I woke up to my phone ringing. Groaning, I reached over to my bedside table and picked up my cell. The time read three fifteen in the afternoon.
“Hello?” I answered groggily without looking at the screen.
“Hello, sweets! I’ll be there to pick you up in two hours. You okay with that?”
I had completely forgotten that I had to attend a business dinner with him. I went to visit my father at the hospital this morning, and he seemed to have gotten even worse than before, so I came back home and cried myself to sleep. I haven’t been eating anything since yesterday either, surviving only on coffee.
“Yes!” I answered, remembering Ryan was still on the phone. “That’s fine by me. Thanks for giving me a heads up, Ryan. I completely forgot!” I had no need to hide the truth or feel ashamed. Ryan understood my situation.
“I thought it might happen, that’s why I called. Are you okay? You sound tired. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to, sweets. Just tell me,” Ryan said, sounding genuinely concerned.
“No, it’s ok. I’ll go. Staying at home will only get me even more depressed,” I said.
“If you say so. I’ll see you in a bit,” Ryan said and hung up.
I sighed and sat up in bed only to fall back again immediately. My vision blanked for a few seconds, and I could feel a headache coming.
Groaning, I got up once again, this time much slower. I really needed to eat, but I didn’t seem to have the appetite. I tried to eat something last night only to throw everything back out. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Oh wait, I did know what happened to me. It was Erick Stayton.
With some difficulty, I finally got out of bed and went straight to the bathroom to have a long hot shower.
As I wrapped a towel around myself and stood in front of the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t help but wince at the image. No, it wasn’t because I was hideous or scarred; they had faded a long time ago. It was because I had bags under my eyes, big black ones that won’t go away even after tons of sleep. Then there was the puffiness from all the crying. My face seemed to reflect my inner conflict at having Erick back in my life again. I felt agitated that Erick didn’t visit me even once in the past four years. It made me miss him when all I wanted to do was hate him every waking instant of my life. My mind was a mess, and with my father’s worsening condition, I was having trouble holding myself together. Everything around me was falling apart.
After my shower, I felt a lot more relaxed, and my eyes weren’t as puffy as before. I looked at the clock and saw that I just had a bit more than an hour to get ready. I walked to my closet and looked through my dresses. Since it was a formal dinner, I had to wear a dress. The rules were strict. Green was my favourite colour, so most of my clothes were in green, but for tonight, I chose a simple blue sleeveless dress. I opted to wear teardrop shaped sapphire earrings and silver heels. They were not too high, though. I could never stand high heels. They made my feet hurt like hell, so why endure such torture?
Next, I decided to curl my hair in loose ringlets to give myself an elegant touch, so I took out my iron and began curling. It took a while, so by the time my hair was in loose curls hanging down my back, I only had fifteen minutes left till Ryan arrived. So I quickly applied some light pink lipstick and some eyeliner. I also put some concealer under my eyes to get rid of the dark circles temporarily. To finish off, I wore a silver band watch and some lavender perfume.
I grabbed a silver clutch and threw in some money, my card, and of course my cell phone. I went to my kitchen and grabbed a cup, pouring some water and instant coffee before putting it in the microwave to heat up. I didn’t have an appetite, so trying to eat anything at this point would mean throwing up everything, and I really didn’t feel up to it right now.
The microwave blinked twice to let me know my coffee was done, so I took it out and drank it slowly. I could feel the dizziness coming again, but I gritted my teeth and grabbed the counter for support. “It’ll be okay. I’ll be fine in a minute,” I repeated to myself. Though the dizziness did pass after a minute or two, I didn’t quite feel so well. Knowing that cancelling on Ryan right now wasn’t an option, I steadied myself. With an iron will, I was ready to face whatever came my way tonight.
I quickly finished the coffee, set the cup in the sink, and put my shoes on. I was about to sit on the couch to wait for Ryan when the doorbell rang. I looked at my watch and saw that it was still fiveseventeen in the afternoon. Ryan had a very bad habit of being punctual.
I opened the door to find the smiling face of a familiar Southeast Asian. Ryan Paul had that awesome Asian tan so coveted by our office staffs and a nice body complete with lean muscles. He had black hair and brown eyes, as well as a fairly angular face with cute dimples that made their appearance whenever he smiled. Overall, he was a handsome guy. This evening, he was wearing a black Armani suit and a red shirt underneath. He was a total charmer, and he seemed to like me, but I just didn’t feel the same way about him.
“Ready to go, sweets?” he asked smiling.
“Sure, let’s go,” I answered as I stepped out and shut the door behind me.
We went down the stairs to where his black SUV was waiting right at the entrance to my building. He helped me into the car, and we were on our way to the venue. It was about an hour and a half drive to some Italian restaurant near the beach. We arrived at aroundsixforty-five in the evening. The restaurant seemed to be doing quite well on its own, but to further widen their range of customers, they asked our help to promote their restaurant in our magazine. Ryan already had the necessary camera equipment to capture the view inside the restaurant so we could post pictures along with the document. We reached the parking space of the posh restaurant, and Ryan parked in the VIP section. The lot was nearly full, and people were walking in and out of the entrance at a steady interval.
“Let’s go. Let’s not keep the gentlemen and ladies waiting,” Ryan told me while getting out of the car.
“The restaurant owner is here?” I asked Ryan as he helped me out of his car, camera and other instruments hanging from a bag on his free arm. He then took my arm and placed it on his inner elbow. That was not much of a friendly gesture, and I knew I should probably correct him, but maybe I could permit it for one night.
“The owner wants us to write an article about the restaurant and her heir. She also has a big company in the textile industry, so we’re doing a joint article. It’s going to raise our TRP a lot, so the interview profits both parties,” he said.
“But I didn’t bring my recorder!” I exclaimed in alarm. In my rush, I completely forgot the digital recorder that would record their voices. It was supposed to accompany the video feed we planned on showing on a local cable channel.
“Don’t worry, sweets! You have your phone on you. Record in that. I’m sure it’ll record just fine as long as there is no background noise,” he said as we entered the restaurant. Ryan held the door for me.
“You sure we can handle it without a crew?” I asked, not so sure I could pull it off in my state.
“Don’t worry, you’ll do just fine.” Then, unexpectedly, he took my hand and kissed the back of my palm.
I was too surprised to react as a waitress approached us that instant to lead us to the manager’s office. Ryan passed on the camera to me while he took possession of the recording instruments. I felt a bit nervous all of a sudden. It was like something was about to happen, and it would be something that I wouldn’t like at all. We followed the waitress through the more private part of the restaurant where couples sat on love seats while kissing or simply enjoying their dinner. Each booth had a different colour theme and an overhanging light that illuminated the booth. I wanted to take pictures of at least one couple so I could use it in the magazine.
“Gentlemen, your guests have arrived,” the waitress announced as we entered through the tinted glass doors.
Their conversation stopped as soon as we rounded the corner, and I felt the bottom of my stomach drop. My eyes were still huge as Ryan introduced us, and I couldn’t turn my gaze from his smirking face.
There, sat in one of the chairs with a huge smirk and an evil glint in his magnificent blue eyes, was none other than the devil himself.