Scarlett spent the next two days at her parents place. She did not mind actually. The theft attempt was a failure and according to the police, she could be in danger because she was now a crucial witness. Only if she hadn’t been this obsessed about Tristan and the fairy tale she was not living, she would have been in better control of her senses and brain. Roy would not have been shot. There wouldn’t have been a PR crisis to manage. Cyberatics wouldn’t have lost those clients. It was all her fault.
The worst part was that James and Kelly wouldn’t let her quit. They insisted that it was not her fault and she had done only what she could at that time. Scarlett didn’t buy that. She knew, and so did everyone, that she could have done better and saved this whole mess from happening. Kelly had told her not to worry about work and brought her to the office only to give her time to get her over her fear. Every step brought back lightening sharp memories of the booming gunshot, the stained carpet where Roy’s blood pooled, and the white smoke. Kelly half supported, half dragged Scarlett in a panic attack into the closest conference room where a few people had remained to chat after the meeting. Before she could focus on anyone, apologize to Kelly again for her foolishness and weakness, Scarlett fainted.
Scarlett was dreaming. She was sure of that because she was now standing on an ancient wooden ship, one which had white sails and ropes hanging around everywhere. But the ship was empty and was not moving. She walked to the bow and peered down. The water was still. She ran here and there, up and down the ship, she saw no one. Nothing changed. Suddenly the ship began to move and she fell on the floor. The huge angry waves left her drenched, cold and sticky. It was then she saw that she was trapped inside a frame and now the frame had opened and all the water was flowing out of it. She felt the force of the current in her heart. She was going to drown. She screamed. At the edge of the frame, where the water ended and the abyss began, there was someone standing, waiting and watching. Tristan. She screamed for help. But he wouldn’t come to her. The ship was so near to the edge, it would topple anytime into the endless pit, she screamed again and again. This time Tristan took a gun from his pocket and aimed at her and fired. She felt the shot hit her heart and her whole body go numb and she was slipping, just like the ship, into nothingness.
She did not reach the bottom. Someone is calling her from above. A strong hand halted her fall and is pulling her up. It is no longer cold or wet. Someone was wiping away the water from her forehead, cheeks and hands. She was not dead. Yet.
From the cocoon of the warmth surrounding her, Scarlett opened her eyes and saw a couple of strangers, James , Kelly and Michael. Kelly had her eyes wide open in worry. Scarlett tried to say that she was fine. She was relaxed but the tremors of that shot and the terror before the fall was still cursing through her veins. It was such a terrible dream. This was not how she wanted to dream of Tristan. Somehow she found her voice and said, “Sorry. So sorry about that. Two minutes… seconds…”
She saw that one of the men was Michael Chase. She knew him, he is Tristan’s father. WHAT?! Scarlett jumped out of the seat, which turned out to be the couch in the antechamber of the room and she was wrapped in a coat and held close in the arms of another stranger, who turned out to be not really a stranger. It was Tristan. She stumbled and Tristan caught her by the elbow.
“Are you alright, Miss…. Hummm…?”
That was his voice. The same which had chanted her name like a mantra. But now it was a sharp knife that twisted in her belly.
“Do you know him Scarlett?” Kelly’s voice reached her from another universe.
Did she know him? She looked back at Tristan and it broke her heart. He was every bit the same man she had seen in all those photographs. How familiar she was with the partial view of his face and forehead, how badly she wanted to see the rest of his features for real, how she yearned to see the color of his eyes in the sun and the moon. It was cool blue. Now that he was standing in front of her, it was very much a stranger.
“Scarlett, do you know Tristan? Did you see him anywhere? Why are you staring at him like that? Do you know something of what happened to him in the past five years?” Michael’s question brought her back to the ugly reality. His voice carried so much of hope that Scarlett was afraid she might tell the truth. A truth which no one will ever believe. It all boiled down to one thing. Tristan did not remember the curse. He looked as if he might be anywhere but here. He did not recognize her. His eyes empty, his voice devoid of the excitement she was so fond of, not even a trace of awareness anywhere.
“No. I don’t know him. I don’t know him at all.”
“But the way you called… you said his name…” Michael failed to hide the disappointment from his voice, “I thought… you somehow knew …”
Totally composed and with a presence of mind she did not really feel, Scarlett explained, to them and to herself.
