by Da m n a t i o n
Warning: This story is of alternative fiction. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, either stop reading now or change the laws for love should never be illegal. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
Disclaimer: The story is all mine. Please do not use it nor lift off it.
"Nothing takes the past away
like the future
Nothing makes the darkness go
like the light
You're shelter from the storm
Give me comfort in your arms"
Madonna; "Nothing Really Matters"
As I stood by the window of my office, I felt pride seeping into me. Mine. All mine. Built, from my bare hands. All the hard work. All the labour. The view was magnificent. Hard, granite buildings rose like young seedlings from the ground into sleek, tall buildings that marked my empire.
I heard a knock on my door. The sound of heels on my marble floor indicated the approach of my secretary. She left a cup of coffee on my desk. She knew when not to speak. This was one of the times that I wanted silence. I nodded curtly without even turning. She took leave.
I loved that power. The raw energy coursing through my veins. I would never give all that up. It was all I ever needed. Nothing else bothered me. Feelings and emotions were weaknesses. I have climbed long and hard to reach my present status. I closed my eyes, taking in the strong aroma of the coffee. I brought the cup slowly to my mouth and took a sip. The rich taste enveloped my senses, sending pleasure and enjoyment of the drink all over my body. The heat from the beverage combined with the scent of it as I exhaled. Standing on my high pedestral, with the whole of my empire at my feet, I tasted and owned only the best.
I had everything.
Then why did I still feel so empty?
It was a Tuesday evening. I cancelled all my appointments for
the next day and drove back home. I needed a break. To look over and see what
was still missing from my close to perfect life. Even as that thought crossed
my mind, I felt utterly ridiculous. How could I even begin to think that I actually
lacked something? I scoffed at myself as I manuveured a turn at the junction
leading to my home. I pulled up at my house, which overlooked the vast blue
The moment my door was open, something black and full of unsheathed claws leapt at me. It was Velvet, my black cat. "Hey precious..." I stroke him behind his ears as he purred contently. Boxer came running out, followed by Tavin. They started yelping joyfully and licked me. I smiled. My three babies were probably the only creatures in the world that ever felt my affections. Not that I had a lot of it to give. I dropped Velvet on the couch and went to the bathroom. A hot shower. That was what I needed. I relaxed into the water that enveloped me in its heat. I let out a sigh of pleasure. Behind my closed eyelids, I could see a kaleidoscope of colors.
When I finally stepped out of the bathroom, the whole room was misty. I went out with a cold beer for a walk on the beach with my buddies. Day after perfect day, it was my unbreakable routine. I supposed I would have turned crazy if I were really, truly alone.
"Taylor!" I turned around. It was Julia, someone I went out with some time ago. It never did work out. She wanted so much more that I couldn't give. She wanted my love. I figured it was for the best that we remained friends.
"What're you doing here?" Inside, I squirmed. I had wanted to be alone. The presence of another human irked me when I was in that kind of mood.
"I happened to pass by so I thought I would drop by and see you."
I nodded. "Thanks."
Julia sighed. She sat beside me on the fallenlog. "How do you always stay so aloof? Sometimes I feel like killing you and see if you feel anything." she confessed.
I looked up in surprise but let the question go unanswered. We stared out at the beautiful waves crashing in on the beach for a long while. Then she spoke up, "I need a favour."
"Think you could take me out in your boat tomorrow? There's some important research that I cannot stop and the way I'm going out of budget, I can't get a boat."
Julia was a marine biologist. I frowned, then gave in. I needed some time off anyway. What better way to think things through than be on the sea?
"See you at ten." I got up from the log.
"Thanks." Julia got my message. The conversation was over.
I had finished tending to my boat, 'Cupid' by the time Julia arrived. Donned in her scuba diving outfit and trudging along with her gear, shelooked pretty good. Shoulder length dark brown hair and quite a figure, Julia was an attractive Asian woman. We met on the sea. Her boat was giving her trouble, and I just happened to be there.
"Ready?" she asked. It was a needless question. Taylor was always ready and she knew that. Iwas too methodical to fall out of a schedule. Years of grueling training.
As I turned on the engine, 'Cupid' sputtered to life. I took in the salty sea breeze and sighed. It was a wonderful day. The sky was covered with thin white clouds, like stretched cotton wool. Sea gulls dotted the view, some swooping down to take a meal from the ocean. The deep blue sea was streaked with white foaming lines,marking small waves. However, the sense of peace and isolation that normally accompanied me when I took 'Cupid' out was misplaced. Shaking any negative thoughts out of my mind, I manuvuered 'Cupid' to where Julia wanted.
"Lovely day." she sat beside me, offering me a drink. I took thecan of beer and muttered a thanks.
"When have things becomeso formal between us, Taylor?"
I shrugged. I had learnt since long ago that saying too much could bring trouble to my business. So I cultivated a habit of not talking too much. Most of the time, I end up not talking at all.
"Occupational hazard." I quipped, raising my brow slightly.
Julia snickered. "I believe that about you."
"There. That's it." I went to thestarboard and let down the anchor.
"Coming with me?" she asked. I nodded. She could do her work, and I could see some deep sea creatures. Why not? I tucked mylong hair into the scuba diving outfit. We leapt into theembrace of the magnificent sea.
A long time later, I felt tired. I looked around forJulia. She must have gone up already. I emerged from the water. There was a bigger vessel beside mine. Julia was talking to the people there. It was a party or gathering of some sort. There was a liveband on board. I figured that all the people onboard were all marine biologists or expertise in that area. I pulled myself up onto 'Cupid' and pulled my flippers off. I wringed my hair and unzipped my outfit, revealing my swimsuit underneath.
"Taylor!" I grimaced. I looked up and saw Julia smiling at me. "Come over here. Shall we join them for lunch?"
Lunch? With twenty over people? Twenty over talking people?
I started to shake my head when Julia said "Please? It'll be fun." I saw that she really wanted to go. I sighed. "What about 'Cupid'?"
"We can tow it behind us." someone from the larger vessel shouted. I nodded. I decided that I would just make myself as inconspicious as I could. I felt someone looking at me. Glancing at the observer, I expected her to divert her gaze, but she held mine instead.
She had strawberry blond hair that was hanging freely on her shoulders. I couldn't distinguish the color of her eyes. She was wearing a blue-green bikini top and a sarong tied around her waist. Before she could smile, I broke the eye contact and went into the cabin for a change of clothes.
I made my way through the friendly crowd, rejecting any friendly attempts at conversation though. A curt nod and a small smile usually made them realise that. I grabbed an ice cold beer and settled on the starboard.
My dark blue silk shirt felt arousingly good against my skin as the wind blew at me. The white bermudas I had on contrasted with my tanned legs. I glanced at the clouds and the water in front of me and took a sip from my beer. I could feel the bitter taste enveloping my mouth, and the smooth cold liquid running down my throat. I was wondering at the difference of the texture of different beverages when a voice broke into my thoughts.
I whipped my head to my right side and saw the blond that was looking at me earlier on. I raised my brow.
"Right. No food. Duh, you're not eating." she laughed at herself.
I let a smile change my features.
"You know, it wouldn't hurt for people to hear your voice once in a while..." she said.
Close up, I could see that her eyes were green. Very deep green. I squinted at her, the sun suddenly shining into my eyes.
I put on my shades and said "It wouldn't hurt for them not to."
I turned to face the ocean, insinuating the end of conversation. But she didn't budge a bit. "Ahh. But a low sexy voice like that shouldn't be kept from public ears." she was rather adamant on having a conversation.
"Yours is sexy enough to keep them occupied. No one will notice my absence." I was rather surprised at the answer myself. At the curve of her eyebrow, I could see that she was equally surprised.
"My, my... Who would have thought that Carmen Taylor was a smooth talker." I wondered how she knew my name. "You're a rather prominent figure, appearing on the cover of several magazines." she answered my unspoken question.
"Is that why you're talking to me?" I couldn't help but to ask, rapidly losing any interest of continuing that conversation.
"No. Something else about you drew me to you."
The interest returned. "What?"
She seemed rather pleased that she got my attention. "Well it could have been your millions, or your boat. It may even have been your girlfriend."
I raised my eyebrow.
"You know, I may be interested in her and wanted to test out my competition..."
"She's not my girlfriend. We stopped seeing each other on that basis some time ago. So if you're interested, you have no competition here."
"I see." the blond looked as if she was diagnosing my answer. "Well, it may have been all that that made me come here and talk to you, but actually the reason is very simple. I saw you wringing your hair."
"What?" I was incredulous. She started giggling. "Yup. It kinda... Made me wanna know you." her laughter was infectious and I caught myself blushing and trying to stifle a snicker.
"Oh my. Now you make me wanna know you more with that gorgeous blush you are capable of giving."
This woman was good. I grinned self consciously. "What's your name?"
"Oh, how rude of me. I'm Kiara. Kiara Paterson."
I shook the offered hand. It felt warm and friendly, like the speaker.
"Kiara." I rolled the name in my mouth. "Nice name."
"Kiara!" As if on cue, someone called out to her. "I've got someone to introduce to you!"
She started to get up. "Excuse me." she left just as suddenly as she arrived. I put the mouth of the bottle to my lips and tilted my head. Kiara.
I stood up. My beer was finished and I was getting bored by all these people. Seemed that my plan for a day of ruminations was ruined. I wanted to get away. I saw Julia laughing to her friends. She had always been very sociable.
"Excuse me," I heard her say when she spied me. "Enjoying yourself?" she asked. I gave her a long look. She never did learn. Always trying to make me conform.
"On the contrary. I'm thinking of bading you goodbye. I'm sure you're in good hands." I made a mock bow.
"Taylor..." I gave her a 'Don't start' look and she got the message. It wasn't very difficult to convey my messages non-verbally. I had lots of practice. I pulled away from the crowd and went to look for the skipper of the vessel.
"Ms. Taylor." I twirled around at the call of my name. It was Kiara. I waited for her to speak. She looked flustered.
"I- I was wondering if uhh... I mean, you know... This is really sudden I know but... Damn."
I looked vaguely amused. She looked so adorable when she couldn't get her words out.
"I'm sorry." she took a deep breath and tried again. "I was wondering if you could send me back to shore? something cropped up, my mom got admitted into the hospital and it's the only way I can get back. It's okay if you wanna stay and enjoy the party." she added.
I started walking away. I took a few steps and stopped. "Are you coming or you want me to carry you?"
She ran up beside me, relieved. "Geez, you could have told me okay or something..." she muttered.
"You're welcomed." I said, letting sarcasm tinge my voice. I guess it was lost on her. "By the way, call me Taylor."
The sun was setting on our way back. The view was breathtaking but neither of us noticed. She was lost in her worry for her mother, I supposed. And I, was too busy splitting my attention between driving the boat, not getting us lost, and observing her without her noticing. The orange sky reflected on her profile as she looked out at the sea. Her knuckles were turning white, the way she was gripping on the side of the boat. I doubted that she was sea sick. More likely, she was worried sick. I increased the speed of 'Cupid' unconsciously.
"Thank you." she said when we pulled up to shore. I nodded, expecting her to run off or something.
"Uuhh..." she was doing it again, getting all nervous and flustery.
"Can you.. Uhhh... Gimme a ride there?"
I rolled my eyes.
"It's okay if you don't want to, I mean, you could help me call for a cab or something." I finished tying up my boat and started walking up the beach.
"Or something. C'mon." I said over my shoulders.
"Hey you could have said something, really." I enjoyed irritating her. But when I glanced over and saw her pale face, I regretted it.
"Look, I'm sorry. I'm not a talker. I'll drive you there okay? And i'll drive you home after that if you don't have a ride."
Her eyes met mine. "Thank you." she said softly. I nodded and averted my eyes. An odd feeling ran through me when she looked at me and I couldn't decide if I liked it.
