“Ahmed, what is this?” Omar Al Rashid slammed the presentation on the table, “How do you expect me to present this proposal? Where are the designs? The bid numbers? The breakdown? Why isn’t it in the proper order like it’s supposed to be?”
“Pa, I arranged the documents in logical order, I did it because I wanted to make it easy for you to find the references when you need them.” Ahmed rebuked.
“Are you talking back to me? How can I expect you to take over the company some day if you can’t even do a simple thing like this? You’re going to destroy this company and everybody who works for us are going to loose their jobs because of you!”
“Pa, I arranged your presentation in a way that would appeal to the potential client, because the way you always arrange it is a little confusing, I……”
“Are you saying that you can do a better job than me? Are you implying that it’s me who can’t do a good job?
“No sir.” Ahmed couldn’t continue to argue.
“Look what happened when I gave you a chance to do things your way, when you wanted to try to bid a job overseas, and I allowed you to try to start a branch abroad, and guess what happened? You abandoned me and the company here and left it to go down the drain. Everything I built, you threw it away to go and chase your own project! How can I trust you again? I want you to follow my orders to the dot!”
Ahmed took a deep breath, “I’ll re-arrange the proposal.” He gathered the documents and was about to leave the office.
“Ahmed!” Mr. Omar called, “I haven’t finished, sit down!”
Ahmed walked back to the chair and sat down.
“You should have more consideration for your mother and me. This engagement with Ratna is very important to us and the company, Ratna’s father is looking to invest in another market sector. Although he never said it, but I perceive that he might withdraw his investment from the company, something that I can’t afford at this moment. I’ve tried to find another source of financial support, but u pto now, I haven’t had any luck. But if we build family relationship with him, it’s most likely he’ll maintain his support to our company.”
“So you want to sell me in exchange for the investment?” Ahmed asked satirically.
“An arranged marriage is normal in politics and in business.”
“Pa, I already have somebody I love, how can I leave her just like that to marry someone else?”
“Your mother was right about you being nothing like your brother. Look at him, he was willing to leave his girlfriend and marry his wife for the sake of his family. Are you willing to leave your family and this company in ruins to run after your own happiness with some poor woman who can’t benefit your parents in anyway ?”
“Ali and Mita told me themselves, they were in love with each other when they got married, they told me themselves. But that’s not the case with me.”
“Ratna is an elegant and pretty woman, I’m sure it would be easy for you to grow to love her with time. Just like your brother, and just like me and your mother.”
“How many times do I have to tell you and my mother? I’m not Ali! Don’t compare me to him! Maybe he can easily dump his girlfriend for a prettier and richer woman, but I can’t. And you come from a different generation than me, arrange marriages might have been normal back then, but it’s not anymore. Now excuse me, I have to re-arrange this presentation the way you want.”
“Ahmed! Think about it again! Think about everything that’s at stake here.”
* * *
“Can you please ask Miss Tia to come to my office?” Ahmed requested to his secretary.
Ahmed threw himself on the chair in frustration, he opened the file on his computer and tried to work on it but he couldn’t seem to concentrate. There was knock on the door .
“Come in!” He shouted.
Tia appeared through the door, “Did you want to see me?” She asked.
“Yeah,” He called his secretary, “Hold my calls, and make sure that we’re not disturbed.”
Ahmed got up from his chair and locked the door.
“Why are you locking the door?” Tia asked.
“Didn’t you hear? I don’t want anybody to disturb us. We have to talk in private and I don’t have enough time to go out.” He explained.
“What’s the matter? You look distressed?” Tia observed.
“I just talked to my father..”
“That can’t be good, you looking like this after talking to him. What did he say?”
“He told me why he wants me to marry Ratna. It’s for the company, according to him Ratna’s father is looking to invest in another company, and my father thinks that he might retrieve his investment here. My father said that at this moment, he can’t afford to loose an investor.” Ahmed explained.
Tia’s face dropped, her heart palpated “Oh, I see. So that’s the reason. What happens if he, Ratna’s father, does take away his investment?
Ahmed shook his head.
“Ah….I understand.” Tia bowed her head, “This company has more than two hundred employees in total, administrative and field. If the company shuts down, I suppose they all would loose their jobs. Even if the company doesn’t shut down, I suppose a lot of people will be let go.”
Ahmed sighed, “I know, my father told me that he tried to find other investors, with no luck, the economy is still lagging, we haven’t fully recovered from the regional crisis.”
Tia smiled ironically, “If that’s the case, I suppose there’s nothing we can do. We can’t put our own interest on top of everybody’s life.”
“What are you saying?” Ahmed was taken aback.
Tia swallowed her saliva, her throat felt dry and coarse, “Isn’t that why you asked to see me, to explain what’s going on? I understand, your parents’ reasons, I think there’s nothing I can do about it. If I had to compete with millions of dollars of investment that Ratna can offer, of course I can’t begin to imagine it. What else can I do? The least you can do is let me maintain my dignity and walk out of here with my head up high.”
“Tia…I don’t….I don’t want to loose you….”
“Don’t! Let’s leave it like that! Good luck Ahmed, I wish you the best of luck….”
Tia walked to the door, opened it and walked out her face was pale, her face expressionless, she wasn’t going to show anybody her weakness, if she was going to loose, she was going to do so with pride.
* * *
Princess Latifa laughed out loud covering her mouth with the palm of her hand. “He spoke to her already, his secretary told me, she said that the girl walked out of his office pale and dejected.”
“I feel bad lying to him like that. You know, despite everything he is a good son, he’s loyal and dedicated to us. Besides his our only son.” Her husband shook his head and frowned.
