Living in Distrust

13 Jan 2022  C. chou  12 mins read.

He sighed, switching his phone into silent and tossing it aside. He was so tired of all of this. Leaning his back into the leather sofa and draping an arm over his face, he closed his eyes. Was getting a moment of peace so difficult? Ever since his grandfather’s will declared him as sole heir to the family wealth, unsolicited calls came one after another. He couldn’t even concentrate at work anymore. More than half the phone calls and emails he received had absolutely nothing to do with the company, much less his job.

Who knew how all these people were getting his contact information? It’s not like the company makes it especially public. It didn’t help that unspoken tension hung in the air whenever he was home. Only his grandmother seemed on his side. If not for her, he would’ve left the family estate long ago. But even she was a source of stress these days, with her recent insistence that he show up to the blind dates she’d arranged.

He opened his eyes, picking up the phone and checking the time. It was almost time for another of these dates. Exhaling heavily, he stood. As much as he disliked events like these, particularly with most of the women seemingly more interested in his inheritance than his character, he didn’t want to upset his grandmother. She was such a sweet woman. He hadn’t had the heart to tell her that he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in settling down with a family and that he wasn’t sure that he would ever be.

He tucked the phone into his pocket. It was long past time for him to get off work anyways. But, he did enjoy the evening silence at the office. At least, there wasn’t anyone around to approach him with ulterior motive. As he walked through the mostly dark office, he caught sight of a cubicle that was still lit with a desk lamp. His eyebrows knitted together. There shouldn’t be so much work around this time of the year. Why is someone still around over time?

It looked like he would need to schedule a meeting with the managers tomorrow morning. He drew his lips into a line. He hated overworking his employees, regardless of their roles in the company. But, now wasn’t the time to deal with this. If he didn’t leave now, he was going to be late.

Turning his head, he passed the cubicles. The girl today was one that his grandmother seemed to especially favor. Chances are, with his grandmother’s personality, the girl already had their family phone number. He couldn’t afford to show up late and worry his grandmother. Those kind of girls, at least in his experience, were bound to tattle.

Stepping into the elevator, he watched the busy city bustle with activity from the open view that its glass offered him. So many people contributing to the life around him. Cogs in a larger machine. He sighed. A world that was closed off to him as soon as the news spread of his wealth. A fantasy that was denied to him the very moment that recognition lit up on a stranger’s face.

Regretful, he exited the elevator. At the door, a taxi waited for him. Yes, he recalled, he had called one about half an hour ago, before he was distracted by another string of phone calls. Like the women that sought relationships with him, taxi drivers weren’t immune to the allure of wealth. It was generally known, in the area, that he preferred calling taxis to personally driving and it was rumored that he had a habit of giving rather large tips. Regardless of who actually called, taxis tended to wait below their office for up to an hour, hoping that he was the man that requested their services.

Ensuring that his sunglasses were on his face, despite the darkness of the night, he threw the vehicle doors open and sat onto the carpeted backseat.

“Where to, sir?” The driver asked, turning to him with a disgusting smile. Desire glistened in the man’s eyes.

“The five star hotel five blocks down from here. Thanks.” He answered coldly.

“If you don’t mind me asking, are you the CEO?” The man inquired, as he started his engine.

“No.” He answered, watching the driver’s shoulders visibly slump in disappointment. His identity was none of the man’s business. “I’m just one of his business partners temporarily in the area.”

“Please recommend my services to him next you see him!” The driver said, immediately perking up at the information and passing him a business card. “Here’s my card.”

He took it without responding. Suck ups revolted him. People definitely didn’t treat him half as courteously when he was a nobody. When he was nothing but a bastard child that was only accepted into his family as a part of their effort to cultivate a benevolent public image. He nearly let out a laugh as he mentally compared the sharp shifts in demeanor. They were really willing to bootlick just about anyone with connections to him nowadays, weren’t they?

He couldn’t believe that he once faithfully followed stories that lied and claimed existence of individuals that helped others without seeking anything in return. Passing the driver the payment plus some tip, which he only added to ensure that the man didn’t unnecessarily pester him, he left the car and found himself staring at a building that he was too familiar with these days.

The hotel was one of the few in the area that had a decent dining section while allowing dining customers that didn’t have intention of staying the night. Given that a majority of the women that his grandmother found were not from the area, it was usually easier for both parties to just meet and dine at the place. So often did he come to this hotel that he had begun to suspect that his grandmother was paying for the womens’ stays. It seemed like something the she’d do, being an old lady eager for grandchildren.

Walking in, unhindered, he sat himself in front of the woman that looked closest to the one in the picture from his grandmother. His frequent visits hadn’t been free benefits. Most of the staff were familiar with him, as their most frequent customer, and no longer questioned his activities.

“Nice to meet you.” He said to the woman, extending a hand to her.

“You are?” The woman asked, as if she didn’t recognize him.

“The person you’re waiting for, of course.” He answered, sprawling casually in his chair, and meeting her eye without taking off his sunglasses.

“I’m sorry.” She answered, standing. “I think you’re mistaken.”

“But I don’t think I am.” He answered with a smirk as he straightened and grabbed her wrist. Did she honestly think that he would believe that she didn’t know him? If there was one thing he disliked more than bootlickers, it was those that put on pretenses. His grandmother’s taste was getting worse by the day. “I think we were supposed to at least eat together.”