"Mom! God, you had me worried sick!" Kiara had all but ran into the hospital, sarong and all. I noticed the patients and nurses staring at her as she ran past them. Personally, I didn't blame them. She was quite a sight. I followed behind, hands stuck firmly in my bermudas pockets.
"Oh Kiara. You didn't have to come... I told them not to call you." Kiara's mother had a bandaged arm. She looked alright otherwise. Probably a domestic accident.
"What happened?" Kiara asked, satisfied that her mother was relatively well.
"I accidentally cut my arm, that's all." I stood awkwardly behind Kiara.
"Cut your arm? You almost sliced it off!" a loud piercing voice all but made me cringe. A woman came into view. "She had five stitches, Kiara. Goodness, I told her not to do the housework, to leave it all to the maid, but no... She wouldn't listen. Look what happened?" the woman looked as if she was going to prattle on about the misfits of the poor lady. I pitied Kiara's mother. Five stitches was nothing compared to this ear torture. I felt a headache building up in my head.
"Oh, tish tosh, Maria. I had nothing to do sitting around all day. Who's this with you, darling?" she looked at me. Uh oh. Everyone turned to look at me.
"You must join us for dinner." Kiara's mother said.
"Why, you're that... That businesswoman with all the big bucks, aren't you, honey?" the loudmouth lady exclaimed before I could answer. I grimaced.
"Sis..." Kiara started. That was her sister? Unbelieveable! Kiara looked embarrassed.
"Uuh, mother, Maria, this is Ms. Carmen Taylor."
I nodded. "Call me Taylor."
"Oh my, what an honour! You know, I was just thinking the other day after I read the article about you in times..." the woman actually hooked her arm through mine and led me off! I turned around to see a smirking Kiara following us with her mother by her side. It was going to be a long night.
Kiara got into the passenger seat of my jeep. A part of me had hoped that she went with her family so that I could get home, but another part of me wanted to see how the evening would turn out. It was certainly a change of entertainment. I revved up my car and followed her sister's chevy. I touched my right ear unconsciously. Kiara started to snicker.
"What?" I demamded.
"It was so funny, the way you looked when my sister went on and on about how great you are and everything." I let myself smile. "You look great when you do that, you know? You should do that more often." Kiara commented.
"What?" I asked again.
"Do you always try to speak the least words possible?" she asked, exasperated.
"What about you? Do you thrive to hit a certain word limit a day?"
Shooting me a bemused glance, she ignored my attempt at sarcasm. Instead she answered her own question, "Smiling. You should do that more often." Shaking her head, she switched on the radio. "So, is it true that you were married?"
Gosh, did this woman know when to stop? But I had to admit that her sister would win hands down in prattling. "Yes."
"That's why you became a Taylor." It was a statement. I did not correct her.
"Did you.. Uuhh... Love your husband?"
Thoughts of Luke came back to me. He was such a great guy. Six feet tall, with sandy blond hair and brown friendly eyes, he was very handsome, in a baby-boy kinda way. We met when we were in the university. He was a classmate of mine. We got along really well. He made me feel very special. And he was very special to me too.
"Yup. I loved him." Kiara nodded.
I nodded. I would always love him. I didn't know why I was telling a woman I just met all this, but she just had something about her that made me want to do that... to just... let go.
"So you only started going out with women after him?"
She was beginning to get on my nerves. "Why does it interest you so much?" I asked her, irritated.
"Well... you interest me. C'mon, it wouldn't hurt to tell me... Pretty please?"
I took a long time to consider. "I've always prefered women."
I had enough. "Look, I don't really like this, okay? Shall we change the subject?"
she nodded, surprising me a little with her quick submission.
"What do you think of my hair? I'm thinking of cutting it..."
I sighed. The headache was returning.
We reached a famous restaurant that served great seafood. My stomach rumbled. I realised that I had nothing but beer the whole day. Kiara linked her arm to mine. I looked at her curiously but didn't complain. We made a weird yet striking couple. Her, with her golden girl look, and me, with my authentic asian look. I shrugged. I was a little taller than her, her head reached my nose. She was much more voluptous than I was. Now that she was more relaxed and no longer worried about her mother, she exuded a sort of radiance to everyone around her, including me.
The dinner went rather smoothly, except the times where Maria kept shooting questions at me. Surprisingly, Kiara told her sister that she didn't think that it was such a good time for me to tell my lifestory, which I agreed wholeheartedly.
When the three ladies chattered away about the neighbour's dog and the ice cream man's wife, my thoughts drifted off to Luke. We got married when I was twenty-two. He was romantic and loving. Everything that a woman could ask for.
Except that he was gay. And so was I. We were great friends, and would have done anything for each other. We got married because he wanted his parents to be happy. It worked for me. My parents were glad too. Luke was a perfect husband. We never got into petty fights, and we always had things to talk about. He never brought his lovelife home, and I never brought mine either - quite truthfully, I did not have any since the marriage.
I think somewhere along the line, I fell in love with Luke. The way I never dreamt possible. I was rather sure that he had certain feelings for me too,so I planned to work on it one night. I wanted to consummate our marriage. That fateful night, he told me that we could never be together that way. He loved me, but only as a very good friend, as a sister... Not the romantic type of love. The one person he would always love was a man. I was shattered. Not because he wouldn't sleep with me, but because he confessed that he had contracted AIDS. I didn't understand. Why did a good man like Luke have to die?
I stayed with him till the end. Held his hand till he left this world. The last thing he saw was a crying Carmen telling him that she loved him. I took on his surname and became the Carmen Taylor that I was till this very day.
I looked dazedly at Kiara. I made people call me Taylor for it was what people used to call Luke in the past.
"Are you okay?" she asked, concerned. "You seem... faraway..."
I glanced at Maria and Annie, Kiara's mother, and gave them a reassuring smile.
"Yeah I'm fine, just a little headache."
"Oh you poor thing. Kiara, you must send Taylor back." Annie said to her daughter.
"No, it's okay, I'm fine." I protested. It was of no use. Their whole family had the talking bug running through their veins. They held great arguments too. I conceded defeat.
"You don't really have a headache, do you?" Kiara asked softly on our way back.
"Huh?" I broke out of my silence.
"You were thinking about something. Or someone. Weren't you?"
I didn't answer.
"Why are you so quiet?"
I looked at the road in front of me. "It's late. I don't think there will be many cabs in my area. Why don't you drive yourself home and i'll drive myself home?" I desperately wanted to be alone. My feelings have come too close to the surface that evening. It had always been buried. I did not know why I was so vulnerable.
I blinked in surprise. I looked at Kiara. "No. I'm sending you back."
"Is it that bad to be around me?" she changed the topic really fast.
"Noo.." It was the truth. I liked being with her. She was warm, funny, attractive... But maybe it was all that that made me feel so vulnerable. Yes, that was it. She made me feel. And I was afraid to do that. It had been too long since I felt something for another person.
"Then why do you keep pushing me away?"
"What makes you say that?" I countered.
"You know why, Taylor. Don't play dumb with me. I saw you looking at me, observing me when you thought I wasn't looking. So why? Why are you so... Aloof?"
Aloof. That adjective again. Julia had used that on me just the night before. I shrugged my shoulders.
"That's the way I am." It wasn't much, but it was a reason nevertheless. She didn't talk for the rest of the journey and I found myself missing the lilting timbre of her voice.
"Why don't you stay over for the night?" I suggested. I wasn't about to let her run about in the middle of the night with just a bikini top and a sarong.
She looked surprised. I pointed at her attire. "Oh." she grinned sheepishly at me.
"Or I could send you back..." I didn't really want to do that. It was silly.
"Yeah yeah... You send me, I send you... You think we're playing chauffueur?" she giggled.
I smiled. Damn, I seem to be smiling the equivalent number of smiles I would normally smile in a year!
"C'mon. I'll introduce my babies to you."
"Babies?" she asked. Boxer and Tavin crowded around me the moment I opened the door. "Shit, I forgot to feed them."
"Aww they're sooo sweet!" Kiara exclaimed a they scampered around her. I went to the kitchen and returned with their dinner.
"Kiara, this is Boxer and that, is Tavin." Boxer wagged his black tail furiously and Tavin licked Kiara's hand.
"And this," I held my precious up, "Is Velvet." Kiara came over and stroked Velvet who was nestling comfortably in my arms.
"We have same color eyes." Kiara commented. I grinned.
"I'm sure my baby likes that, don't you, precious?" I cooed. Kiara looked at me in surprise.
"What?" I felt her questioning gaze.
"You just... seem so... different."
"What do you mean?" I put Velvet down and switched on the cd player. Velvet rubbed against my legs.
"You seem warmer. Gosh you show these animals more affections than you did me the whole day!" I hid my smile. I have got to stop this smiling! What was wrong with me anyway?
"These animals are my precious little babies... Frankly, they are more worthy of my affections than anyone else. No offense."
Kiara stopped petting Boxer. "Right. And who are you to judge that?" I could hear resentment in her tone.
"Okay, okay... No more arguments... Let's just say that they're the only creatures on earth that loves me." I confessed.
Her look softened. "Don't say that... I'm sure lots of people care about you."
Both she and I knew that it wasn't the truth. "Look, I'm just as the magazines wrote about, cold, methodical... robotised, whatever. So don't try to say otherwise."
"I'm sure that deep down inside you're not like that at all." she came over and sat beside me, her warmth seeping into me. "Someone would get past all your barriers one day, and that special person would know that what the magazines wrote were crap."
Someone once did. And I lost him. Kiara rested her hand on my thigh. I gazed into those warm emerald eyes for a long time. I leaned in to kiss her. She parted her lips slightly, waiting for my lips to complete their journey. Right at that moment, Velvet dug her claws into my arm.
"Ow!" I exclaimed. "What was that for, Velvet?" I looked at my sleek black cat. He was staring at me with his big green eyes. Then I realised that I was squeezing his neck too hard when I was preparing to kiss Kiara. "Sorry, precious..."
He rubbed his length of body along my leg as an acceptance of apology and trotted away, his tail high in the air.
"You're bleeding." Kiara said, concerned. I looked down at my arm.
"Just scratches. Doesn't matter." What was I doing? I had almost kissed her.
"Here, let me look at it." she took my arm from me and dabbed at it with kleenex. "You go wash it up okay?" I nodded grudgingly.
"I'll go get you some clothes to change into." Anything to get away from her and all the foreign feelings within me.
"Here." I gave her a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
"Thank you." I led her to my bedroom. She lifted her brow.
"I don't have a guestroom. You'll have to take my bed. I'll take the couch." I explained.
"No, I can't do that."
"You know, your house is not that small... you should make a guestroom." she continued as we went into the room.
"What for? I don't have guests." she stopped.
"So I'm your first guest?" I nodded as I went to my cupboard to grab a change of clothes.
"Why don't we share the bed?" she asked. "It's big enough and I don't bite. Don't make me feel bad. C'mon."
I relented. I realised that I had yet to reject any of her requests. "I'll show you the other bathroom."
By the time she came back from her bath, I was already on the bed, towelling my hair dry. "Why do you keep sideburns?" she asked.
I wondered where she got all her questions from. Was there a book called "One million and one questions to ask Carman Taylor"? I snickered silently.
"What? Did I ask something funny?"
I shook my head. "I dunno, I just do. Why? does it look bad?" she gave me a mysterious smile.
"No.. In fact it looks really good on you."
I concentrated on the towel in my hand. "Hard not to. Everything looks good on me." I joked.
"My, my... someone has a big ego." she laughed. She looked rather good too. Funny how that old t-shirt and shorts looked so good on her.
"Ready to sleep?" I asked, anxious to dispel the atmosphere that her being here, joking and laughing with me had created. She nodded, seemingly able to detect my change in mood. I flipped off the light and settled comfortably in my bed, careful to keep an appropriate distance from her.
