"Excellent. Mrs Mallick, you have made progress! But it's a long road to recovery. I wish to treat you further however your husband had warned me not to push you too far. Against my better judgement you have just finished your last session. Now, I want to stress this next point; the second you feel stressed or just want to talk, I want you to get help straight away."
"Don't worry Doctor. I'm okay! I've spoken to you able my ex-boyfriend James, I remember every second of what happened to cause me to have this Acute-Stress disorder –as you call it – and I remember with absolute detail what I did on my wedding night – which I'll never ever tell you." I smiled and silently rejoiced that this was the last of the three consecutive days I had to talk to this weasel shrink.
Dr Laskaratos flipped to the last page of his notebook and handed me a card. "Dr Wedlund was my colleague and she is fantastic. If you ever need to talk, you can call her. She lives in your city and if I have your permission, I'll pass your file to her."
"Yes. That' fine." I said, eager to get rid of the spy of a therapist once and for all. "Thank you for your help."
"Today is your last day here, how have you liked our country?" Dr Laskaratos stood up and I quickly followed suit.
"Very much. I would've enjoyed it even more so had I not broken down till after I went home." I replied.
He laughed as we walked to the elevator. "You still have the rest of this evening. I'm sure you'll make the most of it."
Right on schedule, the elevator door opened and Frank stepped out—just as he had done for the past three of my sessions with Dr Laskaratos.
"How did it go?" He asked, just as he had asked for the past three days.
"Excellent." I said, reusing the doctor's word. I had no doubt that despite the 'doctor-patient confidentiality' Frank will undoubtedly retrieve the entire session from the good doctor himself.
We stood around as they chatted for awhile before the therapist left my hotel room for the last time.
"How do you feel?" Frank asked as he took a step closer.
A rush of annoyance burned through my heart. He had not sought a conversation with me since my breakdown, and suddenly out of the blue he's talking?
"Good." I replied, unable to meet his eyes.
"You want to talk about it?"
I smiled without humour. "I just spent a four hour session talking about feelings, do you honestly think I want to talk?"
He frowned and swore under his breath. He reached for his phone, and my guess was to call Dr Laskaratos.
"Are you kidding me? Just because I don't want to talk to you doesn't mean I'm still crazy! But if you are worried, by all means stay away from me, not like that's anything new! But if you think I will spend another minute with that spy of a therapist you better think again." I exploded without control. I turned and my aim was to go to my room but he captured my wrist before I could take another step away.
"What's your problem?" He asked, his eyes creased with confusion. "You're like a bloody pressure valve. Can you at least give me some warning before you explode?"
"I'm not crazy Frank! Stop treating me like one!" I tried to yank my wrist free but in vain.
"I never thought you were crazy Tania." He answered, perplexed.
"No?" My voice quivered as it leaked the first hint of hurt I've tried so desperately to hide. "So it must just be a coincidence that the day I broke down was the day you ... you didn't come back till way past 4 in the morning." I could hear the accusation, and even though my pride was disappearing I couldn't stop. "Or the fact that 'coincidently' the very next day a therapist came knocking at my door, treating me like I'm mentally unstable (and I know how I sound right now, but shut-up). I know I acted crazy, but that doesn't mean you should treat me like I'm the plague!"
I felt just as I sounded—a mess. The therapist did help—if I'm being completely honest—but how honest can you be to a stranger when I'm living the life that I am? Through my recovery, my head had cleared and I was seeing things much more clearly now. And right now I see the root to my confusion standing so poised in front of me – I just can't figure him out!
Like I said, a complete and utter mess.
He came closer and placed his hands on my arms. He gently rubbed them while he studied me with solemn eyes. "I'm sorry."
I was taken aback and frowned suspiciously.
"I know I—. I should've been there for you." He placed a hand against my cheek and brushed aside my hair. "But I couldn't do it. Not because I thought you were crazy," he added with a hint of teasing. "I took advantage of you that day sweetheart. And I thought the last person you wanted to see was me."
He was giving me space?
"Oh." I looked away, dazed. I could hear the crackling of firewood in the next room, and I concentrated on it for a good half minute or so. I closed my eyes and exhaled deeply, "I feel like an idiot."
My pride was shattered to the floor nevertheless I had enough conscience to respect his honesty with a bit of my own. With the last of my dignity I confessed, "I thought... I thought you were disgusted with me."
His fingers moved to come against my chin, gently tilting my head up. I slowly met his gaze, expecting to see humour, amusement or even his cold-hearted stare. I saw none of that, if anything I saw the opposite—warm eyes, relaxed demeanour and a gentle curl of his lips—it was the Frank I met in Switzerland, the Frank I've grown to trust.
"Silly duck. How can think that? You have no idea how hard it was for me to stop and walk away from you. I have great self control my love—if I do say so myself—but it took a damn lot of willpower to stop myself from making love to you that night."
