my knees. My hair was already tied and I didn’t have time for doing my makeup so I quickly applied light pink lipstick to avoid looking dull. perfect

Without wasting a minute, I put on brown slingback heels and grabbed Alex’s hand. “Come on. Let’s go.” I told her as I hurriedly pulled her out of the room.

We went downstairs, and walked into the dining room. Everyone stopped talking at once, focusing their attention on me. I felt so small under their gazes. There were two faces I didn’t recognize though. Maybe they were Mr & Mrs. Kingston, I thought.

I’ve heard a lot about them through my father but never got a chance to meet them.

I cleared my throat and put on a smile “My apologies for being late” I said, bowing slightly.

“Oh sweetie, you don’t have to apologize. You’re on time” I looked at the person who spoke, she looked around her mid-fifties and had short wavy brown hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion. Overall she looked stunning.

She smiled at me and I smiled back.

I didn’t realise Alex already went and took a seat near Adrian and Asher, my younger twin siblings. I know double the pain in the arse.

I walked over to them and sat beside whom I assumed was Mrs. Kingston.

“Meet my eldest daughter Athena, she’s going to take over my company after I retire”. my dad, Anthony Walker, said while looking at me proudly. If only you knew or cared about what I wanted dad.

I smiled back at him. a fake smile.

“That’s wonderful. By the way, I’m Rylan Kingston. You can call me Uncle Ray or just Ray.” Mr. Kingston had a gentle and warm smile. He looked around my dad’s age, had dark hair with few grey strands, and an olive complexion, with brown eyes. Even at this age, he looked handsome.

I smiled back at him saying “Nice to meet you, Uncle Ray”.

“I’m Beatrix, Brie for short.” she said smiling at me while holding my hands.

“Hello Brie.” I greeted with a smile.

She chuckled and cupped my face. “You’re so sweet and innocent, I’d love to have a daughter like you.” she cooed

My mum walked in along with our servers trailing behind carrying food.

“I’m back.” my mum said and her eyes fell on me “Amy dear. Thank goodness you came down. I thought you were feeling unwell” she sprinted towards me and hugged me.

I hugged her torso and buried my head into the crook of her neck. “I’m here, you don’t have to worry.” I said, controlling my urge to roll my eyes.

My mum gets tense for every little thing. She worries about her four kids unnecessarily.

We pulled away when we heard Brie’s voice “Aww, such a beautiful mother-daughter bond” she said, looking at us lovingly.

“Don’t worry. She’ll soon be your daughter,” my mum said with a smile and a wink.

Soon be her daughter?

I frowned and looked at my mum, confused. My dad cleared his throat “she meant, from now on, you will be like their daughter as well.” his voice trembled and I saw fear in his eyes. He laughed, and it almost sounded fake.

I brushed away my suspicions and laughed “Oh, I’m fine with it.” I said happily. Maybe it was a tongue slip, but why did everyone react as if they were hiding something.

Uncle Ray for a second looked like he’d seen a ghost, but soon put on a smile, while everyone began laughing at our small misunderstanding.

Soon food was served, and I was waiting for my dad to permit us to eat, but he looked at Uncle Ray questioningly, who was busy glaring at his phone. After putting his phone away, he looked at us apologetically saying “My son won’t be joining us. Some problem came up in the company. My apologies for this sudden change”.

“It’s fine Ray. I know how busy he is. Maybe next time you can introduce him.” my dad said with a reassuring smile

Uncle Ray smiled back. “So let’s begin the feast.” my dad said as he raised his wine glass. As if on cue, my twin brothers started digging into their food as if they haven’t eaten for a month. I eat like that sometimes, but not in front of guests. I love food, it’s my first love, but don’t forget your manners ;)

These boys are so annoying. Bri and mum chuckled at their behavior while Alex looked at them with a scrunched nose. My sister is a fan of table etiquette and these two annoying kids always try to rile her up. But without them, this house would be boring as hell.

We finished our dinner and were now seated in the living room. The boys decided to go back to their room to complete homework fully knowing exactly what they were going to do, and it wasn’t homework. Whereas Alex went to sleep since it’s a school night. This leaves me alone with the other four adults. So entertaining note the sarcasm.

The men were talking about business while the women were talking about fashion. They started talking about which combination is better black and white or white and black. Like seriously?

When I heard those I decided to tune out.

Why am I still here?

“Athena dear, why are you so silent?” Bri asked. This conversation is boring as hell, and I’m not interested at all. I thought.

“I’m just tired, I guess I’ll go and sleep.” I said, trying to sound tired while smiling weakly.

I got up from my seat and was about to leave when my mum called out

“Wait!”

I looked at them with furrowed eyebrows.

“Athena, honey we wanted to talk about something.” my mum said in a calm and low voice that was barely audible.

“Okay,” I shrugged and took my place on the sofa beside them.

I noticed Ray and my dad looking at us with a serious expression. What’s going on? Now all their attention is on me as if I were a criminal.

Ray and my dad sat on the sofa on my left while my mum and Bri sat on the right. My dad took a deep breath and looked at me seriously before speaking.

“I know you just turned 21 last month and I already gave you a huge task, but I need you to do me one more favor.” his voice was calm, his eyes pleading.

“What favor?” My voice was blank.

He fidgeted with his fingers and while Ray ran his hand through his hair. Why was he so nervous?

“You’re still young, but this is going to be the last favor we are going to ask of you. I know how much you love us and you always listened to our wishes. Promise that you will do this.”

Why is he talking like this? I’ll do anything you want, but why is he asking this in front of the Walkers. Do they know about this? Was this planned?

“Dad! you know that I’ll do anything for you, now would you please tell me?” I said, running out of patience.

“I want you to get married.” his voice was monotone

It took me a moment to let those words sink into my head. Those simple words just removed all sense of rationality I had. How could they do this? I just graduated, don’t have a proper job. Now they are asking me to get married?

I laughed mockingly, and they looked terrified by my act. I faced them sternly and scoffed “Seriously? Now don’t tell me you’ve decided whom I’m going to marry” I chuckled.

This time my mum spoke “We did” her voice was gentle as always.

I looked at her with a sad expression. Mum? You’ve been the only person who supported me. Now even you want this. She looked at me apologetically.

I guess I have no choice but to do this. I don’t want to know who it is. They found someone? He might be a good man, but I’m not going to give in without a fight.

I sighed and got up. “I need some time.”

Before I could hear their replies, I ran towards my bedroom and shut the door, leaning my back against it and collapsing on the floor; trembling.

They always treat me like a puppet. I did everything they asked of me, including not dating the guy I liked.

I didn’t study what I wanted and gave up on my dreams of becoming a pastry chef for them. And now they want me to marry someone I have never met?

I never pictured my marriage like that. I want to find someone I love and who loves me back equally.

I stood up on the floor, went to the bathroom, and watched my reflection. My eyes were red, though not too puffy. I washed my face with cold water and took a long shower to loosen up. I changed into a gray t-shirt and black shorts and I lay down on the bed facing the ceiling.

I let my parents rule my life, but this time I won’t let that happen and I know exactly what to do.

Thinking those words, I let myself drift into deep oblivion.

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