Despite being an employee in the same group, moving to the headquarters gives the same vibe as moving to a totally different company. New faces, new workplace, new key performance indicators, and new stress. I’d never experienced this rapid change in my career before, and I’m not sure how to feel about this. But there’s no point in pondering about it right now since the bigger drama requires more attention.
The talk I had with Diandra last Saturday still hangs heavy in my head. And my heart. Despite my determination in making my relationship with Ashton work, there are nagging thoughts in the corner of my head. How long will it take until Diandra swings back with full ammunition? What is she planning right now? What do I need to do to prepare myself? I just hope that she doesn’t drag Chloe into this because I still want to keep my daughter in the dark a little bit longer.
I know Diandra thinks she’s lending me her boy toy so that I can have fun until the day she decides to take him back. But she forgets that this toy has a brain, a heart, and free will. Has she even talked to Ashton about this lately? Does she know what he wants? From what I gather from her perspective and how Ashton sees things are like day and night. It leaves me hanging in the grey area when I try to mix them.
I believe it’s Ashton who is telling the truth, otherwise, I wouldn’t want to go this far with him. But he really needs to start talking to Diandra about this situation before it gets even uglier than it already is. But again, what do I want him to tell her? To re-break up with her when they aren’t even in a relationship right now? Or ask her to stop wanting him? Can we even do that to those who still love us?
After Dickson fetched Diandra from the restroom that afternoon, we went on with the rest of the party plan. Ashton was trying to give all his attention to Chloe but I know for sure that his attention was divided, and it didn’t take a genius to guess what distracted him. I was not doing better either since the emotional rush from the talk with his ex was still fresh pumping in my veins. Yeah, talk about a party pooper.
“Have you tried to talk to her?” I ask Ashton when we have a chance to chat on the phone during lunch today.
I eat my lunch at my desk to avoid those scrutinizing eyes on me ever since the news about Ashton and Chloe was out. I’m sure that there are plenty of speculations about me going around right now, and I’m just not in the mood to deal with them just yet. Maybe never.
“No, not yet. Haven’t found the time to do it and I don’t think I can in the next few days. My schedules are too tight. And I still don’t see the relevance of why I should talk to her.” He pauses a bit, seemingly busy doing something judging from the shuffling sound in the background. “I ended things with her. Why do I need to reopen the closed case?”
“The case has never been properly closed. You still talk to her. Maybe that’s how she gets the wrong signals from you.”
He sighs. “What signals? I don’t understand why women love to complicate themselves by looking for something that is not there. Why not focus on what is spoken?”
“Because action speaks louder than words, Ashton.” I glance at my not fully closed door, checking if someone is accidentally standing within hearing distance. I shouldn’t have mentioned his name out loud.
“And what action did I do that spoke louder than my breakup line?”
I shrug while pouring the dressing into my salad. “I don’t know. Maybe responding to her every time she texted you? Showing her a friendly gesture when you met her?”
“I don’t see the need of turning our exes to our eternal enemies,” he replies, followed by the sound of his fingers dancing on the keyboard buttons. He must be replying to emails while talking to me. “And considering Diandra’s mom and my mother have become friends, you will see her hover around my family for a while.”
“What if I mind?”
“About her being around my family who I only see a few times a year?”
“No. About you texting her back.” I bite my lower lip, regretting the words that have just rolled off my tongue. Did I sound like a possessive and insecure teenager?
“Then I will take your objection into consideration,” he answers carefully. I don’t even dare to guess what is going on inside his head right now.
“Gosh.” I rub my hand over my forehead. “I sound like a cavewoman. Of course I’m not going to tell you to whom you can talk.”
After several seconds of silence, his deep voice vibrates through the phone line, “If you really really have trouble with this, I’ll give you my password and you can check my conversation with her.”
Okay. Now I feel like a controlling bitchfriend. He hasn’t even done anything wrong or cheated on me. He doesn’t deserve this. This is embarrassing; beyond embarrassing.
“No. Please don’t do that. I trust you. I was just... I don’t know how to handle this. She still thinks that you two are the couple who are going through some tests and I’m the other woman here.”
“You are not the other woman, and you know that.”
“But people have different ideas about it. And I’m tired of hearing they gush over the same thing about you and Di... her. They even make a bet on when you two will get back together.”
“Well, it’s not going to happen. Let them lose money if they make a wrong bet. Maybe you should place your bet, too. You’ll make some money out of it.”
“It’s not something to joke about.”
“Okay, sorry.” He clears his throat. “Again. You worry too much about what people say. They will always say something about other people’s business, especially those who sit on the executive chairs. You should get used to this because this is the life we’re going to have once we do this in the open.”
“True, but still, it sucks.” I jab my fork to the potato and bring it to my mouth mindlessly. “But please, talk to her. I think she needs closure, or this won’t end well. Plus, you gotta be honest to me, that the way she reacted last Saturday made you sad, too. She needs to understand that it’s time to let go and move on.”
