Author's Note: This is a story I started quite sometime ago inspired by the Kdrama "Coffee Prince". I always meant to post it here and now that it's officially completed, I thought now was a good time. Thanks for reading!
Christian Laurent shoved his backpack into the overhead compartment and slumped into his window seat. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Lisbon and a perfect day for flying. He ran his hand over his unruly hair and thought of the fright he was going to give his mother when she saw him. He wondered if she'd recognize the harder, darker, more disheveled version of himself who'd emerged while travelling the last two years.
Not that he had completely slummed it. He'd stayed at five stars and eaten three-hundred dollar meals just as often as he'd slept in hostels and stuffed himself at street stands. He'd always lived his life the way he pleased and he traveled much in the same way. There were no rules on how to backpack or any on how to enjoy the world, and if there were, they were meant to be ignored, if not broken.
He'd enjoyed bouncing between lifestyles and seeing the world. It had been a welcome respite from real life and responsibility. The people he'd met, the work he'd done, the places he'd been, he was grateful for it all and sorry that it was coming to an end. But home was beckoning. Reality, in the shape of his parents and a recovering grandmother, had taken a hold on him and he couldn't put it off any longer.
His grandmother, the domineering matriarch that kept the family and the family business together, had just fallen ill, having suffered from a heart attack. Thankfully the, self-described, old broad was the strongest person he knew and had made it through the critical period. All she had to do now was recover and he was going to make sure that whatever it took, the recovery would be successful.
A shadow fell over his lap as someone sat in the seat beside him. He glanced to the side to see bright blue eyes staring back at him.
"Hi," the brunette said smiling at him.
"Hello," he replied, his lips tugging up at the corners.
She held out one hand. "I'm Angeline."
"Christian," he said, taking it in his. "Nice to meet you."
He tried to release her hand from his but she held on tight and leaned into him. "You don't mind if I stay close to you until we land do you? I'm deathly afraid of flying," she said in a breathy voice.
He watched her thoughtfully before tilting his head slightly to the side. "Not at all."
She inched closer, pressing herself against the hand rest. "You're a doll, Christian. How will I ever make it up to you?" she purred, her face inches away from his.
His eyes fell to her lips before he looked back into her eyes. "I'm sure we'll think of something," he said softly.
Her eyes sparkled as she bit her lip. "I'm sure we will."
Stifling a grin, Christian leaned back into his seat. This wasn't the first time someone had tried to pick him up on a plane and he doubted that it would be the last.
He didn't actually want anything from the woman. In fact, as soon as the plane landed, he expected their acquaintanceship to immediately end. She was cute and all but he went along with the flirtation because he found it amusing to play the game. The women he normally met were shallow creatures who more often than not fell for his outwardly appearance or his status. So it had become a kind of game for him to see how far they would go to get his attention.
Admittedly, the game was starting to lose its luster. It wasn't as much fun to play when he knew how it would all play out. Not that women were throwing themselves at his feet on a daily basis, there were plenty of women who didn't, but he could think of very few who, when he set his eyes on them, would say no to him.
Maybe it was a little arrogant to think this way, but it was reality as he knew it and he didn't expect it to change anytime soon.
"Hey watch where you're going, dude."
"Hey watch who you're calling a dude, dude," Taylor Mooreland rejoined as she rubbed the shoulder that had been hit.
The guy gave her a once over and shrugged. "Whatever."
Taylor made a face at his back before continuing on to the bus stop near her campus. This wasn't the first time that she'd been mistaken for a guy since she'd gotten her haircut and it wasn't getting any less annoying. She supposed her school attire, which consisted mostly of hoodies and jeans, didn't help matters, or the fact that her voice was lower than most girls, but it was still pretty insulting.
She ran a hand over her now extremely short hair and for one brief moment missed the thick, shoulder length mane that she'd sported for so long. Having had long hair for over a decade, she'd desperately wanted a change and had cut it all off on a whim. Unsurprisingly she'd given her mother quite a shock, walking into the house with the extremely short, very natural hair style but she hadn't regretted it and still didn't. There was a certain sense of freedom having short hair that she really liked.
Taylor speeded up as she saw the bus turn the corner. As soon as she got on the bus and grabbed an empty seat near the front, she took out her phone and checked her messages.
"Taye, I'm off for the weekend." Her mother's excited voice filled the receiver. "I got word that there are a couple of open auditions in Vale. This could be it, T. I have a good feeling about this one. The auditions are over two days so I'll be staying overnight. So, you'll have to help me with Joshua for the next couple of days, okay doll? Love ya!"
Taylor gripped the phone with one hand, briefly contemplating how much trouble she would get into for throwing it across the bus. Thinking better of it, she slammed the phone shut with a childish pleasure.
Damn it, she thought with frustration, when was this going to end? Slouching down into her seat and resting her forehead against the window, Taylor tried to force her mind into a merciful emptiness but her mind refused to turn off.
Her mother had always been somewhat flighty and immature. She'd never been good at sticking to any job for any length of time. Taylor and her little brother Joshua had grown used to the highs and lows, the moving, the displacement, the unpredictability of their lives. But the last year had been even worse than usual.
Her mother had decided that she was going to rekindle her film career; a career that had at one time consisted of a commercial for Sheen dishwashing soap ("If it isn't Sheen, It isn't clean!") and a stint as "Student #2" in a 1985 Nancy Drew miniseries – so the word "career" was probably a little generous. But, her mother had gotten into her head that acting was it for her. She was going to give it her all to make it work, "For the sake of the family" she liked to repeat ad nauseum when faced with Taylor's frustrations.
