HELLO! Remember me? I had a few spare hours, so I stepped into Dylan's shoes and completely lost myself in it.
NOTE: For better understanding, read my other story, "Meet Me Halfway" first.
"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation." -Kahlil Gibran
It was a ten minutes before midnight.
I was still sitting in my black leather chair, listening to men –who, perhaps, like me- didn't have any incentive to go home. That was the only plausible explanation I could formulate for the ridiculously prolonged meeting.
The questions and answers in the evaluation appeared purposely extended, deliberately drawn-out… just to prevent a conclusion.
Admittedly though, I myself was not in a hurry.
So I had let them talk, I had allowed incoherent sentences and illogical ideas escape the mouths of the caffeine-drunk executives that sat in front of me.
I watched them all with curious intensity. One by one, I looked at their sharp, but grave faces. I observed their hard concentration and their obvious passion for my company. I didn't hear anyone yawn, nor catch a glimpse of someone who would inconspicuously try to stretch. The men didn't even once check the expensive watches that clung irrelevantly on their wrists.
L.A.R.E. was what kept their world together. And it was pitiful.
The oval table in my conveniently spacious office held the most pathetic group of businessmen who apparently cared more about the money than resting, or family.
All, except for one.
Jeffrey Jones, one of the L.A.R.E. secretaries, was sitting in the furthest seat from mine. He was fidgeting and was constantly looking at his watch. He looked anxious, bothered, almost in pain.
I had to admit, I was relieved to see a normal reaction from a perfectly capable human being.
Kelly Smith was speaking when I chose to interrupt.
"Excuse me, Smith for interrupting." I said, and looked at Jones. "But I need to step outside and speak to Jeffrey Jones. Just for a minute."
"Why, of course, Mr. Lee. Should we wait for you to come back?"
"No, continue on." I replied.
Jones looked concerned, but followed me outside my door nonetheless. Once the door shut, he casted his glance on the floor.
"Are you in a terrible hurry, Jones?" I inquired grimly.
"No, no sir." He lied.
"I could detect your worry from across the room."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Lee." He sighed. "But—"
"With all due respect, it's almost midnight, and the meeting is beginning to sound just like how it did in the beginning. We are just talking in circles. We aren't getting anything done. It's getting really late and I---"
"I apologize, Mr. Lee. I will go back inside and be more attentive, the way I ought to be."
"What's your rush?" I boldly asked. It was rather entertaining.
"I don't expect you to care, sir… but my wife is waiting for me to have dinner. It's... It's our first year anniversary, sir and well, I promised I was going to take her out tonight."
I clenched my jaw and ignored the dull jolt I felt in the pit of my stomach. I felt envy surge inside of me.
"Is that so?" I murmured distantly.
"You look awfully alarmed for someone who just missed dinner."
"Well--- I really didn't like the idea of leaving Michelle all alone. She's five months pregnant and I'm just so worried that something may happen when I'm not home."
I stared at the lucky bastard's face.
"Do you… love your wife?"
He was astonished at my personal question, which I had no intention of asking.
"O-Of course, Mr. Lee. And this meeting is as important to me, but I can't just---"
"Leave." I ordered him. "Gather your belongings and just leave. Call Ivory Inn Restaurant, they are open until two in the morning and mention my name. You should receive excellent service. If they question you, have them call me."
He looked elated. Jeffrey Jones glowed, and I had the frightening thought that he would have hugged me if I didn't look so somber.
"Thank you, Mr. Lee. This is… wonderful."
He had burst back into the room, took his briefcase and ran to the elevator. The other directors gazed at me with bewildered eyes as I walked back to my seat.
"This conference has been dreadfully long, and frankly, futile. Meeting adjourned."
But I stayed in the office and fell asleep on my couch.
Tanny tapped my head repeatedly.
"God, Dylan!" She whined. "Your wife didn't leave me alone last night, bugging me and asking why you're not returning her calls! And you're just… sleeping here, AGAIN?"
"Shut up." I commanded her. "I have a headache."
"No! YOU shut up!" She snapped. "I hate being involved with you and Danielle all the time. She's pregnant, Dylan. She's just about to give birth. She's even more paranoid! Please go home once in awhile or at least pick up your phone!"
And she stormed out of my office into hers.
I followed her with a mug of cold coffee.
"Why weren't you at the meeting last night, Tanny?"
"I didn't want to. It's a waste of time and energy. Those geezers are so dull and boring. Not to mention, creepy. They have no lives, like you."
That stung me, severely.
"And besides, I preferred to hang out with Keys and Jordy."
