My eyes widen at the sight of my mother entering my office with a smirk on her face, leaving me groaning, knowing of what she’s going to say. The same thing she has been saying for the past few months, leaving me frustrated.
“What are you doing here?” She asks, eyebrows furrowed as she eyes the files on my desk. Then, she turns to look at Flynn, my assistant for the past three years. One of her hand goes up to lift her sunglasses, “Aidan Gabriel Ashton, didn’t I tell you to go and meet—”
I cut her off, dropping the pen onto one of the files before pulling onto my sleeves onto my elbows. Without me realising, I’ve already clenched my jaw as I sigh deeply, a sign of displeased by her.
“I’m always busy,” I respond, “I don’t have time to go on dates,” My voice sounded low and almost inaudible it was loud enough for my own mother to hear; knowing that she is always unsatisfied by my answer.
“Bullshit,” She replies, causing my eyes to widen.
“Excuse me?” I raise an eyebrow, waiting for her to continue on as she takes a few steps closer towards me. Her right hand holding onto her phone, shoving it towards my face, making me lean my head back in surprise.
“Scandals . . . ” She scoffs, shaking her head, “Don’t feed me with lies as if I’m a child, Gabriel. We both know about your pathetic reputation,” She scrolls down her phone, her nose scrunching in disgust; showing it clearly through her expressions, ”Look at this,” She adds.
I lean to look at her phone, my picture was taken randomly a few days ago while someone was holding onto my forearm as we were entering the hotel. Within seconds, I am already pinching the bridge of my nose before leaning my head back in disbelief.
“Why are you even keeping up with these things?” I ask, completely dissatisfied. Especially at my age for being an adult and old enough to control my own life yet she’s busy trying to alter mine. Days spent with her telling me to get married . . . have a permanent commitment.
It’s not as easy as ABC. I mean, I can’t just walk down the street and ask a stranger to marry me. First of all, that’s just plain stupid. Second, I can’t marry someone I don’t love because marriage is not a temporary thing. It’ll have to last forever—so, I have to marry someone special.
But as for now, no one owns my heart, yet.
“Because you’re my son and you’re embarrassing our family with your one night stands. Where’s the benefit of it all? What about the dates I’ve set you up?” She takes a seat near my desk as sigh, once more. My eyes wander to Flynn who is currently, awkwardly standing beside me, giving him signs to make an excuse for us to leave.
He seems to be getting my signals as he clears his throat, “Unfortunately, Mrs. Ashton . . . Aidan has another meeting in five and it’s very—” He is cut off by my mother glaring at him, “Uh … I think it’s important,” He adds, his voice almost inaudible as she sighs, deeply.
“Flynn, do you want me to fire you?” She asks, leaving me roll my eyes in disbelief. My arms are crossed as I keep on closing my eyes; hoping this is just a dream, might as well be a nightmare that it shall end soon.
“He works for me. You can’t do that,” I answer and she raises an eyebrow, her lips are curving up into one of her devious smiles before chuckling.
“And you work for me. I can do as I please,” She says.
“What’s it with you about my life? Why are you so eager for me to get married?” My voice raising as I try my best to control my temper but I’m not so sure of holding it in any deeper due to the fact that she’s doing her best to make me lose control.
Mother rolls her eyes, “Because you’re wasting your time. Set your brother as an example, he got himself a wife and they currently have a lovely daughter. All I’m asking you to do is be a responsible man instead of wasting your money for women who doesn’t secure your future. You’re acting like a spoiled man—stop that,” She says, deadly serious.
As soon as I’m about to say another word, she has already cut me to it. Her index finger raising up to silent me before showing an unknown picture of a woman on her phone with a cheeky smile plastered on her face.
“Family gathering. This Sunday,” She says, eyes showing determination. “Bring your future wife or you’ll have to marry the woman of my choice. Perhaps one of the dates you’ve canceled? Maybe even Shin-hye,” She repeats before standing up, clearing her throat.
As she starts to walk away, “It’s in three days. How am I supposed to find someone to marry in three days? You’re out of your mind,” I reply, clenching my jaw, hard.
“Aidan Gabriel Ashton, you managed to scoop yourself different one night stands in about at least an hour, how hard can it be to find yourself a wife?” She stops for awhile, “I assume you’re already interested in someone as of why you’ve rejected all of the dates I’ve assigned you to go to,” She puts her sunglasses on, head held high.
