= Chapter Two: Sabotage =
Sunlight slid through the angled blinds, aiming itself at me to burn through my eyelids. The darkness of sleep was chased away. I tried to drag it back, but its elusive tail slipped right through my fingers. My hand slammed on the snooze button a half second after the buzzing alarm had started its cry with a precision that rarely came. Yeah, I was awake.
Lazily, I rolled out of bed. I scratched my head and smacked my lips like a bad cartoon character. I got first dibs on the bathroom every morning so my ritual had its own rut ground into my head. I was headed downstairs twenty minutes later. In, say, ten minutes the alarm would resume its shrieking so I had enough time to begin breakfast. I got busy with some pancake batter and bananas. Alex loved them so it would be a contest of who could get to him first, the alarm or the food.
Of course, the pancakes won. The clock was shouting persistently at him as he tumbled through the bathroom in a rush to eat. Poor thing didnât stand a chance against Allieâs impatient yanking upon his exit from the restroom. I heard it slam across to a distant wall. Thunderous footsteps boomed down the stairs. His face was lit up like a Christmas tree.
He kissed my cheek en route to the fridge. âGood morning, my little junior chef.â
I smiled at him, noticing that he was draining the orange juice container. âGood morning, destroyer of innocent fruit drinksâ
With one hand he wiped his mouth; with the other he tossed the empty carton into the trash. âI feel great.â
âThatâs because you went to bed full of spaghetti. Any sort of pasta makes you feel better in the morning.â
âWhat-a-can I say?â he replied in a bad Italian accent. âIâm-a just a pasta loving guy.â
âUh-huh.â I put each our servings on the table and took a seat.
Alex did was well, wasting no time before he dug into his obviously larger portion. If I donât feed him enough, the whole world feels the wrath of his stomach around noon.
âDid you sleep well?â he asked around a mouthful of pancake and banana slices.
âYeah,â I lied.
Truth is, after dinner I feigned sleep. Not that I had to. Alex slept like the dead as always. But I couldnât get over what Avery had said. Then there was how Alex unearthed the past when I first met the blond. What was funny was as often as I saw his face, I didnât know his name. Sometimes when I would glance at him so quickly that he little more than a blur, one would pop into my head, though I could never say it. It would burn the tip of my tongue but never any more than that.
Why are you haunting me? My life is fine. Stop ruining my happiness.
My eyes rose to the finger touching my forehead. âWhatcha thinking so hard about?â
âJust some stuff…â I murmured staring back into my full stack of cakes. Munching on a piece of bacon I wondered, âWhat if I met an old boyfriend? Would you be mad?â
Alex put his fork down slowly. âNo.â His words came slowly. âDid you? Do you remember something?â
âNo,â I replied, unable to mask my disappointment.
âBabe, donât worry about it.â He swallowed. âItâll come back to you eventually.
âBut Doctor Walters says that I may never recover what I lost! He says that I mightâve been traumatized or something stupid like that and Iâm just repressing it. What if heâs right?â Finally, I looked him in the eyes, moving my hands from my face. I could feel the hysteria building up. âWhat if you can never know the real me? What if I never remember the real me? She had a family and friends. What about them?â My eyes started to burn. âDo they think that sheâs dead?â
My boyfriend seemed at a loss, but he came to me on his haunches, holding my hands. âEm, this is all the you I know so to me, it is the real you. And forgive me, but if your family were so considerate of you then why the hell were you lying naked in that cave? You werenât reported missing when we checked.â His eyes darkened. âWho knows what had happened in there? Or what wouldâve happened if I didnât show up when I did?
I didnât want to think of it either. He rested his face on my hands.
âListen, if you want to know so badly, I could go look it upâyou know, go all out. We could go find your documents and uncover the truth. I thought that the empty feeling of having no memories had already left you. I was wrong. Iâm so sorry that I didnât suggest it earlier.â
âNo, Allie,â I cooed nuzzling against him, âIâm the one who should be sorry. I shouldnât have reacted like that. Itâs not your fault. I was just being unreasonable again.â
âYeah, youâre good at that,â he chuckled.
