Original Works

Chapter 75: Hitting Reset

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For the first time, the fate of her family’s survival rested upon her sister’s shoulders. And though it was the result of her so-called betrayal, Guinevere couldn’t be more pleased. When it briefly became Genevieve’s burden, Guinevere could breathe.

To save the company after her father pleaded guilty, her mother found Genevieve a match. Giving Guinevere the silent treatment, it meant Genevieve had to put up with their mother’s pushing and nagging. Under the pressure, Genevieve stopped her habitual loitering and submitted to their mother’s plans. Six months later, she married the second son of a foreign competitor and the Dae’hans lived to see another day.

As much as Guinevere felt guilty for her actions, she had no regrets. It was her opportunity to start anew – her family’s opportunity to do things right. And despite her father never being able to forgive her, her mother and sister had little to no choice but to rely on her expertise. So even if her family was broken – not that it wasn’t to begin with – they were still together. That was all that mattered.

After the marriage, Guinevere and her brother-in-law restarted the company. The responsibility of putting branded goods on the table returned to Guinevere after the short-lived hiatus. It required more work than she’d ever done before. But, she could truthfully say she didn’t mind. It was better than being puppet-ed by her father. Also, it was a breath of fresh air when people stopped assuming she was a rich, spoilt brat. Back in her father’s shadow, nobody took her seriously despite her attempts. Now, she could make something of herself.

“Serve the entrees,” Guinevere informed the catering crew.

“Is everyone here?” Genevieve asked.

“No. Not everyone. But those who want to be here, are already here. So we should start.”

“Shouldn’t we wait a little longer?”

Guinevere shook her head and her sister pouted. “Stop hiding in the kitchen and go entertain the guests,” Guinevere said. “Or stand next to your husband if you don’t want to.”

Not waiting for her sister’s glare, Guinevere left through the back door into the garden. She’d said her round of ‘hellos’ and yearned for a pinch of quiet. But in that silence, she involuntarily thought about Wayne.

Planting herself on a bench, she wondered if what Jodie said was true – if Wayne was simply too busy savaging his status. But then reality hit, and along with it the reminder of his warranted silence.

Since her confession, Wayne refused to speak to her. Even after he was cleared, he didn’t answer her calls. He was also seemingly impossible to find and catch. The only times Guinevere saw Wayne were when he entered his car. And despite having made eye contact once or twice, he’d turned away as though he hadn’t seen her at all. How could he be so cruel?

Yes, she’d made a mistake. But everything she did, she did for family. Why couldn’t he forgive her? Why couldn’t he see her loyalty instead of her betrayal? Some days, Guinevere wished she’d come clean earlier – at least to Wayne.

“If only I-”

“Your sister said I’d find you here,” someone interrupted.

Turning to the direction of the voice, Guinevere stood at the sight of the intruder.

“You… came.”

“I was in the area when Jodie called.”

“And, you came?”

“I was in the area because I, well, I thought it’ll be good for our companies to work together.”

“Oh. Yes, it will be. Thank you, for coming, Wayne.”

Guinevere dropped her gaze to the freshly mowed grass. His polished shoes in her peripheral vision turned toward the kitchen door. But Wayne didn’t take a step.

“I’m sorry, for not responding to your messages and calls. I’ve been busy,” Wayne said.

He’d been busy for over a year? The old Guinevere would’ve rolled her eyes.

“I know. I’m glad everything worked out for you. And I’m sorry for being the cause of… everything,” Guinevere replied.

“You’re not in the wrong. I’ll be honest. I dated you because of your family. So in some respects, we used each other.”

“That’s… comforting.” Guinevere chuckled. It was indeed comforting to know she wasn’t entirely to blame for his former predicament.

“But for what it’s worth, I did like you. And the only reason I didn’t reach out after it ended, was because I knew I was in the wrong too.”

“So I guess now we’re even?” Guinevere finally shifted her eyes to meet his.

“We’re even.”

“Good. Friends?” She stuck her hand out hopefully.

As tensed as the conversation was, Guinevere hoped to put the past behind them. She also longed to hold his hand again, no matter how brief a moment it was. But while her heart raced with expectation, Wayne hesitated. His hands remained stuffed in his crease-free pockets.

“I don’t… want to be friends.”

Her throat tightened at his blatant candour. Pulling her hand back, Guinevere nodded with a forced smile.

“I mean, I don’t think we can be friends,” Wayne added.

“You’re right.”

“But I want us to try again. Honestly, try again. With no ulterior motives.”

“As… a couple?”

“Yes. Would you like that?”

With breath held, Guinevere replayed his words in her head. Did he mean it? Was he sincere? More importantly, should she say ‘yes’? It was tempting. She’d missed him – his voice, his gaze, and his touch. But what they’d done to each other couldn’t be erased. They’d have to carry it for the rest of their lives. Was it a good idea to try again? Guinevere had to choose.

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You’ve decided the fate of the characters. Now they live on in their own stories, not to be tempered by our own desires. Thus the end of The Clubhouse.

