Well, unfortunately, My story got deleted, which really sucks because I lost all of my reviews (I know I shouldn't care about things like that, but I do, so sue me) Whatever, since I'm writing a sequel to this, obviously, I should repost the original. Well, this is too much work for one night, I'll try to get it up as soon as possible though. And I expect 10 reviews for every chapter! Lol j/k unless u want to review, of course.. ; )

Champagne in the Morning

Chapter 1

Helga G Pataki looked out the window of the moving plane as it flew overhead of her birthplace. Before long it would land and she would step on the ground she last experienced eleven years ago. She could still feel the hardness of it, the rough scratch against her knees on the day that she left, the scar was still there, hidden by time, but not beyond recognition.

Helga did not want to revisit the past; she had not in a decade, and had no intention of breaking the vow she took on that rainy evening. It was a clear night, and as Helga gazed at the long forgotten sanctuary, her heart became heavy with a cruel nostalgia. It was not the sensation one encounters when a sore is rubbed, or salt is poured onto a wound. It was a sensation of utter dullness, utter indifference. The reverie of the energy this city drew from her, and the realization of the emptiness it left behind easily incited rage in her on a regular occasion.

Tonight was different, tonight she was faced with a vivid image of what she had left behind, and that image, in itself, was horrifyingly ineffective. Nothing frightened her anymore; nothing hurt her. Helga was invincible, infallible. She acted with her head and not her heart. Her colleagues described her as being insensitive, indifferent, cold, and heartless. She was. She did not see the wrong in that. Was it not the mentioned insensitivity, indifference, coldness, and heartlessness that drove her to become what she had become? She was the CEO of an infamous but, nevertheless, successful communications company. She owned people, literally owned people. Her friends were her servants and her enemies were her slaves. To succeed within the harsh brutality of Helga's stigma one had to comply with many disadvantages. She was feared, but she was respected, she had a power over people, despite their denial. She was despised, she was cursed, she was slandered, but she was never betrayed. When Helga entered a room, silence would drain all the whispers in its eagerness to hear what she had to say.

Helga never married, nor did she ever have a truly emotional attachment to another human being. She lost her virginity in Smartass University during a night of wild drunkenness, which she never repeated again. She learned from her mistakes. Helga was not beautiful, she was not utterly unhandsome either, but her outward appearance could never measure up to the modern definition of an attractive woman. She had long blonde hair, which she wore up since it complimented her intimidation, and blue eyes, which were sincere enough to give her inner soul away to anyone who could look deep, but went unnoticed due to her crude behavior. Her body was not perfect, she was tall, and had long legs to accommodate for the flat chest. Her shoulders were small, but the masculine business suits always broadened them.

To pick her out of the crowd would be close to impossible if her face was not associated with a particular indignation, which, in most cases, it was. Helga was more known through the way of mouth than through eyesight. She preferred to conduct business with curtains drawn.

Powerful men were never drawn to her, she was too power-mad and egotistical to appreciate the appeal of being housed in strong, muscled arms. This was the general impression from her act. Only weaker vessels were out for her good graces, but weakness irritated Helga. Another problem was the fact that Helga could not trust men. The scar was still on her knee, it was a reminder of that gruesome day. As said before, Helga learned from her mistakes.

She was a genius, a very young genius, but a genius nonetheless. The company had grown from seeds, Helga was its fertilizer. It started out with her father's retirement. Big Bob's Beepers, not an inspirational slogan, but Helga turned it into an empire. She slept her way into investors' good graces, and bribed her way into the advertisers' good tabloids. Before long, she began to thrive on competition, shattering them using the simple act of blackmail. Her weapons were never honorable, but they were weapons just the same. She lived by a simple logic. It doesn't matter how they die as long as they die.

Presently, she found her attentions in the first class cabin of the continental flight. The surrounding was lavish and remarkable. Helga sighed at its dullness; she was not at all impressed.

"When will we be landing?" she haughtily asked the passing flight attendant, a beautiful girl with auburn hair and sincere brown eyes. Her innocence did not strike Helga, it only irritated her.

"In approximately ten minutes," she smiled.

"Get me a glass of water," Helga commanded.

