The individual chapters of the story of Catherine & Thomas are not meant to be read on their own. Please read the preceding chapters otherwise the events of this chapter won’t make much sense.
Thank you to those who took the trouble to send me feedback and helpful suggestions. One anonymous reader gave me several good suggestions, one of which opened up the story for me in an unexpected way. I don’t know your name and you didn’t leave an email address so I can only say “thank you” here.
I returned from my run in the park, exhausted but resolute. It was time I took charge of my life. Thomas was right in one respect – I was a little girl. If I wanted to call myself an adult I had to decide the direction my life would take and not leave that up to Thomas or anyone else. I had used my parents’ benignly neglectful parenting style, Thomas’s golden boy status and my own innate shyness as excuses for not taking risks or finding out what I really wanted to do with my life.
I was chastened at how easily I had accepted Thomas’s behaviour and his dominance over me. I made excuses for his possessiveness and jealousy and I hadn’t once questioned his sometimes irrational behaviour. I reasoned that he acted the way he did because he loved me. Even omitting the taboo nature of our love, Thomas’s behaviour was neither reasonable nor healthy. His willingness to destroy someone he perceived as a threat to our relationship frightened me.
I knew I could not return to work; that was just impossible. I would email a formal resignation in the morning. Next, I had to call Veronica and explain to her personally that I would not be returning. She was my friend and I owed her that. I had to tell my parents of course and I decided that there was no better time than the present. I had to tell them before my courage failed me and before Thomas had a chance to speak to them.
When I arrived home my parents were sitting down to eat. I saw the relief in my father’s eyes when I walked in. My mother glanced up sharply.
“You see Patrick? I told you she was ok. You were worried about nothing. Such a fuss about nothing!” my mother said waspishly to my father.
I looked at my mother as she spoke and was surprised to see that her sharp words were contradicted by the relief in her eyes. For the first time in my life I realised that my mother cared about me.
“I’m sorry I worried you.” I addressed both my parents. “I was upset about something and I thought going for a long run would clear my head. I didn’t realise how late it was. I’m really sorry.”
“That’s ok love.” My father replied fondly. “We know you’re a big girl and can look after yourself but we were a bit worried that you left without saying anything to us.”
“Hmmph, not to mention the fact that I didn’t know if you were having supper with us or not. I didn’t know if I should set another place.” My mother grumbled, but I knew her heart wasn’t in it.
I dashed upstairs for a light-speed shower and a change of clothes and then joined my parents at the supper table. My mother was good cook and I attacked her food with relish. It was comforting to know that emotional trauma hadn’t affected my appetite. When the meal was over I knew I could not delay the moment any longer.
“Mom, dad, I have to tell you something.” I announced.
My parents paused in clearing the table and looked at me expectantly.
“I, uh, I have to tell you that I no longer work for Thomas.” I plunged in. “There’ve been some major and unexpected changes at the company and it’s become impractical for me to continue working there.”
“Your brother fired you?” my mother asked. “That doesn’t sound like Thomas. He would never fire his sister. Did you do anything to annoy him Catherine? You know how you go off into your own world sometimes and you just can’t do that kind of thing at work.”
Now this was my familiar mother. Always ready to see Thomas’s side of the story and convinced of his rightness in all things. I had a fleeting thought in that moment that here might lay the seeds of Thomas’s unshakeable belief that he could do whatever he wanted in order to have what he wanted. It’s such a cliché to blame the mother and I didn’t really blame my mother – it was just that I could see how Thomas’s exaggerated sense of entitlement might have been reinforced.
“Mom, I didn’t do anything to annoy him. It’s just that things changed and there was no longer a need for my job. I was made redundant mom, not fired.” I lied.
“Well, I’m sure Thomas did whatever he thought was best.” Mom sniffed.
“Now Doris, leave the girl alone. She just lost her job and that’s an upsetting experience. Leave her be.” My father said mildly.
“Never mind dear.” He said to me kindly. “I know you’ll find something else soon. Look at this as a valuable learning experience.”
“Oh it was an extremely valuable learning experience Dad.” I said emphatically.
If only he knew.
After casino oyna I helped my parents clean up, I went upstairs to my room and called Veronica.
“Catherine, I’m so glad to hear from you.” Veronica said. “I was worried when you left so abruptly. Are you ok?”
