“Honey, you know the deadline is almost up, right?” Anita asked Ted. He looked up at her.
“What are you talking about?” “The McLean thingy. So if there’s anything up our sleeves, now would be the time to pull it out.” “Uh huh,” he said distractedly. “What’s on your mind anyway? You seem to be at outer space right now.”
“Oh no, I’m right here. So what do you suggest?”
“Find a way to grab the cake for ourselves, what do you say?” She said slyly and winked.
“I don’t know…I wish it didn’t have to come to this, you know? I’ve grown to like the Monique lady. She’s a pleasant fellow, isn’t she?”
“Uh huh…you don’t feel attracted to her, do you Ted?” Anita asked suspiciously.
“What, no; of course not. I mean she looks like a genuine friend material. Won’t you miss her? You two have also become close.”
“Well yeah but business is business and niceties do not count. I’m sure she’s also planning with her dad on how to win this for herself.”
“That wouldn’t be a bad thing actually.” Anita cast him a stunned look.
“What? Why would you even say that considering how far we’ve come? I hope you’re not considering handing it to her on a silver plate because you find her cute.”
“Enough with the girly jealousy vibe, Anita. I think it would be good for her. This is her first project. She needs something she can be proud of.”
“Ugh…ugh, certainly not this one. What will you tell your parents?” “And who says they have to know?” Anita stared at him, stupefied. She chuckled.
“No, there’s more to this, isn’t there, Ted?”
“What are you talking about? I just want to help a friend out.” “No, it’s either you’re lying to me or you’re lying to yourself. Either way, you’re deceiving yourself if you think you’re merely thinking this out of the goodness of your heart. You like her, don’t you?” “What, come on, Anita.”
“I don’t, okay? Now, can we get back to the subject?”
“I won’t let you do this, Ted. I’ve worked too hard just to let someone else have it.”
“So has Monique. Everyone has worked hard on this thing. Everyone deserves a fair chance.”
“And it’s us against her. She’s outnumbered. Let’s just do this fast before her father smells anything. She’s still new in this whole thing. She wouldn’t even know.”
“I won’t let all my efforts go to waste, Ted.”
“But you’ll still get paid, right? Isn’t that what matters to you?” “What? Of course not. This is the family business.”
“Exactly, my family not yours so stay out of it. I would give you an extra something if that’s what would appease you,” Ted said. Anita shook her head in disbelief with her hands on her waist.
“Has she cast a spell on you or something? Because I’m sure this is not you talking.”
“It is me.”
“Well, you seem to forget that I’m going to be part of your family soon which makes this also my business so don’t tell me…” “Anita! Don’t let me repeat myself. I’m sure I made myself very clear and I know you’re a smart woman so don’t play the thickhead here, okay?” Anita stepped back in shock.
“I can’t believe this,” she said and turned away.
“Anita.” She stopped at the door. “And don’t you dare go whispering into my mother’s ears. You do that and the wedding is off,” he warned. Anita glared at him and left the office, slamming the door behind her. Ted sighed.
“You know your time with the Bourbons is almost up, right?” Lucia’s dad said, giving her a glass of water.
“Thanks; yeah, I realize.” She sipped.
“You don’t sound excited about it,” he remarked. She shrugged.
“I thought you would be glad about it.”
“I’m indifferent, really. I’ve grown to like both Ted and the Anita lady. But life goes on, right?” “Exactly, that’s the spirit.”
“I wonder what’s next after this project wraps up.”
“What do you mean? You keep working with me, that’s what.” When Lucia was silent, he added, “I hope you’re not rethinking about working with me, dear. I really do need you by my side.”
“I know dad but there’s a lot I need to learn. I think I’ve to enroll in some training course or something so I’d be sharp about this whole business thing.”
“I agree. I’d get right to it. I’ll find you the best school and program for you.”
“Thanks, dad,” Lucia said with a grateful smile. I need to find myself far from here anyhow after Ted’s wedding, she thought to herself. She has just a month till she ceases to be anything significant in his life.
Lucia entered the office to find Anita inside, her legs crossed on the table.
“Anita? What are you doing here at this time?”
“Just needed the peace and quiet to clear my head. You?”
“Why, you and Ted got into a fight?”
“You could say that.”
“It will be fine. The stress of organizing a wedding can get to you sometimes. I left something of mine here so I just passed by to pick it up. Here it is,” Lucia said and took the book off the table and put it in her bag.
“All right, I’ll see you tomorrow.” “Sure, Lucy.” Lucia froze and turned slowly and faced Anita who was looking at her coolly. “What did you call me?” “Lucy…short form for Lucia. That’s your name, right?” “Who…who told you that?”
“No one…I heard your dad call you Lucia the last time we met with Mr. McLean.” Lucia rolled her eyes.
“Nice name…why don’t you use it?”
“I do…but I prefer to be called Monique at least around professional circles.”
“Sure…your secret is safe with me.”
“Secret, what secret?” “Your name being Lucia; I thought that’s what you meant, that you don’t want others to know.” Lucia gave an uneasy chuckle.
“No, it is not like that. It is not a secret. I just don’t use that name…formally.”
“Okay…but Ted and I are more than professional contacts to you, right? We’re practically work buddies now, huh? Would you mind if I call you Lucia in his presence…?” Lucia flinched.
“Or tell him you’re also called Lucia Baker.”
“No…that won’t be necessary.” “Okay; as I said before, your secret is safe with me. Have a nice day, sweetheart.”
“You too,” Lucia said and walked out. She touched her chest and tried to control her heavy breathing.
“That…she figured me out. Damn it!” she muttered and walked away.
Anita smiled triumphantly.
“Just wanted you to know that I’ve you exactly where I want; in my palm. How things end between you and Ted depend on how far I allow it and right now, I’m almost out of patience. Sooner or later, I’m going to drop the bomb so hard that it would shake the very foundations of your wretched soul. Why the hell did you have to come out of whatever hole you were hiding? Why now?!” Anita said, hitting her fist so hard on the table with heavy rage.