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“There you go again.” She looked up to find her sister Amee leaning against the doorway.
“You gon work a hole in your finger the way you spinning that ring around.” Her fingers stopped.
“Don’t know why you even kept that damn thing.” She looked down at the ring on her finger. She twisted it and took it off.
“Girl, by the time I realized it was still on I was already on the plane.” Amee chuckled.
“Why you keep holdin on to somethin that’s dead?” She shrugged.
“What, get out my business. Regardless of what happened, I like the damn ring. It’s pretty.” Amee chuckled.
“Mm okay. If you say so.” She sighed.
“You won’t believe where this thing was.” Amee blinked.
“Kwasame threw it in the trash. After he took it off my finger while I slept.” Amee pursed her lips.
“Pissed me the fuck off.” Amee came into the room.
“I get where bruh is comin from but damn. It’s like that?” She took a slow breath. She was still pissed about it days later. One of the reasons why she was straight up ignoring him. She could see why he did it. But for him to do something like that and then make a big deal about her being his was a whole other thing. She may not have said it, she may have been in shock but she had felt a real way.
“He started talkin bout some you belong to me shit. What the hell is that…” Amee balled up her lips.
“Rae, you have been dating him for two years… I mean… don’t you kinda belong to him? He is your man.” She looked at her sister like she had grown two heads.
“Are you crazy? Ebere Marshall belongs to no man. I belong to my damn self. Point. Blank. Period.”
“Except that boy you loved in Japan…you did belong to him at one time right?” Her face grew sour and she sighed.
“What is with y’all? First Daddy now you. Why are y’all bringing up the past all of a sudden?” Amee sighed and sat down on her bed next to her.
“He was all you talked about Ebbie. Your whole entire world revolved around him.” She scoffed.
“Yeah back when I was young dumb and brainless.”
“I remember when you came home from Japan. You ain’t want nothin to do with nobody. All you did was stay in your room and cry out for him. You didn’t even eat or sleep. It was Hiroto this, Hiroto that…”
“What’s the point of trying to remind me the absolute mess I was in A?” Her sister smiled softly at her and gently framed some of her curls around her face.
“I’m just trying to get you to stop being stubborn. You can’t lie to yourself. He played a big part in your life and you have to admit that.” She was quiet for a while.
“Do you miss him Ebbie?” Her sister watched her fingers, which had started to unconsciously twirl the small ring around her finger again.
“It’s okay if you do honey.”
“I don’t. Y’all tryna make me get in feelings that are dead and ones I long since buried.” Amee pressed her forehead against her shoulder.
“In any case, what Kwasame did was not cool under any circumstance. I get where he’s comin from. But there was a better way to handle it. All he did piss you off and he better be lucky Tre don’t know about this.” She smiled softly.
“Tre would set it off.”
“He don’t play when it comes to you.”
“You too A. All of us.” Amee shook her head.
“Nah but he’s never been as protective of me as he was of you. You were the favorite little sister.”
“Oh girl please. Hush.” They shared a laugh and Amee lifted her head.
“So you got your ring back. And your dignity. Now what chu gon do Ms. Marshall?” She grinned.
“Stunt on all them muhfuckas.”
Her first day back at work, she felt like royalty. She had went shopping the previous day. She had never been able to afford red bottoms but honey she had bought some of those bad boys and felt damn good walking out of the store. Those babies she was saving for later. But, she had paired some long wide legged pants, smooth and silky and a crisp white shirt with simple black pumps. She hadn’t bothered to straighten her hair today, deciding her hair needed a much needed break from it. Her curls which had been swept up in an up-do smelled like sweet papaya and coconut. She wore some small Chanel studs she had thrifted and a sleek black wrist watch. Grabbing her black clutch, she blotted her bold red lips and checked herself in the bathroom mirror before heading into the office. It was like as soon as she stepped in, jaws dropped and eyes followed her. She blinked and smiled at some of the men that had gathered in a nearby cubicle.
“Mornin y’all.” One of them stuttered,
“G-Good m-mornin.” Her brow creased and she pursed her lips as she set her things down on her desk.
“What is up with y’all today? Y’all act like you ain’t never seen me before.”
“Well gaaaaaah damn Marshall.” She sucked her teeth and turned to look at Peterson, the cubicle playboy. He looked her over once, twice and shook his head.
“What happened to you? You come in here lookin like a million bucks.”
“A girl feelin herself. Somethin wrong with that?” He licked his lips and his eyes slid down her body one more time.
“Nah. You good. Feel yourself more often.”
“You can look all you want to. You’ll never touch it.” She said lowly as she passed him. Men like him made her blood boil and skin crawl. His eyes followed her all the way back to Mr. Rossi’s set of cherry wood double doors. She took a deep breath and entered to find him standing by Ms. Jenny, his administrative assistant. At the sight of her, he smiled.
“Good morning Ms. Marshall.”
“Good morning Mr. Rossi.”
“Are you ready?”
“Ready sir?” He smiled deeper.
“You’re going to accompany me today.” She blinked and looked at Jenny who kept her gaze down.
“I’m leaving the office?” He nodded.
