Saturday arrived and Brooke was madly rushing around her apartment, trying to get ready for the party. Her preparations were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“It’s open!” she yelled.
Nikki casually strolled into Brooke’s bedroom to find a mountain of clothes on her bed.
“Where have you been all morning?” Brooke asked. “I want to know which I should wear; black or cream?” she said, showing Nikki a choice of two dresses.
Nikki nodded to the black, and Brooke put it over her head, and dragged the tightly fitting dress down over her body, hugging in all the right places.
“You look nice, honey,” Brooke said, giving her girlfriend a kiss as soon as the dress was on.
Nikki was wearing gray slacks and a beige sweater. Nikki watched in amusement as Brooke was dashing around, “I know, I know…I’m running late, just need to do my hair and makeup.”
Nikki laughed and looked at her watch, reading 12:30 p.m. “You have an hour; or should I call ahead now and say we will be late?” she joked.
Brooke narrowed her eyes and pushed Nikki from the room. “Out you go,” she said, and closed the door.
Nikki looked around the near empty apartment, the boxes packed and ready for moving day. She groaned; she had wanted to pay movers but Brooke had wanted the two of them to do it together.
The bedroom door opened and Brooke appeared. Nikki’s eyes widened at the sight. “Wow! You look gorgeous,” she breathed. She immediately went in for a kiss, but Brooke pulled away.
“Uh uh…you don’t want lipstick now do you?”
Nikki relocated her kiss to Brooke’s cheek, then took the opportunity to move down her neck. Again Brooke pushed back. “Not now,” she giggled. Then she noticed Nikki had something behind her back.
“What have you got there, sweetie?” Brooke asked, pointing behind Nikki’s back.
Nikki looked around slightly. “What?” she asked, teasing.
“Behind your back!” Brooke said, and went to grab it.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Nikki joked.
Brooke tried it again. “Come on, what is it?”
Nikki pulled out a rectangular box, wrapped up. “It’s for you, I picked it up this morning.”
“Why…I…” stuttered Brooke.
“Just open it up please,” half-pleaded Nikki.
Brooke unwrapped the present, and opened the box, gasping. “Oh my god…Nikki!”
The box contained a diamond pendant, matching diamond earrings and a bracelet. Brooke looked up at Nikki in awe. “This must have cost a fortune…I can’t…”
“Yes it did…and yes you can.”
Brooke looked at the present again. “It’s beautiful, thank you.”
Nikki shrugged like it didn’t matter, and Brooke rushed off to put it on. She came out, and Nikki nodded. “Now they are beautiful, they just needed you.”
Nikki and Brooke drove up to James’ mansion and the valet parked Nikki’s car. They got to the front door.
“Should I go in first, or you?” Brooke asked.
“Brooke, it’s no big deal. Let’s just go in,” and they walked in together and once in, the small gathering staff all looked at them both and murmured.
Brooke leaned a little in to Nikki. “I told you.”
They instantly separated and mingled with the staff, but from time to time making eye contact. Long distance flirting.
James eventually called everyone together to the main room and champagne was served. Brooke went and stood a little in front of Nikki, her hand brushing hers.
The waiter offered Nikki champagne, but she refused it. Brooke raised an eyebrow without looking behind her.
“Trying to cut down…” Nikki whispered.
James opened up by welcoming everyone and then he apologized for the recent downsizing. With this done, he turned his attention to Nikki.
“I would especially like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful daughter Nicole, and to tell you how proud I am of all the hard work you put in to keep this company competitive and successful. I would also want to make you all aware that…if not for Nicole many more jobs would have been lost. My dear, if only your mother was alive today to see how much you have achieved. She would be so proud of you.”
The unexpected adulation catching her off guard, she felt her eyes stinging with tears.
James raised his glass. “To my daughter, Nicole.”
The crowd, including Brooke, turned to face Nikki. “To Nicole!” they chorused.
Nikki blushed at all the attention, and then her eyes met Brooke’s as everyone drank. Brooke looked at her lover proudly and winked. Brooke turned back around and reached behind, grabbing Nikki’s hand briefly.
James didn’t end it there. “And…I would also like Ms. Brooke Davies to come up and join me.”
