Selene sat in her seat listening to the lecture, or so it appeared, like any good little girl should. Her left hand was resting on her cheek with her elbow on the desk as the teacher droned on about the newest equations and how to figure them out. Inventories; how to keep track of the products that needed ordering, how many sold, and how to figure what the estimated profit should be.
This particular class was utterly boring, and in the process, her mind drifted as she mechanically jotted down a note here and there. All the while a small recorder sat on her desk taking in everything. She began to subconsciously doodle, drawing random hearts and squiggles upon her paper instead of the notes she was supposed to be writing, all the while trying to think of what she was possibly going to eat knowing that the little mini fridge in her dorm room was bare.
She had gotten a full scholarship in order to go to school, but that only included things that had to deal directly with her classes. Choosing to stay in a dorm room instead of staying off campus made it easier for her using all the money they granted her for books and tuition. The bell eventually rang breaking through her thoughts and she gathered her books and recorder, not having the money like the other students for fancy laptops and tablets. Then she left the room as quickly as she could in order to avoid confrontations with the more well off and popular students. The ones whose parents had enough money for them to be able to stay in school until they were 50 or to sit around and do whatever they wanted with money to spare.
Making it to her dorm room without incident, for once, she felt it was her lucky day as she tossed her bag onto the single bed in the room. If anyone came in and looked around they would find nothing of the woman who stayed there. No pictures, no letters from or to anyone, nothing personal laying out anywhere to give an idea of who the occupant was. The desk was empty save for her school books, notebooks and small cassette tapes along with a larger player that she could put the mini tapes in to hear them better for transcribing and making her class notes. The only possible clue of anything was her bed. Sparsely covered in an old lilac colored blanket, torn in a couple places and appearing no warmer than a towel. A single pillow that was flat from too much use in its spring green case. A single pale yellow sheet that was tucked in like a fitted one. Many would walk in and look at her bed with pity but she was proud of the few items that she had bought herself and with money she had earned at one time doing odd jobs for people.
Turning she then pulled out another bag from what served as a closet and changed into more ragged clothes. Throwing on a hat over her already messed up hair from being picked on that morning she looked in the mirror briefly examining the girl who stood in front of her. Ripped and faded blue jeans that hung off her hips, a t-shirt that was possibly at one time white but now was a dingy gray, and an over-sized flannel shirt basically hid her body and general form. The only thing that truly gave away that she was a female was the shape of her face and the long thick eyelashes that framed hazel eyes which appeared dull and almost lifeless against her ivory skin. Approving of her look she quickly left her dorm and caught the first bus across town carrying nothing with her but her lone school id stuffed in a pocket of her jeans. “I hope people are more generous today than usual, maybe I can actually get some real food” she thought as her stomach growled, faintly remembering the last time she had eaten.
Unable to have found a job of any kind, not even part-time and not for lack of trying, she would sneak across town daily in the hopes of gathering change from the businessmen and women that worked in the area she normally stayed around, the business district. She'd been run off a few times by security at different places but out of everywhere she had tried in the city this was the best place to try and panhandle. She looked younger than her 21 years and sometimes people pitied her. Others, they thought she was a disgrace to society which should be shoved away and hidden like dirt under a rug. Yet she continued and pursued.
Getting off the bus she walked a couple blocks deeper into the area where some of the most affluent people worked. Lawyers, accountants, doctors, the major offices were here and this was where some of the biggest amounts of money to be made were, whether it was on the streets or working inside one of the various red brick buildings. Sitting down against a lamp pole she pulled her legs up against her, wrapping the flannel shirt jacket around her form as a cool wind began to pick up. It was early November but the chill wind meant winter was coming early, and soon.
She dreaded being out to try and earn money this way but it was the only way she knew anymore. But she had plans, big plans, and one day she hoped to own one of the various buildings, where she was the boss, and have her own say in what went on. Until then, this was her life. Until that day she wouldn't have to rely on other people's generosity in such a way, she could have a career, she could have a real life.
Until then she would stay how she was, continue each day sitting against a light pole or building after class until it was dark. Until then she would keep her head lowered refusing to look in the eyes of those who looked down upon her and refused to acknowledge her existence. Until then, she only dreamed of getting ahead. Closing her eyes against the rising wind and cold, she pulled her jacket tighter around her body lowering her head to rest it against her knees that her arms were wrapped around tightly.
At this time, all she could do was dream, and so that's what she did.
Chapter 2 - Introducing Alex
Today was just like any other day, the office had called him in early this morning to discuss a new merger and they needed him to run the numbers for the new partner's interest. Having been working tirelessly since dawn, he had finally come to a reasonable facsimile of a basic expense report for the new company ledger. Having not eaten this morning, his stomach growled and protested its lack of sustenance.
Looking at the clock to check the time, he saw it was a couple of hours till he had to present the report to the incoming executives so he decided to take an early lunch. Had it been anyone else in the office, they'd have been reprimanded for leaving their station, but early on he had proven his worth and was pretty much allowed to do as he pleased. Standing and stretching, he leaned over his desk, grabbing the mouse and saving the file to a thumb drive in a few well-placed clicks. Removing it, he slid it in his desk drawer, locking it closed and pocketing the key.
