Chapter 5, Part 1
Chapter 5, part 1 - Molly
"I understand that. What I don't think YOU understand is that money isn't the issue here..." I rubbed my forehead as the voice on the other side spoke again. I was hiding behind some large bushes, trying not to attract any attention after the ceremony faux pas. "Look ma'am, just transfer me or give me the number, I'll call them myself." Of course the instant I said it, I regretted it - I didn't have anything to write down a phone number on. I tried to memorize the number she rattled off and hung up with her. I started dialing the number and scrunched up my forehead trying to remember it. "Frik!" I muttered when I realized it was wrong.
"Problem?" someone asked from behind me.
I'd been so involved in my own drama that I hadn't heard anyone approach. I yelped and dropped the phone as I spun around to face the person addressing me. "Oh god Boris, you scared the crap out of me!" I stooped to pick up my phone and the embarrassing moment in the ceremony flooded into my memory. As I stood back up, I knew my face was red. "Um...about earlier...I'm really....REALLY sorry." I said.
"I found it pretty funny actually - mostly when your face was the same shade as Ruby's hair." he grinned at me.
"Well I'm not sure Jing and Laila will feel the same way." I said, looking over his shoulder to the brides in question.
"I'm sure they'll be okay." Boris reassured me. He was about to say something more when my phone buzzed in my hand.
I held up and finger to hold his question and answered the phone. "Hello?" I listened for another moment. "Yes, yes...thank you for calling me back." I looked at Boris apologetically and mouthed 'Sorry' to him. I knew he would understand when I got a moment to explain later. He nodded and returned to the other guests.
Twenty minutes later and several redirects, I approached Jacob and Natasha - already feeling bad about what I needed to do. "Natasha, is it alright if I borrow my brother?" I asked as I placed my arm in his. She nodded and went off to mingle as I pulled Jacob aside. "I need a ride to the airport." I said once we were away from everyone else.
"What? Why? I thought you were coming back to Crescent Bay for a week?" he asked. It's true, I was supposed to be going back to Crescent Bay with everyone else. My internship didn't start for another couple weeks and I was going to spend the time with my family.
"Colin's father passed away this morning." I said. "I've arranged a flight from the Riverview airport to Crescent Bay. Then I will catch the next flight back to London."
"Oh Molly!" Jacob frowned. "Of course I'll take you; let me go let Natasha know and you can say your goodbyes." he went back in search of Natasha before I could respond.
I found Boris first, Jing had just walked over to some other family as I approached. "I have to go, I'm sorry to cut out like this but..." I was cut off by the heated exchange between Axel and Ruby. I frowned, what was going on with those two now? After Hector led Ruby away, I turned my attention back to Boris. "Um...where was I?" Tony walked over then as well.
"You were saying Molly?" Boris prompted.
"I have to get back to England." I explained quickly about Colin's father passing away and acknowledged their condolences. "It was a beautiful ceremony...again." I chewed on my lip while looking around, "Give my love to everyone, I wish I could make the rounds but I don't really have the time just now."
After they nodded, I gave them each hugs then turned my attention to Laila and Jing who had approached in the midst of the hugs. "You are both beautiful brides and I'm really sorry about earlier...I'll send you all pictures when I get them." I added before turning toward Stormy. I explained the situation to her just like I had everyone else. She held me in a hug an extra long time before walking with me to the front of the house where Jacob was waiting with his car. "I'll call you later." I said and gave her another hug.
Jacob swung by the Bed and Breakfast so I could collect my stuff and change before heading to the small airport. The flight from Riverview to Crescent Bay was mercifully short considering how small the plane felt. Having traveled across the Atlantic so many times as of late, I'd become accustom to larger planes. Somehow they didn't give me the feeling that they were about the fall out of the sky like this one did. We landed with no problem and I had my cell phone out as I got off the plane, checking for flights to London even as I crossed through the airport.
One of the staff from the Beckham home was waiting for me when I arrived at Heathrow; I'd texted my flight information to Colin as soon as I'd secured my seat. "Ms. Gregory." he said with a solemn nod. I recognized him vaguely but couldn't remember his name for the life of me. I nodded back and started to grab my own luggage but his hand beat me to the suitcase. "Do you have additional luggage ma'am?" he asked.
"No, just the one." I said. He nodded again and led the way outside to the waiting car. He opened the back door for me and after closing the door, he stowed my luggage in the trunk.
Colin was standing outside when we pulled up an hour later. He came down the stairs at a trot and waved off the driver, opening the car door himself.
I climbed out of the car and wrapped my arms around him tightly. "I'm so sorry." I said quietly.
Behind us, the driver was pulling out my bag and had already disappeared inside the house with it. "I'm glad you're here Molly." Colin said as we pulled apart.
Inside the house, Mrs. Beckham gave me a disapproving look even as she claimed Colin's attention for something. He seemed reluctant to let go of my hand after I'd just arrived but I shrugged it off. I pulled him close and kissed his cheek before allowing Mrs. Beckham the full attention of her son. Clearly no longer needed or welcome by her, I went in search of my bag.
Cathy arrived home from her school the following day. Seeing as Mrs. Beckham had a dozen projects for Colin to attend to, I sought Cathy out for company. "How are you doing?" I asked, sitting on the bed next to her. She just shrugged but I saw tears in her eyes and pulled her into a tight hug so she could cry it out.
The morning of the funeral, Colin woke up before dawn. When I found him, he was standing at the window in his father's office, watching the sun rise over the hills. I placed my hand on his back but he didn't turn toward me.
"Thank you." he said, still gazing out the window.
"For what?" I asked, laying my cheek against his shoulder.
He laid his hand on my cheek and turned towards me. "Being here. It is comforting having you near." Together we watched the sun continue to rise and said very little until one of the staff came in.
"Mr. Beckham, the car is ready." he waited in the door way until Colin nodded in acknowledgment.
The funeral was a stately affair; Alistair Beckham was a well known and respected gentleman. Just about everyone in town as well as several people from around the country came to pay their respects. I knew no one but Colin's family of course and noticed more than one gaze turned in our direction during the service.
I spent the rest of the week in England but as the week went on, Colin was overwhelmed with business left dormant during much of his father's illness. He apologized several times about not being able to spend much time with me but I assured him I understood. Cathy and I spent the evenings together just becoming friends; but she too was eventually claimed by Mrs. Beckham.
Walking into the sleek white building on my first day was almost as overwhelming as the day I'd had my interview. Everyone around me looked like they'd just stepped off a runway; considering it was a fashion magazine it's possible some of them had. I walked over to the reception desk, trying not to look as awkward as I felt. "Hello, my name is Molly Gregory..."
The girl on the other side of the desk looked up at me blankly. "Forgive her, she speaks little English." One of the other receptionists said. "It is your first day yes?" She had a noticeable accent but at least she spoke English.
"Yes." I waited patiently while she checked her computer and then nodded at me.
"You need to see Ms. Norland; she is expecting you." she looked back at her computer quickly. "Her office is on the third floor. Good luck."
I got turned around only once on the way to the office but someone, thankfully, pointed me in the direction of a large corner office. Her secretary showed me in and then disappeared, closing the door behind her.
