Chapter 41: Two Sides
“Wow, this place looks amazing!”
Avegaille quickly ran up to the lobby area and looked around. The reception area Avegaille was facing had the logo of the company scaled on the wall and also had glass cabins on each side, showcasing the games the company had made. The clerk behind the reception counter was surprised by the girl that just appeared in front of her. Nicole May and Jane immediately followed her, making sure that she didn’t wander off further and end up getting lost. Mr. Rustford was the last one to enter the building and the employees passing by bowed down while greeting him. Then, Mr. Rustford approached the clerk at the reception counter.
“Mr. Rustford, we’ve been expecting you. These girls are with you, I presume?” the receptionist asked and stood up from her seat behind the counter. She looked at the girls who were loudly conversing on what they should be doing next.
“They certainly are, and quite a lively bunch too.” Mr. Rustford glanced over at the girls and laughed a bit.
Avegaille turned to the receptionist, coming close to her while looking curiously at what was behind the counter. She saw the gaming consoles and game cartridge cases displayed inside the glass cabinets, and stared at them with awe. Nicole May noticed that Avegaille was getting too close at the glass cabinets and rushed over to her, quickly pulling her away. The receptionist couldn’t help but chuckle slightly at Avegaille and turned her attention back to Mr. Rustford. She saw a blonde man wearing a business suit approaching Mr. Rustford, who bowed down to him.
“Mr. Rustford, the meeting will start soon, shall we proceed to the meeting room?” the man gestured his hands over the hallway where the meeting would happen.
“But of course, I’m sure they’re all waiting for us.” Mr. Rustford then turned to Nicole May and smiled at her. “Nikki, you should come with me so you can meet the wonderful staff of this company.”
“Sure, Dad, not a problem.” Nicole May nodded. Then, she turned to the sisters and saw how Jane was locking Avegaille’s neck with her arm while Avegaille was struggling to break free. “You guys gonna be okay on your own from here?”
“Don’t worry about us, I’ll watch over the little shrimp here!” Jane smiled weakly while her left eye was slightly twitching. Avegaille was still struggling and still attempted to loosen Jane’s grip of her neck but failed every time.
The blonde man led the way for the Rustfords to where the meeting room was. With them no longer visible in sight, Jane finally released Avegaille from her grip. Then, the receptionist approached Jane and held her hands while smiling happily.
“I’m quite surprised you knew who the Rustfords are, Miss Stewart,” the receptionist said.
“Ahaha… well… I only knew them because my little sister here is a good friend of their daughter,” Jane explained and slightly looked away from the receptionist while smiling weakly. The other employees that were passing by waved at Jane for a bit before leaving.
Avegaille noticed how the employees were well acquainted with her sister and slowly approached her while tugging her sleeve. She looked at the receptionist again, who was smiling at her.
“You’re Jane’s little sister, Avegaille, right?”
“Eh? How did you know what my name was?” Avegaille quickly clung to Jane’s arm and slowly hid behind her sister.
Jane realized that the receptionist might say something that Avegaille should not know and she waved her other hand at her, looking really nervous as well. The receptionist got confused and just stared at Jane's unusual behavior.
“It’s just something school work related where I had to interview them and… I just happened to mention to them how you’d like this place, that’s all!” Jane quickly rebutted and laughed nervously. She looked at the receptionist, hoping she would ride along with the lie she put up. “Right, Miss Sutton?”
“Y-Yes, that’s right,” Miss Sutton said nervously. She was not even sure of what was going on anymore but felt that she had to play along with Jane’s unusual behavior for today.
“So that explains why everyone passing by knew Jane…” Avegaille moved away from her sister and started looking around at the other areas of the lobby. She gazed at the posters scaled on one side of the lobby. The posters were showcasing all of the games released by the company so far.
Jane went closer to Miss Sutton while Avegaille was busy looking around the lobby area. Miss Sutton leaned down a bit so she could hear Jane better.