The only reason he'd began locking his desk is last week he found Cameron snooping around his personal files at the manager's bequest, or so he'd said. Having caught him red-handed he reported it and got the accounting manager fired, subsequently taking his place. A lot of people were thankful for the change, though he was strict and demanding, he was kind and thoughtful. After they'd broken a record he'd taken the whole department out to lunch, having reserved an entire restaurant for the day. Most of them loved him for that, affectionately nicknaming him Papa AM, always the first there every morning, welcoming them back and wishing them a good day, the Papa was for the fact that he treated them like his kids, not children but for the fact he was always there to support them in their time of need.
Stretching again, he turned from his desk, his six foot lightly muscled frame moving gracefully towards the door of the small firm he managed. Passing a few cubicles, he checked in on Denise, everyone called her mom but that's because recently she had announced she was pregnant with her third child. Her husband, being in the military, had just come back and been away so long, one could imagine what trouble they'd gotten into. As he leaned in she spun around, wide eye and surprised. She placed her hand on her chest looking to the floor breathing heavily.
"Mr. Maxwell....you scared me, how is it you're so quiet?" she asked calming, looking up at him again, into his piercing gray-blue eyes. Looking quickly to the side she somewhat stuttered as she spoke again "W..what can I do for you, Sir?"
"Just coming to check on our resident mother, see how you're doing since the husband's come home." The tone of his voice was calming and deep as he leaned casually against the cubicle wall, looking calmly at her over his blue-rimmed glasses. Were he angry, it would have given anyone cold chills.
She smiled realizing she wasn't in trouble for a recent mix up between two accounts, it had almost cost them a contract but as always he'd caught it in the nick of time. "Much better Sir now that I know he's safe, it's taken him some time to come all the way home but what you told me about making him feel welcome really seemed to help." She kind of blushed placing her hand gently on her stomach, looking up at him she smiled again.
"Glad I could help sweety, well I'm off for an early lunch. If anything comes up, have the receptionist call me." He smiled softly and turned back towards the door, swiftly making his way towards the receptionist. He waved a few greetings, said a few hellos to some of his underlings, but as he passed Cameron's desk he could feel his hateful eyes burning a hole in his light blue shirt.
“Off to peruse the local house of ill repute again eh chief?" the sneer in his voice caused his eye to twitch and he turned smiling with a look that could freeze the coldest depths of Hell. Cameron was perhaps the only one in the office that hated his guts, simply because he'd gotten this rotund little redhead knocked down a few pegs on the corporate ladder. He was short, round, with a fiery wisp of hair above his beady little eyes. He looked like a slob and acted like it too, often getting reprimanded for hitting on the female staff. Alexander himself had caught him feeling up the receptionist on at least one occasion. Had it been his office, he'd have been gone within the week and he was working on it a little bit at a time, making notes, collecting statements, and constantly checking his work for any mistakes he was making. Somehow he always managed to weasel his way out of it, but he was close to getting him to go away.
"Cameron... Really? I don't know why you insist on trying to push my buttons. You need to focus on your work instead of feeling up the help and trying to spite me, so sit down and get back to work. I'm going to lunch." His words were final and he didn't even give the man his usual chance to give a quick quip, as soon as he went to speak he held up his hand and pointed for him to sit, turning and continuing towards the door, he walked tall with a graceful stride feeling the man glaring at him once again a quiet "Fuck you...." whispered under his breath.
A few more hellos and he reached the receptionist's desk, leaning over the edge quietly he smiled and spoke. "Jessie, I'm letting you know I'm...." his words were cut off by a scream and papers flying everywhere, the cute little five foot four brunette, dressed in a nice form fitting, gray dress whose thin-rimmed glasses now hung haphazardly on her face, looked up at him from the floor and fixing her glasses put her hands on her hips and frowned.
"Mr. Maxwell why is it you insist on sneaking up on me every single day?" Her tone was flustered but playful, as she began straightening her clothes, collecting papers and trying to compose her self. Coming around her half circle desk, he stooped down and began collecting papers with her, quickly organizing them as he picked them up. Reaching for the small picture frame he picked it up, setting it on the desk without looking at it. Suddenly her hand flashes out, grabbing it and holding it close to her chest, looking at him as if hurt and guarding it.
"Y...you didn't see it d...did you?" her voice was shaking accusatorily and seemed to be frightened of something. He stood slowly adjusting his shirt, setting the papers on her desk in a neat pile and adjusting his glasses with two fingers he looked at her and smiled softly. "No love, I didn't see it, just relax." He was lying to her, he'd seen it several times coming up to her desk, for whatever reason shed framed a post-it note he'd left on her desk her first day in the office. It simply said "Welcome to the family, hope you enjoy your stay with us here at Samson enterprises. Sincerely A. Maxwell, head CPA."
He extended his hand to her to help her up, cautiously she took it and he pulled her to her feet. Dusting her shoulders off, he smiled picking up the papers and handing them to her. "Anyways, I'm taking an early lunch, Jessie, check on momma in a little to make sure she's doing alright. She's in her third trimester and as it is she's still weak. I don't know why she insists on working, she's been given maternity leave but won't take it. Anyways, watch Cameron, he's in one of his moods and if he gets too touchy feely again, tase his ass. Got it?" His deep baritone words, rolled off his tongue with finality and composure.