"You the intern for Jake?" Ms. Norland asked, not stepping off her treadmill to address me. Jake? Who was Jake? I debated asking her that very question and possibly sounding stupid on my first day. "Well?" she asked impatiently. "You do speak English correct?" she sighed heavily and got off the treadmill. "Jake is one of our photographers..." she flipped open a file on her desk and skimmed it. "Molly Gregory right?"
"Yes ma'am." I said feeling like a fool already. She merely rolled her eyes and sent me out to talk to her secretary. Her secretary wasn't much more pleased with my existence. She handed me a load of paperwork and a pen and left without a word. I spent my first day in an empty cubical filling out dozens of forms. I never even met Jake the photographer or saw a studio.
Things didn't really improve much after that. When I finally did meet Jake the photographer, he made it very clear that my job would entail filling out his paperwork, processing lab work he couldn't be bothered with and making sure that everything he needed at any given moment, he had. I was a gopher and was somehow expected to submit a portfolio for school from this experience.
Still, even if I didn't get to take any of my own pictures, I spent a lot of time in the dark room processing some of Jake's extras. He handled the best himself but gave the scraps to me.
The same cubical that I'd filled out all that paperwork on the first day became mine and I found myself hating it. There was enough room for my desk, computer and a filing cabinet, and even that felt like a pinch. Over the partitions, I would see Jake walk by with his camera in hand and a gaggle of models as they'd head into one of the studios for a shoot. Even as his intern, he hadn't asked me to follow him and after a month on the job I began to wonder if I would ever even see the inside of the studio.
"Gregory!" I heard Jake bellow across the cubicles and I stood up and sought out the source of his voice. "You!" he pointed at me and I shrank back a bit, wondering what I'd done or not done. "Go to my office and bring me my extra lenses." he ducked back into the studio and I practically ran to his office. He had about a dozen lenses, all carefully stored so they wouldn't get damaged in any way. I was envious for a moment before it hit me I couldn't possibly carry them all without likely dropping one or all of them. I chewed on my lip nervously and then eliminated a number of them as probably unusable for a studio shoot.
When I returned with only four, Jake looked at me annoyed and grilled me on why I hadn't brought the others even as he swapped out lenses and started shooting again. I explained my reasoning as calmly as I could, though I was shaking on the inside, and to my very great surprise, he seemed to accept it. "Go over there and stay out of the way." he said ushering me away from him. But I was inside the studio. There were racks of clothes lining the back walls and a ton of lighting equipment everywhere else. A couple dozen backdrops hung above us, all on a mechanical system to easily rotate through them as needed.
"He likes you." the guy standing next to me said, he sounded amused as he said it.
I smirked. "I doubt it, more like tolerates my existence."
He grinned and adjusted one of the lights before responding. "Trust me, I've seen many interns come through here - Jake likes you. This is just how he works." He was constantly in motion it seemed, tweaking the position of lights and the intensity. Every once in awhile, I'd head Jake give him some clipped instruction but they were a familiar team, that much was clear. He seemed to be able to predict Jake's desires before he said anything, I wish I had that skill. "My name is Ian by the way. You Molly?"
"Yeah." I said with a nod. I watched as Jake directed the models from behind his camera. He must have taken over a hundred shots in the first fifteen minutes alone.
After that, I was allowed to come in and observe almost all the shoots he did. He always gave me the same instructions, to stay out of the way, but I realized after awhile that this was just how it worked. I was able to see what moments caught his eye and later would be able to look through the pictures he took to see which ones he chose to use and which he didn't. I don't think he knew my first name though.
Ian and I also became friends as we would quietly chat through the photo shoots. Ian explained the various aspects of studio light versus natural lighting and continued to reassure me that Jake liked me, even if he didn't seem to know my name.
"Hey Molly, we're going out to a club tonight," Ian said stopping by my tiny work home at the end of the day. I glanced up and saw a tall, leggy brunette at his side who looked familiar.
"Marisa right?" I asked, looking at the woman.
She nodded but didn't really smile. She looked mostly bored but I didn't take offense, most of the models had that expression on their face. "Come on, go out with us. We're meeting some other people there and I think you need some fun." Ian urged.
"Thanks Ian but I've got plans." I lied. The extent of my plans involved going home and curling up on the couch to watch a rerun of something.
"Your loss," he said with a shrug. "We'll be at the Terra Club if you change your mind." he grabbed a piece of paper and a pen from my desk and wrote down his number quickly. "Call me if you need directions or something." He left it sitting on the desk and he and Marisa disappeared into the elevators.
I didn't go to the Terra Club that night or any other night with Ian. I probably should have but I wasn't much in the mood for fun. I missed Colin and I missed my friends - going out to a club with none of them there just depressed me. I was lazily flipping through the TV channels one late August evening when my phone rang.
"Hey Tony." I said having seen the caller ID before answering it. I hadn't bothered to get off the couch or even mute the TV.
"Hey Molly, you okay? You sound depressed." he said, instantly concerned for me.
"Fine - bored a little I guess." I shrugged, finally mustering the energy to get off the couch.
"You're bored...in Paris?" he asked in disbelief. "It's Paris Molly...how can you be bored in Paris?"
I chuckled pathetically. "I know! How lame am I?" I rolled my eyes even though he couldn't see it.
"Very. Promise me when I get to town, you'll know some place we can go to hangout." Tony said.
"Okay I promise....wait...in town?! You're coming to Paris?!" I asked in surprise and excitement. "When?"
"In a couple weeks. I have a business trip. Think you can get out of your dull drums before then?" he teased.
"A couple weeks...oh damn, I won't be here." I frowned as I thought about it. "I'm going to England for a week."
"Oh that sucks, I was looking forward to seeing you. Guess I'll have to catch you next time." he sounded a little less excited.
We hung up not long after and I dug out Ian's number to see what he was up to. Tony was right, I was wasting my time in Paris at the rate I was going!
"I'm so glad you're here Molly." Cathy said, giving me hug in spite of the disapproving sound coming from her mother. "Colin has missed you, he's been so terribly busy with father's business dealings and the estate but he has missed you."
'Could have fooled me' I thought bitterly to myself. I mentally chastised myself for the thought; I had no doubt that Colin missed me but we hadn't had much chance to talk for more than ten minutes at a time in the last couple months. He wasn't even there to meet me when I arrived, this would be the first time we'd seen each other since the funeral and he wasn't there. I smiled for Cathy and let her lead me away as she chattered quickly about things at school. "We're having a dinner party tonight! Did you bring a dress?"
"For a dinner party?! Um..." I considered the clothes in my suitcase and frowned. "No."
"No worries, I'll have someone go pick one out for you right away." she said. When we arrived at my room, it turned out to be needless, a dress box sat on the bed with a note from Colin.
'I'm sorry and I love you. I'll see you tonight.' It was a short message but the words meant so much to me. I smiled, genuinely this time, and opened the box. Inside was a lovely black and white dress and Cathy let out a startled, but admiring sound.
He'd yet to arrive by the time I was ready for this party so I knocked on Cathy's door. "You look gorgeous Molly!" she said, taking my hand and dragging me over to her vanity while she finished applying her make up. "Molly? Do you like Paris?" she asked, putting down her lip gloss and turning her attention to me.
"Yes, I think so. Why?" I asked curiously.
"There is this opportunity spend a semester abroad in Paris, only I didn't get a chance to sign up for it due to father's passing and now there are no spots in the dorms...." she was regaling me with all the details and I'm sure I tuned her out because when she turned her attention back to me with questioning eyes, I was caught off guard. "Well? What do you think?"
