“Can we order some wine?” Ahmed asked the waiter.
“Certainly, the wine list on the back page!” The waiter remarked.
Ahmed ordered the wine. He also ordered his dish. He purposely ignored Tia who was sitting by his side, not wanting to be obvious about her in front of the staff and much less in front of Ratna.
Tia couldn’t help but feel despair and restless at his treatment. Different thoughts crossed her min, her nerves were standing on the edge. Though deep inside she knew why she felt that way, but she attributed it to the lack of sleep and the surplus of crying last night, she had to struggle to keep her heart and mind calm.
“Miss, what do you want to order?” The waiter asked her.
Tia looked at the menu, “This one.” She pointed to a quail dish.
“Good choice.” The waiter praised as if reading from a script.
Ahmed stood up and lifted his wine glass, “I want to make a toast to welcome Ratna to the company…”
The staff raised their glass, “Cheers!” The said simultaneously.
“Of course he would want to toast her, who wouldn’t feel attracted to a beautiful and classy woman like that?” Tia thought, she did a very good job in hiding her pain, she smiled and toasted like every body else. Her mouth was dry and her throat sore, she tried to ease the discomfort by guzzling down the wine.
“Should I refill your glass?” The waiter offered.
Tia nodded, “Why not..?”
Ahmed couldn’t help but notice, “Hey, take it easy with the alcohol!” He warned.
Tia gulped it down in one shot to retort him. “Hey, can you please pour me some more?” She said to the waiter.
The waiter nodded and refilled her glass. Still filled with rage she brought it to her mouth and swallowed the complete content.
When the waiter put her dish in front of her, she could have sworn that plate was spinning on the table.
“I think I’m beginning to hallucinate” She mumbled taking the glass from the table for another sip.
“That’s enough!” Ahmed took the glass from her hand.
“Hey, that’s mine! Go and get your own wine!” She protested.
“Tia, what’s wrong with you? You’re wasted, and we’ve just started dinner!” Winnie scold.
“I’m fine…” Tia slurred, “I just have a little headache, that’s because I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“Miss Tia, do you often consume alcohol?” Ratna asked decently.
“She doesn’t.” Winnie replied defending her friend’s behavior. “She’s been a little depressed lately, because she has some personal problems. ”
“I think I have to excuse myself, I want to go home now.” Tia stood up almost causing her chair to almost fall to the floor.
“I’ll take you home!” Winnie got up and rushed to her friends side.
Ahmed couldn’t stand by and do nothing anymore, “I’ll take her home!” He said.
“I’m perfectly fine!” Tia looked at Ahmed menacingly, “I don’t need you! I can do just fine without you! Get lost!”
“Tia, that’s Mr. Ahmed, not Jason.” She whispered.
“You stay here and enjoy the dinner.” He said to Winnie, he took out his wallet and gave his credit card to Dodi. “Use this to pay for the meal.”
“Ahmed, she’s not your problem, let her friends take care of her!” Ratna had gotten up from her chair and walked to them.
“Yes she is……, I have to take responsibility for my employees.” He replied
“Leave me alone! I’m going to find a taxi!” Tia swayed to the door of the restaurant.
“Hey, don’t be stubborn! If you go to the streets like this, you might get harassed.” He ran after her.
“You should go back to your beauty who is waiting for you inside! Don’t mind me!” She slurred.
He held her around the waist and led her to the parking lot. He opened the door for her and helped her to sit in the car and strap herself in.
“I’m sleepy.” She yawned. “I want to go to sleep.”
He opened the driver’s side door, “Tia, tell me where you live.” He said to her.
Tia didn’t answer, Ahmed saw that she was already fast a sleep on the chair. He exhaled and shook his head, “I wonder what you were thinking chugging down the wine like that. ” He mumbled to himself. He pondered if he should call Dodi to get his address from Winnie, but he wasn’t sure how her parents would feel seeing her like this.
He made up his mind and drove to his apartment.
* * *
“You look so thin, but you sure weigh a lot.” He complained as he carried her up the elevator and headed to his apartment.
He painstakingly put her down and leaned her against the wall, she tumbled sideways, almost falling to the floor. Ahmed quickly caught her and lifted her up, entering his apartment.
He laid her down on the bed, taking off her shoes and covered he with a blanket. And all the while, she didn’t even stir. “I’ve never seen anybody sleep so profoundly!” He shook his head.
Ahmed went to the bathroom to wash his face and changed into his pajamas, when he got back to the bedroom, he saw the pillows and blanket were already sprawled on the floor . Ahmed picked up the pillow and blanket from the floor and fixed her position, turning off the light before lying beside her on the bed.
* * *
Tia opened her eyes slowly, her head was pounding and her stomach felt uncomfortable. She sat up slowly looking at her surrounding. She realized that she wasn’t in her room, but she couldn’t determine where she was. On the floor she saw her shoes neatly laid out side by side, her jacket was draped on the chair, and she was wearing her clothes from yesterday.
She climbed down slowly from the bed, finding the door she opened it and stepped out of the room. Her nose picked up the scent of coffee, involuntarily she followed the aroma which led her to the kitchen.
“Good morning, sunshine.” Ahmed greeted her as he looked up from the frying pan.
“Where am I?” She asked.
“Where are you?” He repeated, “You’re at my apartment, I brought you here because first, I don’t know where you live, and second, I thought that your parents would be upset if they saw you coming home drunk.”
