Charade

Amytha Kresna Dewi (180410140063)

Summary: It seems like a perfect set-up of a budding romance between two higher-class individuals, before “accident” happens and reality kicks in.

Her

18.58. Slender fingers fixing perfectly blow-dried curls with tentative hold as to not ruin them, tiptoeing around the bare shoulder and with graceful twist, the side which shows graved numbers on her thin, silver watch is facing up and tells her that she had another two minutes before he would arrive. She’s gotten there a little earlier than their promised time and despite having been informed about his habit of being either fashionably late or terribly punctual, it doesn’t stop her from getting just a bit fidgety in her seat. She had checked herself in the bathroom for good fifteen minutes and made sure everything is put together in advance. Breathing in the light scent of roses which envelop the posh, dimly-lit restaurant they chose to dine in, she knows she can’t, and won’t, fail. No matter what.

“Hey.”

Flash of monochrome apparels, faint whiff of gentle musk, and a guy with a face looking way too young to be twenty seven sits down before her in utter ease; the infamous heartbreaking smile she’s heard of is blossoming slowly on his face. She won’t lie, it stunned her for a minute, before she gets a grip of herself and pulls on her own trick by fluttering her eyes and gives her signature small quirk of the lips.

His crisp, white button-down shirt has the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, with silk black tie still in place clipped by engraved tie-bar. She can’t help her lingering eyes to appreciate, even only for a second, the classic Vacheron Constantin on his wrist.

He stares at her directly, before leaning close and says,

“How long have you waited?”

It caught her off-guard, before she replies smoothly with a tinge of pout, “I barely did, actually.”

He doesn’t reply to her right away, opting to hold her gaze instead; making her feel lost before he tilts his head to the side and the smile is back again.

“I don’t have to feel guilty, then.”

She bites her lips to press down her laugh. I will have him by the end of the night.

Him

Dyed hair with neat curls. Pastel chiffon dress which shows off just a bit of skin. Cartier bracelet and Rolex for women.

At least she knows how to look the part.

After ordering sets of dinner course and a bottle of wine, both of them slide into warm-up conversation, skirting around general topic about each other. Bara already knows far too well on how to deal with this part since he’s no stranger with arranged match-up after graduating college. Blame it on his mothers’ friends, who seem to be thirsty in having their daughters score his family’ sons and his mom’s antics which agrees on them only because she finds it remarkably amusing.

Bara inwardly sighs.

I know I’m far from being upright man of the family but this is a low attempt at ‘harmless’ prank, Mother.

He can picture her, sitting on the pristine white sofa of their living room while sipping Darjeeling, looking thoroughly entertained and replies him,

“You don’t seem averse to having the ladies swarm you up during parties, what’s one lady’s full on attention for the night compared to that?”

“Your order, sir.”

He snaps out of his thought and look up, offering small, appreciative smile to the waitress who placed down their plates of main course. Her black hair is put on a bun and a familiar sweet scent hits him, making Bara take a second look at her.

Praline?

Unfortunately she has turned her back and walks away to her post, leaving a trail of questioning look from him.

“I heard about your father’s condition.”

Bara glances back to his company for the night, who looks as if she’s concerned but chose to take careful approach on the topic. Seeing this as an opening, Bara’s expression changes into troubled look.

“Really? What was it that you’ve heard about him?”

“Oh, they only say that his health isn’t in best shape and he got hospitalized recently.”

He places his chin on the palm of his left hand and flattens his right one on the table, abandoning the utensils.

“That’s true, and honestly, I don’t know how to think of this.”

She looks at him in the eyes, slowly leaning in and put her hand on top of his.

“I hope nothing really bad happens to him.”

He gleams, “thank you.” and intertwines their fingers. The faint blush which creeps on her cheeks don’t escape his silently watchful eyes.

Bait one.

He slowly looks down while pursing his lips, looking every bit unsure of himself before continuing their conversation.

“The fact that he conveniently left a major project from the company in my hands is what bugs me lately.”

Her eyebrow twitches, before she smooths her expression into a kind, understanding one.

“I take it must have been a lot happening in your work?”