"I'm sorry, we'll be landing soon and."

"You told me that already, now get me the water."

"I'm not authorized to."

"Get me a glass of water," Helga said forcefully.

The stewardess would not yield, "I'm sorry ma'am, I am not permitted."

Helga's _expression softened, "Consider yourself unemployed," she smiled.

"Excuse me?"

A senior woman ran up to replace the novice. "I'm sorry for any disadvantage she may have caused, she is new here" the woman pleaded and redirected her attention to the trainee, "go get some water, and some champagne."

She complied.

"I'm sorry, and please, take the complimentary champagne as our deepest apology."

Helga nodded and turned toward the window. In the distance she heard faint chatter.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"I was following the rules!"

"That's Helga G. Pataki, she makes the damn rules."

Helga smiled at the praise and regained the reminiscence.

Arnold opened his eyes to the incandescence of the waking day. Rays of light beamed through the half-drawn silk curtains over his Victorianesque bedroom. The energizing sunlight played against the beige walls and reflected off the newly polished mahogany furniture.

A smug smile went over Arnold's lips as he extended his hand to find the feel of silk against his palm. It was a blessing compared to the possibility of smooth flesh. She was gone, thankfully, there was no need to find an excuse for a departure, no need to reckon with the inadequate silence and the sloppy kisses on his cleanly shaven skin. She was gone. Another night of entertainment without attachment. It felt almost as exciting as taking candy from a baby, sneaking into a movie through the back door.

He was a man less than holy, but that never seemed to bother him. Eleven years ago, perhaps, but not now. He had changed, his heart had hardened, and he lost all interest in the cleanliness this world had to offer. What could have caused such a change within him? Habit, perhaps. Perhaps cruelty was like rich dark chocolate. It had its own unique, bittersweet flavor. Not everyone enjoyed it, but those who did were hooked for life. Perhaps it was like smoking. You cough for a short period of time, but when you get used to it, a single cigarette can make your life more blissful. Perhaps cruelty was like sex. The first few times are painful and uncomfortable, but when you gain experience, it feels like the most extraordinary act in the world. Habit, it all lay in the habit. Happiness is always momentary; it is a chocolate bar, a cigarette, a one- night stand. But when it is all over, all bliss disappears and you are left only with remorse. And that is when you jump to the next chocolate, next cigarette, next one-night-stand. But after Arnold ate the sweets, puffed the pack, fucked the model, after it was all over and he felt neither hungry, tense, or lonely, he needed something else. That something else, that gratification, he found in cruelty. Cruelty was universal, unstoppable, unrestrained. Cruelty was a new nature of habits, that something that accounted for the insatiable emptiness he felt within.

On the nightstand, Arnold noticed a paper on which, in feminine handwriting, was scribbled a telephone number and a lipstick mark of a seductive shade. He made his way toward it and picked up the reward. He then proceeded to smell the dab, sigh with gratification, and toss the paper into a trashcan, filled with many of the same kind. "Oops," he said cynically, "What did I do with that paper?" With his morning ritual completed, Arnold began to dress.

"Ms. Pataki! Please, Ms. Pataki! Do you have any statements regarding the commotion lately circulating your persona?" exclaimed Lila Monolli as she followed Helga to the contemporary doorway into the biggest skyscraper in the city with a tape recorder.

Helga tried to avoid the press at all costs. The scandal dealing with the lawsuit, which she had come to attend, was better left not exploited by the sneaky reporters.

"No comment," she replied irritably, scurrying up the sidewalk.

"Does your lack of words imply the possibility that you are nervous about the outcome of the trial?"

Helga was angered, and despite the warning produced by all of her image consultants and PR agents, she would not let an inferior interrogate her.

"Does your diarrhea of words imply the possibility that you are nervous about the lack of content for the expose you are writing on the evildoings of the corporate giant?"

Lila's green eyes brightened, "Not at all. What makes you think that?"

"I know your type," Helga grumbled, "And I know you. I think it's pretty self-explanatory."

Lila lessened her composure, "I know you too, but I don't think that needs to interfere with our professional relationship."

