Spare Another Twenty-Five Minutes

-Chapter Three: Who am I?-

[Bella]

I went out of my room in the second floor of our house. Yorkie is standing by the door. I took my luggage down stairs and locked the door. What I'm doing right now isn't right, my mom is alone in the hospital barely breathing, and I'm going to a unfamiliar distant land with a stranger. I can't understand myself why am I doing this? Do I still hate Ma? But I'm sure that I don't hate her one bit, I'm just a bit distanced from her. I want to know myself more because it's my true self, my identity. My actions now are unacceptable, inappropriate, and completely idiotic. But I'm curious. Who Am I?

Yorkie took the luggage from my hands and placed it inside a black luxury car. I was suddenly stunned by the sleekness of the car.

"So simple Ms. Swan" he said referring to my plain shirt and old blue jeans.

"Ms. Swan? Sorry I'm not yet used to being called that, I still want to use Cullen."

"Ok, Ms. Simple Cullen" He joked.

"I'm a simple peasant but now being a Cinderella riding a carriage which is this black car." I eyed him as if asking him who it belongs to.

"It belongs to the sector" he whispered.

"Sleek!" I cheered myself as I slid myself in. The inside of the car has complete portable entertainment appliances. Yorkie sat on the passenger's seat in front beside the driver.

"So what do you want to watch?"

"Anything on the news."

"Ok" he grabbed the remote controller and changed the channel to CNN.

Forbes Magazine recently announced this year's top 5 richest people in the world. The first on the list is Fernandino dela Fuentes of Argentina which possesses over 498.74 billion properties; he is then followed by Valentina Morrison from Spain with 377.98 billion worth of ownership. The third is Guillaume de la Martinière-Allègre from France having a close number 375.96 billion worth of tenure, followed by Edward Anthony Masen Sr. from Arizona, USA having 359.07 billion at hand. The last in the list is Lefebvre Tchaikovsky-Kuznetsov from Russia.

For further information, log on to the Forbes website or grab the latest issue of the magazine.

"You know that Masen owns a car company, residences, condominium units and a publication company, there are much more actually"

"It must have been awesome to be that rich" I commented.

"Yup!"

All throughout the trip, we were endlessly talking about the lives of elite people. I didn't even notice how the time passed that we reached the airport.

"Where's my ticket?"

"You don't need a ticket, we'll be flying in a private jet.

"Wow, private jet? Cool." I was so innocent about this. I never rode a plane before and on top of all that it's a private plane. It's just amazing. The inside is luxurious, there's even a stewardess who served me Hot Chocó. And like the car, this has all the entertainment to pass the time quickly.

"Does this plane belong to your sector too?"

"I can't tell you" he left me in wonder.

~ζ~

"Bella, we're here" he shook me by my shoulder. I didn't notice that I fell asleep in the plane. I rubbed by eyes with my finger to adjust my blurred vision.

"Here already?" I sounded really drowsy.

"Yup… please get up."

I yawned once more before standing on my feet. "Ok"

Yorkie led me to a limousine. I got shocked instantly upon seeing the lustrous car in front of me.

"Your sector must really by rich" I said in awe.

"You're so naïve Ms. Cullen" he whispered but in a tone I can hear.

"How am I naïve? It's normal for a peasant like me to be amazed by this car, it's my first time too."

"Just get in." he said a bit irritated.

I was watching the rapid images outside the window the limo, carefully familiarizing myself with this place called Phoenix, Arizona.

"We're here!" he said catching my attention from my idling.

High silver steel gates surrounded a huge land. The mansion is completely mesmerizing from the outside. Everything's majestic. It looked like the queen and king lived there. The noble people of the modern era or better described as royalty. I can't believe I'm related to the people who owned this place.

"Mrs. Swan, I'm here in front of the mansion's gate with Katalina." I heard Yorkie over the phone. Not soon after the gates were opened by two men in their bodyguard outfit.

I stared blankly into space when I was trying to figure out that this is my family. I'm rich? I never imagined myself having this state of being. I'm a princess?

The driver opened the door for me. I got out and marched my way into the lavishing front door. "Katalina!" a woman came running and hugged me. "Finally, you're here."

"Uh… Hi" I mumbled nervously. I forgot all my words and my throat kept suppressing the voice in.

She pulled away from her clasp. "I'm Sue Swan, your step mother."

"I'm very pleased to meet you, ma'am" I whispered. I felt extremely uneasy when I heard myself speak to her.