"Taylor?" her voice filled the dark.
She rolled over and rested on her elbows. "I didn't forget this." she said before she bent down to capture my lips in hers.
"Goodnight." she said breathlessly, after we broke apart. She rested her head on the crook of my shoulder and wrapped one arm around my waist. I wondered how I was going to sleep.
The alarm rang. My hand ran along the top of my bar fridge beside my bed absentmindedly. I finally found the source of the noise and slammed it off. Suddenly I realised that I wasn't alone. Then all the memories of the night before came tumbling down on me. I turned my head slightly and gazed at the ginger tresses that was covering my chest. Didn't she have to go to work? It hit me that I did not know what she was working as. I shook her gently.
"Kiara... Wake up... I have to go to work."
No response. Gosh this girl was a sound sleeper. I shook her again. "Kiara?"
She finally stirred. "Hey." she rubbed her eyes and looked at me sleepily. I wondered again at how adorable she looked. Just like a little girl.
"I need to get up." she nodded and rolled off me. I padded to the bathroom and hit the showers. When I re-emerged from the bathroom, I saw that Boxer and Tavin had occupied my bed. Donning a shirt and pants, I started wearing my socks.
"Can I sleep a little longer?" came a muffled voice from under the blankets. I stopped moving and turned to look at Kiara. Getting no response from me, she peeked at me. "I won't steal anything." she added.
What the hell. I nodded. She grinned. Funny how good she made me feel when I make her happy. "What do you do?" I asked.
"I'm a writer."
Interesting. "What kinda stuff you write?" she paused for a while, as if thinking over her answer.
"Fiction. Sometimes mysteries, sometimes romance... I even tried science fiction." I raised my brow.
"Do they get published?" I asked jokingly.
"Yes, in fact they do... My pseudonym is Ciara Woolf."
Hmm. I vaguely recalled such a writer.
"If you wanna leave, just lock up the place and slip the key under the door." I said. She nodded. With that, I left.
The day was like any other. I signed papers, reviewed the accounts, and got debriefed on projects. However, my mind was not totally there. It kept fleeting back to the golden package that was lying on my bed. She probaby left. I didn't even have her number. I shrugged. She would soon be just another memory.
I stood up. It was Jonathon King, one of my competitors. Tall and muscular, Jonathon King was considered one of the most eligible bachelors around. Too bad he was gay. Not many people knew that. I knew that because he was once with Luke. He didn't even bother to visit Luke once when he fell sick. To think that Luke once loved him.
"Good to see you." he said as he shook my hand. I couldn't say the same, so I just nodded.
"I'll see you around." he said and he flashed me his million dollar smile. I sat down again and sipped at my water. My client was late. I hated that. I looked over at Jonathon and thought of Luke again. I did not dislike Jonathon because of the fact that Luke loved him. I disliked him because he had hurt the one person I loved very badly. My thoughts were interrupted by the incessant apologies of my very late client.
As I killed the engine to my convertible, I noted to some surprise that Kiara was still around. In fact, she was running along the beach and playing catch with my little babies. Velvet was the only one that did not participate in the game. He was seated on the porch, licking himself clean whilst looking disdainly at the party of three. I slammed the door shut. That caught the attention of Boxer and Tavin who came running happily to me with their tongues hanging out and tails wagging.
"Hello there." I smiled as they leapt into my arms. I looked up to see Kiara walking towards me with a smile on her face.
"Hi." she said. She looked so good in the evening sun with disheveled hair. "I made dinner."
I followed her into my house. "C'mon, Velvet." I closed the door, wondering at the woman walking in front of me.
The scent of dinner made my mouth water. "Pasta." She nodded.
"It's just to thank you, for driving me here and there and letting me stay." I sat down. The spaghetti looked delicious. "Am I outstaying my welcome?" she asked.
I sank my teeth into the white creamy noddles and closed my eyes. "Mm.." I shook my head. "The way you cook? you can stay forever." I spoke without thinking.
"Is that a proposal?" she smiled.
Uh oh. She laughed at my change of expression. "I'm joking okay?"
Night fell. As the time for her to leave approached, I began to wish that she didn't have to go. "Gimme a ride?"
"So that's why you chose to leave now." I joked. "So that you don't have to pay for cab."
She laughed. "Damn. You saw right through me." She made me feel so relaxed. On the way to her place, she asked me silly questions. Do I like long or short hair? Do I like cookies? What sort of things I like to read? Where I came from, what my favourite color was? By the time we reached her place, she knew more about me than anyone else since Luke.
I found out that she had two sisters and a brother, but only Maria was in the same state as her and her mother. Her other sister was a housewife and she lived in Colorado. Her brother was an architect. They were very close and they sought to see each other as much as their tight schedules would allow them to, all but her brother. I could feel the tension in her voice when she mentioned him, but I had let it pass. Everyone was entitled to their little secrets.
Her father passed away when she was five, and her mother never married again. She told me her favourite color, her favourite rock band. I marvelled at her easiness with people. With me. Even Julia wasn't able to make me talk so much when we were seeing each other.
"Come in for a while?" she asked. To both our surprises, I agreed. I guess I didn't want the memory to end that early. She changed out of my clothes and got me a drink. Her apartment was well furnished. It felt cosy. Totally reflecting Kiara's personality.
"Now you meet my baby." she came out with a snake wrapped around her arm. Another surprise. I didn't expect her to own a pet snake. I walked over, fascinated by the reptile. It hissed at me, flicking its forked tongue rapidly. I ran my fingers down the cold length of it.
"You're not afraid of Billy." it wasn't a question. I shook my head. The snake slithered over and wrapped itself around my arm. It liked my warmth. I shuddered. I have always liked reptiles. If not for Velvet, I would have kept a few. "Not many people like snakes." Kiara commented.
I smiled absently. I kept running my fingers down the length of it. Kiara took Billy away from me suddenly and dropped it in his tank. I looked at her in surprise. She strode purposefully towards me and straddled my lap. "I'm jealous." she said before she covered my mouth with hers. My heart rate picked up. I could feel hers racing against mine. I had one night stands before, but I didn't want this to be that sort of conquest. As her lips ventured lower, I pulled back.
"I need to go."
She looked into my eyes, contemplating her answer. Her gaze soften. "Okay." she got up from me. I felt empty all of a sudden. This was too dangerous a game to play. I knew that the moment I walked out of this door, I would cut her out of my life completely. I had to.
I stood as I was a few days before, looking down at my empire. Yet all the pride and all the joy in my accomplishment was not present. As I eyed the newest building that erected from the grounds and bore my name, I saw in it a reflection of me. A mass of cold, hard metal, it stood tall and proud, standing out among all others. It had the best facilities, operated by the finest technology. However, it was empty and aching within.
I felt my eye twitch. Sleep and I had not been the best of friends. I had to get the feeling of need out of my system. Mid life crisis? I scoffed. I was hardly thirty. Well probably. My life had gone well till this very point with no trace of affections in it. After Luke, my parents had wanted me to remarry. I told them the truth of what really happened. As predicted, I was banished out of their lives. A freak of nature. That was who I was to them. I could still remember the feeling well. I felt like I was ripped apart and inside out. Since then I shut myself from the world of emotions. I began to climb slowly and steadily up the ladder with nothing in my way. Affections, I reasoned, would not go well with the building I was looking at. It would be out of place. I imagined soft pink curtains framing the windows of my newest skyscraper and smirked. It would never be. Carmen Taylor would never do if she softened.
Then why did I feel more empty than I did the first time I was thinking about the exact same thing?
A week had passed since the first time I considered the notion
of lacking something in my life. Since then the aching had only increased. The
only reason I could come up for that was the fact that I did not have anyone
in my bed since Julia. And tonight was a night as good as any to finish that
foreign aching once and for all. I drove my car down to the local pub.
Stepping into the smoky and rowdy room, I almost regretted my decision. I took a deep breath and almost choked. I made my way through the crowd and my ears ached as the music droned on. I climbed the stairs and reached the members room. Flashing my card, I entered. The throbbing in my head ebbed away for the music in the members room had a slower, more seductive tempo. I heaved a sigh of relief. The room was relatively occupied. I glanced distastefully at some of the guests that were signed in. Insignificant. I ordered my drink and lighted a cigarette.
I was beginning to think that this night was a complete failure. I had no wish to bed just anyone. The people in the room were definitely not up to my taste. What was my taste? There was once when it didn't matter. After my success, I could have had anyone I wanted. I had cold hard cash and the women were willing to exchange that with their hot soft bodies. I sighed.
"Taylor." a manicured hand rested on the bar table next to me. I looked up and saw its owner.
She was the manager of the pub. Black inky tresses framed the oval shaped face. Her green eyes suddenly reminded me of Kiara. I brushed that thought out of my head. She was dressed in a black patent top and pants. Needless to say, she reeked of eroticism and excitement. My pulse picked up as the memories of us together floated into my mind.
"What brings you around this part of the world?"
I smirked and breathed in more of the toxic smoke. I let the question go unanswered as I blew out rings of smoke.
"Still as uncommunicative as before I see." I smiled. Jesse and I understood each other well. "No more with that marine biologist?"
I shook my head. "She asked for too much."
Her unvoiced curiosity was satisfied. "Commitment, I suppose?" I nodded.
"Taylor, Taylor... too afraid to give her heart." I looked into her eyes. She reached out her hand and touched my face lightly. She was an enigma I had never figured out. And I was her only conquest she never fully conquered. She lowered her lips to mine and I sunk myself into them. It had been a long time. Much too long. And I desperately sought release from the confinements of my confusion and ridiculous yearning. She led me into the her private room and locked the door. The room sizzled with heat and anticipation. Everything else forgotten, I sunk myself into the arms of Jesse.
Before dawn broke, I reached home. There was a package seated on my doorsteps. I ripped it open and my clothes tumbled out. Kiara had sent them back. There was a note attached to the package.
I would like to take you out for dinner. Would tomorrow night be fine? i'll see you at marlin's, eight sharp. Give me a call if you can't make it at 555-1234.
I shrugged my shoulders, preparing to decline the invitation. But something inside me wanted to go, just to see her. I wondered at that. I did not need that intrusion in my life.
Curiosity overrode reasoning and I soon found myself speeding towards the destinated point where I was to meet Kiara. Crisp and clean, I strode purposefully towards her. She wasn't difficult to spy. Her ginger tresses rested on a white halter neck top that exposed her back and arms.
"Is this seat taken?" I asked with feigned ignorance.
"Taylor!" she blushed. Blushed? Yup, that's what they called the sudden flushing of face. A loose smile played around her lips as I took the seat opposite hers.
"What's so funny?" she looked at me then down to my attire and then at her own. I realised that we were both wearing all white.
"What coincidence." she commented. I nodded. Next thing I knew she was going to tell me that it was kismet. What crock. I tried to paste a look of indifference on my face as I flipped through the menu.
"What did you want to see me about?" I asked absently.
"Do I need a reason to take you out?" I looked at her dubiously.
"I guess not." I said after some time. She just smiled.
The dinner went along well. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual and my awkwardness and stiffness was soon eroded by Kiara's enthusiasm and warmth. I did not understand why I guarded myself against her. I guess I did not want her to be another Julia. I did not want her to fall in love with me and then realise that I had nothing substantial to give her. I regretfully conceded that Kiara and I could never be anything more than friends.
"Can I go see Boxer and Tavin? I kinda miss them." We had finished our dinner and were strolling to our cars.
"What? You don't miss my precious?" I acted slightly miffed.
"He has enough affection from you, Taylor."
True, I did favour Velvet. "What about your car?" she turned around and looked at me.
"I didn't drive here. I took a cab."