Brooke didn’t budge, her heart feeling a mix of surprise and terrible suspicion.
“Come on dear, don’t be shy,” James coaxed.
Nikki leaned in, “Go on…” she whispered, giving a little nudge of encouragement.
Brooke turned, giving Nikki her glass, and replied by whispering, “Save me…” She pleaded, but Nikki just nodded her to the front.
Brooke walked up nervously, standing in front of the crowd with James.
“Since this young lady joined our team, she has been a one of the major driving forces behind our successes. Her advertising creations have kept us a step ahead of other agencies. She has also helped secure some very big contracts which have earned the respect of myself and even more so my daughter,” he said, leaving it to linger in the air.
There were a few giggles from the audience and Brooke blushed; now feeling very self-conscious at all the attention.
“But, it has come at a huge price for this young lady,” he said, now turning to address Brooke directly. “Working so far from your home and love ones must be extremely hard dear…”
Brooke shrugged unsure if it was a question or a statement, her stomach tightening with each compliment.
“You have made such a big move in your life for us, and so it is only fair that we give something back.”
Brooke instantly went pale.
Nikki noticed Brooke’s tension, and was concerned by her sudden change.
“I would like to ask Andrew to come out please,” asked James.
A young man walked up to the stage from the back of the crowd and stood next to James, opposite Brooke.
Brooke started to shake at the sight and gasped, she looked at James in horror, then at Nikki.
Nikki knew something was now terribly wrong, when Brooke took a step back and made eye contact with her.
“Welcome Andrew. I’m so glad you could make it to share this occasion with Brooke. You must be so proud of your girl friend.” The word lingered.
There was deafening hush over the crowd. Brooke felt like she was going to faint and couldn’t bring herself to look at Nikki anymore.
Nikki’s ears were ringing and she wasn’t completely sure what she had heard.
“Brooke, Mr. Wilson is right. I am so proud of you. I know the lengths you had to go, including giving up our relationship so you could achieve your goals. I understand and that is why I am here to tell you I’m not ready to give you up and if the only way to keep you in my life is to move to the big city, then that will be my sacrifice for you.”
Nikki’s body felt like a stone, she was finding it difficult to breath right now. She wasn’t sure if this was a dream or real.
Brooke was close to tears, she looked at James, but James looked straight through her to his daughter.
Andrew continued. “Brooke…honey.” He stepped a little closer. “To show how much I am ready…” He produced a small box from his jacket pocket and opened it. “Will you marry me?” The box contained a diamond engagement ring.
Brooke put her hand to her mouth to muffle her cry, her body trembling. Andrew stepped forward again but Brooke backed up and hit something. She turned to find it was Nikki who was behind her, supporting her slightly. Tears were falling freely from Brooke’s eyes. She noticed the stern look on Nikki’s face, but her sight was directed at James.
Brooke started to break down when Nikki spoke in a soft tone. “Brooke…its okay. You need to follow your heart. It’s truly okay.” Nikki summoned up all the strength in her body, trying to believe her own words. “Marry him,” she croaked out desperately, half afraid the words wouldn’t come.
“Oh Nikki…” cried Brooke.
Nikki just smiled weakly.
“I’m so sorry,” cried Brooke and Nikki shrugged.
Brooke turned and faced Andrew. “I can’t, I can’t marry you Andrew.”
The room broke into gasps and murmurs. Andrew looked at James then back at Brooke confused.
“What? I don’t understand…why not?” he said, genuinely hurt.
“Andrew, I can’t marry you…because I don’t love you,” Brooke stuttered.
Brooke then ran past the bewildered pair of James and Andrew. Andrew closed the box and put it in his pocket, a hurt-shocked look plastered on his face, he shook his head. Nikki gained her composure and walked up to her father, glaring, her eyes glistening with tears. He dropped his head. Nikki then left to look for Brooke.
She eventually found her deep in the green mansion gardens, sitting on a bench sobbing into her hands. Nikki’s heart finally broke at the sight of her. Carefully, she wiped her own tears away before going up to Brooke.
“Brooke hey…it’s okay…shhhh,” she said, trying to calm her.