"Just call me Sue or mom if you want, there's no need to be so formal, Katalina." She smiled sincerely making me feel lighter.

"Mrs. Sue, she's lived her whole life in the name Bella Cullen… she may seem uneasy if you kept calling her Katalina" Yorkie barged in.

"Oh, ok, sorry Bella."

"No need for apologies…" I smiled lessening the discomfort.

"Ok, please get ready for dinner, Bella." I nodded in response. "A dress is made for you in your room."

Then a young lady approached me in a maid outfit. She took my luggage and led me up the staircase in direction to my new room. I'm entirely spacing out. Then the sound of a door opening broke me out of my daze. She placed the luggage beside the queen-sized bed.

"Will it be fine here?"

"Yes."

I became surprised when she bowed and left the room, in a very respectful.

I guess it's the start of living a princess life. But I don't know the reason why I become so anxious, like I feel there's something missing in my life despite of having all this with me.

I stared at the cocktail dress laid on the bed. It's a sleeveless colored light pink with a tinge flower prints. It looked extravagantly elegant I can't imagine myself being in that dress.

"Lavishing" the only word I can describe the dress and the wide room. "All these for me" I took a glance on the table distant from the bed. I saw a picture of a one-year old child in a baby dress. She has thin brown hair and brown eyes held by both of her smiling parents. The man who seemed to be the father has a funny mustache. And the mom has curly brown hair a bit similar to the child. Is this me?

"I can't remember anything…" I whispered holding the frame in my hands. "It's as if I never been a Swan, all those years wasted."

I held the tears back pulling myself into place. I prepared myself for dinner, as she suggested. I went out the room from somewhere not far I heard loud eerie voices. I trailed on to where the sound is coming from which led me to a room from a few steps away.

"YOU'RE TAKING AWAY ALL WHAT'S FOR ME AND SETH JUST FOR A BASTARDA LIKE HER?" the tone sounded really sharp for a woman. She somewhat has a slight Spanish accent.

"Leah, please she's your sister… your father's daughter, treat her well." She pleaded.

"NO, GRANDMOTHER GAVE HER ALL, ALL OF FATHER'S PROPERTIES, AND LEFT US WITH NONE. SHE TOOK ALL WHAT'S RIGHFULLY OURS!" she took a moment to catch her breath. "I JUST CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU HAVE TO TAKE HER IN WHEN SHE LIVED HER LIFE AWAY FROM US!"

"It's your grandmother and father's wish" the girl seemed to have calmed down.

"Sometimes I felt like I never been his daughter" her tone now is more calm but quivering in the sound of crying. "He spent his life searching for her… most of his time with those investigators"

I heard steps coming my way, I pulled my ears away from the door half-trembling. I ran to the staircase and almost tripped over but good thing I grabbed the handle beside the stairs.

"Hey, careful, Bella" Yorkie caught my attention when I heard him say my name. "Can I complement that you look stu—nning?" I looked from top to bottom, I see he noticed the sneakers I'm wearing. "What's with the sneakers?"

"It's not comfortable wearing heels."

"You're a princess now, stop acting like a peasant."

"That's part of me already." I reached the bottom of the grand staircase.

He just nodded. Then offered his arm for me. "C'mon, I'll lead you to the dining room." I took it and gave him a smile.

"Thanks for being a real friend…"

"Yes, you're welcome"

He led me to a chair in a rectangular table. Six maids came out from the kitchen holding various dishes then on by one then placed it on the table. There's like choreography when they danced as they took the lid off the trays, revealing different French cuisine. And stupidly, I was clapping.

"Bella, stop." He held my wrist to break my applause. "They're not dancing."

"Oh…" I sat up hiding my shame but failed due to my reddened face. "Sorry" I whispered. Good thing no one except him is on the table.

Soon, a nurse pushing a wheelchair where a weary old woman sat on. I stood up to acknowledge her presence.

"Good evening" I waved happily.

"Bella, that's inappropriate." He restraint my hands to stop.

"Sorry" I whispered.

"Oh stop Eric, it's fine, I see my eldest granddaughter has such a spirit." She uttered with a gleaming smile. "Come here, give your granny a big hug, Katalina" I walked over to her and did what she said, I was struck by a sudden déjà vu, it really appears that this moment had happened before. She tapped my back lightly when I embraced her. "You've grown into a wonderful lady; I must thank whoever took care of you." I saddened as I pulled away from her.

