Staring at the ceiling of Matthias’ apartment, Richard decided he had enough of the day. After the dinner with Ms Leona and the other contestants, he found himself mentally drained. Throughout the entire meal, nobody said a word. Everyone but him looked preoccupied and showed little interest when Ms Leona began handing them their cards. Richard thought he had serious problems, but the rest must have had worst. After all, why would they give up the chance to win Skypeak so easily? It felt strange and he spent the entire meal deciphering their behaviour. Even the news of having to run the clubhouse day care did not bother him as much.
“There’s always something I don’t know,” Richard concluded, before shutting his eyes and forcing himself to sleep.
The following morning, Richard woke before Matthias did. He had to knock on Matthias’ door to learn that he was still asleep. It was the first time Richard had ever witnessed Matthias being late for something.
“We’re supposed to be in at nine. It’s eight-thirty,” Richard shouted from outside the bedroom door.
“One minute,” Matthias merely replied.
When Matthias finally exited his bedroom, Richard waved him to the door in hopes he would pick up pace. It was as though the two had switched bodies overnight.
“Why the hurry?” Matthias asked.
“We’re going to be late. Have you forgotten what day it is?” Richard asked.
“No. Let’s go,” Matthias replied.
Richard would have offered to drive, but he knew Matthias wouldn’t let him. So, he held his tongue as they cruised to Skypeak. By the time they clocked in, it was close to ten.
“Don’t worry so much. Ms Leona won’t say anything,” Matthias stated, as they strolled into the building.
“Easy for you to say. I want to win this,” Richard responded.
“Don’t we all,” Matthias said with a chuckle, before excusing himself.
They were each given a ‘department’ to manage for the day. Matthias had to run the in-house café, Jodie the gym, Zach the golf course, Guinevere the spa, and Richard the day care. Richard had never been fond of children, but he was not given a choice. So hoping not to start his task on a bad score, he hurried to the day care centre.
“Good morning,” the staff at the registration counter greeted.
“Morning. Where are the kids?” Richard asked.
“Not here yet. It’ll be a busy day, mind you,” she said.
“Oh look, a parent,” she stated cheerily.
Richard put on a fake grin and turned to see their first customer. A second later, his grin disappeared. It was not a customer strolling up to them that morning, it was Gabriel in a light blue suit.
“Are you checking-in a child?” the staff asked with a wide smile.
“Oh, no, I’m just giving this place a look,” Gabriel replied.
“Would you like me to show you around?” she offered.
Before he could answer, Richard said, “I’ll show him around.”
The staff nodded and Richard gestured for Gabriel to follow him. When they were out of earshot, Richard stopped and asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you, Richard,” Gabriel replied. “I thought I should introduce myself.”
“Mother has taught you well.”
“Yes, my mother has. I’m not too sure about yours,” Gabriel said with a smirk.
“What?” Richard asked, as he narrowed his eyebrows.
“It’s funny how you know nothing.”
“I know enough,” Richard stated confidently .
“I doubt that. Want to know a secret?” Gabriel teased.
“If it’s a secret I already know-”
“Oh, you don’t know this one,” Gabriel interrupted.
“Well, go ahead then,” Richard said.
As much as he hated looking like a clueless fool, his desire to know the truth was overwhelming. Perhaps it had something to do with the way Gabriel acted. The smug look for knowing more than Richard, tempted him to throw a punch.
Wearing a childish grin, Gabriel answered, “We’re not related. What a relief, isn’t it?”
Richard parted his lips for a reply, but no words were spoken. Gabriel looked too confident to be lying, and the truth he was offering made sense. Still, it was hard to grasp at that moment.
“We’re not even half-siblings. So don’t bother coming home, Richard. There’s no family for you there,” Gabriel added.
“How do I know you’re not lying? Where’s the proof?” Richard asked.
“Isn’t there enough already? Or would you like a blood test too?” Gabriel chuckled.
Yes, there was enough. The question was raised to see if Richard still had a chance of survival in his faux family.
“I would suggest you sell your stocks and start over. My father will dismiss you from the firm tomorrow,” Gabriel spared him the extra details.
“I’ll do as I see fit,” Richard simply replied.
“I’m sorry, Richard. I was hoping we could still pretend, but my parents don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Don’t apologise. You did nothing wrong,” Richard did not hide the sarcasm in his voice, as he turned on his heel.
He was done with Gabriel. But more importantly, he was done with his family. The truth stung and he still found it difficult to accept, but at least he was no longer bounded by ignorance. As he strode toward the exit, he felt relieved. But then, Gabriel robbed him of that too.
Gabriel called out and said, “By the way, this whole clubhouse challenge is a fake. You won’t win. I just thought you should know”
Stopping just before the door, Richard replied, “Good to know.” He spoke without thinking and a second later, he realised it was far from ‘good to know’. Relief was gone and anxiousness returned like an old friend.
Gabriel’s words were a double-edged sword. Somehow, that truth was more damaging than the previous one. A part of him also felt betrayed for being left out of the loop. As he walked out of the day care centre for a breather, he spotted Jodie and Matthias parting ways. Richard was tempted to approach one of them about the secret they knew. But before he gave in to temptation, he had to choose.
The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 by Jeyna Grace.
All rights reserved. No part of the series may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from Jeyna Grace.