Uncut: White Flame-17

Love Hurts… But Love Changes Everything!

Audrie slept fitfully. She woke up before sunrise, feeling exhausted and looking haggard.

Sean was not good for her health and peace of mind anymore.

She dreamed of Sean as a dark figure from the shadows, who kept on telling her to betray her loved ones, especially Anne.

She was weak to her love but she wasn’t unscrupulous. At least, she hoped she wasn’t — yet.

‘You need a break, Audrie,’ she told her reflection after taking a cold shower.

‘And do some changes on yourself as well,’ added a small voice inside her head.

Audrie arrived early in the office so she was able to pack her things before Mr. McIntyre arrived.

Today was to be her first day in the new branch office.

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“Of course, you can bring your things with us now so the messenger won’t have to do an extra transportation,” the manager replied to her question about the baggage.

“You’ll be officially introduced as the new branch manager during the monthly meeting next week though.”

“I will be here, sir,” Audrie said with a smile.

“Good, good. I’ll just get a folder in my office.”

“Alright, sir.”

Janica arrived then.

“Hey! You resigned?” she exclaimed while eyeing the big box on Audrie’s old office desk.

“No — ”

“Ah, you’re getting transferred to the new office — like the two girls over there.”

Audrie had no desire to correct Janica so she just nodded and smiled politely.

“I shall miss you.”

“Really?” Audrie asked with raised brows. She looked skeptical.

“Well, really. You’re quiet and peaceful and you don’t quarrel with me even when I’m being obnoxious at times.”

Audrie’s smile was more genuine this time. Janica wasn’t really bad at all, just a bit more curious than usual but not really malicious.

“I’ll miss you all, too,” she said seriously.

“I hope you’d call here whenever you have time. We can swap news and gossips,” Janica requested with a wink.

“I wonder who’s gonna be your new boss.”

Audrie couldn’t tell the truth now because she might sound pompous so she just shrugged her shoulders.

She was thankful when Mr. McIntyre appeared.

“Goodbye for now, Janica.” She picked up the big box and walked towards the wide door.

The day had turned out hectic because the manager had other errands to do for the new branch.

He dragged Audrie along rows of cars with different shapes, sizes, and models.

“Choose the one you like, Miss Jacobs. The company will pay for it,” he said encouragingly.

“Please, do the honor, sir. I’d be embarrassed if I chose an expensive one.”

Mr. McIntyre laughed out loud. “Don’t worry, Miss Jacobs. The luxury cars are over there.”

Audrie gave a relieved smile.

“Ok, I think I like this one.” She pointed at a silver-colored SUV-type vehicle. It was roomy but not bulky like a van.

“Nice choice. Please, wait here and get acquainted with it while I talk to the manager.”

“Yes, sir.”

Thirty minutes later, Audrie was driving a brand new vehicle. She needed to adjust at first because she had been driving a motorbike for almost five years.

“How’s the new baby going?” Mr. McIntyre asked after they reached the branch office.

“It’s fine — light and smooth. I like it. Thank you, sir.”

“Good to hear that.” The manager smiled widely. “And you’re welcome once again. C’mon, let get inside.”

The finishing of walls was almost done. The ceilings were done yesterday. The bathroom and the storage space at the back would be last.

“But they should be ready by Monday,” the foreman assured them.

“Monday will be fine,” Mr. McIntyre beamed.

“Miss Jacobs will just visit here every day then. She’s the branch officer-in-charge, by the way.”

“Good day, missy,” the foreman greeted Audrie politely. Then he did a double-take and started staring at her.

“Forgive me for staring, missy, but you remind me of someone.”

“It’s alright, sir.” Audrie smiled blandly.

People often told her that she sometimes resembled her two model sisters.

“If you’d excuse me, Mr. McIntyre, I’d like to call my mother.” She pulled out her cell phone from her jeans’ pocket to support her alibi.

Audrie was reading the auto manufacturer’s manual when her boss got out from the office. She immediately went out of the SUV.

“I have to go back to the office. I’m sorry we can’t have lunch together as I planned. Something urgent cropped up. You’re free for the rest of today though, as well as tomorrow.”

“Oh! Again?”

“Just check out the progress here in the morning or in the afternoon tomorrow. And also during the weekend if you had some free time on Saturday and Sunday.”

“I’ll set aside some time during the weekend, sir,” Audrie promised at once. “You gave me so much free time this week!”

“It’s because you might not have any when the operation here started — but I’m just joking, of course.”

Mr. McIntyre laughed aloud at his own joke as usual. He quickly moved towards his car.

“Have a good day, Miss Jacobs.” He gave a mock salute before opening the car door.

Audrie waved and smiled. She still couldn’t believe the many changes happening in her life these past few days.

And was it only coincidental that everything had started after Sean mistaken her for Anne and kissed her?

Or maybe, the right time had just arrived for the real Audrie Jacobs to emerge as a woman.

She told herself this morning that she needed a break. And a break was granted. So the least she could do was to do some changes as soon as possible. And why not now?

The new branch office was located in the heart of Love City’s neighbor town where people swarmed on the sidewalks and the pedestrian lanes, especially during lunch breaks and rush hours.