Oh. So she had this planned, hadn't she? For what? My mind refused to consider the reason. I shrugged.
"Let's go." she hopped into my jeep cheerily and I drove off.
Her questioning started again. What was it with this woman? Everytime we were thrown together, she would be shooting questions at me like a machine gun. This time she wanted to know what games I liked to play when I was still a child, and which places I have been to.
"Are you always this inquisitive or is it just me?" I asked her. She snickered lightly but did not answer me. She laid her hand on my thigh. I tensed involuntarily.
"Why didn't you stay the other night, Taylor?" I pretended not to understand her. "The night at my place, why didn't you stay? I would have let you, you know?"
I knew. Did she think I was stupid? "I didn't want to cross the line." Since when did I care so much about the feelings of another? Maybe there was a heart in me after all.
"Why not?" I couldn't believe her tact. "Aren't you attracted to me?"
Oh I was. Very much so. "I am." was all I said.
"Then why?" I furrowed my brows, not knowing if I couldn't or wouldn't answer.
"Because I don't want you to expect something that I cannot give." I said finally.
She thought for a while before answering "Or are you afraid that you would?" Good point.
I was so engrossed with my own thinking that I did not notice the black sedan following my jeep. A few moments later, it was too late as it crashed against my jeep from behind. Jolted, Kiara and I looked frantically behind. We could not see the driver, but he or she was trying to corner us. Or make us skid off the road. I took in my situation. There was no other cars on the secluded stretch of road. If I skidded, I would land in a heap down the slope, so I couldn't afford that.
The car came in again and it dented the side of my jeep. Just a bit closer and it would have broken my leg, I realised. My jeep had no doors. My heart thundering in my ears, I shot a quick glance over at Kiara. She looked pale. I had no time to check her wellbeing as the car came in again and this time it connected with my leg. That hurt. I retaliated, deliberately slowing down so that my jeep trailed behind the sedan and then I accelerated and smashed into the side of the car. It spun a little of control as I went at it again, mad with fury and fuelled by the pain in my left leg. Knowing that he was beaten, the black sedan sped away. I was half inclined to follow except that it might get Kiara hurt too. I winced in pain as Kiara looked over at me.
"Oh god, you're bleeding." I looked down at my leg. Sure enough, there were some ugly bruises and a couple of cuts. The bumper must have scratched my leg.
"I'm fine." I said. Kiara got out of her seat. "You, move over. I'm taking you to the hospital." I started to refuse but I caught the determined glint in her eyes. I gave in to the pain in my leg and shifted over to the passenger seat. On the way to the hospital, I thought over who would want me dead.
"No running, climbing, or dancing for you." Kiara listed. "No prawns and seafood too." I glanced up at her, amused.
"What?" she was every bit the evil nurse. "Where did you learn that seafood thing?" I asked.
"I've learnt some chinese 'dos and don'ts' " she evaded my question. She held my arm and helped me to the elevator. I was stuck in a plaster and with a crutch. A muscle was torn and my bone was fractured.
"What about walking?" I quipped as the elevator door closed.
"Come on, I'll get you home." my brows furrowed again. This was going to be quite a bother. I would not be able to do lots of things. No work for me either. That would give me time to figure out who wanted to hurt me. I mentally checked the things I had still left undone in the office. I had to call my secretary and leave her with some instructions.
"What are you thinking about?" Kiara broke into my thoughts.
Kiara sighed. "Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. It could force you to lay off work for some time." I kept quiet. "Who did you think that was?"
Good question. "I was thinking about that too." I had made quite a few enemies in my climb towards success. We pulled up to my house.
"I was thinking, it won't be safe for you to stay here." Kiara piped out as I hobbled to my door. She helped me open the door.
"Why don't you move to my place?" I started to shake my head. "I can get another apartment." I said.
"But you're injured. Your movements are restrained. Moreover, you can't get an apartment on such a short notice. Who's gonna take care of you, cook for you, wash up..."
"Okay, okay!" Man, this woman could really talk! She looked mighty pleased with herself. "Now, you'll need some clothes and shoes... What else do you need? Books? I have extra towels..."
She disappeared into my bedroom. I was exhausted. I plopped down onto the couch and closed my eyes. Boxer and Tavin approached me cautiously, sensing that something was wrong. They climbed onto my lap and started licking my face.
"Hey..." I cracked open my eyes and smiled tiredly at them. "Where's Velvet?" I got up to get their feed. "We're gonna have to move for a while, buddies." I wandered into the kitchen.
"Hey precious." Velvet was asleep on the kitchen table. He awoke immediately as I picked him up. I put him on his favourite resting place on my right shoulder. I manuveured myself out into the living room again. Kiara emerged from my bedroom.
"Okay! everything's in here." she held a bag up proudly. I went into the room and saw that the things she had taken were practical. I went to the drawers and took out my pistol and some ammunition. Looking around, I spied my photo with Luke. I took that too. Velvet purred. "Yes precious. I miss him too."
Kiara drove my convertible to her place. It was a good thing I had two cars. She helped me out of the car and up to her apartment. Boxer and Tavin sniffed around the new environment while Velvet stayed on my shoulder. I remembered Billy.
"Be good." I said sternly to Velvet as he hissed when he saw Billy in his tank. Kiara saw the hostility. "Uh oh, that's gonna be a problem isn't it?" I nodded. "Let's cover the tank with trapaulin."
I felt bad that she had to make certain changes for me. "Sorry about it."
"No problem." she said with a smile. "Maybe i'll bring him over to mom's for a while. Except that Maria would freak of course."
I smirked. I could almost imagine Maria's face when she sees Billy. I faltered slightly.
"Oh, how thoughtless of me." Kiara started. "Here, have a seat. I'll get you a drink okay? Your medicine, when do you have to take them?" I moved awkwardly to the couch.
"Uuhh... Two every four hours." she nodded and bustled in the kitchen.
"Do you want something to eat?"
I shook my head.
She returned with a glass of water and a glass of milk. "This is for now..." she passed me the water, "And this is for later." she put the glass of milk on the coffee table. "I'll move your things into the room and then take a shower. You make yourself at home alright?"
I nodded. Why did she keep talking? "Precious, don't you wander away. You sleep with me tonight, you hear that?" Velvet mewed softly and snuggled deeper into my shirt. With his comforting warmth on my right shoulder, and the medicine taking effect, I fell asleep on the comfortable couch.
I mumbled something under my breath. "What?" I cracked open my eyes. It was Kiara.
"Come into the room." she said. I obeyed groggily. How I managed it, I did not know, but I landed on a soft bed and fell asleep, enveloped in warmth.
Morning found me in bed with Velvet curled around my side. I shifted and winced. I glanced down at my leg. Damn the cast. I didn't think it was that bad. The doctor was too particular. I levered myself up with the help of my crutch. I picked up Velvet.
"No wandering for you as long as we're in this house with Billy around." I muttered. Raking a hand through my tousled hair, I made my way out of the living room. I saw Kiara sitting at her desk, busily typing away. It must be the novel that she was telling me about.
"Hey." I called out. She swirled around in her chair and smiled.
"Morning." she shut down her computer and moved over.
"Don't let me interrupt, carry on." Why had she stopped?
"It's okay. I've got breakfast. I was waiting for you to get up." I hobbled into the kitchen.
"You didn't have to..." The look she gave me admonished all I had to say and we sat down to enjoy a sumptous meal.
I called in to my office and left some instructions with my secretary. I made it clear that no one was to know about my accident and that everyone was to be told that I was away on business. Satisfied that she understood my orders, I hung up.
"Everything okay?" I nodded and dialled another number.
"Kevin, I need you to check something out for me." After a few minutes, I got off the phone.
"So, what do you wanna do?" I gave Kiara a questioning gaze. "You're my guest, so I'm liable to entertain you."
Oh I could think of a lot of ways she could entertain me. "Just pretend I'm not here and continue with your work." I said out loud.
"No, no, I'm flexible." my brow lifted as my thoughts drifted elsewhere where she could be flexible. Seeing the change in my expression, she blushed.
"I know, let's play 'Cluedo'." I offered, seeing her discomfort. She nodded and went to fetch the game.
"No, it's Professor Plum with the gun in the ballroom!!" she shrieked in excitement.
"Hah! sorry to burst your bubble but I've got the gun." I snickered. Boxer and Tavin were lying lazily in the corner and Velvet was wandering around the apartment. We kept billy in the bedroom.
"Darn!" Kiara looked so cute, face flushed with excitement and hands flialing everywhere when she thought she had the answer.
"Okay, I got it. It's Professor Plum with the rope in the ballroom." she groaned. I won again.
"No fair!" she complained. I grinned. "You're older and smarter and you had an affair with Professor Plum!" that idea was so ridiculous I burst out laughing. "Yes, that's why you knew... He told you didn't he?" she continued her playful banter. I couldn't stop laughing. She leaned over the game and caught my face in her hands. She looked at me with those tender green eyes and I knew that I had lost. She kissed me softly on my lips again and again. The kisses deepened and I found myself leaning back onto the couch with Kiara in against me.
"Ow!" I broke the kiss.
"Sorry!" she exclaimed. She had knocked into my injured leg. I started to smirk.
"Stop that." she said.
"What?" I snickered.
"Oh you..." she looked exasperated. I gave her a peck on her cheek.
"Read me a story." I said gently. Surprised at the change of subject, she froze. Then she got up and went to find a book. She settled down on the floor beside me and made me rest my head in her laps.
"Once upon a time..."
I snickered again. "You're reading me a fairy tale?" I asked incredulously.
"Shut up and listen." she jabbed at me playfully. She started again. "Once upon a time, there lived a lonely prince..."
"... The lonely prince found love in the beautiful peasant girl.
He realised that all he ever needed was not gold, nor riches. He willingly gave
up all his riches and kingdom to lead a simple and peaceful life with her and
they lived happily ever after." Kiara finished the book and gazed at me.
"Did you like it?" she asked.
"Yeah. But it's a fairy tale after all. It could never happen in real life."
I shook my head. "Once upon a times never happen in reality, hon." Both of us noticed the endearment. She stroke my hair.
"Someday, Taylor... You'll believe." I didn't know if she said it to me or as a promise to herself.
"Aw... Come on... It'll be fun!"
My head throbbed. Was it the medicine? I knew otherwise. "Kiara... I don't like crowds, remember?" Kiara's nephew was celebrating his fifth birthday at the beach resort and she was adamant that I went with her.
"You go ahead, i'll be fine at home. I'll watch the cable and sleep or something." Kiara shook her head defiantly. This woman was going to be the death of me.
"Please?" she looked at me with those big puppy eyes and I knew that she had won. Again. I sighed and got up from the couch.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"To take a bath. You don't expect me stink when I get there, do you?" she grinned.
"A simple 'yes I'll go' won't hurt you, Taylor." she shouted as I went into the bathroom. I snickered to myself. Oh yes it would.
The doctor had taken away the cast and I did not have to hobble around with my crutch anymore. I limped to Kiara's Mustang. I had her drive my convertible back to my place as I did not want whoever that was looking for me to spy my car at Kiara's. Kevin, one of Luke's old friend, was a private investigator. He found the black sedan that was following my car on the night of the accident. It was abandoned at the side of a road. It was going to take longer before he can trace it to anyone significant. At least there weren't anymore attempts at my life.
"Thinking about work?" I looked up at Kiara who was driving.
"Yup." I wasn't going to drag her deeper into this.
"Where's the party held? I didn't get him a present."
"I did." It wasn't the same.
"I didn't. That's the point I was trying to make Ma'am." I mocked playfully.
"Hah. Wiseguy. You don't have to. I'll just say that it's from the both of us."
I nodded. What couplish behaviour. Was there such a word? Oh boy. Hanging around a writer has its benefits. Now I can start a new dictionary. I snickered at that.
