“Something happened…with Alex,” Oliver explained to Dr Sanjay. “Something happened last night…something bad.”
Patricia Sanjay said nothing, she just watched with great concentration as Oliver struggled to explain himself. She knew that whatever had happened had to do with Alex but this was the first time she was seeing Oliver struggle to put words together so she imagined whatever incident it was must be grand and shocking. And so she waited patiently and gave him all the time he needed to gather himself together.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Oliver gave up trying to explain himself and attacked the eerily silent doctor. “You are looking at me like I am one of your patients.”
“That’s because you are expressing yourself like one of them.” She said with a glint of a smile in her eyes. “I gather this is something more personal right?”
“Are you a psychiatrist or a psychic doc?” Oliver said.
“Sometimes I am both.” She laughed. “What happened between you and Alex?”
“Why do you assume it’s something that happened between us?” Oliver asked.
Doctor Sanjay sat up straight in her sofa and looked Oliver squarely in the eye. “Look at the way you are sitting.” She said, pointing at him from head to toe. “Your whole posture, your hands clasped together like that, you’re sweating despite the weather, you’re stuttering and here’s the big one; you have said the phrase ‘something happened’ over five times already and every time you say it, your lashes bat profusely and your face turns red.”
Oliver nervously shifted in his seat, feeling completely exposed. “She kissed me.” He blurted out the words.
“I see.” Was all the doctor said in return, crossing one leg over the other in the most nonchalant reaction Oliver had ever received from her.
“I see?” Oliver gave her a look. “That’s all?”
She chuckled and shrugged her shoulders slightly. “What do you want me to say? I have been Alex’s doctor for how long? I can’t say that I am surprised by this development.”
“You knew it was going to happen?”
“And you never felt the need to warn me?”
“And you never considered the possibility of it happening yourself?” She asked.
Oliver didn’t answer.
“See?” Dr Sanjay said, taking his silence as affirmation.
“I have always thought of her as my daughter.” Oliver said.
“And now?” The doctor asked.
“What do you mean and now?” He asked.
“How do you feel now after what happened between the two of you?” She clarified.
“You are making it sound as if it’s something very big.” Oliver said. “It was just a kiss.”
“If it wasn’t something so big, why are you here in my home at this hour Oliver?”
“Because something else happened after the kiss and I think that you are the only person that can give me answers.”
“I see,” she said. “How about for now, we put aside your feelings concerning the kiss and you tell me everything else that happened?”
“There are no feelings on my part concerning the kiss.” Oliver said defiantly. And if you continue talking to me in that shrink tone, I am going to get up and leave this place doc.” Oliver warned her.
The doctor laughed, raised her arms in surrender and motioned for him to continue. Oliver narrated to her everything that happened from the time Alex called him to pick her up to the events that transpired earlier that morning before he came to see the doctor.
“This feels like more like a case of repression rather than suppression.” Dr Sanjay said. “But I cannot be sure unless I examine her personally.”
“English please.” Oliver said.
The doctor laughed. “Repression means her subconscious blocked away the memories and she’s not even aware that such memories exist. Suppression on the hand might mean that she is very much aware of those memories but because she finds them uncomfortable, she’s consciously told her mind that they don’t exist or that she will confront them some other time when she is ready.”
“So if it’s suppression, then she can remember what happened but she just doesn’t want to confront the truth?”
“Yes,” she said. “You see, unlike disassociation which is what she recently recovered from, suppressed memories happen on a lighter scale.” She made quotation marks in the air as she said the word. “They involve feelings of shame, disgust, embarrassment or even pain that are intentionally kept from the conscious mind because they are uncomfortable and we are just not ready to deal with them.”
She continued. “I can easily assume that Alex’s case this time is that of suppression but you said that she looked at the muddy shoes by the door and wondered why they were there and she even questioned their state, right?”
“Yes,” Oliver said. “She was visibly and genuinely surprised to see them there.”
The doctor thought for a moment, tapping the side of her head with her index finger, her head slightly tilted to the side. When she finally spoke, it was to say:
“I can only imagine the level of fear or anxiety Alex must have felt when she thought ending her life would be her only form of release. That fear could be what drove her to act ‘inappropriately’ with you. You must know that to her…and this she has expressed many times, you are not just her proxy guardian when her adoptive parents are unavailable.