"Um...." I tried to remember what she had last said, was she still asking me about my thoughts on Paris? That seemed unlikely.
"Oh please Molly? I really want to go!" she placed her hands over mine and looked up at me with pleading eyes.
"You know you need a place to stay with a responsible adult first." Colin said from the doorway. I turned toward him and saw an amused expression on his face as he leaned against the door frame.
"Well Molly is a responsible adult...and she has the space...it's only a few months Molly..." Cathy turned her gaze back on me and everything made sense, she wanted to go to Paris and she wanted to stay with me. I tried to hide the frown from my face, I liked Cathy a lot but having a fifteen year old in my space didn't sound particularly appealing to me.
"Come along you two, our guests are arriving. You can talk about it later." Colin said offering his arms to each of us.
I hung back along side Cathy while Colin and Mrs. Beckham greeted their guests. "That's Anna." Cathy whispered, indicating the charming, elegant blond that was leaning in toward him in a very familiar greeting. "She and Colin used to..." Cathy blushed and looked away from me.
"Hmm." I replied, filling in the blanks with my own imagination. "Are those Anna's parents?" I asked, pushing the twinge of jealousy from my mind, we both had history of course.
Cathy nodded, "Yes, Lord and Lady Wentworth."
"He's a Lord?" I asked in surprise.
"He's an Earl, they are a very old family." Cathy said. I felt a pang of jealousy as Mrs. Beckham greeted Anna with a great deal of affection. Cathy lowered her voice even more, "Title but very little money" she said with a scandalous smile on her face.
"Lord Wentworth, Lady Wentworth, may I introduce my fiance?" Colin extended his hand toward me and I put the best smile I could on my face. I nodded to each of them, unsure of the proper etiquette at this moment. The introductions continued and Cathy greeted Anna with a great deal of affection as well. Once again I felt unnecessarily jealous as it became apparent that Anna was exactly the kind of wife Mrs. Beckham wanted for Colin and Anna was apparently practically family already.
There was some degree of ceremony to simply entering the dining room when an Earl was in attendance apparently. The guests gathered outside the doors in some sort of ceremonial order. Colin took my hand and pulled me aside. "You're beautiful" he said. "I'm sorry I didn't mention the party, my mother planned it all, I barely thought about it until this morning."
"Of course she did." I said and forced a smile. I looked over his shoulder and could see Mrs. Beckham watching us through narrowed eyes. Somehow I suspected Mrs. Beckham was going out of her way to put me in my place, which in her mind was a very low place. "It's alright Colin, thank you for the dress. It's lovely." I returned my gaze to him and smiled.
"You look wonderful in it." he said and gave me a delicate kiss. "I have to go do this..." he motioned toward the guests waiting to be seated. "But I wanted to tell you how beautiful you look." He gave me a smile to melt my heart and banish all the bad thoughts I had about his mother and then joined his guests in the line.
I attempted to discern a rhyme or reason to the seating and realized I was simply too American or too common to understand it beyond Colin was the head of the house so he sat at the head of the table.
During a slight lull in the conversation, Anna turned toward me, "So, Molly you're American yes?"
"Yes, I'm from California." I said with a pleasant smile.
I heard a distinct tut of irritation from Mrs. Beckham but as everyone else ignored it, so did I. When dessert was served, I made a quiet remark to Cathy about getting the recipe for my mom, who loved to try new things at work. Apparently I wasn't quiet enough as she cleared her throat before announcing, "Your mother is a cook?" she looked haughty even as she said it.
"Yes, she's a chef at a restaurant actually." I said proudly. She lost only a touch of her arrogance when my feathers remained unruffled but she looked to Colin with 'I told you' clearly etched across her face. Colin said nothing.
The only highlights of my week in Talford was spending a few precious moments with Colin now and then and spending some time with Cathy. Somehow she managed to get me to agree to the whole semester in Paris thing so when I returned to Paris, Cathy returned with me.
Chapter 5, Part 1 – Boris
After the wedding, Jing and I decided to stay in Riverview for a couple weeks. A honeymoon of sorts. Mao was taking Ning back to Crescent Bay so we could have some time alone. My Dads were also returning, having a “business” to run.
Axel pulled me aside and asked if there was someplace I knew of in Riverview that he could hang out for a couple days. He said he needed some time alone to think. What he really meant was that Ruby had told him not to come home. Jing overheard our conversation and insisted he stay with us. She would not take no for an answer. Well, that was quick; the honeymoon's over. It’s not like we hadn’t consummated our marriage earlier.
Jing and I had been kept apart, only because circumstances warranted it, until tonight. This will be our first night together in our blessed bed. The bed arrived while we were still in China and Dad left instructions for one of his colleagues to have it put in storage until we returned; probably Sal.
A few days later, Jing had an appointment at the spa, so I decided I’d get a little fishing in while she was gone. I had the pond stocked with some Vampire Fish from the local hatchery last summer. Hopefully they’ll make good catches this year.
Axel had been pretty good about making himself scarce. He could usually be found in the library reading a book (I’d never known him to read so much) or in the dojo meditating.
“Hey Karloff, mind a little company?” he asked, having retrieved a fishing rod from the garage. “I sure could use with a little right about now.”
“Hey Ax! Come on in, the water’s great,” I mused. “You haven’t called me that in a long time. I kind of missed hearing it!”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, I don’t know why I just said it, either. It just came out without thinking about it.” Axel said with a shrug.
“You know, you needn’t be so scarce around us. Please consider this your home. Besides, I’m half the reason you’re here. Anyway, what’s up?” I inquired, knowing he had something on his mind from the intent look of his brow.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Well, I could be a smart ass and TELL you what I’m up to, but I think you’re intelligent enough to figure it out,” I chided.
Not catching the chance to inflict a barb in return, he asked, “Can I ask you something?” He had the look of someone contemplating life; hearing, but not comprehending anything I was saying.
“Sure, Ax! You can ask me anything; you know that. But it has been a while since the two of us have actually talked tête-à-tête. Not since we were ten or eleven years old.”
“Yeah, it has been a while, hasn’t it? We seemed to have gotten caught up in different worlds and drifted away from each other.”
“Life has a funny way of stepping in and doing that!” regretting the philosophical cliché as I spoke the words.
“Ha ha, Boris; very funny! But so true. Well, anyway, I was wondering how you did it.”
“How I did what?” I asked, knowing what he wanted to know, but wanting him to say the words. “Damn, this is probably the largest fish I’ve ever caught in this pond. Sorry, you were saying…”
“How are you able to manage your life so efficiently?” he asked, seemingly interested on hearing my response.
“Well, there is no real trick to it, Ax! If you want to have a family, you have to WANT them; if you want to have a career, you have to know how to manage it; and if you want both, you have to learn how to juggle them to make them work together. YOU have to decide what is truly important to you; and when. You have to know when to put your family first and your career second, and vice versa.”
“You make it sound so effortless. What’s the trick?”
“Ha, it’s far from effortless! There’s no trick, really. Work is going to get in the way sometimes; that’s just the nature of the beast. You just have to know when to put your family first. Your family is more important than your career; don’t ever forget that. Dad will allow you ample time to spend with your family; you just have to speak up.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re their favorite,” Axel huffed with a growing frown.