"What?" she glanced at me.
"Nothing. Private thoughts." she gave me the evil eye but let it pass.
"Come on. We're here." she killed the engine and got out of the car. I let the dogs out. I breathed in the much missed salty sea breeze. Boxer and Tavin scampered joyfully around in the soft white sand. I laughed.
"You're doing that more often now. That's a good sign." Kiara came around and wrapped her arm around my waist. I was getting used to her light touches and caresses now.
"Doing what?" I asked.
"Laughing. Smiling. Showing expressions of joy." she provided. I smirked.
"A pretty lady on one side and a velvety Velvet on the other. I'm one lucky woman." I joked. She looked at me in surprise.
I raised my brow at her. "What for?"
"For calling me a pretty lady." I grinned down at her smiling face.
"I would have thought that this compliment was showered upon you million times over in the past." I commented.
"Ahh... But not once by an attractive lady like yours truly."
I smirked. "Attractive ladies like me must have been in blindfolds when they were around you hon." she squeezed my waist lightly.
"There they are!" we approached a small crowd of about ten people gathering around the campfire.
"Kiara!" I saw Maria waving madly to her sister. Oh no. Ten people of the same bloodline could cause Taylor's deafness.
"Taylor! how good to see you!" Maria exclaimed after shooting a look at her sister. I merely nodded with a wry smile.
"Aunt Kiara!" a small boy, the birthday boy I would think, ran up to Kiara and hugged her. I envied Kiara. She had a loving family. I wondered at my own. I couldn't even recall the last time anyone hugged me. I brushed the sombre thought out of my mind. It was all over now.
"Hey Derryk! Meet my friend, Taylor." he reached out his hand shyly. I took it and pumped it a few times.
"Nice to meet you, Taylor." he said. I grinned. How sweet.
"The pleasure's all mine, buddy." he grinned back at me. Maybe this night was not going to be that bad after all.
I sat down in a quiet corner after all the introductions were made. "How's your leg?" Maria came beside me. Oh no.
"It's fine." I said shortly.
"Here, have a drink." I took the bottle that was offered to me.
"So. You're... seeing Kiara?"
I glanced over, surprised. "Yeah, we know her... preferences."
I shrugged. Her innocent probing had made me consider things that I had tried to pretend didn't exist.
"Well, I kinda expected you to progress from a research subject to something more."
Research subject? What the hell was this woman rambling about? "What research subject?" I cocked my head to one side and Maria knew that she had accidentally disclose something that was kept from me. She also knew that she could no more evade the question than take it all back and pretend that she didn't sprout a single word.
"Um... " she started slowly, in the rare form of being at a loss for words.
"Tell me!" I demanded.
And she did. "Kiara was using you... um, I mean..." Using me. Yeah, she sure did. "...basing the character of her current book on you, that's all. I'm sure it has all changed and that she treats you more than just a subject." she grimaced. Her words had came out sounding all wrong.
I flinched and rose. Kiara spied me and came over. I heard her conversing with Maria as I made my way away from the party and to the car. I didn't know how I was going to drive and decided that I would probably take a cab back.
"Jesus, Maria!" I heard Kiara swear in a distance before she started after me.
I continued limping away.
She was relentless. Well, she had me there, didn't she? "Please, Taylor, give me a chance to explain, alright? I just want you to hear me out... then you can judge. Just hear me out, please!" she pleaded.
Sitting myself stonely on a fallen log by the water, I waited for her explanation. Even in my angered state, I still couldn't refuse this woman anything. Was I crazy? I could almost feel her relief as she plopped down beside me. Glancing at me, she took a deep breath.
"I didn't believe all that bull about you being that cold hard machine that pushed herself to attain success. I was curious to find out if there was a softer side to you... And when I finally got to meet you, I did see that side of you that you hide from everyone including yourself. I admit that the reason I approached you on the boat was due to the fact that I wanted to know you for my book. But after the first night, I was really, truly, attracted to what I saw and began to know. You're not a research material, Taylor. Can't you see it or are you just plain blind? I have fallen in love with you!"
My anger dissipated as the confession enfolded. The last sentence was like a boulder hitting me. In love with me? She didn't know what she was asking for. I glanced at her flushed face, a face I had came to know and care for. I shook my head.
"You don't know what you're saying." I started. "I'm just this... obsession, this emigma that you were drawn to. Once the mysteriousness or the novelty wears off, nothing would come out of it. You're not in love with me, you're just in love with the picture you've painted in your head. You're in love with the character you're writing about which is not me."
This was the longest speech I held and it came out painfully.
"No." she was angry. "Don't patronise me, Taylor. Don't tell me what I am or am not feeling. You have no right. I'm not in love with the character that I've created... the character is you and I love you! I love your playfulness around Boxer and Tavin, I love your gentleness when you talk to Velvet. Most of all, I love the way you are with me. The tenderness in your eyes that you try so hard to hide. The way you try to take care of me even though you make yourself seem like the burden. This is the person I've fallen in love with, Taylor." She was shaking slightly.
"Kiara," my voice started to break. "I don't deserve your love. I'm not.. not capable of love." she took my face in her hands.
"Don't say that, Taylor. You are, in every bit, deserving of love like any other. And you know that you're capable of love. Look at you with Velvet and the little guys. Look at you with me." her voice softened. "Please, Taylor, look within yourself and tell me, truthfully. If you don't think you care for me one bit, let me know. And I'll walk away. You'll never see me again. I promise."
Glancing at her for a long time as my emotions tumbled within me, I didn't know what to say. The right thing to say was that I didn't feel anything for her out of the ordinary... but then again, if I didn't, why did her deception hurt so? Finally, I decided not to lie to myself anymore. My voice broke as I whispered "I do care."
She heaved a sigh of relief and threw her arms around me. We just sat there, arms around each other, listening to the waves crashing.
As we strolled back to the party, hand in entwined hand, Maria caught sight of us and the tension on her face eased away. Kiara was looking so radiant even though her eyes were a little puffy. Derek ran up to us and said "Hotdogs, aunt Kiara?" Then he cocked his head to one side and added "Why are your eyes puffy, aunt Kiara?"
She smiled at him and ruffled his hair. "Nothing, derek, everything's fine now..." and she looked at me. I smiled back at her. Everything was fine indeed. Love had welcomed me and I accepted, flowers and all.
Kiara was astride me, her face inches from mine. "No regrets?" I asked.
She smiled. "None... Whatsoever." and leaned closer. Just before her lips touched mine, I spoke again.
"Tell me you love me." she kissed me. "I love you, love you, love you..." we kissed deeply and after we broke apart, I whispered, "I love you too..."
At that, she held me closer. I wished this love would never end. Something this perfect should never go away... I would fight, with every breath, for this gift that I was bestowed.
"Well I learnt from experience
that if you have to ask for something more than once or twice
it wasn't yours in the first place
and it's hard to accept when you love someone
and you're led to believe in their moment of need
that they want what you want when they don't"
"Hey." I sat down across Kevin, Luke's private investigator friend. He was always a great friend of ours, and was one of the very few who knew the truth of luke's marriage and mine.
"Got what you're looking for, Carmen." I flinched inwardly. It had been a long time since someone called me by my first name.
"Uhh... Sorry. Taylor." he corrected himself sheepishly. I nodded. "Well, I traced the car back to some two-bit thug and kinda forced him to give me some answers. He said that he merely received an order and payment..."
I frowned, and pinched my nosebridge unconsciously. It was going to be a long story. "Okay, okay, I'll cut the icing and get to the point." Kevin grinned.
I stared at Kevin. Some part of me had already guessed that it was him right from the start but I could not figure out what good it would have done him. To get rid of his competition? Jonathon King was definitely rich enough to get a better assassin than that thug. Something didn't make any sense there.
"Car- Taylor, you okay?" I looked up into Kevin's concerned gaze.
"Yeah. Just thinking."
"So what are you planning to do next?"
"Continue keeping a lookout for me will ya'?" Kevin nodded. "Call me if there's anything at all."
"Hey, it has been a really long time since we met up. The last time you called me before this Jonathon King business was ages ago!"
I didn't know how to answer.
"Why don't you come over to my place for dinner tonight? Mel is back and well, I think she kinda misses you."
I was rather surprised. That was definitely a name from the past. Melanie was Kevin's cousin. we were kinda seeing each other before she left to pursue her dream of drama. I used to console myself that she was running away from the fear of something serious. I was pretty upset after she left, but well, life went on.
"How is she?" I asked. "I heard that she got married to this movie producer."
Kevin nodded. "You've been reading her news." I shifted awkwardly. Kevin knew of my feelings for Mel.
"Hard not to when it's on almost all the hottest tabloids. She isn't exactly catalogued under 'low profile' you know." I retorted.
"Okay, whatever. So, how about it?" I considered for a while.
"Yeah okay, what the hell. I may bring someone along."
Kevin grinned at that. "Seeing someone?" I nodded, not willing to divulge anything more.
"See you then."
Kiara was typing away in the living room when I returned. She gave me a warm smile after she heard me coming in and shut down her computer hastily.
"Don't let me stop you from working." I said when she walked over to give me a kiss.
"I don't like people to see my work before it's completed." she breathed heavily in my arms. "May jinx the muse." she finished before bestowing me with another kiss. "So, how's work?" she asked.
I frowned. "Well, it's not going very well." I said. She raised her brow.
"You know that competitor I told you about? Jonathon King?" she looked a little uncomfortable, but I shrugged that thought off.
"Well, so far, he has outbiddened me in everything and gotten a couple of important projects. It's almost as if he knew what I was going to do and then sidestepping me and getting everything."
Kiara looked rather distracted and I thought she was bored. "Whatever it is, I'm sure I'll weasel my way through it. You know, I don't really care that much anymore." she looked surprised.
"What do you mean?"
"I used to center my life around work. I've made enough to spend lavishly for the rest of my life. And now... Well, I discovered that there are more important things than work. I'm thinking of letting more of my subordinates look after the subsidiary branches of my company. You know, lessen my burden." Kiara grinned. I sensed a question.
"Uh huh. So what have you discovered that is more important that work?"
I fidgeted a little. "You." she leaned over and pecked my cheek.
"Thank you. That was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me."
"By the way, I'm going over to my friend's for dinner.. Wanna come?" I still wasn't comfortable about showing my affections too much. "I told him I might bring someone."
Kiara shook her head. "Nah, you go right ahead. I'll stay home to continue my story, it's coming along rather well."
"Okay then. I'll see you later."
Hm. Shirt. Checked.
Breath refreshener. Checked.
Apple crumble. Checked.
I had everything I needed with me for this dinner so then why the hell did I still have sweaty palms? I brushed an imaginary stray hair from my face and got out of my jeep. I walked up the porch to Kevin's place. It had a fresh coat of paint. Kevin was right. It was a very long time. I wondered how Adam, his son, was. Laughter floated out. Mel was there already.
I stiffened involuntarily and my heartbeat escalated a little. Damn. What was this? I felt like I was eighteen again. I calmed myself. At the door, adjusting my shirt. So there I stood with the pie in one hand and the other poised to knock when the door flung open.
It was Mel. My mouth felt dry sddenly. She was more beautiful than I last remembered her. Showbiz was good for her. She had grown and dyed her cropped reddish hair into a wavy brown mane that hung down her back past her wide expanse of shoulders. Her cerulean blue eyes shone at me, capturing me in that familiar gaze of hers once again. Ten years and still this enigma of a woman sent my pulse racing.
"Melanie." I croaked through my dry lips with a wry smile. She pulled me into her embrace. She was still about a good three inches taller than me even though I had grown a little over the years. I raked my hand through my hair after we pulled apart.
"It's been such a long time, Carmen." she said with a wistful look in her eyes. I nodded and looked past her shoulders inside the house.