“Over the years you’ve become the one pillar in her life that’s immovable. In you she sees not just a father but a friend as well. I once heard her say that even if Anton got married to someone else, she would still have you.
“In her head, whether consciously or subconsciously, that child has placed so much trust in you that she cannot imagine a life without you. Unfortunately, a lot of things have happened in the recent past that have resurrected the fears she once had as a child and we now see her acting out accordingly.”
“So are you saying that it is this fear that’s caused her to repress these very recent memories?”
“I should think so.” Doctor Sanjay said. “Right now that’s the only explanation I can come up with given her past. You have said that you truly believe she is not faking the memory loss which automatically disqualifies suppression as a possible condition.” She explained. “Even if it was suppression, I don’t think she would have stopped to examine the shoes at the door and then question you about them.
“The normal thing a person with suppressed memories would have done is look at the shoes, remember the incident that led to them being there, feel the shame, guilt or embarrassment, shake their head to brush it all off and quickly walk away. However, Alex did the complete opposite.”
“But is it possible for someone to have two episodes of repressed memories?” Oliver asked.
Doctor Sanjay laughed. “People forget a lot of things everyday of their lives.” She said. “Think about the last time you eat out, do you remember what the waiter or waitress that served you looked like? Depending on what was going on in your mind at that time, certain things happening around you might not have been so important and so your brain chose to faze them out of your memory.
“Or, it could be something unpleasant that happened to you in public. You are a public figure so am sure you’ve at least had one or two such moments when the memory of it crept up your mind, you cringed in embarrassment and quickly brushed it out of your head.”
Oliver laughed. “Yes, may times actually.”
“It is the same with repressed memories, although on a much higher level and because it happens unconsciously, there is no way of controlling it. It happens as a defence mechanism to help the individual deal with the stress or trauma that might be happening or happened and who can tell how many times someone will get to experience something unpleasant they would wish to forget?”
Oliver scratched his head, still confused by everything the doctor was saying. “But not everyone forgets bad memories,” he said. “Alex’s case seems special. Why her?”
“There’s always a danger when an individual’s stress or trauma related experiences are repressed every time they happen.” The doctor said. “Eventually, the mind adapts to that kind of escape mechanism…it becomes abnormal repression which if not monitored and corrected can lead to maladaptive or anti-social behaviour.”
“Okay, now you are just scaring me?” Oliver said. “Are you telling me that-“
“Why don’t you bring Alex over to my office and we can pick it up from there.” She said. “I do not think that Alex’s case is pathological but given her past experiences, it won’t hurt to get her the needed help as soon as possible. Also,” the doctor added but the perturbed look on Oliver’s face caused her to pause.
“What are you thinking about Oliver?” She asked.
“Does Alex have a mental problem doc?” He asked. “And please don’t try to sugar-coat things with me. Just tell me the truth.”
“No, I do not think Alex is mentally disturbed which I believe is the phrase you were going for.” Dr Sanjay said. “Rather, I am meant to believe that she has some psychological issues going on that need addressing right away.
“By psychological issues I am referring to her childhood experiences that have conditioned the way she looks at life…her life to be more specific which in turns affects her relationships…these being you, Anton, her friends and people in general. In the past, we only focused on helping her heal from past experiences we were not even aware of but now that we know exactly what we are dealing with, I think that we can get her to lead a normal healthy life, and soon, hopefully.”
“You think or you know?” Oliver asked.
“There’s nothing certain in psychology and sometimes it all depends on the patient, but,” here she raised her finger for emphasis. “I promise to do everything in my power to help her.”
“So when is she likely to recover these memories?” Oliver asked, lowering his gaze slightly to avoid the doctor’s searching eyes.
Doctor Sanjay smiled. “Do you want her to remember those memories Oliver?” She asked.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” Oliver argued. “I just want to know if it will take as long as it did her childhood memories.”
“I can’t tell you how long,” she answered. “She can even remember today, tomorrow, after a week…or years later. There’s no way of knowing. However, you must remember that there’s a very good reason why her mind chose to block those memories away.”
“Are you saying that it is better for her to forget them?” Oliver asked.
“You sound disappointed.” Dr Sanjay noted. “Doesn’t it work best for you if they remained forgotten? Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“I don’t want her…or her mind…subconscious, whatever it is to get used to blocking away unpleasant memories every time they happen.” Oliver said. “I want her to learn how to deal with every situation when it happens, good or bad. She has to know that pain is part of life and learn how to consciously and actively deal with it.”