“My little sister doesn’t know about my Dad managing this company… So please, I’d like to make sure it doesn’t get out until I know when it’s the right time,” Jane whispered. “Also, please don’t let my Dad know my little sister is here today.”
“Understood Jane, I’ll let everyone else know about it just in case,” Miss Sutton said while slowly nodding at her. She went back to the reception desk, sat down on her seat and started typing on the keyboard.
Jane sighed with relief and turned her attention back to her little sister, making sure she has not wandered too far from sight. The lobby was more quiet than usual since the employees were already in their respective rooms. Then, Avegaille approached Jane and started tugging her sleeve.
“Hey Jane, aren’t we gonna go around and do a tour of some sort… see how they make the games?” Avegaille asked curiously while still tugging her sister’s sleeve.
“Yeah, yeah… we’ll get to that part in a bit,” Jane replied exasperatedly and folded her arms across her chest. She turned to Miss Sutton, who was still busy on the computer, composing an email. “I’m just waiting for someone here to give us a tour around the premise.”
Nicole May was standing behind her father while he was busy speaking with the other employees. They were inside the meeting room, which had a lot of sticky notes and planning sheets stuck on the back side of the room while the front had a whiteboard with various notes written on it. The middle of the room had a long table and office chairs where most of the employees were and also had various books, papers and laptops set up. There was also a projector on one end of the table, facing the whiteboard, for slide presentations. The door near the back side opened and a man who had neatly combed hair, donning square shaped glasses and a well ironed suit, came inside the room. He looked really surprised upon seeing Mr. Rustford and quickly approached him.
“Mr. Rustford, you've arrived earlier than expected, I was about to clean up the tables at least.”
“Haha, there’s no need Jake. Seeing the meeting room like this is more than enough for me to see how hard you guys are working,” Mr. Rustford said happily while he held Jake’s shoulder with his right hand. Then, he slightly turned to Nicole May, who was next to him. “Oh yes, Jake, I’d like to introduce to you my daughter, Nicole May.”
“It’s a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Stewart,” Nicole May greeted and extended her hand to Mr. Stewart, initiating a handshake. “I’ve read about this company earlier and heard about how well you’ve been working to keep it running.”
“Ah, that’s too much coming from you, Miss Rustford,” Mr. Stewart said sheepishly while shaking Nicole May’s hand. Both parties released each other’s grip, and Mr. Stewart turned to Mr. Rustford again. He noticed Mr. Rustford's puzzled expression and laughed nervously. “What is it, Mr. Rustford?”
“You know, somehow I just realized something. Do you know Amelia Stewart by any chance?” Mr. Rustford asked and chuckled a bit while he let go of Mr. Stewart's shoulder.
“Dad!” Nicole May exclaimed loudly, in which both turned to her. “Do you really have to ask that?”
“Ahaha, no it’s fine. Amelia is my ex-wife,” Mr. Stewart replied and smiled weakly. He turned back to Mr. Rustford. “I don’t know why she is still using my last name though. But… uh… why the sudden question?”
“Oh, it’s just I met her and her friend thanks to Nicole May here one time. My daughter is friends with her youngest daughter… I’m assuming she’s your daughter too?” Mr. Rustford leaned closer towards Mr. Stewart.
“Avegaille… yes, she is.” Mr. Stewart slightly adjusted his glasses and then, turned away from them. He felt uneasy and tried to keep his calm composure as much as possible.
“It’s okay, Mr. Stewart, you don’t have to give us the details!” Nicole May exclaimed and then, turned to her father furiously. “Dad, this is not something you’d discuss in a business meeting. Could you please not ask too many personal questions?”
“Sorry, I was curious. Plus, it was bothering me more now that Jane was insisting on coming along with us earlier,” Mr. Rustford explained and laughed nervously. “Somehow, you knew all this already. I’m quite surprised at how well you’ve grasped the situation.”