"I would agree with you," Helga began to walk away while speaking, "if we had a professional relationship."

This time, Lila did not follow. She knew this was not the place to be if she wanted information. Instead, she redirected her attention to the opposite side of the conflict, and a certain connection she had within it. Lila called a cab, and almost momentarily one pulled up.

A Russian immigrant, Mr. Kakashka, whom Lila knew well, drove the vehicle.

"Where today?" he asked in a less than sober tone.

Despite the slight nervousness Lila responded, "FootballHead Inc."

Arnold was sitting in his office and overlooking the portfolio containing important papers about the case. It was a lawsuit unlike any other. For the first time someone dared to deal with the shady but powerful BBB. This was a big one, and Arnold, as the owner and top partner at the most prestigious law firm in the country, was in charge. He knew he could grab BBB by its balls. Proof was gushing through the ceiling.

Charges of blackmail, threats, bribes, attempts at monopoly, and even links to criminal organizations. The equipment distributed to the population was not only fragmented, but also unsafe, and a nationwide recall was only a few months away. This was not the least of it. Thirteen charges on fraud were made, including insurance. There was possibility of theft, and even spying on the competition. This was more than McDonald's infamous coffee incident. Someone was going to jail.

A leggy brunette entered Arnold's office and sank on the desk, crossing her perfectly molded limbs. Arnold always had a liking for that particular part of a woman's physique.

"Rhonda." He smiled, "How are you today?"

"You didn't call," she moaned seductively.

"Neither did you," he quickly responded without looking up. Arnold had a rebuttal for every argument; he wasn't married yet.

"Men are supposed to call women."

"Only if you are old fashioned."

"I am not old fashioned," Rhonda cried in indignation, "I am the most sought out, overbooked model in this damn city, I think I know my shit."

"In that case, I should interpret it as you not being interested in me?"

"Arnold!" she approached and threw her arms around his neck.

He did not enjoy the show of affection. This ex prom queen, whom he had known since he was young, did not strike any heat within him. The only reason he had ever taken her out to dinner and afterward to his castle of an apartment was because every other man in the world would kill to have her. Arnold liked being admired. In his world, and, as it seemed, the world of all others, the one with the most toys won. He was a legend in his town.

"Does your father know about this?"

"No," she replied, "You said it would be better to keep things secret between us since my dad works in the same building and you don't want any trouble."

"Exactly," he said, "So would you please be so kind as to release that ghastly grasp? You're suffocating me."

"I'm sorry," Rhonda awkwardly obeyed.

No one else had ever dared to treat her in that way. Arnold's dauntlessness aroused her, and she was desperate to have him for herself. Suddenly, there rang a soothing bell and a stern voice spoke through the loudspeaker.

"Mr. Arnold, Mrs. Monolli is here and she desperately wishes to speak to you."

Mrs. Monolli, Arnold hated that phrase. Lila was the only living human he could bring himself to unconditionally respect. She was as beautiful now as she was in fourth grade, when he first encountered her. Never did she fade; never did her image cease to exist in his deepest, sweetest dreams, safely tucked away in the farthest realms of his imagination. He felt for her such passion, as there never could be in simple one-night stands. He did not want to fuck Lila; he wanted to make love to her.

Why did she have to go and get married? They would have been so good together. He could just imagine waking up next to her every morning, gazing into her unspoken, glamorous eyes every night. He could have been the happiest man in the world just by trying to make her the happiest woman. He could have been the kindest, most earnest. She could have listened to him, understood him, helped him carry the load. She could have been his salvation, but she was his punishment. She could have rescued him. But she didn't.

The secretary awaited instructions.

"Let her in," Arnold commanded.

Another bell rang and the conversation was finished.

"Rhonda, I must speak in private with Mrs. Monolli," it pained him to pronounce these words.

"I understand," she said bitterly, "Good bye."

She exited the office. A few minutes later, Lila entered, and at the mere familiarity of her innocent green frock Arnold felt himself spring up and walk towards her.

"Hello," he stumbled, "How are you?"

"Why, I'm ever so well, I'm going to Thailand with Jonathan as soon as I am done with my present assignment," she smiled, not noticing his agitation, "And you? How is your work?"