We both moved at the same time so that I could make an attempt at eating. After that little outburst there was no way heâd let me skip breakfast now. The pancakes were still delicious even with my late tears falling onto my plate. They gave me some energy and improved my mood. Alex had disappeared up to our room to get dressed for work. I cleaned up the kitchen, determined not to let him see that face again. I couldnât repay his kindness with regret. I was ready to take on anything the day could throw at me.
It came in handy around four oâ clock. I was behind the register at work, ringing up a couple takeout orders. Business was pretty good with all the customers we were seeing so everyone, including our six cooks and four waitresses, had their work cut out for them. Mr Avery had come in on his way back to work for two cups of coffee. When Iâout of the weird feeling that something was out placeâasked where his friend was, he smiled.
âEd has decided to finish the work heâs been neglecting. Iâll tell him that you were looking for him,â he added raising the cup I guessed was for the blond.
âNo!â I blurted with more urgency than I intended.
His smiled widened. âAlright. Iâll just keep it to myself then.â
I sure hoped he did. The last thing I needed was Alex getting suspicious. Or worse, violent. And who knew what that Ed person wouldâve done. With his blasĂ© approach, heâd probably just irritate Allie to his limit.
My hands clutched the sides of the register at the thought. For some reason I couldnât stop thinking about those listless blue eyes when they caught me staring the other day. He didnât seem concerned about it at the time. He let me stare as much as I wanted like always, but once I meet his eyes, I would be so done.
A small hand waved in front of my face, snapping fingers reminding me that I have a job to do. When my eyes focused, I realized that I wasnât looking at a customer, or rather, a soon to be relative.
âIâm sure that Alex isnât that fascinating,â the woman chuckled.
âI wasnât thinking about him, Liza.â
The lightly brown shadowed eyes narrowed at me dangerously. Despite her age and mature style of dress, she looked like a real child when she did that. âThen what were you thinking about? It had better not be some other guy…â
âNo.â I averted my eyes.
Liza patted my arm. âIs it getting too serious too fast?â she asked. âI mean, I can let him down gently about the proposal if you want to tell him no…â She took in my confused expression. âOnly, you didnât even know about it.â
She bit her lip. Hard. I going to warn her, but her teeth had already broken the skin. She only did stupid stuff like that when she felt like she really messed up. Did she? My mind was still drifting from when she mentioned another guy. Wondering what she could possibly be sorry for, I struggled to remember her last set of words. A proposal, I believe. And something about Alex becoming too serious too fast.
With the speed of a snail, understanding dawned on me as I stared into Lizaâs guilty dark eyes. Alex was going toÂ propose?! When? I considered all of the places where he would dare to do such a thing. He hadnât mentioned anything about spending any alone time together, planned or otherwise. Poor Liza had thought that he had asked already.
âDonât tell him I told you,â she begged. âIf you do, heâll and me just elope in Vegas or something. You know how long it took for him to even tell us that you existed?â
âA couple weeks?â
I winced at her tone. So did a few customers. Some refused to raise their heads and settled for a sideways glance. Others were more expressive and gazed on with scorn.
âYouâre scaring people,â I said, plastering a smile on my face. âLetâs talk where your little fits wonât cause someone to choke.â
I moved from behind the register, dragging her behind me into the managerâs office. I peeked out and as I guessed, Penny the part timer had taken my place, working with a few girls that just came in. She was lifesaver.
The office was empty since Allie was working. Liza tumbled into one of the soft chairs that faced the large secretary desk she had bought him once he took over. I slid into the big bossâ chair leaning back into the squeaky plastic. Being off of my feet after such a long time felt great. I looked at Liza twirling a lock of hair around her finger.
âIâll pretend to be surprised,â I offered, but she shook her head.
