Anita entered Ted’s office and dropped a file on his desk.
“Thank you,” he said, not looking at her.
“Well, I guess this would be the last time I’d be coming here.” Ted glanced at her.
“Good news, huh? Your girlfriend called to relieve me of my duties here. You didn’t have anything to do with that, did you Ted?”
“You’ve caused enough damage, Anita; your services are better needed at my father’s company.”
“Of course. Wait, when you say damage, you don’t mean Monique knows about…you know what, right?” Anita asked. Ted glared at her.
“Of course you didn’t; be rest assured, whatever happened between us will stay between us unless…”
‘Unless what? You wouldn’t dare blackmail me, would you?” Ted asked.
“Blackmail you? That would be so stupid and short-sighted of me, don’t you think? Why settle for crumbs when I can get my hands on the whole loaf?” Anita said with a smile. Ted stared suspiciously at her.
“What’s going on, Anita?”
“Nothing…for now; but who knows what tomorrow holds, right? Anyway, when your sweetheart returns, tell her I said thank you for giving me the opportunity to work here with you. I’ll never forget it. Bye, Ted.” She left the office.
Ted entered the office to find the secretary busily searching for something.
“Good morning,” he greeted. She looked up at him.
“Good morning, sir,” she responded and entered his office hastily.
Puzzled, he followed. There sat Lucia, typing on the computer.
“I’ve found it, madam,” the secretary said. Lucia took it from her.
“Thank you; I’ll call you if I need anything.” She nodded and left.
“You’re back,” Ted said.
“Yeah,” Lucia said, getting up.
“Oh no, sit down.”
“No, that’s your seat.”
“We’re partners, Lucia.”
“I know but you’re the head and I should respect that. Please…” She urged. He sat down.
“How was the trip?” He asked, avoiding her eyes.
“It was okay; Allen said the coast is clear now. He recovered the tapes and he assured me they are all ashes now,” Lucia informed him.
“Good to know,” Ted said absent-mindedly and picked up the phone.
“Please come over,” he said and put the phone down.
“I’ll leave you to work then,” Lucia said and left the office. Ted looked up when the door closed.
At lunch time, Lucia entered the office with a bag of packed food. Ted was on his feet, picking up his keys.
“Going somewhere?” Lucia asked.
“Yeah, I’m going out for lunch.”
“There’ll be no need for that. I ordered some for us.”
“No, thanks; I’d rather go out.”
“But you always ordered in. I even got your favorite.”
“Well, things changed. It was rather unfortunate that you weren’t here to see it,” He said and walked out. Lucia stood frozen at the spot, mouth opened. She stared down at the bag in her hand. She called the secretary and gave it to her to take lunch. She thanked her profusely and left.
Ted continued to ignore her throughout the rest of the day. When the clock struck a few minutes after five o’clock, Ted shut down his computer and packed up his things.
“Ted, can we talk?” Lucia asked.
“Come on, you’ve ignored me all day. Don’t I at least deserve a little face time?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not really in the chatty mood.”
“Ted please…” Lucia pleaded as she leaned against the door. Ted sighed when he got to her.
“For at least five minutes.”
“Lucia, not now.”
“You said you wanted me to come back and here I am.”
“I wanted my fiancée back, not my business partner.”
“What are you saying?” Lucia asked, her eyebrow rising.
“I mean I want to spend time with my woman not my business partner.”
“And working hours are over now. I can be all you want me to be.”
“Not for some hours, all the time.”
“Fine, let’s just talk about this.”
“I don’t want to…at least not now.”
“How long are you going to punish me for running away?”
“Who said anything about punishment?” He reached behind her and opened the door, drawing her closer to him.
“Ted…” He drew back and left the office. Lucia sighed.
“So how was the office today?” Lucia’s mum asked.
“How do you think?” Lucia asked back, munching on some chips.
“Giving you the cold shoulder, I presume. He’ll come around. You should have seen him when he came over to find out where you were. He was really desperate.”
“So what, he’s just giving me an attitude now that I’m back?”
“He’s a man; give him some time to tend to his bruised ego. He’ll come around. Anyway, the family barbecue is this Saturday.”
“Oh no mum, I doubt we’d have settled our issues then. It would be awkward.”
“Not for us so that is your problem. You better sort yourselves out. Besides, we need to sit down together and plan…”
“Mum, we are on the brink of a nasty breakup and you’re still concerned about wedding plans?” Lucia asked.