“Will you quit with the ‘favorite’ crap already? If you’d pull your damned ostrich neck out of the sand once in a while, you’d realize they love you as much as they do me. You know, you’re just like Dad.”
“Oh? Which one?” he asked, sticking his tongue out at me, reminding me of our childhood days when he would knock me down or take my candy; and give me the same raspberry tongue. “Sorry, couldn’t resist! I know which one you mean.”
“You’re both hard-headed! You both have a soft side! I see it in you every time you’re with Ruby and the kids. I got to experience Dad’s when he came to Riverview to deal with things when Denis disappeared. Anyway, you need to be as direct with both of them as they are with you. You know, I probably shouldn’t say anything, but, they fired you for your own good. They had hoped that by giving you time to think about where you were at in your life, that you would have some revelation and turn yourself around. Evidently, that didn’t happen, so I’m going to TELL you what you’re going to do.”
“Oh, and just what is it I am going to do, Karloff?” he retorted in a sarcastic tone.
“First, drop the attitude. Second, you are going to go back to Ruby and grovel; beg; whatever it takes, to win her back. She deserves better than what she got from you. Tell her how much you love her; how much you want her back; and how much you want to make things right. Don’t shut her out; make her a part of your decisions; listen to what she has to say. She may have some great insight into a situation or problem that hadn’t occurred to you. Most of all don’t be afraid to say no; put your foot down, when you feel your decision is the right one; but explain why you feel so strongly about it. She’s not a child. She’s your life partner. Treat her as such.”
“Why don’t I promise her the world while I’m at it?” he quipped.
“No one said this is going to be easy, Ax! You may not always feel that your decision is just or honorable, although you know it to be the right one. Life is full of hard choices. You have to be prepared to take them head on.”
“You don’t have to talk to me like I’m a child, you know!” he shot back, creasing his brow.
“You asked, so shut the hell up and listen! Last, don’t be afraid to ask for time off. Stand up to Dad. He likes ballsy people who aren’t afraid to talk back. Just be intelligent about it. You may piss him off; and you’ll know when you do; but stick to your guns; don’t give in without a fight. In the end, they are both VERY understanding.”
“Alright, will you help me do this? I mean, be there if I need some advice. I know you won’t be by my side, but I’d like to know I have your support, you know,” he half asked, half stated; more confident of himself.
“You know I’ve always been there for you, Ax. No matter how badly you’ve treated me. I was there with the candy when you felt the need to steal it when there was more on the table ten feet away; I was there when you needed to show your so called friends how a bully should act; and I’ll be there when you get your ass kicked by Dad and come whimpering back to me.”
“Yeah, I probably will get my tail trounced, but I swear I will not come crying back to you.”
“Good to hear! If you need something to keep you heading in the right direction, I suggest you take this, and keep it with you always,” I said as I handed Axel an envelope.
He opened the envelope and slowly removed the contents. Tears began to stream down his cheeks as he looked through the contents, pausing on each piece. Several minutes passed before he spoke.
“Where…how did you get these?” he asked looking at me through tear filled eyes.
“Let’s just say I was in the right place at the right time. Use these to keep yourself on track. Whatever you do, don’t give up,” I insisted.
A few days later, we all went home to CB to spend Independence Day together as a family. We decided to make a day at the beach out of it. There is a semi private beach at the foot of the cliff below the house. Dad had had a bar and a barbecue built on the beach and some furniture placed as well.
Jing, Mao and I went down early so Ning could play in the water and the sand. Ning loved it. I took him out into the water and splashed around for a bit. I must admit, I had probably as much fun as he did. Jing was ever the jokester, playing grab-ass when I wasn’t looking. I almost dropped Ning because of her antics. Just wait! What goes around comes around!
We played a game or two and Jing was up to her antics again. Mao was acting all kinds of weird; as it turns out, he and Jing had planned it all. Needless to say, the two of them made sure I did not win.
Later in the evening, we all gathered around the fire pit. I’m not quite sure what happened, but our Dads were sure razzing Axel about something; the poor guy. But it was all in good fun. For once we all actually got along very well. There were no heated arguments, which were a staple in our household growing up. Two men and two boys; no women or girls; there was bound to be friction.
Everyone settled down and found some marshmallows to roast. Ning was quite the little actor. Each time I suggested taking him to bed, his little lip stuck out and he looked at me through the saddest little eyes; I just couldn’t take him up. He preferred his marshmallows straight from the bag.
As darkness set in, fireworks began going off all around us. We didn’t bring any of our own; really there was no need to. Since most of the fireworks get aimed over the bay, we had a prime viewing location.
Axel took me aside later and told me he had confronted Dad. He said he had gotten his job back; with stipulations, of course. This was indeed cause for celebration. I knew all he needed to do was ask. I got a certain amount of pleasure out of “controlling” Axel for once. Growing up, it had always been the opposite.
We headed back up to the house to get some Champagne. Dad and Mao stayed behind to take care of the fire pit and the grill. We brought the rest back up with us.
From the corner of my eye, I could see the look on Axel’s face every time he looked at Ning. He missed his kids badly. He had been keeping his distance from Ning, probably afraid that he would cave in and start crying for Byron and the girls.
It was apparent that Axel was distraught over the situation with Ruby and the children. He missed them all dearly. The pain he was feeling in his heart belied the tough exterior he was trying to portray. Ruby was not answering his calls, nor returning his messages. For that matter, she wasn’t acknowledging my existence any more than Axel’s.
I was quite saddened about the whole ordeal and couldn’t help but blame myself in the end; for it was I who aided Axel, albeit begrudgingly, in maintaining the ruse for Ruby. I can never change what I have done, but I can hope that Ruby will someday understand why I did what I did. I was faced with a choice between family and best friend! Was it so wrong of me to choose family? I can’t help but feel I have lost a best friend – forever, perhaps! I only hope that time is on our (Axel and me) side, and that these wounds will heal.
Axel was becoming more and more despondent with every passing day. Every effort to bring him some joy or peace of mind, failed. My heart went out to him. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I were to lose Jing and Ning. Yes, I had lost Jing once, but it was a different kind of loss. To know the one(s) you love at so close at hand, yet so distant, must weigh much heavier on the soul than losing a loved one through death.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to even have Axel wandering about in his zombie-like state. He just seemed to be going through the motions. No rhyme or reason. Doing what comes natural and nothing more.
One night, towards the end of August, I was on my way to bed when I heard sounds coming from the bathroom at the end of the hall.
I walked down the hall to better make them out and heard what sounded like muffled sobbing coming from the bathroom. The only ones using that bathroom were Mao and Axel and I knew Mao was downstairs cleaning up Ning’s toys. I moved closer and lightly rapped on the door. The sobbing stopped but there was no response.
“Axel, is that you?” I said quietly, “If you need to talk, or just don’t want to be alone, I’m here.”
Still no response.
“Axel, please talk to me! Tell me if you need ANYTHING. I’m here for you! Don’t ever forget that!”
I faintly heard the “Thanks, Karloff!” as he replied in a muffled voice.
“If you’re sure you’re alright I’m going to go to bed. Wake me if you need me,” I coaxed.
Feeling better that he responded I headed off to bed. In no time I was fast asleep. I don’t know why, but I suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. I can’t explain what it was. Something was wrong; most definitely wrong.
