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Oct 29

X- Factor

 

x factor

Chapter 1

 

It was already two in the morning but Tracy was still awake. Could it be the caffeine that she had at Starbucks earlier, or the slice of Black Forest cake that she took for dinner? She was not sure. She jumped off her bed and lit a stick of cigarette. She had a few puffs, so quickly, that she didn’t realize that the stick was already consumed. She lit another one. This time, she savored every blow, as she recalled what happened yesterday.

 

She felt battered. Life seemed to be playing games with her emotions.

“This can’t be possible!” she told herself and placed the cigarette butt in the ashtray.

She got her mobile phone and started reading some emails. She was thinking something else though. She closed her eyes to drive off the vision, but the grinning image of David Cleary became clearer as he was introduced by the company president as the new head of their Security Department.

David Cleary was her ex-boyfriend. They were madly in love with each other. They were inseparable. But he just disappeared and left no trail. She didn’t have any idea why. A sudden pain weakened her. Then, she sobbed while the memories she had with him began to flash back. Five years had passed but she was still hurt.

“Why did he leave?” she was talking to herself again. “And why did he come back? Did he really love me? Does he love me still?” She sighed. She scrolled down her inbox to re-read the email threads that she and David once had but before she remembered that she had already deleted all those, she came across Donald’s mail.

“Donald! Crap! Why am I thinking about David when I am happy with Donald now?” She was now confused.

She even forgot that Donald, her boyfriend of three years, announced his wedding proposal over dinner that evening. She took a glance at her left hand and admired the engagement ring that Donald gave her earlier. She loved the ruby stone in its center as much as she was stunned by the tiny diamonds around the white gold loop. She sighed again. She reminded herself that she loved Donald so much, that was why she said “yes” to his proposal.

She loved him? But why was she disturbed with David’s presence?

“No. I don’t love David anymore. I just want a closure.” She convinced herself.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

“David, someone on the other line wants to talk to you,” called Jaymee, Mr. Claude McCain’s assistant.

“Who is it?” David asked without looking at the assistant. His eyes were locked at Tracy’s almond-shaped brown eyes. “God, she looks like an angel.” He’d told himself.

 “I don’t know. He didn’t mention his name. He just said he is a family.” Jaymee replied.

“Alright! I’ll take it. Just one sec.” He headed to Jaymee’s cubicle, with eyes still glued on Tracy’s until she nodded that meant “go ahead.”

Tracy waited for him to return so they could have lunch together. Once David took hold of the receiver and thanked Jaymee, Jaymee excused herself to have a break with everyone else.

“Hello, David here. Who’s this, please?”

“David! Thank God, you’re alive!” It was Craig on the other line.

There was a sort of panic creeping through David’s veins when he heard his twelve year-old brother’s voice.

“David, you need to come home. Mom had a heart attack.”

“What?! Why?! What happened?”

“Some burglars just broke in the house. Mom tried to call the cops but they threatened her that they will get you killed if she’d do that.” Craig narrated, shaking. “She was so frightened; they were armed. And then, and then… she fainted. ”

“Okay. Calm down. Calm down, Craig. I’m coming home okay?.” He dropped the phone receiver and rushed to the office door without looking back. He hailed a cab once he reached the main gate. He couldn’t think now. He was pretty sure that those were the same guys who called him the other day and threatened him to leave the company… And Tracy.

 Who the hell were those guys? Why did they keep on bugging him? What did they have to do with Tracy?

David ran through the hospital hallway and asked the information desk representative where her mother was.

Outside the intensive care unit section was Craig and Aunt Maggie, a widow who lived next to their house. Then, his knees trembled at the sight of his mother’s unconscious and motionless state.

Five long years had passed but the ordeal was still fresh. It still lingered and wouldn’t ever be erased. David could still vaguely recall the beeping sound of the machine which caused the doctors to panic. The moment she exhaled her last breath was still vivid. Craig’s mournful cry as he hugged her lifeless body still echoed in David’s ears. How could he forget?