Thank you for joining me in crafting the stories of Zach, Jodie, Matthias, Richard, and Guinevere. I hope you enjoyed this series. Despite its ups and downs, I hope it entertained you. Personally, I entered into The Clubhouse with a goal to improve my character development skill. And, it’s safe to say, I’ve come out of Skypeak a better writer. Though I’m not sure if I have ‘character development’ nailed down, I’ve pushed my boundaries and brought this series to completion. That, I’m proud of – I didn’t give up halfway through.

So thank you for coming along for the ride. If you’re new to this series, you can find the chapter list here. Fingers-crossed, the story stands on its own without the polls.

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 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.

Original Works

Chapter 73: When Life Gives You Lemonade

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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.”

“Sounds fun.”

“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.

“I will.”

“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.

Next Chapter >
(For the chapter list, visit here.)

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The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 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.

Original Works

Chapter 58: In Pairs

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Twenty screens were stacked against the wall of the security room. Every five seconds, they flicked to a different angle. As though a robbery was rumoured to occur, ten pairs of eyes watched them fervently. When Zach saw what they were up against, he lost most of his confidence.

“Can I have your attention?” Matthias asked.

Matthias was in the lead as they entered through the steel door. But who went first didn’t matter. Neither of their presence stirred a positive response. In fact, the men looked annoyed at having to attend the impromptu meeting.

“Zach here will brief on the agenda,” Matthias said.

With a lack of response, Matthias began rounding up the men – particularly those tasked to stare at the screens – and grouped them in the centre of the room. They seemed reluctant, but they obliged.

“It’ll only take a while,” Zach said.

When Zach heard a few grunts, he began.

With his file in hand, he kept his gaze on the text and tried his best to not look suspicious. He read off it, adding unnecessary details to prolong the session. While doing so, he took quick glances at the screens. But being that there were twenty of them, he didn’t know where to look. So by the time he was done with the briefing, he wasn’t even sure if Jodie, Richard, and Guinevere had successfully completed their task. It was only after he and Matthias had left the room, did he receive confirmation.

“Thanks. It went well,” Matthias stated.

“It did? I didn’t see-”

“That’s the point.”

“Right, of course.”

“I’ll let you know if anything comes up.”

Matthias then excused himself and Zach had to take his word for it.

It was already noon when they’d completed the mini mission.There were a few more hours to make sure everything was set, and Zach didn’t want to dilly dally with his remaining tasks. As he headed to the ballroom to check on the decorations, he passed the foyer and spotted a familiar looking pair.

Having read through all the files Jodie furnished him, he knew almost immediately who the couple was. The Italian-suited man and the diamond-adorned woman were the Lees. The man was to give a speech that night, and the woman had requested a special kind of water during the dinner. They were also Richard’s ex-parents – if there was such a term to begin with.

As the couple strode toward the restaurant, the front desk manager hurried to their side. But before she could offer her services, she was shooed away. Apparently, they didn’t like having an escort, which was surprising to see in Skypeak, let alone from such people.

Shortly after the important pair disappeared, another pair walked in. This pair however, Zach didn’t recognize. Once again, the front desk manager attempted at her job. And once again, she was excused. Curious as to what was going on, Zach headed to the front desk itself.

“Is there a meeting or something?” Zach asked the other staff on duty.

“I’m not sure,” the man replied, flipping through a logbook.

Before Zach could probe any further, another couple entered the foyer. Unlike the couple before them, he’d seen this pair before. But because they weren’t on the agenda for the shareholder’s dinner, he wasn’t sure how he knew them.

“Who’re they?” Zach asked.

The man looked up from the book and said, “The Dae’hans.”

“Who?”

“The Dae’hans of Dae’han Insurance.”

“Guinevere’s parents?”

“Yes. Ms Guinevere’s parents.”

Zach was amazed at the man’s visual memory, but it wasn’t the time to be giving praises. When the front desk manager returned to her spot behind the counter – after being rejected for the third time – Zach excused himself but lingered around. He wanted to see if there were more couples arriving. But after ten minutes, it was confirmed the three pairs were having a private luncheon.

With nothing more to witness, Zach began his stroll to the ballroom. Every step he took, curiosity nibbled at him. When he neared the double door, he halted in his steps and curiousity won. Zach wondered if he should inform Guinevere and Richard about their parents’ early arrival. It seemed strange only three couples were meeting. It was even stranger they were ‘related’ to two contestants.

Before the clubhouse challenge, Zach would’ve minded his own business and ignored what he saw. After all, he didn’t care what others were up to, as it didn’t concern him. Now that he was being set up, he couldn’t close an eye. If possible, he wanted to stir up trouble too. Perhaps then, he could unravel the truth. The question was, who would make a bigger fuss to the secret meeting?

Since Guinevere was in the kitchen, she’d be on to them immediately. But would she make a scene? With the one that caused her engagement in sight, she just might. Richard on the other hand, was a natural at getting attention. Simply showing up, without having to utter a word, would be enough. Zach was planning to tell them both, but who should be the first to know? He had to choose.

Next Chapter >
(For the chapter list, visit here.)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 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.