Apr 10, 2013

When The Fireworks Begin (Chapter XVI)

Still two years ago...

It was early Sunday morning and James was busy dressing up for church.  He was going to attend the mass with Devon and her family and he doesn’t want to be late.

He walked into the kitchen and was about to grab a glass of water when he noticed yesterday’s newspaper on the table.  He noticed that a familiar face was plastered on the business section of the paper.  It was his father.

James rarely saw his father after their misunderstanding. He spent most of his time in his condo unit and in Devon’s house.  Devon was unaware of the conversation between James and Mr. Rocafort as he preferred to keep it to himself. The last thing he wanted was for Devon to leave him because of his father’s mistakes.

He was about to leave the unit when he heard the telephone ring.

“Hello,” James answered.

“Hi, son,” Mrs. Rocafort’s sweet voice answered back. “You’re up early.”

“Hi mom,” James patiently answered. “I’m going to church with Devon.”  He heard an approving hum from his mother.  “Is there anything else, mom?”

“Oh, yes. Are you going home today?”  Mrs. Rocafort eagerly continued. “We haven’t seen you in weeks. Your dad and I miss you.”

James tried to control his anger upon hearing the word “dad.”  “Sorry mom,” he apologized. “I’m too busy with work. The two of us can go out this week, if you want,” James replied and emphasized the word “two.” He heard another low hum from his mother.

“I really got to go, I’ll be late for mass.”  James reluctantly ended the call. He knows that his mother is a sweet person and does not deserve any cold treatment from him.  But he also knows that whatever he says to his mom, would definitely reach his dad.

As James was rushing to get to Devon’s house on time, the Rocafort power couple was silently eating breakfast.

“I called James,” Mrs. Rocafort started. Mr. Rocafort raised his eyes from the newspaper and glanced at his wife. “I asked him if he will be coming over today.”

“And?” Mr. Rocafort asked after a brief silence.

“He said no,” Mrs. Rocafort sighed.  Her husband just nodded his head.  She looked at him.  She knows that something was amiss between father and son.  “Whatever it was you disagreed on, you should talk to him.”

Mr. Rocafort just nodded and continued reading the newspaper.  They continued to eat in silence. 

“I don’t want to lose a son,” Mrs. Rocafort stiffly continued. She stood up and was about to walk out of the dining hall.

“If your son would stop being so stubborn and start listening to me, then that will be the time I will…” Mr. Rocafort harshly retorted.

“You have been making decisions for him for his entire, maybe its time you should start treating him like an adult and let him make his own choices,” Mrs. Rocafort said cutting his husband before walking out.

Mr. Rocafort threw his newspaper on the table, frustrated.  Ever since that woman walked into our life, everything turned upside down, Mr. Rocafort angrily whispered to himself.  He was angrily rubbing his temple when he heard somebody stomping into the room. There’s only one person who dared to visit the Rocafort residence, this early.

“Good morning, Tito Edwin,”  Sam greeted.  “Is James here? I was thinking of pulling him out of his bed to jog.”

Mr. Rocafort looked at Sam, dressed in an expensive jogging wear.  Sam is the only son of another powerful businessman.  Sam’s father and Mr. Rocafort have several businesses together in Manila, but they are completely different when it comes to dealing with their sons.

Sam’s father has pretty much let Sam run his own life, he was a firm believer of learning from mistakes.  Mr. Rocafort was different.  Letting James, the heir of his empire, make mistakes and learn from them takes, or rather wastes, too much time. Might as well, make the decisions for him, Mr. Rocafort reasoned to himself.

“He did not come home this weekend,”  Mr. Rocafort answered.

Sam raised his eyebrows and took a seat on the dining table. “Huh?  He hasn’t been home for several weekends already. What’s up with him?”

Mr. Rocafort eyed Sam. “Well, it seems that he very much occupied with this new girl.”

Sam leaned back on the chair. “Well, I don’t blame him. Devon is a very pretty girl. She’s also great to be with, you have to hear her story about the incident when she fell down the stairs when she was nine years old.  I don’t know if I will laugh or feel sad for her.” Sam chuckled a bit, remembering the story.

Mr. Rocafort caught a somewhat dreamy look in Sam’s eyes.  If there’s something he is good at that will be understanding body language.  He relies on it so much especially during business transactions.  And just listening to Sam mumble something about Devon’s supposedly funny story showed that Sam is attracted to his son’s girlfriend.

