Chapter twelve: Scarlet Tulips

The three, along with the delivery boy, stood in front of the neighbor's door. Ty knocked on the door, mainly because he felt that he was the only one who had a legitimate right to do so since he was her neighbor. However, the real reason was that Johnny and Rick fervently insisted it.

When the door finally opened, he saw his neighbor gasp in shock at the unexpected visit. He couldn't help but to note her wet strands of hair framing her face in an aesthetic way, her body conservatively clad in a bathrobe, and not to mention her chocolate eyes that shimmered under the dim fluorescent light in the hallway. He never examined her this carefully, but then again, they hadn't really seen much of each other. She didn't speak a word, perhaps too shocked to utter anything out loud. He quickly searched for words in his own mind, but was interrupted when Johnny started talking.

"Hello! Would you like to buy some pizza?" Johnny smiled sweetly. Ty gave him one of his look. 'Did you have to be so blunt?' he thought. Fortunately, the girl was not looking at them like they were a bunch of hooligans. Actually, she didn't really respond, except for a few hesitated "uhm's."

Finally, she recuperated from the temporary speech problem and asked charily, "Are you zephyr?"

"The one and only!" Johnny answered happily, "Now do you want to buy some pizza?"

She seemed to be very indecisive, hesitating for a few moments. Then she glanced at the three one by one. Rick was like a suave gentleman judging by the way he stood. Ty gave her a smile while Johnny displayed his famous "puppy-eyed" expression. She grinned, "Only if I get your autographs!"

She left the door to retrieve her wallet and a pen and paper, secretly thanking fate for her awesome luck for meeting all three members of Zephyr. When she returned, everyone stood there with a big smile plastered on his face. She handed Johnny a few bills and anticipated witnessing Zephyr giving their autographs.

After the sheet of paper made it back to her, she looked at it satisfyingly. Johnny lifted the pizza boxes out of the delivery boy's arms and handed them to Elizabeth. Clumsily, she grabbed them and looked up at her idols once more.

"Well, good night, I guess," she said, although a bit unwillingly.

"Good night, see you later!" Johnny and Rick started making their way back to Ty's place.

After laying the pizza boxes down on a table, Elizabeth was about to close her door when a powerful arm stopped it in its track. She looked up again, and her eyes caught the glowing blond hair and a … rather handsome face. It was her neighbor Ty. She secretly wondered why he had to be so tall that she had to tilt her head backwards 50 degrees to see his eyes.

"Listen, I'll pay you back for this," Ty said seriously.

Nervously, she laughed. It was becoming her habit to laugh at inappropriate times. She suddenly found herself fumbling with the brass doorknob, and wondered why his arm still there propping the door open like that. She could almost feel his arm touching her shoulder.

"No, you didn't have to… I…I haven't eaten dinner yet. So it was nice of you, I mean, you guys." She wanted to kill herself for stumbling on her words so much. Meanwhile, the doorknob was getting a major polishing treatment as she continued to rub her thumb over it.

He nodded and finally lowered his arm. Still keeping his eyes on hers, he cleared his throat and said, "Good night," allowing each syllable to roll out of his mouth slowly, as if savoring the moment.

"Yeah…" she quickly closed the door. She had felt her heart rate suddenly accelerate a moment ago. Now, she could only sigh in relief. If he had left a few seconds later than he did, then she probably would've been overwhelmed by her own nervousness, or blushed uncontrollably. She felt stupid because she was acting like a high school girl who had seen a hot guy and started to have a crush on him. For the past few years, she thought she had matured into a woman completely. Apparently today she was convinced that she had been wrong.

She had been in this pensive state for quite a while before she heard her stomach grumble. Deciding to toss all the thoughts aside, she lifted the lid of the box, and took out a slice of pizza and began to munch on it.