“I’m fine Veronica, just in shock, I suppose.” I replied. “What Thomas did was so utterly unexpected I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was being silly really, over-reacting like that.”
“No, don’t say that. You like Kyle and what happened was really nasty. It must be difficult being caught between your brother and a man you like.” She said.
“Kyle and I were never involved you know. We were friends; that’s all.” I felt I had to put the record straight, at least in that regard.
“Oh. I thought there was more to it than that. He seemed to really like you and I sensed you might feel the same way. Was I wrong?” she asked.
“I did like him. I do like him. It’s just that it was too early to tell if it would’ve gone anywhere. In any case, it’s too late now. He won’t want to have anything to do with the sister of the man who tried to destroy him.” I replied.
“Those two and their ridiculous feud, you’d think that two grown, successful men wouldn’t act like that. I swear I’ll never understand men.” Veronica said.
“Their feud? What do you know about that?” I asked, intrigued. What did she know?
“Uh, I don’t like to gossip. If neither of them told you then maybe I shouldn’t say anything either.” She demurred.
“Oh don’t do that Veronica! Don’t mention something like that and then say you can’t tell me!” I cried.
“Cath, this is not easy for me either. Thomas is still my boss and if he found out I discussed his private life with you, well, let’s just say I can start looking for another job right now.” She said.
“I understand Veronica but I would never tell him you told me. I just need to understand what is happening. It’s so frustrating knowing that they hate each other and not knowing why. Surely you can understand that?” I pleaded.
“I do understand Cath but, well, I don’t want this to come back at me.” she sighed.
“I understand that Veronica and it won’t. Just tell me, please.” I begged.
A pause; then…
“Ok Cath, I’ll tell you. I suppose you’d hear about it sooner or later any way.” She sighed.
“About five or six years ago Thomas met a woman and he fell for her, hard. You know, he had a reputation as being quite the ladies man but when he met this woman all the other women disappeared from the scene. He spent all his free time with her and he seemed so happy. By all accounts she was just as crazy about him.” Veronica told me.
I was stunned. I had no inkling that Thomas had ever been in love with another woman. He had given me no hint of this and my parents had never mentioned it which meant he kept it a secret from them too. I didn’t know what to make of this.
“So any way, they were together for a few months and things seemed to be going well when Kyle appeared on the scene.” Veronica continued. “I like Kyle but Cath, he was such a player back then. He loved the ladies and they loved him. Hell, I’m into women and even I looked at him twice!”
She laughed as she said this but I was still too shocked to respond. Veronica took my silence for interest so she kept on talking.
“Kyle and Thomas were never bosom buddies but they seemed to be on good terms. Neither of them had problems attracting women and I never detected any rivalry between them. I don’t know, maybe it’s a man thing but somehow Kyle got it into his head that he wanted Thomas’s girlfriend. He set out to charm her away from Thomas. You know how charming Kyle can be but he really pulled out the stops this time. He wooed her, as old-fashioned as that may sound. At first she thought it was rather funny but Thomas certainly didn’t. He told Kyle to back off but Kyle just laughed at him and accused Thomas of being scared of a little competition.”
“Kyle did that?” I asked incredulously.
“Yep, he was an arrogant little snot.” She laughed.
“So any way, Kyle steps up the charm offensive. He sends her expensive gifts, shows up wherever Thomas and Lisa are. That’s her name by the way, Lisa Miller. Kyle takes every opportunity to flirt with Lisa. He tells her she’s beautiful and special and she deserves the best. He asks her when she and Thomas are getting married. Apparently that was not yet a topic of discussion between her and Thomas and she told Kyle this. Well, Kyle just pounced on that! How could Thomas not want to marry her? Any other man would have proposed ages ago. It just goes to show some men don’t appreciate what they have, etc. etc. Now he, meaning Kyle, has always believed that a man who says he’s in love should be willing to make a commitment. I tell you Catherine, he did a number on her.”
“Veronica, wait, stop please, just for a moment.” I asked.
I couldn’t process what slot oyna she was telling me.
“What you’re saying makes no sense to me. Thomas has never mentioned this Lisa person and as for Kyle, well, I know he has a reputation but he’s not like what you described. What you’re saying sounds, just, unbelievable really.” I said.