“You like her,”  Mr. Rocafort casually stated.

“Yeah,” Sam admitted, too fast.  He seemed to realize that his answer means something else, Sam blushed. “I mean, she’s great for James.  I like her for James.”

Mr. Rocafort softly chuckled.  Sam was very easy to read.  “You like her, not for James but for yourself.”

Sam turned into a darker shade of red.  He quickly stood up. “You’re funny Tito Edwin,” as he tried to laugh it off.  “Well, I got to go since James is not here.”

Sam quickly said goodbye to Mr. Rocafort, obviously trying to leave the room immediately.  Mr. Rocafort smiled, when Sam left.  Everything will be very easy from here,  he whispered to himself.


There are downsides in working for your father, James thought.  Although people think that he is working WITH his dad and he will soon inherit everything since he was the eldest, for James he was nothing but a mere employee working FOR his father.

The main downside in working for Mr. Rocafort is that you will soon run out of excuses not to see him.  In the past weeks, James has managed to avoid seeing his father. But it seems that his luck is running out.

James has buried his head on several reports, and he barely heard the knocking on his office door.  When he raised his head, he saw his father strolling into his small office.

Mr. Rocafort silently stood in the middle of the office. He looked around and a picture caught his attention. It was James’ photo with Devon.  James’ jaw clenched when he saw his father eyeing the picture.   But nobody tried to say anything.

Mr. Rocafort ended the silence.

“Bring her to dinner.  Seven o’clock at the resort’s resto,”  Mr. Rocafort stated, devoid of any feelings.

James was surprised. Did he hear correctly? “What,” he asked.

Mr. Rocafort looked at James. “If you want me to change my mind then I have to know more about her,” Mr. Rocafort reasoned. “Bring her to dinner. Your mother will be there.” 

Mr. Rocafort did not wait for James agreement or reply.  He walked out of the room.  James watched his father in disbelief. 

“Are you sure?” Devon asked for the nth time.

James nodded.  They were on their way to the Rocafort Resorts, where they will be having dinner with James’ parents.  James looked at Devon who was stunning in a simple and ivory-colored short cocktail dress. It showed her shapely and stunning legs. Her barely there make-up emphasized her beauty.  Really, she could catch the attention of an entire room without makeup.

“He told me that he wants to know more about you,” James answered giving Devon an assuring squeeze. 

Devon bit her lower lip.  “Well, this is a good sign, right?” She nervously smiled at James as he parked the car outside the post resort.

“The moment he says something nasty to you, then we’re out the door,” James reassured James.

“I am sure that your father would not be like that,” Devon smiled at James,  touching his cheek.  They went out of the car and walked into the resort.  He was caught off guard with what he saw inside the restaurant.

James was surprised to see Sam laughing with his father. He expected that the family or his parents are the only ones present.

“Looks like everybody’s here,” Devon grimly replied while looking at one side of the room. James directed his gaze towards Devon’s gaze.  He was taken aback to see Aleli, leaning against the bar and sipping from a wine glass, talking animatedly to Sam.  James’ forehead creased.  Whatever it is that his father is planning for this dinner, he’s not going to like it. 

James was about to suggest that they immediately leave when Mrs. Rocafort saw him. 

“You’re here,” beamed Mrs. Rocafort, approaching James and Devon.  She elegantly and warmly kissed them both on their cheeks. “I thought you changed your mind.” Mrs. Rocafort obviously looked pleased, James can’t bring himself to disappoint his mother.

Devon squeezed James’ hand.  It was a reassuring squeeze, saying that she will be okay.  James feebly smiled and whispered to her, “I didn’t know that there will be others.”

Devon smiled and nodded, “It’s okay. We will have to face them anyway, sooner or later.”

Mrs. Rocafort led them towards the dining area.  Laid on the table was a sumptuous meal.  James’ siblings were already there. For a while, Devon thought that she was actually welcome in the family.  James’ brother and sister were encouraging her to share more about her family, which was boldly met by a satisfied smile by Mrs. Rocafort.  If only Mr. Rocafort would say something, Devon thought.