“Which is why, we have to make sure that he doesn’t involve himself with the wrong woman. Can you imagine if he ends up marrying that “thing”? It won’t do him any good, she doesn’t have money or family background.”
“Was that your reason to marry me? Money and family background? I suppose it was, it’s not like we met before our wedding night.” Omar Al Rashid looked at his wife inquisitively.
“And you didn’t marry me because of that, because of my title? My father’s power? Why else would you accept to wed a divorcee who had already given birth to a child? Why are you talking about the past?” She looked at him sharply.
“Nothing, I just wanted to know…”
“What’s important is that I complied with all my obligations as a wife, I have always been faithful, devoted, and obedient to you all these years…”
“Yes, you’ve complied with all your obligations.” He nodded, “And so have I, but for me it wasn’t just an obligation, and you are not just a wife.”
She froze and looked at him without saying a word.
* * *
“You should go home, you look tired.” Winnie caressed Tia’s hair.
Tia shook her head, I want to finish all my work, I don’t want to have anything pending. I want to have everything up to date, I’ve asked permission to arrive late at work tomorrow because I need to pick up my aunt who is arriving to visit, and most importantly, just in case…” She paused.
“Just in case what?”
“I don’t know, just in case I get accepted some place else.”
“So you’re still with the idea of finding another job?” Winnie asked.
Tia nodded, “Of course I am.”
“Well, I’m heading home first.”
“You go ahead, I won’t be here for long.”
“Hmm, double meaning!”
“Good night…” Tia waved.
Tia went back to her work, she focused completely. She didn’t really care about leaving her work up to date, what she really wanted was to keep her mind on something else and not think about her and Ahmed anymore. Thinking about him wouldn’t do her any good, and she didn’t want to keep doing it.
“Tia…” She heard his voice from behind her.
Tia turned around, “Why are you here?” She sassed, “Didn’t you leave the office for some meeting earlier?”
“I have something to finish up.” He said.
“I see, well, if you’re here, then I’m leaving.” She saved her work and turned off her computer before getting up and taking her bag.
“Let me take you home, okay?” He pleaded
“Why? Get lost! Leave me alone!” She hissed.
“Tia, I know you’re angry, you’ve been avoiding me for three days, what can I do to make it up to you?”
“You don’t have to, people date and break up, it’s a part of life. Good bye.” She smiled ironically while walking away.
Ahmed desperately grabbed her upper arm and dragged her to his office, he closed the door and locked it throwing the key under the table, “Let’s talk about it!”
“Ugh, that’s my trick! I have nothing to say to you.” She shrugged.
“Tia, I’m not rolling over and accepting it just like that,” He stated, “I’m looking into this situation, I’m sure there’s a way to fix it without me….. without me marrying Ratna.”
“Good for you!” She replied curtly.
“What else do you want me to do?”
“Ahmed, I don’t know, don’t ask me, on one hand I don’t want to loose you too. But on the other hand, I don’t want the company to be in trouble either. Right now, I just want to avoid thinking about it.” Her voice became softer, “I don’t want to end up as one of those clingy girlfriends who pathetically holds on to a man she can’t have. I think ever since we started dating, I’ve always known that something like this will happen, your world is different from mine, I stupidly let myself get dragged into this fantasy.”
“You’re not clingy, but I am. You know why clingy people are that way? Because they believe that their lovers still feel the same way for them, clingy people cling to the one last shred of hope that they have. And I believe that you still feel the same way for me.”
“A lot of difference that would do, where did you throw the key to?” She looked around the office, spotting it under the table, approached it to pick the key up from the floor.
Ahmed quickly dashed to the table and grabbed the key from the floor, he held it in his hand and reached up above his head.
“Don’t be childish, give that to me!” She jumped up to try to get it from him.
“No!” He replied.
“Quit fooling around, give me the stupid key!” She insisted.
“Promise me you’d let me take you home.”
“What are you? Ten years old?” She was beginning to be annoyed, she kicked his shin, making him drop the key to grab his aching leg. Tia quickly picked it up and walked to the door.
Ahmed rushed behind her, ignoring the throbbing pain on his shin, he grabbed her and turned her around to face him, grabbing both her wrist holding them up against the door.
“What do…” She hadn’t finished her sentence when he swooped in to kiss her.
Tia put in all her will power to resist him, although her heart begged her to respond. Feeling that she was refusing to reciprocate, he began to kiss her neck, biting and nibbling on her skin.
“Ahmed….” Tia summoned what was left of her determination to push him away, instead of moving backward, he pushed himself forward pinning her harder against the door.
He kissed her lips again, but now she didn’t reject him, she opened her mouth and met his tongue with hers. Ahmed gripped both of her wrist in the same hand pulling both arms above her head. Using his free hand he began unbuttoning her blouse and push up her brassiere, to explore what was hidden underneath.
“Now I’m going to cling to you for good…” He whispered.
* * *
“I can’t believe what just happened. How could I let you do that to me knowing that you’re going to get engaged soon.” Tia hit her head on the window, as he drove up in front of her house.
Ahmed chuckled as he glanced at her, “As I remembered, you didn’t just let me, you took a very active part. Sleep tight, I know I will. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’m picking up my aunt from the airport tomorrow. I’ve already told Mr. Dodi, that I’ll be arriving late at work.” She told him.
“What time does her flight arrive?” He asked.
“I’ll pick you up at five thirty tomorrow morning so we can go together.”
“You don’t have to.” She huffed.
“No, but I want to.”
“Fine! I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then.” She finally said before opening the car door.
“Hey don’t be rude!” He pulled her hand, “How can you leave without saying good night properly.”
Tia exhaled she pecked his cheek, “Good night.”