“I’ll be preparing you to take over when I’m absent. That’s one of your main duties now.” She blushed and felt a rush of happiness fill her body.
“Yes of course.”
“Get your things. We’ll leave in two minutes. I have somewhere to be.”
“Of course. I’m ready now.”
“Then shall we?”
“Yes sir.” He turned to Jenny.
“Take every call and don’t make any mistakes Jenny. Write down everything and get clarification on everything.”
“Y-yes sir.” He turned to face her and began to walk towards her. She straightened up and began to walk beside him. When they entered the main room, everyone stared. It was unusual to see Mr. Rossi walking with a fellow employee anywhere much less towards the exit.
“One moment Mr. Rossi.” She went to her desk and grabbed her clutch. As she was about to join him, she heard Shelley whisper sharply.
“Where you goin with Rossi?”
“Girl I don’t know. He wants me to come with him.”
“Girl bye. I gotta go. We catch up later.” She straightened up and soon rejoined him with a smile.
“Shelley, take over Ms. Marshall’s station while she is gone.”
“Yes sir!” She piped up, her voice tinny.
“Let’s go.” He began to walk ahead of her and she swallowed as she followed him.
“You look beautiful this morning.” She turned to look at him, his face turned towards the window. She sat across from him, her clutch tightly held against her thighs.
“No problem.” She let out a breath.
“Are you nervous Rae?” At the use of her name informally she looked at him.
“A little.” His lips smiled and he brought his dark smoldering gaze to hers.
“Well you ain’t tell me where we were goin so…” He chuckled and cleared his throat.
“Today is the first part of your training. It’s very important that you pay attention and listen.”
“I got that part. You still ain’t told me where we’re going.”
“We’re going to a gala.” She eyed him so quick.
“A gala? Me dressed like this?!”
“What’s wrong with the way you’re dressed?”
“You said gala. Gala means expensive clothes and jewels.”
“Not necessarily.” She pursed her lips.
“You’re dressed appropriately. It’s an informal gala.”
“Hm.” He sighed and the silence that ensued was comforting to her. Yes, no talking. She needed to figure out what she was going to say to these people. These were some highly important people, she couldn’t talk any type of way. She softly licked her lips, careful not to get too much lipstick. Who all would be there she wondered.
“We’re here.” At his voice, she looked up and swallowed tightly.
“Okay.” The door to his limo opened and he got out. Outstretching his hand, he helped her out. As she was about to pull her hand away, he tightened his grip on it.
“Rae, relax.” She took a deep breath. There were people inside this building that would and could help her get what she wanted.
“Let’s go.” He squeezed her hand and let it drop. He offered his arm. Gingerly sliding her hands around him, she let him lead her into the building.
“My, is that you Antonio?” A woman called as she walked to them. She took her hands off of his arm and pressed them against her stomach. He smiled and hugged her.
“Maria, you look absolutely gorgeous this morning.”
“Oh please. Your flattery is going to get you nowhere.” They both chuckled. She pushed him aside slightly.
“Who is this young lady? Is she your date?” She pinched her fingers tighter and smiled. No. I am not his date.
“She is one of my most promising executives. She is accompanying me yes.” She let her hand extend and she firmly gripped the woman’s. Stand tall Rae. Appearance and confidence is everything. You got this. She coached herself as she straightened up. She cleared her throat.
“It’s quite a pleasure to meet you. My name is Ebere Marshall.” The woman looked impressed, her eyebrows almost all the way up into her hairline. She knew about that. It was always a shock to hear black folk speak intelligently.
“It is equally a pleasure. How long have you been working for Antonio?”
“About four years Ma’am.”
“Ah. What have your years looked like?”
“I interned with him while still in undergrad and once out began to work there full time as an administrative assistant. I worked under him all the way up to executive assistant.”
“I’ve just promoted her.” Antonio said proudly with a smile.
“Impressive. Antonio does not promote often especially assistants. You must have made a very good impression on him Ebere.” She felt a sharp stab in her chest. What was Maria implying?
“The only impression I hope I have given to Mr. Rossi is one of hard work, determination and utmost professionalism.” She said with a polite smile, watching as Maria pursed her lips.
“She is quite the worker bee. I am proud to have her.” Antonio said, gently placing his hand on her back. She stiffened. Maria seemed to be watching it under intense scrutiny and smiled thinly.
“Antonio you sure know how to pick your assistants. They’re all so very pretty.” He laughed, a blush coming to his cheeks.
“Maria what ever are you saying?” She smiled.
“Don’t bother the talk of this old woman. Ebere, it was a pleasure to meet you.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you as well.” She shook hands with her one last time before she briskly walked away from them. She let out the breath she had been holding.
“So you tricked me into being your date. I should-”
“Not now Ms. Marshall. Too many eyes and ears.” She shut her mouth and growled lowly under her breath.
“Drink. Mingle. Now is the perfect time to network.” He whispered against her temple before leaving her standing in the middle of the room. She sighed and eyed many of the business women and men who stood talking to each other.
“Have you heard about the young man who is running that business pretty much by himself?”
“No, who is he?”