As soon as she had said it, Tanny apparently regretted it. She unconsciously skewed her face as if she was caught cheating and covered her mouth with a hand. She looked at me with apologetic eyes.
I sat in her chair and chuckled bitterly. She sat across from me and stared at my face, feeling remorseful.
Minutes had passed, and my cousin patiently waited for me to say something.
"It's been more than a year." I couldn't believe I lasted.
"Yes, Dylan. It has been. Don't you think it's time for you to pick yourself up?" She gently whispered.
"Is she really happy… with him?"
She took a deep breath. "Yeah, she is."
I knew she wasn't lying. But a part of me hoped that Kayla still harbored something for me. I needed to believe it. It was the only way I could somehow drag myself to stand.
"You need to stop parking your car outside her home. We… caught you yesterday."
I wasn't even surprised. I knew sooner or later, someone would find me out. "You're right. I will."
"It needs to start now, okay? There are things you just can't do. She deserves to be happy and left alone."
"I miss her, Tanny." I admitted slowly, shamefully. "Like hell."
"I know, I know." She cooed.
I leaned back and closed my eyes. "I don't know where to go from here."
Two years prior, the last thing that would ever cross my mind was love. The thought of it once sickened me. I had absolutely no need for it.
I was already on top of the world; New Jersey was playing in the palm of my hand and all of East Coast revered me. I was important, people almost bowed. I enjoyed intimidating everyone inferior to my position. Girls swooned at the sight of my face, women eagerly threw themselves at me. Even men were willing to fetch me a glass of water.
Money was never a hindrance. I had it all at my disposal. Fame was well within my grasp and success had somehow attached itself to my very own name.
I worked myself for five straight years with one goal, and one goal only; to be a legacy in the company that was forcefully thrusted into my hands. Soon after, I craved to reap the reward from giving up everything I actually wanted when I was younger.
And I did obtain my prize. I made it. I was powerful, I had it all. I was unstoppable.
Then I fell in love. With a maid that did nothing but organize the papers in the stockroom of my office. The maid whose smile magically made me feel like the rest of the corrupted world didn't exist and whose kisses restored my faith in innocent bliss.
Things that used to matter, just no longer did.
But I was ridiculously blinded. I was engaged, to someone whose wealth almost compared to mine, to someone whose name could boost mine, whose fame could properly support mine.
Losing Danielle could have been my downfall. At least, that was what I had initially thought.
But I learned that Kayla Channing was.
The most difficult part was pretending that I was just fine. Even I didn't believe it.
I had continually told myself that I was a man, not just an ordinary man, but Dylan Lee. I owned lands, houses, firms, properties and even people. I had a reputation to uphold, a damn company to lead.
I couldn't simply show that I wanted to run away, that a woman had altered my priorities, and that next to Kayla was where I wanted to be every single minute of my life.
No one genuinely knew it, but of course, just me.
The rating of L.A.R.E. had dropped from 9.5 to 9.0.
And in desperation to forget about the sad plea inside me, I willed myself to acquire back the half a point we had lost. I was determined to disregard any yearning by burying myself in paperwork.
For weeks, I searched for clients all around the area, big or small, it didn't matter. I hardly spent any time at home. My cell phone received about twenty missed calls and eight voicemails a day, all from Danielle, shrieking, panicking, and demanding to know where I was.
In two weeks, L.A.R.E. was rated a 9.7. We were dubbed as the most successful business in all of East, and it made front page news as expected. 'Lee Association Real Estate Company has recovered, with a much greater magnitude'.
My mother was in joyful tears. Danielle, although swollen and could barely walk, still had the energy to entertain the press. But I hid in Tanny's stockroom.
Accolades, medals and awards gave me nothing but insincere smiles and unnecessary laudatory.
I had started caring about nothing. I existed only because I wasn't dead. I had woken up one day and realized that money, luxury and fame offered me no amount of substantial happiness.
I had become so hard, I was barely alive inside. I ended my days feeling as hollow as I had when I first opened my eyes in the morning.
The only thing that kept me sane was physical training. I spent hours in my own gym. I lifted the heaviest dumb bells I could purchase, I ran for miles, I curled into hundreds of sit-ups and did everything in my power to somehow unleash the quiet angst and regret that were on the brink of imploding.
The media took this physical improvement as a sign of pleasure and satisfaction. Little did they know that the man they had praised over and over, the well-respected figure that they all idolized, was steadily fading inside.
I tried to fight the depression with all I had. I even strategized and planned.
I carefully mapped out the details of my day so there could be no vacant slot for myself to actually think. I wanted to work, work, work until all the muscles in my body screamed for rest, so I could fall into deep slumber every night without wondering, wishing and longing for something I had foolishly let go.
