AFTER NIGHTFALL, THE hotel was a hub of nightlife and entertainment. The family delighted in five-star dining, and then a private venue where limbo dancing, fire eating acts, and live gigs featuring local artists and bands took place. All of the performances were spectacular, although ever so slightly overshadowed by the tension between the ladies, who were still not on speaking terms from the earlier quarrel.
Daniel, having gotten up early for work, felt exhausted half way through the show, but was too courteous to spoil everyone’s fun and so stuck around till the end. By the time they returned to their suites, he crashed out simply touching the end of the bed. Like a devoted wife, Allison attended to him. Meanwhile, her parents’ constant murmuring in the next room was piquing her curiosity.
She snuck over to the adjoining door, leaning just enough to eavesdrop, and caught her mother on the brim of a mental breakdown and her father comforting her.
“… If only I knew Adrian would become such a problem, I would never… never have given birth to that child!”
“Darling, no one knew things would turn out this way before they did.”
“What if she still talks to him after all? That stubborn girl has no idea she’s playing with fire.”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she does.”
“Shh… there, there. Quit crying. You don’t want her to overhear us and make a fuss now, do you?”
“Maybe it’s better that way, since then I could openly talk some sense into her…”
“Don’t speak silly now. We don’t want to go this far for nothing. And besides, if talking to her is the solution, it would have worked a long time ago.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Well, we must find out what she told Lisa Cooke. That’s first and foremost.”
“That woman’s pretty headstrong. I doubt she would comply with us.”
“We have to at least try, and we must handle this delicately. But you need not worry, darling, I’ll get in touch with her this time. I’d better give Carter a call too once we return to the States.”
“It’s that serious?”
“It wouldn’t hurt to keep him informed and get his opinion. If there indeed is something we can do, he will tell us. From now on, we will make sure to check up on our daughter more often…”
Allison had listened to the elaborate deception long enough. Hand over the doorknob, she thought about telling them off, but changed her mind in the end knowing very well she had absolutely no control over whatever her parents set their minds on doing. Backing away from the door, she felt her stomach heave, bringing on a bad nausea that she had not experienced in a while. Feeling like something inside her was about to burst out of her mouth, she wherefore darted towards the bathroom and threw herself in front of the toilet to try to vomit. Only, nothing whatsoever came out. With each exertion, her chest tightened a little.
Somebody… help me…
Like a telepathic miracle, her cell phone rang. She answered the unnamed call in a heartbeat with a certain confidence that it was Adrian, and it was.
She began to sob just hearing him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her with concern, catching her breathing irregularly.
“I… I feel like I… I can’t breathe…”
He heard her panting voice and right away knew how to fix her. “I need you to go get a paper bag.”
“There… there isn’t one…”
“No? Okay. Listen up, Allie. Are you listening?”
“I need you to concentrate on how you breathe. Follow my rhythm as you go: one… two… three —”
*COUGH* *COUGH* *COUGH* “I… I can’t… can’t do it.”
“Do I ever tell you to do something you can’t do? Come on. Trust me on this. You will feel better in a minute. Again, long, deep breaths: one… two… three…”
She followed his instruction the best she could, and then gradually, her chest loosened up and lungs refreshed themselves, taking in air normally and exhaling it. Sensing she was breathing better, he stopped counting.
“Yeah,” she replied, no longer feeling nauseous either.
“So, what happened? I was just calling to ask you how it went with your anniversary, but now, do I still need to?”
“It’s not Dan this time. Our anniversary actually went well.”
“Oh? Who else could have gotten you this upset?”
“I should have known. What did she do? Or say?”
“I overheard her and Dad talking in the next room —”
“Wait. Where are you?”
“We are at a hotel in Nassau.”
“The Bahamas? What are you doing there with them?”
“Dan’s here too, he’s sleeping. Mom invited us to come along, and I thought it was a good idea for us to get away for a few days. It’s just over the weekend.”
“I get it. Well then, it doesn’t really matter what they were talking about.”
“Because, like I said before, don’t let any distraction steer you from what you went there to do.”
“What I came here to do…”
“Yes. Your one and only goal is to have a good time with Daniel, to rekindle your relationship. Everything else is not important. At least not right now.”
“So chin up, sister. Try to focus on the big picture. The last thing you want is to have this trip go to waste. Do you understand me?”
“Gosh. I don’t know what I would do without you there to constantly back me up.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
She smiled. “Ah, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Is there a way for me to contact you?”
“You mean if I’ve gotten a cell phone?”
“It would be ideal that you have one.”
“My dear, sweet Allie finally can’t get enough of me! Truly, I’m touched. But ever since my last cell got me in deep shit — excuse my profanity — with the cops, I’ve grown used to not having one, and I really don’t find the need to keep one. You are the only person I call anyway, and payphones are easy enough to find wherever I go.”
“What about Miranda?”
“What about her?”
“Don’t you call her too?”
“Since you asked… we’ve broken up.”
“How did that happen?”
“It’s too long of a story to tell over the phone. All I’m saying is, despite what a liar and cheat that bitch is, I haven’t given up on her yet, not this easily.”
“I’m really sorry. I know that you really do love her.”
“Pah! As if… I tell you what, I promise I will ring you more often from now on, and I will stop by your house one of the days next week to catch up.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
“Alrighty! Until then.”
“Actually, just one last thing.”
“Do you happen to have a friend named Justin?”
Suddenly, he got quiet.
“Sorry. I eh… It’s been a while since I heard that name. I’m just surprised that it’s coming from you. Did he contact you somehow?”
“He did, yesterday.”
“Well, did you tell him anything?”
“No. I would never. I don’t trust him.”
“Haha. He’s harmless.”
“Really? He sure didn’t sound like it over the phone… In any case, you should be careful, whatever you do.”
“Ha! Since when have you started giving me advice? That’s my job!”
“I’m being serious. Just be aware.”
“I am and I will, so don’t worry. Now, go get some beauty rest. I’m sure it’s going to be another long day tomorrow when Dad is leading the group.”