“Papa, mama, this is Ahmed.” Tia presented.
“Good afternoon, sir.” He shook her father’s hand.
Tia’s father looked at him sharply, “Sit down!” He said.lii
Ahmed nodded, sitting on the couch in the living room.
“What’s your intention with my daughter?” The older man asked.
“Papa….” Tia rebuked.
“It’s okay,” Ahmed looked at her, “Sir, I’m very serious with Tia. We’ve been dating for barely more than a month, but we’ve known each other and worked closely together for more than three years. I hope that we can take our relationship to the next step.”
“Do you work in the same construction company as Tia?” Her mother asked.
Ahmed nodded, “I”m the General Manager .”
“Ah…..” She nodded. “How admirable, you’re so young, but you have a high position.”
“I’d be young and with a high position too if my parents owned the company…” Tia mumbled. Ahmed glanced at her in annoyance.
“You are the son of the owner of the company?” Tia’s father asked.
“That’s right…” Ahmed replied uncomfortably.
“Your family is very famous and prominent, why would somebody like you be interested in our daughter? She’s a normal office lady with nothing special.”
“You’re too modest sir…” Ahmed replied.
Tia’s father laughed at his reply, “Good answer! I may be an old and sick man, but my daughters are my universe, and I won’t allow anybody to fool around with them and let alone hurt them. You may be the son of a very influential family, but if you dare to make my daughter sad, I’ll make you very sorry!”
“I won’t make her sad…” Ahmed smiled awkwardly.
* * *
Tia dashed through the lobby of the building as if she were chased by hot lava. Instead of taking the elevator to the office on the 12th floor, she opted to take the stairs instead. Stopping to take a breath on every floor, she felt like she was about to faint, “Bad idea, I’m going to die here, and nobody’s going to find my corpse.” She grumbled.
When she arrived at the door of the 12th floor, she leaned against the wall to catch her breath. After recuperating, she pushed the door and entered to the office space.
She had just passed the front door when Princess Latifa spotted her and called Tia to her office. “Take a seat!” She ordered.
“Yes ma’am.” Tia obeyed.
“You are Tia Chang, aren’t you?”
“Yes ma’am…” Tia nodded, she knew that this was the end of the line for her, Madame Al Rashid was probably ready to fire her.
“I’m not going to fire you!” Princess Latifa said as if she was reading Tia’s mind. Tia looked up bewildered.
“If I fire you, that means I’m admitting to everyone that you have a relationship with my son. Instead, you are going to continue working here, and you are going to deny in front of all your nosy friends about everything. You are going to tell them that my son behaved as he did because he saw you being mistreated by your date.”
“I will…” she nodded then looked down at her hands that was on her lap. Suddenly Tia looked up to Madame Al Rashid, “I’m not a promiscuous woman, I ‘m a…”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Princess Latifa raised her hand, “Tell me, how long have you been dating my son?”
“A month and a half…” Tia replied.
“Do you think that a man who is serious about a woman, would take her to bed so soon? Look, before he dated you, he was seeing Daniyati, the previous HR Manager, for three years. And during those three years, he guarded her and respected her, because he was determined to marry her. You see, that’s how men are. No man would pay the high price of loosing his freedom for a woman he already had.” Princess Latifa smirked, “Ahmed’s father had his indiscretions before he married me, just like Ahmed’s indiscretion with you, but at the end of the day, who did he marry? A woman from a dignified family, with a high status and money. Just like Ahmed will marry a woman from his level and not someone like you.”
“Madame, I…” Tia didn’t know what to say.
“Do you know who my other daughter in law is? The wife of my eldest son? She’s a princess just like me, a daughter of a Sultan. Do you think that you could match up to her or me? Have you no shame?”
Tia shook her head, she took a deep breath and tried to control herself.
* * *
“I want to hear everything!” Winnie pulled her aside as soon as Tia put her bag down on her desk.