“Do you think I’m lying?” she asked sharply.
“No, no! I’m not saying that at all. I just think that maybe you’re mistaken or maybe whoever told you these things had an agenda. I don’t know! It just doesn’t make sense to me!” I cried.
Veronica sighed, “Oh Catherine, I understand that this is hard for you but I promise you I’m not making up any of it. Lisa was a friend and she told me what happened. I’m not relating third-hand gossip. Kyle deliberately tried to break up Thomas’s and Lisa’s relationship. He played on all Lisa’s insecurities and she fell for it. She started nagging Thomas about making a commitment to her, wanting to know when they were they getting married and all that. I know Thomas loved her but he wasn’t ready for that yet and he told her so. She went off the deep end and accused him of not loving her and of using her. They started having terrible fights and every time they did, Kyle always seemed to be nearby to wipe away her tears. Thomas warned her to stay away from Kyle and of course she didn’t.”
I felt sick listening to Veronica’s story. She was describing two strangers, not the Thomas and Kyle I knew. And truthfully, I was jealous of this Lisa woman who had captured Thomas’s heart before I did. Why had he never told me about her? Did he perhaps still love her? But Veronica wasn’t finished with her story.
“Kyle ensured that he gained Lisa’s trust. He told her he cared about her but that he respected her feelings for Thomas and he wouldn’t put any pressure on her, as long as she knew that he was there for her whenever she needed him. So she, foolishly, believes him. She leans on Kyle every time she has a fight with Thomas. Kyle in turn, ensures that Thomas knows about it. Thomas loses his temper one day and tells Lisa she has to choose, it’s either him or Kyle. Lisa says that if Thomas really loves her he would ask her to marry him. Any way, Thomas doesn’t propose of course and Lisa makes the mistake of telling him that Kyle is man enough to make a proper commitment to a woman so why can’t Thomas? Jeez Catherine, she shouldn’t have said that. Thomas throws her out and tells her to marry Kyle if that’s what she wants. She goes straight to Kyle, distraught and crying and Kyle takes full advantage. The next day Kyle visits Thomas and says just enough to let Thomas know that he slept with Lisa. By all accounts, Thomas beat the crap out of Kyle. By then Lisa had realised her error and she begged Thomas to take her back but he wanted nothing to do with her. He really loved her and she betrayed him. He couldn’t forgive her.”
“I don’t blame him!” She cheated on him and Kyle behaved appallingly!” I said hotly.
“I know Catherine. I’m not excusing her behaviour. It’s just that she was young and insecure and she allowed herself to be talked around by someone experienced and confident. She made a terrible mistake. She really did love Thomas but she messed up. Everyone knew that Kyle was responsible for their breakup and I imagine that humiliated Thomas. He’s a proud man and it must have infuriated him that people were discussing his private affairs. Lisa begged him for ages to forgive her and to give their relationship another chance but he refused. He wanted nothing to do with her. She was utterly devastated and eventually she gave up and shortly afterwards she left town. I kept in touch with her and I know she went through a really difficult time trying to get over Thomas.”
“But if Thomas hated Kyle so much, why did he go into business with him?” I asked.
“I really don’t know. That’s what puzzles me too. I can’t see why Thomas would want to work with someone he obviously hated so much.” Veronica replied.
Suddenly I didn’t want to talk about this any more. It was all too much to take in. My head was reeling.
“I have to think about all of this Veronica. I don’t know what to make of it all. I feel like I don’t know my own brother any more and as for Kyle, well, I can’t believe I thought he was a nice guy. He really fooled me.” I said sadly.
“Cath, don’t judge Kyle too harshly. No, just wait a minute. Hear me out.” She said hastily as I protested. “I’m not excusing Kyle’s behaviour, really I’m not but he changed after that. I think that it finally got to him that he’d gone too far. He stopped playing around and I know he tried to contact Lisa to ask for her forgiveness but she refused to speak to him. He begged me to speak to her and I did but she flat out refused to consider any contact with him. Kyle even tried to patch things up with Thomas. Thomas wasn’t having any of it either and I suppose you can’t blame him. He had no reason to believe that Kyle was being sincere. I wasn’t canlı casino siteleri convinced at first either but after a while I could see that Kyle was a different man. Oh he was still charming and fun but he no longer messed around with people’s lives the way he did before. He knew he’d wounded Lisa and Thomas terribly and I think he was ashamed of himself.”
