A/N: Just remember that this isn't exactly the last chapter! There's an epilogue which comes after this ;) Also, some of you have asked if I will be writing another novel. The answer? Yes I will. It won't be the spin-off story to this novel (because I'm still not sure about the whole plot yet), but I hope you'll still support my writing after FF! I do hope you'll enjoy this chapter! xoxo
The Start of Something New
A grumble escaped from my lips as I sifted through my closet. It was seven o’ clock, on a dull Monday morning and I really needed to find something to wear for my first day on the job. I wanted to impress (obviously), but I wasn’t going to overdo it. That was a definite no-no.
In the end, I picked out a baby blue sleeveless blouse with little white pearls as buttons and light grey tailored pants. My hair was unruly, so I quickly fishtail braided it and let it sit on my right shoulder. My overall appearance looked pretty good to me but I wasn’t sure if it was perfect, because maybe my perspective on myself was messed up.
The door of the bathroom slightly creaked and my head snapped up. Mom was leaning against the doorframe and studying me with a slight smile on her face. “Excited?” she asked.
I bit my lip and did a twirl. “Does this look good?”
She came forward and smoothed down my hair. “Of course it does,” she answered. “Just perfect. It’s good that you didn’t choose a skirt, or a dress. That would overdo it a bit.”
“Good.” I nodded and smiled with relief at her answer. “I should be eating breakfast now.”
“Alright baby girl, but I haven’t cooked anything so you’ll have to make do with something else like jam and toast.”
Mom locked the door so she could have a morning shower after I walked out. When I reached downstairs, I scurried the kitchen cupboards for cereal. As I poured some Crunchy Nut into a bowl, I felt an odd sense of déjàvu. The memory of pranking Henry by freezing his cereal bowl came back to me and I felt myself smile. My knees became weak and I felt like I was dreaming.
How had it all turned into this situation, where I wasn’t waking up to Henry’s gorgeous face every morning? I already knew the answer of course. It was because of me. Henry and I had no chance of being together because of my selfishness.
Ugh. I shook my head as sat down at the dining table. Why was I thinking about him?
“Lainie, you better hurry.” I looked up and saw Weston heading into the kitchen to make breakfast. “Time’s running out.”
I looked up at the clock hanging on the wall and nearly spat out the milk and cereal in my mouth. Damn!
“I’m leaving now Weston!” I called, as I grabbed my bag and rushed out the door. The Corolla mom and I used to share was now officially mine because she had bought a new car, so I hopped in and backed slowly out of the driveway.
It took about half an hour to reach the office building and when I did, my heart was pounding so loud that I wouldn’t have been surprised if the passer-by’s could hear. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to be working with a real architect. I would have so much more experience and insight into being an architect.
The instructions Mr Ramsey had left me said that my boss’s office was on the fourth floor, so I headed over to the lift. A ‘ding’ noise notified me that I had reached the right floor and I hesitantly stepped out. I was standing in a small waiting room, where faded green chairs lined the opposite wall and by the fish tank, a receptionist sat on a spinning chair, looking through some papers. She looked up when I walked up to her and offered me a generous smile.
“Good morning. How may I help you today?”
I gripped the strap of my tote bag tighter and bit my lip. “I’m here to see Mr Benally?”
The receptionist glanced at her computer and raised an eyebrow. “You’re Mrs Franks?”
The receptionist continued on kindly. “Well Mrs Franks, your meeting with Mr Benally isn’t going to be for another two hours so I suggest you should go out and enjoy the sunshine and then come back.”
I frowned because I realised that she must have mistaken me for a client. “I’m here because I’m Mr Benally’s new intern … or assistant? Whatever you call it …”
Something clicked in the receptionist’s mind. “Oh! Welcome! I’ll show you his office.”
Once she got up, I followed her down a narrow hallway which led to my new boss’s office. Oh man! What if he didn’t like me? What if he was some grouchy old person who’d get annoyed with me easily? Or what if he was a stuck-up person?!
“Good luck,” the receptionist told me. As encouragement, she pushed me gently forward and nodded. I took a deep breath and knocked gently on the door. I didn’t hear anything, but finally, a voice spoke.
I twisted the doorknob and stepped into a warm, generous sized office. Honestly, I had expected the place to be a little ‘run-down’ but it was quite comfortable. The walls were painted an Alice blue colour, the room was carpeted and sitting behind a large maple desk was Mr Benally himself. By the twinkle in his eyes and the slight greying of his hair, my new boss seemed like a wise person, and judging by how he slightly rocked back in his black leather office chair, he seemed oddly … relaxed.
“You must be Lainie Watson,” he immediately said as he got up from his chair to shake my hand.
I nodded. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr Benally.”
My boss gestured to one of the chairs sitting across from his table, telling me to sit down. “No need for formalities! Please, just call me Mike.” He was allowing me to call him Mike? I must be doing well then! “Well, there’s another hour until I meet my first client for the day, so in the meantime, I’ll tell you about the life of an architect!”
Mike then launched into a description about his usual day at the office. He usually met with about two or three clients a day and how the meetings would run. He also liked to find new commissions or contracts and visit construction sites. At the moment, his biggest project was designing a new art gallery which was opening around Pennsylvania. After that, I looked through a few thick folders and pictures on the computer of his designs and I was quite awed. He liked to incorporate features from the Renaissance to design modern buildings with pops of colours. It was pretty interesting.
Mike also let me play around on a program that he had, where you could make your designs come to real life by making it 3D. It was pretty cool, but I realised I had a lot to learn before I became a real architect.
“That looks good Lainie,” my boss commented when he came back in from talking to the receptionist I had met earlier. “You have a talent for designing, that’s for sure.”
I waved off his compliment awkwardly. “It’s just a hobby …”
Surprise filled Mike’s square face. “A hobby? And you can design a kitchen like that? Do you draw a lot?”
“Um yeah. I have a sketchbook.” I blushed.
“Really? Do you think I can see it one day?”
I looked up at him to find that he was quite excited. Did he really think I was talented? “I have it in my bag right now if you want to see it?”
I gave him a small smile and went to retrieve my smooth navy sketchbook from my tote. He eyed it with curiosity and opened up to the first page. I sat there for about ten minutes as he flicked through the book. Sometimes he would nod, as if he was impressed, and sometimes he would stop on a particular drawing and stare at it. All the while, I fidgeted with my fingers. What was he thinking? Did he like it? My question was answered as he looked up and beamed.
“Look Lainie, I’m going to a convention next Saturday to showcase some of my designs for that art gallery I’m working for.” He paused and I held in my breath. Where was this going exactly? “I was wondering … do you think you would allow me to showcase some of your designs? This could really build up to a future, Lainie. I’d really love to help you out.”
Holy moly. Did he just say that he would like to showcase my designs at a convention? Wow. I couldn’t believe I was getting all these great opportunities and all before college too! Was this luck? Or is this all of God’s plan?
“Not only are you smart, but you have a knack for the art of architecture. So what do you say?”
Of course, I said yes.
It was three o’ clock when I was allowed to head home, but as my Corolla roared to life; I made a spontaneous decision to drive to the ice-cream parlour across town. Today had been a good day, so I was in the mood to celebrate.
After arriving at my destination and parking my car by the curb, I headed inside the parlour and smiled. It was exactly how I remembered it – the sea blue tiled floors, the ice-cream wallpaper, the small round tables with yellow tablecloths and matching coloured chairs, and that large juke box in the corner of the room playing a jazz song.
I walked up to the counter and the girl serving already knew my usual order so I didn’t really need to say anything except ‘hi’. It was a long five minute wait for my order, but once the plate was placed on my table, a huge grin replaced my pout.
Chopped bananas and strawberries adorned my chocolate gelato ice cream and vanilla custard was drizzled lightly on top. I licked my lips and dug into what would be a beautiful dish.
My thoughts suddenly drifted to my father. He and my mother used to bring me here all the time and I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit guilty. I should have invited mom to come along, but then Weston would join us and I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do. Bringing my new stepfather here, to place where I had spent a lot of time with my real parents, seemed like betrayal to dad. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind because he had a good heart, but I was still coming to terms that I had a new father figure in my life.
Just yesterday, when we had attended a barbecue that Weston’s parents had thrown, his distant cousin had asked, “and who is this lovely young lady?” I had nearly snorted at the use of the word ‘lovely’ but Weston had slung an arm around me and replied (enthusiastically I might add), “Lainie here is my new daughter!”
Daughter? I cringed in my seat as that word replayed over and over in my head. I had wanted to scream out that I was only the daughter of Teddy and Hazel Watson. Sure, I also thought Steve and Arianne as parental figures, but Weston? It was all too new and weird for me.
When I finally realised that I was thinking too much, I shook my head to get rid of the conflicting thoughts and concentrated on scooping up some ice cream and strawberries. Two figures caught my eye and I internally groaned at the annoying voice of someone who I didn’t really want to meet at the moment. Or ever.
She looked me up and down with disgust as she made her way over to my table. High school had ended and she still hadn’t changed. I guessed that wasn’t a surprise.
Blonde haired, supermodel-like Michelle hadn’t been the most popular girl in school, but close. She had always come second best compared to the petite brunette beside her. Aubrey was probably more admired than her because she wasn’t the cliché ‘ice queen’ who didn’t care for anyone but herself.
“Loco-Lainie,” Michelle sung in a smug tone.
I raised any eyebrow as she advanced forward like a prowling cat. “What the hell is that?”
Barbie girl clucked her tongue. “Everyone knows, Lainie. Henry Parker has got to be loco if he proposed to you out of all people.” Oh great, another Henry Parker girl fan. The last time I had met one, I had been egged. “We all know you played whore to become Henry’s fiancée. You disgust me. You disgust everyone in fact and that’s why you came running back here.”
How dare her! She didn’t know how much Henry and I had hated each other when we first met. She didn’t know that I was the type of girl who didn’t just throw herself at a wanted person like Henry. She didn’t know that we truly fell in love. She didn’t know that my so-called best friend had betrayed me. She didn’t know the heartache both of us went through. She didn’t know anything!
All I saw was red.
“It’s a good thing that he’s finally moved on from you,” she scoffed.
And just like that, my fury stopped. My hand (which had been itching to slap her) dropped. I didn’t dare believe what I had just heard. “What did you just say?”
Aubrey gave me a pitying look which I didn’t want, so I forced my eyes to meet her cruel best friend. “You weren’t good enough for him Lainie. Face it. A girl like you doesn’t belong with Henry Parker.”
She was crushing my confident facade slowly and I hated it. The cracks were appearing because what she said was true. Henry was too good for me. I didn’t deserve him, after hurting him the way I did. He had done so many romantic things for me and what I had done for him?
And that was what I was. Nothing. A nobody.
I pushed myself away from the table and was about to run out of the parlour when Michelle added, “You might want to see this.”
A glossy magazine was flashed in front of my face and I fought the urge to vomit. On the front cover of ‘Famous’, was a picture of Henry and a familiar blonde sitting on the sand at the beach. ‘Does Henry Parker Heart Natasha?!’ read the caption.
Oh god. Had she really sunk her claws into Henry? Was he really falling for her charm? Had he serenaded her on the beach too?!
I nearly smacked my head. I should have told him about Natasha and Mr Parker’s plan! I was officially the biggest idiot in the world. Although I would still be hurt, I would allow Henry to date any girl, but not Natasha!
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I had been replaced too, in such a short amount of time. Had I really meant nothing to him? Did he really forget about me? I felt dizzy with all the questions running through my mind.
Ignoring Michelle’s cackling laughter and how Aubrey quietly reprimanded her; I stumbled my way out of the ice-cream parlour and quickly got into my car. I gripped the steering wheel and did what I had seen countless times in the movies – I banged my head on it repeatedly, telling myself that I was the worst person in the whole world. I didn’t care whether I reduced my brain size or if I ended up with a bruise.
I felt the urge to protect Henry from Natasha and I felt the urge to cry. Something then dawned on me. What if they genuinely liked each other? Shouldn’t I be happy for them?
Due to the tears, I half-blindly made my way home. I honestly had no idea how I didn’t end up in an accident – the crying really wouldn’t stop.
Once I reached my driveway, I leaned sideways to pluck a few Kleenex tissues from my bag (which was sitting on the passenger seat) and blew my nose. Ugh. I was getting all wound up over Henry again, and hadn’t I promised to myself that I would never cry for him again? What was this? I should be walking on sunshine, not mourning for what I had lost!
I attempted to smile, but it didn’t work and I ended up sniffling into my tissue again. When I looked up into the mirror, I groaned. My nose was pink, my cheeks were flushed slightly and my eyes were red and puffy. I looked horrible, so I tried to at least make myself decent. If mom or Weston was home already, they’d definitely ask me what was wrong.
I straightened out my hair and used one of my facial wipes to refresh my face. My eyes were still a little puffy and angry-looking, but I decided it was the best I could do.
After grabbing my bag, I hopped out of the car and made my way towards the front porch. As I bounced onto the first step, I looked up and a gasp escaped from my lips. My heart was pounding and I felt alive again, as I stared at the person who had caused my misery just a few minutes ago.
No, it’s a dream! I screamed at myself. Wake up!
I pinched myself in the arm numerous times but it didn’t work. He didn’t still go away. He was still there, standing by my front door looking glorious in a simple black shirt and nice fitting jeans. I realised that he was also holding something silver in his hand.
My throat was dry as I whispered the name which I had been avoiding for the past few weeks. “Henry?” I didn’t dare move in case my legs failed me, but Henry on the hand, walked towards me with self-assurance. “W-What are you doing here?”
His eyes twinkled with amusement as he watched me get all flustered. “You want to know reason?”
I nodded and didn't say anything because I didn’t trust myself to speak. How was he really here in front of me? I felt faint.
“I don’t give a damn about Hollywood, but I do give a damn about you,” he murmured, before pulling me into his arms for what would be a long-lasting kiss.