Seth and Laurie try to be friends, but one tries a lot harder than the other.
Hello, all! Sorry for the lame cover. I no longer have Photoshop. Thank you everyone who has read and commented on my story! The positive feedback is very motivating. Also, thanks to all custom content creators for being awesome!
Hello, all! Sorry for the lame cover. I no longer have Photoshop. Thank you everyone who has read and commented on my story! The positive feedback is very motivating. Also, thanks to all custom content creators for being awesome! Laurie smiled all the way to the bar; she couldn’t believe she had humbled the great Seth Valentine. Seth was awkward at first, but after a few drinks, he seemed to loosen up. Deep down, he knew he had done the right thing, and for once, he felt the weight of guilt and anger greatly lifted.
They went to a bar that was far too nice and expensive for even Laurie’s taste. Seth had offered to get the tab, so she couldn’t refuse.
To break the ice, Laurie asked, “Have you ever smiled before?”
“Ha-ha,” Seth replied without a hint of a smile.
“Relax, it’s a joke. Have you ever been to a comedy club? You might like it.”
“You are all the comedy I need,” he retorted. Instead of taking offense, Laurie chuckled.
She continued asking strange questions, trying to figure out what he enjoyed or what might make him smile. He didn’t like movies. He didn’t like traveling. He didn’t have a favorite color. Laurie wanted to connect with him on some level, but he gave her nothing. It was like chipping at an iceberg; no matter how much she chipped, there was only more ice underneath. She decided to drink faster. “I’m having a drink with Seth Valentine!” Laurie cheered after thirty minutes, punching one fist into the air. The room was beginning to swirl, a little.
Seth raised one eyebrow. “You’ve had THREE drinks with him,” he corrected. “Maybe you should slow down.”
“Hypocrite,” she replied. “You’re drinking as much as I am.”
“And I don’t feel a thing,” he mumbled, sipping whiskey.
“You were pretty smashed at Expo,” she recalled. “Why do you drink so much? Are you unhappy? Is that why you’re such a Debbie Downer all the time?”
Seth closed his eyes and bit back a sarcastic retort. He was determined to be nice for once, but it was going to be hard with her tipsy comments. He said, “I drink because it’s the only way I can stop processing thought. I’m always thinking. And I’ve told you why I’m a cruel person; I grew up around other cruel people.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Laurie said, her tipsy eyes turning sad. “At least that didn’t stop you from becoming an inventor.”
Seth shrugged. “In a way, it pushed me in that direction. My dad was the smart one, but he used his intellect to cheat and lie to others. We had no money, so I started trying to earn when I was 13. I fixed electronics, then cars.” That was personal information, but he seemed to be scoring bonus points for extra honesty.
Laurie’s head reeled at the thought of supporting her own parents at such a young age. “Kids should depend on their parents, not the other way around.” Seth shrugged, as if it were no big deal.
“What was the first thing you built?” asked Laurie.
“When I was very young, I tore apart my parent’s mechanical alarm clock. They didn’t appreciate that,” he said wryly. “But they didn’t really give me anything else to play with, aside from dirt and sticks.”
“You grew up without toys?” Laurie exclaimed indignantly. “That’s horrible! Did you have a childhood? Did you get to watch cartoons on TV or play videogames?”
Seth stared at the shelves of alcohol behind the bar. “No. I never had that stuff.”
“You poor thing,” Laurie cooed, and Seth rolled his eyes. “Childhood is supposed to be the second best time of your life. I can’t imagine my childhood without Back to the Future.”
“Never seen it,” Seth replied with a careless sip of whiskey.
Laurie gasped. “Heresy! You simply have to watch it. I’ll lend you my copy.”
“No, that’s alright…” he grumbled.
“I can’t be friends with you if you don’t,” she whined.
Seth looked at her. “Oh, so we’re friends now? You want to be the only friend that the ‘self-righteous Dr. Valentine’ has?”
Laurie blushed—he was referring to some of her more hurtful comments. “I’m really sorry I said that. And yeah, if you think you can handle it… I would like to be friends.” She paused. “And when I say friends, I mean, JUST friends. Nothing more.”
Seth rolled his eyes; she’d already established this long ago. “I agree. That’s for the best.”
Laurie was a lot happier when she walked down the halls of the mansion. Her friends, Mason and Isabella, were officially rehired, and she and Seth were finally on friendly terms. Sort of. Whenever she passed Seth in the hallway, she smiled widely and greeted him—even though he only replied with a grimace and a half-hearted “Hi.” She seemed determined to stay friendly, despite his continued coldness. He scoffed to himself; ever since that stupid apology, he couldn’t seem to get her out of his hair. Why did he have to run his mouth? Occasionally, she stopped by his office to talk to him about quantum mechanics and the multidimensional universe, like she’d always wanted. He always sighed when she came in; he hated being interrupted at work, but he never turned her away.
She visited him frequently, and soon her lunchtime office stops became routine. Her science questions never seemed to end. She forced him to stop working, to relax and to be social.