“You have a very valid point.” The doctor agreed. “Which is why I want to carefully make her confront the repressed memories and then teach her how she can deal with such emotions in the future. It’s not an exact science, but there’s hope.”
“So when should I bring her?”
“The sooner the better.” The doctor replied.
From Doctor Sanjay’s office, Oliver went straight to his office where a team of actors, directors and some crew members from his latest project awaited him. Always one to keep his appointments, it came as a surprise to everyone when the CEO came in two hours late.
However, despite consciously forcing his mind to focus on the work at hand, Oliver’s mind kept going back to what had happened the previous night with Alex and what the doctor had told him about her condition. It was no secret that she needed help. He had sensed it the very first time he met her and all through the years he had suspected that there was something different about her and how she reacted to certain incidences.
Even though Alex always spoke her mind, she was never one to disappoint anyone. At first Oliver thought that her behaviour was directed at him and Anton only but after what Doctor Sanjay had said, he started to question everything. There was rarely a time when Alex turned down a request from a friend, no matter how busy or unavailable she was.
Oliver remembered feeling concerned about how Alex would go out of her way to ensure those around her were happy. Sensing the financial situation at the Sunders house, at a very young age, Alex had devised a way to ensure she stayed out of that family’s way so as not to burden them with her presence. Wasn’t it the reason why they met in the first place? Didn’t she try to do that again just recently when she discovered who Anton was dating? Instead of fighting it out, she preferred to leave…to run….just as her subconscious kept running away from stressful and traumatic events happening in her life. For how long had she been living like that and how long was she going to keep living like that?
For two days these thoughts could not leave Oliver’s mind. He woke up worrying about Alex and he went to bed thinking about her. He could not even get himself to sit her down and tell her that he had scheduled an appointment for her with Dr Sanjay. He deliberately came home very late in the night and left for work very early in the morning before she woke up. It was only when Alex randomly showed up at the shooting site where his media company was directing a music video that Oliver realized exactly what was going on.
“Sir, there’s someone here to see you.” One of the crew members told Oliver whose gaze had been fixed on the pool side scene ahead, keeping a closer look at what his team was doing and how they were doing it.
“Someone to see me?” He asked, turning to give the thirty-something year old a questioning look. “Who?”
Just then he heard, “Mr C!” and he raised his head to find Alex nervously waving at him from one of the hotel doors leading to the swimming pool.
Oliver quickly motioned for her to sheesh, pointing to the actors by the poolside deep in their scene. He rushed to where she was.
“Alex, what are you doing here?” He asked. “How did you even-“
Alex laughed. “Sometimes you forget that I’ve worked as your PA before…and that I am your number one fan. I have access to your everyday schedule. Is that Sam?” She was pointing to the casually dressed and very good looking male standing not far from where Oliver had been standing, he too was closely watching the young couple by the pool act out their love scene.
Oliver smiled. “Yes that’s Sam and please don’t scream.” He warned her. “We are shooting the video for his latest single.”
“Die loving!” Alex was almost shouting in excitement but she put her hand over her mouth in time.
Oliver laughed before a look of concern took over his face. “Is everything okay?” He asked. “You’ve never visited me on site before.”
“I had to force myself to see you right now or I was never going to.” Alex said. “Now I finally know why you haven’t bothered to call me even after I moved out of the mansion.”
“You did what?” Oliver asked.
“Moved out?” She repeated.
“You moved out of my house?”
Alex nodded. “You didn’t know?” She asked. “I left a note on your dresser since I hardly ever saw you at home those two days.”
“When did you move?” He asked.
“Two days ago.” She said.
“Why? Did you go back to your place with Anton?”
Alex chuckled. “No way.” She said. “I told you, it’s better for me to stay out of their way.”
“Then why did you move out of the mansion?” He asked.
“I didn’t want to inconvenience you…and also, I wanted to live closer to the new hospital am interning at.”
“You are interning at a hospital?” Oliver asked. “How come you never mentioned any of this to me?”
“I told you in the note I left.” She said.
“What happened to your phone?” He asked.
“I didn’t want to disturb you Mr C. You seemed busy in the past few days…and until today, I had no idea why.”