Nodding she took the papers, setting them down in their place again, still cradling the frame. "Yes Sir, I will, now I'm sure they're waiting for you at Romero's, go ahead, we've got things covered here." She smiled and tilted her head sweetly before sitting down just as the phone rang. He chuckled and headed toward the door grabbing his long coat and cap, sliding the cap on his clean shaved head, he tossed the coat up and slid both his arms into the sleeves. Adjusting it he pushed open the door giving a casual wave. "I'll be back, hold down the fort for me." The door closed on him as he began his walk to his favorite Mexican restaurant in the whole city.
He made this walk every day, strolling casually with his long, calculated stride. While he walked his mind turned to thoughts of his second life, the life of a Dom and how he'd discovered the many pleasures of BDSM. So caught up in his own thoughts he didn't even notice the people walking towards him were splitting and moving around as if a parting wave in the red sea. When he was young, after his father had died, he'd found a memoir of his detailing the basics of what was termed the LifeStyle. Being a curious lad he would sit and read a little bit of it every day in the privacy of the attic.
One day, while he was reading, his mother happened upon him, startling him with a gentle touch, since it was only her and him, his brother being away at war, she'd sat down next to him and gave him a questioning look. "And what's this you've found my little pup? A book of His no doubt?" the way she said 'His' made him look at her curiously and he went to question but only received two fingers gently placed on his lips. "Shh, I know what you're going to ask and yes I said it that way for a reason. What you have there is a book made by me and Him so that one day you could learn to be like us."
He remembered fondly that she'd ruffled his hair and having done so he'd grabbed her wrist pulling her hand down gently and shaking his head. "Mom, no please don't do that anymore, it reminds me too much of when Dad was still around, he used to do it often and no offense to you, I'd rather we keep to our hugs." She smiled and nodded, leaning in to hug him tightly, kissing his cheek, she pulled back holding his shoulders and looking at him, tears starting to stream from her eyes. "Just like Him, you're definitely His pup and mine as well. I love you, Alex, never forget that, keep reading and don't be so secretive about it. Ask me questions and we'll talk." She went to stand but as she did he remembered grabbing her arm, pulling her back and taking his Dads handkerchief out and wiping her face."I miss him too mom, but please, don't cry anymore, everything's going to be okay." Even then his words seemed to comfort her as if she were hearing his Dad's words.
Suddenly, a voice calling out brought him back from his daydream. "Sir? Excuse me, Sir? Do....do you have any s...sp...spare change?"
That word, Sir, it always caught his attention, quite honestly it was the way he always preferred to be addressed. This voice although weak and timid seemed to say that word with a certain amount of emphasis as if knowing and respecting this term, more so than many others he'd met. His coworkers at the office said it out of respect for his position so was certain lackluster effect to it. Turning slowly, his eyes searching for that small female voice, he looked around for a moment before she finally spoke once again.
"Sir....I'm down here...." there it was again he thought, that subtle undertone, something he'd only read about and had heard many times in his dreams. Looking down, following the sound of her voice his eyes came to rest upon her huddled up form, trying her best to stave off the chilly autumn air.
She was small in stature, looking rather disheveled and filthy though he could tell quite clearly, it was all a ruse. Her hands he noticed were far too clean, as were the exposed parts of her skin. He observed her very carefully, his piercing eyes locked on her in a very intense gaze. The tattered flannel shirt, baggy to hide her form, the dingy gray once white shirt, threadbare and in need of desperate care. Her jeans full of countless holes, perhaps a size or two too big.
With casual grace he approached her, squatting down and lifting her cap up away from her face. He'd seen this girl many times, but usually, it was when she getting the bus out of this district, the richer parts of the metropolitan complex known as Browning TX. As the cap slid off her head, she startled, screaming clearly taken aback by the suddenness and silence of his approach. Grabbing her arm gently, but in an unbreakable ironclad grip, he looked over her face a moment, taking in her delicate and subtle details. It caused an eyebrow to quirk on his decently well formed and framed face. She was absolutely gorgeous, not fit to continue in such a disgraceful manner. Speaking gently, his words careful and chosen, the deep subtle tones of his voice seeming to exit his lips as a cat might purr when finding content in the gentle petting of a human companion.
"Dear girl, calm yourself..." She struggled for a moment pleading with him to let her go. "Calm yourself, now." There again was the finality in his voice and immediately she froze, not speaking, not moving, her head lowering as if her dog had been kicked and she was about to cry. "That's better, now, I have not the change to spare. For you see I carry no cash, though if I did I would give it to you...." pausing a moment he smiled "the problem is though that if one simply looks closely, they can discern that this getup you wear is a clever ruse." Sliding the hat back down, he lightly patted her head and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "What you really need is a gimmick, put simply a way to sell yourself, for example, single homeless mother, barely able to feed her children let alone herself. But, you have no children you are..." he gently strokes his chin, thinking a moment "Twenty-one or two, college age and a student no less.... Though why you're begging for bread crumbs when you could just as easily have an entire loaf." Slowly he stands offering his hand to her and smiling. "Come with me, let's get you a full meal."
Chapter 3 - Unexpected Memories
She had sat there for what seemed like hours but only was for a rather short time, maybe only around 30 minutes. Having made it early today before the normal lunch crowd she wasn't surprised in the fact that no one had passed by. But then she saw him approaching the corner where she sat. Those hazel eyes looking him over, taking him in and judging wither to speak up or not. A businessman, well dressed, and he obviously took care of himself. He walked with an air of confidence that she couldn't place or begin to describe if she was asked but she didn't recall ever seeing him before. Only able to guess that he was a manager at one of the local buildings she took in a deep breath as he neared and tried to keep her teeth from chattering with the unusual weather for this time of year when normally one would be able to go and sunbathe. Softly she spoke while keeping her head lowered.