But Mr. Rocafort remained mum all evening. Obviously, observing Devon’s actions and everyone else’s actions.  From Mr. Rocafort’s point of view, Devon and James were obviously showing affection towards each other, James’ putting food on Devon’s plate, and Devon wiping something off the corner of James’ mouth. These are all telltale signs. But there are other signs to read.  All throughout the conversation, the sulky mood of Aleli did not escape the watchful eye of Mr. Rocafort, nor Sam’s endless effort to catch and hold Devon’s attention.  Mr. Rocafort secretly smiled, it will be like taking candy from a baby.

The dinner progressed without much happening.  The ever gracious Mrs. Rocafort invited to show Devon around, since she never get to see the resort the first time she visited the place. 

“I’ll go with you,” James volunteered.  But Mrs. Rocafort shooed him away.

“Really, James, will you give us some “girl time”,” Mrs. Rocafort joked.  She took Devon into her arm and led her away, with the grinning Jacqueline, James’ sister, trailing behind their mother.

James took a deep breath.  Maybe he should stop over thinking things.  He kept assuming that something will happen tonight, thinking of his father’s devious ways. But obviously, Mr. Rocafort is in a reconciliatory mood tonight.  Perhaps he has accepted that I am in love with Devon, James positively thought.  But it was the other way around, Mr. Rocafort has finally accepted the fact that he could interfere. 

James did not notice that Mr. Rocafort was already standing beside him on the veranda, sipping from a beer bottle.  Mr. Rocafort then handed James another bottle.

James accepted the bottle with a smile. He sipped from it, letting the bitter taste of the beer linger in his mouth.  He finally found his courage to break the silence.   “So, what do you think,”  James asked.

Mr. Rocafort looked at James. “Well, she’s nice,” Mr. Rocafort admitted.  Hell, she is really nice, if only Devon came from a decent family with bucks, Mr. Rocafort admitted to himself.

James nodded. Finally.

“But,” Mr. Rocafort interrupted. “I know you could do better. There are other girls…”

“I am not interested in other girls, Dad,” James interrupted.

Mr. Rocafort was about to say something else when he glanced his phone which was making a beeping sound.  He looked at James, “Let’s continue this conversation in the garden, I just have to make an important call,” Mr. Rocafort then walked away.

James took a deep breath.  His father is still dead set on him finding another girl, but there’s chance yet. At least, he has accepted that Devon is nice, James consoled himself.  He took another swig on the beer bottle before walking to the garden.

James took another gulp from the bottle. He looked around the garden, wondering where his father and Devon are. He checked his watch, his father is really taking his time. His mother just shooed him away.  His thinking muted the sounds, he was unaware that somebody was walking from behind.  The person immediately reached upwards and covered his eyes, from behind.

“Devon,” James guessed smiling.

A soft whisper landed in his ear. “How easy for you to eHH
forget,” whispered the female voice.

The smile easily departed from James’ lips.  He quickly turned around to see Aleli, on her low-cut black, clinging dress, standing behind him.

“Aleli,” James answered, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice.

Aleli smiled and skirted around James. She sat down on a bench, and crossed her shapely legs.  “Really, James,” Aleli smirked. “The best that you can do is at least pretend that you’re happy to see me. And I thought that we’re friends.”

James apologetically smiled at Aleli. After all, they broke up amenably.  “How are you?”

“Missing you,” Aleli answered straightforward. “I thought, that being away for several years will make you miss me.”

James looked at Aleli. She has never changed, he thought.  She’s still completely brazen. “Come on, Aleli,” James cajoled. “You know pretty well that we are not that compatible.”

Aleli stood up from the bench and approached James.  She reached up and wrapped her slender fingers at the back of James’ neck.  “I have never thought about that. There are things that I am sure we are completely compatible in,” she insinuated. 

James was about to pull away, when Aleli pulled him down for a full kiss on the lips.   James was completely unaware that a couple of yards away, in the darkened gondola, stood Devon and his father.


Devon was walking back to the restaurant looking for James. Jacqueline left her and Mrs. Rocafort earlier, when she remembered that she has a magazine article due in an hour. Amidst fluttered apologies and reprimanding herself, Jacqueline excused herself.  Devon could not help but laugh at the fluttered Jacqueline flying across the room. Jacqueline even looked back and laughed out aloud. Mrs. Rocafort then excused herself, when the receptionist signalled that she has an important phone call to take. 

Everybody in James’s family was great. Even the serious looking Malcolm, James’ brother, was able to crack several jokes tonight. If only his father would change his opinion about us, Devon thought. 