“That’s only because Jane informed me about this just a couple of days ago,” Nicole May muttered while she slightly turned away from her father and sighed exasperated. “Anyway, I’d like to be excused for now while you guys are doing this important meeting.”
“Sure Nikki, just don’t wander too far.” Mr. Rustford watched her daughter leave the room and then, the door closed slowly. He turned back to Mr. Stewart, who was quietly standing on his spot and still shocked from what he heard earlier. “I’m sorry about that Jake, how about we properly start this meeting now?”
“Of course, Mr. Rustford.” Mr. Stewart slightly nodded then, slowly went to his seat. He still felt weary from the conversation earlier and at the same time, felt nervous about what might possibly happen later. He also knew that Jane almost never comes visiting his company unless he accompanies her, and most of the time, it was whenever she had no choice on the matter.
The other employees all went to their assigned seats while Mr. Rustford went to the front area where the whiteboard was. He took out a phone from his pocket and went through the notes he set up on it earlier, which he would discuss today with them.
Nicole May sighed as she closed the door behind her and looked around. The hallway had sofas set up near the doors for each room. She sat down on one of them and crouched down, holding her head with her hands. She was getting stressed from everything that had happened so far and wanted to leave the place as quickly as possible. Suddenly, she heard some voices echoing through the hallway and she quickly lifted up her head. She looked to her left and then, she noticed familiar figures getting closer to her. She saw Avegaille running towards her and she quickly hid behind the potted plant next to the sofa. Nicole May slightly cringed, as she knew that Avegaille was still visible from the hiding spot she picked. She stood up from her seat and went closer to Avegaille.
“Hey shrimp, get back here!” Jane’s voice hollered through the hallways and Avegaille crouched down on the spot she was hiding from.
“Is this the part where you try to annoy your sister again by trying to get away from her?” Nicole May asked exasperatedly while folding her arms across her chest. She saw Jane getting close to them, who also looked really tired and almost out of breath.
“Well, sort of…” Avegaille replied sheepishly and stepped out of her hiding spot. Jane finally got close to her and suddenly felt her sister’s arm locking on her neck. She couldn’t breathe well and struggled to loosen her sister’s grip on her. “I’m sorry! I-It won’t ha-happen again! Please let go!”
“Do that again and you’ll get something worse than this!” Jane exclaimed furiously and then quickly took off her grip from her little sister’s neck. Avegaille held on her neck and tried to catch her breath. Jane placed her hands on her hips, still irritated at what her sister did earlier.
“What exactly happened anyway?” Nicole May asked while Avegaille massaged her neck, still trying to ease the pain.
“It doesn’t really concern you but this shrimp here was telling the employees about the restrictions Mom placed when it comes to me dating,” Jane explained and turned to her sister, staring at her exasperatedly. “They don’t need to know that, why did you have to tell them that?!”
“But Jane, this one guy was eyeing you and was almost ready to make his move. I only wanted to set his expectations before he did something to you,” Avegaille explained wearily.
“I can take care of myself very well, you know…” Jane muttered and sighed. Then, she turned to Nicole May who, at this point, had gotten used to their petty squabbling. “So, is your father already at the meeting?”
“Yeah, he is. The meeting is gonna take a while and I didn’t want to stay there, so I stepped out for now,” Nicole May replied apathetically. Then, she sat on the sofa again, leaning her back on the cushion behind her. “How about you guys? Aren’t you guys doing the company tour or something?”
“Ah, I guess we’re sort of still doing it,” Avegaille replied nervously and sat down next to Nicole May. Her stomach started rumbling loudly, surprising everyone around her. “All that running made me hungry now…”
“I’m kinda hungry too, is there a place nearby here we can buy something to eat?” Nicole May asked, turning to Jane.
“Not really, everyone here usually orders fast food to be delivered here. There’s a vending machine with some snacks in the pantry if you’re fine with that,” Jane replied and turned to the direction opposite to where they came in. “It should be there, by the end of the hallway.”
