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It was Bryan’s and Geena’s first month anniversary. I know not because I was keeping tabs, or because I received an invitation for another celebration. I doubt they’ll be inviting me to any special occasions in their lives anymore. I couldn’t care less. I know it’s their first month anniversary because that’s how long I have been smiling for real.
I have successfully stopped myself from thinking about Bryan and the what ifs and what could have beens. I know things happen for a reason and someday, I would be thankful that they happened this way.
I was beginning to smile more… and for real. Especially when I look at the ring on my finger and remember that I made one wonderful guy a promise… that I would allow myself to be healed. That I would believe in ‘ever afters’ again.
Whenever my mother calls, she asks about Ryder. I had to indulge her with make-up stories. And then when she makes an attempt to see the two of us together, I say that Ryder is quite busy with a new bar that he’s putting up and he may not be available at the time she wanted to see us. It always seemed to work… so far.
I didn’t see Ryder again, but I wanted to. I was hanging out at Oil Rig with my friends, always on the lookout for him.
“He really got under your skin, didn’t he?” John asked me once.
“No. I just wanted to see him and ask him how he is.” I lied. In truth, I think Ryder really did get under my skin that night I got under the sheets with him. Well, of course, who forgets their first? Maybe the types of Geena do, but I’m nothing like her. I had a momentary lapse of moral values, I gave in to one night of wonderful passion with my knight in shining Armani. How is that easy to forget?
“Why don’t you call him then?” He asked.
I did try to call Ryder. Once a day, I would stare at his number on my phone, make up a conversation in my head. I thought I would start by asking if he’s on duty at Oil Rig tonight and then conveniently plan a night out there with my friends so I can run into him. But I always chicken out. And so far, once a week, I have been with my friends at Oil Rig, and he wasn’t there that it made me wonder if he still works there. But I was too afraid to ask his fellow bartenders.
“I can’t believe he refused to accept the ten grand.” Dannie said. “He could use it.” I wondered the same thing too. “Unless, you slept with him and he felt guilty about taking the money.”
Somehow, that comment irritated me so much that I wanted to slap Dannie across the face. But I prevented myself from doing so, because I know that it bothered me because… it was the truth. Sometimes, I think that maybe he didn’t take the money because he already took so much from me.
He may not be rich, but Ryder is a stand-up guy. He was a gentleman, and that made me admire him all the more. So much more that it made me feel guilty about sleeping with him. If it weren’t for that, he would have taken the money, and there was no reason for him not to. He needed it as much as I did. Especially after renting an expensive suit, an expensive car, and a luxury hotel room.
I stared at the ring on my finger again. Well, at least the ring didn’t cost him much. Still, I know it cost him a couple of bucks, while he got nothing from me. Well, just my virginity.
I had been trying to look for a new job, but somehow, the job market is not requiring much. I was already beginning to feel restless. Pretty soon, all the money I have set aside will be gone.
“You can always come back and ask Fiona to give you your job back.” Nicole said to me.
“I made her a millionaire, Nic. And she treated me like crap, not even giving me some consideration since she knew what I have been going through anyway!” I said.
“Pride!” Dannie rolled his eyes. “Are you happy to live off Adam’s charity for the rest of your life?
I sighed. “I’ll find something soon.”
When I got home that night though, I realized I was not as confident as I thought I was. Moreover, I realized that I am slowly getting scared. Weddings have been my life and if I don’t believe in dreams coming true or in ever afters, I don’t have anything.
I was sitting in Adam’s deck, drinking light beer when he joined me.
“How’s my favorite cousin doing?”
I groaned. “I’m still a bum as you can see. Nothing seems to be available in the market. I mean, weddings are lucrative, but these companies are not hiring at the moment. One wanted me so much, but felt I was overqualified. I told them I’m fine with starting from the bottom, they said they couldn’t do that to me. Sure! They would rather have me living in the streets!”
He took a deep breath. Then he said to me, “I have a client...”
“Sure you do! Congratulations.” I said dryly.
He snorted. “Listen before you comment please.”
I giggled. “Alright fine. Attorney Adam Ackers, you have a client, and so?”
“He wanted to invest in something.” Adam said. And for the first time, I thought he was having some difficulty in composing his sentences.
“If you want my advice, Adam… I can’t give you one. I’m struggling with my own life as it is.”
“What happened to listen first before you comment?” He asked in an irritated tone.
“Alright fine!” I giggled.
Adam took a deep breath and then he said. “He… has some extra cash, and he didn’t want to put it in a bank or on time deposit. He wanted to invest in a business venture, which he thinks is lucrative but he doesn’t have any idea about it. He asked me if I knew someone who knows how to manage the business.”
I stared blankly at Adam, waiting for him to finish his story. He stared back at me.
“Now, what?” I asked.
He sighed. “It’s wedding planning.”
“Oh!” I said, realizing now why he is telling me all these.
“To work for him? Yes!” I said excitedly.
“Not just work for him, Astrid.” Adam said. “He wants no part in managing it. He’s just the capitalist. He needs a partner who will start the business, manage it, work on it. An industrial partner. He will be the main owner but he needs someone to do the dirty work. And he needs someone who has a lot of experience in this industry. Who knows this business from top and bottom. Who already has contacts out there, and possibly who has a good track record in this type of business.”
I can’t feel my legs, literally. My hands are shaking and I can actually hear my heart pounding against my chest.
