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It has been a busy week for me. I spent most of my time at home, drawing up the proposal I will submit to Adam. I haven’t done the whole organizational chart before, but I was glad to learn new things.
At the beginning, I intended to have one assistant first. I could train her. We would put up our own website first to give information about our company and our services. It’s going to be difficult not having a gallery of our jobs but I know we’ll get there soon.
I need to reestablish my ties with suppliers, photographers, videographers, couture, caterers, hotel managers and resort owners. I didn’t have bad blood with any of them so I think that would be easy.
The toughest job would be finding the right place. Fiona’s office was in a small building downtown. I didn’t like the location at first because the streets around that area were crowded. It’s tough to find parking and the office was not conducive for planning weddings.
I’d like to have a place somewhere in a quiet neighborhood that is easier to locate, with plenty of parking space, and would have a peaceful atmosphere.
By the end of the week, I was done with my initial proposal to Adam. He asked me to have dinner with him and we discussed the details in the restaurant. I was nervous as he was going through my notes.
Then he looked at me for a moment.
“What?” I asked nervously.
“You don’t need to buy a van?” He asked.
“Later. Not now. Not when I don’t have my first client yet. Too huge an investment.” I replied. “I could always rent transportation while I am getting established.”
“You have a portfolio before in your previous job, couldn’t you use that?”
I shook my head. “Don’t you remember that when you sign an employment contract, it states that as long as you are an employee of that company, all your works belong to them?”
Adam chuckled. “Silly me! And I’m the lawyer!”
“Besides, let’s leave Fiona Reeds alone. I have talent. I can do this. I don’t have to use her.” I said.
Adam nodded. “What about the location??”
“Will you come with me tomorrow? There’s a property ten blocks from your place that I want to look at.” I said.
“You’re going to put up your business in our neighborhood?” He asked.
I nodded. “I want a serene, peaceful place, Adam. I don’t want busy streets, and crowded buildings. Besides, couples who hire a wedding planner would go anywhere if they believe she’s good. I want my office to be comfortable to couples who would soon start their lives together.”
Adam. “Okay. But I have veto powers on this.”
I nodded. He looked at my notes again.
“Just two employees?” He asked.
I nodded. “For now. Remember, we need to build my client portfolio first. I’ll be willing to even do that first job for free! Well, the services will be free. They just need to pay for the expenses. I just need the shots that I can put up in my website. And then word of mouth. When things go well, I will hire another employee or two. I might even hire Nicole. And then we’ll see if we can afford to invest on our own vehicle and driver.” I sighed dreamily. “All that for later.”
Adam nodded. “What are you going to call it?” He asked.
I smiled at him. I know exactly what I will name this company. And this time, Adam will not have veto powers. That morning I woke up with a firm decision to go with this, I knew exactly what the name will be.
“Ever After Concept Weddings.” I smiled at him.
He raised brow. “Isn’t that a little bit too cheesy?”
I laughed. “Apparently, you’re someone who does not date or does not wish to settle down at all. You couldn't understand the phrase ‘ever after’ even if you tried, Adam. Leave it to me. If I was the bride and I heard that phrase, it would give me a sense of security that… this wedding will happen and my groom will not knock up my maid of honor first!”
Adam laughed. “Are you over them, Ash?”
“I’m smiling.” I said. “There’s still a bit of pain. But with all the excitement that is going on with my life, it was quite difficult to feel any angst or even remember that I am holding any grudge for anybody.”
Adam smiled at me. “Then I’m happy for you, Astrid.”
I smiled at him. “I’m happy for me too, Adam.”
“Wh-what happened to your… bartender?”
If I was genuinely smiling when I remembered Bryan and Geena, somehow, there was a pinch in my heart when I remembered… Ryder. With him, I remember a night of unforgettable passion.
He was a wonderful guy. He was probably the sweetest guy I’ve ever met. I wish I could just see him again, even for just once. So I would know that I did not just invent him. That he was not just a figment of my imagination. That he was real.
I shrugged. “He… disappeared. I didn’t see him again.”
I looked down on my food and started fiddling with my ravioli.
I felt Adam tilt my chin so I can face him. He studied my expression. His eyes narrowed. “I… told you not to fall for him, Ash.” He said soberly.
I rolled my eyes. “I did not fall for him, Adam!”
“Then why are you so glum?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know… he… we developed some sort of friendship that night. He’s… a great guy! I can’t help but wonder where he is now, that’s all.”
Adam sighed. “Easy to fall in love with devils like that.”
