The call made Aaron, who was working on their latest contractual agreement with a property company, lift his head. Aaron didn't really like the nickname, but at this company he had to be called 'White' because he wanted Laurel to work here. If he kept using the name Aaron, it would likely make Laurel suspicious and if she found out about it all, this would derail his plans.
Aaron's secretary appeared at the door, looking nervous. “That… Mr. Mike wants to meet.”
Aaron frowned, Mike is the CEO — for the Indonesian representative of a foreign company — who collaborates and invests in this company. Given how cold and cynical Mike looked, it was only natural that his secretary would be so nervous.
“Invite him in.”
“I have entered without you inviting.” Mike walked in without caring, and nodded at Aaron's secretary to make her leave and sat down on Aaron's living room sofa.
“You scare her,” muttered Aaron as he glanced at the door which his secretary closed quietly. He walked over to the private bar in the corner and poured Mike some brandy, and coffee for himself
Mike glanced at the door and shrugged, taking the brandy glass from Aaron's hand. “You have to be a little tougher on your subordinates if you want to be respected.” Mike gave Aaron a sharp look, turning serious. “I had two invitations to a dinner party at Sean Bramasta's house and I thought you might come over there too and get to know him.”
The coffee Aaron swallowed choked in his throat. “What?” Aaron needed to hear again, feeling disbelief at his sense of hearing. “Sean Bramasta?”
“Yes, getting to know Sean Bramasta.” Mike smiled faintly at the disbelief in Aaron's eyes. “Why do you look so shocked? You know I'm in business with him, don't you?”
“I know you were in a business relationship with him, but I didn't expect you to be friends with him to the point of attending courtes outside your business dealings,” Aaron grumbled, sitting on the sofa opposite Mike.
Mike shook his head, still smiling. According to Aaron, the man was smiling more than he was used to. It seems that his marriage to Lia has made him a smiling person.
“I know you don't like Sean Bramasta.” That's a statement not a question.
“Yes, I don't like him. I don't have the right to judge anyone by the gossip I hear, but the reputation for Sean Bramasta's disposition is terrifying. I even heard that he was nicknamed 'The Devil' and I didn't like that kind of cruel businessman.”
“They're overreacting, he's not that bad.” Mike chuckled. “Besides, my wife is friends with Sean's wife.”
“Sean's wife?” Aaron widened his eyes. “Ah yeah, that girl who caused uproar a while ago because Sean kidnapped her, huh? Maybe that woman could really beat Sean, I heard he became 'tame' after his wife gave birth to a son for him.”
Mike chuckled. “Sean already found his luck, he fell in love with his wife.”
“And from that strange smile of yours, surely you want to say that Sean had the same fate as you, both submitting because of love for your wives.”
“Indeed,” no rebuttal from Mike, the man looked proud to admit it. He then placed the golden invitation envelope on the coffee table. “Here is the invitation, and come with your partner!” Mike's eyes flashed with amusement. “Either you're good at keeping your partner a secret or you're just not interested. You have never been seen in a relationship with anyone and it makes us wonder about your sexual orientation.”
Aaron burst out laughing. “I'm waiting for the best.”
Mike nodded his head. “Well, in my experience, we will indeed give up on the best, may your best come soon.”
Aaron mused, then pictured Laurel. "His best" has indeed come.
Aaron parked his car in the usual place, in a corner, shaded by a large, shady tree. His eyes stared at the old dormitory building. The place he had memorized very well and was probably the only place he visited on a regular basis.
Then Laurel stepped out of it, Aaron looked at the clock, always exactly nine on Sundays. Laurel will go shopping for boarding needs to the market. The girl looks cheerful and healthy. Thankfully, Aaron sighed to himself. His eyes followed Laurel warily as she stood by the side of the road, waiting for public transport to take her to the market. Aaron winced when a crowded mini-bus pulled up in front of Laurel and the woman got into it.
She couldn't take public transportation anymore, he thought, Aaron had to do something. After making sure that Laurel was really gone, Aaron picked up his cell phone.
“I've been waiting here,” he muttered calmly.
Before long, Aunt Sarah's figure emerged carefully from the dorm, and stepped into Aaron's usual parking lot. Aaron politely opened the door and the housemother stepped inside.
“She was very happy to be accepted into the company,” Aunt Sarah started the conversation with a smile.
Inevitably Aaron smiled, the thought of Laurel being happy made him unable to help his grin. “I am happy for her. Does she feel suspicious? Is #he talking about it?” Aaron looked at Aunt Sarah politely. This woman in front of him was his former assistant mother who had retired. Having no relatives, she volunteered to stay with the girls' dormitory.
This hostel is actually one of the dormitories owned by a social foundation run by Aaron's mother. As Aaron's mother shared all of Aaron's plans, Aunt Sarah volunteered to help. For that Aaron had a lot of respect for this woman, almost like he respected his own mother.
“She was suspicious.” Aunt Sarah smiled at the anxiety in Aaron's eyes. “But I have tried to dispel her suspicions, after all, her diploma grades are indeed very good so it is possible for large companies to compete for her.”
Aaron drove his car out of his original parking lot under the big tree quietly, steering the car toward his home. Because every week, Aunt Sarah would visit his house to meet his mother. At that time, Aaron will use that time to evaluate and get as much information as possible from Aunt Sarah about Laurel.
“Maybe I was too much, I should have put her as a regular staff first, but I can't stand it. I'm tired of seeing her secretly like this. I want to be able to interact directly with her.”
“I see.” Aunt Sarah smiled softly. “But is there no fear in your heart that over time Laurel will realize who you really are?”
Aaron's gaze wandered ahead. “I don't know… I think of it as a gamble involving my life and death. You know how much I really wanted this meeting, to be able to meet Laurel in person, to be able to talk in person. I both wanted this meeting and was afraid, because if Laurel recognized me… then it was all over.”
Motherly, Aunt Sarah studied the figure beside her. Aaron was concentrating on driving, his gaze straight ahead and unaware that his face was being watched. Aunt Sarah has known Aaron for a long time, because she has been Aaron's mom's assistant since Aaron was a child. She herself was the witness to how naughty and rebellious Aaron was in his youth, she was also the witness when the accident had turned Aaron one hundred and eighty degrees. From a proud, inconsiderate young man who relied only on his father's name, to the businessman struggling in his own right now.
No, Aunt Sarah decided, Laurel wouldn't recognize the current Aaron. The current Aaron is much different from the old Aaron. The stubbornness of his adolescence has turned into an adult with dignity. His physique had become more mature as well and his aura of arrogance had turned into calm wisdom. Aunt Sarah believes, Laurel will not be able to recognize Aaron, who is now a rich young man who took her father's life.
“I know how you feel, and I wish you all the best, and for Laurel too. She's a good girl, inside and out. Her heart is very tender, and I am sure, one day there will come a time when Laurel will finally forgive you.”
Aaron smiled sadly at Aunt Sarah's words, forgive? It sounded too fancy to him. He never had the slightest courage to ask for forgiveness, because he knew it would be too grandiose for him. He's guilty and he's unforgivable, it's that simple. All he needed now was for Laurel to be happy. Laurel's happiness, who knows since when, has become an obsession in his life.