Zach never thought he’d see the amount in his bank account surpassing five digits. And when it did, he was amazed. He was amazed at how someone like him, who always identified as the kid at the back of the classroom, finally found himself in front. He was in disbelief at the possibility, when he made not a single effort. It seems the universe remembered him after all. And it felt surreal – like a dream broke the code of fiction to cross into reality – as though he was living an alternate timeline.
Through Matthias’ recommendation, Zach found himself working for a private investigation agency. He started as an office assistant, but began handling cases on his own a couple of months in. He found his niche – one he had no idea he had the talent for. After his first successful case, he was banking bundles of cash weekly. And suddenly, he wasn’t the underdog any longer. Suddenly, invitations to grand parties, hosted by his rich clients, slipped under his door. Suddenly, he was somebody. The shift of identity came so subtly, that it only dawned upon him then, as he sat staring at the brown envelope beside the embroidered party invite.
“So you going?” his colleague asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Zach replied. He wasn’t a big fan of parties. He wasn’t a fan of socialising in general. But since it came with the job, he tried not to turn them down.
“Who’s it from?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t looked.”
“And the cash?”
“Upfront payment from an… acquaintance.”
“That’s a pretty thick envelope.”
“I’ll have to leave the country for this one.”
“Then I suggest you go for the party.” His colleague gestured at the invite, before picking it up. “Fancy paper. Ah, look what we have here. I didn’t know you know the Dae’hans.”
“Who?” The name rang no bell. Then his colleague flashed the invite and he caught the signature at bottom.
“Is this for someone else? No, wait, it has your name on it. You sure you don’t know these people?”
“I know them.”
“They’re rebranding, so I’ve been told. Looks like you’ve been invited to their private launch party.”
“Come on, if you’re not going, let me go. Families with scandals invite prominent people to make amends. Here’s your chance to build your client base. And guess what, this party invites two. I can be your plus one. What do you say?”
“No. You’re not going to be my plus one.”
“Ah, I’ll just go in your place then.”
“Nice try. But no.”
“Killjoy. Have fun by yourself then.” His colleague stalked off.
“And don’t expect your desk to be here when you get back.”
“It will be. I’m the best,” Zach called out with a chuckle.
Zach had no issues with Guinevere, and his colleague made a point. Even if half of the people the Dae’hans invited didn’t show up, those who did were potential clients. And since he was on a streak of wealthy patrons, there was no reason to say ‘no’. The only question remaining, was whether he should fly solo or bring someone along.
Among the four other contestants, Jodie was the only person he still met. Their offices were a few blocks apart, and they had yet to change gyms. She was his friend. And he, despite denying, had developed feelings for her. Unfortunately, he never felt adequate to attempt to be more. Or at least, he never felt adequate until recently. The sudden urge to invite her along kicked in, but he hesitated.
Those who didn’t know of his past gave him the fresh start he needed. But for those who did, there were only two reactions when they learned of his success: they buttered up to earn his favour or pretended oblivious. The exception was Jodie. She was neither. She treated him the same, and Zach wasn’t sure if that was a good sign. What did it mean to her when she treated him the same? Despite their occasional meet up, she was tough to read. And Zach had become a good reader of character ever since his new job. If only he knew. If only she left hints of being interested in a deeper relationship, it wouldn’t be a risk to invite her.
Perhaps he should play it safe and RSVP alone. Why ruin a perfectly good friendship over a party? What if Jodie and Guinevere were still stepping on each other’s toes? Instead of making a positive impression, he’d make an unfavourable one on both ends. Zach was never a risk taker. He’d played it safe and it had gotten him this far. But how long was the universe willing to spoon-feed him? How long would it remember him? It was now or never. The decision would determine the rest of his life and how he lived it. He either took his life into his own hands, or continued to accept whatever is handed to him. Zach had to choose.
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The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 by Jeyna Grace.
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