Devon was wandering the hallways of the resort, trying to find her way back to the restaurant and look for James.  She stopped when she saw Mr. Rocafort in front of her.

Mr. Rocafort looked at her.  Devon can’t read the man’s face, there were no feelings showing in his stony figure. 

“No companion,” Mr. Rocafort commented.

 “No, Sir,” Devon answered trying to calm her nervous heart.  “Mrs. Rocafort said about taking an important phone call, while Jacqueline has to be somewhere finishing her magazine editorial.”

Mr. Rocafort nodded.  “Can we talk?” Mr. Rocafort asked. 

Devon was taken aback.  He wants to talk to me, Devon secretly hoped that it was a good thing.  She nodded, not trusting her voice.  Mr. Rocafort barely nodded his head and started walking towards the dark area of the garden, under the gondola.

Devon followed the tycoon.  Under the gondola, the setting could have been romantic.  The dramatic vines wrapped in the gondola served as a curtain, partially concealing.  The smell of the flowers is sweet. But now, being in the presence of a man who does not favour her for his son, Devon was far from feeling the romance. 

Devon decided to break the silence.  “You want to say something, Sir?”  Devon asked.

“I will be honest with you, Ms. Serrano,” Mr. Rocafort started.  “I don’t like you for my son.”

Devon’s heart skipped at what Mr. Rocafort said.  She clenched her fist. 

“Don’t take it personally, Devon,” Mr. Rocafort continued.  “It is no secret that James is expected to run the company in the future.  What he needs is a girlfriend or wife who knows about running the business.  His wife will also be his business partner. Whoever he chooses will not only represent him, but will also represent the company. And ME, ” Mr. Rocafort stated, emphasizing the last two words.

Devon could not contain her anger anymore.  “With all due respect Sir, is that how you see your wife? A status symbol?”

Mr. Rocafort shot Devon a sharp look. “My relationship with my wife is none of your business, Ms. Serrano. You don’t know her.”

“Then I believe, Sir, that my relationship with your son is also none of your business,” Devon snapped.  “You don’t know me either.”

Mr. Rocafort hid a smile.  The girl has mettle, he admitted to himself. Very few people have stood up to Mr. Rocafort, the same way Devon did.  Devon was about to walk away, when she noticed James walking into the garden.  She changed her mind and was about to walk to him when she saw Aleli walked behind James. She felt she was glued to her spot.

Mr. Rocafort looked at Devon.  He saw the darkened expression on Devon’s face when Aleli covered James’s eyes.  From their position, they cannot hear the conversation between Aleli and James.

Mr. Rocafort decided to go for the kill.  “You know about their past, right,”  he asked.

Devon chose not to answer, but Mr. Rocafort went on. “They were together for a few years.  But they have to break up, since Aleli got a scholarship in fashion design in New York.”

Devon did not know about that.  “I thought they decided to break up because they were incompatible,” she whispered.

But Mr. Rocafort heard it and he smelled blood. “Oh no, they thought that maintaining a long distance relationship was difficult. Besides, James wanted Aleli to focus on her scholarship. They just could not take their hands off each other, which is why James thought that he was just going to distract Aleli from her career.”

And it seems that right on cue, Devon saw Aleli pulling down James for a kiss.  Devon quickly turned around.

“See,” Mr. Rocafort pointed out. “They still can’t keep their hands off each other.”

Devon shot Mr. Rocafort a look, and quickly walked away from the garden.  Mr. Rocafort silently sipped from his bottle and slipped out of the gondola.  

Meanwhile, unconscious that Devon saw them. James pulled out of Aleli’s kiss and embrace.

“What the hell are you doing?” James angrily pushed Aleli away.

“You don’t like it?” Aleli coyly asked. “We could do something more…”

James angrily shook his head and looked around, hoping that nobody saw them.  “Are you crazy? We are over Aleli, years ago.”

James stomped out of the garden, with Aleli closely following his trail. “But we only ended our relationship because I have to move away,” Aleli reasoned out.

James turned around, exasperated.  “We broke up because there’s no future for us. We just get together that time because it was practical. Our parents were business partners and that is what is expected from us.” He walked away angrily.

Aleli, obviously hurt, continued to follow James. “You are wrong.  We love each other.”

“I don’t love you,” James turned around and uttered.  “I love Devon, and I hope you will understand that.”

James quickly walked away, leaving the stunned Aleli in the hallway.


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