“I mean, look at me, I got married when I was nineteen. Got you, your brother and your sister and I’m still not in my fifties. Stop giving excuses, Aidan and start showing me your damn commitment because that’s how I raised my sons,” She turns around as she heads towards the door, leaving me sigh again, closing my eyes in disbelieved.
“Remember, this Sunday, don’t disappoint me.” She adds before finally stepping out of my office, leaving me stare at the spot she once stood. My mind goes blank at the sight of her disappearance—yet, left me with a whole burden on my shoulders.
I am suddenly remembering back the date with Shin-hye. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a decent young woman with beautiful features. Apart from that, she is also the heiress to the finest hotel in Korea which means that she has a lot of connection but she lacks a lot.
What’s so good about an heiress that knows very little about business? All I can say is that, she was fed with silver spoons and the title was given. Her parents worked hard while she was spending their money carelessly. How could mother had chosen her?
“Should I call Kenna, Mr. Ashton? Maybe, she’ll be able to comfort you.” Flynn says, making me look up at him before instantly, caught up with an idea of my own. My eyes widen as I think of the possibilities of making it true—Kenna and I have always been close, it might happen.
“Actually, I’m meeting her right now. Tell Gerald,” I respond, smiling to myself. Without further ado, I quickly make my way towards my desk before taking my phone after grabbing onto my coat, looking up at Flynn who is currently hesitating on something.
“Why are you still here?” I ask.
“Uh, but you have an actual meeting in half an hour,” He replies before standing in front of me, the desk separating us. My eyebrows furrow as he hesitates to speak again—Flynn has been careful whenever he speaks, afraid I might respond as my mother as I am known to have a bad temper, which is very true.
“So? Just cancel it,” I breathe out, slightly annoyed.
“It’s a very important meeting, Mr. Ashton. I can’t just cancel the meeting because they’ll flip and it’s n—never good when they flip,” He stutters while I roll my eyes, taking a few steps closer towards him as I harden my gaze, making sure that he gets the memo.
“Cancel it. Do as I say, Flynn. We don’t want you losing your job,” I speak and he gulps, sweats begin to form on his forehead as he nods. With a small smile appearing on my face, I begin to make my way out of my office—letting him trail behind me in a hurry.
As I stand in front of the elevator, I wait for Flynn to press onto the button in which he does before standing beside me. He clears his throat, waiting for the elevator to arrive at our floor. As soon as the elevator doors’ open, I am left looking at my employees, their eyes widening.
Both Flynn and I enter the elevator that has gone silent as soon as the doors were opened. With both of my hands in my slacks’ pocket, I wait for Flynn to press onto the ’G’ button while I stand in the middle—my employees pushing themselves towards the wall as far as possible.
We walk out of the elevator, receiving greetings and smiles from the other employees as we walk out, meeting with Gerald who is already waiting beside my car. He opens the door for me, letting me enter the backseat while Flynn goes straight towards the passenger’s seat.
“Call Kenna,” I say as soon as he buckles his seatbelt. He looks up at the rear-view mirror, searching for my gaze before nodding. Then, he looks inside his pocket for his phone before a panic-look appears on his face, making his hands shake, “Are you going to call her?” I ask.
The look on his face shows just how much he wants to throw himself out of the car instead of answering my question. He turns to look at me with his eyes avoiding making any eye contact with me as the car drives forward, “I’m disappointed to tell you this, Mr. Ashton but I might have left my phone in your office . . . ” He stutters slightly, as I continue to stare.
“Might have?” I raise an eyebrow and he leans back into his seat, turning to look at Gerald who continues to drive down the road before looking up at the rear-view mirror. “Gerald, we’re turning around so that Flynn here, can get his phone,” I say after clearing my throat.
“We don’t have to turn around . . . ” Flynn breathes but as soon as he caught the look on my face, he nods his head before looking out at the window while I keep on scrolling onto my phone without looking up front.
Flynn runs out of the car, in a hurry.
I look down at my wrist watch, checking the time as I see him entering the building. If my calculations are correct, he’ll be able to make it back to the car in less than ten minutes. With him running instead of walking, it might even be less than six minutes.
My eyes wander to Flynn who enters the car again, breathing heavily from running as he holds his phone near to his lap. I check the time again, seeing that it took him exactly eight minutes to take his phone which meant he might’ve carelessly spent the two minutes.
