Meetings with the Father
"Shit!.. no... fuck... umm... that's some pretty heavy stuff," Bryan's assessment of what has kept me from returning to Seattle, except short visit's, is crude but accurate. I don't say anything and give him time to process my disclosure."So no one else knows. Not your parents, brother, cousin Ava, your friends, not even security? No one?"
"There are only three people in the world who know the whole, sordid truth. You, me and of course him." Bryan looks troubled. I look at him apologetically. I have burdened my closest friend here in Hong Kong and right-hand man with the truth.
"Shit Phoebe, I don't know what to say. I am sorry. I am not just your second in charge; I am also your friend. We are more than friends. We are as close as a guy, and girl can get without being involved. I am so sorry. It must have been heartbreaking." Bryan places his hand's on my shoulders. While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't want to be pitied. I have spent enough time trying to get over it. I doubt I will ever be complete. Keeping myself busy and far away from ground zero has helped significantly.
"I don't need your sorrow, nonetheless thank you." I stand and move towards the small mini bar in my office. I never drink at work, and limit my drinks in social situations, but I could use one right now. "Can I offer you a drink?"
"If ever I needed one then this would be the time." I nod, smiling briefly, hoping it will lighten the mood. "At least it's a decent bottle?"
"I think it will suffice." I pick up the bottle of Teeling 30 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey that was an expensive gift from an associate here in Hong Kong after we completed a business deal last year. A rather profitable deal for us both. My brother wouldn't rate this bottle in comparison to his collection, but it still cost a few thousand and I have never understood the purpose of spending large sums of money on alcohol.
"Cheers," We raise our glasses and together drink the contents in one shot. I hold the bottle up and he nods, agreeing to join me for a second drink.
"So when are you going to tell your father, to explain why you shouldn't return to Seattle permanently, or should I marry you, so you have to a more concrete reason to remain? Phoebe Grace Grey Walsh has a nice ring to it." I practically choke on my second, far too strong drink, when I consider both of Byran's propositions. He rubs my back as I commence to cough. "Shit, sorry Phoebe. I need to think about what I say or at least time my statements better to when you are not drinking three thousand dollars hard liquor."
"You know you have never said sorry to me in all the time I have known you and you have just uttered that word twice in a few minutes. Bryan opens his mouth but shuts it quickly. I grin knowing he was about to say sorry again.
"I won't ever tell my father or anyone in my family Maybe I should have at the time, but I chose not. I didn't know how they would react. Relocating here to Hong Kong seemed like the right therapy. Also, thank you, I think, for your marriage proposal if that is what it was. I have to decline. My father would force you to move to Seattle with me." I sigh quietly and put down my glass. Drinking more won't help. "Maybe I can convince my father at dinner that I have developed aquagenic urticaria."
"What on earth is that?"
"It is an allergy to water. Seattle suffers from a higher than average number of rainy days." I close my eyes and shake my head at myself. I can't believe I even thought that.
"What time are you going to meet your father?"
"He is picking me up at seven though since he has undoubtedly worked out that I am keeping something from him, he will be at my place at half-past six. Try to catch me off guard in an attempt to work out what's going on."
"In that case, you better hurry!" Hurry? What is the time? I lost track of time when I told Bryan my long tale. I look at my watch. Damn! It's already half past five, and the traffic at this time of the evening is horrendous. "I better go!"
"Yes, you should, also have you contacted William? The is unless you want your father to meet him. Christian Grey might end up thinking that it is because of him that you aren't eager to move instead of the truth." I cover my mouth with my hand. How on earth did I forget about him? William could be waiting for me at my apartment by now. He always comes over on Fridays! I try to contact him on his cell phone, my home line and even email him but there is no reply. For the first time, I wish I kept security stationed at my apartment.
"I need to get home." I don't waste any time collecting my laptop or any work. I only grab my bag and keys before racing out of the building My CPO, Richman, follows me and seemingly aware of my urgency, though I haven't said anything. He can read me. We hit the road and immediately face Hong Kong's infamous traffic. I try desperately to call William again, but there is no answer. What the hell! He always answers his phone.
"Richman, how much longer until we arrive at my apartment?"
"The way traffic looks tonight; we will be at least another half an hour at best. Maybe an hour" What? I can run faster than that. A wild idea hits me when I notice my sports bag still in the car. "Richman, I am going to need you to look forward and not back okay?"
"Yes Miss Grey, but why?"
"Don't ask. It's a girl thing" If he doesn't know then maybe Taylor won't rip him a new one. I bob down and commence to remove my pencil skirt, silk shirt, stockings, and heels, and put on my workout clothes.
"Richman, I am honestly sorry, promise I will be safe and guarantee that you won't lose your job. It's crucial that I get home as quick as possible." I apologize once we are at a complete stop at a set of lights, unlock my door and make a quick getaway. I hear Richman call out my name but its the last of my concerns right now. I run down Cane Road, then Castle road. I keep going until I turn left off Conduit road and reach my apartment building located at the mid-level. I had chosen this area to live as it is secure, close to the city and has all the amenities anyone would ever need. However, right now I wish I had chosen an apartment even closer to my office. I check my watch and grin. Its is six o'clock. Perfect. Enough time to get ready and send William away, for his own safety, if he is there. I have sent him numerous text messages, voice messages and emails not to come over tonight just in case.