Tanny had constantly told me that I was a "walking zombie" and I had to get a grip on myself. She had said too, that I was "losing it."
She was right.
Claire, Kayla's replacement was just finishing up in the stock room when I called her in for a cup of coffee.
"Sure thing, Mr. Lee." She replied seductively and swayed her hips as she walked away from me towards the door.
I stared at her back, for she was wearing the same uniform and apron that Kayla did. Suddenly, nostalgia had become so damn overwhelming that it made my stomach turn.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and tried to even my rough breathing. I swallowed stiffly and promised myself that I would have a bottle of beer after work. Real men didn't cry. But fighting off the tears was the most grueling battle I had ever participated in.
Claire had returned with her top buttons undone.
She was emitting heat waves that I knew were wholly out of lust. She bit her lips, set down the coffee and walked behind me.
"You're so tense, sir." She purred in my ear. "Let me ease you up."
I felt the hairs on my back erect as her hands touched the skin of my neck. She giggled softly and started licking my ear. I felt the apron brush against my lthighs as Claire positioned herself to straddle me.
All I could think of was Kayla's apron, and how she always looked in it, in my office, smiling and laughing with Tanny.
I could smell Claire's cheap perfume but imagined Kayla's natural hair scent that I secretly adored.
I kissed Claire first and she kissed me back. I pretended that her thin lips were plump and soft like Kayla's.
I had slept in the office again that night, with a stranger in my arms, but Kayla in mind.
I knew then that I was falling apart.
"What the hell?" Tanny's shrill voice worsened my headache.
"I know. I know… it was my fault." I mumbled dejectedly.
She shook her head, astounded. "I can't believe this. I honestly cannot believe this. Your wife is about to give birth to your daughter… and--- and instead of going home, you slept with someone else."
"Dylan…" The disappointment in Tanny's voice was tangible. "What is happening to you?"
"It was a mistake." I explained, coldly.
"Ha," She scoffed sarcastically. "You think there's an explanation for everything. What you did is inexcusable, not to mention disgusting, and you don't have the right to act defensive and reason that it was just 'a mistake'."
"You don't know what I go through." I angrily barked at her.
"No, I don't. But I do know that whatever it is, YOU have caused it. So don't give me this bullshit, Dylan. Act like an adult."
I stared at the carpeted floor of Tanny's condo. I hated her in that moment, but loved her for knocking some sense into me. She was the only one who truly cared about my being.
"Where is Claire now?"
"I don't know." I shook my head exasperatedly and answered. "I left her in my office."
"Naked?" She asked incredulously.
I nodded, realizing the critical error I had done.
Tanny sighed. "You better hope that no one will come up to your office and see her."
I had looked at the clock--- it was nine in the morning.
I felt so low, so miserable and so insignificant. The change that time had brought was staggering. A year ago, I saw myself almost as a god; inculpable of any faults, flawless and invincible. But because of love and its stupid consequences, I turned into a fool.
My depressing train of thoughts was halted when I heard a knock on Tanny's door. Whoever it was didn't wait for an answer and just swiftly opened the door.
It was Kayla.
"Tanny! Sorry, I had to come a little earlier than expected… I wanted to---"
She froze abruptly at the sight of me. Her eyes evidently widened and it was too easy for me to immediately perceive her anxiety. I then recalled that it had been a year or so since we had faced.
God, she was more beautiful than I remembered... I bit my lip before my thoughts could make their way to my mouth, and before pathetic tears that I had never shed before, form in the corners of my eyes.
Tanny too was in a state of panic. She knew that it was almost forbidden for me to see Kayla and for Kayla to see me. She had put on a tough-love kind of show, but in reality, I understood that she was hurting in seeing me suffer.
Falling out of love was so much more arduous when the object of the great affection stood reachable. She was about seven feet away from me. I could easily sweep her into my arms.
Then Kayla spoke up. "I'll--- I'll just come back."
"Wait," I said, not really comprehending why I said that.
Surprisingly, she did wait. The door shielded her from me, but her hand was gripping the knob, and she could still listen.
I gave Tanny a defeated look.
She returned mine with a sympathetic sigh. "I'm going to pretend that I'm not here. I'm--- I'm still sleeping in my room."
I heard her slam her door shut and I took a deep breath.
"Would you like to sit?" I offered Kayla.
"No, thanks. I'd like to stay here, if you don't mind." She mumbled.
"Why? So the door can conceal you from me?"
She didn't respond.
"How have you been?" I attempted to strike a casual conversation. But all I ached to do was hug her and kiss her once again.