Audrie decided to walk because looking for a parking space anywhere else at this time of day would be difficult.

She went to a well-known and reasonably priced beauty salon. She knew that this was not the place frequented by her mother and sisters.

A slim woman with shiny black hair greeted Audrie as she pushed open the glass door.

A blast of cold air from the air-conditioning unit welcomed her, too.

“Good morning, ma’am. Have a seat while I get a cup of tea for you.”

Audrie smiled and looked at the pinned-up giant posters of women with different hair styles. She instantly liked the one with the very short haircut.

Although she wouldn’t go as far as having her brown-black locks colored with ash-blonde highlights.

The slim girl came back with a cup of steaming hot tea for her. She sat beside Audrie on the long and comfortable couch.

“Your hair is very beautiful, ma’am. Would you like a hair spa or hot oil treatment?”

“Whichever will be fine, but I’d like to have it cut first.”

“A trim,” the girl guessed smilingly.

“A short haircut, actually. Like the girl in that poster.”

The salon girl’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“Are you sure, ma’am?”

“Quite sure.”

“Oh, but your hair is long and beautiful. Lots of girls would give anything to have long and beautiful hair.”

“I find it hard to manage. Easy to get dirty but hard to dry after every shampoo.”

“You’re right. But it seems a pity to just cut it short. You might regret it, ma’am.”

“No, of course not.” Audrie smiled to reassure the girl.

“Ok, please follow me, ma’am. We’ll have it shampooed first.”

After a warm shampoo wash, Audrie was brought back to the main salon area.

She was introduced to a male hairstylist with reed-slim body and colorful hairstyle named Bushy.

He seemed not shocked on Audrie’s choice of haircut. He was gracious yet businesslike during their short interview for her other preferences.

“No hair color, ma’am?” Bushy asked a second time.

“No color.” Audrie confirmed with a smile. “Just a hair spa or hot oil.”

“Alright, let’s start then.”

After an hour of sniping and steaming and washing and blow-drying, Audrie had a shiny black and very short hairstyle.

She stared at her reflection for several long seconds. It was like looking at a familiar stranger.

Did she regret losing her long hair?

No. It felt like shedding off a heavy load. She smiled at herself as she flicked back her short locks.

She liked the lightness of movement.

“Do you like it, ma’am?” Bushy asked.

“Yes,” Audrie smiled back.

“It suits you perfectly because you have a gracious and well-shaped head,” Bushy complimented with a satisfied smile.

“Thank you.”

“With that hair, you only need minimum make-up. Just a little color on the eyes and the lips will do.”

“I don’t wear make-up during the day.”

“You’re lucky because you have gorgeous skin.” Bushy hovered around Audrie as though assessing her attributes.

“Such a tall girl. You can be a model.”

Audrie smiled blandly and changed the subject quickly.

“Could you show me how to blend colors for eye make-up?”

“Oh, yes, of course! Come over here. I’ll show you all the techniques.” Bushy seemed easily excited with anything connected to colors.

“I love your eyelids. They will surely look so dramatic with make-up!”

Audrie listened attentively to Bushy’s tips. The procedure seemed easy but definitely required a lot of practice to perfect.

“Thank you for teaching me, Bushy,” she said warmly. She couldn’t stop herself from staring at her new look.

“It’s a pleasure, ma’am. You can buy a starter cosmetics kit in our boutique upstairs,” Bushy suggested.

“You have a boutique here?” Audrie was pleasantly surprised.

“Yes. Come. I’ll take you there.”

What started out as a simple hair cutting session ended to an extravagant shopping spree.

The sales representative was very accommodating and attentive. Her suggestions were well-thought and since Audrie was in the mood to be persuaded, she bought a couple of dresses, several pairs of slacks, a number of blouses, blazers, and a couple of pairs of low-heeled shoes.

No more sneakers for her now that she’s driving the company car.

Audrie could not resist a black coat with faux fur on the collar so she pulled out her plastic card to pay for the last purchase.

Audrie even let herself be persuaded on wearing a pair of gray-colored slacks and pastel pink blouse. The figure-hugging clothes were made of fine materials and the semi-casual design suited her tall figure.

She paid the salon with cash so that she could give a tip to Bushy and the slim girl who welcomed her earlier.

“You’re so generous, ma’am. Thank you. Please, let me help you with those bags. Lulla, please call a taxi for ma’am.”

“Oh, there’s no need. Could I just leave these things here while I fetch my car? It’s parked not far from here.”

“That would be better, ma’am. We’ll look out for you just in case you can’t find a parking space here,” Bushy promised.

“What a splendid idea! Yes, please do that.” Audrie was grateful.

The long and winding highway seemed a strange land when Audrie drove home that night. Traveling in a four-wheeled vehicle is slower.

She’d miss her motorbike but it’s really time to break away from old habits.

She planned to be home earlier tonight because she missed her parents’ call last night.

However, finding a mechanic shop that would take her motorbike for an overhaul and general cleaning took a bit long.

She had to accompany the mechanic to the parking lot where she usually park her motorbike and return back to the mechanic shop to sign some papers. It was already dark when she headed home.

UNCUT: WHITE FLAME-18

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