I send Richmond a text letting him know I have arrived home safely and am going to shower. I also promised not to disclose my breach of protocol. It was my fault, but I doubt that Taylor or my father would exonerate my CPO. My apartment is quiet, as usual when I enter. I stand in the door way, and listen to make sure the silence lasts. Usually, if William arrived before me on Fridays, I would hear him, in one way or another. Silence.. nothing. Phew. Maybe he got stuck at work.
I am panting, and my mouth is dry, becoming aware of my dehydration from my swift run. I walk through my apartment, to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. I take a quick and long drink, not stopping until it registers that I am not alone. I close my eyes praying I would wake up and learn this is just a nightmare. Fuck.. no... Oh my gosh. I turn around and there sitting on opposite sides of my couch, facing each other are none other than my father and William. I can't breathe, let alone talk.
"Phoebe, baby.." baby, I raise my eyebrows at his use of pet name. "...your home earlier than I expected." William is the first to speak, ending the uncomfortable silence. He walks towards me and kisses me. He looks at me telling me just to go with along with this. I don't nod as my father would pick up on it. "Have you been working out? You don't usually work out on Friday evening's."
"I .. yeah.. needed to clear my head, so I thought I would go for a run after work. I see you met my father. He wants to take me out for dinner. I tried to ring you, sent you emails, text message and even left you voice messages telling you of my change of plans. Didn't you get them? I didn't want you to waste your time coming up to see me when I have to change our plans tonight babe." I smile up, putting on my best acting, but my eyes tell him a different story.
"I have been busy. I wasn't able to answer your calls. I have been talking to your father." I nod inferring the message from William. How long has my dad been 'talking' to William?
"Dad you said that you would pick me up at seven. It's only just six o'clock."
"I am aware of that. I am not picking you up until seven."
"Then why are you here in my apartment? An hour early."
"I told you I had a meeting to attend to when I left your office." My father gestures to William. Was he my father's appointment? I narrow my eyes at my Dad, but he doesn't elaborate
"Your father somehow tracked me down, and we had an impromptu meeting. He requested I meet him. Here." I scowl at my father. How dare he?
"Did he now?" I refocus my attention to my father. "I guess I should be relieved that you didn't somehow have Welch send a message via my phone or email asking William to meet me here early." My fathers' expression is impassive. He doesn't react. Christian Grey is in CEO mode. "Oh, my gosh.. you did." I stand up. I am angry, bewildered and feel like a child. "You had Welch commit a crime to lure William here so that you can do what? Interrogate him? Find out who and what he is to me?" My father stands and raises his index finger. He used to take this stance with me when he would reprimand me as a child. But I am not longer a kid. I am so worked up that I can't be intimated and am as stubborn as my father.
"Firstly, your email and cell phone are owned, controlled and paid for by Grey Enterprise Holdings, and as the CEO, I have the power and right to use my resources as I wish. Therefore no crime was committed." I stand tall and interrupt my father.
"What about using my identity falsely? Last time I checked that was illegal." My dad's lips thin at the same time as his eye's narrow.
"Secondly, William was always free to leave should he have felt uncomfortable."
"A fact you probably failed to divulge or would have allowed."
"Your boyfriend here freely answered all my questions. I ensure you that I was most hospitable." Boyfriend? Did my father just refer to William as my boyfriend? Before I can react, William closes the distance between us and wrap his arm around my back and rests it on my hip.
"I hope it's okay that I told your father of our relationship. I know you would have preferred for us to be together... Mr. Grey, if you don't mind, Phoebe is very close to her mother, and I know that she would want to tell Mrs. Grey of our relationship herself. Can you please not disclose this until Phoebe has had a chance to do so?" My father nods.
"Dad, I need to have a shower and get ready to go out with you for dinner. Make yourself at home. I will just see my boyfriend out" I try not to hiss the word boyfriend, but aware that I pronounce it differently. Thankfully my father's cell phone also rings distracting him. I need to get William out of here before he gets cornered into joining us tonight. Silently I walk out the front door with William. It isn't until we are in front of the elevator that we speak to each other.
"Why did you tell my father that you were my boyfriend?" I keep my voice low, but it is stressed.
"What did you expect me to say to him?"
"I don't know. Anything but that! He is going to expect us to do regular boyfriend and girlfriend stuff." That is until I am supposed to leave. I cover my face with my hands and groan.
"Phoebe, after receiving what I thought was your text message to meet you early, I left work excited and thinking I was coming over to you either naked or in some sexy as fuck lingerie. I walked in taking my top off and calling out for you, to find your father standing in the sitting room. What was I going to say? The truth? That is one way to guarantee my death. It's good to meet you, Mr. Grey; my name is William Burton. I am from Australia but have been living in Hong Kong for the past five years working for the Macquarie group, where I met your hot, sexy daughter, over eighteen months ago. We were both unattached and not seeking a serious relationship, so after getting to know each other as friends, we decided to have regular sex. Hot and mad sex. Always on a Friday, and usually on Saturdays and Sundays. If either of us is having a rough day or need to blow off steam, we call each other and fuck again during the week. I hope its okay with you that I have sex with your one and only daughter with no ties."
