It felt as though my heart stopped beating as I met the blue eyes that stared back.
“James,” said Darius, breaking the silence that seemed to go on forever but was really a brief second or two.
James held out the pie and Darius laughed, shaking his head. “How have you been?” he asked.
“Heartbroken since someone didn’t reply to my phone calls all week,” he replied. Darius laughed uncomfortably as he stood up. So James was the one calling?
Right now, I would have preferred a skinny–size, negative nine supermodel calling him instead. James’s eyes looked down, meeting mine, and I turned around in my seat as they continued talking.
Alicia looked at me, her eyes brows furrowing.
“Are you okay?” Alicia asked and I jumped in surprise.
“Oh yea. No, I just... Isn’t it hot in here?” I asked, fanning myself for emphasis. She raised her eyebrows and I bit my lip, looking around.
“I’m going to get some fresh air.” Without waiting for her reply, I stood up.
“Ooh, me too. I’ll come with you,” she said, looking at the pie distastefully before standing up.
I didn’t want her to come but she followed me as I made my way outside. The air was relaxing and I greedily sucked it in. What was he doing here?
Of course, he was Miss Alvin’s son. All the times I had been with him, not once had he mentioned family or names even. I knew I should have doubted him then. We had been together longer than I could remember and he had been to my house a million times and met my parents but I had never really met his.
“Are you okay?”
I looked at Alicia with a nod and felt the hot sting at the back of my throat. Oh god, Ivory, don’t cry now.
Alicia continued when I remained quiet. “Because you look like you saw a ghost.”
I let out a nervous laugh. I was expecting her to say that because, in fact, I did see a ghost. A ghost of my past.
“There you are.”
I looked to see Miss Alvin walking toward us.
“My son’s here somewhere. I was going to introduce him but then you ladies left. Never mind. At dinner I will introduce you. That reminds me, are you both hungry?”
I shook my head, surreptitiously signaling at Alicia to say no. Oh dear, no more pies.
“Oh good. James gave me this brilliant idea. He said not everyone would like seafood so I have the chef cook some other food, so hopefully it should be done soon. Smart boy. I have never imagined someone not liking seafood,” she said and I nodded vigorously.
Of course, he asked to change the menu. I could feel my nails digging into my skin.
“You ladies head back inside before you get sick. Off you go, both of you. Dinner should be soon, hopefully,” she said, making gestures with her hands to shoo us back inside.
Alicia shrugged her shoulders and grabbed my arm, pulling me inside. Instead of taking me toward the table, she took me to an isolated parlour room. She closed the door behind us.
“Alright, girly, speak,” she said, crossing her arms and waiting.
“You know exactly what. Trust me, I know that look,” she snapped.
I collapsed on the couch behind me and placed my head in my hands.
I have to tell someone, and I might as well start with her.
“You should tell Darius.”
I looked up at her, with a “was she serious”? look.
“Of course you can. It’s simple. You go up to him and tell him everything, Ivory, or else-”
“No way,” I said, shaking my head.
“You know that he’ll find out sooner or later. It’s better with you telling him than James filling his head up with stuff.”
I sighed, not sure what to do. She was right. I need to tell him, but I don’t want to.
What if he judged me for it? We were finally getting on good terms and I don’t want to ruin it.
“I will, just not now.”
“No. Do it now. Did you know that Darius just accepted him as a business partner?”
“What?” I asked, half-yelling as I looked up at her in utter surprise. She nodded, twirling one of her locks in her fingers.
“They’re still under talks or maybe he is still thinking of taking him as a partner. And from what you have told me, James would bring the company down. I was surprised when Jake told me. I didn’t quite believe it myself.”
I tapped my foot impatiently on the ground. This wasn’t good. Wasn’t good at all, but how was I supposed to tell him?
“We should get back,” I said, standing up.
Alicia stood up as well and went for the door. “Ivory, you need to tell him. He deserves to know,” she said.
“I will,” I said, leaving out the part when I would tell him. I mean I’ll get to it, just not now.
By the time we went back, people were sitting back down for dinner. How long had we been away? I plastered a fake smile as we walked back and Alicia stared at me. James seemed to have disappeared and Jake and Darius were talking.
“There you both are. We were about to send out a search party,” said Jake as we approached them.
Alicia laughed, waving a hand. “Please, we were admiring the garden,” she lied, doing so easily.
“That reminds me,” Jake said, looking in my direction. “How is your garden going, Ivory?”
Darius looked at me, raising his eyebrows, and I could feel heat rushing to my cheeks. Jeez, Jake, did you have to blurt that out loud?
“Eh, it’s fine,” I said, shrugging as I sat down. The waiter came toward us pushing a tray.
“What would you like, chicken or seafood, ma’am,” he said. I opened my mouth and saw James in the corner watching us.
“Seafood,” I replied, frowning. The waiter nodded and placed a plate in front of me. I looked up to see the smirk wiped off James’s face. If he still thought he knew me, he was wrong. Alicia raised her eyebrows at me in question. I ignored her, looking down at the prawns in front of me.
Here goes nothing.
I was the only one at our table who had ordered seafood and now, looking at them all eat their succulent chicken, I was annoyed. Damn it, Ivory, you should have just gotten the damn chicken.
James was sitting a table away from us with his mother as he talked to people around him. He was always someone who had their way with words, always making a good impression.
Stop thinking about him! I placed a prawn in my mouth and chewed on it, trying not to let it rise back up. Just swallow, chew and swallow.
“Are you okay?”
I looked up to see Darius staring at me, his eyebrows knotted in confusion. I nodded, placing my fork on the plate.
