When confronted, Seth shows Laurie his truly nasty side.
Phew! Here we go.
Phew! Here we go. “Thanks, Laurie,” Pierce mumbled, sitting down on the bar stool next to her. “I really needed this. I can’t be around Ellen without feeling miserable.” Ellen, his soon to be ex-wife.
“It’s no problem, Edwin,” she replied. “I know how painful it can be.”
He looked at her ruefully. “Are you talking about your ex?” Laurie cast her eyes at the ground, so he said, “I’m sorry. I’ll stop mentioning it.”
“It’s alright,” replied Laurie. “Yes. I’m talking about Derek. I’ve never been through anything so horrible. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” As she spoke, her eyes glazed over, revealing a side of her that Edwin had never hoped to see: a broken spirit, disappointed hopes and dreams.
Pierce cocked his head. “What happened?”
She pursed her lips. “I met Derek in college. I didn’t want to date him at first, but we became best friends almost instantly. I fell hard for him. He was brilliant and funny. I truly believed that he was the one.
“We dated for two years. We decided to pursue our Master degrees at the same college so we could stay together. He proposed to me before the end of senior year, and we moved in together.
“As time went on we both began to worry about the future. I knew he wanted to travel. He turned down some amazing opportunities just to stay with me. Living together was a lot harder than we expected; I took up too much of his time and space, and he got tired of me. He began to ignore me, so I tried even harder to get his attention. I was stressing him out, without realizing it.
“But Derek was very quiet about his feelings. So quiet, that he didn’t tell me he was falling out of love with me. When he cancelled the wedding, it destroyed me.
“I cried every night. I wondered what I could do to make him love me again. I begged him to give me another chance, but nothing seemed to work. Derek moved out. My friends got sick of me for being depressed. I could barely focus on my work, but somehow, I did it. It was the worst year of my life.
“I became so lonely, I began to rebound with different guys. When Derek found out that I was dating other men, he came running and begged me to take him back.
Laurie sighed, and Pierce knew this was a turning point in her story. “I wanted so badly to say yes. But at the time, all I knew was the pain that Derek had put me through. He only wanted me back because I was no longer helpless and dependent, and because he was jealous.” She shook her head.
Pierce smiled sadly at her. “You can have any guy you want,” he said.
“I still loved him, but I just couldn’t let him have the best of me anymore. I said no to him. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
“He soon moved on, traveled, whatever. I finished my degree and moved here,” said Laurie. “This is the next chapter of my life. There’s no room for Derek in it.”
Edwin nodded. “I understand. Believe it or not, there are better men out there, Laurie; mature adults who know the meaning of commitment.”
“You mean, like Harry?” Laurie said. The two friends looked at each other, laughed heartily, and drank from their cups.
“Excuse me, I am a very mature adult, thank you very much!” Harry snapped. Laurie giggled, so he went on, “You can’t call me immature just because I’m not interested in a serious relationship at the moment—like everyone else seems to be!” He shook his head. “Take Mason and Isabella. They can’t keep their hands off of each other. It’s a little gross.”
“Where are those two, anyway?” Laurie asked. “I haven’t seen them all week.”
Harry shrugged. “They’re probably making out in a room, somewhere.”
As the week wore on, Laurie kept her eye open for her two missing friends, but they were nowhere to be found. By the end of the week, she was trekking the upstairs hallways in search of a maid. After awhile, she found one, but not the maid she was expecting; in one of the regal bedrooms, a man in a white uniform was cleaning sheets.
Laurie didn’t take long to figure that one out.
She backtracked to the ground floor, her fists shaking. She went straight to Seth’s laboratory, where he was working. When she barged in, his heart sank into his stomach. Why couldn’t she just leave him in peace?
“What are you doing here?” He growled, glaring fiercely at her. “Go home.”
“Where’s Isabella?” Laurie asked sternly, swallowing her fear of him.
Seth raised an eyebrow. “I fired her.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because instead of cleaning, she was fooling around with my security guard,” he said dismissively.
Laurie nodded, her jaw set. “You fired Mason, too, didn’t you?”
“That’s why I hired you, Miss Fell. You are quite brilliant,” he snarled. “I suggest you get out of here before you end up like they did.”
Laurie came very close to making a remark that would have indeed gotten her fired. However, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and counted to three before giving Seth an answer: “Good night, Sir.” The words felt pathetic and worthless as she spoke them. She turned on one heel and marched out.
Seth scoffed impatiently. The nerve of her, questioning his decisions! One word of rebellion, and he’d have fired her on the spot. Then, his troubles with her would be truly over.
At least she was finally gone. All he wanted was some peace of mind.
“I can’t believe I’m jobless,” Isabella wailed as she entered Laurie’s apartment. “The mansion was everything. I need it. I’ll have to move back in with my parents, now. I don’t know how things are going to work with Mason!”
“Shh, everything will be alright. That Seth Valentine is going to get what’s coming to him,” Laurie cooed, guiding her friend toward the couch. She had called Isabella to make sure that she was ok, and invited her over for some much needed girl time.