“I am sorry Michael. He was all over the news in the past few days and that is how I know his name… And I was working on that agreement between Chase and Cyberactics and the meeting date kept getting postponed so I just followed the news, a little too keenly. It was why I was working late at the office the other night when Roy was shot. I am sorry.”
She turned to Tristan and continued, “Mr. Chase, I am sorry. It was rude of me to stare. I apologize. Forgive. I have not been myself. It’s been… uh… umm…” His eyes were…this shade of blue? Yet cold like ice and she flinched. “I was… so carried away… I dreamed…” Was it contempt in his eyes? She looked down at her feet unable to see anymore of the Tristan everyone warned her about. Selfish. Arrogant. “Excuse me everyone… excuse … I need to leave. I am sorry again. Kelly, a word if you don’t mind.” Scarlett walked out of the room and did not stop until she reached her own cabin.
Disaster after catastrophe – that’s what’s happening in her life. Redundant words yes, but only too suitable to her situation. When she walked out of the office so hurt, realizing the unholy truth that Tristan had no idea who she was, she burned.
“Scarlett, you alright?” Kelly and Leah both had come to see her. She could call them friends. No. There were her only friends right now. She slumped into the chair in a heap as they both sat in the opposite chairs.
“Kelly, I want out from this project with Chase. It is jinxed when it comes to me. I am in no condition to follow up with the rest of the procedures. I can’t. I give up. Let Leah handle it. And on top of all that I just made a fool of myself with my “performance” there in front of the people that matters the most.”
“Fool you say? Your “performance” had everyone out from their seat in two seconds. We called you so many times but you wouldn’t hear. It was so much fun to watch. And then you screamed. It is a surprise my skin is still attached to my body. It was so shrill. You have many hidden talents.” It is strange, the different shapes and forms of love and concern and care appears in this world. It is there even in sarcasm. “Jokes apart woman, there is more in your heart than this break-in and gunshot, right? You are in more stress than you show, than you realize. You need help.” These wise words and observations were from Kelly.
Leah joined, “Me thinks the same.”
Scarlett chuckled at her words. No mincing of words here, no sympathy, no cooing relaxation. Just three weird ladies. Scarlett wouldn’t be able to bear it and her friends knew it well. This was so much better.
“So? Do you want to talk with James? No, you do that and then tell me. I am leaving for Bahamas and I won’t resurface until…”
“Until?” Kelly and Leah both asked in unison.
“Until it is absolutely necessary. And absolutely is in bold and italics. Font size 36.”
Kelly and Leah exchanged knowing looks that screamed they will be dissecting my words and behavior and making their own diagnosis and psychoanalysis.
“Jokes apart ladies, thank you so much for everything Kelly and thank you Leah for taking up Chase.”
Leah jumped in to point out, “I did not say that I will.”
“Oh, you will.”
When they left, Scarlett sighed and let out a humorless laugh. What the hell. What the bloody hell.
Scarlett finally saw Tristan in real, and boy oh boy, how did she see him.
Suddenly she did not want o think of him anymore. To hell with it. She was done with her part. The game was in its final stage now. Maybe, her part was only to set the derailed course of the curse straight. Her love affair with the man in the frame was just a plot twist. Did Sophia know of this? Was this the moment where she realizes that she was used, all the while? What was she supposed to do next?
“Excuse me, Miss Scarlett…”
Tristan. Here in her cabin. He was really here. Why? She jerked to sit appropriately in her chair.
“I did knock by the way.”
“You should get your ears checked.”
“My coat, if you will…”
“Well, the one you are wearing right now…”
She was wearing his coat? When? As if scalded by its feel and the sudden awareness of his smell all around her, Scarlett peeled off the intimidating material and threw it at him. If he thought that she was clumsy and deaf before, now he must have confirmed that she was positively insane. At least that is what he looked like. Bewildered and maybe hurt and then he got angry. Why hurt? Why angry? Was he offended that she threw the coat? Was she supposed to hand it over like a soft sleeping baby? Damned if she did that!
“Heard about gratitude lady. Thank you’s?”
“Oh yeah? You are teaching me manners? Since when did you start handing them out left and right? I bet you must not have said that more than ten times in your entire lifetime.”
“What makes you say that?
“Well, your reputation precedes you.”
“Are you the same woman who was wailing and thrashing and shivering in my arms not so long ago?”
“The very same person. You want me to continue wailing??? Not happy that I stopped?”
Whoa Scarlett… hold on baby….
Tristan looked at her for an eternity and then stormed out her cabin, taking her breath away. Again.