I was drawn down the corridor as if being led on a leash. The bathroom door was ajar and the light was off. I slowly opened the door, peering around it as it squeaked on the hinges, and flipped the light switch on. The room was empty, save for a puddle on the floor in front of the sink, no doubt from Axel’s earlier visit. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I returned to the hall and walked toward his room. The door was closed. I rapped lightly on the door and called out his name, “Axel? Axel, are you okay? Are you okay, Ax?”
No response. I slowly and quietly turned the knob and pushed the door open. He lay in the bed. I turned to leave, but some unknown force halted my retreat. I could not move toward the door, however, I was free to enter the room. I felt compelled to walk over to the bed to be near Axel. Is this that special bond that twins have? Surely we can’t be considered twins; just because we were conceived in a laboratory on the same day; or can we?
I looked down at Axel. He had a peaceful and unnerving look on his face while he slept. I was relieved that he was getting some well needed rest. I tried to turn to leave.
“What the hell is happening?” I thought to myself.
I was rooted in this spot, unable to move. I placed the back of my hand under his nose. I felt nothing. I immediately threw back the covers and checked for a heartbeat and a pulse; nothing.
Finally free of the invisible force that had held me prisoner just moments ago, I was able to make my way to the hall and call for an ambulance. I was rather loud in making the call, but surprisingly woke no one else.
The paramedics arrived in short order, but Axel was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was taken away to the morgue for an autopsy.
Several days later, we said our final farewells to Axel. The funeral was attended by many. Axel hadn’t made many friends; were these people enemies coming to gloat? I felt so alone for Axel. If he can see what is happening right now…I hope to God he can’t see. Tears welled in my eyes.
To my astonishment, Damon insisted on delivering the eulogy. He was very eloquent, painting Axel as the model son.
I was dismayed that Ruby and their children did not attend. Was she still holding a grudge? I thought she was a better person than that; at least for the kids’ sake. And why wasn’t Uncle Hector there? This was making no sense whatsoever.
Later that evening, I again felt a compulsion to be near Axel. I arrived at the cemetery just after dusk. I walked slowly, not really wanting to be here, but having no choice. Try as I may, I was NOT able to turn back.
As I neared the grave, I saw a woman standing over the freshly filled hole. As she turned slightly, I could see it was Ruby. A sudden fury rose in my heart. I wanted to lash out at her, but my lips would not part; I was completely unable to mutter the most rudimentary grunt at her.
She spoke, but it was inaudible. Not having noticed me, she stooped down and placed something on the mound. Death flowers! She placed death flowers on his grave. How could someone be so insensitive; so callous? She stood and placed her hand to her mouth, as if to stifle her speech.
In one swift, graceful motion, she turned and walked away. She soon vanished into the night air, leaving me there, crying like a little baby; crying for my brother. I stepped next to the grave.
“Axel, I swear you will be missed; I will miss you very much.” I said. “Thank you for those last days.”
I barely made it to a bench before I collapsed into an uncontrollable sobbing.
Chapter 5 – Part 1: Ruby
“Ruby…Honey…please answer the phone. I’m sorry. I should have told you everything. Don’t make me spill my guts to a machine. Honey, please call me. We need to talk about this. I can’t lose you and the kids.”
Then the phone disconnected. Axel’s voice was filled with sorrow. I couldn’t bear to hear it. I sat there and cried each time he called.
The week following the wedding was dreadful. Axel called repeatedly and left heart wrenching messages. I wasn’t ready to deal with it. Is that terrible of me? I just felt such betrayal, such heart break. This isn’t what I had dreamed of. Where was my happily ever after?
I lost my husband and my best friend all in one fail swoop. Life was certainly sucking right now. I had no income to fall back on. And there was no way in hell; I was going to Mom and Dad for help. There was only one thing to do. I had to get a job myself.
I checked the papers everyday and each day I was saddened at the results. I didn’t want my kids to be alone at night, so I was looking for something I could do during the day. Computer searches were a fail too. Since I hadn’t really worked any, I didn’t have any real working skills. People weren’t interested in hiring an ex-housewife.
“Arrggh! This is so frustrating!” I cried one night. This was harder than I thought it would be. I sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands. We had a nice pile of bills that needed to be paid. And our small savings was slowly diminishing. Each night I went to bed alone and more depressed than when I had woken.
The kids didn’t help. They wanted to know where Daddy was. All I could think to tell them was he was on a trip with his brother. Not that they can really understand what has happened. I think I feel for them most of all. They are the innocent victims in all of their parent’s troubles.
It was towards the beginning of July when I received a phone call from Brenda. I hadn’t talked to her in what seemed like forever. I t was so good to hear a friendly voice.
“Hello Ruby, tell me all about China and the weddings! I bet it was so beautiful.” She exclaimed happily.
“It was. I just love the place, with its rich culture and history. Oh, I entered myself into this martial arts competition.” I said.
“You didn’t?! How did you do? Did you win?”
I laughed at her exuberance. “Sadly, no. My opponent was very good…she gave me a nice kick to the ribs for my trouble. But it was so much fun.”
“Oh my, are you okay?” She asked sincerely.
“Oh, yeah. Just got the wind knocked out, that’s all. I think my pride was bruised more than my ribs were.” I answered.
“So, it was a great trip? I am so glad you had fun. You needed it.” She said. “How is Axel adjusting to being back at work after such an amazing trip?”
“Ruby? Are you okay?” She asked as I noted the worry in her tone.
“Umm… Axel and I had a falling out.” My throat felt like it had closed suddenly. I found it hard to breathe as tears began to fill and then fall from my eyes. “I thought it would be best if we separated for a while.” I answered sadly. My heart quickened its pace and I couldn’t help but cry out loud.
“Oh, Ruby. I’m so sorry. I had no idea you guys were even having troubles. What happened?” she replied sadly.
I took a deep breath trying to clear my thoughts so I could speak coherently. This small task was proving to be quite difficult.
“He’s lied to me about going to work.” I answered between hiccups. “I guess he got fired a few months ago. If that wasn’t enough, when I thought he was out working, he hadn’t even bothered to come home. I have no idea what he was doing or who he was with or anything!” I blurted in another fit of crying.
“Ruby, dear. I am so terribly sorry. What are you going to do?” She answered sorrowfully.
“I honestly don’t know. My heart is broken; I just want to curl up in bed and never wake up.” I answered sadly. “But, I know the kids need me now more than ever.”
“Now, what am I going to do about working? We don’t have a lot of money saved. When Axel got fired, his Dad cut us off completely.” I started bawling again. “I can’t get a job, because I have no work experience. I mean, who wants to hire an ex-housewife with no skills?” I replied dejectedly.
“You’re being silly, of course you have skills. You have great musical talent, you’re a great artist and you’re great with kids.” She replied matter of factly.
“You know, I have Robert and Justin enrolled at the Bright Beginnings Preschool in town. They seem to be in need of a teacher’s aide. I’m not sure of all the details, but it wouldn’t hurt you to go and check it out.”
My cries were subsiding as I listened to Brenda explain the job. It seemed like a good idea. The kids could go as well, therefore eliminating the need to leave them alone. Who knows, I thought to myself, this could be just what the four of us need right now.
“That sounds great, Brenda. Thanks so much.” I was glad to have her friendship. “I appreciate your help. It really means a lot to me.”
I looked at the clock, it was about lunchtime. The rumbles in my stomach alerted me to the fact I had yet to eat today. I fed the kids and called Mom to see if she would mind coming over for a bit to watch the children.