“How could I be so stupid?” the former maid cried, collapsing on the couch. “Mason and I should have waited until we were out of the mansion. We were both about to leave, anyway. It was just one kiss… Valentine didn’t even let us explain.” Her eyes glazed over with tears at the unfairness of the situation. “I’ve worked in the mansion for two years.”
“Let me get you some tea.” Laurie patted her friend’s arm, then went to the kitchen.
Things weren’t going to get better with her boss, she realized. She could never forgive him for this. She loved her job, but could she really stand to work under Seth Valentine anymore? Laurie and Seth resumed completely ignoring each other the next work day. The two communicated very impersonally through email. Instead of dropping off her reports at Seth’s office, Laurie asked Pierce to deliver them for her. When Seth needed to inspect Laurie’s lab, he ordered Pierce to do it. Needless to say, Pierce quickly caught on to the situation. “What’s going on with you and Seth?” he blurted when Laurie asked him to deliver another paper. “I know you guys weren’t the best of friends, but at least you spoke to each other. Why am I a pigeon, now?”
Laurie grimaced; she hated recalling the incident at Expo, but Pierce deserved an explanation for his extra work. “I’m sorry, Edwin. Dr. Valentine and I got into an argument on the night of Expo. I also got a little upset when he fired Isabella and Mason. I’m afraid Seth and I just don’t get along.” She smiled ruefully. “Luckily, that’s not one of my job requirements.”
Pierce nodded. “True, but it helps. I know you’re upset right now, but it’s easier to accept Seth for who he is, rather than to fight it. I know he can be just plain mean, but he’s also a strong leader, and he gets amazing results from his workers.”
Laurie sighed. “I’m sorry, but I think we all deserve to be treated with a little respect. Working for someone like him… it’s almost not worth it.”
“You don’t mean that,” Pierce chuckled, patting her on the shoulder. “The job is worth it.”
Laurie thought about what Pierce had said. She was still too angry to try to make amends with Seth right now… but maybe in a few weeks, things would go back to normal. If she could avoid Seth and just hang in there, the drama was sure to resolve itself.
Laurie found that she couldn’t hang in there, though. It was inevitable that she should encounter Seth, and when she did, his rudeness prevailed.
She was walking down the hall, on her way to lab. Seth was exiting his own lab, heading toward the office. When he saw her, he briefly considered going back inside. Then again, he would rather bite off his toenails than be scared off by the likes of her. He marched forward without making eye contact. He plowed right through her. Laurie had to put her back against the wall in order to let Seth walk by. Her expression darkened; it seemed like the smallest thing in the world, but to Laurie, it stuck out like a sore thumb.
“Well, excuse me!” she blurted angrily.
Seth stopped in his tracks. “What was that, Fell?”
“Is it so hard for a genius like you to say ‘excuse me?’” she asked. “Would it kill you to show some manners?”
Seth scowled. Laurie knew she would be fired; she had already accepted that. She looked forward to the end of the drama and to living on a severance package. She just couldn’t make herself care about this job anymore, not like this.
He faced her, his gaze on fire. “I run this laboratory, Miss Fell. When I walk down the halls of my own mansion, you can jump out the window, for all I care.”
Laurie could feel the heat in her face. “Don’t you care about anyone but yourself? I don’t understand how you can live like this, sleeping in the same place that you work, shutting yourself in, and making everyone as miserable as you are. You could replace all your engineers in a flash, and you wouldn’t care. Do you have any friends?”
Seth’s rolled his eyes. “I’ve fired many people before you, Miss Fell,” he said. “They all responded with the same thing: ‘I’m rotten. I’m a selfish person. I don’t care about anyone.’ I’ve heard it all. Please, save your whining.” Laurie sniffed. “Dr. Valentine, you were my inspiration in college. I read about you. I always wanted to meet you. It was my dream to discuss quantum physics over a cup of coffee with you. To watch you break something apart and put it back together. But I just can’t talk to you at all! The real Seth Valentine is so… disappointing.” She shook her head. “I wish things were different.” At this point, angry tears began to well up in Laurie’s eyes. She looked away, ashamed of crying in front of him. Seth’s brow rose. He tried very hard not to be affected by her sorrowful expression, but he felt a small, undeniable pang of guilt.
She used to like him. She'd liked him, and he’d torn her apart.
He had never regretted his words before, but in that moment, he wished for a time machine.
With that, she turned away. She entered her lab, and quietly shut the door behind her.
“I need you to fire Laurie Fell.”
Edwin gawked at Seth over the mahogany desk. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me,” he said, typing away at his laptop, as if the matter were completely unimportant. “Tell her she has the rest of the day to pack her things.” Pierce just stood there, staring at his boss, until Seth finally made eye contact. Seth leaned back in his chair, exasperated. “Are you going to question my decisions now, too?”
