Not long after, one guy told Hunter and Mr. Ronald that he has to meet somebody important there. When Mr. Ronald agreed and asked Hunter to go with him, Hunter was hesitating as he looked at Claire.
“Don’t worry! We won’t be long… Let’s just meet up at our table?--” Mr. Ronald said to them both when he noticed Hunter’s hesitation. “We got the same table, I’ve checked…!”
Claire let out a firm smile and nodded, giving her approval, telling Hunter that she’d be okay. But deep down Hunter knew that Claire was just trying to be strong, to blend in, to meet his expectation.
He slightly looked down before speaking in her ear considering the loud voices from all the people there.
“I’ll see you at our table in fifteen to twenty minutes top?” He said.
His hand was on her back again, and that time Claire swore he could feel Hunter stroke her back. Giving her a burning sensation on her skin and a tingling sensation through her spine, but also as if someone just kicked her in the gut, and her knees went weak at the same time.
Claire was nodding between her speechlessness and gulping.
So there she was, left with a bunch of sharks that were ready to take out their envies to her. She was about to excuse herself to the bathroom as a reason to escape, but one girl quickly started her attack.
“Wow, your dress is very… pretty! Who’s the designer…?”
“I agree...! It must be a top designer’s... Hunter is always able to afford the good stuff.” said the other.
“You must be happy to have a new and glamorous life with him…” Said another one
“Yeah! Hunter said that you’re not working, it must be lovely to have a lot of time for yourself--!” And said another one.
Claire let out an awkward chuckle with her parted lips. She wasn’t familiar with luxury goods and their brand, even though she remembered the name of Hunter’s friend who designed her clothes but she didn’t feel like playing the ladies’ game on her.
“Yeah, Hunter didn’t want me to work, well, he always indulges me… but I actually working…a charitable work that he knows of & supports me.” Claire calmly said.
Claire was happy to see their smiles gone for a while, they definitely didn’t expect her answer.
“Oh, but you really have to tell us how you do it--?”
“D-do what…?” Claire said confusedly.
“How you get him to marry you, silly! I mean you must be living the dream, right?” said the first girl. “Luxury 24/7… Oh, I can only imagine!”
Claire actually didn’t know what to answer. There’s nothing good to debate something that was so different from the core, something principle, with someone stranger.
“Um, heh–try love and commitment…?--” She replied.
It’s true that she didn’t lead a true marriage, but she believed the formula to a happy marriage remained the same.
“--I…believe, to put what matters most over things, work, or social status is crucial to determine the marriage life…heh, what matters most…as in love, quality time, communication, commitment..” Claire explained gently and kindly since they asked.
For a second there the girls were in silence, surprised that Claire could be that steady.
But then someone came.
Someone that made Claire shocked instantly.
Both by what she was about to say and by who she was.
“But let’s not forget that we could always achieve more! And nothing beats a luxurious life--!” Said the woman.
She hadn’t seen Claire since she came from behind, she just overheard what Claire had said.
Claire knew her name.
Her name was Marian Everly.
Of all the places and times in the world, she met her mother there.
She was stunned for a second, holding her breath without even realizing it. Moreover, to know that her mother wasn’t alone, she’s with a girl whose age was about the same as her, or maybe not much younger, standing beside her.
All the ladies there started to giggle, agreeing. It seemed like they all knew each other.
Maybe from the events like this before, who knew? Claire thought.
“Well, I can’t say I agree with that,--” Claire said gently and firmly. She intentionally said that to check her mother’s reaction when she sees her.
“--People are rarely satisfied with what they have… and without constant gratitude,...--nothing will ever be enough…” she added with a weak smile as she looked into her mother’s eyes.
A sad smile to be exact. If there’s one person who knows her better, they will know the sadness behind her smile.
When Marian saw Claire, she was dazed for a second but then she acted normally, trying to focus on everyone else there.
She even changed the subject and made the girls follow her, leaving Claire alone.
Not that she minds about the crowd, but...so much for a mother.
Does she even recognize me?
Claire thought with a broken heart. She fluttered her glassy eyes in hoping it would dry off faster. Lucky, that all her make-up was waterproof and she managed not to shade a tear.
She took a deep breath and let it out before looking for her table. Noticing there’s a lot of tables, she decided to ask someone in charge.
After someone helped her find her table, she looked around for her name and Hunter’s name on the card.
Of course! She sarcastically said inside.
There was her mother’s name beside Mr. Ronald’s name, in fact, the girl who’s with her mother came to the table and sat down, a few chairs from Claire’s seat. She glanced without any care at Claire a few times.
Claire couldn’t help noticing her mother headed to the restroom.
