Uncut: White Flame-13

She’d Rather Love an Enemy Than a Friend

Sean and his group left at about three in the afternoon.

It was coffee break but for the first time, no one rushed to the coffee vending machine.

Everyone was pretending to be busy but actually switched on waiting mode.

The manager should be ready to answer questions from overly-curious employees — or he would be listening to a week-long grumble about insensitive and anti-human rights employers.

Audrie was curious, too but she would never join the askers.

Sometimes, it was better to be ignorant.

There was a hushed silence when the mayor and his companions passed through the rows of office desks once again.

Audrie followed Sean with her eyes, silently saying goodbye.

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Why was it so painful to love him? Her heart was asking while bleeding to death.

Was it because he didn’t and couldn’t love you back…? Audrie cried inside herself quietly.

The hush-hush atmosphere broke out right after the manager went back inside the wide-spaced office area.

“Sir, what’s up?”

“Good news or bad news?”

“Will he be back, sir?”

“Is he the new owner?”

Mr. McIntyre just laughed and rose up both his hands to stop the torrent of questions from the employees.

“No bad news, no merging. It’s just good news. Mayor Talbot paid me a visit to personally invite me to his wedding — as his best man.”

“Ooh, noo!”

Half of the female employees swooned loudly.

“He’s getting married!”

“Everyone here is invited as well,” the beaming manager continued.

“No need to bring wedding gifts so don’t ask for raises. Ha-ha.” He laughed at his own joke.

Audrie was feeling very cold inside as she listened.

How could she survive the wedding? Could she really watch Sean and Anne getting married?

Maybe, this afternoon is a sign for her to pursue her plan to leave home now.

She heaved a deep sigh.

Yes, she must try her wings and try to stand on her own feet while she still has time.

“Hello, Audrie.” She was still deep in thoughts when Nick suddenly appeared beside her desk.

“Huh? Oh, Nick! I didn’t see you coming. Sorry.” Nick was one of the engineers assigned in the docks.

His office was located in the ground floor.

“The boss called us to come up here to listen to the mayor’s wedding invites.” Nick’s look was searching once again.

Audrie could not hold his eyes so she keeps on glancing away.

“Can we have dinner tonight?”

“Tonight?” Her negative answer must be stamped on her expressive face.

“What about tomorrow night?” Nick looked persistent.

“I don’t know…”

“I hope you’re not still mad at me, Audrie.”

“I’m not mad at you, Nick.” Audrie saw Janica looking at them speculatively.

“If you’d be free this Friday…”

“Friday! Great! What time?”

“About seven — ? Or is it too early?” Audrie asked tentatively.

This was her first formal date with a man. And she’s feeling a bit lost.

Anne and Aimee would have known what to say and do with any man.

“Seven is quite fine. Can I have your address?”

“Let’s just meet somewhere.”

“Okay. I’ll be at the Fritz at seven o’clock on Friday.” Nick’s callused palm covered Audrie’s freezing hand.

“Thank you for accepting, at last!” His smile was warm and his eyes were twinkling.

Audrie felt guilty at once. She almost took back her acceptance but she didn’t have the heart to disappoint Nick again.

He had invited her for countless times before. She always looked at him as a good friend or even a big brother.

‘But it’s not fair to use a good friend as a shield and distraction!’ A voice inside her mind scolded her sternly.

Loving Sean had caused her nothing but pain and despair.

Loving Nick would surely cause her more pain because she’d always long for Sean.

Her choice was without logic or reason but she’d rather love an enemy than a friend.

Someone called Nick. He turned his head and waved then faced Audrie again.

“I hope you won’t call me before Friday.” He was still smiling but his tone was serious.


“Because you might get cold feet and cancel our first date.”


“Please give me a chance to know you, Audrie.”

“I — It’s not — Please let’s not rush into anything, Nick,” she forced herself to talk calmly even when her panic was starting to rise.

“We won’t,” Nick pacified her quickly. “Bye for now. Until Friday.”

“Got a date on Friday, huh?” Janica said tauntingly when Nick was gone.

Audrie ignored her without much effort. She got a lot of things inside her mind.

* * *

That night, after a warm shower and a light dinner, Audrie called her mother.

“Audrie! I’ve been waiting for your call since 6 o’clock.” Marie Jacobs sounded frazzled.

“Are you busy, Mom? I’ll call again later.” Audrie offered hopefully. She was dreading this conversation.

“No. I mean, yes. Something’s come up in New York. We have to fly there tonight.”

“Oh! Is Anne in trouble?”

“I don’t know. She just called us earlier and asked us to fly there at once.”

“Can I help?”

“Yes. Please go home tonight and watch the house. Aimee’s not here, too. Her agent came here this afternoon to fetch her.”

Audrie closed her eyes. She didn’t want to go home yet.

“Okay,” she agreed reluctantly.

“Thank you, Audrie. We might be gone for several days. I don’t know. Anne’s invitation was so mysterious.”

“Please give Anne my love, Mom. Take care of yourselves, you and Dad.” Audrie tried to hide her growing worry.

“Yes. Thank you, dear. I know you’re also having a hard time now and you need us too — but Anne seemed… odd.”

“Please, don’t worry about me, Mom. I’m alright now.”

“I’m happy to hear that but we’ll have that talk soon. That’s a promise.”

Audrie did not reply anymore.

She’d make sure her mother would forget about her ‘troubles’ by returning to and staying in the background.

Anne is always a good distraction.

After the call, Audrie donned her jacket and packed the few things that she pulled out of the large backpack.

She wrapped the dirty clothes in a separate plastic bag.

Johnny was not on duty so she was able to check out without much conversation.

Charra was not around, too.

Without the two familiar faces, the hotel suddenly turned into a cold place for Audrie.

She was glad she’s going home after all.

The town was bustling with activities because it was still early.

She drove along the streets carefully, her motorbike purring quietly.

Some of her acquaintances saw Audrie passing by and waved at her invitingly.

She waved back but did not stop.

The bars were the last places that she’d want to visit in a long time.

Her parents were ready to leave when she arrived.

“Thank God, you’re here at last, Audrie!” exclaimed her mother.

“We will call you the moment we arrived in New York, Audrie,” her father promised.

“Don’t forget to lock the windows and doors, sweetheart.”

“Yes, Mom. Take care, Dad.”

Audrie was smiling and nodding during the brief and flurried goodbyes.

But after she closed the iron gates, her forced smile disappeared slowly.

She was alone once again.

“Home sweet home,” she whispered to herself as she dragged her large backpack inside the silent house.

She switched off the lights in the living room on her way to the kitchen.

She fetched a big jug of ice-cold orange juice before going upstairs.

Her destination was the small guestroom located at the end of the corridor.

The windows in the room faced their backyard so she wouldn’t see Sean anymore.


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