"Oh, how silly of me, do come in!" she pulled my arm and dragged me into the living room. "Kevin and Lisa are in the kitchen preparing our dinner." she said with a twinkle.
I put the pie on the table and sat on the couch with Mel following behind me. "By the way, call me Taylor. I'm not really used to the name carmen anymore."
"Oh. Luke." the jab at my heart came almost suddenly. I nodded.
"Looking good, Taylor." she said, seeing the pained look on my face.
I grinned, welcoming the change of topic. "Well, it's nothing compared to you, or have you been too busy with your work to look into the mirror recently?" I teased. Melanie snickered.
"Still with that quick tongue of yours, I see."
I gave her the once over. "It's nothing but the truth, your gorgeousness." I joked. Well it was the truth. Mel was stunning in her simple blue sundress.
She giggled. "You're making me blush." Then her tone changed into a more serious note. "It has been so long, Taylor. And you still give me the jitters." I didn't know what to say. I could feel my stomach doing cartwheels inside me too...
"Carmen! Melanie! Dinner's ready!" Kevin's voice boomed from the dining table. I flinched at my name. "So, where's Adam?" I asked. Kevin's son should be about seven that year.
He went to camp." Kevin grinned.
"So, what's for dinner? I'm starving."
Kevin looked around, as if he was looking for someone. "I thought you were bringing someone along?" Kiara.
I shook my head. "She has something on." I was rather relieved that I didn't have to face both Kiara and Mel at the same time.
"... and that was our adventure in Australia." Kevin finished
as we were halfway through our dinner. I didn't speak much, as usual. Mel was
skeptical about my change. Well she wasn't here to witness any of it. I was
no longer the same Carmen as I was ten years ago. Ten years, that was such a
long time ago. Yet, I could almost remember our laughter and fun like it was
just yesterday. My thoughts flew back to Kiara. She was the one who made me
believe in love again. I wondered what she was doing at that very moment. Suddenly
I wished that she was there with me.
"Hey are you okay?" I looked up into the sea of blue. I nodded. Then again, a part of me was guiltily enjoying her absence and Mel's presence.
"Could you give Mel a ride home?" Kevin asked at the end of the gathering. I nodded. We said our goodnights and hopped into my jeep.
"When are you going off again?" I asked. Mel kept quiet for a while.
"Not anytime soon." I was surprised. "The divorce was rather messy and I want a break from everything."
I nodded. I didn't push her to continue.
"Don't you wanna know what happened?"
"You'd tell me if you wanted to, whether I asked or not."
She looked at me in wonder. "You've changed." she started. "You used to be so outspoken and jovial when we last met. Look at you now. So cool and solemn, as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders."
Huh? Cool? I didn't expect that.
"People grow up, Mel." She nodded in agreement.
"What hurt you so much?" I stiffened as she rested her arm on my shoulder. "Hey, you could tell me. I didn't mean that you've changed for the worse, you just changed, that's all. And I have to admit that this aspect of you is also very attractive."
"We're here." I said. She took in the non-sequitur without any comments.
"Wanna come in for a while?" I started to shake my head.
"C'mon. Let's catch up. It's been a long time, and I wanna know what you've been up to." I gave in eventually. It wouldn't hurt. Although I feared that this growing attraction that I had for Mel was going to make some difference in my life.
Her apartment was rather barren. "I just landed in town yesterday." she explained. "Here, take a seat. I'll get you a drink." I plopped myself down on the couch and flicked the television on. She returned with my drink after a while and seated herself next to me. Too close. I felt hot. "So, Kevin tells me that you're seeing someone?"
I nodded. I thought she looked a little disappointed. Nah, couldn't be. I fidgeted a little. "What about you?" I asked.
"Me?" she half smirked. "After I got married, I realised that I didn't love him the way I thought I did. I guess I wanted to deny the fact that I preferred women. Things got ugly and well, here I am now, tired but finally free."
"Sorry to hear about that." I offered.
"Are you really?" I looked at her in surprise. What did she mean by that?
"Taylor, I'm really sorry for what I did. I got scared about how I felt and I didn't want it to affect my career. I know, it was selfish of me, but I was young. Too young. I guess I ran away from you. Then my career became my life. Come to think of it, I'm kinda wishing that I did things differently."
Oh no. I sat there unmoving. Oh yes. How was I feeling exactly? I took in a deep breath.
"Do you love her?" the question came suddenly. Wha-? Kiara?
"Kinda. I care a lot about her."
Mel smiled. "I'm glad."
She reached out and caressed my face lightly. I felt a jolt shooting through me. I didn't pull away even though my mind was screaming for me to do so.
"It was great seeing you again. I just wished that I had came back before you met her." she leaned over and captured my lips in hers. "I never stopped missing this."
God help me, but neither did I. Kiara's face flashed through my head. I pulled away after what seemed to be like an eternity. Wow. Some kiss. I think I needed to get away before I did something that would really hurt Kiara.
"I... have to go." I said, standing up and knocking over the drink. "Uhh... sorry." I muttered before sprinting out into the night.
It still tingled, where her lips met mine. I gave an unconscious
shudder and berated myself. The woman that I loved was Kiara and not Mel. She
was just someone from the past. Someone whom I loved. Someone whom I loved and
left me. Someone.... whom I still loved? Oh God. I forced myself to think about
Kiara. She was everything I ever wanted.
So was Mel. No! Uuhhh.... Kiara was real. Mel was just a fantasy that was never given the chance to be lived out. Kiara was the one who brought all the joy and happiness to my once empty life. She was the one who made me whole again. Her smile, her laughter, everything about her that made her special. She was the one.
Or was she? I shook my head. Why was this so difficult? I was merely encumbered by past affections, that was all.
Yes. I was sure that it was all there was to it. I pulled up to my house and saw Kiara asleep on the porch with Boxer and Tavin at her feet. I smiled tenderly. I ran up to her, relieved. Was that relief I felt? I could no longer distinguish how I felt.
"Hey." She smiled up at me sleepily. Her tousled hair was fanned out on the beach chair in which she fell asleep in. I bent down and kissed her, trying desperately to tell her how I felt in that one kiss.
"Wow. You missed me, huh?" She smiled when I broke off. She pecked me on my lips one more time and then clasped my hand in hers. "Pull me up?"
I obliged. "Let's go to bed." I pulled her to me and we walked into my home. Our home.
"Taylor, honey, are you awake?" I rolled over and buried my head under the pillows.
"Mmph." I mumbled from underneath.
"Hon..." I peeked out and met those green eyes peering at me seriously.
"Yup, now I am." I rolled into Kiara's embrace.
"I have something to tell you.." she started to say when my mobile's shrill ringing tone cut into her statement. She paused and handed my phone to me. I looked at her before taking my mobile hesitantly.
"Go ahead." she said and got off the bed. It was Melanie. I followed Kiara into the bathroom after I hung up the phone.
"What is it?" I encircled her waist from behind.
"Nothing..." she said. "It slipped from me." I was dubious but I did not push her.
"So, what are you up to today?"
"Need any help?"
"No, I can handle it myself." she said hastily. I shrugged. She was always rather protective of her work. "Okay then... Call me, alright?" she nodded with a smile.
Mel had arranged to drop by that afternoon. I strolled down the beach with my hands buried deep within the pockets of my bermudas. I had mentioned Mel to Kiara the night before but I kept the kissing incident to myself. It would be suicide if I told her that, for I would have to admit that I wasn't sorry about it. I felt guilty about it but I couldn't help it. My thoughts ran to my work. That, inevitably led up to Jonathon King. I didn't know how he had done it, getting those projects from me. I frowned. There was only one way that he could have outbiddened me. He must have got a spy in my company. But who? No matter. I would get the person sooner or later.
What did Jonathon King want? First the attempted assasination, and now this. If he had wanted to get rid of me permanently, he could have called for another assassin. And where did he get his financial backing? There was a lot of capital involved in what he was doing, and knowing situation, I would have to conclude that he had made himself some really influential friends. I sighed. I felt so tired, going through battle after battle each day. I stared at the deep blue sea. It was almost as blue as Mel's eyes. Wave after wave of the ocean hit the shore before rushing back to its gargantuan basin. It struck me right then that man had done nothing but destroyed the flawless beauty of nature that was bestowed upon us. Man, who claimed to make the world a better place to live in, could actually fulfil that claim best by ceasing to exist forever. The irony of life. I picked myself up from the sand and walked back to my house.
"Taylor." I spoke into my mobile.
It was Kevin. He had news for me. It seemed that Jonathon King was planning to takeover my firm. I almost laughed outright at that. Takeover Taylor enterprises? What did he have? The few projects that he had taken over were not sufficient to feed him with the ability to buy even a quarter of my empire. That was wildly ambitious.
"I have a buddy who's working in the force right now, and he says that they are eyeing him. They are in the midst of collecting evidences against him for embezzlement." I had guessed right. This was where his capital was coming from. Something still didn't seem right. Where did the attempted murder come in? Maybe it wasn't supposed to be murder. Then why? Why did he want to just hurt me? I couldn't figure that out.
"Oh yeah, King has got a new trusted helper, I heard. His younger sister." I shrugged. What was that to me? I was going to hang up on Kevin when he said "Funny thing is that she just came out of nowhere. I didn't think our guy was one that gave benefits to his family. She was an author, Ciara Woolf... ever heard of her?"
My blood froze. "What?"
Kevin didn't notice the change of tone in my voice. "Her real name is Kiara Paterson, formerly known as Stacey King. I checked up on her, she's clean. Changed her name because some ex lover was stalking her..."
Everything he said after that was lost to me. I muttered a thanks and hung up. That explained for the deliberate hurting. It was all a conspiracy from the beginning. A plot to let her get closer to me. A plot...
Oh God... I felt faint. I walked numbly to the couch and sat down. I couldn't feel anything for a while and then the feeling of anger and betrayal welled up within me like a white ball of fire. I felt consumed. My vision was blurred and I brushed my hand across my eyes. Damp. I was crying for that bitch? Unbelieveable. My lips curled up in a snarl and I punched the glass coffee table that was standing offeningly in front of me. I put all the rage and pain within me into that hit and the glass broke into a million pieces. I could hear the dogs barking at the destruction but I couldn't care less.
The shock that ran up my arm after the initial impact sizzled for a while before the blood started to seep through the multiple cuts that ran up my hand. Why?? I howled in silent anguish before burying my now tear stained face in my blood stained hands. Sobs racked through my body as the words sunk deep into me again.
"Kiara Paterson, formerly known as Stacey King." I wished that it was all a dream. I wished that it was all a lie. I wished that Kevin would call me back to tell me that he had gotten it all wrong. Hell no... Everything fit in so nicely. Everything. There was no book. She was using that time to gather information from me. Information that her brother needed and wanted. There was no research, she made that up to meet up with her brother.
How could I have been so blind? I didn't want to see anything. I didn't want to believe that she would betray me. Suddenly I realised that I wasn't alone. Mel had entered and found me all bloody and crumpled on the couch. All I heard was an odd buzzing sound around me when she opened and closed her mouth. My hand hurt, but it felt like it wasn't a part of me at the same time. I felt oddly disconnected from the pain, yet intensifyingly in touch with it. I looked numbly at Mel as she tended to my wound. I pulled my hand away from her roughly and winced at the shot of pain that pull earned me.
"Leave it alone, leave me alone!" I shouted out at her. I did not want her to see me in this state. I tried to get past her but she blocked me.
"Carmen, what happened? Talk to me, dammit! Why would I leave you alone? Would you leave me alone if you were me?"
Too many words. I was getting a headache trying to understand her with all the buzzing around me. I started shaking my head, new tears falling down my face.
"Aww... What happened...?" Mel softened her tone and wrapped me in her arms. I stood there crying for a very long time.