“Trust me, Adam. I did not fall for him that night. I just… wish I could thank him. Because if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t look at myself so positively now. He… was the first step to my… ‘getting better’ therapy.” Then I looked at Adam. “Well, you are too. Because if you didn’t loan me the ten grand, I would not be able to afford such an expensive date.”
He chuckled. “No worries. None wasted anyway, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah. He didn’t take a dime from you but still... if you didn’t open me up to the idea, I wouldn’t come across him in the first place.”
Adam smiled. “I’m not saying that he wasn't good for you. I’m just saying that you shouldn't fall prey to the charms of a… stranger.”
I smiled at him. “That’s how you start, Adam. Fall for the charms of a stranger. Flirt. Bond. Date. And then… take it from there.”
Adam nodded. “Yes. But like I said, don’t fall in love with a stranger.
I smiled. “Bryan was my best friend even before he was my boyfriend… and yet… he cheated on me. I think I’ve known Geena all my life and yet… she lied to me. Stolen the things that I thought mattered most to me then.”
“Then you didn’t know them very well.” Adam said
I sighed. “Yeah, and they didn’t know me very well either. More than that, I don’t think they respected me.”
“You know, Ash, you’ll hate me for saying this, but I honestly think that you were better off without Bryan.” Adam said. “I mean… if you didn’t find out about the affair, you’d probably be married by now. That doesn’t guarantee that he and Geena would stop seeing each other behind your back. You would have found out about it eventually. And that would break your heart even more. At least now, you’re halfway over them.”
I smiled at him. “And I wouldn’t be able to do this without you, Adam.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I’m not a saint. I had to choose between you and my half-sister.”
“Why did you choose me?”
“Because I love you both, and I had to choose between who was right and who had crossed the line.”
“Fair enough. If I steal Bryan away from Geena now, you’d probably kick me out of the house.”
“After I give you a good beating.” He nodded.
I laughed. Then I shivered. “I couldn’t imagine myself being with Bryan now. It feels… weird now. I think I’m happier if I don’t think about him… them at all.”
“Then you’re over him.”
“I’m still mad at them. I don't think that means I’ve fully recovered.”
“Then use that anger to keep yourself from backsliding. To keep moving on… keep moving forward.” Adam said.
I looked at the ring on my finger. I knew I’m closer to keeping my promises to Ryder. I had healed… halfway. I was learning to love myself again. I was starting to feel good about myself and this business venture… is slowly making me believe in ‘ever after’ again.”
“Did he give you that ring?” Adam asked.
I smiled. “Ryder? Yes.”
“Very nice for a bartender… who didn’t take a dime of my money.” He said coolly.
I laughed. “Why don’t you like him? He’s a wonderful guy, Adam. And he’s smart. He’s funny. He’s romantic.”
“See? And you said you didn’t fall prey to his charms! You don’t know him, Ash. Are you not afraid of someone who could spin a tale like that so perfectly? Could look at your parents straight in the eye and tell them he owned a couple of restaurants in New York when… as far as you know… he makes his living getting people drunk!”
“He lied for me, Adam.” I said. “He carried it out so well for my sake.”
Adam sighed. “Just… be careful okay?”
The cynical Adam gives me the creeps sometimes. Well, the last time he warned me about something, it turned out that my world was about to be ripped to pieces. But I know he’s seen how broken I was the last time. He just didn’t want me to go back to that hell hole again.
“You worry too much, Adam. I’ll be okay. Bryan and Geena taught me well.”
It was probably the first time in months that I really enjoyed going to dinner again. I was laughing so much and I was excited more than ever about the new things that are happening in my life.
Adam seemed to agree with my proposal so far. The next day, we drew up a contract. He’s been given special powers by his client to deal on his behalf so I signed the contract with him. It’ll be just like working for Adam. Thank God, we managed to fix our differences, otherwise, I may not be able to stand his sarcasms.
After signing the contract, he went with me to see the place I was talking about. It was a villa, a little smaller than his home. It also has a deck overlooking the beach.
“We could convert the whole floor into an office. I don’t think the landlord would mind.” I said. Adam still looked a little bit hesitant about the place. “This is going to be cheaper than a commercial space, Adam. We’re just starting. I think this is better for us.”
We went up the mezzanine floor. It has two rooms.
“And I can pay part of the rent because I can stay here.” I said.
“Really? You’re moving out of my place?” He asked.
I nodded. “It’s about time, don’t you think?”
“Then let’s sign the lease!” He teased.
I laughed. “Come on! You really hated living with me?”