“Sir.... Excuse me, Sir... do you have any spare change?” Those hazel hues would raise when he stopped in his tracks and seemed perplexed as to where she was as he turned. “Sir, I'm down here” she wanted to reach out and touch him so that he would know but instead lowered her head again only to become startled when he lifted up her hat a quick and small shriek escaping her lips and her eyes went wide when he grabbed hold of her. Soft yet still very firm making her whimper and try to pull away, to squirm out of his grasp.
“Please Sir, let me go, please.” She asked of him as she struggled and pulled trying to get his hand off of her arm even as he tried to calm her down. It was more than obvious that she was scared yet there was something in his voice when he had spoken again. A finality, a command that needed to be listened to that made her whimper again and she lowered her head though her mind raced. If he tried to do anything she didn't want she would simply scream loud enough that all the businesses around could hear her and someone would come running, yes that was a plan she thought as it went through her mind rather quickly.
Listening to him her eyes still wide and startled as he looked her over before he backed away. He had commented on her clothes. How could she tell him she only had a few outfits, one for interviews, two for class, and the one she wore. That the last place she'd lived the day before becoming an adult had given all he clothes to charity saying other people needed them more. That was nearly 6 years ago now.
Once more her stomach would grumble reminding her of that now dull ache of an empty belly when he mentioned food. Even something as simple as bread alone sounded very good but she was in shock when he stood and held his hand out to her, offering to buy her a meal? Those doe eyes looked up at him as she tilted her head back unsure of wither to accept or decline the offer. She wanted food so badly but, was it worth going with a stranger? Was it worth possibly risking her life?
Slowly, hesitantly, she lifted her hand up and placed it in his pulling back a couple times as she thought over the possibilities of whether or not she could trust him. Finally, her hand would find his, placed in it softly and she struggled to her feet using the light pole that she had been leaning against. Adjusting her hat over her head and mess of hair she spoke again softly.
“Thank you, Sir, you are much too kind” pushing aside the inner voice screaming at her about how much he seemed to know trying to reason it all off. She looked like a college student, well mostly. Many typically thought she was younger than she was. But her stomach was ruling her thoughts right now. Thinking briefly when the last time she ate out anywhere, it was nearly 6 years ago, just when she was getting emancipated. The state's agent had her meet with an attorney and an accountant to learn what it would mean to be out on her own though she already knew. Finding a job, saving money, rent, bills. She heard it all. And if she had the chance she wouldn't change it either. She'd still fight to get away from the people who never cared and from under the thumbs of the ones that wanted only money.
Adjusting her shirt a bit after pulling her hand from his blushing slightly as her mind had drifted off, something it did regularly, then as he began to continue on his way without a word as if expecting her to come along she hesitated again before quickly catching up to him her hands in her pockets as they would walk in silence for a time before she spoke
“I am a student, that's where all my money goes, and... my clothes, I've had them for years they're not a ruse. Sir.” Her voice was soft again, and she used her hands in her pockets to tighten the flannel jacket shirt around her body. Was she scared? More than scared but if she was going to eat she had to follow him. “I didn't just go through and find a pair of jeans one day and tear them up or go through my grandpa's closet for some of his old clothes, though they'd probably fit me better if I had one to go to” the end she seemed to mutter. People always made fun of her clothes but she never said anything, why here? Why now? Why him? Why was she only just now justifying and fighting back defending herself and what she had? She couldn't even come up with an answer for any of those except he felt familiar. Like she knew him already.
And so she remained silent as she continued following him thinking back as her mind once more began to drift off instead of staying in the present, back to the meeting that ended abruptly and the people who never cared for her or about her only to remember the smile of the last man who treated her like a person instead of a thing. The accountant who had taken her out to dinner to celebrate her emancipation but that was all she could remember about him. His smile and his eyes though she had not had the chance to look at the eyes of the man currently offering to feed her she wondered what that he was doing now, if he was still in the city or having left for bigger fish in New York or San Diego or just anywhere else
It was just before her 16th birthday, a woman from the state agency had picked her up after school and taken her to the office where the woman worked. Having to sit for another hour in what most would deem to be uncomfortable chairs she curled up doing her homework Hearing voices but ignoring them as she worked until she felt a hand upon her shoulder causing her to jump slightly and turn her head looking back at two men, one probably old enough to be her grandfather, who introduced himself as Mr Jefferies and the other. She couldn't keep her eyes off of him he was young and handsome, not too much older than her if she were to guess and blushing she turned her head away quickly.
The hand staying upon her shoulder as the men sat down accompanied by the woman from the state agency she placed aside her school work and they began to go over paperwork for her to be emancipated. To be able for her to be on her own. No longer a ward of the state and to be shipped from house to house. Though none of them knew that as of that night she had no place to go anymore once the papers were signed she was still eager. The younger man's hand moved from her shoulder to her arm patting it softly upon occasion even after he'd sat down on her left.
The meeting finally over after nearly another hour of talking and explaining what it will mean for her to be emancipated, considered an adult for all intensive purposes and the like. Nodding here and there as the paperwork was explained remaining silent unless asked a direct question if she understood then a simple yes Ma'am or Sir would be said until she finally was to sign the papers and the old lawyer left meaning the meeting was over and they could each go their own ways. Her school work was placed in a backpack while she had a second bag with her thanking them and heading out when she was stopped and asked if she wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate which of course she answered enthusiastically “Yes.”