I was supposed to be strong. Invulnerable. The sayings were true. People who hurt you most are those you loved most. Mel sat with me till evening. She didn't ask me what happened again. She merely spoke of silly things, like getting caught in the jam, and having burnt toasts for her breakfast. I knew that she was trying to make me forget whatever was bothering me. I appreciated her presence but it didn't help much. Boxer and Tavin sneaked up on me softly, sniffing at me and licking me cautiously.
"Hey." I whispered hoarsely at them. Mel smiled.
"Do me a favour?" I asked after some time. She nodded.
"Let them stay with you for a while, will you?" she nodded again, and didn't question my request. I forced a smile for her.
"Thanks." she smiled back and touched my cheek lightly. "No prob."
I sat alone on the couch after Mel left. I had to think. I got up slowly and walked into the bedroom. I threw everything of Kiara's in it and got my jacket. I never wanted to see her again. I would stay at my office for some time. I sped over to Kiara's and left her belongings in her living room. I put her keys on the table and took one last look at the apartment. Some of the happiest days of my life was spent there. It hurt to think that it was all a lie to her. I gritted my teeth and left.
I didn't know where I was headed. I took my jeep everywhere there was to go. Downtown, into the neighbourhoods, into the park... I saw old ladies seated on their porch, enjoying the evening breeze. I saw children running around with their baseball bats and playing catch. Men and women hurrying home after a long day's of work, some with frowns on their faces and others with anticipating smiles. I felt so empty. It was as if I was hollow within. Everytime I fell in love, something drastic would happen. First, Mel left me for her career. Then Luke left me for a better place. Now, Kiara betrayed me. Kiara, who was once the embodiment of it all. Love, sex, happiness. I never knew that betrayal hurt that bad. I let the music wash over me as I sped along the never ending roads. Would I forever be tainted with that pain? I felt like screaming. Felt so useless, letting something like that get me down. Felt so helpless, letting love rule my life the way it did. Felt so worthless, accepting all the fairy tales that I wanted to believe. Finally, I pulled up at a convenient store and bought some beer. The night was spent in my jeep with empty beer cans and a disjointed sleep.
Night after night since I found out about Kiara's true identity was spent in my office. I had converted the extension to my office into a bedroom of sorts, but that place was not frequented either. I slept on my desk most of the time. I couldn't afford to let my company go down the drain. Jonathon King would not take this away from me either. Kiara had tried to call me several times but I did not take her calls. I had my mobile number changed and only my secretary, Mel and Kevin had that new number. Mel had dropped by a couple of times to see if I was alright. I wasn't. But I wasn't about to let her know that. I didn't think that Kiara would go as far as to come look for me at my workplace when she did. I didn't think that I had any more use for her. Or did I?
"Taylor, what the hell does this mean? You want a break up, is that it? I thought we had something special going on here." I looked up from my files into the beautiful eyes of the woman I still loved. And hated. I did not answer her. My secretary was behind her, busily saying that she could not fend off Kiara. I waved her out and she complied.
"Is this how you end your love affairs? Was this how you ended it with Julia?"
I flinched. She was angry and on the roll. How unbelieveable. She was having the time of her life reprimanding me when she was the bitch.
"Answer me, Taylor!"
I flashed my eyes at hers. "What do you want me to say, Stacey? Or should I address you as Ms. King?" I would never forget her look of shock as I said that.
"How... I... How did you find out?" she sputtered. Then she recollected herself and shouted, "You checked up on me, Taylor?! How could you do that, you jerk?"
Jerk? I was getting just a little heated up here. She had the nerve to call me a jerk? "Think what you like. Game's over." I dismissed her coolly. I called for the guards. I didn't want to hear anything else from her anymore. I felt so disgusted and appalled.
"No, wait... Taylor, I'm sorry... I didn't know what I was saying... You have to let me explain." I didn't think there was a need to.
"Show Ms. King out." I said in the coldest tone of voice I could muster as the guards arrived.
"Taylor... Please!" she continued pleading.
"Cut the act, Kiara. There's no more need for that. Did anyone tell you that you were a good actress too? Add that to your list of talents." I managed curtly before she left. It was only then that I allowed my tears to fall. Never would she see how much hurt she had caused. Never.
There were so many accusations that I had wanted to hurl at her. So many answers that I wanted to know. That aching feeling, pulsing feel within my chest. Scenes of Kiara and I kept replaying themselves in my head. I couldn't seem to shut them out. Wherever I went, whatever I did, it all reminded me of Kiara. Kiara, with her reddish blonde locks and smiling emerald eyes. Kiara, laughing with me, Kiara holding me. Kiara, who was actually Stacey King. I snapped out of my reverie at that. I was going crazy. I thought I was strong but I was wrong. I thought I could handle it, but it got me where it wanted. Vulnerable. Again. I tried to turn my pain into anger and anger into violence. Physical hurt helped but did little to sooth that endless throbbing pain within. It was so hard. Love was so hard. So I decided to do something that only cowards did. I decided to run away from it all. To think things through. Basically, to escape.
I awoke to the sound of someone talking. Fumbling about, I peered out from under my covers. Where the hell was I? The surrounding looked so unfamiliar. Then I realised that I was at my office. I sat up on the bed and yawned. I flipped the television switch and padded to the bathroom.
"...this morning, Mr. Jonathon King of Zorg® Enterprises was apprehended..."
I poked my head out of the bathroom, eyes narrowing. I was halfway through brushing my teeth, but I went back to my bed and sat down, mesmerised by the television screen. Kiara was on television, walking beside Jonathon King. My heart wrenched. It was silly, but I hoped that nothing happened to her. I did not wish anything bad to happen to her even if she did make use of me.
The newscaster started talking about some robbery, and I quickly lost interest. Now that Jonathon King was out of the way, I had every reason to take a break. I sighed as I rinsed my mouth.
"Hey, can I come in?" I turned around. It was Mel.
"Hey." I smiled wanly. She closed the door behind her.
"What's up?" I asked, wiping my face with the towel. My hair was unkempt and I was in an elmo t-shirt and shorts. I looked like a six year old girl awoken in the middle of the night whereas Mel looked absolutely breathtaking as usual in her jeans and tank top.
"Just wondering if you wanna go for some coffee or something. Haven't seen you around lately." I raked my hand through my messy hair and searched for my brush.
"Any trouble with my babies?" she shook her head, still smiling.
I spotted my brush and jumped on it. "Ah hah!" I said, triumphantly. Mel gazed at me in amusement.
"What?" I asked, beginning the act of brushing my hair. I think I needed a haircut. This mess was hard to control.
"Nothing. So, how about it?"
I paused in mid stroke. "How about you and me go away for a vacation? We'll just drive to nowhere and stay there for a while or something... Maybe just sleep on the roads or something."
Her brow rose skyhigh. "What?" I asked, tying my hair up. Yup, a hairdresser was definitely in need.
"Nothing, I... sure!"
I was sure she was rather surprised in my change of mood. I was rather evasive the past few days and no one knew what was wrong with me. Mel assumed that I was just getting over someone and I didn't correct her assumption. I was, in a way. She didn't have to know who and why and how.
"Great." I said with a sunny smile. Time to get on with my life. I would get over you, no matter how much it takes, Kiara. I refused to think of her as Stacey. It was foreign to me. I walked to Mel and said,
"Why don't you go get a few things together and i'll go pick you up in about an hour's time?" she nodded. "Oh, and we'll take my babies too, okay?"
She grinned. "See you in an hour, Taylor." she said before she left.
I threw a couple of things into my backpack after Mel left. Most of my things were back home, and I never did return to that place after that day. I would have to drop by some stores before going to Mel's. I left a couple of instructions with my secretary. Most of my jobs were taken over by a few of my trusted subordinates anyway. I was thinking of going into a partnership with them. Whatever it was, I would take the time away to think it over. I heaved a sigh of relief and went to the basement carpark. As I pulled out of the carpark, I failed to see a blue chevy containing a certain blonde driving in.
Mel was waiting for me when I arrived. I was late, as usual.
Sitting on the curb with a pair of sunglasses propped up her head, Mel smiled
when she saw me. "Thought you might be happy to see them." I looked at my babies.
"Hey..." I missed them so much. I was never away from them for this long. Boxer
and Tavin scampered around me, almost mad with joy, and Velvet all but leapt
into my arms. "Wow. I suppose I was missed." I grinned, petting all of them.
"Ready to go?" It was a redundant question. I put them into the backseat of my jeep and Mel hopped in.
"Where to?" she asked.
I shrugged. "Let's see... We'll toss the coin. Heads, we'll head north. Tails, we'll head south." she grinned, catching on with my playful mood. She flipped the coin and we got tails. "South." she said. I nodded. Okay then... Next song we hear, if it's rock, we'll go east, if it's country, we'll go west." I had the honour of tuning the radio. It was a rock song.
I revved up the engine and shouted "Southeast it is! What about Mexico?" Mel laughed. "Whatever you say, you're the driver, Taylor." I looked into her eyes and smiled a genuine smile. Maybe it wouldn't be that difficult to foget after all.
We sped along the highway, singing and laughing like little children. I had not been so carefree for a long time. Everytime my thoughts flicked to Kiara, I would turn to look at Mel and force myself to stop thinking about her. By evening, I hardly had to do that anymore. I dreaded nightfall. That was when everything was quiet and I had a lot of time to think. But for now, I concentrated on the road and the jokes that Mel was telling me. If only Mel had returned a little earlier, and Kiara came by a little later. But then again, I did not regret loving Kiara. Did not regret still loving her. The only regret was that she did not love me. However, that couldn't be helped. I was resigned to the fact that love could not be forced.
I turned to Mel and was struck by her beauty once again. "Yeah?" she was smiling at me.
I tilted an imaginary hat and replied "Your wish is my command, my lady. What would it be? French, Italian or Chinese cuisine?" she giggled.
"Uuhhh... What about chinese?"
I gave her a mock frown. "That would be rather difficult, my lady... The chinese cook here just hurt her hand and won't be able to give you the delicacy you wish for."
She smirked. "Okay, French."
I frowned again, enjoying our playful banter. "That, too is quite difficult. The uhhh... snails in this region is a little skinny."
Mel burst out laughing. "What the hell has that got to do with anything, Taylor?"
I laughed at myself too. "Uuumm.... Well, french.... Escargots.... You know.."
She snickered. "Yeah, yeah. Smart aleck." I tilted my imaginary hat again. We had hamburgers for dinner.
We stopped for the night amongst the shrubberies a little away from the highway. "You sure you don't wanna go to a motel?" I asked a tired looking Mel.
"No, no, loving every minute of this. I much fancy the wild you know... Just didn't have the chance to be..."
"...close to it?" I finished for her. She nodded with a smile.
"Okay then... Let's gather some wood and start a campfire."
Soon, we were huddling around a nice cheery campfire.
"I wonder how those people in the olden days managed to start a campfire with no zippo fluid."
Mel smirked, turning the marshmellows on her twig over the fire.
"And cars... how the hell did they survive with just horses? didn't they ache? Oh, and mobile phones. without..."
"Taylor, enough." I looked at Mel who was giving me 'the eye'. I started laughing.
"I was just... discussing technology and the improvement man made through time, that's all."
Mel tried to look exasperated. "Yeah right. You were trying to kill me with boredom. Now, eat your marshmellows." she said sternly.
I took the twig from her and twirled it in my uninjured hand. I was trying to keep babbling so that I didn't have time to let other, more unwelcomed thoughts in.
"Wanna talk about it?" Mel's statement caught me by surprise.
She gave me another look. "Taylor, I can see that you were trying to stop thinking about something alright? I'm not stupid. And this trip, it's purpose is for you to escape from something. Someone. But Taylor, don't you know that you can't escape from reality? From your mind? From your heart?"
