Uncut: White Flame-12

Loving from Afar is Like Reaching for the Stars

“I’m sorry, Mom.” Audrie winced but tried hard to speak calmly. “I came home last night but only to get some clothes.”

“Yes, I gathered that. I checked your closet.” There was a short but heavy pause after the clipped response.

“And what do you mean by stowing away?” Her mother’s tone sounded hurt and disappointed this time.

“Mom, I didn’t mean to leave without telling you. I’m really sorry. I just… needed some time to think… I didn’t mean to worry you and Dad… I’m so sorry I acted so selfishly.”

Audrie was deeply shamed for being self-centered and callous to her loved ones.

“Oh, Audrie! Why didn’t you tell us about it? We will help you with whatever problem you have.” Her mother was concerned at once.

“Come home now and let’s talk about the break-up.”

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“Break-up?” Audrie was confused.

“I’m sorry for being a wretched mother. I didn’t realize that you could also have a boyfriend like your sisters,” her mother continued.

“I thought you’re not interested in men. Sorry, really sorry for the wrong conclusion.”

Audrie’s mouth opened and closed like a fly trap.

Did her mother really think she’s a lesbian? she asked herself in shock.

“Mom — ”

“Or is it a girlfriend? Oh my, I’m sorry again! Don’t worry, we will accept you as you are. We will never reject you. You’re still our child, Audrie.”

“Mom, please,” Audrie gasped.

Her cheeks were burning with so much embarrassment.

Other occupants in the open planned office area were returning from lunch break.

She would be the week’s hottest topic of the grapevine if anyone overheard her mother.

“Please, I’ll just call you tonight. I — I have to go back to work now. Thank you…”

“Oh, alright, let’s talk again tonight. But I want you to go home, dear.”

“I can’t — ” Audrie was whispering now because the occupant of the desk next to hers had arrived.

“I have to go. Bye.”

“Ok, bye for now. I’ll wait for your call.”

Audrie’s appetite had disappeared. She was so tensed she couldn’t eat anymore.

She wrapped the left-over burger and put it inside her sling bag.

“Mummy checking on you, huh, Audrie baby?” Janica, the girl next desk, had a sly look on her thin face.

She was chewing bubble gum as usual. She had an obnoxious way of blowing and popping gum balloons.

“Finally showing your bad girl side, huh?”

Audrie ignored Janica. She pretended she did not hear anything as she resumed typing on her keyboard.

“Heard about you and Nicky being hottie to each other,” Janica continued.

The girl seemed in a bold mood because she crossed the small space between their desks and sat beside Audrie’s monitor.

As she swayed her dangling leg, the old limbs of the desk squeaked in protest.

“Did you sleep with him? Nicky’s been panting for you like a horny street dog.”

Audrie hid her wince on Janica’s crudeness. Her face remained expressionless as she stared at the monitor’s screen.

She had learned a long time ago that clashing with people like Janica would be a waste of time.

Quarreling with co-workers, who didn’t know how to respect other people’s privacy and boundary, was useless and anti-productive.

She silently prayed for some miracle — a distraction that would take Janica’s attention to her.

Someone above must be listening to prayers even at lunch time because a small commotion had suddenly materialized near the wide entrance.

“What the — ?” Janica was gone like the wind to inspect the latest happening.

Audrie was silently thanking her lucky stars when her world was suddenly rocked to its roots.

It was Sean Talbot who caused such a stir in the place. Her heart started beating faster than a sonic train.

What was he doing here? Her mind knew she was not the reason to Sean’s visit to their company but her heart was hopeful.

She had always thought the location of her desk was unfortunate because it was beside the manager’s closed cubicle.

The large clear glass window was along the line of her vision because her chair was side by side to one framed corner of the window.

With just a small movement of her head, she could see the interior of the boss’ office.

Mr. McIntyre, the manager and owner, rushed out of the office to greet the town’s mayor personally.

He guided the whole entourage towards the conference room while talking excitedly.

A few minutes later, he and Sean became the occupants of the private cubicle. They used the adjoining door from the conference area.

Sean sat down on the couch near the glass window.

He would see her staring at him if he moved his head slightly towards the window but, thankfully, he was busy talking to the manager.