My heart throbbed like no tomorrow. I was breathless and I was melting. No one has ever spoken to me in that way before – so blunt, so maturely honest. My lips quivered and I leaned in a tad closer, totally unable to control myself. I couldn't look away.
"You do not disgust me Tania." He assured unnecessarily.
I felt obligated to respond, but no words came out. After two unsuccessful attempts, I found my voice again. "Y-you're not that horrible either."
He slowly grinned warmly and stroked my cheek once. "I never meant to hurt you. I'll make it up to you I promise." He looked so sincere I couldn't help but grin back at him.
Abruptly, he turned away and looked at his watch. "Excellent." He muttered before taking my hand and leading me downstairs.
Reflexively—most likely—, he kept a hold of my hand till we reached the hotel restaurant. The place was crammed but Frank was able to get us a lovely spot next to the window.
"Have you packed yet?" He asked as he took the menu offered by the waiter.
"Yes?" I lied as I mentally saw my messy room.
He looked up over the open menu, a twinkle in his eye. I laughed silently and looked away, abashed at being caught. "Nearly." I amended as I looked up at the chandeliers.
He chuckled and causally scratched his chin. "It's alright, I'll help you. What do you want to do after dinner?"
He was really trying to make it up to me. As sweet as that is, I didn't need him to.
"You don't have to Frank. I forgive you. And honestly, I was there, and I'm at fault too."
He didn't say a word, patiently waiting for me to decide.
I caved and looked around searching for inspiration.
"Ice skating." I said as I looked over at a little girl hugging her skates tightly no matter how hard her parents coaxed for her to let them go.
He nodded his head and wrote a text message into his phone.
"Now, back to food, what would you like? We have Medaillon de turbot de France—" He rambled on a bit more, listing dishes with names I did not understand, stopping only when I yanked the menu out of his hand.
There must be English in this!
I was wrong. I sneaked a look at him and from his laughing expression, I knew I had to order if only to save face. I coolly waved the waiter over and pointed to the item that contained a word that looked somewhat like 'seafood'.
Frank was still chuckling to himself as he ordered in perfect French, and when he looked back at me, his eyes still shined from his amusement.
"You amaze me Tania, you know that?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're as brave as a lioness, your heart, how quickly you forgive. Everything." He frowned curiously and asked, "How do you do it?"
I shrugged my shoulders, not knowing how to answer. "I dunno? I never thought about it but I never could stay angry for long. Even once when I was so angry with James—"
I stopped abruptly and examined his expression. Frank remained kindly curious so I continued,
"You see I've told him a million times to fill the car with petrol. 'Do not leave it till the empty tank warning light comes up.' But he never listens. And once, when we were in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of the night, we ran out of petrol. It was freezing cold, there was no petrol station, no one. We didn't make our reservation – didn't stop them from charging us mind you, missed the concert, basically wasted so much money. I was so mad at him! But even then, I stopped being angry right after I called for help.
"I don't know why I'm like that. I get angry really quickly, usually without control, and I let it go just as quickly. Like an empty valve, until it gets filled again of course."
We shared a smile at my last comment, and I recalled our conversation upstairs. From his expression, I think his remembering it too.
"Did you enjoy this trip? I mean, the first couple of days?" He asked, ignoring the waitress as she placed a wine glass in front of him.
"Yeah I did." I replied gently. "I'll remember it forever."
He smirked handsomely and leaned back. Suddenly his expression blanked and he slowly stood up. He smiled afar but I didn't turn around because I knew the look I was seeing. His mask was back on.
I felt more than heard footsteps approaching. Frank's cool smile grew, took a casual step forward and stretched out his hand. "How are you mate? Did not know you're here."
I looked up and saw a well aged man in his fifties with his arms around a woman that looked my age. He was handsome and she was beautiful, however from looks alone, she was still way out of his league.
My gut told me not to like him as I stood up and smiled. "Phil, I'll like you to meet my wife. Tania, this is Philippe, Christy's father." Frank introduced.
Christy's father. I felt a chill go through my body. He was a few inches shorter than Frank, relaxed, tanned and well composed.
"Nice to meet you." I greeted politely.
He took my hand and kissed it. "The pleasure is all mine Mon Chéri." I smiled shyly and he went on to introduce the woman by his side. "This I'm proud to present, my wife Lisa."
"We heard you got married recently. Congratulations." Frank sounded so sincere as he leaned forward and kissed Lisa's cheek.
As I congratulated Lisa too, Frank proceeded to shake Phil's hand while Phil said, "My daughter tells me your hospitality has been incredible. As a father, I thank you and your new bride for taking her in."
Phil had a subtle French accent, making him the poster man of romance; he shined with classic charisma. His smile was laid back and his eyes gentle. He acted to display a very friendly man, but I've been around Frank and his acquaintances enough to know never to believe what you first see. There was always more than meets the eye – good or bad I could never figure out in advance though.