“Well, I disagree.” She responded, struggling in his grasp. “I’m not eating with the likes of you.”

A sharp pain shot through his face as a resounding smack rang through the room. Using her free hand, she had slapped him. And on impact, he let go of her in surprise. Anyone else he knew from his station would’ve returned a favor of public humiliation. But somehow, the exchange didn’t bring him the embarrassment that he would’ve otherwise expected given the large audience. He smiled, his face smarting, as he watched her stomp off into the distance. What an interesting woman.

The matter now settled, he called for the waiter and requested his normal order. No sense in going hungry. On nights like these, his grandmother usually expected him to be back a bit later anyways. Suddenly, his phone vibrated from inside his pocket. He pulled it out. It was his grandmother.

“Luke! You’ve got to hurry!” His grandmother shouted into the phone.

“Why?” He asked. “I just ordered food.”

“The lady that was supposed to meet you today texted me that she just saw a jerk.” His grandmother shared. “You should go help her!”

“Grandma.” He said, cutting her off. “We’ve already met, and she doesn’t need help.”

“How can you say that?” His grandmother chastised over the phone. “Even if she doesn’t appeal to you, you should still offer a hand if she needs help.”

“I’m the mentioned jerk.” He answered flatly.

“Ohhh, so you’re the brat that offended her.” His grandmother said, as realization dawned upon her. “No wonder you aren’t the slightest bit interested in helping her.”

“Who told her to behave like a paid actress?” He responded. “You know I dislike the hypocritical.”

“What do you mean?” His grandmother asked. “She’s one of the most genuine girls that I’ve met. She also meets all the criteria that you said you were looking for in a match. I was sure you’d like each other. There must be some kind of misunderstanding.”

“My name and information is all over the web these days, how could she not recognize me?” He replied. “A single Google Query would give her hundreds of photos.”

“I didn’t find her on one of those dating sites.” His grandmother informed. “I, intially, met her while getting groceries. And though, she agreed to meet my grandson, I didn’t tell her your name.”

“But you must’ve shared a picture.” He answered, voicing his assumptions aloud.

“Not even that. I told her that you were a sweet boy, and that you’d recognize her.” His grandmother responded. “Didn’t you say that you didn’t want your dates to know who they were meeting up with?”

“Yeah. But with all the recent media about me, I’d doubt that she wouldn’t recognize me when I sat before her.” He retorted.

“She just came back to the country after studying abroad.” His grandmother answered. “As one that doesn’t follow the news, I doubt she’s aware of the gossip floating around in the continent.”

“Well, she left a while ago.” He told his grandmother, putting a hand to his face. He’d ruined possibly his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with someone that wasn’t aware of his wealth. Even if that lack of awareness was brief, it would’ve been a refreshing experience.

“That’s fine.” His grandmother answered. “You have more than enough opportunity to meet her in the future.”

“What do you mean by that?” He asked.

“I’ve hired her as your personal assistant in the office.” His grandmother replied.

“You did what?”

“Didn’t you say that you were getting too many phone calls and emails to handle?” His grandmother answered, matter-of-factly. Though knowing her, he could practically hear the smile forming on her lips as she spoke, in spite of the apparent tone. “I’ve just hired someone to help you with that.”

“You can’t just hire an assistant to the CEO like that!” He exclaimed.

“As the Executive Chairman, I still have enough influence in the company to do just that.” She answered. “And besides, the young woman is very qualified for the role.”

“How can you be so sure that she’s trustworthy?” He asked, putting a finger to his temple. His grandmother’s desire to get him married was stronger than he’d imagined.

“Turns out she’s the daughter and heir to one of our company’s largest partners.” His grandmother answered. “And she already shared with me that her family’s insistent that she sign a prenup with any man that she ends up marrying. Money isn’t going to be a motivator for her.”

“Is that so?” He asked, uncertain. “Then how do you know that she won’t be an insider that steals our company secrets?”

“Like I said, she’s the heir to one of our company’s largest partners.” His grandmother responded. “Her family’s company specializes in a totally different area, and would only benefit from our success. With the success of the companies so closely linked, she has no reason to act against ours.”

“You really want her to join our family don’t you?” He asked.

“Sometimes, you have to risk your heart and trust. Choosing not to try is equivalent to choosing failure.” His grandmother said, her words touching the very matter on his heart. “I just don’t want to see you lonely in the world without a single confidant when I’m gone.”

“Don’t jinx it! You’ll live to a hundred, grandma!” He shouted into the phone. But his grandma was right. There were too few people in the world that he could trust. Perhaps this one might be worth a try. “I’ll give it a shot.” He added with a sigh. “But I can’t promise anything.”

“That’s fine.” His grandmother answered. “It’s the effort that counts.”

He clicked the phone off and leaned back into the chair, no longer in the mood for eating. Perhaps, his grandmother was right. Perhaps, it was time to introduce another change to his life. After all, life was all about changes. But giving out his heart was something he’s never done before. And he had no doubt that it wouldn’t be easy. All he hoped was that he could make it count.

This story was inspired by the writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.

Such a Character
_Who is this person and what’s their story?”
_The heir to a family fortune with trust issues

C. Chou
C. Chou

A writer that loves cabbages and bamboo, but also enjoys writing and sharing fiction (particularly the fantasy genre). Find me on Medium at: