For the one who matters most

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


"It's beautiful, Alex. So, so beautiful."

I felt so happy, so grateful that I had someone who would do this for me.

The fireworks lit the sky as Alex held me close to her, the both of us staring out the balcony.

"I'm glad you liked it, Jaina." she said as she kissed me. "But it wasn't just my doing. My friends at Stellaris were instrumental in making this happen."

"They must really like you a lot, huh?"

"I won't deny I've built my share of goodwill." she chuckled. "But I think my friends happen to be a bunch of romantics themselves. I've heard them discussing their love lives and all."

"Oh, okay." I giggled. "And what, you think they might be living their fantasies vicariously, through us?"

"I do. And I'm not complaining." she giggled as we kissed again. "I'll take any chance I get to make you happy, Jaina."

"I am happy, Alex. I'm so, so happy I'm with you."

All this, just for my birthday. The lengths Alex went through to pamper me made me feel so warm and cuddly. 

"I...I'll always remember this. Thank you for loving me."

"Thank you for bring part of my life, Jaina." she smiled. It was such a warm smile. "It's all because of you that I still feel like I'm on solid ground, even after all this time. You remind me that I'm human, that I'll always be human. I can't put a price on the gift you've given me."

"Alex..." I was choking up now, the tears blurring my vision. "I love you. I love you!"

I wrapped my arms around her, as tightly as I could.

"I love you too." a whisper spoke into my ear.

 

I woke up facing her as the sunlight streamed into our hotel room. This would be our last day here, before we headed back home tomorrow.

"Hey." she said, as she caressed my cheek.

"Good morning." I smiled as I kissed her and fondled her breasts. 

"Hmm, keep going." she muttered. "It feels good."

"Okay."

I was completely lost in the moment, enjoying Alex. Touching her, kissing her, exploring her. And I knew she wouldn't tell me to stop. We had time here. We were free to lock away everything else but each other.

She looked so warm and content when I finally had my fill of her. Shortly thereafter, room service came in with the brunch we had ordered.

"So, I've set up a meeting with Becca and Gabby this evening. You'll get all the time you need to really hash things out with them." Alex said, as we began helping ourselves.

I giggled in response. "Wow. It's a rare occasion where you're the one bringing this serious stuff up. You could've just let me enjoy myself and leave, and I would've been none the wiser."

"Well, I guess I've grown to care too much about you then." she smiled cheekily. "I promised you that I'd help you be heard however I could, and I intend to keep it."

"I know. And thank you, Alex." I kissed her. "I promise you won't regret it."

"Hey, no need to hold yourself back on my account." she kissed me back. "I know you're trying to do what you feel is right, and I know you love me. I have nothing to fear."

"Okay." I smiled as we finished our meal.

We then passed the time just quietly being with each other, talking when we felt like it, and letting our gestures and touches do the rest. It felt so liberating not to have to put up appearances, not to have to put on a front. With Alex, I could just...be.

When the time finally came to meet Becca and Gabby, I did feel some of my nerves tense up again. Alex hadn't been wrong in how she described them. They had both been incredibly kind and sweet to me all this time, but I also knew that they had important roles to fill at Stellaris.

I already knew that Becca had been at the center of their weapons deals I'd found out about, practically deciding who lived and who died as part of her job. Gabby was an even bigger catch. The Chief of Corporate Strategy, she'd been climbing the ranks pretty quickly, despite facing more and more pushback the further she went.

As much as Stellaris loved to tout their progressive credentials by placing women and minorities in prominent positions, the people at the board were still all men. Gabby had a real shot at changing that, given that the company was planning a restructuring of the top brass, and the CEO had a cordial relationship with her.

This was it. My biggest chance to make a dent in their policies and practices while still remaining independent. Earlier on, I would've said that I was doing this for my principles, because I knew that so much of what Stellaris was doing was wrong. But my reasons were a lot more personal now.

I wanted Alex to be more at peace. I wanted her to feel safe, to not have to worry so much about the criticism and dissent Stellaris was facing. She was still as loyal as ever, and would continue to champion this megacorporation and destroy any opponents they asked her to. But I knew it weighed on her. She still hadn't forgotten her role in destroying the Lightwardens, and what that did to me. She hadn't forgotten my misgivings about Stellaris.

And even though I'd already forgiven her, already made clear that I would love her and believe in her no matter what, this was my chance to go beyond that. I would be Alex's champion. I'd do everything in my power to make sure that the good people at Stellaris felt empowered enough to truly make the company a force for good.

"Hey." Alex said, facing me. "You okay?"

"Oh, uh..." I looked down at my hand, which was holding her's. Looks like my grip had tightened a little too much.

"Yeah, I'm fine Alex." I smiled and kissed her, letting her hold me as I relaxed my posture. "But thanks for caring."

"Alright, if you say so." she kissed me. "But if it ever gets too uncomfortable for you, you let me know and we'll call this whole thing off. I'm here for you, okay?"

"Okay." I smiled, as she slowly let go of me and we headed for the private bar where they were waiting.

Alex immediately ordered drinks for all of us as soon as I'd said my hellos, in a preemptive attempt to break the ice. It worked.

"So, how're you enjoying the little celebration we set up?" Becca said.

"It's...been amazing. Thank you all for doing this." I said, and politely smiled. I did feel a certain hesitation in thanking Becca and Gabby though, like I was being manipulated through my gratitude.

I felt Alex's hand on me shoulder, reassuring me, almost as if she'd read my mind.

"Well, let's not forget it was my idea. You all just followed my lead!" she said, immediately afterwards. Her tone was cheeky, but I got the sense she was trying to take the pressure off me.

"Oh yeah, of course. You have no idea how much Alex micromanaged the whole thing!" Gabby laughed.

"Uh, well, I hope she wasn't too hard on you."

"No harder than we've been on her." Becca said. "After all, at work we're both kind of her seniors."

"And you'd be nowhere without me!" Alex said with a chuckle.

"That is true. She keeps our wheels spinning for sure!"

"So, Jaina right? Becca and Alex have told me a lot about you. I believe you've had quite the...history with our organization." Gabby said.

And my insides immediately tightened. Just like that, she'd brought up the elephant in the room.

"I have." I said, looking her in the eye. "There are a lot of...complicated opinions I have on Stellaris."

"I see." she adjusted her glasses. "And where would you like to start on them?"

"I..." I gulped. "I won't deny you've all been pretty good to me since the Lightwardens incident. Alex is the breadwinner of our household. I've lived with her on company-sponsored housing, with company-sponsored health insurance. I can't deny I've benefited a lot from Stellaris. I've been quite privileged on balance."

"Privileged, huh?" Becca said, taking another sip.

"Yes. I've been doing really well, mainly because I fell in love with the right person. I've had people with power and means look after me and care for me. I've never, ever lost sight of that."

"Hey, Jaina baby," Alex sounded a little worried as she put her arm on my shoulder. "I've told you before, you don't have to-"

"It's fine, Alex. Let me finish." I said. She didn't respond.

"That being said, I'm also aware that my privilege had protected me from the horrors most people in this world, heck, in our own country are facing. Every time I listen to the radio, tune into my news feeds, I'm reminded of how...unimportant so many lives seem to be. How people are just straight-up neglected, or treated as pawns in these bullshit power games that make no sense. People outside of my circle...our circle...they get manipulated, left to die or just killed off in wars. I can't turn a blind eye to that. And I can't ignore the fact that Stellaris is one of the largest megacorps in this country. You're part of the system. A major part."