“I’ll be back then.” Nicole May stood up from her seat and rushed to the other end of the hallway that Jane pointed to.
Nicole May saw the place Jane was referring to. There was a vending machine just next to the door that goes to the pantry. She looked at what was available in the vending machine and most of them were bags of chips, packets of crackers and energy bars. She had some spare change in her pocket and took them out, inserting them into the coin slot of the machine. She kept doing this until it was enough to get three energy bars, all dropping one by one as she kept pushing the button. She took the items out of the dispenser below the display and quickly returned to where Avegaille and Jane were. Avegaille was lying down on the sofa and Jane tried to pull her up but Avegaille was too hungry to even move.
“Come on, you can’t just lie down like that!” Jane tried pulling both of Avegaille’s arms, at least to get her to sit properly on the sofa. After some more forceful pulling, she finally got Avegaille sitting on the sofa normally.
“I’m hungry… I wanna go home!” Avegaille pouted and folded her arms across her chest. She tilted her head slightly and saw Nicole May behind her sister. “Nicole May! Did you find anything good at that vending machine?”
“Just energy bars.” Nicole May handed the sisters each an energy bar. Then, she sat down next to Avegaille. She slowly opened the plastic packaging and bit on the bar to taste it.
Avegaille quickly tore the packaging and munched the bar as fast as she could. Nicole May stared in disbelief at how fast Avegaille ate the energy bar. Avegaille was still hungry and turned at her sister groggily. Jane knew exactly what her little sister wanted and sighed exasperatedly.
“It’s not like I was hungry anyway… here, you can have my share,” Jane muttered and tossed the energy bar to her sister’s hand.
“You’re the best, Jane!” Avegaille exclaimed happily. She quickly tore the plastic packaging and ate the bar inside. She was now eating the bar at a normal pace, unlike earlier. “These chocolate flavored energy bars are really good!”
Nicole May continued eating her energy bar while Jane was standing guard at the door, which was next to the sofa the two were sitting on. Jane knew that door led to the meeting room and everyone inside could come out at any moment.
“Hey, why don’t we go around the other rooms here?” Jane suggested and pointed to the direction to her right. She was sweating from all the tense atmosphere.
“Eh? But we already went through all the rooms over there…” Avegaille muttered and stood up from her seat. She popped into her mouth the remaining piece of the energy bar she had. While still chewing what was in her mouth, Avegaille noticed the door next to her and looked at the plaque mounted on the door. ‘Meeting Room’ was inscribed on the plaque. Avegaille reached for the doorknob but someone grabbed her wrist and pulled her away.
“You can’t go in there!”
Avegaille looked to her side and right next to her was Nicole May, who looked really nervous and was gripping her wrist firmly. Just before anyone could say anything else, the door creaked open and the employees came out one by one, some going to the east side of the hallway, the others going to the west side. The line of moving employees eventually subsided. Jane started panicking in her mind and quickly went close to the opened door, peeking inside to see who was still in the meeting room. She saw her Dad was still talking to Mr. Rustford. Then, Jane felt something squishing to her side and looked down.
“So this is the meeting room huh?” Avegaille remarked and looked around the insides of the room. She saw two men talking at the front side where the projector was but couldn’t see clearly who the person was with Mr. Rustford.
“Avegaille!” Jane exclaimed surprisingly and lost her balance, falling down on the floor with a loud thud, together with her sister.
Nicole May quickly rushed over to the sisters both lying on the floor in the most unusual position. The two fathers that were still inside quickly rushed to them as well. Jane slowly got up on her own. Meanwhile, Mr. Stewart looked at Avegaille nervously, who had her eyes still closed from the pain. He took her hand and slowly pulled her up.
“Avegaille, a-are you all right?” Mr. Stewart asked nervously. He looked really hesitant and was worried about how Avegaille would react the moment she opened her eyes.