“What do you want to hear?” Tia acted dumb.
“About what happened at the party, of course….”
“Oh, please! Nothing happened at the party, our boss is a person with a hero complex, he saw that I didn’t want to dance with Mark, and that Mark was being a little bit pushy, so he came to my rescue, and that was it.”
“That was it, huh? Do I come across you as stupid? Do I have it written on my face some where? Gullible idiot?” Winnie brushed her hand along her forehead.
Not long after, Ronald and Dodi joined them.
“Oh, come on….Do you really think that Mr. Ahmed and I have something between us? Seriously? Think about it, how could we have gotten close? When?”
“Well, it is quite a long shot…but you never know, I mean, you’ve been spending a lot of time in his office during your coaching sessions… If there’s nothing between the two of you, why did you both disappear after what happened on the dance floor?” Ronald chased.
“I don’t know about him, but he gave me some cash to take a taxi home. He didn’t want the other employees to start asking me questions, because I might give them the wrong answer. That was it.” Tia challenged. “And about the coaching sessions, he coaches his secretary everyday too, and Beni the Finance Controller, as well as Mr. Dodi, are you going to say that he has something with them too with the excuse that he spends a lot of time with them?”
Dodi nodded his head, “She’s right, don’t disturb her anymore. I’m sure it happened just as she said it did. There’s nothing between her and Mr. Ahmed, they are strictly boss and employee.” He smiled knowingly, “Back to business, management is giving us office T-shirts, they’re at my desk, you can go a pick one. Tia, I’m sure that if you had to choose a red shirt or a blue shirt, you would prefer a blue one.”
Tia looked at him with surprise as he laughed and walked away. She quickly followed behind him, “Mr. Dodi…” She said.
“Don’t worry about a thing, Tia. My lips are sealed.” He assured. “Hero complex…..make sure you’re consistent with that story.”
* * *
“Out of all the stupid things that you’ve done, this one takes the cake!” Omar Al Rashid shouted at his son who was sitting in the chair in front of him.
Ahmed sat quietly, ever since he could remember, when his father was angry, the best thing to do was to remain in silence and take it all in.
“You embarrassed me in front of all my clients, partners and share holders. Acting like an irresponsible lunatic! I can’t believe that I have a son like you! What sin have I committed that caused me to be punished like this?” He turned to his wife who was sitting beside Ahmed, “This is all your fault, your his mother, you should have educated him better! It wasn’t enough that he caused us to lose the government projects team a few years ago, and now his reckless behavior is going to cause us our company’s reputation.”
“I have a plan that would remedy this situation!” Princess Latifa hissed, “Luckily that girl has enough senses to obey me by telling everybody that Ahmed did what he did at the party to save her from her date, and that there is nothing going on between us.”
“So what’s your plan?” Her husband scoffed.
“We’re going to arrange Ahmed’s engagement to Ratna as soon as possible. This will corroborate what the girl is saying.”
Ahmed looked up in disbelief, “You can’t do that! You can’t make me marry somebody that I don’t want to. I won’t agree, ”
“You be quiet!” Mr. Omar pointed at his son in anger. “Latifa, go ahead with your plan. I think that’s the best way to control the situation.”
“What makes you think that you can run my life without paying attention to what I think and want?” Ahmed refuted.
“You stupid insolent! You should realize that you’re nothing without my last name and this company. If you didn’t have me to support you, you would be nobody. If you want to keep being somebody, you should just shut up and do what you’re told!” Mr. Omar barked.
“I will arrange to have the engagement party next month. We don’t want to seem too obvious that we’re rushing it.” Princess Latifa stated.
* * *
“Auntie Latifa, are you sure it would be alright?” Ratna asked doubtfully.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be there with you, it’s just for show. When facing somebody like her, sometimes we have to pretend to stoop low to her level.”
“What if Ahmed finds out about that we planned this?”