He sighs. “It is. My father does go the hospital back and forth when he’s overworking himself, but he’s being… dramatic as of late.”

She perks up. “Dramatic?”

He leans back in his seat, carefully examining her and takes a sip of the red wine.

Bait two.

“Well, he kept saying about the last will, even went as far as meeting his lawyer several times when he’s in hospital. He demanded my presence there at all time, too. It made me alarmed because he had never done that, but he went to the office this morning looking perfectly fine like he used to be.”

Bara might have talked the whole thing out in a nonchalant manner, yet he didn’t miss a tinge of surprise and want which flash across her eyes when he said “the last will”. He knows he had her complete attention now directed towards something that isn’t potential romance between them; and she predictably fell for it albeit her earlier display of genuine and pure mannerism. Strike one.

He counts in his head,

1, 2, 3…

“Aren’t you the first son? Doesn’t that automatically make you the heir?”

He hides his sneer behind the glass of wine.

Gotcha.

He taps his chin. “I am, but I have a younger brother and we’re similar in age. My father is a fair man, it is most likely that someday, he would separate everything evenly between us.”

Maybe this is why his mother thinks of this as mere entertainment; even though the fact he became a subject still didn’t sit well, observing the other’s ever-changing expression (which turns conflicted as of now, anyhow) does amuse him.

Human is painfully transparent in the face of desire.

She ends up concentrating on her abandoned steak while remaining silent. He could imagine the calculating steps she’s going to make after, say, the third bite.

In that moment, the familiar sweet scent strikes him again. He searches his surrounding for that figure with a hair bun and finds her serving middle-aged woman accompanied by her friend of similar appearances. A turn of the head, and he finally sees her full face.

The waitress certainly would’ve left an impression to him if they happen to meet anywhere with that face.

However, something about it struck a chord deep down.

Isn’t she…?

“You don’t have to, you know.”

Oh right, there’s somebody else he had not finished dealing with tonight. He replies to her in a confused look,

“Pardon me?”

The composed lady in front of him smiles coyly and bats her eyelashes.

“You don’t have to share everything with your brother. You can leave him with one or two big branches and the rest is yours to handle.”

Her gaze becomes alluring, her body language is somehow even more enchanting.

“I believe you’re capable.”

He stares at her longingly.

“You think so?”

She smoothly raises her hand and grazes his cheek. It sounds impossible but her smile goes sweeter as her gesture does.

“Of course I do.”

Strike two.

“Your dessert, sir.”

The voice of the waitress breaks their moment, and Bara lets her place a plate of fancy lemon meringue on the table. She circles around to place one on his companion’s side, when some sort of divine intervention happens.

The waitress slips.

The cake tumbles down freely onto his companion’s dress and its topping flops onto her wrist, getting stuck between the watch and her gold bracelet. Thick cream cheese decorates the entirety of her bare arms down to the tip of her heels. Everybody looks as if they’re frozen in place before crashing sound of the plate resounds loudly for anyone to hear.

Her mask falls off, then.

He watches from his seat how the proper lady he’s arranged dinner with slowly seethes and goes into a blaze of fury. The waitress kept bowing her head profusely but the lady seems like she will have none of it.

“Do you know how expensive this dress is? Or even the price of my watch? Your entire life will not cost as much!”

“Enough.”

She’s startled, and pulls on a pitiful kitten-like expression when she sees him staring at her coldly.

So much for the graceful opening act.

He gestures the manager, who’s already on stand-by behind the waitress but looking torn whether to step in on her throwing tantrum, to come closer.

“It is your responsibility to take care of it.”

He bows. “I apologize for the inconvenience and my subordinate’s fault, sir.”

The waitress, who looks as if she’s on a death-row, says her apology too with her voice shaking.

Bara waves away his hand. “Just clean this up and let me see the waitress in private after my occasion.”

The waitress’ complexion looks paler than it already is at the same time that his companion’s smug smile shows on her face.

After the other staffs cleaned up their table and she excused herself to the bathroom, they’re relocated onto more private side of the restaurant and the made-up dessert, plus bonus cocktails are served.