Mom agreed, as I knew she would, so I was free to enjoy some ‘me’ time.
“Hello Stormy. How are you?” I asked timidly over the phone.
“Ruby!” She sounded genuinely happy to hear from me, which added to my guilt at the way I left the reception. “How are you?” she questioned sincerely.
“I’m coping. First, I wanted to apologize for my actions at the wedding. It was irresponsible and shameful. I made a fool of myself and you guys.” I replied disgracefully.
“Oh, Ruby. Don’t feel bad. I’m sure we all would have acted out of character if we were placed in the same situation. What matters is how you are doing now.”
“I need to get out. I love my kids, but I can’t do this alone. I need help.” I started to cry again. This was starting to become an ugly habit of mine. I subdued my tears, caught my breath and continued. “I was wondering, if you weren’t busy did you want to go to lunch with me? I haven’t eaten yet and I am starving.”
“Of course I’ll go. I never pass up an opportunity for lunch.” She answered happily. “Do you want to meet somewhere?”
“Nah. I’ll pick you up and we can go to the Bistro downtown. My treat, okay? I still have the card Boris gave us in China. I might as well use it.”
Lunch was fabulous. I hadn’t had a nice, sit down meal in a very long time. Life with triplets means you miss out on a lot of things you would otherwise take for granted…like sit down restaurants…without funny clowns. It seemed like I had talked the whole afternoon. I felt guilty, for talking Stormy’s ear off.
“I’m sorry, if I’ve babbled too much. It’s just; I haven’t really talked about the split to anyone. It feels good to get it out there. Thanks, Stormy.”
She placed her hand over mine and gave it a small squeeze.
“You know you can call me anytime, Ruby. I’ve always got time to listen if that’s what is needed.”
“Thanks, I just feel like I’ve let everyone down. My kids, Axel, my family and most of all you guys.” I hung my head, “Gah! How did I let things get so bad? Why didn’t I see what was right before my eyes? I feel like such an idiot!”
“Ruby, you have not let us down. You did the best you could with the situation. And don’t blame yourself for what happened between you and Axel. Love is blind…I am sure Axel only did what he thought was best for you and the kids.” She answered honestly. “Have you talked to him yet?”
“No, he has called the house almost every day since we got back and each time I can’t bring myself to answer. I want to answer and reassure him that everything is alright, we’ll be fine, but is that really true? Will we be alright? How can I trust him when all he has ever done is lie to me, keep me in the dark about everything? I am his wife, why couldn’t he just come to me and tell me the truth?”
“I don’t know Ruby. This is something you’re going to have to ask him yourself. I feel for you, I really do. I know how you feel though, the feeling of betrayal with someone you love.”
She explained the incident with her Mom. This was something that obviously pained her so much.
“I’m sorry, Stormy. That must have been awful.” I held her hand and gave it a slight squeeze. “You’re lucky you had Boris there to help you out. I guess we all are. He really is a great friend. And I’ve wronged him.” I felt shameful, I felt like a horrible friend.
The waitress came over and asked if we wanted dessert, I felt like I weighed a ton, but I got some to go anyway. Who knows when a crying fit will wash over me again? Chocolate is a wonderful comforter.
As I walked into the main office at the preschool, the butterflies in my stomach were frantically flying about. It felt like they were hitting the walls at 100 miles an hour. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. My hand flew to my mouth as a wave of nausea hit me. I was certain I was going to throw up right there.
It passed; thankfully, I took a sip of water from the water jug in the corner and after a few deep breaths, felt ready to get this over with.
The preschool director was a tall woman. She had a sweet, friendly smile that immediately put me at ease.
“Hello, Mrs. Lothario, I am Mrs. Flesner. How you are this morning?” she asked offering me the chair nearest her desk.
“I am well, thanks. Thanks for taking the time to see me.” I looked around the room at the various paintings adorning the walls. “Those pictures are really quite nice. I like the rich colors the artist used.”
“Thanks, I’ll tell my husband he has a fan.” She smiled proudly. “Now, Mrs. Lothario, what made you decide to apply for a position with us?”
“I have three wonderful kids of my own. Teaching them has been some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve known. I want to be able to pass on my knowledge to others as well. ” I answered sincerely.
She marked some notes on her clipboard in front of her and asked, “If we asked some people who know you well, how would they describe you?”
I had to stifle a burst of laughter because I could just imagine my friend’s describing me. ‘Ruby is an over emotional wreck.’
“I think they’d say I am creative, a lover of music and the arts. I used to be a loner, but after giving birth to triplets, I had to quickly overcome my fear of crowds.” I answered honestly.
“What do you feel is the primary role of teacher’s assistant?”
“I believe the primary role of the teacher’s aide is to emphasize the curriculum and rules taught in the classroom. A teacher’s aide should help prepare materials and assist in monitoring and instruction during the day.” I hoped the nervousness I felt in my stomach and knees didn’t show in my voice. I really needed this job.
“Well, Mrs. Lothario, I feel very confident about your abilities to assist us here. You seem to have a good grasp as to what the job entails and I appreciate the confidence you exude. How do you feel about starting next week?” she stated smiling.
“Really? Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate this opportunity.” My heart had sped up. It felt like it was pumping a million times a minute. I shook her hand and thanked her once again before leaving.
My first week at Bright Beginnings I was paired with a teacher named Mrs. Curtis. My duties included preparing materials for the various classes, preparing snacks, reading to the children and my favorite job, music.
It was overwhelming at first, so many kids in one room. There were so many peals of laughter, so many cries of delight, so…many…kids. My breath grew short; the walls seemed to close in around me, I really thought I would freak. “Ruby…Hold it together. Don’t you dare go crazy…you’ve always been around crowds…This is nothing. You can do this.” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and once I re-opened them, I was calmer, more in control of myself.
Upon finishing the day, Mrs. Curtis pulled me aside, “Mrs. Lothario?”
“Please, call me Ruby. Mrs. Lothario seems so formal.” I smiled nervously.
“Ruby, you did a great job today. I look forward to seeing amazing things from you.” She gave me a pat on the back.
I finished cleaning up the room with a great sense of accomplishment. Things were starting to look up after all.
August brought some new changes in my life. Not all of them bad. I was thankful for a bright spot on my horizon after all I had been through the past months.
I had received a phone call from Hector one evening. I had just put the kids to bed when the phone rang.
“Hello, Ruby. How are you doing?” he asked.
“Hector, it’s good to hear from you. I am well thanks. Look, I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done to help out with the kids and I through all this. You’ve been an amazing friend.” I answered sincerely.
“It’s my pleasure, I assure you. How is work? I heard you got a job at the little preschool in town?”
“Yeah, it’s been quite an experience. I love working with the kids. I had thought the crowds would be too much for me, but everyday it gets easier and easier. And the kids are just amazing, so eager to learn about anything and everything.” I answered with such excitement.
“Hey have you had dinner yet, I was about to fix up something for myself. I wouldn’t mind having some adult company.” I asked.
“I’d be happy to. I’ll just throw on some shoes and be over in a bit. Need me to bring anything?” he asked.
“Nah, just your appetite.” I replied with a renewed happiness.
“So, have you talked to him yet?” Hector asked with care.