"Esme, my Ma, she took care of me." I showed a weak smile.

"Where is she?"

"She's left in Washington."

"Esme Cullen had an attack, I suggest that we move her here in Arizona, because her spouse had died and she's alone." Eric explained.

"Oh, is that so?" the nurse placed her closer to the table. "Then, we'll arrange it right away."

He nodded.

"What am I really moving here? I thought it was just for a few days?" I whispered to him. But I didn't get any response.

"Sit Bella, we'll talk about it later."

Sue entered the dining room with a young man about twelve or thirteen trailing behind her.

"Hello, Bella, I'm Seth" he smiled.

"Hi Seth" I waved with two hands in so much excitement in knowing him. I didn't have any brother and sister.

"Talk about no breeding" I noticed her voice, she's the one yelling at Sue earlier. She stared at me coldly with her arms crossed. She approached a seat away from me.

"Leah, mind your manners" Sue growled at her. "I'm the one apologizing Bella."

"It's ok" I ate silently feeling a bit uneasy.

The dinner became very uncomfortable as Leah, kept looking at me like I'm some kind of outsider who infiltrated their house, or the glare may mean that I'm a thief stealing the inheritance she's talking about.

Sue tried to cheer up the mood of the dining room by telling jokes about Charlie which I complemented with slight giggles, my grandmother, Katarina, she wants me to call her Rina for a younger tone and shorter name. I see my name Katalina is derived from her name replacing one letter. She tells about how I was I'm still living here, in other words, when I'm only a clueless one-year old. She didn't talk anything about my mom, except the part about Charlie almost killing himself when Renee, my mom died, and loosing me in the accident.

It really didn't make any sense, how do they know that I'm still alive after the crash?

I threw the question to my grandmother she thought about it for a meanwhile, and then answered. "Some doctor saw you alive, he's named James… I forgot his last name, not only him though, some nurses too and the rescuers." She looked at me in the eyes. "And if you are really dead, we'll see your body, but we found no corpse of a Katalina Swan." She smiled softly. "Finding you, my eldest granddaughter, is my wish before I leave this world… this is also your father's dying wish." Her tone sounded solemn.

Somehow her words made me want to cry, I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket and wiped the waters trying to escape the corner of my eyes. "I wish I never parted with my father, he loved me and my mom so much."

"Marrying me is against his will, but he learnt to love me, little by little." Sue said coldly. "Charlie is an only child and the only inheritor of business in his generation, and soon he needs another successor for the next generation to come, so he needs to marry and born children."

"The Verdiana Café's secret recipes have been kept for centuries since Napoleon's time." Seth pointed out.

"Verdiana Café?"

"Yup, the restaurant you worked in." Eric cleared.

I noticed the maids clearing the table. I glanced at Leah, who gave me an haughty look and rolled her eyes, she stood up and left the dining table.

"I'm sorry about Leah, she's just a brat." Seth smiled.

"I understand." I nodded formally. "It's really hard to accept a half sister."

"No, you're very much welcomed here, except for that spoiled sister of mine."

"Seth, enough!" Sue scolded. Then turned to me. "Bella, can we discuss about your inheritance now?"

"I guess I'm out too." The young black-haired man stood up and headed for the door.

Eric took out papers from his briefcase. He handed me a thick folder, he also gave Sue and my grandmother a copy.

"As my eldest grandchild, I want to obligate you to be the sole inheritor of Verdiana Café, handling associates and business partners are part." She spoke sharply as my eyes began to widen. How can she entitle me into such a heavy burden? One second I was standing in the porch of a simple two-storey bungalow, and now in a mansion? I took a heavy breath. How can she give me this duty? I absolutely have no idea how to handle a simple lemonade stand so hoe am I handling an ancestral café?

"Bella, I'll help you handle this… of course Sue and Rina will manage the company for 2 to 3 or 4 years, while you study business and management… learn every twist and turns of Verdiana." Yorkie explained looking at my dumbfounded face. "Certainly, you're not going to handle the business without any information about it… Don't worry, it'll be fine, you're a Swan after all." She chuckled lightly trying to lighten my mood.

"Let's leave the Café business first, about Charlie's properties her named after you… Eric please tell her." Sue uttered out.

I took a sip of the iced tea on the tables, wanting to wash my throat to exclaim out words like "I CAN'T POSSIBLY BE A SOLE SUCCESSOR!" but I can't really say that, I swear I'm screaming inside my mind when I heard all those.