"I see." Gabby said, her expression inscrutable. "You know, I've known Alex since before she met you. We joined Stellaris at almost the same time. And ever since she fell in love, I've seen her be happier, more fulfilled, but also...conflicted. I could tell that every hard decision she made seemed personal to her, and frankly I didn't understand that at first. Why was she thinking so much of people she'd never met, never known? I can now see that you were the factor that altered her perspective so much, Jaina. Especially after you came into our crosshairs."

"I...I know I've caused Alex a lot of trouble. She cares deeply about me, and..."

"Relax, I'm not saying she's in any kind of trouble. This conversation's about you, Jaina, and you don't work for us."

"O-okay..."

"Hey." Alex whispered in my ear. "It's okay. You're doing great."

"We're, of course, well aware of the work you did with the Lightwardens, and the work you have been doing since. Even though you aren't actively obstructing our operations anymore, you're still a very vocal critic of ours. Obviously, I don't expect you to take up arms against us, or anything of the sort. You know that all of us, even Alex, will stick by Stellaris until the end. That's not out of any sense of blind loyalty, however."

"A lot of what you've said, Jaina. We've thought about it too, in our own ways." Becca said. "We came to this decision after considering all our options. Sticking with Stellaris, this system, is what best suits our priorities, both concerning our own lives, and what we want from society at large."

"I understand. I do. And I've made that decision myself. I want to stay with Alex. I want to be a part of your world. Losing the love of my life, losing all the friends I've made and the people I've known, I can't pay that price for any reason, no matter what it is. But until Stellaris changes, really changes, I'll feel like I simply chose the lesser of two evils."

"So you think we're evil, do you?" Gabby looked me in the eye.

"Not in an absolute sense. I would never consider Alex to be a rotten person, and I'd never accuse either of you of being evil either. But when it comes to your organization, the impact it's having on this world, on the people at large...I do believe Stellaris is a force of harm. Of destruction. I'm not saying that you wanted things to be this way, or that you even have to agree with me, but that's my opinion. My belief."

"Your opinion, is not at all uncommon. In fact, I believe you're quite mature for criticizing Stellaris without issuing a blanket condemnation of everyone associated with it. There are so many people who've given up on dialogue. Who've already decided that it's either them, or us. We could never negotiate with those people, but I can at least talk to you."

"I know. That's why I came here."

"So, Jaina, let me offer my perspective on things. I do believe that Stellaris is ultimately our best bet against surviving and thriving in the current world we live in. We need to not just consolidate on our power, but expand it. Humanity needs an example to look up to, an aspirational dream to follow. And they need strong leadership who won't dither about in indecisiveness. Stellaris must do what needs to be done to ensure the maximum benefit to the world on a sustainable basis, even if there are people who end up left out."

"So you do disagree with me, after all."

"In a sense. You mistrust Stellaris. You probably don't want us to have so much power if you think we've done so much harm with it. But what you don't see is all the damage that could have been done had there been a power vaccum without us. How many problems would've been caused if the elected middlemen we had to bargain with held as much leverage over us. I sense an old-fashioned idealism within you, Jaina. You probably long for the good old days when we had a strong democracy that no corporation could control, don't you?"

"Absolutely. We need a system that's not beholden to short-sighted greed! We need a system that lets the people have a voice!"

"And yet it's the very corruption of that system that lead us to where we are today, Jaina. Greed corrupts everyone in power, whether they're elected officials, or corporate honchos. So isn't it better that instead of eliminating greed, we channel it? Manipulate our instrinsic vices for the greater good?"

"So that's why all of you believe. That's why you're so loyal to Stellaris..."

"Indeed, it is. Isn't that right, Becca? Alex?"

They both solemnly nodded in response. For the first time in this entire conversation, I felt alone.

"So that's why you'll continue to pursue profits above all else? And leave the useless people out to die, is that it?"

"Jaina, please, no one's saying that." Alex sounded hurt as she responded, her arm still on my shoulder.

"Alex...I'm sorry...but what else am I supposed to think?"