She stopped walking feeling a hand upon her arm and looked up at him briefly as he spoke “We're here” she turned and looked at the building in front of them her eyes widening and she went to take a step back only to find his arm around her waist leading her instead inside. Looking from the restaurant to him then back she gave a shudder. Many of the people who worked in this place knew her and had shooed her off upon occasion. The fact that this was the last place she'd been taken too as well was unnerving on top of it.
“I'm not feeling that hungry anymore”
“And you're not good at telling the truth because I can hear your stomach growling now no arguments” Leading her inside gently but firmly feeling how thin the shirt she wore as a jacket actually was now.
“No buts you're going to eat.” He opened the door and got her inside where the maître d' first opened his mouth to welcome them seeing Selene first he scowled looking over her torn and ragged appearance straightening his cravat then proceeded to ignore her instead turning to the man with her and smiling grabbing a menu placing it under an arm
“Welcome, Mister Maxwell. You're quite early today. Your normal table is available Sir. If you would follow me”
The stuck-up man turned leading the way for Alex to follow and turned perplexed when he heard no one behind him after a couple of steps. “Pardon me maître d' but as you can see I do have a guest today. I know I'm normally by myself but today” He pulled her over and in front of him “Two menus not one.” The man stood in shock a moment and smiled politely until they began to pass as Alex began to lead her to the table when he leaned in.
“Mister Maxwell if you would, riffraff are not allowed, her attire alone could...”
“And if I decide to dress up in such a manner would you deny and turn me away?” Alex spoke quickly letting go of Selene and turning to the man who stood half a head shorter than him.
"Why no Sir you pay and the tips you leave are...”
“She is with me now as I said two menus, not one. The bill is on me and how she is treated will determine whether or not I leave my usual tip today. Are we clear?”
“Crystal Mister Maxwell.” The maître d' spoke quickly and wrung his hands together.
“Good. Then we will take our table now.”
Selene stood there looking between the two in awe of how the man, Mister Maxwell as she found out, had taken control of the situation and turned it in his own favor. The smaller man moved around them leading the two to a table in the back which would be effectively hidden from view of most of the other patrons and she would quickly sit in one of the chairs across from the man who had kept her from getting kicked out of this place again. She could feel eyes on her as she kept her head down biting on her lip nervously and glancing around quickly before picking up the menu looking at it in order to hide herself more from the view of everyone else. A quicker look at the prices and she set the menu down pushing it away and gulping.
“Choose whatever you want my dear.” He instructed and she picked up the menu again looking through it carefully trying to find the cheapest item on the menu. Soon after the maître d left a waiter came up to the table introducing himself as he was new and asking if they needed more time ordering and if they wanted to start with drinks. Still undecided about what she wanted Alex would order for the both of them including a wine which would go perfectly with the steaks in which he asked for but first starting with water until the meal was there.
The water poured and set down the waiter went and turned in the order leaving the two alone again when she would finally speak. “Thank you Sir, but you don't have to go out of your way for me. A simple sandwich would have been” a small gasp escaped her lips as he reached over the table taking her hand in his
“Everyone deserves more than a simple sandwich and by the looks of you, that's all you've eaten in how long now? A few months I'm going to venture a guess.” Watching her intently as she looked down and nodded obviously embarrassed and he began to get the feeling he knew this girl. Somewhere before they had met but he couldn't place his finger on it. Releasing her hand finally he picked up the glass of water and taking a drink from it before returning it to its place upon the table. “So do I at least get the privilege of your name since I am paying for the meal?”
Jumping slightly as her cheeks would redden looking over to him. “I'm so sorry Sir. My name is Selene. Selene Carmichael.” Becoming uncomfortable as he stared at her now as if not only seeing straight through her but as if he knew some deep dark secret in which she didn't know. Lowering her eyes once again and clasped her hands together on her lap as what could be misconstrued as a smirk crossed his lips watching her.
Everything began to click the moment he heard her name and he smiled at the memory but quickly pushed it aside remembering the last time they had spoken. The girl before him had had so many dreams, so many visions of what she wanted to do, where she wanted to be and how she was going to get there.
“Selene Carmichael...” His voice trailed off, he'd always wondered what had become of the little teen who'd seemed intensely interested in him during the first time they had met. Back then, she was young, naive, thinking that her emancipation gave her the ability to do anything she wanted.
No matter how much he would have loved to have taken her in back then, his girlfriend at the time would have flipped out and caused so many problems. As it was she caused him problems a lot, always flirting with other men as much as he hated it, the constant fights, spending every dime He had given her and when he told her she couldn't have more, shed steal from him causing more issues.
Only weeks after Selene's emancipation he'd found her cheating on him with one of the many men she'd talked to, in a fit of blind rage he'd grabbed him, throwing him through the window then grabbed her and did the same growling that dogs sleep outside and that she can have her multiple boyfriends replace her things.
He closed his eyes, breathing calmly, pushing the memory aside he returned to the present, choosing not to reveal just yet that he knew her, he began formulating long-forgotten plans he'd made for her had they ever met again, choosing casual conversation to ease her obvious discomfort.
“That's quite a lovely name, Selene Carmichael, it rolls off the tongue quite nicely. So, Selene, might I call you so? Tell some about yourself, where you're from, where you're going?”