When she walked into her office in the morning, she was surprised by the two new decorations on her desk. They were two glass vases filled with fresh-cut tulips. Their colors imitated that of a scarlet sky during a sunset. The petals were wonderfully adorned by crisp green stems and leaves. She loved the flowers that gave life to her previously unanimated office. She secretly wondered who had done this. Suddenly, she remembered what Ty had said to her last night, that he would pay her back for buying the pizzas. A rose tint surfaced on her soft cheeks.

When she sat down in front of her desk, she noticed another surprise, another giant stack of reading material! She cursed Steven Marshall several times under her breath, but then realized that he probably had some secret camera in her room to record her every move. On the first page of the documents, there was a green sticky note, a message from Sandy:

Elizabeth, Mr. Marshall wanted me to give you these documents. You are to come up with a new appropriations plan by the end of this week.


She groaned unhappily. She wasn't indolent and slothful. In fact, she loved her work, but poker face was killing her with the amount of work. He was probably angry since she took a day off. Unwillingly, she began the tediously long reading. Once in awhile, she found herself dozing off. She would imagine seeing Marshall smugly sipping coffee next door while joyfully surfing the Internet. After all, she seemed to be the one doing all the work.

However, when she saw the beautiful flowers on her desk, she felt much more optimistic. Perhaps, to her, the tulips were a constant reminder of Tyler Forrester.

Suddenly, her office door opened. There stood the person that she avoided to see and least wanted to meet. He did look quite smug with both his hands in his pant pockets. She pretended to be concentrating on her work, so she didn't greet him. He didn't seem insulted or uncomfortable at all, and he didn't say anything to her either. Instead, he slowly walked toward her desk. She could feel his intense stare on her, and was feeling awkward in this silence. She still kept her mouth shut until he started touching the tulips with his fingers.

"You are going to bruise the petals if you keep doing that," she said with a ring of irritancy. Then, she raised her head to look at him.

He caught her glance, and smirked, "No 'hello'?"

She rolled her eyes and spoke sarcastically, "Good Morning, Mr. Marshall! How are you doing? Thank you so much for the amount of work that you've assigned to me! Next time, bombard me again with all your documents!"

"You weren't here yesterday. So you have to make up the work today," he said solemnly. He paused to watch her reaction. She simply stared at him miserably. Then he added, "Today is Wednesday, so you only have two days to work on the new appropriation plan." On that note, he left her room.

She looked down at the stack of paper with acrimony. Suddenly, she remembered what happened yesterday when she stayed after office hours to finish her reading. He had asked her out to dinner, and she denied it. A sense of guilt flooded over her again. She didn't understand why she would feel this way. Perhaps, it was because of her lack of experience in dating. But then again, he didn't really ask her out; it was probably a casual thing. To be safe, she wanted to finish the reading early so he wouldn't have a chance to ask her out again.

Her worries were unnecessary. She didn't see him until Friday, the due date for her plan. When she walked into his office, he was energetically typing away on his computer. She stood in front of his desk and cleared her throat a couple of times to catch his attention. When he finally stopped his furious typing, she handed him a folder. Opening the cover, he took out the pages in the folder, and quickly skimmed through them while she waited.

"Your distribution of money is rather unfair, don't you think?" he asked after reviewing her plan.

"It is not a question of impartiality," she responded eloquently, "I gave Zephyr more appropriations for the next fiscal year because I believe that they have more potential than any of the other artists in our company."

When he didn't speak, she continued with even more confidence, "your investments are completely new to the company. Any amount of appropriations will be appreciated, since it is extra money that people weren't used to having."

He liked her. She might have been timid at certain social events, but when it came down to business, she was aggressive. He found himself admiring her in every way. She was intelligent, but she was beautiful physically as well.

"I just want your investments to be successful."

"No, I like your ideas. Let's follow through with it."

She smiled in relief. It was like she was being extolled by those simple words. It was probably the first time that she felt confident in front of him.

A/N: thank you to all my reviewers! i'm working on two fics right now, so it shouldn't be surprising that i don't update that often from now on. (summer's here. stress level has gone down...some)