"Jaina." Gabby said. "It's true that there are many people who cast value judgments on the marginalized and the neglected to feel better about their decisions. To feel more righteous in their actions. But that's not what I'm suggesting at all. I won't sugarcoat our actions and dress them up as anything other than a ruthless calculus. What ventures do we sacrifice for the sake of more sustainable ones? What compromises do we make to protect the health of our organization? What people will end up neglected while we pursue the best of all possible options? Those are decisions I struggle with all the time, and they're often ugly."

"Then what about me? When do I become too much of a liability? When do I stop mattering to you?"

"Hey!" Alex forcibly shook me until I faced her. "Don't you ever say that! Don't you ever tell me that you'll stop mattering to me, you understand?!"

"Calm down, Alex. I don't think she was talking about you. At least I hope she wasn't." Gabby said. "Jaina, I won't deny that you're a special case. If you ever get tangled up in our decisions, of course we're going to take it personally. Of course we'll struggle with it more, and we'll try to avoid such a situation. So you're going to be pretty safe around us. Far safer than someone we don't really know."

As I tried to respond, she cut me off. "I know what you're going to ask next. Where's the justice in that, right? Why should we prioritize the people we know, over those we don't? How does that make us any different that a clique, or a cult? The truth is, Jaina, this is also a reality of human nature. We're intrinsically wired to care more about those close to us, than those who're not. Heck, it's the entire reason you're willing to sit down with us and have this talk. You care about Alex. She's special to you, and she works for us, so it's in your interest to get along with us."

"I know...I know that..." I muttered, "But can't you do anything better? Can't you agree to change in any way?"

"We can, but I'm afraid we're not going to operate on your terms, or at your pace. I expect you to remain dissatisfied with us going forward. Know this, however." Gabby said, finally smiling after a while. "We've all had the same thoughts you have. And personally, I not only understand you, but empathize with you. I can feel the anguish of people who feel let down by us. I know that if I were in their position, I too would be resentful. And strange as it sounds, I'm glad you reminded us of their pain, Jaina. Conversations like these prevent me from getting complacent about our situation. We know we're operating on a delicate balance here. But all things considered, I still believe this system is the best way to be."

"Okay then. I'll just have to keep speaking, and speaking, and shouting if I need to. I won't forsake everything Stellaris has given me, but that doesn't mean I'm going to bow down to it."

"Then don't." Gabby's smile widened. "Crushing dissent leaves a poor taste in all of our mouths anyway, even if it sometimes has to be done. Even if we silenced all opposition, the opposition won't stop to exist. So I promise you this, Jaina. We will never silence you. Even if I don't see eye to eye with you, I trust you. Genuinely."

"Okay then. I guess that's the most I can hope for."

"Alright then, Becca and I have plans for the night. We'll leave you lovebirds to it, then!" she said, her friendly demeanour having completely returned as she and Becca left.

I turned to face Alex.

"So, uh," she smiled awkwardly. "I guess things got a little heated there. I know I lost my cool a little too, and I just-"

I cut her off with a kiss.

"I know you'll never abandon me, Alex. I'm sorry I made you think otherwise." I kssed her again. "And as long as you're doing what you truly believe is right, I will always stand by you. Always."

I held her hands in mine.

"Just promise me you'll always stay true to yourself, okay? And that you'll talk to me if you need any help?"

"Jaina..." she wrapped her arms around me. "I know you want so much more for this world. So much more from Stellaris. I'm sorry I can't just give it all to you."

"No one can, Alex. No one person can change the entire world. And I wouldn't want you to do anything you don't agree with."

I kissed her.

"The fact that you care, is good enough for me."

"Okay." she said. I could feel the tears going down her cheeks. "I promise you, Jaina. I promise I'll always be true to myself. That I'll never shut you out."

"I'm glad to hear it." I said, as we held each other close. "I love you, Alex."

"I love you too, Jaina."


Submitted: March 13, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Pulak Km. All rights reserved.

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