“I grew up in the area, loosely. Other than that there's not much to say, Sir...”
She picked up her water sipping it calmly though still obviously on edge being in this fancy restaurant around all these fancy people. It made her apprehensive and nervous. Setting the glass down and placing her hands on her lap those hazel eyes moved around the room briefly wondering what anyone thought of her then seemed to lift her head higher as she continued to think.
Their thoughts didn't matter. One day she was going to be better than all of them but she did watch them. Their nuances. The way they spoke with their companions.
“I'm in college as you guessed already. That sweater is so five years ago...” commenting quickly on a woman walking by before shaking her head to not get to lost in thought “I'm learning fashion and business management. But right now no one wants to hire me, I'm to new, my designs to unique, to risky. I want to basically bring back old elegance with newer style.”
He gave a light chuckle and a gentle smile at her comment on the woman's sweater. Taking his glass again, sipping it lightly and replacing it once again he began to stroke his chin as if lost in thought but in truth taking in each and every one of her words. As she mentioned some of her designs, their uniqueness, their risk, the old elegance with a modern touch, he watched as her face lit up with passion and nearly absolute devotion to her dreams and want for them to come true.
“It's not quite that you're so new my dear, in truth, look at how you dress. A sweater which is a 20-year-old design, perhaps received when you were 16 by the wear and tear as well as the fact it used to be white. You're too nice in your judgment of others clothing, no matter how hard it is, you need to be tougher on your subjects, unfortunately, never insult them but make an accurate observation of what they wear. As for you though, your designs you should have examples of your work and take the risk by wearing it, a show of not only the elegance of the style but the elegance which you hide with tattered rags.”
As he finished speaking, he gave a casual look around, first to the left, watching the patrons go about themselves, seeming totally unaware of her or perhaps ignoring her, some completely focused on him, some even attempting to get his attention in subtle ways, widening their legs a bit, looking shy and reserved when before they had been lively and vibrant, he would give a casual huff and look away to the right as the waiter was approaching with their food, time seeming to begin slowing down around him as he took everything in. Returning his gaze to her he smiled, his gentle blue-gray orbs seeming to pierce into the very depths of her as he spoke
“You have talent, that much is clear, you have the gift of observation of your environment, this you've proven but what you lack is the ability to observe things from a different perspective, you're about to knock over your water....”
She lowered her head when he brought up her own clothing feeling ashamed especially after speaking so openly about the things she drew. The clothing she had designed. A hand raised and grabbed unconsciously to the hem of her sweater and the shirt she wore beneath. Moving her other hand she fixed how her water glass sat keeping her head down not looking up again. Her voice soft when she finally spoke again after their food was brought and sat in front of them and the waiter had gone his way about his business
“I wear what I own Sir, nothing more and nothing less. Forgive me, I should have declined instead of accepting, I'm not feeling too hungry now.” her hands clasped together in her lap before she went to move the chair back so she could get up "Please forgive me, Sir. I'll find a way to pay you back for wasting your time and money on me”
“You've wasted nothing my dear and there is nothing to forgive, please sit, enjoy your meal and I'll tell you how you can pay me back now sit, eat you need to in order to keep up your strength.” Lifting his hand, he turned it over and dropped it down a motion for her to stay still not very good at hiding the truth from me Selene he reached out and gently took her hand, grasping it firmly as he gently smiled. “you've gone pale, you need to eat, I'll not take no for an answer, even if I must feed you myself, you will eat.” He continued to hold her hand looking at her softly, long forgotten plans now being remembered, welling to the surface of his mind and now that she'd matured some, he had every intention of having his way. But first she needed to relax, she needed to know he had her best intentions in mind, he could tell she was still unsure of him and he was trying to get her relax. “You needn't take my appraisal of what you wear so personally, simply consider it an observation of your outside appearance, allow me to try another approach, what it says of you is you choose to waste nothing, often using things long past the time when others would have thrown them away, you're frugal but not miserly, had you anything to give you would give it all away to those less fortunate, but as you are one yourself, you give yourself to your dreams and passion instead of others, though you wish to share yourself with the world, you're afraid that you will forget yourself along the way and should someday you find someone whom you trust to share yourself with, you fear that in time they will no longer want you and toss you aside for one who seems better, but you must realize that if they were to do so, the gem which is hidden beneath such a rough exterior will go unknown to the world and remain but a rock while the person who tossed you away will have found a polished, pardon my vulgarity, turd....now eat your meal, I want nothing but to enjoy your time and to discuss what you can do for me, trust that I have only your best interest in mind, I have for sometime now, eat before it gets cold.” Removing his hand he took his utensils and waited for her to do the same.