It wasn't that Taylor didn't want her mother to be happy; she loved her and wanted the best for her but not at the sake of fulfilling her responsibilities. Because of her mother's constant gallivanting to auditions and tests, Taylor was the one left holding down the fort: paying the bills, attending to the house and taking care of her ten year old brother Joshua. Plus she had a job and school to worry about.
There was so much on her plate that she was going a little crazy trying to manage it all. Some days she wanted to throw her hands in the air and run for the hills, but how could she? If she wasn't there, how would Joshua manage? How would her mother survive?
So Taylor shoved away her frustrations, her resentment, and her anxiety and did the best she could. She tried to ignore the fact that so many in her age group were enjoying their freedom, partying and living it up, while she felt heavy with responsibility trying to keep her family afloat.
She glanced up and realized that she was about to miss her stop. She rang the bell and grabbed her bag, racing to the doors as the bus jerked stopped. She hopped off the bus with a sigh, slipping her bag over her shoulder and crossed the street to the rented townhouse they lived in. Stomping through the snow, she made her way up the walkway but stopped abruptly when she saw the man standing in front of her door. She made a swift turn to the right and ducked to the outside wall of the complex and waited.
The landlord was there again which meant her mother hadn't paid the rent on time. Again. A sigh escaped Taylor's mouth and the mist floated in the coldness temporarily before it disappeared. Taylor made sure they had a working phone … and heat … and food; why couldn't her mother do the one, the one thing, she was responsible for?
Taylor waited a few more minutes before she peeked around the wall. Seeing that he'd left, she continued to her door and without looking around shoved her key into the lock and slipped safely into the house. Her bag slipped off her shoulder as she slumped against the door. Four months until school ended and then graduation. She held onto that, hoping that somehow everything would be better then. What could change then, she didn't quite know but it kept her going. Soon things would be different.
They had to be.
"Don't you think it's time you settled down? I know just the perfect girl for you."
A freshly shaven Christian had barely time to warm the seat beside his grandmother's bed before she hit him with the nauseating subject of marriage. When he'd said that he'd do whatever it took to make sure she recovered from her heart attack, he'd meant something along the lines of making her soup or reading her articles from the local newspaper not marrying whoever was the current debutante o' jour.
"Grandma, I'm twenty-six," he said, relaxing into the chair.
She shot him a stern look. "When I was twenty-six I was married, raising two kids and running your great grandfather's business and I was a late bloomer," she huffed.
"Dad didn't get married until he was twenty-eight," he rejoined.
"Your father had completed graduate school and been working in the company for years by that time. Did you become more educated and accomplished whilst gallivanting around the world?" she asked her eyes steely.
Christian coughed slightly but with a brazen blaséness he shrugged and grinned at her. She had a vaild point, he guessed, but he wasn't going to actually admit it.
She huffed in the following silence for another moment before she let go of her stern appearance and let her affection for him shine through. Even when his grandmother managed to make him feel two feet tall, he knew that it was coming from a good place. Under the hard gaze and tough exterior was a person who loved him unconditionally.
He moved towards her bed and took her hand in both of his. "Grandma, I'm not getting married anytime soon but-wait," he stopped her before she could interrupt. "But, I'll let you set me up on a couple of dates. I just hope you realize that you and mom have spoiled me for all women. No one's going to be able to live up to the ideal." He grinned as he leaned in to kiss her forehead.
"I won't be moved by your flattery, you rascal," she said, although the twinkle in her eyes belied the statement.
"I hope you can fit doing some work, somewhere in that hectic schedule of meeting women."
Christian stiffened at the sound of his father's voice. He looked across the room where his father stood in the center of the doorway and gave him a curt nod in greeting. "Father," he said brusquely.
"Christian," his father replied imitating his tone and moved further into the room.
Now that Christian could see him more clearly he noted that, other than a few more grey hairs, his father hadn't aged at all in the last two years … nor apparently had he become more pleasant to deal with.
"Now that you're back, I expect to see you at work in the next couple of days. I think it's time you behaved like a grownup. Maybe finding out where the money you piss away so freely comes from, will teach you fiscal responsibility."
Christian gritted his teeth, his jaw tensing in irritation. Two minutes in the same room as his father and he was ready to punch in a wall. His father refused to give him any credit. With his grandma out of service for the next little while he was more than willing to step in. As for "pissing away" money – it was his trust money to do with what he liked. Besides, spending money seeing the world wasn't exactly the same thing as throwing it away at bars and cheap women.
"There's no need to take on that tone, Graham," his grandmother interjected. "Christian has already promised to start at the company first thing Monday morning. Please make sure that his integration goes smoothly." While the last phrase was said pleasantly enough, there was no ignoring the demand in her voice.
"As long as he shows up and works hard, he should be just fine." He walked up to her bed. "Patty and I are heading out for the evening. Do you want anything?" he asked.
"No thank you, Graham."
"I'll bring you something anyway," he said kissing her on the cheek.
She rolled her eyes at him as he turned to leave. They were so alike, she thought. They were so similar and they didn't even realize it.
Christian watched his father leave and let out a heavily pent up breath. He was sure his father's humourless personality would be ruining many of his days for the forseeable future so there was no point letting the man get to him now.
One thing was for sure though. His vacation was over.