“No.” I replied sadly. “I know I should, but I just can’t, not yet. I’m not ready to go down that road yet. I just feel so betrayed.” I could feel the tears forming in my eyes again. You’d think as many times as I’ve retold this it would get easier, but sadly, it never does. It hurts just as much as the first time I heard it from Axel’s lips. As the salty droplets fell from my eyes, I could feel Hector’s comforting hand on mine.
“Ruby, I can’t begin to imagine what you are going through. But I want you to know, that I am always here for you. If you need to talk, if you need a shoulder to cry on, whatever you need all you have to do is call, okay?” He wiped a stray tear from my eye and softly caressed my cheek.
“Thanks.” I replied, looking into his eyes. “I appreciate everything you have done for me and for the kids. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.” I sat there for a few moments longer, just taking in the reassurance I felt around him.
“Well…” I said while nervously clearing my throat, “How as dinner? Did you get enough to eat?” I quickly got up and proceeded to clear the table of the dishes.
“Dinner was great. You are a wonderful woman, Ruby. I hope you know that.” He said, sincerely.
“You really are too kind.” I said smiling. “How about some coffee? I was just about to start some.”
Hector went to check on the kids while I started the coffee.
“How are they?” I asked. I passed him cup as we returned to the kitchen.
“Sleeping like beautiful little angels.” He answered quietly, taking a spot next to me.
"Thanks for the coffee." he answered taking a careful sip.
We chatted for what seemed like hours. Somehow the topic of the music program at the CB Elementary School came up.
“They’ve asked me to host a small fundraiser to raise money. It seems due to budget cuts they may have to let the program die. I can’t imagine a school where they didn’t have music. So, I’ve been trying to find some acts to perform, but I am having no luck.” I said miserably.
“Say, would you know some people I can contact to help out? The director at the school asked me to perform as well, but I’m not that entertaining.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit. You are a great musician.” He paused and seemed to think for a moment. “You know, Ruby, I’d be happy to perform at your fundraiser, if you’d like.”
“What? You? Oh, I couldn’t ask that. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than waste your time at a small school. Besides, you’re much too busy to bother with something like this.”
“Ruby, I want to. This is important to you, to me and to the kids in this community. Just think of how much music has enriched your life, the lives of many of our most influential composers. Now think of this world without them. It would be pretty dull and boring, wouldn’t it?”
He was right of course. Plus with his name and face at this fundraiser there is no way it can fail.
“Thank you, thank you.” I said jumping into his arms. I was so excited; this was going to be great. I kissed him on the cheek and as we pulled away his eyes met mine. I felt a shiver of something pass through me.
I quickly jumped back. “I’m so sorry!” I apologized. “I guess I got caught in the excitement.” My face felt all shades of red at that moment.
Hector just smiled, “It’s alright Ruby. I better get going, it’s getting late and you have work in the morning. We can discuss the details of the fundraiser later.”
Sleep came quickly for me. I had dreams of the “Great Ruby” saving the music program and being launched into Rock Star status. Silly dream, I know. But I really felt good. I was doing something, something that was making a difference in kids’ lives.
Mid August we had the Save the Music fundraiser. With Hector’s name on the billing, it was a rousing success. I had never seen so many people crammed into the little auditorium. The directors were so happy they gave me a raise and suggested I take over the Save the Music Program personally.
Hector was so passionate about this cause; his manager had some commercials made to promote our program. I got to see the final product before it was released to the public. In it you see musical instruments lying about haphazardly in school rooms, but the rooms are devoid of kids. The setting is dismal and dull. The camera then focuses on Hector as the scene changes from a dull gray to a bright colorful scene where he is surrounded by the cutest kids. The main focus of the 5 minute spot is the importance of creativity in our children’s lives.
“Wow!” I exclaimed after the commercial finished. “That was so amazing! I can’t believe how big this whole thing has grown. We couldn’t have gotten this far without your help, Hector. Thanks a lot!”
He smiled as we gathered up a bunch of the fliers we had strewn about the tables. Inadvertently he and I reached for the same paper. As our hands touched, I felt that same bolt of electricity flow through my body. I quickly tried to pull my hand free, but he held it in a gentle grasp. Hector lifted my chin as our eyes met. I felt locked into his gaze as he looked down at me, searching my face with his eyes. His aftershave mixed with his scent, created a musky sweetness that swirled in my mind. I could feel the kiss coming even before he moved towards me, and I hungered for it. I longed to feel his lips on mine. As he bent to me, I closed my eyes and let his mouth cover my lips as the taste of him flooded my senses.
CHAPTER 5 PART 1 - TONY
After the second wedding was over I went over to hug Boris and Jing wishing them a lifetime of happiness together. They returned the well wishes. Laila and I then went to meet the other guest, later I saw Molly talking to Boris and Jing, I thought I would go over and tease her about her untimely phone call, I know she was still beat read over the incident but I could not resist.
As we approached I was Molly had a serious and distress look upon her face, as we reached where she and Boris were standing she began to tell us about Colin’s father passing and she had to leave.
As we asked Molly to give our condolences to Colin and his Family, and hugged her as she was getting ready to depart for the airport. We heard a loud disturbance; it was Ruby and Axel. I had not seen Ruby so upset since high school. Laila requested that “we go over and talk to Ruby she seems very upset”. I shook my head turned toward Laila “Sweetheart, you do not want to talk to Ruby right now, I remember that look on her face when we were back in high school, best thing we can do is wait till she calms down. Not that she made a point of taking her frustrations out on her friends, but my love, you don’t want to take that chance with Ruby when she is angry!”
We said good night to everyone as Laila and I departed for our honeymoon. My father dropped us off at the air port; we hugged good-by and boarded to plane for Europe. Laila was exhausted and fell asleep in my arms. We spent most of our honeymoon sight seeing, eating at the finest restaurants, and doing what most married couples do on their honeymoon.
When we returned home Laila’s parents and my father met us at our new home, the place was enormous.
While we were away they had the place decorated, my father had my car imported from the US to China. It was my first car I had in high school and was very well taken care of.
Mr. Yong had even brought the bed we had blessed and place it in the bedroom.
We looked over the house, Laila loved it. Seeing every room was furnished we had little to do when we returned but relax.
Neither of us was used to living in such a colossal house but we were going to make the best of it. After we were settled in our new home it was time for me to start work with my father. I knew some of what he did but I had no ideal the operation was so vast, we invested in some of everything.
I met some resistance, from some of the high ranking officials of the organization you know “the son that don’t know squat being my boss” but over time I earned my respect from each and every one of them.
While at my fathers house back in the states Xiang stopped by to visit Laila he over heard my father and I planning our strategy to develop and expand our oil division in Europe and in china.
We were concerned over the rising cost of importing oil into the two counties, Xiang suggested building an oil refinery in both countries, using used waste oil and recycling it into like/new usable oil for blending motor oil and this way we can cut our cost in half.
After showing Xiang our current production and cost; we devised a plan. Needless to say my father and I were so impressed with Xiang’s knowledge of oil and its logistics we offered him a job as Vice-president of the Oil division. He would report directly to me. We planned a meeting with the officials in Europe and China.
Laila was playing with Xiang’s children while we were going over our next move,
My father was not used to having so much noise in the house but I think he loved it.
At the end of August; seeing I would be in Europe I called Molly to see if we could hangout while I was in town during the month of September, I was a little disappointed to learn she would be out of town.
If I only knew what was taking place miles away.