It was the turning point of his life. From that time on, he lost interest in everything that was once appealing to him. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to play football. He didn’t have the urge to go back to work. He even forgot about his lunch date with Tracy. There were only three things occupying in his mind. One was how to pay the hospital bills and the funeral when he couldn’t even pay for his university. The other one was how to raise Craig. And the last one which was the most important thing…revenge. Yes. He wanted to take revenge on those guys who had threatened him and caused his mother’s death. Whoever they were and who they worked for, he had to find out. They had to pay for this loss.

When everyone had left after the interment, he booked a plane ticket for Craig. Sending Craig back to their grandparents in Cheshire County in New Hampshire was the most practical plan he could ever think of to get rid of the social workers. It was also the safest while he was working his way to the culprit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

He was holding a glass of wine on his left hand, while on his right was a GoldVish Le Million. He dialed a number and placed the mobile phone on his right ear and reclined on his swivel chair; his feet on his desk.

“I heard he’s back.” He told the person on the other line. “I know. Just make sure that my name won’t be involved…Alright… I gotta go.” He deleted the number from the call history and put the phone in his pocket.

He gulped the wine and placed the glass on his desk, stood up, walked to the door and went out. He walked to the lobby and waited for the elevator.

 

=  =  =

 

Three more minutes and she would be late.  Not that the owner of the company that she worked for would mind, but something within her wanted to impress the new head of the Security Department. She parked her Buick Lacrosse and hurried to the entrance door of McCain Electronics and Semiconductors Industries, a top exporter of semiconductors and electronics parts and accessories in the country.

Tracy McCain was the only daughter of the company’s owner, Claude McCain. Being next in line, she needed not to work but she insisted to manage the Marketing and Advertising Department.

“Good morning.” The guard on duty greeted her as the automatic door opened.

“Hey, good morning.” She smiled at him and went straight to the elevator. She pressed the ‘up’ button and waited for it to open, glancing at her watch every three seconds.

When the elevator opened, she got in and quickly pressed the 12 and close buttons. She took her make-up and put on some blush on and mascara. She applied concealer below her eyes, but it couldn’t hide her eyebags caused by last night’s lack of sleep.

The elevator stopped on the 7th floor and someone – someone familiar came in.

“Hi. Good morning.” David made his way to the back corner.

Tracy’s eyes widened and put her make-up kit back to her bag. Her heart was beating fast.

“Hi.” She replied, forcing a smile. At this moment, she wanted to confront him, ask him where did he go and why did he come back. She wanted to tell him how much she missed him when he was gone. She wanted him to know that she waited for him for two years – two damn years – to come back or even to reply to his messages or call back. She wanted to hug him tight and tell him how much she missed those broad shoulders. She didn’t know where to start. All she knew was that she needed to tell him those things that were kept for so long. But why? What for? Well, she just needed to.

“Um, I’m just wondering if…” she started but DING. The elevator stopped. They were on the 12th floor. The door opened and she sighed in disappointment.

She gasped when she saw Donald’s griming face.

“Donald, Hi!  Sorry, I just came in,” she wrapped her arms around Donald’s neck but it didn’t change his expression.

“Get ready, we have a meeting with the wedding planner in thirty minutes. I thought you were going straight to the Pavement.”  Donald replied, his eyes were still glued to David until the elevator door closed.

“Oh yeah… I was supposed to be there but I forgot to send some emails to a client.” She said, although she wasn’t sure if Donald was convinced with that. Damn! How could I forget that wedding planner thing when I was the one who booked for an appointment? She told herself as she rushed to her office.

“Alright. Make it quick. I’ll wait for you here.” His voice echoed at the lobby.  He sighed when Tracy was gone.

Donald became head of the Logistics Department after working for it for more than five years. When he and Tracy were couple, he had promised her that he would marry her once he got promoted. Now, he couldn’t believe that he would be marrying her in three weeks. He remembered the first time he laid his eyes on her. That was on their Accounting class on their last year in the university. Of course, she didn’t notice because she was too busy with her boyfriend then.

He also remembered his father on his deathbed. Then, he clenched his fist when he recalled his father gasping for air. Tears almost fell to the side of his cheeks.

“Let’s go?”

He turned around to see Tracy. “Yeah.” He answered, holding back the tears. He came closer to her and held her hand.