âThe damage is done. Iâll have to keep you away from him for a while so he realizes that now isnât a good time. Heâll probably change his entire game plan then and decide to plan a bit more. Heâll take you somewhere special so when he gets down on one knee, the surprise will be genuine.â
She was talking so fast that I suspected that she was talking more to herself than to me. I mean, I had caught the gist, what with her basically staging my proposal without permission, but other than that, her words were rushing out like a flood.
Her eyes, brightened by her panic, bore into mine. âI canât ruin this for him. Not again.â
I had heard about the girlfriend before me and even saw her shortly after my move to Manhattan. However, it was clear that no one found it necessary to tell me about her âcouldâve beenâ status. I wasnât really the jealous type but the thought of Alex putting a ring on another womanâs finger had set some malice to simmer beneath my calm expression.
Carefully, I took Alizaâs hands. âItâll upset your cousin, but Iâll do whatever I can to help youÂ delay the big moment, alright?â
A small smile creased her glossed lips. Suddenly the door was thrown open and the man of the hour stepped in, his apron marked with smears and drops of broth. I wondered how invisible I was when his eyes locked onto the petite Liza whose eyes held the same measure of distaste in them. I donât know how she managed that so quickly, but whatever it took to sell our act, I reasoned.
âWhat the hell are you doing?â
âIâm talking to my best friend,â she stated. âWhat the hell areÂ youÂ doing? I thought you lived in the kitchen.â
âLuckily, your brother saw you through the service window and alerted me.â
Liza scowled at her siblingâs betrayal. âWell, I donât care. Since youâre here Iâll do Emmyâs job for her. Iâm staling her from you tonight.â
His eyes flashed over to me, then back to her. âNo way. Sheâs not going anywhere with you. Sheâs coming home with me, where she belongs.â
âSheâs going out withÂ me,â Liza shot back. âWeâre long overdue for another girlâs night, arenât we Em?â
Simultaneously, they turned their attentions to me. It felt like my heart was being tugged in two different directions and, believe me, it hurt to hurt into Alexâs eyes and still stay true to my promise.
âItâs been ages since she and I have had a real outing,â I said in a voice that shrunk as I watched his hope collapse on itself.
âBeside you two live together,â Liza added. âYouâll have her later. Or at least until morning when weâre going out again for breakfast.â
Allie scowled, refusing to look my way. I didnât blame him. I felt too guilty to meet his gaze anyway. What kind of girlfriend sabotages her own proposal? The kind that would prefer not to have her closest girlfriend to be staked through the heart for messing it up first, I reminded myself firmly. This was to stare Liza from Alexanderâs wrath. It was a worthy cause.
âAllie,â I said, âitâs not like Iâm never coming back. Now you can do all the maintenance you were telling me about last week. You and Mitch can make up to the poker games you missed because of work.â
He stared at me through narrowed eyes. It didnât seem like he knew what we were hiding, but he knew it was something. That by itself was a dangerous thing. Strangely though he didnât press the matter anymore. A heavy sigh expelled most of his irritation leaving only a tired and sweat soared face in its wake.
I thought I felt my heart sink to my stomach. âOh, my poor Allie,â I cooed pushing out of my seat.
He allowed me to approach him I took his face in my hands rubbing his cheeks with the pads of my thumbs. âIts fine, alright? Everythingâs fine. Please stop worrying so much.â
Alexâs eyes slipped to meet this cousinâs as if to ask how could he not worry with around. I made him look at me again. âPlease,â I begged, hoping that for once heâd not take things so seriously.
I mean, itÂ wasÂ serious, with the plans to effect something that could change my life forever, but I didnât need Alex to feel that way. My vibes mustâve finally caught something had just come back to his attention, his back suddenly went erect.
âCrap!â he exclaimed. âThe kitchen!â
Alex pulled away from me stumbling in his rush to get out of the room fast enough. I stood there and soaked up the silence. A chair squeaked, followed by the soft thuds of low heels against the rug.
âWhat now?â My eyes were staring into my empty hands.
âNow we prepare for tonight.â I turned in time to catch her flash an excited grin. âYouâre going to love it!â