Uncut: White Flame-10

A Young Girl’s Crush Turning into a Woman’s True Love

As Audrie expected, she didn’t sleep well that night.

She couldn’t stop herself from thinking about Sean.

It’s impossible to forget him now but she should find a better way of dealing with him.

First and foremost, she should learn how to control her volatile reactions towards him.

Audrie was stung by her mother’s irritable comment about her acting like a teenager even when she’s already twenty-two years old.

“Mom’s right,” Audrie told herself aloud.

She was lying on the bed without moving and just staring on the plain ceiling for several hours now while her mind was running around endlessly.

Her secret crush for Sean had turned to a rebellious love — but she’s not a teenager anymore…

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So how should she deal with the powerful emotions as a woman?

She could never ask her mother or sister Aimee for advice.

They would surely take Anne’s side and protect her from the likes of Audrie, who would be automatically placed in the role of a villain in Anne’s beautiful love story.

Just thinking about the rift her forbidden love for Sean could create in her family gives Audrie a pain that can maim her.

Audrie turned on her side slowly and curled like a fetus inside a mother’s womb.

She needs protection, too but she has no one to turn to.

Since she was a child, people always overlooked her because her two pretty sisters were always eye-catchers while plain and dowdy Audrie was content to remain in the background.

She grew up wearing casual clothes. Her shoddy jeans were her comfort zones.

Even in the midst of a crowd, Audrie always felt alone because the crowd sees only Anne and Aimee.

Both beautiful and elegant, her sisters always outshine everyone in a room — particularly Audrie, who prefers to be a wallflower rather than a centerpiece.

Audrie rocked herself while crying silently. She has no one but herself.

That fact made her cry but, as tears started piercing her closed eyes, a strange feeling crept over her; as though her admission to weakness had given way to the birth of a new strength inside her.

Maybe her character had just grown while she’s feeling miserable!

Audrie stopped crying and fell asleep with dried tears on her cheeks. It was a fitful sleep though.

She woke up when sunlight began peeking into the heavily curtained windows.

She was stretching her aching limbs when someone knocked on the door.

She froze instantly, her heart beating fast at once.

“Ma’am? Here’s your breakfast.” A woman’s voice penetrated the room’s paneled door.

Combing shaky fingers into her bed-rumpled hair, Audrie scrambled to get off the bed.

She opened the door cautiously. She found a young woman like her age wearing a cheerful smile.

“Good morning, ma’am! My name’s Charra. Sorry to wake you up but we always offer hot breakfasts to our guests at an early time.”

“It’s alright.” Audrie tried to smile naturally.

“Uhm, thank you for the breakfast, Charra.” She was conscious of her tear-stained cheeks as she opened the door wider to let the hotel employee push the trolley cart inside the room.

“I’ll be back at nine to clean the room, ma’am. But only if it’s ok with you?”

“Yes, it will be fine.” Audrie pulled out a crumpled bill from her pocket and offered it shyly to Charra.

“Thank you, ma’am.” Charra bowed her head as she slipped the bill into a pocket beneath the white apron she wore.

“Whenever you need anything, like dry cleaning or something, please call Room Service.”

“Yes. Thanks again.” Audrie closed the door carefully to avoid arousing Charra’s curiosity further.

The cheerfully inquisitive room service attendant was already intrigued with Audrie’s haggard appearance — and maybe to her lack of luggage as well.

Her cheeks flamed as she looked down at the rumpled jeans and shirt she obviously wore in her sleep.

Feeling suddenly disgusted with herself, Audrie ran into the bathroom and peeled off the clothes.

She used the complimentary shampoo and bath soap liberally.

She wanted to wash off all the negative thoughts as well as the normal dirt from her body.

“No more self-pitying, Audrie Jacobs!” she scolded her reflection on the mirror while combing her towel-dried hair.

“Look straight ahead and move forward. Avoid distractions.”

But what are your goals? Audrie’s other self challenged the strength and direction of her resolve.

Forget Sean?

Ignore Sean?

Live with the pain of watching Sean and Anne together forever?

“Stop!” Audrie gasped in pain.

The sarcastic questions reverberating inside her mind were like knives cutting her heart into small pieces.

But one point got across clearly enough.

She should continue growing up. She could never fight all these grown-up stuffs if she’s still a teenager by heart and in mind.

Her mother’s harsh observation hurt her but it also gave guidance.

“Thank you, Mom,” Audrie whispered before turning away to pick up the dirty clothes on the floor.

The large bath towel she wrapped around her wet body had reached to her mid-thighs.

She could wear this until her clothes were returned back from the drycleaners.

Within a few minutes after her call, Charra appeared outside her room once again.

“This will take 15 to 20 minutes only, ma’am.”

“That’s good. Thank you again, Charra.” This time, Audrie could smile almost naturally.

“You’re welcome.” Charra bowed again.

Audrie was still smiling as she closed the door.

Talking to a cheerful individual, even though a stranger, is somewhat refreshing.

