Part 5: Self-Actualization

Xelloss tapped his fingers against the desk, ignoring Mr. Zangulus's chatter. His affiliate, Mr. Vrumrugen was being stoic, as usual, and when Zangulus shut up Xelloss asked Mr. Vrumrugen to summarize that entire spiel. The gentleman did -- in three words -- and the meeting was adjourned to everyone's satisfaction.

She was mad at him. It kept running through his head as he shuffled through his documents. She was mad at him. Afraid of him, even. Why? Had he done something wrong? It was nagging at him, and he didn't like it. Issues were few and far between that could bother him.
Sure he hadn't called for a few days, but he had been in a most delicate situation with Phibrizzo -- it struck him briefly that Filia would disapprove of that part of his business and he frowned. Why did he care? He knew that he liked her, but Zelas had liked him and had blown out the door laughing at his flimsy marriage proposal. Left him on one knee. Left him for good. He frowned at that, too. Why was he still so disturbed by the matter? Why did he keep thinking of it?
It was late that night, in his large, black, empty bed that he came to a realization. He was treating Filia like Zelas had treated him. He was being insensitive and assuming and -- was turning into the woman he had learned to hate. He was treating Filia worse than he would his own sister, and without any good reason other than -- "Zelas did it to me."
"Perhaps," he murmured into the darkness, "she does deserve an apology."

The next day, Lina Inverse approached Filia with strong-armed enthusiasm. "I'd like to set you up with my brother," she told the bedraggled girl whose gloves were soiled with hard labor and boots were covered with animal poop.

Filia paused to think about it. Someone new to get away from Xelloss. Perhaps this was just what she needed. So, straightening her shoulders, she nodded. "Sounds fine."
"Okay," Lina said, and gave her the details. She was happy and proud because her brother had come to her asking for the favor. And she had made more fun of him than she had in a very very long time. It had been priceless.
"I'll be there," Filia told her softly, turning back to shovel horse droppings.

She wore a light summer dress -- excellent for the weather and neither too showy nor too dowdy. She was supposed to meet him at a casual dining restaurant and go to a particular room.

"Could you tell me where room five is?" she asked a waiter who was passing her. He pointed her in the correct direction and she found the plain, windowless door.
Facing it, she was caught with indecision. She could either flee and spend the night watching old movies and eating ice cream . . . or open that door and start to forget Xelloss.
With a deep breath and straightening her spine, she swung the door open.
And gasped.
A giant glittering banner hung in the center of the room, spelling "I'm sorry" over an elaborate dinner display, with a manila folder standing as centerpiece between two heavy balloon-holders.
Xelloss came from the side of the room with a single white rose, watching her expression carefully.
She breathed his name and came in carefully, ready to turn and leave if he tried anything.
"I was going to do this anyway," he said as he picked up the envelope and handed it to her. "But I got Rezo to accept your proposal." He watched her as she looked unseeingly at the papers. "I thought it might make as good an apology as anything."
She frowned. "Why did you do this?"
He was taken aback. Was it not obvious that he loved her? "Because I care about you. Because you wanted it."
She was obviously struggling through her thoughts. "But you don't care one way or the other whether my proposal is used?"
"I care because you want it to be," he said carefully. Was this a test? It was an annoying one.
"But you don't care about the animals?" tears were filling her eyes.
"What does this have to do with anything, Filia?" he asked, his exasperation showing.
"It has to do with whether you've become a better person or not," she retorted. "I've done a lot of thinking Xelloss, and I just can't stay with the man you are. Your morals are compromised and I'm afraid that too much exposure to that will affect mine. I'm afraid that it already has, Xellos! I can't stay with a man that I don't respect, especially when you make me lose so much respect for myself."
He was angry now. But more, he was scared. "So we don't agree on some things! So what?! Couples have lasted on less." He was insisting, vehement.
"I can't," she said softly, and her eyes turned compassionate. "Thank you for sparing the animals." And with that, she walked out.
He drank himself into oblivion that night. All through the next week, she wouldn't return his calls, and he found from Lina finally that she had taken a job with a film crew overseas.
The next time he saw her was on TV, walking down the red carpet with the famous movie star Zelgadis Greywords. After that, and a brief stint of following her and Zelgadis' relationship in the tabloids, he didn't hear of her for years.

Iryl: So it was either give her a backbone and make him a monster or make her a wimp and him . . . still a monster. I really couldn't see him reforming that fast, either way. But with luck, I think you might get an Epilogue.