"For starters, there's 700 mil—" he stopped when I spitted out all the juice inside my mouth. I cupped my hand to my mouth in so much shock, "—lion" he continued. I took my handkerchief again, and wiped the drop on the corners of my lips.

"S-Sorry!" I mumbled nervously.

Sue, Yorkie and my grandmother laughed at my reaction.

"…Left in your bank account with a cruise ship" my eyes widened again severely surprised. "And an island in Micronesia." My face frowned.

"Th-Th-Those are all mine?" I whispered each word not hearing myself. I swear in that moment in time, hearing all those made me stutter insanely wanting to pass out, all those belong to me?

"Yes." he nodded. I clutched the glass tightly under my palms trying to calm myself down.

Sue and gran didn't faint their smile.

"So anyway, the rest of your inheritance are there in the folder, you can read it if you want"

"The rest? This is not all?" my tone is in huge disbelief. She nodded with poise and a smile on her lips. "I can't take all these, can't you just entitle those to Leah?"

"You can give her a portion, but not exceeding 30% of it all." Yorkie further elaborated. "No including Verdiana."

"Katy, please just accept it, you'll get used to it after sometime."

I guess I have no other choice but to nod in response.

~ζ~

I read the folder, it took me 3 days to read it all, I'm all surprised by it. I can claim 70% of all Katarina Swan's properties after her death leaving Seth and Leah with 30% only, giving them fifteen each. That's a really small number compared to mine.

One-hundred seven branches of Verdiana Café in my name, branches from all over that world, including France itself. But I still have to manage all the branches even those who are owned by the major business associates.

A name really marked up to me when I saw the last name Greiner on the list. It took me back to that time in the restaurant making me want to despise him more.

Aside from the inheritance, Yorkie is also arranged the changes in my name. Like disposing of all the certificates and information which have my name as "Isabella Marie Cullen" and the date "June 20, 1992" as my birth date replacing the documents to "Isabella Marie Swan" and my birthday to "September 13, 1993" as well as my age to 17. I'm really grateful to them because they let me keep the name Isabella Marie in my name, but giving them the consent to call me Katy.

As expected, Leah is still bitter to me. She never speaks to me whenever I try to start a conversation, which I also hate. That spoiled brat gets in my nerves. I really hate her, but I want to please her, it's a bit complicated in my part, she hates me too. Maybe I want to throw her the unnecessary obligation that our grandmother had plunked on my shoulders.

A knock on the door from my bedroom broke me out of my thoughts. It opened revealing Sue behind the door. "Bella, I want you to meet someone." She said with a smile. I sat up from my bed and faced her.

"I'll get ready right away…"

I trailed my way downstairs wearing pink v-neck shirt and a long fuchsia skirt three inches below my knee. I wore two inches black and pink high heels, for the first time, I hate to walk with that. Sue just bought it for me and it may seem rude not to use it.

"Bella, have a seat." She offered a chair for me.

"How dazzling, Bella Swan." A familiar voice disturbed me. I tried to find the person owning the annoying voice.

"Bella, this is Michelangelo Greiner." My eyes widened as I saw the last person on earth I want to see. I hate to see him; I nearly forgot how to act logical around my family. I didn't even flash a smile upon seeing him but this is better that going insane in front of them. "He wants to see you since he found out that the first granddaughter have been found." Sue smiled but I completely ignored her because I was glaring furiously as Mike with a sinister grin.

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Greiner." My voice sounded husky. The rough sound came out making me want to crush his face even more. Under the table, I hid my clenching fists.

"Yes, Bella, very, very pleased" he mocked making my fists harder.

"Well I guess I'll leave you two alone" she cheered still with the happy smile not noticing the building intensity inside the dining room. She left the dining room.

"How clever, Ms. Waitress. I didn't really expect you to actually be the missing successor of the Swans" he mocked even more. "No wonder you're that beautiful." I rolled my eyes. I'm more irritated than flattered.

I didn't answer, instead I picked up my fork and piled the spaghetti noodles into a blob, I thudded the steel fork to the porcelain plate creating a sharp clunk.

"Easy there, Ms. Beautiful"

I stood up pushing the chair backwards. "I can't believe I'm actually seeing the most despicable person I knew… how pathetic of me" my voice is in pure infuriation against him.

I walked out the dining room only finding Sue, Leah and Seth in the living room watching some drama series on their huge flat screen.