“They’re probably even more upset that I didn’t come home.” She commented, “They might think that I went and spent the night with a man.”
“You did spend the night with a man.” He corrected.
“Yeah, but not the way they imagined.” She replied.
“Do you want some coffee?”
“Oh, yes please…”
“Here, you go, be careful it’s hot.”
“Thanks…” She smiled.
“Would you tell me what’s wrong with you?” He asked.
“What do you mean?” Tia asked back.
“Why did you change towards me? The other night you threw my keys and ran away, and last night you retorted me by swallowing all that wine.” He looked at her.
Tia spun the cup in her hand, lost in thought, “I don’t want to act stupid and hang on to a fantasy that would never come true.”
He walked out of the kitchen and stopped in front of her, “I’m not a fantasy, I’m here before you.”
“I could see that…..”
“So…?” He leaned forward, only a few centimeters away from her.
She sighed as she put the cup on the counter and nervously twitched he hands, “We’ve spent a few wonderful days together, you were nice and special to me, and you kissed me. But now we’re back to our everyday lives, you’re my boss and I’m your employee, I don’t want to mis…..”
He leaned forwards and kissed her lips, she closed her eyes and responded to him. Ahmed became bolder, he caressed her back and and embraced her tightly.
Tia came to her senses, she quickly pushed him away “You’re confusing me.”
“What do you feel for me?” She asked straight forwardly.
“I enjoy being around you and I think you’re cute.” He replied.
“Is that it?” She asked.
“That’s a lot.”
“You wouldn’t mind if I use your shower, would you?” She change the conversation. “I think we should get ready to go to work.”
“Let’s not continue…” She stopped him. “Please don’t, don’t do it….”
He was surprised to see her eyes were wet with tears.
* * *
“Let me at least buy you some new clothes.” Ahmed said while driving.
“I don’t want to be a bother…” She replied.
“It’s no bother, the last time someone came to work wearing the same clothes as the previous day, it caused a wave of gossip at the office, and everybody began speculating like crazy.” He explained.
“If that’s your reason, then I’ll take your offer. But let me reiterate what you said, you want to buy new clothes for me, because you don’t want people to start talking and speculating about us. Is that right?” She asked.
“Don’t put it that way..”
“But that was what you meant. wan’t it?” She sassed, “Never mind, there’s an outlet, we can stop there.”
* * *
“Hey how did it go with you father last night?” Winnie asked when she saw Tia, “Did he give you trouble?”
Tia shook her head.
“Luckily Mr. Ahmed was kind enough to take you home…..”
“Yeah…how lucky of me…” Tia replied sarcastically.
“Tia, Mr. Ahmed wants you in his office for your coaching and mentoring session.” Dodi called her.
Tia took a deep breath, “What does he want now?” She mumbled as she took her notebook and walked to his office. She knocked gently at the door, she heard his voice telling her to come in then she opened the door and closed it behind her.
“I don’t understand, what’s with these sessions?” She asked as she sat on the seat in front of his desk.
“Didn’t I tell you that I like to be near you? Now start by reporting what you plan to do today, and this evening you can report how many percent of your plans were executed.”
Tia took a deep breath and began reciting her to do list for the day.
* * *
“Miss Tia, can I have a word with you?” Ratna said as she passed by Tia in front of the kitchen.
“Yes, ma’am.” Tia replied.
“Follow me to my office.” Ratna walked in front of her and sat at her desk. “Your action last night was very improper. As an employee of the company, it is your responsibility to conserve it’s image, and an employee who gets drunk during a company dinner, definitely doesn’t reflect the company values.”
“I’m sorry for my behavior, ma’am…” Tia replied humbly.
“Also another detail that I didn’t like, was that you had to trouble Mr. Ahmed to take you home. He’s your boss, do you think that it was right for him to waste his time driving you around?” She scolded again.
“No, ma’am.” Tia shook her head.
“I don’t know who you think you are, but you better put yourself in your place, otherwise you have no business being here!”
Tia didn’t answer, she just tighten her fist holding in her frustration.
* * *
“We still have ten minutes of lunch break left.” Tia said as she stopped in front of the newspaper stand.
“What are you looking for?” Winnie asked.
“Another job.” Tia responded curtly.
“What? Are you thinking of leaving the company?” Winnie opened her eyes widely.
Tia nodded. “I think it’s time for me to make a change in my life.”
“But why did you suddenly come up with that idea?”
Tia shrugged, nothing major, just that I’m beginning got feel bored with the company.”
“But I don’t want you to leave the company! You’re one of my best friends.” Winnie pouted.
“And we’ll still be friends, even though I don’t work for Al Rashid anymore.”
* * *
“Where were you last night?” Her parents sat her down in the living room. from their face she could see their face was already in angry mode.
“I stayed at my friend’s Winnie’s house.” Tia lied.
“We had a dinner with the colleagues at work, that ended late, and that’s why I decided to stay at her place so I wouldn’t disturb you.”
“Tia!” Her father growled, “You know that if you live here, you have to obey by our rules. all you had to do was call home if you were going to come home late. How can you be so irresponsible? Remember that you have a younger sister, if you start acting like that, you are going to give her a bad example.”
“I’m sorry Papa, Mama.” She replied softly. There were too much things in her mind lately and fighting with her parents wasn’t something she wanted to do.