“Some son of a really big businessman.”
“That so? What’s so impressive about this kid?”
“Word has it that he has overseen all operations overseas and has successfully launched a branch of his company here in New York.”
“How old is this young man?”
“28 I hear.”
“For someone to pick up business so well so young that is mighty impressive.” There were so many more conversations but for some reason the one nearest her caught the most of her attention. Who were they talking about? She cleared her throat and walked up.
“Hello, pardon me. I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I wanted to know more about this man you speak of.” They smiled at her and moved to include her in.
“I hear his name is something foreign. Chinese or something like that.”
“He’s run this business by himself?” She asked.
“Pretty much. But you know how the Chinese do things.”
“I don’t think he’s Chinese… I think he may be Japanese.”
“Yeah Iruko something…”
“No James, Iwase.” She looked at the woman who had spoken.
“Yes. Iwase Hiroto I believe… quite a fellow.”
“You’ve… met him?”
“About a year ago. His English was impeccable. He’s very elegant and passionate about his work.” A sudden pain hit her in the stomach and she gripped her clutch.
“And you say he has a firm here?” The woman nodded.
“He’s been working on it for quite a while. He picked a very good city.”
“Are you interested in his line of work?” She swallowed and smiled.
“I’m not familiar with his work.”
“Oh darling you must acquaint yourself! Those who do well know of others who do well in the business world. He is a good person to keep in your camp.” She nodded.
“I will definitely read up on him.”
“My name is Ebere Marshall.”
“Oh Rossi’s favorite.” Her eyebrow twitched but she kept that smile on.
“Darling he talks about you all the time. In his eyes, you can do no wrong. He thinks and speaks very highly of you.”
“I am honored but I am just an assistant.”
“Word of advice dear: Keep powerful men close. Rossi might look young but he has a lot of influence and power. He’s sweet on you. Use that to your advantage and you’ll succeed.” The woman winked and grabbed James. She eyed Antonio who watched her leave. She went into the bathroom and slammed her clutch on the counter. Damn it. She looked at herself in the mirror. It was like the past had hit her all over again. She was feeling so many things. When she left his sorry ass in Japan she hadn’t looked back. It had taken quite a while to stop bowing when she met people or in general and saying ‘itadaskimasu’ at dinner. All the mannerisms she had learned to survive in a foreign land for four years had been strong. And she had been able to let them go. And she thought she had let him go too. He didn’t deserve her near crying in the bathroom ten years later. She was not going to let him do that to her. Eying her finger which normally had his ring, she sighed.
Truthfully, she thought about her life there a lot. She missed Hana and little Hisae, though she doubt Hisae would be little by now. She also thought about Tobu quite a bit. Her baby Bu… She wondered how his life had turned out. Tears welled up in her eyes and she hung her head. She missed them greatly. Others like Shinju, Rie and Momo she thought of fondly. If she could, she would thank them for the kindness and genuineness. Those like Minako would always remain in her heart. She wished sometimes she could go and visit them… but by now they probably had forgotten about her and moved on. So why was it so damn difficult for her? She was clinging to a man who had damn near pulled her heart out. A man she had loved with her soul and her spirit.
She had had many relationships since him but maybe the thing she couldn’t let go was how they had loved. It wasn’t physical. It had never gotten a chance to be that way. She had loved his spirit instead, the person he was in his soul and had embraced him 100. Though she thought it had been enough, he had decided to push her out of his life. Maybe it was best that she was cut out. She didn’t belong in his world anyway. Even so, she had never loved anyone before him in such an almost spiritual way and hadn’t since. Not even Kwasame…She let the tears fall down her cheeks. She had to let him go. She had to close that door and end that chapter of her life. She couldn’t continue to hold on to him.
It had taken her a while to stop seeing him as a boy… facing the fact that the boy she once loved was now a man. It had taken a while for it to become easy to envision him married to that girl his family had set him up with and by now they probably had a couple kids. She wondered… had he been able to find happiness? Had he forgotten about her and moved on with his life? These things she had to let remain in the past. Answers to questions she would never receive. And that was fine. She stood up straight and grabbed some tissue. She gently dapped at her cheeks, careful not to smudge her makeup. It was time to go out there and stunt. She couldn’t be boss up in the bathroom crying. Taking a deep breath, she smiled at her reflection and opened the bathroom door. It was time to continuing reigning. Her Queendom wasn’t going to be built by herself.
A/N: Rae, don't fight it honey. You're still very much in love with Roto and guess what, he is in love with you. Don't worry your man comin for you girllll but I'ma need her to be strong and make extra hard on him lol. Don't let bruh see you sweat. Kwasa better get out the way and Antonio better kick rocks too cause once Iwase come everything shuttin down LOLLLL. Okay y'all, I'm playing lol. Sort of lol. Okay, Six chapters in already?! LAWD. I can't believe it!! I just want Hiroto and Rae to meet like..... *happy sigh* Leave your thoughts, comments and concerns as always you guys! Thank you for reading thus far! I hope you are enjoying it ^^ :) Till next time (watch it be tomorrow lol),
God bless and have a wonderful night!