She thought, sometimes in life she’ll never know when she could get the same chance again. She knew that her mother and she were practically strangers since Marian left her when she was young, but seeing her mother that night just made her longing more for an answer.
She had to know why.
What was it, that made her mother leave her?
Claire was heading to the restroom too, hoping that they could talk and she’d find some answer.
The restroom was big and luxurious. It had a borne settee couch in the middle of the room near the faucets.
Claire slowly walked toward the couch when she saw no one there except her and her mother who was at the faucet, cleaning her hands.
Claire was in the middle of thinking about what to say, but apparently, she didn’t need to do that.
“How is your father doing?” Marian said without really sounding to care.
Claire was almost scoffing.
Well, at least she recognized me... She thought before answering.
“Heh, I… don’t think you really want to know, so... let’s just skip the pleasantries…–” Claire said kindly as she slightly looked down. “I…just have to know…why…?”
Claire couldn’t help having a glassy eye between her faint trembling voices. But Marian seemed fine and very calm, she dried her hands with tissue paper.
“Your father failed to give me what I want, that’s all--” she said as she turned her back, facing her elegantly. “We were young and reckless…We were hardly soulmates,”
“O…kay…–” Claire responded, confused. “What is it that you wanted…?-- that worth so much and made you leave your family…?”
“Heh, you’re still young... Is it a crime if I wanted to go after love? Living a fabulous life? Chasing everything that I dreamed of?” She said with an accent.
“No… it’s not…– but then again, you’re not living alone... You got a husband, you got me… You’re a wife, a-a mother, you’re supposed to fight for your family, your relationships with your loved ones…–not just giving up and leaving everything…”
Marian’s eyes were glassy a bit but she covered it with her pride and her messed up principles.
“Who said I’m ready to build a family?” Said Marian defensively. Her body language was all showing there’s nothing wrong with her choices.
“Well…heh–” Claire said with a sigh.
“--You should think about that before you decide to get married,--or maybe before having a child…?--” Claire slightly winced judgingly. “--So I guess you have everything that you wanted now?”
“Of course–! I’m living the dream…and I could see that you’re a lot more like me… otherwise, we wouldn’t meet here…”
Hating the fact that her mother even dared to say those words, labeling her to be just like the same, Claire turned her hands into fists. She was slightly shivering out of anger.
“I am nothing like you… I barely know you, and you don’t know anything about me…so, just spare me your conclusion…”
Marian calmly smiled and let out a chuckle.
She looked at Claire’s wedding ring with judgmental eyes.
“So you’re gonna tell me that the luxurious life your husband has been giving you means nothing? How did you even end up with him then? And you’re telling me you chose him as your husband just because of love?” Marian’s voice was underestimating her.
”Obviously, heh, you and I have a very different perspective when it comes to relationships– but I agree, there are things that should be planned and reconsidered besides love…Those things are important and matter too... But not as much as what matters most and the quality of the relationship itself,” Claire said firmly.
It’s true that Hunter was not even her real husband, but that doesn’t mean every good principle in a marriage that she believed in is not true.
“Heh. --I presume you’re a newlywed...? Let’s see how u do your marriage after a few years have passed… then maybe, just maybe, I can buy anything that you’ve said… You’ve been married for how long now, no kids? Pretty soon when your body’s changed because of your kids, all that exhaustion, all that boredom, lack of time alone, will get under your skin… Then–let me see how your perspective brings you,” she lightly said before heading to the door.
Claire was catching up to her. There’s no way she’s gonna let her win the argument and leave her first. Or again.
“Heh, just so you know? We can’t escape time! No one can--! All that glory that you’re after will mean nothing--! Beauty fades but love stays, forever!--” Claire emphasized, grabbing the door.
She was ready to get out, but she looked back.
“--Thank you anyway...--for reminding me of who I don’t want to be in the future.” She added before leaving her mother.
That’s just it. Her mother must be the most selfish person in the world! She thought as she walked back to the hall.
Her fingers were trembling, she’s still furious.
Deep down she couldn’t help but feel heartbroken. She knew it’s the basic nature of people to feel loved, especially with their own parents. She understands that parents are humans with flaws.
It hurts to be unwanted, it hurts to be rejected.
It hurts to be strong every time, to know that you’re all alone, facing everything.
It was always her alone, against the world.
Claire stood with her back on the wall, trying to calm herself down between the tears that just fell off.
Her mind was hard on her too, thinking that she’s surrounded by people who reject her, including Hunter.
She sighed, telling herself, her mind, to not go there, thinking about Hunter. Maybe she just needs to deal with everything, step by step.
She took a deep breath a few times and toughened up before going back inside the hall.
Just a moment after she walked in from the door, a middle-aged guy grabbed her arm.