"Good," he said professedly, "Just the case, I've been working on it for months, and look where it's gotten me. I'm pretty excited."

He invited her to sit opposite of him at the desk.

"Me too," Lila smiled as she situated herself across from the awe struck man.

"Isn't it kind of special how we are working on the same case? I think it brings us closer together." Arnold could not believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. On no occasion would he speak in such a way except that of the glorious Lila.

"Yes," Lila smiled, "We are great friends." She had always known his feelings but was too afraid to acknowledge that she did not feel the same way. She loved the friendship and the source, and was too afraid to wreck both.

"Would you like to have lunch together?" he asked.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "I have a meeting and then I have to go home. Jonathan and I are flying to New York to see an opera, I think its Carmen."

"Oh," Arnold sighed ruefully, "Then why are you here?"

"I came here to talk to you about the case," she said honestly, "I had a brief but interesting conversation with someone.Brief.but interesting." "Who was it?" he inquired. "It was Helga G. Pataki. Apparently, she flew in last night for the trial."

Arnold knelt hid head to hide the look of disgust from his precious dove.

"I wanted to warn you. I knew you would react in this way."

"In what way?" he asked, his resonant tone giving him away.

"Arnold," Lila said somberly, "Is the real reason why you're doing this to Big Bob's Beepers what happened ten years ago? Trust me, I did a follow up on him for the article, he's living in a retirement home somewhere in Florida. It is ever so stupid to revisit the past."

"My Grandparents are living in a retirement home somewhere in Florida. Mr. Kakashka is a cab driver; his wife left him to go to a rich man. I don't even know where the rest of them are. None of this would have happened if the boarding house was still there, now it's just an empty lot because Big Bobs Beepers decided to relocate."

"But Arnold..."

"They stayed there for two years, Lila!" he screamed, "They wrecked the boarding house and put the store in, for two years of hardly thriving business, they destroyed over a hundred years' worth of history. They destroyed my childhood, Lila." His voice was passionate and deep. "But I'm not doing this because of that," he continued sadly, "I'm doing this for the money, I'm doing this so that I can be on the cover of Mall Street Journal, so that they call me a hero for cleaning a toilet."

Lila rose and walked to him. Her hands touched his temples and her hot lips pressed against the crown of his head. He felt a sudden zephyr of enlightenment; her presence healed his broken heart.

"I better go," Lila whispered and began to strut toward the door. This was not enough. He had to stop her.

"What did you say to her?" he asked. Lila turned and pressed her back against the door,

"Nothing special. Just the journalistic stuff I'm supposed to ask."

"How did she respond?"

"Rudely, proudly. She seemed angry and upset, very tense; I could sense that in her voice. She got a little taller, but she's still the same person."

"Typical Helga," he grumbled, remembering the one eyebrow, unkempt ponytails and the wrinkled pink dress.

"She's under a lot of pressure. It's not her fault."

"No, it is her fault. This case is not made up, it's substantiated by reasonable evidence."

"Neither is your hate for her. Arnold, you never hated anyone except for the two Patakis. While I may overlook your feelings for her father, I cannot help but feel remorse that you have unjustified emotions over her. She never did anything to you."

Arnold looked at the ground yet again, this time to conceal something not only from Lila but himself. He felt hate for Helga because of something else, something deeper, more destructive and frightening than that. He did not know what it was, and he didn't want to care. He could not help himself; he cared. He cared very much.

"I don't see why you are so concerned. I don't hate her, at least anymore. Last time I've seen her was eleven years ago. We were both seventeen. As a matter of fact, last time I saw her, she hated me as much as I hated her."

"And if you saw her on the street..."

"I would act professional, approach her, and introduce myself. I'd like to see her reaction to the fact that I'm not bitter about what happened."

"What did happen, on that night, what happened between the two of you?"

"Nothing," he replied, "Nothing worth remembering."

Lila nodded disapprovingly, "In that case, I'll see you later, Arnold."

As he watched her leave, he could not help but overlook the poise and chic she represented. He his love for her was enormous, which, he knew, was greater than that of Jonathan's. With melancholy and despair, he rose and exited the office.