“Where are you?” Ryan asked from the other side.
“I’m almost there,” I told him, putting on my shoes.
“Hurry up —Rayva— Alex—” I could hear Ava in the background comforting my hungry little niece.
“I’ll be there in 5. Order something for me.” I told him in one breath and ended the call before he could say anything. Then taking my car keys I quickly rushed out of the place.
All thanks to my habit of procrastinating, I had to complete all the last few days work in one day and in the process, I totally forgot about the family dinner dad had arranged tonight. It had been ages since I last ate with my whole family. Thanks to the little success that we have achieved recently, we’re finally eating together.
As expected, it took me 10 minutes to reach the place. It was a very famous restaurant with a chic interior and by far the best food. As soon as I entered the place found my phone buzzing in my pocket, Ryan again.
“I’m here,” I told him as I took long strides towards the dining.
This place was huge and packed as usual so at first sight, I saw no one.
“I can see you,” he said.
“Where are you?” I looked around.
“On your left,” I followed his words and found the bunch of familiar faces looking my way.
Ending the call, I took long strides towards them and right then it occurred to me that not just I was late I was also under-dressed. While my whole family looked classy, decent and on fleek, I looked as if I came right out of my bed in my white sweater and grey jeans.
“Did you take a bath?” Dad asked squinting his eyes as soon as I reached the table.
“Come on, dad. I don’t look too bad.”
“What took you so long, honey?” it was mom this time.
“Traffic,” I shrugged and focused on my niece who looked so beautiful in the little pink dress.
“Seriously, did you take a bath today?” Ryan asked as I sat beside his wife.
“I still look better than you, don’t I, Ava?”
She winked at me and said, “You look always look dope.”
“That’s my girl,” I gave her a high-five while Ryan rolled his eyes.
“Sorry, my princess. Did uncle make you wait too long?” I asked Rayva who was sitting on her mom’s lap.
As an answer, she babbled at me with a cute little scowl on her face, as if scolding me for showing up late.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I laughed and kissed her cheeks. This girl never keeps me from laughing.
“Sorry for keeping you waiting,” I apologized to my family.
“Ah, don’t be. We didn’t wait for too long. Your brother was acting up as always, just like his dad,” Mom assured with a smile.
“Really?” Ryan and dad said in unison.
“There we go again,” I whisper in Ava’s ear and she nodded with a chuckle.
“Why? You are just as fussy as your father. I still can’t believe that Ava is your wife. I don’t know how she deals with you.”
“Mom,” Ryan whined. “I’m a dad now.”
“And I’m your mom,” Mom nagged him.
“When will you two stop?” dad intruded on their little bickering.
“Never,” Mom teased playfully.
“Looks like your mother is in a very good mood today, kids.”
“I am since it’s your treat after so long.” Mom said with such a coy smile.
I cleared my throat, “Anyways, did you order for me?”
“I did,” Ava answered quickly. “It’s your favorite dish.”
“You’re the best.” I gave her a thumbs up.
Then, we went on with our normal family chit-chat and caught onto things that we missed in the last couple of months. Ava also showed me some photos and videos of Rayva while our food was served.
“She can roll over now?” my eyes widen as I watched Rayva’s video.
“Yes, uncle Lex. I can roll over now,” Ryan sang in a high-pitched voice, rocking Rayva on his lap.
“Oh, that’s so cool,” I awed at Rayva who was now smiling ear-to-ear.
“Rayva is like our stress reliever,” Dad smiled nuzzling his forehead at her.
“So true,” Ryan agreed. “It’s like you look at her and your stress vanishes. Right, my daughter?” he kissed her forehead.
“Give her to me. I need her the most right now,” I stretched my arms across the table and Rayva effortlessly climbed into my arms. I sat her on my lap and kissed her chubby cheeks countless times.
“Eat your food, Alex, not my granddaughter.”
“But my niece is tastier, Mom,” I told her in a baby voice, looking at my cute little princess giggling on my lap.
“What’s happening over there?” Ava signaled at the table behind Ryan.
It was a couple; the woman’s back was facing us while the guy face was in full view.
“What?” I asked looking at the table for two.
“Something is wrong,” she sensed.