Brooke wouldn’t look up. Nikki could hear the quick gasps of breath Brooke was trying to take in.
Nikki put her arm around her and pulled her in. “Come on, calm down. Take a few deep breaths please,” she said softly, tears still escaping Nikki’s eyes.
“I’m so sorry…I never meant to hurt you. There were so many times I wanted to tell you, I just didn’t know how. Why the hell do I screw everything up? My life…your life? Why did your father do this to me?” sobbed Brooke.
Nikki kissed Brooke’s head. The realization that the entire day was set up to humiliate them was slowly dawning on her.
“I don’t blame you for hating me. I’ve made such a mess of things…I am so sorry,” she cried out again.
Nikki lifted Brooke’s chin and looked at her, her eyes red and puffy. “I don’t hate you. I am disappointed that you weren’t honest about him and your feelings for him, but I don’t hate you Brooke. You should have been honest. Now let’s get you tidied up, you have a marriage proposal to accept.” She said this with as much positive ness as she could muster.
Brooke shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Yes you can. I will not let my father ruin the chance for you to be happy. I won’t stand for it,” she said firmly.
Brooke’s hands nervously touched Nikki’s face. “Nikki, I don’t love him. The only thing I have always been honest with you is my feelings for you. I love you with all my heart. I took leave to break off the last of my ties with Andrew. I told him that a distant relationship couldn’t work, I wanted him to believe that it was for my career and for that to be the end of it. I couldn’t even be honest with him.” She started to sob again. She didn’t know the next move or if Nikki even believed her.
Nikki did and tenderly kissed Brooke, holding her close. “I love you so much. I didn’t know what I was going to do if you accepted that proposal.” Nikki said her relief pouring out.
“Okay. Enough of this, honey. Let’s get you respectable again. You owe Andrew an explanation, then after that you and I are going to sit down and you are going to be honest with me about everything.”
Brooke nodded in agreement. Nikki still held Brooke to her. “Everything is going to be alright Brooke, I promise.” Nikki noticed that Sarah had wandered out and Nikki escorted Brooke over to her.
“Sarah, would you mind helping Brooke, please?” Sarah nodded and put an arm around Brooke, who broke down in tears again.
Nikki sat back down to gather her thoughts. She bit her thumb nail for a second, then stood up shakily.
James looked up to see his daughter enter his study, he was just finishing a telephone conversation when she entered. Nikki took a seat, while he calmly drank.
“So, guess what?” she asked, with a ferocious faux-smile. “Come Monday, you are going to be on a plane flight to Florida, to retirement. A condo…maybe, I don’t really care. You are done in this company James. Done. Today just proved to everyone exactly how much of a bastard you are..”
James looked pained. “Nikki…I didn’t know.”
“You knew exactly what you were doing James. Exactly. What happened to you? You use to be a good man. You used to be my father. Since Mom died you have been nothing but a burnt out shell. ”
“You can’t pick some girlfriend over your own father,” James said, his face contracting in pain.
“The man who was my father died at the same time as my mother. Your stunt today made that incredibly clear. It didn’t have to be this way. I warned you to stay out of my personal affairs, but you just couldn’t. That little speech about Mother being proud of me…I am glad she isn’t here to see what type of a man her husband has turned in to. Whatever your intentions may have been I will never ever as long as I live have anything else to do with you. So help me if you ever come near Brooke again.” Nikki’s voice climber higher as she was unable to control her anger. She thumped the desk, causing him to jump. “You are out of my life, permanently.”
She turned to go.
“Nikki…you are all I have,” he said. The admission was like a beam of sunlight penetrating a cloud that had been over their relationship since the death of his wife.
Her mind went back to the time when her mother had died. She had spent countless nights alone in the dark, crying. For all the gilded luxury she had lived in, she couldn’t deal with the pain that had come with the death of her mother. She had turned to her father; he had been all she had had. She had cried and held on to him. But he had been stern and aloof, too wrapped up in the company to be there for her. She realized now that he had been fighting his own grief in the only way he could have.
She stopped walking off for just a second. She could hear her father as he used to be. A tear stung her cheek. She turned to see the honest look on his face. But, she refused to go back. It was over now. Nikki stormed out of the room and out of his life.