“Young couples break up and make up all the time. Why would yours be any different? He’s madly in love with you; he’ll come around, trust me.”
“Your adamant attitude to have this wedding at all cost is costing me my relationship, mum. Please put it on hold.”
“We’ll see about that on Saturday,” Lucia’s mother said and got up.
“Please prepare me some tea and bring it to our bedroom, will you?” She said and went upstairs. Lucia stared at her phone and after a moment’s hesitation, she typed a text message, “Felt good being around you today. Have a good night. Love you.” She hit SEND to Ted’s number and sighed.
Ted read the message and put the phone down. He lay on his side and went to sleep.
On Saturday, Mrs. Baker had everything set for the family barbecue. Lucia was brushing her hair when her door opened.
“What are you hiding in here? The Bourbons are in,” her mother announced.
“What if Ted cancels our engagement and asks for his ring back?” Lucia asked nervously.
“Come on, don’t be silly. He won’t do that.”
“You have no idea the hell I’ve been through this week with him in the office.”
“You need to endure it; you shouldn’t have run off like that.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“I’m your mother; of course I’m on your side. Come on.” They went outside.
“Here is my lovely daughter-in-law!” Mrs. Bourbon said excitedly.
“Hello ma’am.” They hugged. She greeted Ted’s dad with a shake of the hand. He pointed to his son who was leaning on their car, busily playing with his phone.
“Maybe you could cheer him up.”
“I’ll try,” Lucia said with a smile and walked towards him.
“Hey there,” she said softly.
“Hi,” he said, not lifting his head.
“Are you going to join us?”
“Yeah, you go ahead. I’ll join you in a minute.” Lucia held his wrist with one hand and his chin with the other, forcing him to look at her.
“If you still believe in us and think that I deserve another chance, please hold off the silent treatment for now and let’s have a good time with our families. I’m begging you, Ted.” She blinked pleadingly. He sighed.
“Thank you,” Lucia said gratefully as she held his hand. They walked towards where their parents were gathered.
“Looks like the angry lion has been appeased,” Lucia’s mother said.
“That is good news for us all. He was beginning to get me worried,” Ted’s mother said.
“You and me both.”
“My son does get sentimental sometimes but he always comes around,” Mr. Bourbon assured them.
“We just need a little pampering,” Mr. Baker said. The two older men laughed.
After they had all eaten and shared drinks together, Lucia cleared the plates. When she came back outside, Ted sat by himself, sipping his drink. Lucia walked to him and put her arms around him, kissing his neck.
“Are you all right?” She asked.
“Oh yeah, just wanted to clear my head.” She knelt in front of him and rested her arms on his thighs.
“Are you still mad at me for leaving town the way I did?” Lucia asked.
“A little yeah, but that is not the reason.”
“What is it? Is it the business, is something wrong?”
“No, the company is fine. I thought I was strong but I realized I was wrong when you left. I was completely vulnerable and weak and I let myself…”
“Whatever it is, we’ll work around it, Ted. I’m sorry for breaking my word to you by leaving. Whatever mistakes you made at the time is on me. But we’ll be fine, I know that we will,” Lucia said. Ted leaned forward and held both sides of her face. He stared into her eyes.
“What if this is a mistake? What if we get married and make each other miserable?”
“Why would you say that?” Lucia asked in a shaky voice, tears forming in her eyes.
“Because I’m not perfect,” Ted said.
“No one is; but your imperfections are part of the reason why I love you, Ted. Nothing can change that.” Ted was about to respond when his mother called out, “Ted! We are about to leave.”
“Yes mum.” He fixed his gaze on the face of the woman he would give up everything for. He kissed her forehead. They gazed at each other. He brushed his thumb across her lip. Lucia held onto his shirt.
“Got to go,” He said and got up. He helped Lucia get up. He put his arm around her neck and they joined their parents. They bid farewell to one another and Ted’s parents sat at the back seat.
“See you at the office on Monday,” Ted said. Lucia nodded. Slowly their intertwined fingers broke apart. He sat in the driver’s seat.
“I’ll call you when I find out something new,” Lucia’s mother said to Ted’s mother.
“Okay. Have a nice evening and thanks for the barbecue.”
“Thanks and you’re welcome.” They drove away. Lucia watched the car drive away. Her mother held her.
“Is everything okay between you two now?” She asked.
“I hope,” Lucia replied.