“That voice… am I dreaming?” Avegaille slowly opened her eyes and saw her hand being held by someone.
Nicole May quickly rushed in front of Avegaille and took off her glasses. Both Jane and Mr. Rustford were shocked at what was happening. Avegaille was surprised as well, and lifted up her head but with her vision problem, she could not see clearly who was holding her hand. Then, Nicole May looked at Mr. Stewart and nodded at him, signaling him a chance to talk to his youngest daughter.
“Avegaille! I-I wanted to apologize to you for so long… I know it’s been years but I was at fault with my uncontrollable temper and everything that happened. I wanted to make it up to you somehow!” Mr. Stewart quickly hugged Avegaille tightly and tears started flowing through his eyes. “Please, just this once, hear me out!”
“That voice again…” Avegaille was still stunned and lifted her head, looking at the person hugging her. At a close distance, she finally saw that it was her father crying in front of her. She was surprised at what she was seeing now but at the same time, she was not scared anymore. It was her first time to see her father like this. Mr. Stewart released his daughter from his hug. “Dad… this isn’t a dream, is it?”
“W-What are you talking about? Of course it isn’t,” Mr. Stewart replied and rubbed his eyes, trying to wipe off the tears in his eyes. He smiled at his daughter, who was talking to him normally now. “There’s a lot of things I wanted to tell you, now you’re here.”
“Really? Like what?” Avegaille asked curiously. She squinted her eyes trying to make with what little she could see. Nicole May approached her again and put the glasses back on her face. Avegaille looked at her father again and smiled at him. “Hey, I can see you better now.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Mr. Stewart remarked and laughed a bit. Everyone else looked relieved, and was smiling as well. “You know, Jane told me about how much you really enjoyed video games. She told me this when she moved in with me years ago. Somehow, in my mind, I wanted to make a video game that you would enjoy, hoping to make up to you. However, everything was falling apart. I didn’t know what to do next. I struggled with what I had left until Mr. Rustford came here, reviewing everything we’ve done so far…”
“I was a fan of this company’s work and after hearing the news about them about to close down, I couldn’t help it and quickly went here as soon as I could with a proposal I had that would benefit both parties,” Mr. Rustford added. “In order to keep them from completely shutting down, I had to take over the financial side of this company until they can recover from the profits they’ll gain in their future releases. So far, it’s going great plus with proper planning and PR, their game releases are gonna be selling like hotcakes!”
“Geez Dad, I didn’t take you to be someone who enjoys playing video games at your age,” Nicole May remarked wearily and shook her head, out of disbelief.
“Video games are my way to relieve stress, especially if I’m far away on a business trip,” Mr. Rustford explained proudly.
“Wait, I’m still confused here…” Avegaille turned back to her father with a puzzled look on her face. “Are you saying you own this company, Dad?”
“As if that wasn’t obvious enough,” Nicole May retorted and sighed exasperatedly. Mr. Stewart could not help but chuckle at them. Avegaille turned to her, still confused. “That look is saying why we never told you about it, isn’t it?”
“Eh, are you some kind of mind reader?” Avegaille asked surprisingly. “But no… really, I want to know why…”
“It’s really simple. Jane knew about your situation and informed me about it as well. Both of us didn’t want to ruin one of the things you enjoyed doing despite how unproductive it was. If you knew the fact that it was the person you were afraid of the most that created the thing you liked, would you still enjoy it?”
Avegaille slightly shook her head in response and then turned to her father. She looked at him again and her eyes were getting watery. Then, she quickly rushed to her father and hugged him. Mr. Stewart was surprised by her daughter’s reaction and gently stroked her head.
“Somehow, I feel that I made the right decision getting you involved in this,” Jane said to Nicole May while she folded her arms across her chest.
“I honestly didn’t do anything. I guess today was just the perfect chance for this,” Nicole May replied back and sighed with relief.