I looked at the couple again, from the arm movements I could tell that the woman was enjoying her food while the man was talking.
“They look quite normal to me,” I stated still looking at their table.
“No, something is off,” she said frowning her brows.
“And, what is that?” I asked tilting my head.
“Come on, detective duo, focus on your food.” Ryan snapped us out of our investigation.
“Sure, whatever?” Ava muttered as she took a bite.
As we carried on with our dinner, I couldn’t keep myself from peeking a glance at the couple and that’s when my eyes scanned the suited man again. He was now poking his cheek with his tongue and looked annoyed than a few minutes before. The girl was on the other hand, was now sitting erect at her seat.
“Anyways, have you met Mr. Ashworth before?” Mom asked Dad, as I brought my focus back to my family.
“Mom you’re asking as if he’s Dad’s childhood friend?” Ryan smirked, feeding Rayva her baby food.
“Well,” Dad’s lips stretched into a proud grin. “His son was.”
“What?!” Ryan and I exclaimed in unison while Ava almost spat her soup on Rayva.
“Slow down, you all,” Mom glared at us forcing a smile.
I looked around, thankfully no one noticed.
“You are friends with the Ashworth’s?” Ava asked her eyebrows reaching her hairline.
“I was. Andrew was my best friend,” Dad said with a smile that reached his eyes.
“No way,” I gasped.
“How? Since when?” Ryan shot questions at Dad like bullets.
“Since, high school,” Dad answered without thinking.
“Mom, you knew about this?”
“Kids, you’re being too loud.” Mom warned again.
“Dad, why didn’t you tell us before?” I questioned in a low voice.
Our father was friends with the richest person in the country and he never told us. It’s felt like Dad stabbed us all in the back and was now enjoying our reactions.
“Dad, you and Mr. Andrew Ashworth were friends?” Ryan laughed with disbelief.
“Then, why didn’t you tell us before? It would have been a whole lot easier to arrange a meeting with Mr. Ashworth since you two already know each other.”
“Relax, Ryan. It was a long time back so I don’t think Mr. Ashworth knows me.”
“You crazy, bitch!” someone yelled all of a sudden.
I quickly looked around and found the suited guy standing in his chair. His face flushed and veins on his neck and forehead popping out. I looked at the girl, she was sitting erect on her chair unbothered by the man.
Anger and annoyance started to take over me. I hate when someone insults someone like that in a public place, especially when it’s happening to a girl.
“Oh no, Rayva, it’s okay.” Ryan consoled his now crying daughter.
“I told you something was wrong,” Ava whispered to me.
All of a sudden, the suited guy poured a whole glass of water over the girl’s head. The whole place filled with gasps but for some reason, I couldn’t seem to part my eyes off the girl. Even after all this, she was quiet, sitting erect on her chair, taking all the shit the guy was speaking to her.
“How could he?” Mom gasped.
“I can’t tolerate this anymore,” I found myself rising from my seat.
“Sit down, Alex. It’s their business,” Mom pulled my hand.
“But they’re disturbing all of us.”
“Alex, sit down,” Dad ordered.
Just then, I saw the girl rising from her seat, that’s when I noticed that unlike, the suited guy, who was formally dressed, she was in casual clothes.
The girl then took a step towards the suited guy and said something that made him scoff and after slowly patting his shoulder, she walked past him towards the exit.
The expressions on the suited guy’s face changed to fear? His face turned white as he literally dropped on his chair.
“What just happened?” I mumbled.
“Looks like you’re no longer needed, brother” Ryan turned his face to me.
“I know.” I sat down.
The suited guy was still there looking terrified as ever.
“Will you eat now, Alex?” Dad scolded and I focused on the food.
Once again, we were back to being our normal selves. Dad started telling how Andrew and he became friends in high school. Ryan was still annoyed by the fact that our dad never told us that he was friends with the owner of the most successful business in the country. And while Ava and Mom were enjoying the bickering among the father and son, I on the other hand was struggling to focus on my family. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to take that girl out of my mind.
“Why are you smiling?” Ava asked with a suspicious smile.
“Am I?” I had no idea why I was smiling.
“Like a fool,” she laughed.
“ I don’t know,” I mumbled.