“Now, call Kenna.” I say and he turns to look at me, eyes slightly widening but he does as told, scrolling through the contacts before pressing onto Kenna’s name—putting the phone onto his ear, waiting for her to pick up.
Gerald drives back down the road, heading towards the hospital. The road appears to be less busy today than it has ever been before which is slightly surprising.
“Kenna, it’s Flynn. Mr. Ashton would like to speak with you,” He says as soon as she picked up the call before turning around to give me his phone. Then, he leans back onto his seat, still trying to control his heavy breathing which makes me frown, he has always been the one to run back and forth trying to get files and even my coffee, why does this suddenly tire him?
“You could’ve called me yourself,” She says through the other line. “But then, that wouldn’t be the Aidan I know … now, what do you want?” She asks, her voice sounded a little bit cheerful which causes me to smile as I look out of the window.
“Hello to you, too. You sound cheery,” I reply before hearing the sound of her surroundings, it might appear that she’s still at the hospital, according to the time—it’s a couple of minutes until lunch hours.
“I’m always cheery. Unlike you,” She chuckles, “You’re like another version of Grumpy from Snow White—the resemblances are there which is not surprising.” She continues to speak which causes my lips to curve up into a wider smile, thinking of her rolling her eyes as she has always have whenever she has to deal with my ’annoying’ attitude.
“I’m picking you up for lunch,” I mutter.
“Actually, I’m on my way to have lunch with my co-workers.” She replies and I immediately turn to look at the entrance of the hospital, seeing that she is standing alone in the middle, her phone attached onto her ear as her eyes wander to look around.
Without me realising, I’ve already let out a soft chuckle before eyeing her. She has her hair tied up into a ponytail instead of a regular half up and half down style. Just as Gerald parks the car a bit closer towards her, “You’re a bad liar . . . you know that, right?” I ask, smirking.
“On what proof, Aidan?” She smiles down at the ground as I press down the window, yet she still hasn’t noticed my presence. Both of her eyes are wandering someplace else instead of landing onto the car or more, onto me.
“Wait here,” I say towards Gerald after hanging the phone call and stepping out of the car, heading straight towards Kenna. My eyes stay focus onto her back, seeing that she’s smiling as she talks to herself, making me slow my steps.
She sighs, “Typical Aidan. Calling me for no reason and hanging up without saying goodbye. Remind me again why he’s my best friend,” She mutters under her breath but it appears to be loud enough for me to hear as I’m only a couple of feet away from her.
“Remind me again why I’m friends with a liar,” I say and she turns to face me, immediately with a surprised look on her face. My lips curve up into a smile as her light blue eyes are staring directly into my brown ones before laughing.
“Says the person who associate with liars every day,” She replies, crossing her arms while tilting her head to the side.
Kenna and I have been close ever since we were kids. We went through kindergarten, middle school and high school together because we were just inseparable. If it weren’t for her wanting to go to medical school, we might’ve been in the same business school. There are a lot of reasons why we’re best friends, one of them is because I pushed her down the swing.
Well, that was only the beginning.
“Yet, they weren’t terrible at it,” I state the truth in which she responds with another chuckle, “Is standing alone waiting for a cab . . . another statement of going to lunch with your co-workers? Because I don’t see anyone,” I add and she rolls her eyes, as expected.
She breathes out, “You caught me. Now, what? Are you going to arrest me?” She raises an eyebrow as I take a few steps closer towards her, grabbing both of her wrist before pretending to cuff onto her wrists with an imaginary one, leaving both of us smirking.
“Arrested. Now you’re going to have lunch with me,” I say, starting to walk towards the car after letting go of her wrists. She follows beside me in her heels as we reach towards the car. Just as Gerald steps out of the car to open the door for us, I held my hand to stop him.
I open the door myself, gesturing for Kenna to step inside first. She smiles at me, shaking her head at my behaviour before stepping inside in which I pursuit after. Gerald steps back into the car before looking up at the rear-view mirror, waiting for me to give a location.
“Hey, Flynn.” Kenna says as she smiles at him in which he smiles back. Ever since Flynn became my assistant, they are close enough to consider themselves as friends. I’ve never forbid them to be friends, anyway—easier for me because he can call her for me.
“Hey, Kenna.” He replies, glancing at my direction.
“Where to, Mr. Ashton?” Gerald asks.