“Until today?” Oliver asked, searching her face as fear started to register in his. “What happened today?” Oliver’s heart started racing, his mind replaying one incident he was still not sure he wanted her to remember or not.
“What time will your filming be done?” Alex asked, looking at the actors and the crew members in front.
“We can talk right now.” Oliver said. “I have a room reserved at this hotel so we can have some priv-“ he paused when he saw Alex’s strange smile.
“I don’t think a room at a hotel would be such a good idea for this.” She said.
“Oh shit,” Oliver said. “You remembered didn’t you?”
Alex covered her face with her hands in embarrassment. “I am so sooorrry.” She said, her face still buried in her hands.
“Let’s talk in my car then.” Oliver offered and led them to the parking lot where his car was. Alex nervously followed him behind, consciously putting a safe distance between them.
Unbeknownst to them, a man in his early fifties, bald and fat was standing behind a hedge on the other side of the hotel taking pictures of them.
“What exactly did you remember?” Oliver asked once he was sure they were safe in the car. While Oliver went straight to sit behind the wheel, Alex opted for the back seat.
“Everything,” she answered, her head hanging low in obvious shame.
“I don’t know.” Alex said. “I kept having these strange flashes in my head but I was at the hospital earlier today reporting for my first day when I saw a pregnant couple kissing in the foyer and….I remembered. At first I thought I was having wild hallucinations but everything came back, from the time you picked me up from the club to that night…in your room.”
“Alex-“ Oliver wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to say.
“Is something wrong with me Mr C?” Alex asked, her voice filled with sadness. “Why did I do that? And why did I forget? What if Cathy is right? What if I had really tried to-“
Oliver quickly turned to glare at her. “What crazy thoughts are you now having?” He scolded her. “You were drunk and you-“
“I wasn’t that drunk.” Alex corrected him. “I was very sincere when I asked you to marry me…and the kiss too.”
“That’s not sincerity Alex, it’s called fear.” He told her. “I know that you might think it’s sincere but you were simply acting out because you were scared.”
“You sound like Dr Sanjay.” She observed.
“Those are actually her words,” Oliver confessed.
“So you told her about what happened?”
“I did, I had to.” He said. “You lost your memory again and I was very worried.”
“I also called her before I came here.”
“Oh, you did?”
“Yes. I am dying to know why I keep blocking away stuff. What if I have done other crazy things and my memory has blocked them away?” Her voice was shaking now and her eyes watery. “What if…what if there are worse things I’ve done and I just can’t remember? I am so scared Mr C.” and she started sobbing, hanging her head low and burying her face in her hands again.
Oliver opened his door and went to sit next to her behind. He was about to close the door behind him when he sensed someone watching them. The strange man ducked down the moment he sensed his presence was about to be discovered but Oliver managed to catch his moving figure from behind the hedge and quickly closed the door shut.
“Bloody paparazzi.” He said angrily. “They just never stop do they?”
Alex lifted her head up so suddenly that she almost bumped into Oliver’s chin who was just about to put his arm around her.
“They’re here?” Alex asked, her eyes widening in both fear and shock.
“The windows are tinted and this car is safe, don’t worry.” He assured her.
“What if they come to the front? Even though she had stopped crying, her face was soaked in tears as she looked to the windscreen ahead. “I think I should leave.” She tried to reach for the door but Oliver grabbed her hand.
“It’s only one,” he informed her. “And he won’t come to the front because it’s too open and someone will definitely see him and rough him up thoroughly. There are people on the lookout so let’s not worry about him or anyone else out there. This is why I hate hotels, anyone can just walk in and out as they please.”
“I still think that it’s better not to have this conversation here.” Alex said.
“You came all the here to talk to me and I can’t let you leave just like that.” Oliver said. “Besides, we have nothing to hide so why should we live our lives in fear? I have allowed those people to interfere with how I live my life.”
“What did Dr Sanjay tell you?” Alex asked.
“She said she wanted to see you. Just let me know when you have time and I can take you there.”
“I told her that I would see her tomorrow and its fine, I can go there on my own. You don’t have to bother about me.”
“Bother about you?” Oliver gave her a look. “Where’s such talk coming from? Since when have you been a bother?”
Alex lifted her head to look at him. “I did a lot of thinking as I was coming here.” She said. “I was forced to come to a certain uncomfortable realization.”
What’s that?” Oliver asked.