Her head would finally raise up and she looked down at her hand as he held it. The color rising up in her cheeks while he spoke and lowering herself back down in the chair squirming some only to raise her head in shock when he spoke of not only having her best interest in mind but for awhile? He'd been watching her for awhile? She suddenly felt dizzy and even more confused than she was to begin with. Her hand shaking when he released it and she unsteadily picked up her glass drinking some water and ignoring the wine that had been set down with the meal. No, she had to keep her head on straight as she tried to think of how she could know him. Had he come and taught a lecture? Or was he a teachers aid on the side? She decided that none of those could be right and carefully replaced her cup picking up her fork and knife staring down at her food feeling a sudden pang in her stomach as her mind drifted once again. Thinking back once more to the last time she was in this place. A similar situation. He'd chosen the same dish. Asked about her plans, her future. The things she'd wanted to do. She remembered that she had thought him as cute but now couldn't remember his face. Slowly she began to eat and glanced over at him beneath the hair that had fallen over her face but remained quiet as she thought. Almost wishing that the past was her current
As she began to eat her food, hesitation clearly evident in her motions, he himself began to eat, deftly cutting his steak into several bites sized pieces. Setting his knife down he pushed his fork into a piece and lifted it up, observing it, as if looking for flaws in it though in reality, he was gazing at her. Pulling it to his mouth he began to masticate the steak silently, reaching with His other hand, he took it and sipped his wine, setting it down once more, giving dissatisfied look at the taste. Raising his hand he snapped his fingers twice and motioned the waiter over as he finished his bite of steak, swallowing it down and dabbing his lips with the napkin just as the waiter came over
“Y...yes Sir? Is everything to your like...."
He raised a hand cutting him off
"No, it is not, but since you are new here and do not know what I normally order, I will let this slide this once, I want you to take this wine and give it to the chef, tell him to use this vintage in his cooking as well, ask him to bring me My usual, observe what he brings as I will expect you to remember for when I next come in. The bottle will be marked with my initials A.M. now off with you and be quick, my lovely guest and I do not have forever to wait.” He swiped his hand to the side as the waiter took the glasses and bowed to them
“Yes Sir, I'll not let it happen again.” he turned after standing and quickly made his way to the kitchen. Alexander then returned to his meal and her.
“So Selene, tell me you seem to recognize this place as if you've been here before, you can't place it, you can't figure out where I fit into this can you?” He takes another bite of his steak, savoring every bit of it, His though remaining open as he continues to watch her.
She jumped hearing her name lost in her thoughts and memories. Her head lifting looking at him startled and nearly knocking over her glass of water again giving a small squeak as she righted it after some of the cold liquid spilled out over her hands and the table. “Where you fit Sir? I don't know but I had been here before, it had been a few years now though since my emancipation and I was brought here to celebrate. That was his words anyway.”
“His words? Tell me about him? What do you remember of that day?” He'd kept himself lowered down some, His spine lightly compressed, setting his fork next to his plate, he dabbed his mouth once more, spreading the napkin on His lap once more before bringing his head to his full sitting height, lightly tilting his head, his expression soft and focused. Reaching across the table, he took her glass moving it forward slightly then lightly touching her hand he spoke softly “Relax my dear, we're simply enjoying each others company, I'm not going to hurt you, just relax, I'd dearly love to hear more about you but first if you wish, a little about myself so neither of us are strangers to each other, My name is Alexander Maxwell, I currently work as the manager of a local accounting firm in the area, I handle the expenses of several of the local establishments, including the one you're currently in, if you wish to know more you have but to ask, If you ask I am an open book.” He gently squeezed her hand and removed It, the cloth that was hidden in the palm of his hand having dried it of the water which had spilled on it. Just then the waiter returned and presented a bottle with only the letters A.M. on the label with no other defining markings
“As you requested Sir, do you require me to leave it here so I do not disturb your meal?” Alex nodded and motioned for him to open the bottle and let it breath “Very well Sir, as you wish”. quickly the young waiter opened the bottle placing it on ice in the bucket on the tray that had been brought over silently, he placed two glasses in front of the bucket bowed and was about to turn and leave when Alex held up two twenty dollar bills for him. The waiter stopped and began to reach for them stopping and held up his hand shaking his head “No Sir, thank you, Sir, but no, I have not earned a tip from you as I had failed to anticipate your requirements, I must kindly decline for now.” Smiling and bowing again, he turned and slipped off out of sight as Alex shrugged and returned the money to his pocket, returning to his meal awaiting her response.
“I don't remember much its been so long Sir. Only this restaurant stayed in my mind over the years....I had even forgotten what was ordered until just now.” Her eyes staying on the plate in front of her as she spoke dreamily her mind still half lost in the past until she felt his hand and cloth on her own and she pulled her hands back placing them on her lap beneath the table embarrassed and only barely glanced up at the waiter when he came back with the bottle. Listening to the exchange she took another bite quickly eating it slowly savoring the flavors of the steak. “It's more than a pleasure to make your acquaintance Sir. Though I doubt after this will you see me again. Not until I can pay you back. I don't like being indebted to anyone ever and I don't plan on starting now. I just need to find a place that will hire me so that I can do things on my own.”
He sighed silently, not even the mention of his name triggered the correlation that he was the man she remembered, that in all those years she had forgotten him saddened his heart, but he never let it show through, there was still time for her to remember and this time, he wouldn't lose track of her again. Setting his fork down once more, he frowned at the mention of her paying him back.
“First allow me to say the pleasure is all mine, my dear, now you must understand I want nothing from you except that you create your designs for me so that I may see you in one when next we meet and come here again and I will see you again, I have a few connections with the local fashion shops, but before I talk to any of them, you must create your most daring, classy, and elegant design and return to this district in a week, I will provide you with a place to create it with the local seamstress society, they owe me a small favor and they've been looking for bright talent, should you accept my offer you will see your dream come true baby-girl....”