He sighs audibly, accompanied by the creaking sound of his chair. “You’re right. The scene last Saturday was... rather painful to see. But it is how it is; I’m with you now.” I hear muffled knocks in the background, followed by Ashton replying briefly to Andy. “I gotta go. Look, I’ll talk to her to have some closure because this is what you want. Then we gotta rest this case. Deal?”
Days go by and there is still nothing from Ashton about having the talk with Diandra. What can I say? He’s not a guy with plenty of free time in his hands to fix his ex’s problem. He can barely find time to see me, and we have to cut our phone conversation short because his schedules and my new work rhythm just don’t match. Quick calls and sweet messages are the only evidence that we are actually together.
And no, I’m not complaining. I know this is just temporary because we agreed to keep it private for now. Once we’re confident enough to bring this to the surface, things should be easier to manage.
I almost believe he starts to forget his promise to talk to Diandra when he brings up the topic. We’re at Hugh’s farm to see the newborn pony and let Chloe spend time with her four-legged friend.
“I talked to her,” he announces when we stand behind the horse fence, watching Chloe riding Charlotte while Hugh striding next to her.
I look up at him, astounded that he didn’t bring this up earlier. “You did? When?”
“This morning,” he replies. He stares at the leaf he’s been fiddling with his fingers before throwing it away. “She was there at my lobby when I came back from running.”
“Okay?” For some reason, the uneasiness creeps in my stomach. She came to his place. Did he let her in? “Why did she want to see you?”
“Oh. What happened then?”
“We talked. I even apologized if I hurt her because I kissed you that night. But I was very clear that I’m with you right now. And she said she understood.”
After a few minutes and Ashton doesn’t seem to say more, I turn my head to him again. “That’s all?”
“That’s all,” he replies as he looks away to check on Chloe who is screaming to us in joy. Shifting our attention to our daughter, we both wave at her as we continue watching her learning a new technique in riding Charlotte. Once Chloe doesn’t look in our direction, Ashton takes my hand in his, rubbing the back of my palm with his thumb slowly. “Will you stay with me tonight?”
“At your place? What about our daughter? Sophie isn’t home, and my parents have a party to attend.”
“I guess I’ll stay longer after dinner then. Can I?”
“Of course.” I smile while examining his pale face. His stubble starts to grow over his jaws and his eyes are dull. Since he showed up this morning he hasn’t talked much. Is it because of the talk he had with Diandra this morning? “You look tired.”
“Yeah,” he mumbles. “It’s been a heavy week. It takes a lot for us to adjust to the management change.”
“Ah, yeah. I can imagine.”
“And I need you.” His hand tightens around mine.
I squeeze him back. “Okay.”
Ashton has been away for a few days on a business trip. He won’t be home before Sunday, which means he won’t be able to have a daddy’s day out with Chloe this week. However, my girl has been jittery because she wants to show her dad the drawing she made at school. It’s the drawing of Charlotte, the pony. I don’t even know how to feel about it because she never tried to draw me, but she did put an effort into the horse. I have to say, I’m slightly jealous of that Charlotte bitch.
Anyway, since my daughter doesn’t want to wait any day and wants to let her father see her drawing once he’s back from the trip, I decide to stop by his place after work to slip Chloe’s paperwork into his mailbox. I’ve been warned to not tell Ashton in advance because it’s a surprise.
With the envelope in my hand, I saunter to Ashton’s building entrance and make my way to the mailbox hall. It’s when I see the familiar redhead standing in front of Ashton’s box. I stop short on my spot.
She stops rummaging through her bag before pivoting on her heels, her eyes seeking the voice that has just called her name.
“Hi, Charlotte,” she greets once she sees me. Her face is as pale as the last time I saw her at Chloe’s party, or maybe because this is the first time I see her without makeup on. “What are you doing here?”
“Uh.” I wave the envelope in my hand. “Bringing in Chloe’s drawing that she wants to show off to her father. And I can ask you the same question. What are you doing here?”
“The same thing as what you’re doing. I wanted to show off the first picture of the baby. It was taken today,” she replies, her somber eyes turning brighter.
I tilt my head, trying to make sense of her answer. “You do a baby photograph?”
“No.” Diandra chuckles. “It’s the ultrasound photo of our baby. Chloe is going to have a sibling,” Diandra squeals weakly.
“What?” My voice comes out as a whisper. I swear that the world has stopped spinning right now. Or at least, the gravity declines my existence since I can’t feel my legs at the moment.
Diandra puts her hand on her belly, rubbing it in a circular motion. Her eyes twinkle under the corridor’s light, contrasting the exhaustion in her face. “It explains why I’ve been feeling under the weather lately.” She smiles widely, a pure joy smile. “It’s terrifying that I just found out I was pregnant at four months, but it’s also a miracle!”