”How did the Bakers know we wanted to acquire the McLean’s property?” Mike Baker asked Ted.
“I’m surprised as you, dad. I wanted this to take place as quietly as possible.”
“Unless McLean is trying to play smart-get to earn more by making us compete.”
“Like an auction?” Ted asked his mum.
“And can the Bakers win?”
“Mr. Baker is ruthlessly determined when it comes to his business. If he sees McLean as a worthwhile investment which it is, he’ll leave no stone unturned to get it.”
“Are you saying there’s no hope for us?” Ted asked in despair.
“Of course not; there is. I just want you to see the gravity of the situation. The earlier we get this done, the better. And it brings me to this, you need Anita to make this happen,” Mrs. Baker said. “Excuse me?”
“I know you two are on a rough patch right now but Anita has what it takes to get this done.”
“What are you implying, mother?”
“That you can’t do this alone; you need her.”
“Thanks for the advice, mum but that won’t be…”
“It is not a suggestion, son; it’s an order. So whatever you two have to sort out, do it fast. If you can’t put your personal issues aside, then perhaps you’re not fit to be the…”
“Sarah, it’s enough!” her husband interjected. Ted shook his head in disbelief.
“I can’t believe this,” Ted said and got up. He walked out of the room.
“That wasn’t necessary, Sarah,” Mike said.
“It’s about time he learnt to do things like a Bourbon, Mike. He’s capable of more than this.”
“I know that.”
“That will be all for now,” Ted said.
“You may go to your stations now.” The employees got up and began to leave.
“Anita?” She turned.
“Please wait for a minute.” Soon, the conference room was empty except for the two of them.
“I know I’ve been very cold towards you ever since I got back and I’d like to start afresh with you.” Anita’s face brightened.
“You mean you and me…”
“Hold on…don’t get ahead of me. Of course we’re not going to get together as a couple. That won’t happen again. But as long as we’re working here together, I don’t see the reason why we can’t be friends or at least acquaintances, don’t you think?” “Of course; I don’t expect us to just continue we left off. But I promise to win you back, Ted,” Anita said hopefully. Ted chuckled.
“Don’t bother; you’ll be wasting your time. If you can’t accept my friendship then fine…”
“No…of course I will.”
“Good; then we could go watch a movie or grab dinner?”
“That will be great. I get to pick the movie, right?”
“Okay; I’ll see you after work then.” She left. Ted sat. “If only I could get to see you just one more time…” he thought.
Lucia entered the mall. She found Allen sitting by himself, sipping a drink. She joined him.
“Thanks for calling me, Allen. I really needed to get out of the house.”
“Why, are you on lockdown?” Allen asked jokingly.
“Sort of; my mother has been watching me like a hawk like I’m going to disappear the next minute. It’s suffocating,” she sighed. Allen smiled.
“Then I guess I did a good thing today. Let me get you a drink,” Allen said and got up.
“Thanks, Allen,” Lucia said as she took out her phone.
Ted and Anita came out of the cinema. Anita held his hand tightly.
“That was a lovely movie, wasn’t it?” “It’s a typical romantic comedy-it was okay.”
“Come on! It was beautiful!” Ted shrugged. He suddenly froze in his tracks. “What is it, Ted? Did you forget something or leave something in the cinema?”
That scent-he knew that scent somewhere. Very mild but very compelling. Where has he smelled it? The thoughts were racing in his head.
“Ted? Ted, are you okay?” Anita’s voice broke through his thoughts and brought him back to reality.
“Oh yeah…something just came to mind; that’s all. Let’s go.”
“Here you go, Lucia…” Allen said, giving Lucia her cocktail. Ted’s head turned sharply at the sound of the name. There were a lot of couples around so he couldn’t make out who said her name. “Are you looking for someone?” Anita asked. He glanced at her. “No, I’m not. Let’s go.”
They exited the premises and sat in his car. What if Lucia was in the building? This could be his one and only chance of seeing her again. But how can he make her out since he doesn’t even know how she looks like?
Before he could change his mind, he got out of the car.
“Ted, where are you going?”
“I’ll be right back.”
“What?” Anita asked, getting out of the car.
“Don’t follow me, Anita. I’ll be right back, I promise.” He ran hastily into the mall.
“I have to get some clothes for work. My mother is insisting she comes with me but I don’t want her to,” Lucia told Allen.
“She’s just worried; she’s afraid that you lose your mind again and get lost.”
“Oh come on, I’m not that fragile.”
“I can take you round the shops here. Maybe you’ll find what you want.”
“Sure,” Lucia said and got up. Allen took her hand in his and they walked away. Ted ran to the spot where he had heard Lucia’s name. Yes, he now remembers. That was Lucia’s scent; he wouldn’t mistake that for anything. But the scent wasn’t there anymore. He looked around frantically. Where could she have gone? To the cinema, to the bathroom, where?
“That will look good on you, Lucia,” Allen said, pointing out a dress displayed on a mannequin. Lucia laughed.
The faint sound of her laughter reached Ted’s ears. He turned, seeking where the laughter came from.
“You’re silly, Allen. I can never wear that.”
“But you can. You are Monique Baker,” he said.
“You make the name out to be a very stressful one.”
“It is when your mother says it.” Lucia laughed again.
Ted’s eyes kept racing round. His eyes fell on a couple standing by a window. The lady laughing put her head on her partner’s shoulder. He was about to walk towards them when he heard his name. He turned.
“What are you doing, Ted? Are you okay?” Anita asked, clearly worried.
“I’m fine; I thought I heard someone’s voice…”
“Whose?” Ted turned back but the couple was no longer there. He sighed.
“Nobody’s. Let’s go.”
“I think it’d be better if I drove,” Anita suggested.
“Fine,” Ted said, handing her the car keys.
The drive home was quiet. Anita glanced at him periodically to find him in deep thought with intermittent deep sighs.
“It was her…I know it…If only I could have seen her face…” The car pulled over in front of Anita’s abode.
“I’d say thank you for the ride but I drove myself so I’d rather not say. Thanks for the hang-out, though. I enjoyed it,” Anita said. “I’m glad.”
Ted got out of the car and so did Anita. She gave him back his keys.
“Goodnight, Anita.” She leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
“I’ll see you at the office tomorrow,” he said and got into his car. He drove away.
“You’re just around…so near but yet so far…but I have hope now…I’ll soon see you again, Lucia Baker,” Ted told himself as he stepped hard on the accelerator.
“Just one step at a time…soon you’ll be mine again,” Anita assured herself as she turned towards her house.