“Cafe Lalo,” I answer before turning to look at Kenna, seeing that she’s glancing at me with a mischievous smile. She has her arms crossed near her chest before leaning back onto the seat, “Why are you giving me that look?” I ask, pretending to be oblivious about it.
If she’s able to pick up the tracks, she would’ve actually guessed it. I’ve never liked going to Cafe Lalo due to the amount of people there but she loves going there, said she has always liked the pies . . . most likely because she’s fond of the people who work there. So, with me taking her to one of the places she loves but I don’t, she must’ve guessed that I’m hiding something.
“No reason,” She replies after peeking down at my phone, seeing that I’m currently holding it without pulling it away from her view. As soon as she sees that I’m currently going through the notes in my phone, she leans back on her seat after clearing her throat.
With a smirk, I continue to scroll.
As we’ve arrived at Cafe Lalo, I quickly step out of the car before walking towards her side, opening the door for her. She tucks a few strands of hair behind her ear as she eyes the cafe, her eyes are glinting with happiness—I’ve assumed she would be.
“Be back in an hour,” I say towards Gerald before turning to Flynn, ”Here. Go and have lunch,” I hand him a hundred dollar bill as I make my way inside the cafe with Kenna. Then, I turn to see that Gerald has drove away with Flynn.
“Kenna, it has been awhile since you’ve been here,” Samuel, one of the waiters here says with a smile on his face. He turns to look at me, “You must be Aidan . . . Kenna’s friend,” He adds as he stands in front of us while I turn to see the cafe is filled with people.
I shake hands with Samuel, “It’s nice to finally meet you. Kenna has told me quite a lot about her rather friendly-friend . . . you’re different in person,” He frowns a little bit as she laughs, nodding her head before avoiding my eye contact.
“I’m not surprised,” I reply, knowing that Kenna must’ve lied a few things about me. She does that all the time—finding me as her source of enjoyment. As soon as we both turn to look at the tables again, one of the customers are already making their way out.
“Today’s your lucky day . . . didn’t even have to wait long. I’ll take your orders in a bit,” Samuel says as soon as both Kenna and I are seated near the wall. I carelessly run my hand over my coat while I sit, uncomfortably in my seat with her staring at me.
“You wanted to come here. At least show that you want to be here,” She says, placing the menu on the middle of the table, “This is why we don’t go to lunch together. It’s clear that you don’t want to be here,” She adds, chuckling as she continues to eye the menu.
I clear my throat, “Says who?”
“Your face,” She replies.
I stay quiet for a few seconds, “Let’s just order, okay?” I say before pulling onto the menu from her and she laughs, giving in to me. I am instantly remembered back to us having lunch together . . . I like going to expensive places with less people while Kenna likes the opposite. Preferring to be in an affordable restaurants or cafes, either of us would feel uncomfortable.
She has always been the one who understands more. When we were kids, her father’s company almost went bankrupt but my father brought it back up to where it is now. It’s now a well-known finance company which is currently expanding, too.
Yet, she saw it when it was the worst. Ever since then, she hated going to expensive places or own anything out of the range of her salary. She has never accepted a penny from her parents because she knew the pain they went through . . . transformed her into who she is now.
If I am ever to compare myself with her, I’d be labelled as the spoiled-rich guy while she’s the exact independent angel. That’s one of our differences yet it brings the goodness in both of us . . . putting us back to place, always reminded that nothing lasts forever.
“I’m going to go with a regular sandwich and water,” She mutters, interrupting my thoughts as she looks up at me, “What about you?” She asks, waiting for my answer.
As I clear my throat, “I’ll have the same.” Then, she calls out for Samuel who is walking back towards us with a notepad in his hand—writing down our order before heading back towards the cashier, inserting our orders into the system.
“Okay . . . Aidan, talk to me.” She says, all of a sudden which causes me to raise an eyebrow at her, “You’re obviously hiding something from me and I can see it through you. You brought me here to my favourite cafe to have lunch—it’s not an every day thing for you,” She adds.
Our eyes are focusing into one another as I try to think of the consequences. She might start to freak out about my decision because it’s not something a friend would normally ask. Even if it’s to help a friend … still, it’s a crazy thing to ask.
“Kenna, will you marry me?” I ask.
Both of her blue eyes widen in surprise before leaning her head back into laughters, making me stare at her. Her laughter seems to have caught everyone’s attention as most of them turn to look at her yet she doesn’t bother. As she looks back at me, it shows how she thinks that this is a joke when I’m actually . . . deadly serious.