Audrie let her eyes feast on Sean’s profile.

She had always wished to have at least close-up shot of Sean to keep in her wallet but she dared not grant that forbidden wish.

If anyone would see his photo in her possession, she would just die of shame.

Sean had always been a secret fascination to Audrie.

And now that she got a rare chance to look at his face, even though at side view, she couldn’t stop herself from staring.

Sean Talbot is good-looking but he’s not as handsome as a movie star. His features are not smooth and perfect.

There is a slight bump on the thin bridge of his nose. His jaw bones look too large and protruding. His high forehead has thin lines even at young age.

The laughter lines on both ends of his eyes lessened the somber look on his strong face.

Despite the imperfections, Sean’s face possesses a solid magnetism that pulls the attention.

No one can ever ignore Sean. Aside from being taller than most men in Love City, his athletic body moves agilely.

Audrie blushed as she recalled the countless weekend mornings that she spent ogling Sean’s muscular torso while he’s playing basketball in his own yard.

Sometimes he just lay on a lounger to sunbath for an hour or two before taking a dive into the swimming pool located at the rear part of the Talbot’s large house.

She could not see him swim but she could hear the loud splashes of water.

This privilege to spy on Sean could be lost once she decided to live away from home — and even if she didn’t.

She will transfer to a different bedroom so that she could stay away from the temptation of watching Sean every weekend through the window.

His eyes are as black as night like the color of his thick, wavy hair. When he was younger, he let his hair grow to shoulder-length.

He looked like a rock star and lots of girls would scream whenever he passes by riding a Harley.

On hindsight, maybe this was the reason why Audrie bought a motorbike with her first month salary.

When he graduated from college, the long hairstyle was replaced by a clean haircut.

The thin moustache and beard he sported then were also shaved closely. Sean Talbot was groomed to look wholesome and respectable.

He must be shaving twice a day to be able to maintain that suave smoothness he always has.

He always wore tailored business suits and shiny black shoes wherever he went even until he became Love City’s youngest and first bachelor mayor.

When he was inside the privacy of his home, he would sometimes wear boxer shorts or old jeans with holes and a t-shirt or nothing.

The manager must have said something funny because Sean suddenly threw back his head to laugh heartily.

Audrie was fascinated as she looked at his white even teeth.

Her earlobe tingled as it remembered the gentle nip of those same teeth. Audrie shivered.

Her fingers touched the part of her neck where those teeth had grazed intimately.

Her body was screaming for the memories with Sean to stop but she just couldn’t take away her eyes from watching him.

While laughing, Sean was suddenly looking young and carefree again. It seemed their manager and the town mayor was long-time friends.

“Isn’t he so handsome?”

“He’s gorgeous!”

“And he’s still single!”

“Single with complications? He’s got a beautiful girlfriend, you know! A pretty-pretty super model!”

Audrie’s heart skipped.

She didn’t want to be known as Anne’s sister to these girls.

She wanted to remain as ‘the silent worker’ in the office.

Her life would be hell once she became known as a celebrity’s relative.

“I’ll settle to be his mistress!”

“Your wish is impossible! Just ask to be his one-night-stand! ha-ha!”

“Stop it, girls! And let’s not get too obvious. The boss might notice us and he — darn! — he pulled down the blinds! I told you to behave!” Janica was very furious.

“Well, we know he’d do that sooner or later.” The girls shrugged and moved away as one.

“Our boss just loves to bait gossip mongers like us!”

“Monster paparazzi, you mean!” Janica snapped.

The girls just giggled loudly as they sat on their chairs. They faced their computers but made no attempt to start working.

They’re too much excited about Sean’s presence in their usually dull and quiet office.

Audrie was only able to continue her task through sheer determination.

She could not see Sean anymore but his image was indelibly imprinted on her mind.

She’d just close her eyes to see a replay of Sean throwing up his head to laugh.

And each time she did a rewind of the scene, Audrie was coming to a realization that Sean had not been looking happy for a long time.

She knew now that his sadness was caused by Anne’s reluctance to get married.

Her heart was weeping with sadness.

Loving him from afar was all she could do. Anything she offered would just be rejected. Sean needs only Anne.

He made that clear in his letter.

UNCUT: WHITE FLAME-13

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