“I was scared,” she said. “I had this fear when I recovered my memories…I thought you didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore and I almost couldn’t breathe just thinking about such a possibility. When I saw you standing over there when I came, I thought about acting cool with you like I didn’t remember anything but then I looked at you up close and everything changed.
“I couldn’t pretend like nothing happened.” She continued. “This thing,” she clasped her blouse over her heart. “It’s too noisy in here and I can’t focus on anything else.”
“What are you talking about Alex?” Oliver asked.
“I’m talking about what happened between us.” She said, her cheeks blushing despite the sorrow in her eyes. “I know you think that I was drunk but I don’t think that’s the reason I kissed you. I remember how I felt when I realized that Anton was seeing someone else, it was even worse when I learnt who the girl was but I also know how I felt this morning when I remembered what happened between us.
“The fear I had is different from the kind I felt over Anton. I haven’t spoken to Anton since that day at the club and it doesn’t hurt so much. It hurts yeah, but not as much as it did today when I realized that you might have been deliberately avoiding me these past three days, I got scared and my heart started pounding nonstop.”
“I don’t know what it all means but more than anything in the world,” she gave him no chance to speak. “I don’t want you to hate me.” she pleaded. “I don’t know what these feelings I have towards you are but I am willing to get the necessary help but please, just promise me that you won’t try to get rid of me. I promise not to act inappropriately with you again.”
“I don’t hate you Alex.” Oliver said. “You are family to me and family doesn’t get rid of family just because something uncomfortable happened.” He said.
“But you’ve been avoiding me ever since.” Alex said.
“I admit that my ways of dealing with the situation were imature but it wasn’t because I was deliberately trying to avoid you. I had a lot of processing going on in my head and remember, I was the only one who remembered what happened and I was aware that you couldn’t.
“The whole situation was new to me and I couldn’t find the courage to talk to you about it. I wanted to tell you to go and see Doctor Sanjay but I also feared that you might think that I am doubting your progress so far concerning your previously recovered memories.”
“What?” She appeared amused by his line of reasoning.
“I know it sounds crazy right now but it made a lot of sense at the time.” He said.
“So are we still friends?” Alex asked.
“More than friends actually,” Oliver replied with a smile. “We are family.” And he moved closer to give her a hug. Alex smiled and hugged him back.
Thank you.” She said, tears welling up in her eyes.
“Can I go watch the shoot with you?” Alex asked Oliver a few minutes later.
“Just don’t scream or disturb the crew as they work. I know how you girls get all excited when you see cute boys.” Oliver warned her as they got out of the car. “We have one more scene to do here and the other one will be done back at the studio.”
“How many scenes remaining in total?” Alex asked excitedly as she walked beside him back to the pool area.
“Just two.” He replied. “And it looks like they are done with the pool side scene.” He was looking at the crew parking up their stuff a short distance away.
“Is Sam going to be in those?” Alex asked.
“And I thought I had a number one fan in you.” Oliver lamented. “Such frail loyalty. It’s so hard to rely on the loyalty of a fan. They abandon you the moment something hot and young comes along.”
Alex laughed. “You are still on number one.” She said. “And Sam in somewhere on number five…or six.”
“Let him not hear you say that.” Oliver said, looking very pleased. “Who’s on number two?”
“Keith Urban.” She said.
Oliver stopped to look at her. “What’s up with you and older guys?”
She laughed. “Are you jealous?”
“Not really, I am better looking than the guy so-“ he resumed walking.
“I think you are just jealous!” Alex ran to catch up to him.
“At your age you should be falling for the likes of Bieber or who’s the other popular kid these days?”
“Austin Mahone?” Alex provided.
“Yes!” Oliver said.
Alex laughed. “How old do you think I am Mr C?”
“Aaah, 15?” Oliver joked.
Laughing, Alex playfully hit him on the side of his arm. “Both of them are way younger than me and,” she moved to stand in front of him. “If I am truly 15, then someone here deserves a room in jail…yep.” She said, her voice still filled with laughter. “About last night-“ She started to say but Oliver quickly covered her mouth with his hand and started dragging her away.
Protesting, Alex mumbled a few words as she was being dragged, still laughing and Oliver released her after a few seconds.
“I think,” Oliver said. “If anyone should be imprisoned, it should be a certain someone that unexpectedly attacked a certain unsuspecting someone. Don’t you think?”