He shook his head. “No. I just felt weird living with a girl. You know… panties and bras in the bathroom!” He shivered and I laughed.
“So, are you okay with this?” I asked him.
He sighed and then he nodded. “I think you’re on the right track saving as much as you can first.”
Although some renovations will be made, I am excited about the place. Adam signed the lease and issued the checks for the rent.
While they were doing the construction, I kept myself busy with posting for job openings and buying furniture. It was tough to find the best bargains that would fit the whole idea in my head.
Days and weeks zoomed by. I did not have time to think about anything else but my new job and my new life.
After three weeks, the website was done and I was quite happy with the results. The office space was also done.
I had one huge space where I would be putting three tables and laptops. I placed little panels to segregate one area to make it a working space. Then I had one whole area enclosed in glass for the meeting room. The front of the house had a little garden. The front had a window display, which I would decorate later. On the reception area, I placed comfortable white couches where guests can wait.
I was satisfied with the way things had gone. It was an office, and yet, it still gave the touch of home. I wanted my guests to be comfortable as soon as they walk in.
I hired a girl named Leilani. She doesn't have any experience with weddings, but she worked for a PR company before. She had done parties, product launches and other big events. She needed a change and thought the wedding industry was growing on rocket speed.
I hired another lady, Rose, a newly graduate who wanted an experience in telemarketing and administration. She would be my receptionist and my telemarketer. Website inquiries are also her responsibility.
“I am so mad at you!” Nicole said to me while we were having dinner at Oil Rig one night.
I haven’t been hanging out with them much since I was so busy with the business.
“Why do you have to hire another girl? I’m here!”
I raised a brow. “I can’t afford you yet Nic. The risks are high at the moment. I don’t want you to lose your living.”
“I might as well lose it once you enter the picture!” She said crossly.
“Don’t worry, Nic. As soon as I get this going and business picks up, I’ll hire you.” I smiled at her
“Why not hire me now?”
I laughed. “Hey, stay put. We’ll get there. I can’t afford your salary yet.”
She raised a brow at me. “You have to have more faith in yourself, Ash. Why can’t you do this? This is your life, your soul. In fact, you were my company’s soul! All we do now is recycle your ideas! It’s getting old. I miss working with you! New ideas, new concepts. I don’t mind taking a pay cut!
I laughed. “No way, Nic! Give me a few months and I’ll offer you the job. Right now, I just need my first five projects so I will have a portfolio.”
“Hmmm… can’t you use the old ones you used to work on with Fiona?”
“Do I want a law suit as early as now?” I asked matter-of-factly.
“Well, you’re probably right. I’ll bet Fiona will be so threatened by you that those pictures will not get past her.” Nicole agreed.
“Guys, if you know anyone who’s getting married, let me know. I don’t care if I don’t make money. I just need to build up my portfolio first.” I said.
“Sure, sure. Are you willing to do gay weddings?” Dannie asked sarcastically.
I raised a brow at him. “Yes.”
John wrinkled his nose. “Don’t expect anything from me, Ash. I love you and all that, but I’m staying clear of friends who are settling down. Honestly gives me the creeps.”
Now all of us raised a brow at John.
“What? I love being a bachelor!” He said. “Weddings are…” He shivered. “Excuse me, why is it a lucrative business again?”
“Because there are still guys in the world who aren't like you and thank God for that!” Nicole said crossly.
“Well, if you find that guy for yourself, let me know.” John raised his brow at her.
Dannie and I exchanged knowing looks. Nicole and John didn’t usually get along with each other well. However, sometimes, we both feel that it’s not because they do not like each other at all, but maybe because it’s more of the opposite. I’d like to do that wedding
We all left the bar at around midnight. John is going to take me home. Nicole is catching a ride with Dannie.
“I’ll refer some clients to you, Ash.” Nicole promised.
“Your boss won’t like that!” I scolded her.
“Then let her fire me! All the more reason for you to hire me then!” She winked and then she got into Dannie’s car.
As we waited for John’s car to arrive with the valet, I noticed a familiar car parked in front of the bar. My breath caught in my throat and my heart pounded inside my chest.
It looked like the car that Ryder rented. Same make… an SLR McLaren. Same color. Again, it made me wonder how he got that car for that day. It must have been very expensive to rent it. Unless he knew some rich friends who owned a car like that and they let him take it for a spin for free.
I sighed. I remembered the day that I was with him in that car. It was my first step to recovery. And I am okay. Because of Ryder… I am okay
“Do you miss the car?” John asked in a teasing tone
I shook my head. There was a pinch in my heart. “No. Just the guy who drove it.”
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