"I've been… great. Really good." She answered.
But I couldn't take it any longer. The anger, the angst, the unbearable regret and unhappiness finally exploded. She was within my grasp. I had to do something.
I grabbed the side of the door and swung it to the opposite direction, forcing Kayla to expose herself to me. Already, her eyes were brimmed with tears that she was obviously fighting.
Her hair was longer, shinier. Her face thinned and took a more distinct shape. Her cheeks were rosier, her lips appeared redder in color, and her skin glowed.
My breathing had become haggard and my heart violently beat in my chest. I took her hands and gazed deep in her eyes, begging to see something in them that I used to see before. I wanted her to still adore me the same way I adored her.
"Run away with me."
"What?"She looked at me with shocked wonderment. "Are you out of your mind?"
"Yes." I admitted. "You have no idea the torture, everyday I--- Keys, run away with me."
She started shaking her head. "Why would I do that?"
"Because I love you."
I saw the hazel pupil of her eyes enlarge with disbelief.
"And I am a worthless, useless being without you. Please." I implored.
"Dylan, just let me go." She insisted. "Don't put me through the same thing. It's been so long---"
I held her face. "I won't. Okay? I won't. This time, I'm serious. I have e-enough money to go to another country… maybe, maybe another state. You've always liked California… Kayla, I'll take you there."
"Dylan," She gently called me.
I didn't let her finish. "Or-or Sweden. You said--- you said you've always wanted to visit. Or—or Australia… or--- I don't care… I'll go---"
"Dylan, no." She told me and moved my hands away from her face.
"No?" My lip quivered.
"No." She confirmed.
"Because I moved on. And because you don't deserve another chance. It's not fair to me, or Jed, and even to Jake…"
Her teary eyes were both angry and hurt.
"But--- but…" I tried to reason out, like a selfish boy who wanted a bigger share.
"I've sewed my life back together. I don't need you to come back and rip it all apart again." She quietly pronounced.
"I've finally forgotten about you. You're too late... I'm happy now." Kayla sniffled as I stood forlornly. "You can't ruin that for me."
I stared at her face for as long as I could. "But I won't hurt you again. You don't understand---"
"Stop it!" Keys retorted. "You don't understand. You can't just pick up where you left off."
I literally felt weakness spread all over my body. For once in my life, I didn't have control over the situation. I didn't have the upper hand that moment, and it frightened me like never before.
"I don't want to see you anymore. I don't want Jakey to have anything with you either. Please leave us alone. You are not revered in our world. To me, to Jordy and even to Jakey, you are just a selfish bastard who cared about no one but himself."
"I-I'm sorry." She murmured.
Then she stepped out to Tanny's porch and made her way to the gate. I had decided to run after her, with silly tears slowly trickling down my cheeks.
I was willing to give up everything I had, just to hear her say she still wanted to be with me.
I was able to catch up. I took her arm and pulled her closer to me.
"Go away!" She shrieked.
"Kayla, please!" I yelled at her, as my final call of desperation. "Stay here with me…"
She yanked her wrist and stepped back.
"Go back to your wife, Dylan and stop concentrating so much on yourself and on what you want. Goodbye."
Her voice quaked, but her eyes were firm.
I had lost her. Any spark of life in me just dissipated and died.
I carried Danielle's and our baby's baggage to the private plane I had set up for our trip to Paris.
My mother had said her goodbyes and her congratulations to me for the 'great decision' I had made.
"Not to worry, son." She breathed. "I will take care of your company here. You and Danielle, have a great life in Paris. I will see you next Christmas."
I nodded and made my way into the plane. I gave our flight attendant the consent, to let her know that we were ready. She then requested Mr. Taylor, our pilot, to launch the flight.
"It's a shame Tanny didn't want to take your place as the President. I bet she would love the extra money."
She rocked the little bundle in her arms and smiled.
"It's not all about the money, Danielle." I muttered as I took our child in my own hands. She was an adorable little darling. Enough to make my heart hurt with affection.
Her cute button nose wrinkled as I accidentally breathed on her face. She opened her tiny eyes and peeked at me, accusing me of waking her up. Her eyes were blue, like Danielle's.
How desperately did I wish that they were hazel-colored...
Danielle was chortling. "You're funny, sweetie. Of course it's all about the money."
I stared at her smooth, near-perfect face. She was a pleasant picture to look at. I had wished though, that she wasn't so empty inside.
Because of my pride and absurdity, she became the one I was to spend my forever with.
And there was nothing left to do, but get over Kayla.
My life was never meant to be a fairy tale anyway.