“I’ll be right back,” I said. I got up quickly, ignoring Alicia’s worried look as I rushed to the bathroom. I could feel everything around me crushing, my resolve breaking. God, why did he have to show up. Just when I have finally started putting my life back together, here he was again.
Alicia was right. I needed to tell Darius. But how will I tell him? I can’t just simply walk up to him and say, ‘Oh by the way, your new business partner? He’s my ex.’ I can’t do it. Darius is moody as hell, not to mention bi polar. The second I tell him, all hell will break loose.
I splashed cold water on my face and dried it off, the lipstick washing away with it. I looked back at my reflection. I look pale. I couldn’t exactly tell since my skin was a dark tan anyway. My brown eyes looked dull, lifeless and nearly black as they stared back at me. The only colour on my face was the pink on my cheeks.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Come on, Ivory, dinner, maybe a dance with your husband and go home. I can do this.
Fixing my hair one last time, I stepped out of the bathroom in a hurry and bumped into someone. What happened to the lights?
“Don’t you look beautiful as ever.”
I stared into those eyes and forced my legs to move. Come on, you can do this. But he blocked my way, pushing me against the far wall to shield me from everyone.
“Surprised to see me?”
“Move,” I hissed through my teeth and pushed my hands against his chest. He caught them easily, holding my wrists and leaning forward. His body towered over mine, making it near impossible to move. The more I struggled, the more he seemed to enjoy it, so I slumped against the wall.
“Let me explain, Ivory. You never let me explain,” he said, his finger brushing against my cheek, making me wince. The touch I once used to love made bile rise up my throat.
“I don’t need an explanation,” I snapped, glaring up at him. His eyes softened as they looked into mine and I gritted my teeth.
“Ivory, I miss you.”
Oh god. I gave him a harsh push which made him stumble backward. Without so much as a glace in his direction, I quickly rushed back to the table. Dinner seemed to have been finished. I surely hadn’t been gone that long, had I?
Darius was just getting up when I came to the table. Our eyes met.
“There you are. We- You okay?” he asked as I stood by the chair. I nodded without looking at him. I was going to pull the chair out when he grabbed my arm and pulled me.
“What are you doing?” I asked as he tugged me across the floor toward the entrance. Oh god, did Alicia tell him something? I shouldn’t have told her.
He called over for the driver, shielding me from the cameras again. When the car arrived, he gently pushed me inside.
“Darius?” I asked as he slammed the door shut and took off his jacket. He looked up, his green eyes sparkling.
“Where are we going?” I asked as the limo started up again.
“You’ll see,” was the only thing he said. I looked out the window, if only to avoid his intense gaze on me. The ride was quiet and every time I glanced at him, he was staring at me like he was trying to figure me out. I can’t believe he just dragged me out like that!
And I can’t believe I let myself be caught in a moment like that with James. How dare him! He wanted to ‘explain’ things. Yeah, he should have explained why he cheated on me. I could feel my throat clog up again and willed myself not to shed a tear. He didn’t deserve it.
“We’re here,” said Darius, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Huh?” I asked as his hand found mine and pulled me out of the car.
“Where ar-” The question trailed off as I stared out at the waves in front of me. The beach?
I looked up at him and found him smiling at me.
“You didn’t look like you were having much fun there,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck again, something which he always did. I bit my lip to keep from smiling. How did he know I love the beach? Or was it a guess? Either way I didn’t care. This was exactly what I needed.
I bent down and slipped off my shoes.
“What are you doing?”
“Well, surely you didn’t bring me all this way to just stare at the waves, did you?” I tugged at his hand and pulled him along.
Darius’ laugh echoed in the quiet night as he followed me. I felt the warm yet rough sand under my feet as I walked toward the waves. I wasn’t getting in. That was for sure. It was way too cold and windy.
But just watching the moon at the horizon was perfect. I sat down on the sand.
“Aren’t you going to ruin the dress?”
“Oh well,” I said as I hugged my knees. After a moment, Darius sat down beside me and I raised an eyebrow.
“Aren’t you afraid you’re going to ru-”
“If you aren’t, why should I?” he cut me off, smiling. His eyes twinkled as he smiled. It was different from all his other smiles and I let out a soft laugh when I looked back at the moon. We both lay on the sand, looking up at the dark sky.
“What are you thinking?” his voice asked, a soft whisper barely heard in the wind.
“The stars, how peaceful they must be,” I told him.
He chuckled and I turned my head to glare at him.
“The stars,” he said, turning his head. His eyes were like the stars now, shiny and bright as they stared at me. I shrugged.
“Yea, stars. They’re just... perfect. They shine all the time. That one.” I pointed to a star that has a dull colour. Which probably meant it was a red star.
“It’s probably already dead, but we won’t find out for another million light years or whatever,” I said, not knowing the exact figure.
“That’s re-assuring,” he told me and I nudged him with my elbow.
“They’re beautiful, though,” I said in defense of the stars.
“Yes,” he agreed and I smiled. At least someone can share my obsession with stars with me. I shivered, cursing myself for not bringing a jacket.
I felt a hand on mine as he pulled me up and I stumbled.
“What?” I asked as he smiled. I didn’t like this smile.
“Oh no,” I said as I saw him staring out into the water. It was freezing out there! If it was this cold and windy now, imagine what it would be like there. I took a step back as his laughter filled the air, and he wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me against this chest.
I shivered, not sure if it was because of the heat from his body or the cold wind as it pushed against us.
“Darius, it’s freezing.”
“Well, we did drive all the way out here.”
And before I knew it, he was dragging me toward the water. The clumsy fool that I was, I tripped and fell and soon the cold water enveloped me into a hug.