The lady utters. “Only if not for that accident, today has been wonderful.”

Bara slightly raises his eyebrow.

“Well, thanks to that, I just knew a screw from LOVE bracelet could fall off so easily.”

She stops in her track. “Excuse me?”

“Oh, and your dress isn’t Alexander McQueen’s either, I believe. Probably a counterfeit made by local designer with similar style.”

He drinks the cocktail in one gulp before their eyes meet again; this time, there’s no loveliness in her gaze anymore, replaced by humiliated and unbelieving state.

“It certainly won’t cost a life.”

“Are you calling me out as a phony?!”

“Not only that,” he corrects. “Phony, has a dreadful temper, and gold-digging. Now, those are fitting description.”

She raises from her seat and tries to slap him across the table. “How dare you?!”

He calmly stops her hand and stands up.

“I’m going to give you an advice before you try to hit up any other major heir of the companies in the city.”

Her face is the same shade of red as cherries.

“Get your facts straight.”

“W-what do you mean…?”

Bara commands one of the waiters to escort her out from the place. She still looks back to him in desperate attempt to get an answer.

“WHAT IS IT THAT I DID WRONG?”

Your intention is already no good for me.

Bara wipes the side of his mouth with the napkin and puts it down on the table.

He lets out a deep breath.

“I’m the second son, moron.”

The waitress

Today is actually no different than any others; before the horrible incident involving her and a couple that resulted in being cursed out by the lady ruins it. She has been keeping up a good reputation for her work-ethics, which crumbles just like that in the face of a stupid mishap that might only happens to amateurs in regular dine-in; definitely not to an experienced worker like her, in a place like this nonetheless.

The long lecture from her manager still rings clearly in her head as she changes her uniform; she’s being let off early because there had never been a major incident like that in the span of five years and she happened to break it. She was reprimanded to stay around because of an order from the man who saved her out from being put on a spotlight by his companion’s rage.

She blushes a little.

To describe him as attractive is a total understatement; he’s overflowing with charm, even only by his gesture and smile. She did realize that he kept throwing her curious glance when she’s out serving other customers, and it had been a delight to see that smile being personally directed towards her when she did his order.

What is it that he needs to talk to me about?

She tries not to think of unrealistic fantasy; the only hope she has is that he won’t ask the manager to fire her.

The door to restaurant employees’ break room opens.

“Here you are.”

He walks inside the room and smiles at her. She hurriedly stands up and bows to him.

He chose to sit close to her and takes no time to ask,

“Are you alright?”

She slowly lifts her head up and sees that he’s been staring at her intently. She lowers her gaze and replies,

“I’m okay sir. It was my fault in the first place. Is the lady fine?”

He chuckles.

“None of my concern anymore.”

He shifts in his seat.

“What I’m pondering right now, though, is you.”

The waitress feels stuck in her place, not knowing what to do with how forward he’s behaving.

“I’m only here to say that you didn’t deserve being shamed publicly like that and I have talked with your manager to keep you on this job. You did make a mistake in the past, but… not today.”

Did he just… save me?

She feels so much gratitude she practically beams at him, though a part of his statement plagues her out from the corner of her mind. What past?

He keeps his gaze on her.

“You did a good job on the hair-dye. Change of hairstyle and now you even use contacts.”

She turns her head sharply at him. Nobody here, not even the head of the restaurant, knows that it’s not her natural hair color.

The smile is unfaltering.

“Your scent hasn’t changed, though.”

“Sir…”

She admits, the way he leans close like this successfully mess with her heartbeat.

He places his mouth adjacently to her right ear, and whisper…

“Weren’t you the junior maid who worked in my house two years ago and got fired because you broke my mother’s favorite tableware?”

She’s frozen in place.

“I take it from your reaction that it’s true.”

He stands up and walks to the door. He glances back.

“Oh, and I was the one who tripped you earlier.”

She barely has time to register what he said when he adds,

“So I’m here to take responsibility, not to save you. This isn’t the universe of romantic comedy.”

“Whatever fantasy you had on a man,” he opens the door, “Get over it.”

References:

Word Count: 2528 words

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