“No,” Pierce stated. “But with all due respect, Seth… it’s not my job to fire people. If you want to get rid of Laurie, then you should do it yourself. You’re the boss.”
Seth swallowed pensively. Edwin sat down across the room, frowning. “Are you sure you want to fire her?” he asked. “She’s a good contributor.”
After a long, silent pause, Seth finally gave an answer: “No... I don’t want to. But I just can’t allow her to disrespect me the way that she did today. She has to go.” That was only half the reason. Truthfully, he just didn’t want to feel guilty about her anymore. Anger, he could handle, but not guilt.
Pierce bit his lip. “You know, I heard the whole argument. You two were right outside my lab.”
Seth scoffed. “Really, now.”
Pierce shrugged. “If you don’t want to fire her, then don’t. And if you want her to respect you... then show her a little respect.”
Seth glared at Pierce, who held up his hands and spoke before Seth could blow him off. “I’m just saying, you usually go with the firing route. Maybe, for the sake of the company, you could keep her on this time. Let her make money for you, and save the time it takes to find another good engineer. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”
Seth sighed. “She’s probably going to quit anyway. I should wait until she does that, then we don’t have to pay her a severance package.”
“Seth,” Pierce said, sternly arching one eyebrow. “Maybe you should apologize to her.”
Seth looked away. “I can’t.”
“Yes, you can.” Pierce stood and approached Seth’s desk. “It’s called ‘being the bigger person.’ It’s putting aside your own convictions for the sake of something more important. You heard Laurie—she wants to like you. If you’re just a little nice to her, she’s so easy to get along with.”
Seth threw his hands up. “What am I supposed to say? ‘Hi, Laurie, sorry for being a jerk?’”
“You should say the truth,” Pierce corrected, heading for the door. “If that’s how you really feel about it, then yes.” When Pierce left, Seth gave his words considerable thought. What did he really feel?
He didn’t want to face Laurie again, but that wasn’t a good enough reason to fire her. Sure, she was disrespectful, but she had only talked back to him to counter his own rudeness—he had to admit, getting a taste of his own medicine was no fun. He thought back on the numerous times he had been unfair to her.
He closed his eyes and sighed, “Alright. You win, Pierce.” This wasn’t going to be easy.
The next week came. Laurie was extremely surprised that Seth hadn’t fired her yet, and wondered why he was taking so long to do it. She supposed she should feel grateful that she still had a job. When she entered the kitchen for lunch, she ran into Mason. The security guard grinned widely at her. “Laurie!”
“Mason!” she cried, hugging him. “What are you doing here? I thought you were…”
“Fired? Yeah, but Valentine knows he cant replace me. I’m too good at my job. He gave me a phone call, apologized and everything.”
Laurie shook her head—that didn’t sound like Seth at all. He had to be mistaken, somehow. “What about Isabella?”
“She’s back, too,” Mason replied with relief. “I’m not really sure why Valentine didn’t hire someone else… he’s not usually merciful enough to rehire. But I guess she’s also really good at what she does.” He shrugged.
Toward the end of the day, Laurie was heading for the mansion’s exit, still confused about what Mason had said--an apology from Seth Valentine? She didn’t realize those existed, and if they did, they must be priceless.
“Miss Fell,” a low voice called, stopping her before she could reach the front door. Laurie swallowed—what did he want, now?
Seth caught up to her, embarrassed before he could even say anything. He looked at the floor to avoid her gaze. There was a moment of silence before he was ready to speak.
Time to say ‘what I feel,’ he thought. This is going to be stupid.
“Being kind to others does not come naturally to me. All my life, I’ve had to be cruel and selfish because the people around me were cruel and selfish. My intellect was my weapon.”
Laurie’s brow shot up.
“You deserve better treatment than that, Laurie,” he admitted with difficulty. “You are better than me.”
“Sir,” Laurie started, her cheeks turning pink.
“It’s true. Aside from my one, profitable talent, building things… you are better than me in every way.” He was gritting his teeth. “You possess both logic and creativity. People who know you, like you. You have confidence and self-esteem, without having to put other people down—unlike me.” He knew he was talking too much, but he couldn’t stop himself now that his thoughts were flowing. He felt like an idiot, but at least it was the truth. “I just want to say that I’m sorry for the way I am. It’s not likely to change. But I am sorry.”
There were no words for Laurie’s shock. Even though he couldn’t look at her, she had never seen such humility in his eyes before.
“Have a good night,” he mumbled, dismissing her.
“Seth,” Laurie said. “Do you… want to grab a drink?”
At this, he finally met her eyes. Laurie seemed to be tearing up again, but these were different tears.
He shrugged. “Alright. But please, don’t cry. It’s just uncomfortable for everyone involved.” He realized a little too late how mean that sounded.
To his surprise, she just chuckled. “Deal.”
Mastermind Chapter 7
Jul 10, 2012 by katmusic09
Moderator actions: Unpublish
Report this Story:
If you find a problem with this story or wish to report inappropriate content, click here