Uncut: White Flame-19

Get Going Even When Life — and Love — is Tough

Nick was standing in front of the Fritz Restaurant, looking anxious and a bit impatient, when Audrie parked the SUV beside a black luxury car.

Thankfully, she heard the foreman complaining about the scarcity of parking spaces during Fridays earlier at the branch office so she called the restaurant to reserve a space in the parking lot at lunchtime.

Audrie packed the black dress and some accessories before she went to bed last night.

She had no plan to go home and dress for her date with Nick so she brought her outfit when she left the house that morning.

At four o’ clock, she checked in a hotel to get some rest before she showered and dressed.

Her short hair was easy to dry so she shampooed and conditioned it. She practiced her newly-acquired skill on cosmetics application.

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After several minutes of concentration, her eyes looked dramatic and mysterious with blue-and-silver shades on the eyelids.

She painted her lips with light pink and a coat of lipsheener.

She knew she looked good and she felt strangely confident with herself. It was a first time and euphoria made her feel a bit light-headed.

“Hello, Nick. Sorry I’m late.” Audrie tapped Nick on one shoulder.

Her smile was starting to waver due to nervousness. Her hand clutching the small silver-black evening purse was trembling and feeling cold.

What if she looked like a clown with a painted face instead of the lovely apparition that she saw on the bathroom mirror?

“Sorry, ma’am, who — ?” Nick looked stunned when he recognized her.

“Audrie?! Omg, you look–! Oh, is that really you? You’re — you’re looking so lovely tonight!” His admiring eyes roamed over her–from her short hair to her low-heeled black shoes.

Audrie was wearing the black dress with the longer skirt and higher neckline. Her bare arms and back were covered with a silver-black shawl draped across her shoulders.

She chose it for tonight because it had a straight-cut design and a loose fit, unlike her other dress.

Her naiveté with clothes prevented her from realizing that the shapeless dress was just as sexy and tantalizing as any clingy dress.

The silky material revealed her hidden shapes with every move she made. Audrie worn the only pair of diamond earrings she owned.

It was a gift from Anne and Aimee when she graduated in college. Her parents deposited a small fortune to her savings bank. She had used part of that money to buy her motorbike.

“Thank you for the nice compliment, Nick.” Audrie’s self-confidence was slowly coming back.

“You look nice and handsome yourself.” She blushed a bit when she heard her somewhat dull statement.

Anne once told her that most guys didn’t want to be called ‘nice’.

Fortunately, Nick didn’t seem to notice. He was still bawled over by her changed appearance.

“Come on inside. Our reserved table is waiting.” He offered his arm eagerly. Wearing a black suit with a black bow tie, Nick looked like a real gentleman.

Audrie smiled as she walked beside him. She was basking under the warmth of his admiration like a flower just starting to bloom under the sun.

While dressing earlier, she had promised herself that she’d explore the possibility of having a relationship with Nick, even though her conscience was against the idea of using another man to help her forget Sean.

She knew she could never forget Sean but she had no choice but to continue trying. She should be tough because living her life while still hopelessly in love with Sean would be a lot tougher beyond expectation.

Nothing was predictable whenever their near to each other because sparks always fly.

“I still couldn’t believe my eyes!” Nick exclaimed once again after they were seated.

It was an effort for Audrie to pull back from her musings about Sean. She didn’t know what to say so she just smiled at Nick again.

“Are you real, Audrie? Is that really you?” Nick was almost gushing but Audrie was able to overlook his somewhat exaggerated admiration because she was busy learning how to enjoy the admiration.

This was her first time to be the center of attention. The experience was unnerving yet encouraging. It was very easy to get addicted to male adoration… but Audrie had to remain wired to the ground.

She shouldn’t let herself forget that she’s not a real beauty. And that by believing otherwise would just turn her to a vain creature.

With a snap, Audrie switched on her practical and sensible personality.

“Enough flattery, Nick.” She softened the slight rebuke with a soft smile. “Let’s order dinner. I’m hungry.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Of course.” Nick waved at the passing waiter, looking flustered and embarrassed.

The waiter gave them two menu books and left with a promise to come back after five minutes.

Audrie remained silent to give time for Nick to recover. She hid behind the large folder and pretended to peruse the different names of food and their pictures.

She decided on a small steak and a large bowl of fresh salad with separate dressing.

“What about dessert, ma’am, sir?” the waiter asked seriously.

“Two slices of chocolate cake,” Nick replied eagerly.

Audrie shook her head. “No dessert for me. Thanks.”

“I ordered for the two of us, Audrie,” Nick protested.

“I seldom eat sweets at night,” Audrie explained with a smile.

“I’ll remember that.” Nick smiled back. “No sweets for my honey before bedtime,” he added as he covered her hand with his hot sweaty palm.