"Okay point made." I groan. The elevator doors open. At least William can make a getaway. Oh, how I wish I could also.
"Have a good night girlfriend" William sounds sincere. Too earnest, which concerns me.
"You too boyfriend" I mock a little but William grabs my arms and commences to kiss me. I am taken back a little but respond when he signals with a little nod that we are being watched. "Promise me you will answer your phone when I call tonight," I say lovingly keeping up the charade.
"Of course. I will look forward to hearing your voice. Enjoy your dinner."
I wait till the elevator doors close until I turn on my heels to see first hand my father watching me. I walk into my apartment, but I don't say anything. All I want to do is have a hot shower and put some much-needed distance between him and me.
"Phoebe, stop" I fail to reply and maintain my stride. "Phoebe Grace Grey, I demand that you stop and talk to me" I stop suddenly. Not because he has ordered me to do so but because I am so angry that he feels that he can.
"Dad, you and mom instilled good manners and respect into myself and Ted, especially when dealing with our elders. If I stop and talk to you right now, I may forget those lessons." I warn.
"We also taught you to speak your mind."
"Okay, you want to talk? An honest conversation?"
"Yes," My father is challenging me.
"Your actions luring William here was deplorable and unethical."
"Oh, you want to talk about your boyfriend. Boyfriend...Yes, that was the reference used. The boy you have seen for eighteen months though have never bought over to Seattle with you or even once mentioned, not to your mother, or brother and certainly not to me. I can't account as to whether Ava was aware or not" I breathe out, though I shouldn't have. "Obviously she did. At least one person in the Grey family knew."
"Does Ted disclose everyone he sleeps with or has relationships with?" I refute. When Ted and I were growing up, our father had unconfirmed and unofficial different rules for us. I accepted it as a teenager and even in my college years but refused to do so after I graduated from college.
"That's it; your life is back to being an open book." Oh no, you don't father. There is no way that he is getting logs on where I go and who I see.
"Then I will refuse to have security allocated to me!" I argue. There is no way that my dad would allow this. He and Taylor would just find other means of stalking me, a.k.a keeping me safe.
"Never! Security remains. Always. Now, until you recommence, to be honest, and open with me and your mother then a full and detail record of those you come into contact and where you go will be completed. It's the only way that I know that we can keep you safe and ensure that you are not..." My father stops talking. He is the most controlled and strategic men I have ever met. He never slips up.. ever, except when it comes to myself and mom. Never with Ted. My dad's emotions take over him sometimes when he ever disagrees with one of us.
"Not what dad?"
"Who is William?" I knew he wouldn't answer my question, but I refuse to give up.
"My boyfriend." I pray that my high school drama classes gave me enough acting skills to continue to pull off this act alone. "What were you about to say?"
"Boyfriend? Really?" The way that my father just said that word sends shivers up my back.
"Yes," I summon all the confidence I can find and pour it into this simple three letter word.
"Is that boy the reason you are reluctant to return home on Sunday?"
"No.. yes... no..." Oh damn. I don't know how to respond. "He is part of it. William is important to me." At least this isn't a complete lie. I care about William, but if someone like Bryan rang me needing help or me, then I would leave.
"Phoebe, stop. Let me put you out of your misery. It is evident William isn't your boyfriend. He is, for the lack of a better word, your fuck buddy." I gulp and resist the urge to slump down in the closest chair.
"I can't believe you just said those words!" I gasp.
"Am I incorrect?"
"No, though crude. I would prefer the term, 'friends with benefits.'"
"I would prefer that you never had such a friend." I sigh quietly. There was an obvious reason why I never wanted him or mom to know.
"I understand how you feel. Any father would dislike for his daughter to have engaged in such a relationship. However, dad, it was consensual, respectful and we were always safe. Either of us could end this and would probably remain friends!" I explain.
"We need to leave soon. If your want to shower before dinner, you need to do so now." If it were possible, my head would do a complete three-sixty. "Whats wrong? You are going pale. Are you unwell?" My dad's stance shifts quickly. His annoyance is replaced by one of parental concern. Dad closes the distance between us and places his hands on my arms. I know the look in his eyes. It is the same look of worry he had when I fell off my bike as a six-year-old after having my training wheels removed. The look when I was sick at the age of ten and became so dehydrated that I had to put on intravenous fluids and when I came home from a date with a high school boyfriend after we had broken up and refused to talk to anyone but my mother. It's a look that he has given me numerous of time throughout the years.
"No, I feel fine. I just can't believe how mercurial you just were then. I tell you that I understand how you are feeling and you just leave it? I don't get it, dad."
"It's simple. You have answered my question."
"That William isn't what is keeping you here in Hong Kong. There is something else you are not telling me."