I kept quiet. She was right. How could I run away from something that was deeply planted within me? it was worth a shot, though.
"So, you wanna talk about it?" she asked gently. I met her warm gaze that was studying my face for some indication as to whether I wanted to share my problem.
"It's not really anything anymore." I said, shrugging. "I gave something important to someone and someone just broke it." she nodded hesitantly.
"Rrright." she dragged her 'r'. "So what was it that you gave?"
Another pause. Then I tried to say it as nonchalantly as I could. "My heart."
Mel's gaze softened. "Oh, Taylor..." she didn't think that I would tell her the truth. She thought that I would try to cover my story with a lie. She sat closer to me and put her arms around me. As I laid my head on her shoulder, she stroked my hair gently. "I'm sorry to hear that."
I smiled cynically in her embrace and sat up straight. "What's there to be sorry for?" I asked, trying to keep any trace of emotion from my voice. "You didn't do anything. This time." she looked at me in surprise. I averted my gaze. I had said too much.
"No, wait." she started. "What did you mean by that?"
Was she stupid? "I loved you, Melanie Johnston." I muttered solemnly before getting up. "I'm... taking the animals for a walk." I said, leaving Mel alone by the campfire.
I had finally said it. I never told her how I truly felt for her. She never told me how she felt either. I supposed we were still unsure of everything at that time. Boxer and Tavin were bounding in front of me and lazy Velvet was settled on my shoulder as usual. After I said what I said, everything began to look just a little bit clearer. I said I loved her. Which meant that I didn't anymore. Could I start again? love her again? I didn't know. That was one area in which I did not want to think about as yet. I thought back on the times we shared and smiled wistfully in the night. It was shortlived but beautiful. All the times she would come over to my place and spend the day. The silly things we did, the funny things we shared. It started out as friendship. And it grew to be something more. Something so much more that I supposed she couldn't handle. That was why she left. I had stopped wondering if she had loved me. But now, the insistent question came back to me once again.
I stopped walking and sat down on a fallen log. I stroked Velvet absently as I thought of Kiara. The first time she confessed her love to me, we were seated on a log. On a beach. I snorted. I didn't know what to believe anymore. She was either a darn good actress or she really loved me. But everything that had happened only went to prove the former. I sighed. I could hear Mel moving in the camp. I made sure that I was in hearing distance of the camp in case anything happened. I picked myself up and called for Boxer and Tavin. "C'mon boys! Let's go back!"
Mel had laid out our sleeping bags when I returned to camp. They were lying side by side. I raised a brow.
"Taylor, I think I have to tell you something." We sat down on the bags as she tried to find the words. "I... I'm sorry that I left like I did. Between you and my dream, I chose my dream. I didn't know how to handle what I thought I was beginning to feel, and I ran. And like I said earlier, there's no running from reality. Ten years later today, I realised something I should have seen years ago. I made the right choice but went the wrong way." I looked a trifle puzzled. "I was right to choose my dream, Taylor." she explained. "But I never realised that my dream was you."
I sucked in my breath. "And now..." she continued awkwardly, "I'm back to correct my mistake. But I don't know if I'm too late. Am I, Taylor?"
I looked at the fire that was burning low. This was it. The ultimate confession. I had to make a choice, as to move on or stay behind. I had every reason to accept Mel. Then it hit me. "Mel..." I held her hand in mine gently. My gaze flickered to hers. I took in a deep breath and continued, "Don't doubt for a minute what I said. I meant it when I told you that I loved you. It was a hellish time when you left. I had hopes of you returning, and I never stopped thinking about you. You know, I used to listen to this song when we were going out and I wanted so much to sing it to you one day..." my voice trailed away and she squeezed my hand gently.
"Sing it." she said softly, as if a something louder would spoil the moment.
"Well, here goes."
"Just the other day
I tried to find the words to say
so I sat right down to write myself a letter
a letter I would never send
I walked by your house again
but I held it in my hands cos' it's just too early
to let you know
that my heart is falling deeper
deep in love with you
and if you only knew
I see heaven in your eyes
and it puts me in a trance
a new perspective of who I am
it happens when I glance
I get defenseless in your world
and I dont' know what to do
when we're together
I can spend forever
looking at you
it's heaven in your eyes..."
"It's by Tommy Page." I said awkwardly as she smiled through her teary eyes.
"Thank you. It's beautiful." I looked away awkwardly.
"Anyway, back to what I was saying... you left and life went on. I loved Luke, I really did, but he..." I bit back my tears that were threatening to fall. I hated these sensitive talks but I trudged on. "And then I met Kiara." my voice went lower at the mention of her name. I didn't try to disguise my tone, nor stop the feelings that were flooding through me.
"She was the first person after all these years who made me feel again. After Luke, I had all but shut out the emotional aspect to my life. I didn't think it was necessary to feel anymore. It was weak to feel, to love. But she came along, and she opened the door. I loved her. Still do. Very much." I looked at Mel, waiting for her anger or something akin to it but instead I only saw understanding and love.
"Which is why I... it may be a little too late, Mel. I need to get over her before I can allow myself to think about something else." she nodded.
"Silly, I'm not asking you to accept me right here and then. And it's not too late. I can feel it. We don't have to jump into anything. I just wanna be here, with you, through everything." I shook my head slightly. No, this was not what I was trying to say.
"Mel... I love Kiara... And I doubt I could ever stop. I don't know if I could. Even though I'm... hurt and bleeding... I don't know if I could heal, if Iwant it to heal. I don't want you to do this. It isn't fair. And... I don't feel for you the way I did anymore. I'm still attracted to you, there's no doubt about that... But... What I feel... It's changed." she touched my face lightly.
"Okay Taylor..." she paused for a long while before saying "You made your point. As much as I regret this, I guess I have to live with it. I wish you happiness, Taylor. And please don't forget, i'll always be here." I nodded with a small smile.
"Yeah." She smiled too and we hugged each other. So there we were, two people who once loved each other but were too afraid to tell. Two people holding each other, feeling sorry about lost chances and what may have been but never would be. Two people who knew that they would forever have a place in each other's hearts.
We had gone right up to Mexico and then turned back to where we started. Mel was right. There was no running away. At least something had come out of the trip. At least I had finally faced my demons and confronted my feelings. I didn't know how long it would take me to get over Kiara, whether I wanted to get over Kiara, but that wasn't important anymore. I didn't have to meet any deadlines. I had held a meeting with my staff when I returned. With the partnership agreement settled, I felt more relieved and less burdened. I had learnt that wealth and power weren't everything there was to life. I might have learnt it the hard way, but I was grateful for it nevertheless.
"Must I prove to you
how good we are together
must I say the words"
"Ms. Taylor, a Ms. Paterson has been coming everyday to look for you since you took off." I looked at my secretary in surprise.
"Everyday?" I asked. She nodded. I was gone for almost two weeks! What did Kiara want anyway. I had no more use for her. Jonathon King was behind bars... Unless... She wanted to make me fall from my pedestral like her brother did? I felt so tired, trying to figure her out. Her actions, her words... I didn't know what to make of everything anymore.
"She's here to see you again, Ms. Taylor." I frowned into thin air. My secretary waited nervously for my answer.
"Send her in." I said in a resigned tone. I could not refuse this chance to see her, even if she was here for ulterior motives. Moreover, I wanted to see what it was that she still wanted from me. My secretary nodded and hurried out of my room. The door opened slightly and my heart almost stopped when Kiara stepped in. I bit my lip. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Funny how she still made my heart skip a beat even though she looked really run down. Her strawberry blonde hair was let down and it framed her face. She had such a look of intense sadness in her eyes that my heart almost went out to her. Then I recollected myself. Why should I be feeling sorry for her when she was the one who hurt me? I gathered my emotions as well as I could and shut them tightly within me.
"How should I address you?" I asked, rather formally. I could see her cringe.
"Call me Kiara, Taylor." she sighed, looking very tired. "May I?"
I nodded and she sat down opposite me. I waited silently for her to start talking, but she just stared at me. I was feeling rather awkward. After a long pause, she said, "I'm sorry, Taylor."
I sighed and said in a resigned tone, "I've stopped blaming you, Kiara... Forget it. If you just need this to get it off your conscience, you've got it." I was truly feeling very burdened with all the accusation and hate directed at her. It was tormenting me more than what she did was.
"No, you don't know everything."
A rush of anger rushed through me. "Of course I don't. I never did, did I?" she grimaced at my tone of voice.
"So I'm here today to tell you. Everything." I didn't know if I wanted to hear it. But I kept quiet. "Jonathon King is my brother. That's the truth. I never wanted to hide it from you, but I had to. It is also true that I was his informant. I betrayed you. And for that, I deserve whatever you say about me. But everything else I told you was the truth. I really love you, Taylor. That, was no playacting. Now, the reason I did everything I did was because of my job."
I blinked. "Right. You're a writer. For that you had to betray me? For your story?" I was incredulous.
"No, Taylor. I'm a cop. An undercover cop. Whoever told you about my past could never have checked out that I was a cop because the file was hidden. I had to bring my brother to justice. And for that, I had to gain his trust. The only way to do that was to do whatever he wanted me to."
I sat there, taking in whatever she was throwing at me with little fervour. How much more did she hide from me? A cop? That was way off my imagination. "And how do I know that you are telling me the truth this time?" I felt so stupid. How could I ever trust her again?
"Because my job is done. I have put him behind bars where he's supposed to be."
"And you're telling me that you're happy to do that? Bringing
your brother behind bars?" I was confused and angry.
"No Taylor... It sucks. But it's my job. And I know that Jon deserves what he got. He is my brother and I feel sad for him, but he broke the law, Taylor, and I have to bring him to justice."
"And I was the pawn here, wasn't I?" bitterness seeped into
"I'm sorry, Taylor... But I really love you. It wasn't a lie... Everything that I felt with you was real. Please give me a chance, give us a chance."
"There's no longer any circumstances, are there? You would only come clean with me if the circumstances are right. What does that make me? You think you can just waltz back into my life and pretend that nothing has ever happened? that you were just doing your job and I just happened to be a pawn that you fell in love with?"
"Taylor..." her voice broke. She averted her gaze and tried not to cry. "These past few weeks were hell for me. I missed you and I hurt... So bad. I'm so sorry that I've hurt you, but I never wanted to. All I'm asking for is a chance to make up for it. I still love you, Taylor and I don't think I'll ever stop. I can't get over it. I can't get over you."
I sucked in my breath. "You're looking to get over with it? After what you did to me, you're looking to get over me?" My head was hurting so bad I felt it was going to burst.
"No!" she exclaimed as I stood up from my seat and went over
to my window, trying to hide my tears. I tried to focus on the buildings that
once gave me a soothing feeling, but I still felt hot and bothered.
"Taylor, do you still love me?" she asked after a short while. I did not answer her. "Taylor... Please..." she walked over to where I was. She rested her hand on my arm. I didn't pull away. "Taylor?" she asked, inquiringly.
I turned and looked into her watery eyes. For this woman I would give up everything. No matter what she did, I still couldn't deny the fact that I loved her. I could feel it in my very soul. I pulled her into my arms as she started sobbing in relief. It felt so right to have her in my arms. It felt so right holding her, breathing in her scent and just being with her.
"Yes, I do still love you." I choked out as she hugged me closer. "No more lies, Kiara. No more deception." she nodded in my embrace, face buried in my shoulders.
"I promise, Taylor." came her muffled voice. Then she looked up at me and repeated, "I promise, my love." as I looked into her eyes again, I knew. It was right there, all along. The missing part to my life. She made me whole. I held her to me again, not willing to let go. Facing the same view that looked right back at me everyday, I gave a sigh. The search was over. What I was looking for was here in my arms. For eternity.
on to the sequel no matter what
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