“I knew that would come back to haunt me.” Alex said.
Oliver laughed; very pleased to see that she was back to her usual chirpier self. Alex never allowed bad situations to drown her for too long. She would get upset for a few minutes or hours and then return to her usual happy mood before the break of day. Or perhaps, Oliver couldn’t help wondering this time around as he observed her surreptitiously from the side; is this how she always deals with pain on a regular basis, to just keep blocking everything away and pretend to be fine?
“You brought that on yourself young woman.” He said. They had arrived at the pool side.
“We are moving to the rooftop now sir.” Oliver’s assistant came to update him. “Hi Alex.” He greeted her. “Fancy seeing you here.” The twenty-something year old said with a smile on his face.
“Great to see you too Morgan.” Alex said.
“I had no idea you had gotten yourself such a beautiful young wife Mr Oliver.” Sam came to join him.
Alex almost screamed in excitement upon hearing those words from one of her favourite singers but she remembered Oliver’s warning in time and closed her mouth.
“My name is Sam.” He reached out his hand to her.
A blushing Alex shook his hand. “I know who you are.” She said smiling.
Sam laughed. “You never know.” He said.
“Alex,” she said. “My name is Alex.”
“It’s nice to meet you Alex.” Sam said.
“Alex is my Anton’s best friend, my son.” Oliver further introduced her. “The two of them grew up together so they are more siblings than friends.”
“So she is not your wife?” Sam asked.
Oliver laughed. “No, she’s not. If you are interested in her, you will be pleased to know that she is very much available.”
“Mr C!” Alex was blushing all the way to her toes.
Sam was laughing. “I was actually fishing for information since as you know you are a man of mystery Mr Cooper.” He said. “But if Alex doesn’t mind being my friend, then it would be my pleasure to have her as one.”
“Believe me that idea is more than welcome to her ears.” Oliver teased her.
“Then we are officially friends Alex. It’s nice to meet you again.” He shook her hand again.
Giggling, Alex replied; “It’s nice to meet you again, Sam. Thank you for accepting me as your friend.”
“We should get ready for the next scene before the sun goes down fellas.” Oliver announced.
“Definitely,” Sam said. And turning to Alex, “you are coming as well right?” He asked.
“She was going to come even if you didn’t offer.” Oliver remarked, taking Alex’s hand and leading her away.
Sam laughed and walked together with them.
“How come you are not the one shouting action and cut today?” Alex asked Oliver when they finished shooting the rooftop scene.
“Just because I am the boss doesn’t mean that I have to do everything.” He said. “We should be heading back to the studio now. How did you get here? Did you drive?”
“Hell no.” Alex said. “I was too nervous to drive so I took the train.”
“Are you kidding me?” Oliver said.
Alex laughed. “I needed time to think. I am a psychiatrist in training so I happen to have an idea just how messed up I am, if you must know…and that scares me.” He expression had suddenly turned grave. “But,” she added, putting back the smile on her face. “I don’t want to think about that today so let’s just head to the studio right away!” She took his hand and started leading him away.
They caught up to Sam and his manager walking to their car as well. “I can’t really tell what the relationship between you two is.” Sam remarked. “Father and daughter, or lovers?”
Oliver’s eyes immediately went to where Alex was holding him and he smiled. “I most prefer father and daughter.” He said, placing his other hand on top of their locked hands.
“I guess the mystery has finally been solved,” Sam said as they continued walking.
“Mystery?” Alex and Oliver asked at once.
Sam chuckled. “You are very rich and successful but you’ve been single for a very long time. It can’t be easy for women to come into your life and find such a beautiful daughter by your side without feeling insecure.”
Oliver laughed and Alex blushed. “You are flattering her too much today. We will never hear the end of this after today.” Oliver said.
“Yes I am flattered,” Alex said. “I am almost tempted to believe you but I have seen the women that Mr C dates….” She was shaking her head slowly. “They are not the type to feel threatened by someone like me, believe me.”
“Then I suggest Mr Cooper should consider dating much wiser women.” The twenty-nine year old singer and actor said. “We’re here.” He said, pointing to a red sports car in front of them.
“A fancy car for a fancy singer,” Alex said as she ran her eyes over the luxurious car.
“Actually, it’s not mine.” Sam said from the passenger side door, a smile on his face. He then pointed to his manager. “It’s Roger who’s into these things so I got him this for his 25th birthday a few weeks ago.”