Frank smiled and casually placed his hands inside his pants pockets.
"Not a problem, we had a spare bedroom. Besides, Christy was a gem the way she helped us out with our wedding."
"Your wedding of course! Ahh, my terrible memory." Phil exclaimed. "I did not give you a gift. Mon Chéri," He took my hand again, and looked earnestly into my eyes, man he was good. I probably would've drooled if I wasn't still so shocked. "I do not know what to give a couple in love."
"Thank you, but you don't have to get us anything." I said hastily.
He smiled. "Frank is like my son. I have to give his new bride something but I can't give you anything that your doting husband won't give you. Ahhh! My dear, I can give you one thing. My personal promise."
I felt Frank stiffen slightly beside me. I was so tempted to turn and look at him but for some reason I told myself I shouldn't.
"You're promise?" I asked.
Phil tiled his head humbly, "I promise that if you ever need my help. Whatever it may be, I'll help without condition. That is my wedding gift to you."
He leaned in and kissed my cheek, causing my head to turn to the side. My gaze met with two suited man standing at the side of the entrance. They were both standing stiffly and staring intently over at us—bodyguards.
I looked back at Philippe with a new found understanding. He was no ordinary man! And his so called gift, sounded very strange.
Nevertheless, I smiled and thank him.
"Mrs Tania, I know you're on your last day of honeymoon, but would you be so generous as to allow me to speak privately with your husband for awhile?" Phil continued on, without missing a beat.
He was asking very politely, but just like his gift there was no option for me other than agreeing. Even though I knew that I still couldn't bring myself to say yes and risk placing Frank in any sort of danger. Before I could reply though, Frank placed his arm protectively around my waist and firmly brushed his lips near my ear.
"Don't worry." He breathed for only me to hear.
They walked away towards the far side and sat at the bar.
Lisa graciously gestured for me to sit and I returned to my seat.
We sat smiling awkwardly at each other for a few long seconds before the food Frank and I had previously ordered arrived.
She stared down at the food with fascination and happily picked up her cutlery and dived in.
"I love this place! They make the best food!" She said when she swallowed. She had a European accent but I couldn't figure out where she was born from.
I was speechless. How can she be so unfazed by what just happened? Wasn't she at all curious at what they were talking about?
Slowly we began talking about nothings for the remainder of our meal. By the time coffee came, Lisa was not just a pretty face to me. She was born and raised in Spain, very funny, carefree and saw more than she let on.
"No, this was the first time I see Frank." She replied to my question. "He's very hot." She winked.
I laughed and repaid the compliment. "Your husband is very handsome and very charming too."
She waved her thin manicured hand in a helpless manner. "Leveque. It runs in his family. Everybody falls for a Leveque. Christina you know, is just as perfect." She paused and inspected me for a few hard seconds, "and from what I hear, even your perfect man was not immune to her charms."
I was not fazed by what she said because at the back of my mind, I acknowledged I had to be careful and not give anything away. As much as I liked her, I still did not trust her. "Yes I know, they dated for awhile."
Her eyes widened and she leaned forward. "No no. More than that! They were engaged!" She said in a loud whisper. "You did not know?"
My whole world stopped for a millisecond as this new found information reached my heart. "R-really?" Why was I never told?
"Si." She nodded intently. "Phil is charming but so stubborn at times. He believed his precious daughter deserved someone much better than even Frank—as much as he liked him. And he gave Frank a ahh... warning. Leave his girl or leave his company.
"You know I worked for Phil at that time but I never seen Frank. But everyone would say, 'Frank is a very wise man!' He knew he would not get Christy even if he chose her. My darling Phil would make sure of it! So he chose to stay with Phil's company and broke Christy's little heart apart."
"Wasn't Phil angry?"
She sipped her mocha latte and shook her head. "No. I do think he regret meddling into his daughter's life though and he –and I don't think Frank either—ever told Christy the real reason Frank broke up with her."
Lisa was such a gossip queen and I was entranced. I wanted to know more! Much more. However Frank's deep chuckle was close by and I knew their 'chat' was over.
I used all my muscles to force a smile on my face as I said my goodbye to Phil and Lisa.
My next two hours was filled with a frenzied rush to get everything packed. Hence it was only when we were back up in the air, and I lying alone in the plane bedroom that I had time to reflect.
He was engaged to her. He was happy. He let her go because he had no choice. It should've been her on this honeymoon.
Each statement made it harder for me to think. My head was in turmoil; replaying the scenes of him and I and yet also screaming the knowledge of him and her. My heart was suffocating with pain and unmistakable jealousy. I could not understand why I was feeling like this. It was not possible but I cannot deny it anymore. The way I'm feeling—and had been feeling—meant only one thing; I've fallen for Frank Mallick.
A/N: Hope you liked! :) Drop me a review if you can. Until next chap, take care! xox.