As if the music conductor knew that the most important figure of the night approached the dance floor, the music instantly turned into the most romantic strain I ever heard. The moment he placed his hands on the small of my lower back and me on his shoulders, my world began to spin. The sound of my heartbeats competed with the loud sound of the percussion instrument hammering on the background.
"You're so beautiful without the white coat on," Mr. Grey commented after he ran down his eyes on me. I felt like wax then, melting against the glow of his gaze.
"Thank you," was all I could mutter after letting out a faint and awkward smile. I was no longer the dominant doctor I was, knowing that I was in his territory.
"How are you and Mr. Martela?"
The question sent shivers down my spine, and it brought back the pain I was trying to push back inside. I couldn't look into his eyes, so I kept staring at his chest, hoping he wouldn't notice my reaction.
"We are fine, Mr. Grey," I lied, of course. He smiled at me and then swayed gracefully, dragging me gently along with his sideward and backward steps. Before I realized his motive, I saw Eric swaying with the woman a few steps away from us. He didn't seem to notice me because he looked so engrossed in flirting with the woman he was dancing with.
I winced in pain and turned my head away. How could Eric do this openly? If he couldn't care less that he was hurting me, he should have cared about what his colleagues might think of him.
"Would you still say the same?" I heard Eric spoke, and I turned to look at him reluctantly.
"It doesn't mean anything, Mr. Grey, just as how I agree to take this dance with you," I reasoned out, and he smirked, telling me with his expression that I couldn't fool him.
"I'm in the business world for so long, Dr. Red, and I am already familiar with the dirty tricks of some business colleagues."
I blushed, ashamed of being caught. I felt guilty then, being the pawn Eric cast on him.
"I will never share my woman with others just because of some business-related interest. And I will never hurt her in the name of a business." Needless to ask, I knew what he was referring to.
"Mr. Grey, can I go back to my seat now? I want to use the bathroom," I made an excuse because I knew that in the next moment, I wouldn't be able to hold back my tears.
He must have noticed the crack in my voice because he nodded. "I'll take you to my private exit."
Without waiting for my reply, he held my hand as he led me to the far side of the room. We stopped in front of a lift, which I presumed to be the one he referred to as his private exit. He then pressed a number on the wall buttons I never cared to know at the moment. I didn't even notice when the lift stopped until the door opened to what looked like a living room.
"The bathroom is on your left," I heard Mr. Grey's vague voice, but because I was already sobbing silently again, I just nodded and ran to its direction.
I cried my heart out once I was inside. All the humiliation came back as I began to recall how I was losing my pride as a human and my integrity as a woman. The worst part of it was that Mr. Grey tried to point it out to me. If he, whom I had met twice only and had noticed it, how much more for those people around us? They even had no idea that every time we argued, Eric would always threaten to throw me out of his life until my sinking self-esteem convinced me as well that I was worthless.
As crying proved to be a therapeutic way of releasing one's heartaches, I felt better after shedding the last drop of tears from my eyes. I washed my face and dried it with a paper towel, applying a thicker layer of makeup afterward. Cosmetics has its ways of projecting a fake image, and so I came out fresh as if I hadn't poured out a bucket of tears.
"Better?" Mr. Grey greeted me with a worried smile as soon as I stepped out. He was already on his white undershirt though he was still on his slacks.
I just responded with a generous smile as I stood in front of him, confused about what to do next. I was wondering if I should sit down with him or go back right away to the dance hall. To think, I was only asking to use a bathroom and not to sit down and chat with him.
"Please sit down," he said as if he had read my mind. He then stood up and held my hand, guiding me to sit down across him on the couch. Eric had never shown such kind of respect and gentleness this way, though, in all fairness, he was generous with money.
"Eric might already be looking for me," I snapped as the thought occurred to me. Glints of fear and worry must have registered into my face because the next thing I saw was the frown in Mr. Grey's face.
"I doubt it, Dr. Red. Wait until he calls you. Don't punish yourself by returning to the dance hall and watched him kissing someone else."
Mr. Grey proved himself right because I then received a text message from Eric. "Don't wait for me. Just go home ahead. I saw you with Mr. Grey a while ago. I hope you didn't forget what I told you."
I was already used to this scenario. We had previously attended too many events, but we always arrived and went home separately. Every time he got engrossed in talking to someone, I always went out and waited for his next instruction at a coffee shop. I hated to look like a fool, waiting for him unnoticed until their discussion ended.
He was also used to this. He never even once doubted that I would cheat on him and spend time with one of his colleagues like tonight. Perhaps because he knew that he had already succeeded in stripping me off from my self-worth and pride.
"Is it Eric?" I noticed how he no longer addressed him formally.
"Is he already looking for you?"
"No. He tells me to go home ahead. So, thanks for the kindness, Mr. Grey. I have to go now. I still have work tomorrow."
He frowned, and I understood this must be because I dismissed him too early.
To my relief, he nodded, but his next words surprised me. "I'll take you home."
"No, thank you." I shook my head in protest. It was too much to ask him that. He was not just some familiar business partner of Eric but was a significant figure in the business world.
"I insist," he said with an air of authority that I couldn't dare to argue.
The trip home was silent until he broke it with a statement that made me cringe in shame.
"Dr. Red, I do not mean to interfere, but I never like how Eric treated you ever since we were at the lift. Save your pride as a woman. Give yourself back the worth you deserve."