"Bella, how you find Mike?"

I still held the fists in my hand feeling fury "Annoying." I disregarded to conceal my emotion, when it just came out unexpectedly. Ashamed of my behavior, I marched my way to the grand staircase. I could tell they followed me by their wondering gazes. My feet were heavy as it hit each step.

I reached my room and didn't come out until next morning.

~ζ~

The next day, I told Sue what happened with Mike and she understood clearly, it made me relieved. That way I can say she won't let him go to the house anymore. After that breakfast with Sue, I went to school giving her a hug, as a sign of respect, even though it's really uncomfortable. I want let her feel that someone acknowledges her kindness to me.

School ended soon as I expected. My first day was a bit awkward. The people around me are all in poise, like prince and princesses, all flawless. I saw Leah at the academy with some girls. I tried to say hi but eventually failed. I just marched my way to the outside of the gates I took a last glance at the university sign.

Exclusive University of Senofonte

Phoenix, Arizona

It's understood, only elite and high society member of this state. I sighed quite deep. I waited outside hoping a bus or a taxi will pass.

"Bella" an irritating voice called my name. I'd recognize it anywhere here. Mike. "You don't need to wait for a taxi, your step mom asked me to pick you up and apologize for my impudence." People were staring at his sheer stupidity of public display. I guess it left me no choice but to walk to him.

"I hate you!" my honest greeting to him, my tone sounded prickly. He gave me flowers but I didn't budge. I let him drive me home but I sat at the back of his car. When I came home with him, I pretended that everything perfectly fine between me and Mike, showing a deceitful smirk is always part.

I was devastated when Sue thought it's excellent for Mike to pick me up after school. So she decided, without asking my permission to do it every single day of my university life. What a boring life I'm in. I wish I'm just the normal and simple Bella I just to be. The simple Bella with her trusty side-kick Jacob.

Since Jacob's gone, I rarely speak to him. I'm always busy with work after classes. My work—more like princess lessons and managing her future empire—it sucked, totally. I can't believe I'm done with being simple and now ending up being complex and unreachable as Eric described in one of our sessions.

~ζ~

My debut came, I wanted everything to be quiet but my step mom and my grandmother agreed to organize a royal ball (still without my permission). It's so grandioso, I barely recognized myself in all that make-up; and the mask I placed on my face that flashed a genuine alluring smile to the guests—which is not sincere and a entirety ruse under the mask, I hated all the attention drawn to me by hundreds of different royal breeding.

I was just glad that September 13 ended. And I admit that even with the most expensive venue and world class buffets. This birthday is absolutely different. I'm usually into quiet gatherings. But the biggest difference in all my birthdays is that my mom, Esme, who is still in coma, and my best friend in the whole wide world, Jacob is not with me. Although he texted me, his presence is still much more appreciated.

Three other birthdays passed, and as with the others that has gone by it's grandioso, also like the past birthdays, no Jacob, no Esme, no more sincere smiles. The greatest gift right now is just returning the simple Bella four years ago. They treated me good but always make decisions against my own intentions.

Just one more semester in Senofonte and I'm managing the business—or better called the burden. Also finishing with Mike's flirting, courting and his annoying bragger. It's a relief finishing college and not seeing him every damn class dismissal. Finally, my sorrow will end.

~ζ~

"Bella, congratulations!" Sue hugged me tight in my toga with that cap in my hand.

"Thanks" I said with that usual faint smile in a happy tone. They prepared extensive meals just for the celebration of my commencement. Like a birthday I see. "Excuse me, can make a phone call?" she broke from the hug.

"Ok"

I ran to my room, threw off the cap somewhere and removed the toga. I reached my phone on the side pocket of my jeans. I dialed Jacob's number. "Please pick up" my voice was quivering.

"Hello?" I'm extremely relieved when I heard his calm voice.

"Jake, it's Bella, can you go here please?" I pleaded. I long for his puppy smile for four long years, I wanted to see him, and right away. He always told me that he can't go because of his studies, now that he finished his college, he can take a short break and see me.

"Bella, slow down, as I promised, I can arrive there by tomorrow, ok?"

"Alright, I really missed you."

"Me too, Bells"

"Bye"

"Bye" I hang up the phone call. I threw the cell phone in the bed. I sighed heavily. How can I take more of this torture?

I'm sure that the following will be my step to Verdiana Company's presidency. I want to see him before all these happen. I changed my clothes into something formal for the celebration downstairs. I took out a cream cocktail dress and changed quickly.

I ran downstairs to the entertainment hall.

"Bella, sneakers!" I looked down to where Sue had pointed it out.

"Sorry." I whispered.

"BELLA" Mike's irritating voice called out. He ran then hugged me shoving Sue right out of his way. "Congrats" I pulled away from his toxic clasp. I felt filthy when I realized that Mike hugged me.

"Eww…" I reacted with a sheepish expression. He didn't mind. I headed for the main table and saw Gran and trailed my way to her direction. I hugged her tightly in my arms.

"Congratulations, my beautiful granddaughter."

"Thanks, I love you" I whispered gently. "My best friend from Sacramento will come here tomorrow, is it ok if I go out with him?"

"Yes dear, it's been four years since you last saw him, it will be fine."

"Thanks" I kissed weary skin on her cheeks. I became really close to my grandmother and my step mother including my step brother, Seth but never Leah. She seems to be really hard to impress. Or is it just me she hates.

"Katy, have you prepared for the rendezvous with our associates?"

"I've got it, don't worry." I smiled at her.

"Good luck my dear" she hugged be once more.

"Yeah, I really do hope for luck" I whispered as I pulled away.

"Join them now, sweetie" she said in a weak cheerful smile.

I nodded then walked to an available seat. Mike was there as always, like all the other celebration. Annoying. Despising.

"Bella, can we go out tonight?"

"Sorry, I can't, I have to study further the… the…" I thought for a legible excuse. "…the regulations for a company." I turned him down. He gave me a sad look. I wish he'd buy my fib.

"Oh, ok, I'll just come with my dad in your meeting."

I nodded, though I'm very upset because even in the company I'll see him. I turned him down for a million time before. He's been very persistent in chasing after me, but I just wouldn't like him one bit. The sadder part of this is that grandmother and Sue liked him, probably like in those late night drama series: the rich always marries against their will. I might end up in that kind of situation too. How sorrowful, and to think that I hate him.

~ζ~

Eric came and helped in facing the associates of Verdiana Company. I really am grateful to him. He always gives me advices on how to run the business. It would have sucked if I have to do it alone.

I pulled the glass door's silver lever then headed for the capital seat on the rectangular table. I saw eight men on the table. Eric stood beside me. I felt my hands cold and turn into a fist, trying to calm myself down. My knees were shaking.

"Good afternoon, I'm Bella Swan, the upcoming president of Verdiana." I can't believe I just said that. I never used all those words together before. I sounded so unlike me. I noticed Sue walked over to an vacant seat smiling at me.

"I'll introduce them," Eric insisted. "Part of the major associates, Alessandro Moreau." A man stood up. "Nicolau De Luca" another stood up, I felt uneasy when he bowed his head in my direction. "And Michelangelo's father, Leonardo Greiner" a man stood up. Good thing Mike isn't with him, it will just ruin my mood. "Belonging to the minority of shares, Cristóbal Hodges, Lachlan Garza, Ilmari Nunez, Billy Black," my ear twitched as soon as I heard the name, it sounded exactly like Jake's dad. He stood up letting me notice his black cowboy hat and straight long hair in his shoulder, I hid my suspicion. "And Cameron Mueller."

"Pleased to meet you all." I smiled politely at the group of men.

I prepared a presentation of my future projects for the company, so far there are no objections. How Relieving. I sighed as soon as I finished and approached my seat. Mike came and stood beside his father. Eric continued another presentation. Sue gave me a proud look.

Billy Black. Jacob Black. Verdiana Café. The words made a fuss in my mind. I was distracted by all these. I didn't realize that Mike is over with his presentation.

"I guess that concludes today's meeting." He closed the small assembly. Everyone approached me and gave me a handshake s a sign of complement to the successful presentation. I've gone through practice for this event, thanks again to Eric. It's surprising how well he knows all these when he's just a lawyer.

Eric approached me last, "Binabati kita!" he said making me wonder.

"What?"

"I said 'I congratulate you' in Filipino." he has 12 languages in his brain. Amazing in a word. This man is just a genius.

"Thanks"

All men trailed out of the office. But I remembered Billy Black. I ran outside to catch him and ask.

"Sir, sorry, if I may ask." I tapped his shoulders lightly. "Is Jacob Johannes Schneider-Black your son?"

His brows went up in surprise "Yes, how do you know him? He rarely talks about his full name."

He was right, Jacob despised his full name, he just thought that Johannes is more of a 17th century name. "He's my friend in Sacramento… is he here in Arizona?"

He nodded. "He's staying at Majestic Fort Hotel"

"Thank you" I sighed as he walked away.

"Hey, Bella, where do we celebrate?" Mike approached me. Changing my mood from surprised to irritated.

I ignored him and walked inside the office trying to find Eric. "Can we go now?" I disrupted her conversation with Sue.

"Where?"

"Majestic Fort Hotel, now please."

He followed me as I made my way out of the office building to a black Ford.

"Why are we going there again?"

I ignored his question and started another subject. "Who owns the branch in Sacramento?" I eyed him as he pulled out piles of papers and searched for a name.

"Billy Black."

"Unbelievable, he lied"

"Who lied?"

"Jacob, my best friend I'm telling you about. The one who always help me financially, I thought he gets his money from his own bank account. He's rich! He's rich! And he never told me about it. He became friends with a peasant I was before. And he always skips his schedules because it was him who's managing the branch not Nessie." I growled.

Eric's face wondered. "I didn't understand that."

I fell silent.

"Calm down now, we're here" he said in his gentle tone. I went out the Ford as soon as it stopped. I drew close to the customer's service, not noticing the imperial-like arrangement of the lobby.

"Where is Jacob Black's room?"

"Your name and relation to the guest?"

"Katalina Swan. His girlfriend" I croaked, I wanted him to wonder when the receptionist tells him. She dialed a number, she's talking to Jacob now. It seemed that Jacob approved to see me. Telling her I was his girlfriend and my changed name makes me want to laugh at how pathetic I am. I wanted to hate him for not telling me, but I can't I guess I'll just have to torture him for being a mysterious Katalina Swan. I don't think he'll remember my real name; it's been four years since he last heard it.

I scanned the lobby eyeing the glamorous design of the hotel lobby. But then I was more mesmerized at the most beautiful pair of luminous green emerald eyes I held gaze to, we met eyes, he was just so astounding I can call him perfect. His messy bronze hair gave him a handsome touch with his perfect face. I wonder what his name is. The world disappeared and he's the only one standing in my vision, he's standing by the elevator wailing for the lift to come. It broke me out of the captivating trance when the receptionist spoke as I look at her. "Room 435" I nodded forgetting thanks.

I glanced over to where he is but he's gone, maybe the elevator came. I was depressed, I wonder where I'll see him again. I headed for the elevator myself to go to Jake's room.

I knocked. And then soon after he opened the door revealing the shocked expression of Jacob Black. "B-Bella?"

"Yeah, a.k.a. Katy Swan" I punched his shoulder. "Why didn't you tell me you're filthy stinking rich… that your family owned Verdiana Café in Sacramento?" my teeth was grinding as I utter out the words and I punched his shoulder harder this time.

"We'll talk, come in first." He embraced me in his huge biceps. His hug made my eyes water. "I missed you"

He led me to a couch. "I hate you!" I blurted with my arms crossed on my chest.

"Sorry I didn't tell you, I'm afraid that you'll push me away if you'll find out I'm rich. Like those when we're in high school, you never talk to the rich ones."

"Is it really that?"

"Yeah… but I see you're a rich one yourself." He eyes the formal attire I'm wearing. "You can take off the heels, I know you hate it." He knew me well, I hate heels.

I pulled him into a hug. "Thanks, I really missed my best friend"

"Me too" he kissed my forehead. "Let's go out"

"Yeah, good idea"

"Am I forgiven?"

"If you let me pay you… then you are."

"Whatever" he chuckled.

I changed first then gone to a fast food chain. We're kind of sick of any suck-up French cuisine. I missed the cholesterol filled hamburger and the salt covered fries dipped to the old fashioned ketchup. I missed the old times when I still eat at some cheap fast food. I want to leave the grandiose world for awhile with my puppy-like friend. Just like the time four years back. Although the whole bistro is looking at our formal attire while eating burger like some slob who hasn't eaten for centuries. the original plan was to a five star restaurant but he changed his mind since he thought our little reunion should be different that our everyday lives. It has to be simple.

"So… how much to I owe you?"

"Just give me fifty."

"Fifty thousand?"

"No, fifty, to pay the bill here." He joked.

"No… I'm talking about the hospital bills you paid for Esme."

"You don't need to pay, Bella"

"Then you're not forgiven."

"Should we fight because of this?" he shrieked.

"No, but if you insist." I mumbled out.

"Good little Bella" he patted my head.

We chatted and played little game of the fastest eater. The food is a two-layered burger. I won against him even though I lost my table manners. I felt the old Bella back inside me, the wild kind.

We stayed for like 5 hours in the fast food talking about non-sense with soft drinks in between.

"So how's Nessie?"

"She ended up being my girlfriend, that's why I'm so surprised when the receptionist told me that my girlfriend is in the lobby."

"Great" I said smiling suddenly, my phone rang. I didn't want to answer it but it just popped out of my mind that it might involve the company. So I pulled it out of my purse and saw Sue's name flash. "Excuse me," the smile on my face faded.

"Bella, where are you? You have me worried."

"I'm with my friend Jacob Black, sorry I didn't tell you."

"It' 9:30, come home I'm worried." She sighed despondently, "Bring him over and we'll prepare for dinner."

"Ok, by the way, he's the son of Billy Black"

"Ah… I'll be happy to meet him" her tone brightened.

"Bye"

"Bye" I ended the call.

"Jake, we need to go."

"We?" he asked.

"Yeah, Sue kinda suggests that you go there and meet them… it also kinda slipped from my mouth that you're Billy's son."

"Geez Bella, why say that I am? You know I despised being rich."

"It's alright Johannes…" I mocked.

"Hey, call me puppy, but not that stinky old name." he said irritatingly.

"Sorry." We reached the black ford.

"You're driving?" he asked staring at the lustrous car.

"Yup" I went inside the driver's seat and him to the passenger's.

We reached the mansion after a few moments. The guards opened the gates when they recognized the black ford. I drove right in.

"Nice, you live here?" he said in astonishment as he scanned the mansion's gardens.

"I have no choice" my voice was serious. I stopped the engine as soon as I finished parking the car. I stepped outside so with Jacob. I made my way to the front door only finding a worried Sue. Jacob trailed behind me staring at my step mom.

"Good evening" he smiled half-bowing his head.

"Sue, my best friend Jake." I introduced him formally. "Jake, my step mom, Sue" I smiled at him.

"Nice to meet you" she smiled sincerely to him. "Let's head to the dining room and let us know more about you. She led him to the room while I tried to trail after them but she restraint me. "Bella, Gran wanted to see you in the garden." She said with an unusual clever smile. There's really something she's up to.

I made my way to the garden but the whole place is dark. I glanced to my watch, it's exactly 10 pm. With my eyes stuck on the watch, different colors of flashing lighten the garden. I looked around the garden totally shocked. What's going on here? Where's Gran?

I browsed the garden for any legible sign of my grandmother but none. After a few moments, lights the rose bed lighten. Words are formed using a single neon-light.

My jaws dropped open as I read each piercing words, my brain stopped, I was going to faint, I can't believe this.

The words just struck me. It just made me feel deeper into the earth's grounds. I don't know what to this or what to answer.

The dreadful words written were: Will you marry me.

Surely it wasn't from Jacob, definitely not my Gran, that would be non-sense. Then the person responsible came out holding a little box in his hand with stupid cheeky smile on. He knelt on his knees. My eyes widened in so much terrified from the uncalled-for moment. He held out the red box and opened it.

"Are you surprised?" he gave me a twisted look on his sickening face. The curtains from wide glass window from the mansion opened, making my attention drew to my grandmother's wishful eyes, a desiring Sue and a devastated Jacob behind it. I saw the look in Sue and Gran's face, they wanted me to say yes.

I don't want to say yes. I looked at Mike's pleading eyes, like an importunate beggar on his knees. I glanced at Jacob's anxious pair of onyx eyes. I can read it say 'decline, Bella' like I wanted too. But unfortunately, I'm declining a Michelangelo Greiner, the most ideal fiancé for me. This is just stupid. I'm not even his girlfriend and he's definitely not my boyfriend. This must be some kind of technical error in me. This is excruciating, if I decline this, I'll be toast, I'm not only declining Mike, I'm also declining my grandmother's wish and Sue's.

I've worked so hard to disappoint them now. But I can't possibly marry him. I already took away my own freedom for all these years just for the family's honor, I can't throw away my freedom to love too. That's the only thing I want to save for myself.

I held a fist in my hands. I want to scream no in his filthy clever face. I want to decline.