“Adam, Adam! Are you kidding me?”
Adam took a gulp of his beer. “I wish I was.” He murmured.
“Oh, my God! But that is huge!”
Adam nodded. “You’re not scared, are you? I mean, I thought you were pretty good.”
“I think I am! But I haven’t managed a firm before!”
“But you did do weddings before.”
“It’s my life, Adam. I made Fiona rich!”
“Well then now, make somebody else rich! Including yourself.”
My hands went to my face and I can feel how hot my face is.
“I don’t know if I can do it! I don’t know if I can make it that big!”
Adam reached for my hand and squeezed it.
“You have nothing to lose, Astrid.”
“Except your investor’s money.” I said nervously.
“In that case, you should be glad I’m your lawyer.” He grinned.
I sighed. It was a lot to think about. “Can I sleep on it first?”
Adam looked at me as if I was out of my mind. “This is a golden opportunity, Astrid. What is there to think about?” He asked.
I sighed. “This is too huge, Adam! I know I can do all the wedding stuff, but I don’t know if I can do all the managing! It’s just too much!”
Adam reached out for my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I believe in you, Ash. I’ve seen Geena’s wedding. It was lovely. You have what it takes. I just wish you’d have more courage to step up, take some risks. Explore the world, Ash. It’s big enough.”
“I’ll let you know tomorrow morning.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. Yesterday, I would take any job! Doesn’t matter if it’s making tea for the office secretary. Now, I am being offered the chance of a lifetime! And I don’t know what I am going to do about it! It’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying!
I remembered Ryder. He did encourage this dream. He told me that I had the experience, I had the contacts, the skills, the knowledge. I didn’t have the capital then. But now an opportunity just presented itself. Could I let it pass? Am I strong enough? Am I ripe enough for that kind of responsibility?
When I fell asleep that night, I did picture a wedding. One in the middle of a resort. Lighted balloons were floating on the shore, giving the entire shoreline a bright light. Guests were gathered in the middle of the venue. There were so much merriment and the place looked magical. There were flowers everywhere.
I saw myself in the corner. I was wearing a peach dress. I was looking at the place contentedly. I heard the bride and the groom say their thank yous to the guests.
“And to Astrid… thank you. For making the beginning of our ‘ever after’ so magical and wonderful.” They said to me.
I woke up from that dream with a big smile on my face. I know, that in spite of the pain that I still somehow feel when I think about Bryan and Geena, I am not the type of girl who will not believe in ever afters. I will always believe in it. And I will always come up with magical ideas to make dream weddings come true.
I stood up from my bed with renewed energy. I took a quick shower, had my breakfast and then gave Adam a call in his office
“He’s in a meeting. Can I ask him to call you back?” His secretary asked.
I paced the living room back and forth. I went to the deck, holding the cordless phone in my hand. I anxiously looked at my mobile to see if Adam opted to call me there instead.
After fifteen minutes and I have not heard from Adam yet, I dialed his mobile number from my cellphone.
It took him four rings before he finally answered.
“Have you decided yet?” He asked.
“You didn’t call me back!” I said in a demanding tone.
“Oh, I am sorry, Ma’am, but some of us have to make a living so we can keep the apartment that you are living in.
I groaned. “Okay, fine.” I took a deep breath. “So, what are the terms of this… offer? Do I get to meet this guy? Do I give him my CV? Will he interview me first?”
“Well, I have already given him your CV.”
“How did you get a copy of my CV?”
“You used my laptop and printer, didn’t you?”
“Oh, right.” I grunted. “So, what did he say?”
“Well, as his executor, I have the power to hire and fire people for him. So basically, he’s leaving the decision up to me. But I need to submit reports to him on a monthly basis. We need to hire a good accountant for this. He is just interested in your expenses and your revenue. The only two figures he will look at.”
“B—but Adam… you know that we might spend a lot at first to put up the business, do the registrations, rent out an office, buy some furniture, hire one or two assistants just to get the operation going. The business will not start making money until after six months or maybe even a year.”
“He understands that. That is also up to me to justify.” Adam said. “Don’t mess this up, Astrid! Or we’re both going to be fired! I’m handling so many of this guy’s investments, I can’t afford to lose my biggest client.”
I giggled nervously. “I know, I know! Too much pressure already, Adam!”
“I believe in you, Ash.” He said quietly. Then he sighed. “Anyway, the funds will be transferred to my account next week. You can start planning. I’ll take a look at it and see what you’re missing. I’ll take care of setting up the business name and getting the business licenses. For the first twelve months of your job, you’ll be getting a fixed fee although you will own thirty percent of the company. After twelve months, you’ll have the right to forty percent of the company’s profit.” Then he gave me the amount of my monthly allowance. “Good enough for you?”
I couldn’t breathe. It was… fifty percent more than what I used to earn with Fiona. Next year, I’ll have the same amount plus forty percent of the total profits? So it all depends on how big I can make it in one year.
“Are you still there, Astrid?”
“Yeah, yeah.” I breathed. “That’s perfect, Adam!”
“Good. And you’ll have full hiring and firing powers. I’m the only one who has the right to fire you though.”
I laughed. “I won’t let you down, Adam.”
He chuckled, “I’ll draw up the papers so you can sign them when I get home.”
Because I still couldn’t believe it was all happening, I stood up from my seat and I let out a loud shriek.
To be continued...
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