“He won’t. He’ll never suspect it we just have to put the pieces together carefully and as discrete as possible so it won’t be too obvious.” Princess Latifa assured her.
“Okay….I’l do what you say….”
“That’s a good girl. Remember that if you marry Ahmed, this will be a good set up for both of our families, so of course you have all my support. Because, you’re my future daughter in law, if you don’t do this now, you would never get that woman off his back. You don’t want her to be a thorn in your skin after you finally marry him, do you?”
Ratna shook her head.
“If you do everything I tell you to do, I guarantee that she will be out of his life in no time.”
* * *
Tia flushed the toilet and was about to step out when she heard Madame Al Rashid’s voice speaking with Ratna as they were washing their hands.
“I’m happy that he finally came to his senses and invited you to dinner at his apartment tonight. Ahmed is a very good cook, I’m sure he would make something very exquisite for you.”
“Do you think I should bring the wine?” Ratna asked.
“Nonsense he has a collection of wine at his apartment, he’ll pick out the best one for you.” She lowered her voice, “Just make sure you make yourself beautiful, if he invited you to his apartment, that means he intends to bring your relationship into a more serious level. Especially with the engagement party next month, I’m sure he wants to get to know you better.”
Tia’s heart shattered, did her really invite Ratna to his apartment? Or are they saying those things to hurt her on purpose because they knew that she was in the bathroom. Ahmed and she haven’t really had the chance to speak lately because his father has been throwing a lot of work on him. Ahmed barely had time to sleep or eat, so she didn’t want to be an extra burden for him, and decided to wait patiently before confronting him about the rumors of his engagement to Ratna. Although deep down in her heart, Madame Al Rashid’s words had gotten to her.
Tia decided the only way she could know for sure if he really invited Ratna to his apartment or not was if she asked him in person.
After making sure that they women had left the bathroom, Tia stepped out, she quickly washed a dried her hands then headed to Ahmed’s office. Taking a deep breath she knocked on the door.
“Come in..” He called from the inside.
“Do you have a minute to talk?” She asked.
“Of course I do, I’ll always make time for you.” He replied happy to see her.
“Do you…umm…do you have time tonight? I want to talk to you about something, can we go out somewhere?” She asked.
“Tia, I have a client meeting tonight with my father. I’m sorry. Maybe we can meet up tomorrow.” He answered.
“Is that so?” She became pale, there was this empty feeling in her heart.
The phone buzzed, “Give me a minute.” He said to her. “This is Ahmed…”
It was his father’s secretary, “Your father wants to see you in his office right away…” She said.
Ahmed sighed, “I’m coming.”
“I’ll leave you to go back to work.” Tia backed out.
“Tia, wait.” Ahmed called her, he walked over, hugged her and kissed her, “We’ll talk tomorrow. I promise.”
Tia nodded and left the office.
* * *
Tia pointed to the building to the taxi driver, once he stopped the car in front of the entrance to the apartment complex, she paid the fare and got off. Hesitantly Tia walked into the building, she walked to the elevator and pressed the floor number of his apartment.
The ring of the elevator bell when it reached the destined floor, made her anxiety even more heightened. Tia stepped out and walked down the hall. When she reached his door. She lifted her hand to press the bell, she pressed it slowly.
Tia heard footsteps coming to the door, the sound of locks opening and it finally opened. Ahmed showed his up from the inside, he was still in his work clothes, but his shirt wasn’t tucked in anymore and some of his buttons were opened. From behind him Ratna came out, she was wearing his shirt and shorts, her hair was in a mess.
Tia became pale, she stepped backward involuntarily, her eyes became misty and blurry.
“Tia…” Ahmed called out.
Tia turned around and ran for the elevator, he was about to chase her when from inside of the apartment he heard his mother cry in pain.
“I cut my finger on the broken glass.” Princess Latifa said, blood was dripping from an opened wound.
Ahmed hesitated, but when his mother began to cry, he had no choice but to enter and tend to her.