“And where is that?”
“Right here, speaking to you, married to this man!” I threw my arm around Cole’s shoulder and planted a big kiss on his cheek. “My darling idiot.”
Alphonse chuckled, but I could tell that Cole was horror-stricken. He was cold and stiff as I pulled my face away to smile warmly at our guest, eager to see where my impulsiveness was taking us now.
“And what makes you think he is an idiot?” Alphonse asked politely. “This man is self-made – he commands more wealth than mostly any other individual on the planet, saving an exceptional few.”
I could have changed course, but I couldn’t.
“Because he wants this night to go perfectly,” I replied calmly. “He wants you to buy his company, and he wants me to be the delightful trophy wife, convincing you that we’re really soul mates and all that crap. You know the spiel.”
Alphonse’s face fell. “Would you care to try that again?” Before I could answer, he turned to my husband. “Are you sure you didn’t slip some alcohol into her drink?”
“Look,” I said, disentangling myself from Cole. “You came all this way to see if he and I really loved each other, right? I mean, that’s the impression I got. How do you plan on quantifying that?”
“Exactly. What, you just know?” I continued on, watching Megami’s face as I verbally advanced upon him. “No, that’s not a valid measurement…you see, I like to think that love is based on a certain, healthy trust. Love is something you work on, something you build upon mutual respect. It isn’t some bubbly, fairy tale infatuation. Love is respect. Love is commitment. He and I don’t have the time to build a fire-forged relationship, a textbook example of the perfect, fairy-tale romance. We can’t focus on every tiny detail. Time isn’t on our side.”
“I am aware,” the businessman growled. It was clear that I was getting to him, but if the idea in my head was going to work…
“But that’s just it – he told me that he’s dying, but I only found out after we’d married. He didn’t want me to get close…he didn’t want to hurt me. That’s how he showed me that he really cared. Cole wanted to keep this emotionless, just a business arrangement – like the two of you. He also cares so much about all of his employees that he’ll bend over backwards for you, even if it makes him look like an idiot.”
“Honey,” Cole began, “I think that’s quiet enough–”
“So, how do you quantify love? This isn’t rhetorical. I want to know. You’re the billionaire love doctor? Surely you have a metric, something tangible.”
“I…think I’ve heard quite enough,” Alphonse remarked, his face stony and detached.
“No, you haven’t,” I pressed him. “This night has to go perfectly for you to buy his company. But you made up your mind before you ever stepped foot in New York. Why is that? That’s what I want to know. All of us know that my husband is dying. You wanted to put him through that extra pain – forcing him to magically find love in his dying days… And I can see it on your face as clear as day. You came here to refuse Cole’s offer. You wanted to look him in the eyes when you did it… Didn’t you Megami?”
I smiled even as he showed cracks in his formerly calm appearance.
“But here’s the thing – I’m not dying. There’s something innately cruel about all of this. I love this man. I will stand by this man. He’s changed my life. He’s shown me things…he’s shown me what it’s like to live without fear. And now I have to watch this man die before we can share almost any of our lives together, and one of the last nights I have with him…I have to spend on this stupid little song and dance with you?”
My tears were starting to stream now, but I couldn’t fight it anymore. “Why? Why in God’s name would you do that to me? To him? Why put us through that anguish? If we threw some sham marriage together to appease you, you’d see right through it. And yeah, that was the desperate and stupid plan right from the get-go. I bet you know all about the Swiss bank account, don’t you Mr. Magami? None of that mattered anymore when I found out he was dying. We’re spend these last days bearing our souls to each other. We know things about each other no one else either has or will ever know. But now, thanks to your little games, Cole has to die knowing that he’s leaving me behind, and I have to carry on knowing that you are the man responsible for that.”