A grinning Roger nodded his head proudly and opened the door for his boss. “We’ll see you at the studio Mr Cooper, Alex.” And he got in the car.
“What did he mean when he said you should consider dating wiser women?” Alex asked Oliver as he drove them to the studio.
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” Oliver said curtly. “He’s always been a wise-ass that one, no wonder he failed to work with JB. It appears the rumours about him are true after all.”
“It sounds like you are no fan of him Mr C!” Alex said. “I wonder why you signed him up.”
“I don’t mix business with my personal feelings.” He said. “He’s a brilliant star and JB was a fool to let him go.”
JB, which was short for John Bradshaw was the CEO of Oliver’s rival recording company Akaniz Records. In the past three years since Oliver’s company was launched, more than six artists had left AR to join his company. Even though John Bradshaw was the largest mountain in the industry and certainly the most experiences, his lack in integrity in his dealings was no secret and over the years he kept losing clients to even much smaller recording companies.
“This is the first video Sam is recording with us and since I haven’t been to any of his shoots since recording started, I couldn’t miss today, it being the last day. I always make sure to at least show up once on location for every one of my new artists to provide some personal customer care despite my schedule. Artists love that.”
“I bet they do.” Alex agreed. “So what’s the last scene about?
“Very simple,” he answered. “It’s a piano scene.”
“Piano!” Alex shouted.
Oliver laughed, the exact thought on Alex’s mind crossing his. “Do you even still remember how to play?” He asked. “Gosh, it’s been a while since I heard you play.”
“Oh, you will be shocked!” She said. “I used to practice on Anton’s piano whenever I found time.”
“See what I mean, used to…that’s past tense.”
“I’ve had too much work to do in the recent past and my research topic isn’t one to play around with.”
“How’s it coming along by the way?” Oliver asked.
“I would say perfect!” Alex said proudly. “It’s the reason I got an internship at my dream hospital.”
“I had emailed my draft to my supervisor to look at and she happened to be at a conference with the director of the hospital at the time. They ended up reading the paper together and the director asked Dr Lukas if he could hire me as an intern.”
“Wow, that’s my girl!” Oliver laid his hand on top of Alex’s hair and raffled it up. “I always knew you would excel at everything you did. Sophia would have been very proud of you.”
“She would?” Alex asked, surprised by Oliver’s sudden mention of his late wife.
“She always used to say that your brain would take you places. You reminded her a lot of herself when she was young.” Oliver said, a bittersweet smile playing on his face.
“She had all these dreams but her health had always given her problems so her parents never allowed her to explore much. She actually thought she could live all her dreams through you.” He laughed as the memories played through his head. “I told you, you were like her dream child, the girl she had always wanted to have.”
“You really loved her, didn’t you?” Alex said, her expression sombre as she watched Oliver play brave but the pain in his eyes was loud enough for anyone to see.
“So are you going to play some for me…so I can see how good…or bad you are?” Oliver said, clearing his throat loudly and announcing the change of topic unapologetically.
“How much are you going to give me if I play well?” Alex played right along with him.
“If you can play a complete verse of any song, without messing up the keys, I’ll give you 500 and if you can do a full song, a thousand, how’s that?”
“I always knew hanging around rich folks would benefit me some day.” She said, laughing.
Oliver laughed too.
Once at the studio, Alex watched in awe as the crew shot Sam’s last scene.
“Can I take a picture of him playing?” She whispered into Oliver’s ear.
“Just one shot,” Oliver said.
“So stingy.” Alex mumbled under her breath as she took out her phone from her very tiny handbag.
“I heard you.” Oliver said but his eyes were focused on the screen before him.
Alex giggled and waited for an opportunity to take her one shot. When the shooting was finally wrapped up, Alex decided to take a tour of the studio while Oliver attended to business. She was so taken in by the things she was seeing that by the time she came back to the room where the shooting had been taking place, everyone was gone.
Thinking that Oliver must have forgotten about her, she called him. “Where are you?” She anxiously asked.
“In the office,” he said. “I’ll find you by the studio in a bit.”
Alex heaved a sigh of relief. “Oh thank God, I thought you left without me.” She said.
