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A cream-colored file slid across the streaks of oak-wood, halting before Nicholas in all its trembling glory, an ominous sign that the neatness beneath held a chaos far beyond his control.

Nicholas stared blankly at the pile before him, the scrambled white sheets that inked the statements he already predicted before, but his words fell idle to his father, a useless pitch that he refused to acknowledge.

Little did he know, Nicholas was right all along. "What's this?" he asked, curiously eyeing his father.

The older Muller sighed, collapsing onto his seat and pinching the bridge of his nose. "A failed contract between our company and a Chinese mobile enterprise."

"I figured."

His father's brows furrowed. "You don't seem too surprised."

"I'm not," he said, picking up the folder. Nicholas skimmed through the potential scams that were highlighted in the exposition of the contract, the breakdown of economics, and the jargon that hid ulterior motives. "Besides, I thought I warned you about his company before my..." he coughed awkwardly. "Wedding."

Electric blue eyes hardened at the string of words that seemed to burn the glaciers of parental love than anything else, cold, deceiving, and frigid. There was a tick in his jaw, muscle straining at the sensitive topic. "Now is not the time," he gritted out.

Maybe if you listened for once.

But Nicholas knew better than to poke a grizzly bear with a stick. His father's strained jaw only tightened at the glare his son gave him, his silent protest against his father's actions, a juvenile method yet still very effective. Nicholas enjoyed riling up his father, enjoyed pressing against the boundaries until he snapped.

With a calm, leveled voice, he said, "I told you about the loopholes in that contract before I left. I also made a memo to you about the background behind the Chinese corporation, so tell me, did you bring me out of my honeymoon for a pleasant scolding?"

"You should have been more assertive."

"Would you have listened?"

"Of course, I would," he insisted, lips thinning. "This company is far too important for me to just brush off any controversial matter. If there was a problem, you should have fought harder."

Anger bubbled from within Nicholas, coiling around him in rings of fury until all he saw was red, cruel and unforgiving wrath bursting through his veins. Oh Allah, grant me patience.

His father impatiently tapped his fingers against his desk, the sound drumming against his ear as painful sparks of the past blinded his eyes, memories fragmented and disarrayed. In his youth, never had Nicholas's parents ever believed him when he tried to defend his honor or if he tried to talk with them.

They only saw what they wanted, not what they needed to hear.

The first day he told his mother about his suicidal thoughts, she told him it was a "phase" and that he would grow out of it. The first day he told his father about his depression, he told him that he was "confused" and "lost," which was a greater reason for Nicholas to take his father's position and be the next heir of their family. It disgusted him, made a pit of flames burn into his stomach lining it with lethal poison.

All those years, he felt so sick, suffocated by their casual talk about his internal suffering, haunted by their laughter about his loss of vigor in life. The last couple of months as a Muslim were the brightest days of his life, the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, he still had dark days, but he had a support system now.

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