We know you are a double agent; we know you told them where they can find the prisoners, now you are going to tell us everything we want to know about Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who they are, what their real names are and where we can find them!
What if she won’t talk?
She will talk; we have ways of getting information form prisoners!
And if she doesn’t talk, kill her!
The meeting in Europe and China were a huge success.
When I returned to China Laila resumed our constant workouts.
Chapter 5, part 1 - Stormy
"No dad, I'm not ready to see her yet" Dad came in asking if I could take Sunny to visit mom this evening, as I skimmed through the course catalog for CB community college online.
"Look, eventually you'll have to get over what happened and move on.."
"Ugh, Dad, you're so insensitive..." I interupted, slowly rolling my eyes, briefly thinking back to the day when mom hit me... the rage
in her eyes. "I'll see mom when I'm ready..."
Dad sighed. "At least try to visit once a week, or once every other week."
We've had this conversation several times now. Dad seems adamant about me seeing mom. At first I thought it was so he can get away with taking Sunny to go vist her, but now I am begining to think, in his own way, he really wants me to try, and well...to forgive.
"I know she isn't the easiest person to deal with, but she is still your mother." Dad concluded, his voice softening just a hair.
He left the room calling for Sunny to hurry up so they can get going on their way. I went back to browsing what classes I may want to take up in January, reading over the course objectives, but not retaining any of it, mulling over dad's words.
I know I need to move on , and forgive....some day.
Late the next morning, on a very warm saturday, Beau kept me company the last 2 hours while I worked.
There was a tug on the line.
"hmm?" I asked Beau as I grabbed the fishing pole.
"What is this, that we-"
Huh? I was focused more on hooking whatever may be on the line. This time of year, rainbow fish were active, but very hard to catch. But I needed to meet Sanders quota.
"We are in a relationship, correct? As in, you being my girlfriend and vice versa?"
I reeled the line in some more. What did he just ask?
"Mhm" was my reply. I only need two more rainbow fish . I'm quite sure I can get them within the time remaining.
"Good. I'd like to meet your father. Maybe we could watch a game together."
"YES!" I screamed, reeling that sucker in some more. "Beau look! I think I caught another...." I trailed off as the fish flew out of the water and into my hands. Just one more to go.
Beau chuckled."Well done, Stormy. We'll talk after youre done here. Maybe grab some things from the market you send the fish to and we'll picnic at the park.
"I'm sorry Beau. I don't think I heard a word you said before now." I felt bad.
Beau leaned toward me and placed a small kiss on my cheek. "It's okay. We'll talk later." He went back to his laptop, papers of notes, and other information for his class, working his way to towards a degree in computer forensics, a type of study in computer science. Eventually, in time, he’ll acquire a license for PI. Being a police officer, and having a degree in criminal justice helps him out tremendously. But, knowledge in criminal justice won't be as helpful when it comes to investigating computer fraud.
Tired and much later than expected, after leaving with the catch of the day with one of the guys who worked in Sanders place when he was out of town, Beau and I relaxed comfortably at the park, as I quizzed him for a an upcoming test after we ate.
Beau brought up the question of our relationship status again. I was quiet for a minute. I admit I didn’t want to be attached to anyone, but I’d be stupid if I said something like, “No, I want to wait to further this relationship.”
He has waited for me long enough, and I can tell he didn’t want his time wasted on something that may never be. I have already told him just about everything that would cause someone else to run in the other direction, so, I am going to look him square in the eye with courage and say..
“Yes, Beau, I see you as my boyfriend and me as your girlfriend. But, it had better be just that. You can’t date anyone else.”
“What are you talking about woman? I have eyes for no one else, nor the time.” Beau shook his head, grabbed my hand. “I have told you before that I love you and have never uttered those words to another woman..” Beau looked up to the sky. “Except for when I was in the third grade, I thought I was in love with my teacher.” We both laughed.
“I want to meet your grandfather, Beau. He seems like a sweetheart from the stories you've shared. Also, I’ll tell my father that you are now more than just a friend and for you two to meet on game night or something. Wow, I never had a boyfriend in the past.” I said staring into his beautiful eyes. Beau smiled, then leaned in for a kiss.
I didn’t do much for the Fourth of July, just hung out at the beach in my cute new swimwear. Beau was with me until he had to go back home to work the night shift. Dad and Sunny went to spend time with mom.
Two weeks later I had lunch with a distraught Ruby. The poor thing had so much going on in her life right now. Listening to her go on about her family issues got me thinking about what was going on with mom and I. The situation on both ends are bad, but at least my problem isn’t my spouse. Ruby’s case at this point in time is much worse than what I’m going through inside. I believe everything will work out for the best and stregnthen her's and Axel's relationship.
The next month on friday night, a very important football game aired on TV as Dad and Beau watched it from the dining room. Those guys were yelling at the screen, and Beau, at times would fly out of his chair when the team he was rootin' for did something sweet or made a bad move. Dad was a little more serious, but he sure cursed the players when they fumbled or whatever they called it. I could care less who won or lost.
I kept an eye on dad to see how well he interacted with my boyfriend. They seem to be getting on well. After the game, even though it was over, they still talked about it and then dad asked Beau some questions about his job and his father. I already told dad before planning this get together, that Beau knew about mom. There was no response and I couldn't tell what dad was thinking. So I left it at that. It will be nice for dad to have someone to enjoy sports with. I think dad likes him.
The following week, across town at Pinocle Pond, I could hear the faint sounds of animals tip toeing about, and the occasional plopping noise from fish in the lake. Aside from that, I was surrounded by complete silence.
Lately I have been coming up to the lake around 3 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. because a month ago, twice, I’ve been fishing way past noon and Sanders likes his fish to be in the market by a specific time.
“Give me your purse.”
I whipped my head around to the sound of the low guttural voice. The full moon illuminated the area. Thank goodness. What the hell is up with his face. He pointed something at me that sort of resembled a gun. It didn't reflect in the moonlight like in the movies. He could have been bluffing. Not taking any chances.
"Give me your purse!" he repeated, getting all loud and shiz.
"It's under the bench..." I said keeping my eyes on him. My bag was a little closer to him than me. He reached down for it as
I impulsively took a few quick steps forward, swung my right fist towards him. The guy caught my wrist before I made any contact with his jaw, as he twisted my arm behind my back, and shoved me into the bushes.
I fell hard on my hands and knees. Staying low to the ground, I turned quickly thinking he was after me. He wasn’t. Trying not to make a peep to see what the jerk was doing, the keys in my pocket jingled. I forgot I shoved them in there because it’s easier to drop them into a pocket after locking up the car with my arms full of fishing equipment when I head towards my spot.
The thief spat some expletives, snatched my bag from under the bench, then kicked my fishing tackle box towards the water. Some of its contents sunk below the surface. The guy ran off.
Still shaken up, I went to gather whatever was left of my belongings. Some items will have to be replaced, such as my driver’s license, emergency credit card and items from the fishing tackle box. Lures, bait, and reels don’t come cheap. Especially the brand named items.
For me, fishing is more than just coming to the lake to relax. It’s my job. It pays my bills. A portion of the paycheck is saved for emergencies and a larger sum went toward a down payment for a house.
I was starting to get upset as I finished collecting the remainder of my things. I marched my way to the car.
"I’m tired of getting pushed around." I said aloud.
Enough is enough..