Audrie wanted to squirm. It was an effort to stop herself from pulling her hand away.

She did not want to offend or discourage Nick. She really wanted to try things out with this guy; but nothing intimate — just get to know each other first.

She just hoped Nick would take things slow…

After the waiter departed, Nick began making eyes at Audrie and started caressing her palm with the tips of his fingers.

“You really shocked me, Audrie. Although I’ve always thought you had potentials to be pretty, I never expected that you could look as gorgeous as you do tonight.”

Audrie was getting uncomfortable because Nick’s fingers seemed deliberately tickling her through her sensitive palm.

She had read somewhere that it was a sort of foreplay to intimacy.

When the waiter came back with the appetizer, Audrie withdrew her hand hastily and surreptitiously rubbed her palm on the side of her dress to get rid of the crawling feeling. Nick’s hand was a bit sweaty and clammy.

“I’d like to order a bottle of champagne,” Nick announced suddenly.

‘”Of course, sir.” The waiter disappeared and came back within a few seconds with a foil-covered bottle buried in an ice bucket and two fluted wineglasses.

Champagne was seldom served in the Jacobs household but Audrie secretly liked the frizzy taste of the bubbly drink.

She accepted her wineglass with a wide smile, completely forgetting that she hadn’t eaten anything since lunch.

“Let’s toast for our future together, darling Audrie,” Nick said while raising his glass. “To us. Cheers!”

“Cheers!” Audrie raised her glass, too. The bubbles tickled her nose as she sipped the sparkling wine.

After a few sips, she felt light and cheerful. She giggled suddenly.

“What’s the joke, honey?” Nick asked at once. He was smiling warmly.

“Nothing. I’m just happy.” Audrie giggled once again, not realizing that she’s already a bit drunk.

Nick caught her hand once again. “I’m glad to hear that. I’ll make you happier before the night is through, darling,” he promised.

Before Audrie could think of an answer, their food arrived.

Sean found himself staring at the woman sitting by the large potted indoor plant.

She looked familiar…

Of course, she’d look familiar! It’s Audrie Jacobs!

He couldn’t help exclaiming to himself because the plain and quiet Audrie he knew had completely transformed to a sassy and gorgeous woman.

With a very short hair and fashionable outfit, Audrie looked even more dangerously bewitching.

He could still feel the whole impact of her bombshell effect from a distance of more than ten meters.

Audrie was slightly facing his direction. She would not notice him unless he deliberately catches her attention, which he was itching to do now.

“Do you think it’s a good idea, Mayor Talbot?”

“What? Please pardon me, Engineer Bellcamp.” Sean was having dinner meeting with the city engineer, who brought his wife along.

They were here to discuss some of the topics that involved future public infrastructure. The city government was planning to construct a motorists’ bridge that would connect Love City to the mainland of Florida.

Tudor Bellcamp asked Sean to have a talk before the city council meeting on Monday.

“My wife always serves a glass of martini with roasted chicken; but for tonight, I’d like to eat my chicken with white wine, dry or semi-dry. What do you think?” The older man explained patiently.

Sean smiled apologetically before he replied. Their food had arrived while he was busy staring at Audrie.

“I suggest we have both,” he said before giving a small nod to a hovering waiter nearby.

After giving the order for wines, his eyes strayed towards Audrie’s direction once again. Something jolted him from the inside, like a small bomb that exploded quietly but effectively destroying all the things that he had believed in…

‘My God…’ Sean whispered to himself, stunned and shocked, as he stared at Audrie with a naked hunger of a long-lost lover.

Engineer Bellcamp had to clear his throat several times to get back his attention but Sean could not focus on anything while watching Audrie, who seemed enjoying herself immensely with the company of another man.

An intense feeling of possessiveness was quickly burgeoning inside his guts and clouding his mind at the same time.

‘Dammit, what’s happening to me?!’ Sean couldn’t believe his reaction. He had never felt this jealous with Anne, even when she was constantly surrounded with other men in her modeling projects.

“Would you like to hear some advice from an old man, Mayor?” When the wife left for the comfort room, the older man leaned towards Sean to whisper a question.

“I will listen, sir.” Sean was still a bit distracted.

“If she’s the woman who owns your heart, you must own her heart, too. A man who yearns from afar will be in despair forever.”

“What do you mean, sir?” Sean asked even though he understood perfectly.

“We’re going home when the wife’s returned but you will stay here. Stop eating your heart, young man. Go and get the woman who makes you happier than a puppy.” Tudor Bellcamp finished with a conspiratorial wink.

Sean was not happy with him getting compared to a puppy but he was hit hard by the crude wisdom beneath the words of the garrulous old man.

‘Does Audrie own his heart now?’ he asked himself.

‘But what about Anne…’ asked his conscience.

UNCUT: WHITE FLAME-20

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