She cut the line and walked to the piano Sam had been playing during the video recording, a mischievous smile on her face. “I better practice now if I want that thousand dollars.” She said to herself and sat behind the piano. She set her bag on top of it and sat in position. She played a few random noisy notes for about a minute that she did not even hear Sam stop by the door, his brows raised and with a bemused expression on his face.
He was just about to comment on her terrible skills when Alex suddenly stopped playing, straightened her back and placed her fingers back on the piano. This time, a very recognizable sound came from the tip of the same fingers that had produced that noise he had just heard.
Ludovico Einaudi’s Divenire filled the air.
Oliver appeared right then beside Sam, a puzzled expression on his face as he moved to confirm the person behind the beautiful sound. He was about to walk past Sam by the door when the singer held him back. Oliver immediately understood the silent do not interrupt message and stood back to watch in awe as Alex delivered on every note perfectly.
Oliver could neither believe his eyes nor his ears. How long had it been since he had last heard the song? Why Divenire of all songs? He wondered, one arm crossed over his chest and the other resting on it and raised to cover his mouth. Oliver listened in astound silence as the melody transposed him to a time when he had last heard the piece played.
“What are you doing?” Oliver had just opened his eyes in bed and found Sophia, with her long red hair running loose all the way down her back seated by the piano which was strategically placed by the bedroom window overlooking the ocean at their summer vacation home.
A frail looking but smiling Sophia had turned around to look at him. “I have a surprise for you.” She said. “No, just sit there.” She told him when he tried to get up from the bed to join her.
“Woman, what are you up to?” He had asked her.
“Remember the surprise I said I wanted to give you for your birthday…but couldn’t?” Sophia asked.
“Why do you ask?” Oliver asked, his expression and tone of voice suddenly serious. He didn’t want her feeling sorry about the things they couldn’t get to do because of her illness.
“I told you I didn’t want anything as long as you got better.” He said.
“I know,” Sophia said softly. “I never imagined we would spend your birthday in hospital.”
“Sophia-“ Oliver tried to get out of bed again but she held out her hand to stop him again.
“I want to give you your birthday present right now.” She said, smiling and then she broke out into a cough. She covered her mouth with one had while the other was held out to Oliver to keep him from getting out of bed.
“I’m all right.” She told him but Oliver was already out of bed and kneeling before her.
“Are you okay?” He asked, his eyes filled with worry.
“I’m fine.” Sophia chuckled.
“Stay, I’m going to bring you a glass of water.” He got up to leave the room but Sophia’s voice from behind brought him to a stop.
“You promised you wouldn’t treat me like a patient Oliver.” She said.
Oliver turned. “I know but-“
“Please,” Sophia pleaded. “Just indulge me this once.”
Oliver wanted to protest but the look in her eyes forced him to change his mind and he dropped himself on the bed in resignation.
Sophia laughed. “I have been practising secretly while you were at work.” She said as she turned back to the piano. “I call this piece, Becoming Immortal. I want you to think of me every time you hear it, okay?”
Smiling, Oliver answered; “Yes honey.”
Taking a deep breath and steadying herself, Sophia played Divenire for him.
It was to be her last birthday present to him.
“How long have you guys been standing there?” Alex’s voice forced Oliver back from his reverie and he found a visibly impressed Sam clapping and walking towards her.
“I had no idea you can play or let alone play like that.” Sam said. “Wooow, that was awesome.”
“Thanks!” Alex said, looking very proud of herself. “I practised every morning and night because it was going to be a surprise birthday present for him.” She pointed to Oliver who was walking towards them but he came to a sudden stop the moment he heard her words.
“I am jealous of you Mr Cooper right now.” Sam said. “I would kill to have a girl play Ludovico for me; sad or happy melody!” He told Oliver, completely oblivious to the conflicted emotions running through the CEO’s head.
“I never even got to play it for him.” Alex said. “He had this terrible fight with Anton and the whole mood was spoilt. I wanted him to think of me every time he sat by a piano to make music because he would tease me that my hands were only meant for writing prescriptions.”
And then Oliver heard her say; “Oliver, are you okay?” but it was not Alex’s face he was seeing standing before him and looking at him with concern-filled eyes.
“Sophia?” Oliver said, taking very slow unsure steps towards her.
“Mr C?” Alex said, a puzzled expression on her face. “I ah-“
Whatever Alex had planned on saying was cut short as Oliver wrapped his arms around her, his sudden show of affection shocking both Alex and Sam.