‘Welcome to the real world, Audrie,’ said a tiny voice inside her mind.

‘Finally, you’re getting out of your shell!’

“No need for sarcasm, Audrie.”

She shook her head as her stomach grumbled.

She laughed at the rudeness of her intestines but stopped at once after hearing the golden sound of mirth.

Did she really laugh?

Yes. It seemed she could still feel joy even when she’s still hurting.

Well, that’s good news. Or was it really bad news because she’s just pretending?

Audrie shrugged.

“It’s time to eat, said my stomach,” she muttered as she lifted the shiny metallic cover from the food tray.

Her nose wrinkled appreciatively as she sniffed at the delicious aroma of freshly-baked bread, fried sausages, omelet, and brewed coffee.

“Lovely!” she exclaimed after swallowing a large gulp of hot coffee.

She couldn’t remember the last time she ate yesterday.

Her weakness could be due to hunger.

She’s so hungry she could eat a horse right now — but she had to catch a horse first.

It was a funny thought but her short giggle was laced with hysteria.

She was swallowing the last morsel when Charra knocked on her door again.

“Ma’am, here are your clothes.”

“That was fast!” Audrie was pleasantly surprised. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome. By the way, there’s a letter for you.”

“A letter?”

Charra pulled out a long and white envelope from the pocket beneath her apron.

“Here it is.”

“Who brought it?”

Audrie noted the lack of stamp on the envelope so she presumed the letter delivered by someone.

“Johnny said it was a young man. Just asked about your name, left this envelope, and then ran away.”

“Oh. Please thank Johnny for me.” Audrie was feeling tensed again but she was able to hide it behind a bright smile.

“Oh, and please thank the cook, too. The breakfast is delicious.”

“Nanna will be pleased to hear that. And, of course, Johnny, too.”

Once again, Charra performed her customary bow before leaving. She was still smiling as she turned away.

Audrie ripped off the one end of the envelope with trembling fingers.

Her eyes flew at the bottom of the page to see if her suspicion was correct.

The note was from Sean.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply before she started reading the short message.

‘I want you to forget what happened last night and the night before that. Those mistakes won’t ever be repeated. By the way, your friend is still detained at the police station. You might want to visit him first thing this morning. Sean’

Audrie shivered. The letter was cold but most sensible.

If she could just erase everything that happened between them.

She was relieved because she could go back to the background again.

She preferred to be ignored. It was safer.

Somehow, she was not surprised to learn that Sean knew about Nick as well as her hiding place.

Sean, as the mayor, was the most powerful man in Love City.

She dressed quickly and left the room in a hurry.

Johnny was at the reception desk, looking slightly haggard. He smiled cheerfully when he saw her coming down the stairs.

“Good morning, ma’am. Your bike is waiting outside. I got it washed and cleaned for you. Here are your keys.” He proffered the bunch of shiny keys.

“Oh, thanks!” Audrie was overwhelmed but pleased. She took the keys smilingly.

“You’re very much welcome.”

“I’m checking out. Please charge my card.” She placed her credit card on the counter.

Johnny processed the transaction with deft movements.

“Please sign here. Hope you enjoyed your stay here.”

“Yes, of course. The place is nice and the service is excellent.”

Audrie signed the receipts then pulled out several paper bills from her wallet.

“Please accept my gift and share it with Charra and Nanna.”

“Thank you, generous ma’am.” Johnny showed his appreciation by accompanying Audrie outside.

Like a magician, he whisked a clean rag and rubbed the already shining handle bar of the motorbike.

The vehicle looked spunky. Even the black leather seat glowed under the morning sun.

“Goodbye, Johnny.”

“Hope to see you again, ma’am.”

Audrie waved before she drove away. Her first destination was the police station.

Nick was released the moment she signed a waiver saying she would not file any complaint against the detainee.

“I’m really sorry, Audrie. I got so careless and rude.” Nick apologized sheepishly. He looked so embarrassed.

“I won’t taste beer ever again.” His promise was so fervent it sounded fake yet comical.

Audrie smiled. “You’d die without beer. Don’t worry about it anymore. Just don’t repeat it again.”

“Yes. I’m so glad you could still forgive me.”

“Let’s forget all about it. C’mon, I’ll give you a ride to your place.”

“No, I’ll just take a taxi. I’m so dirty ‘coz I slept on the floor.” Nick looked down at his grubby clothes disgustedly.

“I won’t be coming to work today. I have a splitting headache.”

“Hangover.” Audrie nodded.

“Will you go to work today?”

“Yup. I always have urgent things to do every Monday. But I might leave early.”

“Be careful with your driving.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“I’m the only one who should be thanking you, Audrie. Thank you for being so good and understanding,” Nick insisted.

His tone and eyes became tender and warm as he stared at her searchingly.

Audrie felt uncomfortable at once.

Nick would never be more than a friend. She knew that now.

Her love for Sean would always be true and deep.

She could hide it but she could never kill it.

UNCUT: WHITE FLAME-11

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