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One hour earlier

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One hour earlier...

"The files have been sent." I said as soon as Brad picked up.

"Thank you." He replied. "Will you be heading back today?"

"We've got one more night here Then we'll be flying back tomorrow morning. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Sounds good. See ya later." The line went dead shortly after.

Brad had seemed a little stressed this morning, and I'm sure it was due to the fact that mother was currently breathing down his neck. She had texted me a few hours ago as well, inquiring about the Gala. As much as I truly did love that woman, her dipping into our affairs stressed everyone out. I get that she wanted to be more involved, but Brad was useless to me when he couldn't do his job because of her. I was sure he had probably forgotten to update HR on Alex's payroll, which meant I was going to have to do a manual change when I got back.

What I needed right now was for my mother to create some breathing room.

I had started to look for Jill, our HR specialists phone number, but I instead stumbled upon Joan's. I remembered Joan had sent me a text the night before, letting me know the name of the bar Alex had run off to. By that time, I had already grilled the bar's name out of Emma (the front desk clerk) as soon as she had gotten back from break.

I still didn't have much of an idea as to what might have happened last night. One minute, Alex was fine. The next minute, Alex was shit faced wasted.

I know it wasn't necessarily my business to pry... yet I couldn't stop myself from hitting that dial button. It took a few rings before the phone was picked up.

"Hello?" Joan answered. Her voice sounded raspy and sleep deprived, like she had just gotten to bed.

"Hi Joan, this is Christian." I replied. I heard her clear her throat.

"Hi Christian!" It was like a whole different person grabbed the phone from Joan. That raspy sleepy voice was replaced with perkiness. "Sorry, I just woke up. What can I do for you?" She asked.

"I saw your text yesterday about the bar. I just wanted to thank you for that, and apologize that I didn't respond until now. It was a hectic night."

"I completely understand." She chirped back almost immediately. "I'm just hoping Alex made it back safe. There's been nights where he's ended up in Canada." My eyebrows shot up in a surprise at those words.

"I don't mean to pry... but did Alex tell you anything about what happened? It was all just so abrupt. I was able to smooth things over with John but that meeting he missed could have been critical."

"I understand, yeah." Joan spoke hesitantly. "I don't necessarily think it's my place to say anything... but I also get wanting to make sure your employee is safe-"

I would reckon that Alex and I were a little passed a standard employer/employee relationship, but I let Joan continue.

"So I'm going to disclose information to you. If Alex asks, you heard this from God himself. You spoke with a burning bush or some shit, I don't care, as long as my name isn't brought up in this mess."

"You have my word." I assured her.

"Alex has had a pretty messed up childhood. His dad passed during his deployment overseas, his mum quickly turned to substances as a way of coping, and Alex took a nosedive into books. His mum is the definition of an emotionally abusive cunt. She's clung onto Alex his entire life, depending on him to be there for her physically, emotionally, and financially. Every time he says no, she'll bring up her dark disastrous past... as if Alex didn't lose a father that day too."

I sat there, fiddling with the pen in my hand as I listened to Joan. With every word she said, I felt myself growing more and more angrier.

"Anyways, he told me she called him yesterday. I understand that the way he handled the call may not have been the best, but trust me when I tell you, that woman could make anyone need a drink. I had the pleasure of meeting her a little over a year ago. I almost punched the bitch in her throat. Sorry, excuse my language."

"You're fine." It would be a little hypocritical of me to chastise her for swearing. "But thank you Joan, seriously. It sounded like I might have woken you up and I apologize for that. Please allow me to make it up to you when I return."

"Don't sweat it." She replied. "If it's about Alex, nothing could bother me."

I smiled at her words... and continued to smile, even after we said our goodbyes.

Alex had something beautiful.

Something I was slightly envious of.

He had a solid support system, filled with people who truly gave a damn. For someone who had solid people such as Joan, in his life, I didn't understand why he insisted on handling everything alone.

As I made my way out of the business center, I realized there was just one more call I needed to make.

The phone only rang once, before Brad picked up.

"Yes, Christian?" Brad asked. His voice had that same strained tightness.

"First off: ease the fuck up. This is just mother, so stop acting like we're getting fucking audited. My employees can pick up on fear, you know. Second: I need you to do me a favor."

There was a pause before Brad replied. I heard him take a deep breath. "What's up, boss?" He asked me. He sounded like he was finally getting his shit together.

"I need you to run me everything you can on Alex's mother."

"Should I even ask?"

"No. Just get it to me as soon as possible."

Present time...

"My mother?" Alex asked, as his hand reached up to rub his eyes. He looked miserable, with his eyes still red and puffy.

"Yes. I want you to tell me about your mother. You missed a very important meeting last night because you got drunk. I want to know how we got there." I replied. I noticed Alex's eyes avoided mine when I mentioned missing the meeting. He already looked completely spent with guilt, I felt a pang in my heart when he gave me a sad smile.

"I'm really truly sorry about that, Christian. I cannot believe I made a complete fool out of myself. While a conversation with my mother happened, I still went to that bar on my own accord, and for that, I'm deeply sorry." Alex spoke.

"That sweet and all, but that just won't cut it." I replied. "Your mother upset you. It's okay to admit that. Anyone, regardless of who they are and their relationship to you, can be triggering. You cannot take full responsibility for someone being so toxic. What you need to take responsibility for, however, is how you react to that toxic energy."



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