I fired a few people. Oh, hell, they got their severance pay, didn't they? And an ample one at that. It made me feel a better. Not much, but every little bit counted.
"I've only loved you for – "
So why didn't I do anything? Hell, why had I let it happen in the first place? Anger, shock. A bad mood. Then a few days went by, and a few more, and she hadn't called me. And I'd started to think that it was probably for the best.
Who had I been kidding? It never would have worked. Sooner or later one of us would get bored – and let's face it, it would probably be her. She was too smart, and too young. I couldn't keep up with a fifteen year old. I'd never even been one, not properly.
"What?" I snapped. Which brings us back to Friday's meeting.
"Mr Noburi was stating that your brother might want to reconsider his plans for producing an independent film. Such investments are questionable at best…"
"Mokuba can do whatever he wants." I overrode the two of them.
They exchanged a glance.
"But Sir - "
"What part of that statement didn't you understand?"
Another glance between them; increasingly irritating. Those little sons of bitches. I glared at them and they didn't even seem to notice. They moved on to the overall projections for the next two weeks in the entertainment media division. I went back to ignoring them.
If I could have fired them, I would have. I almost missed the good old days, in which I could stomp all over everyone with my big, buckled boots. Well, at least I still had the boots. But necessity forced me to put up with these people. I was CEO of one of the world's biggest corporations; even with my stamina, there'd need to be at least six of me to run it alone.
And let's face it, for the most part they were good at looking after KaibaCorp's interests. It would not be easy to replace board members with such detailed inside knowledge, and even if I poached them off my rivals, firing these men could be downright dangerous given their inside knowledge. Still... They were becoming entirely too damn presumptuous for my liking.
"I've only loved you for..."
And they'd been right, too and I hated their smug little faces for it. I couldn't continue my little… Whatever it was… With Rebecca, not without harming KaibaCorp. I'd worked too long and too hard to build the company to do something now that would destroy public trust in the name. Bonking a highschooler was not a good past-time for me. Sure, Mokuba could do whatever he wanted. He was the adorable young bad boy.
I was now a twenty five year old hardass. Not badass. Hardass.
Oh well. Nothing wrong with a firm posterior.
That probably shouldn't have directed my thoughts back to Rebecca. Christ, if it was for the best then why was I still thinking about her? I ought to be controlling the meeting. Never mind that I paid these assholes obscene amounts of money to watch my back; if I didn't watch it myself nonetheless, they'd still rip my own company away when given too much free-rein. Damned if I kept them employed, damned if I didn't.
"... That's why he's never wanted you!"
Since when had I been such a bleeding heart, anyway? Cry me a myspace. Even when Aiko had turned down my proposal, I'd been over her in a week. (Probably a good thing she hadn't accepted, huh?) But it wasn't as though she'd really loved me, anyway. She loved the idea of me, like so many screaming fans who think they know the 'real' me. That had become abundantly clear in the end.
Maybe it was just that I'd been a little biased against Rebecca's age and felt guilty because of it. ... No, we all know I don't feel guilt.
Okay: maybe it was because no one else had ever really loved me that way and I was too much of an asshole to deal with it.
"… Er… We were just saying how pleased we were that you'd ended your association with the young Ms Hawkins since our last meeting. The media has lost interest very quickly."
The words hung in the air. I stared at him, comprehending entirely too much. Ended your association… our last meeting… These imbeciles thought it was because of them? No wonder they were acting so high-handedly today. Ended. Was that really it? The End? Why didn't I want it to be the end?
Because if this was the end, I probably wouldn't have another chance. If this was the end, I'd probably give up. Admit to myself that I wasn't born for this sort of thing; wasn't raised for it. If this was the end I would probably become more and more bitter and more and more sarcastic and one day just die alone.
That was melodramatic. I'd have Mokuba, after all.
If he wasn't busy paying thirteen women alimony.
"If you'd care to make a press release, at last, to confirm that your liaison was solely related to KaibaCorp's latest security upgrades, as you told us…"
You know what it's like.
I don't want to think so much.
I don't want to be so lonely.
God, what an idiot. It wasn't because she loved me – though despite the fact she hadn't said it properly, I believed it. No… I couldn't stop thinking about her because the brat, the kid, the little vixen was right. About everything. Even Yuugi was right. It didn't matter how old she was, or how old I was, either. We'd actually understood each other, even if I hadn't quite understood myself. One child prodigy to another.
The reason I couldn't stop thinking about Rebecca because I had never loved any one else that way, and never so much.
And I was still in my damn meeting.
"…We can arrange it for you, perhaps for Monday morning?"
I stood up. Before I hit the door, Tanaka shouted at me, "Mr Kaiba? Where are you going? …Would you like to arrange the press release?"
I turned to glare at him. "It's the weekend. I am leaving. I don't think that will be necessary."
He actually opened his mouth again. Actually. Opened his mouth. Again. To argue with me! My god, I'd been slipping. I'd been slipping for a while and maybe some of it had nothing to do with Rebecca. It was the boredom.
The complete and total boredom I had felt with my life before I met her.
And I was making excuses! I was worse than these motherfuckers gaping at me when I walked out on them. I was afraid that I was too weak to run my own company any more! If there would have to be six of me then there would have to be six of me, and god damn the board to hell. Anyone who couldn't be bought could be intimidated. Anyone who couldn't be intimidated could be blacklisted. If just one person double-crossed me by leaking information to another company, I would see that their name was mud, was dogshit, that they would never work in this town or any other town again except perhaps as a portable toilet salesman.
And the best part was that I didn't have to do it with six of me. I had Mokuba. I had Yuugi Moutou, for chrissakes. I could have Rebecca, if I wanted her. Couldn't I?
It was time to find out.
"Tanaka, the press will see enough of me before then. And if any of you ever again dares to instigate a conversation featuring Rebecca Hawkins' name – any of you, ever again – then you are all fired."
There were quite a few scandalised faces looking at me.
"Oh, I'll do it. Kaiba Corp. Seto Kaiba. See the correlation there? Do you understand that Kaiba Corp is my property? And that as far as I'm concerned, so are you. Never forget that I am the one in charge here, gentleman."
I stormed out of the office; not a mere figure of speech. I was brewing. The door slammed so hard behind me that the glass cracked. They all deserved to be scandalised. And so did I.
Rebecca was on the stage and she was adorable. Elizabethan tights, a tunic, brocade, a sword strapped about her slender waist.
"I never gave you aught," she said.
"My honoured lord, you know right well you did," a teenage boy responded, as he fawned after her in dismay.
Rebecca's face was cold, her mien haughty,
"I did love you once," she said.
"Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so." The boy's eyes shimmered with tears. He was dressed in tights, and a tunic also but his was longer, and his hair was curled around his face. Heavy make up. I could easily believe that this Opheliac creature loved Rebecca. Perhaps he did. I knew nothing about her school life, but she had to have admirers.
Unless they were all intimidated by her. Like it was with me.
"You should not have believed me," her words dropped into the air like stones, "for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not."
"I was the more deceived," the poor Ophelia responded. He dropped to the ground, weak at the knees.
"Get thee to a nunnery!" Rebecca shouted. She pulled up him by the elbow, shoved him away from her. Her voice was thick with the sound of despise.
The performance affected me unlike any I had ever been to, and I had been to some of the finest theatres and concert halls in the world. I stood at the back of the Domino High school auditorium and could barely breathe, so taken was I with her movements, her gestures, her slow madness, her Shakespearean fury. It didn't matter that Claudius was wooden, Gertrude just terrible, most of the actors all too clearly uncomfortable teenagers in silly garb, poncing about because their teacher had made them.
Rebecca held me every second I could see her. And I knew I had to do more than show up at her school play, late and regretful.
In the intermission I got on my cellphone. I ordered twelve dozen red roses sent to the dressing room backstage – she didn't have her own, but every jar was labelled "Rebecca" or, alternatively, "Hamlet." It was not the most original of romantic gestures, but I was new to them and figured it was a good start.
But how to build on that, I didn't know.
I called Mokuba.
"Help me," I said by way of a greeting.
"Seto? What's wrong?" The alarm in his voice was touching.
"I'm in love."
"Oh, thank you god!"
"You have to help me."
"Help you what?"
"Apologise. Never having done it before, I am not exactly sure how."
Mokuba laughed. That cruel little beast.
"Don't buy her a present, okay? You can't just give a genius heiress a diamond bracelet and have it mean something."
"Well gee, you sure saved me from a faux pas there. I thought a few lavish gifts would fix everything."
I paced in the school lobby, and so quickly that its garish paisley carpet began to nauseate me.
"For someone who's in the mood to apologise, you sure are bitchy."
"I am caustic because I am nervous," I snapped at him.
"Okay. Look. What does Rebecca care about more than anything in the world?"
"I don't know! Child refugees in the Middle East? Historic junk? Duelling?"
Mokuba sighed down the phoneline.
"No, Seto. Think."
"I don't know!"
"You, Seto. All you need to do is give her you. Really, truly. Be a human being."
"I won't be weak!" I said.
Mokie laughed. "You're Seto Kaiba; weak is not in your vocabulary. Don't be scared."
He hung up on me. The little bastard. Give her me? How the hell do you give yourself to another person?
Behind the auditorium doors, I could hear the play starting up again. She ought to have got the flowers in the intermission. She ought to know they were from me.
Outside the building I could see a kid who looked about fourteen. He was pouting and sucking on a cigarette.
"Hey, kid," I said.
He scowled at me, "Man, you better not have just called me kid."
His eyes widened as he seemed to recognise me.
"I have fifty thousand yen for you if you can get backstage and steal me just one rose."
"What's the catch?" The kid stamped on his cigarette.
I reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a fistful of dollars.
"No catch. One rose. You've got exactly four minutes."
The kid took off running.
Throughout the final act I had watched Rebecca even more closely, attended to her every movement not just for her acting but in search of some small betrayal that she knew I was here, that she was thinking of me. There was nothing, and I felt the closest thing to fear that I have ever felt.
But don't tell anyone, all right?
I was determined.
"Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage – the soldier's music and the rites of war speak loudly for him." A gangly girl in armour gave the solemn order. "Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this becomes the field, but here shows much amiss."
The curtain fell.
The curtain rose.
Rebecca beamed in the centre of the cast, taking her bows. The parents, family and friends – they all cheered. For the first time I saw Yuugi, and a heavily pregnant Mazaki down towards the front of the audience, on their feet, applauding. Jounouchi was there to watch, though probably he hadn't understood half of what he'd seen. Arthur Hawkins and one of his aides were there.
A few photographs were fired off – probably some from parents and some from journalists. Good.
And now her eyes looked around the room. Rebecca's smile faltered for a moment as she didn't see me.
I stepped out from the shadows, where I had stood for hours without a seat. I began to walk down the centre aisle towards the stage. It took her longer than I expected to see me – but a buzz began before I was half way to her. I couldn't walk. I ran.
I don't remember the last time I ran. Part of it was adrenaline, and part of it was a fear of exposure, of rejection, so deep that I could do nothing but run towards her.
Don't tell anyone, all right?
I didn't remember whether I had climbed the stairs or leapt onto the stage, but I handed her a single rose at the same moment that I kissed her. I couldn't see the audience through a flashing of white lights.
"I'm sorry," I said, before she could speak. "You were right, and I am sorry, and no one has ever heard those two statements come out of my mouth together before but I mean them."
"Seto – " she said, and reached out.
I grabbed her two small hands in my own.
"I don't know how far this can go but I don't care. I don't care what age you are. If you want to be fifteen that's all right with me because you are the most intelligent, poised and devlish woman I have ever known and I want you by my side for as long as I can have you there."
She was not dazed. She was not thrown. She did have tears in her eyes.
"Seto, I'm wearing a microphone," she said.
"I love you, Rebecca."
She tried to pull her hands from mine. She whispered, "They can hear you," and the words carried across the room.
"I love you, Rebecca."
She started to laugh. "I love you, too."
I grabbed her, lifted her, spun her off stage, grabbed her hand and took off down the aisle.
"Where are we going?" she shouted. She was still laughing.
"To fuck off my board of directors for now and forever more," I said.
We danced our way to my car, through the streets, and to a future where I would never have to drink my coffee alone again – if I didn't want to. And I didn't.