 

= = =

“I didn’t know that you smoke.” Tracy when she sat on passenger’s side of Donald’s car. Donald was lighting a cig.

“I do, and so do you. Will it be a problem?”

“Not really but you could have told me before.” Tracy was alarmed. Not that she hated smokers as she was a smoker too, but she thought that she knew Donald inside and out. Now, she wasn’t sure how much did she really know (and not know) about this person.

She sighed. She glanced at the side mirror and saw David at the rear. He was on the phone while he was looking at Donald’s car. Who is he talking to? His wife, maybe? She came back to her senses when Donald started the car.

There was an awkward silence until they were at the Pavement café parking lot.

“So, where did you guys meet?” Shelly asked by the time they were seated at the corner table of the cozy café. Not only that she wanted to build a relationship with the couple, but that was part of her job. She would be able to help her with the wedding planning if she knew her clients better.

“In the university.” Tracy answered blandly. She sipped her coffee, her gaze was outside the café.

“So, you have been together since your university days? “

“No. I had a boyfriend back then.” Tracy’s expression had changed. She held back a smile when she recalled her first date with David.

“Oh, I see. Carry on.” Shelly felt the tension as the couple exchanged stares.

“It didn’t work…” Tracy began to explain at the same as Donald said with sarcasm “He left her I came to the rescue.” Tracy was glaring at him, while Donald didn’t lose his eye contact with her. He grinned at her, feeling triumphant of his attack.

“Wow, that’s romantic. Every damsel in distress needs a knight in shining armor.”  Shelly tried her best to sound natural, as though she didn’t notice them in their silent war.

Chapter 4

Three weeks had passed. He started to panic since her wedding would be in a few hours. He didn’t know if he was ready for this.

Each time she passed by him, he longed to touch her, to feel her, to caress her just like before. He never loved any other woman after her. He wanted to explain why he left but he was too afraid that she wouldn’t understand.

He packed his things, locked his apartment and hopped in the car. He would be missing his place. He would be away for a couple of weeks or so. He didn’t want to do this if not for Claude McCain.

Starting the car engine, he released a deep sigh.

“I can do this…” He had told himself at least thrice every thirty seconds, hoping it would calm him down. But the nervousness notched up as he was approaching the church where Tracy would be saying her vow to love Donald for the rest of her life.

“I can do this…” He reminded himself once again before he turned left at the intersection. Driving past the familiar street had brought tears to his eyes because along that street was a small apartment where they used to live. The nostalgic feeling was suddenly interrupted when his phone rang.

“Yes, hello…I’m on my way to the hotel… No, in 34th Street. What? Why do we need to change plans? Okay. I’ll be there in three minutes.” Dropping the phone on the passenger’s seat, he took a U-turn and made his way to the church.

 

 

“Wow, you look beautiful.” Cindy gave her a hug.

“Thanks.” Tracy gave her a forced smile while her hairstylist /make-up artist was doing some finishing touch on her hair.

“You seem not happy. What’s up? It’s your wedding day! And luckily it’s with Donald. You should be hyped up this time. What’s wrong with you?”

She sighed. “Nothing, Cindy. Maybe I’m just nervous. I don’t know.” Cindy had been her best friend since they were in grade school. Tracy could tell her just about everything but now, she was running out of words. She was feeling a little empty inside but she didn’t know why.

“Guys, it’s time to go now. Let’s make it quick, we are running late. The ceremony will be in an hour and we still have to set for the pictorial before that.” Shelly’s voice could be heard across the hotel room.

Not long than eight minutes, Tracy, Cindy and one of Shelly’s staff were already seated on the bridal car and moments later, they could already see the church’s façade. Tracy was trembling, her heart was beating fast. Those were the fastest heartbeats she ever had in her life.

Just when the driver changed his gear a rushing gray Toyota Grandia came out of nowhere and blocked their way. It swiftly stopped when its passenger’s door was just a few inches away from the bridal car’s back seat door where Tracy was seated. The van’s door slid open and two masked men in black sweater appeared, opened the car door and grabbed the bride which set everyone in the car in panic.

Once they had Tracy on the van, they drove off.

To Be Continued…

Say something. Leave a trail.

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