After a little while, Seth didn’t mind the interruption so much. Before her, there was no pause in his busy schedule; he would go for weeks without stopping or speaking to anyone.
One day, she baked cookies and brought them to work for everyone to share. While Harry shoved cookie after delicious cookie into his mouth, Laurie rescued a few and put them in a plastic bag.
She handed the bag to Pierce. “Could you bring these to Dr. Valentine for me? Before everyone else devours them,” she said.
Pierce frowned at her. “Uh. Sure.”
“What?” Seth said, frowning.
Pierce stood in the doorway with a knowing smile. “These cookies are just for you,” he repeated. “White chocolate macadamia nut, baked fresh by Laurie Fell.”
Seth glared darkly at Pierce’s chortling. “Stop it.”
“Do you not want them? I’ll take them—they’re quite good,” said Pierce, reaching into the bag.
“Give them to me!” Seth commanded. He snatched the bag out of Pierce’s hands.
Pierce eyed Seth’s paper basket. “Is that a copy of Back to the Future sitting on your desk?”
Seth looked down; sure enough, there it was, the ridiculous DVD cover standing out against his black and white documents. Seth picked up the movie and chucked it at Pierce. “She’s like a little kid. Give this back to her. And stop looking at me that way—it isn’t like that.”
Pierce caught the DVD. “I haven’t seen this movie in so long!”
“Get out!” Seth barked.
When lunchtime came around, Seth was startled by an angry Laurie charging into his office. “Oh no, you don’t!” she snapped, shoving the DVD right back into Seth’s hands. “You’re going to watch this movie if it kills me. It’s the whole reason I’m an engineer.”
“Look, Laurie, I don’t need your pity. I had a rough childhood. It happens. You don’t have to try to resurrect it,” Seth replied uneasily.
“I’ll watch it with you,” she said, ignoring him. “It’s lunchtime, take a break. Where’s the TV? Can we use the conference room?”
Seth glared; he was losing patience with her. “I don’t want to watch the movie.”
Laurie’s shoulders sulked. “Scrooge,” she accused, swiping the movie back out of his hands.
Even after that incident, Laurie wouldn’t let up. “There has to be something he enjoys, other than work and drinking. I want to know what it is,” she explained to Pierce at the lab.
“Is that why you’re being weird?” Pierce asked, one eyebrow raised. “I’m glad you two have made up, but be careful. Seth is like a wild animal. If you keep poking at him, eventually he’s going to bite your hand.”
“You were the one who told me I should try to get along with him,” Laurie pointed out.
“I didn’t say you had to be his best friend.” Pierce paused. “Do you like him now, or something?”
Laurie shook her head. “We’re just friends. I think he might be a lot nicer than people make him out to be. Just watch.”
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t make the deadline?’ Do you have cancer or something?” Seth barked, his claws deeply embedded in the conference table. He looked like he was about to pounce on Harry.
Harry casually checked out his nails. “No. It means, I can’t make the deadline,” he said matter-of-factly. He had an extremely calm reaction for one whose boss was yelling directly into his face.
Harry’s indifference enraged Seth all the more. “I need that program up and running by the end of the week, Lester. You will be holding everyone back. You need to move faster!”
“I told you. It just can’t be done. The machine needs to be recalibrated, then samples need to be tested. That takes time,” Harry replied. “There is nothing more I can do about it.”
Seth locked his jaw. Laurie recognized that look—Seth only made it whenever he was too angry for words. This deadline must be very important; he looked like he was on the verge of firing Harry.
Then, for one split second, Seth glanced at Laurie, and their eyes locked. Seth’s expression changed, and the heat in his face seemed to dissipate. This exchange lasted half a second; it was so brief that no one else noticed.
Seth leaned back in his chair and growled, “Get out of here and start working, Harry. Do whatever you have to do to make this deadline. I’ll take on some of the work and give you overtime.”
“Sounds good,” Harry rejoined, bouncing up and out of the room as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Although it was evident that Seth was still angry, he carried out the rest of the meeting without snapping at anyone. Laurie scratched her neck—what was that all about?
After the meeting, Seth swept down the hall, his fists clenched. Laurie watched him go.
Seth left so quickly that Laurie lost track of him. She wandered the empty halls of the mansion for a moment, but he was nowhere to be found. Finally, she called, “Seth?” Seth emerged from his bedroom, dressed in his workout clothes. He glared at her. “This is a private area. What do you want?” He moved past her, toward the gym.
“I just came to see if you were ok,” she replied, following him. “You looked as if you were going to fire someone today.”
“Harry Lester is a self-assured prat. Talking to him for longer than three seconds is a chore,” Seth snapped. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to punch my own walls out and pretend it’s him.”
“You punch things?” Laurie shook her head. “You really need to learn how to relax.”
He rolled his eyes at her. “What would you suggest, newly-appointed master of my lifestyle?” he asked sarcastically. “Finger-painting? Rainbows and puppies?”
Laurie blinked at him, a wonderful idea suddenly springing into mind. “Why don’t you come with me?”
Mastermind Chapter 8 (Part I)
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