He paused a moment, the word having slipped from his lips without him thinking about it, shaking his head and regaining his composure he straightened his shirt “My apologies, I am unsure where that came from, I've never used that word before with anyone, please, stay and finish your meal I must be going, my lunch is nearly over but first...” Grabbing the bottle and both glasses he poured each a glass, the golden liquid flowed forth from the mouth of the bottle, seeming as if pure ambrosia, a light, intoxicating sweet smelling liquid which seemed almost to flow like honey. Placing one glass in front of her he held the other in his hand “Drink if you accept my proposition but should you not you will still see me again”
Forgotten yet still remembered. Bits here and pieces there. Having made herself forget because of the hurt she felt thinking that maybe a guy was interested in her only to be pushed away. The years since hadn't been kind to her or her memory, true, and she stared at him when he brought up her creating something for him to see in wonder only to lower her head again. A place to create? She had a place to create but couldn't afford the materials and tears began to fill her eyes listening to his words. The man whom she last ate with had called her the same thing when dropping her off for the night to never see him again. The single word causing a spark of recognition in her eyes as she stared at him in now shock though him saying he never said it before had her feeling lost and confused and watching as he grabbed the bottle and glasses. Pouring the wine she gulped now more on edge it seemed. Her eyes paying more attending to the way he moved. Her ears the way that he spoke. The recognition hitting her fully and like a wave crashing down on the shore. Having not yet finished half her meal in nervousness and anxiety. She couldn't help but stare at him a moment then lowered her head taking in a deep breath only to let it out slowly.
“I cannot accept such a gracious gift, Sir. Thank you. You've already done more for me today than most would in a month let alone a year. I've been on the streets since my emancipation until I got the scholarship and am in a dorm room now. I do what I must to get by and that's all I'm doing Sir. To be able to eat, anything I've had to live off the charity of others. I can't keep doing that and that's why I cannot accept your proposal. Thank you very kindly for the meal Sir....Mr. Maxwell. But this will be the last time because I won't be coming back around this area after I leave today”
It saddened him to hear that, her words seeming lonesome and lost. Finally, it struck him he had said that word before, once long ago when he had dropped her off for the night and left getting caught up in his work like he usually did. Now the regret built up slowly, but once more he never let it show. Reaching out once more he patted her hand, a gentle way of saying 'i understand' with a gentle expression and a tender smile his eyes showing his concern
“ You will see me again, I don't know when or where but you will. I did say that once, the words baby girl, but it was quite a while ago and I don't remember the girl's name” though this was a lie, it wasn't time yet to reveal He knew her and who she was,
He did keep tabs on her for over 2 years, hoping at 18 she'd seek him out, but she never did, perhaps life had gotten in the way and she had forgotten where to go, where to turn or even how to find him. He had checked on her now and then until about two years ago when her case had been finalized and closed for good, after that, it was out of his hands and in hers though fate, it seems, had other plans. He continued the conversation having thought all he could for now
“I do however remember her face and how she looked in a baggy hoody and ripped jeans, kind of like yours only newer looking though this was 8 years ago, you kind of remind me of her a bit, never you mind that, please finish your meal if you can and if not take what's left with you” sitting back he released her and returned to his meal in silence, occasionally glancing between her and it, looking at his watch he waved the waiter over once more.
She pulled her hand away slowly, hesitantly from under his keeping her eyes down. When the waiter came over she asked quietly for a to go box so she can place her food inside wanting to leave as quickly as he had left last time. Wanting to just be gone before her emotions got the best of her and she couldn't hold back the tears or anything. Wanting to yell at him but remaining quiet saying nothing as she picked up her wine and took another dip waiting, waiting in the painful silence of her memories. Waiting in the awkwardness of the situation
He motioned the waiter down and whispered something in his ear before turning back to her finishing his water in silence, he could see her crying, see the tears rolling down her cheek, he couldn't help but want to hold her, to let her know it was okay. Instead, he simply produced a silken cloth, emblazoned with his initials A.M.
“Here sweetheart, don't let them see you cry, don't let them see you want to break, dry your tears, it's going to be okay”
Looking up her face unreadable and stoic though the recognition of him reflected in her eyes. The disappointment and years burying it having finally surfaced. Even though the tears fell she didn't sniffle or bawl but kept it all hidden inside. Turning her eyes from him she lifted the plate placing her food in the to-go tray that was set in front of her now ignoring him as he had her one request those years ago. Picking up the box when she finished she pushed her chair back and stood.
"Goodbye, Sir. Thank you again for the meal. one day I promise I'll be able to pay you back for it and I will do just that." she kept her head down and voice soft as she spoke "I do keep my promises, Sir, even if the rest of the world around me doesn't. Being in the system taught me that much so until I can pay you back, goodbye."
With that, she turned on her heels nearly running into the waiter and ran around him only to run out of the restaurant in embarrassment and shame. The people that surrounded the table they had sat at speaking in hushed whispers about her and asking among themselves how he could have brought her in here not only calling her an ungrateful trollop but quite a few other names as well.
Her sneakers thudding against the cement of the sidewalk as she ran down the road towards the bus stop. vowing to not come back to this area again but other than that her mind blank as she made her way back to her dorm. Going inside avoiding anyone and everyone on the way. Setting the container in the mini-fridge she laid on the bed deciding to do whatever she had to in order to get by otherwise. Remembering an offer someone she'd known had given her for work. having denied the offer before she couldn't put it off anymore. It was still early. Changing into her sexiest outfit that another had given her the one time she'd gone out and carefully applying her makeup, she headed out one more time for the night now with nothing left to lose.