“Listen, Veronica. I’m grateful you told me. I needed to know but I some time to think about what you’ve told me. It’s just too much to take in all at once. Can I call you in a few days and we can talk some more then?” I asked tiredly.
“Sure honey. I’m sorry if I upset you.” Veronica said in a concerned voice.
“It’s ok, really. It’s just such a shock that’s all.” I replied. “I’d better go now.”
We said our goodbyes and I hung up, grateful to end the conversation. Veronica’s revelations had shocked me to my core. Everything I had assumed about both Kyle and Thomas was over-turned in a few minutes. Suddenly Thomas’s possessive behaviour made sense, his insistence that Kyle was a heartless playboy (though my eyes could see no evidence of it) but most especially his fury at my continued friendship with Kyle. He must have thought that his nightmare with Lisa was being repeated. I still couldn’t understand why he didn’t tell me about Lisa and Kyle. I would have cut off Kyle if I knew the whole story.
I was tempted to call Thomas immediately but I stifled the impulse. I had to think about this carefully first. Too much had happened and I didn’t want to act rashly. Thomas hadn’t called me yet and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. My phone rang just as that thought occurred to me. Caller ID showed that it was Thomas. My heart pounded as I stared at his name. My thumb hovered over the green answer button. I wanted to hear his voice but…
In the end I pressed the red button and switched off my phone.
I had trouble sleeping that night. I tossed and turned and got up several times to pace around my room. During my affair with Thomas I had never given serious thought to our future, my future. I hadn’t once attempted to question Thomas’s firm belief in a future for us. He had commanded and I had complied. What did that say about me?
The grey morning light filtered into my room and I sat by my window, staring sightlessly out at the quiet early morning neighbourhood. I sat there until I heard my mother moving around, going about her usual morning routine. I came to at least one decision. I had to face Thomas and tell him that I wasn’t returning to work. That was the least I could do. I knew that he would want to talk about more than work and I still didn’t know how I would handle that.
I got dressed and told my mother I was going out for a while so she wasn’t to worry if I got home late. My mind worked overtime as I traveled into the city. In the end I decided to stop trying to predict what Thomas would say or how he would react. It was a futile exercise any way.
I arrived at the office and found a subdued version of the usually bubbly Cindy at reception. The corporate upheaval of yesterday had even filtered down here. Melissa, Thomas’s PA, was her usual calm and efficient self. Nothing disturbed that woman for too long. She announced my presence to Thomas and then told me that Thomas was in a meeting and I should wait. I sat and fidgeted for nearly an hour. Occasionally Melissa glanced at me curiously but I ignored her. I was leafing listlessly through a magazine when Thomas’s door opened. A group of suits came out, followed by Thomas. He ignored me as he said his goodbyes. Once the last man had left he nodded at me to come in and told Melissa to hold his calls and not to disturb him for any reason.
I followed him nervously. Even now I wasn’t impervious to his physical attractiveness and I was appalled at my completely inappropriate rush of desire for him. I prayed he wouldn’t pick up on it. He took a seat on the big leather couch in his office and motioned for me to do the same. I perched on the end furthest away from him. We were both silent for a moment. I didn’t know where to begin. Thomas spoke first.
“Well Catherine, what can I do for you?” he asked levelly.
That threw me. Not only did he use my full name, which he normally never did, but he talked as if I was coming here to discuss a routine matter. I took a deep breath.
“I came to tell you I can’t work for you any more. I’m sorry for not giving you fair notice but well, you know the circumstances.” I finished lamely.
“And what circumstances would that be Catherine?” he asked in the same infuriatingly level tone.
“You know Thomas. What happened with Kyle and that you kept it from me and just everything!” I burst out.
“Ah. So you’re quitting because I hurt your boyfriend.”
For the first time I heard an edge of anger in his voice.
“He’s not my boyfriend. He never was and he never will be. Especially now that I know what I do.” I replied.
That caught his attention.
“What do you mean? What do you know?” he asked.
“I know about Lisa, I know that you loved her and that Kyle broke up your relationship. I know he isn’t the man I thought he was.” I said.