Here’s chapter 7 of the new book, Dr. Clay, I’ve been writing since NaNoWriMo 2022. Enjoy reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
“You’ve been waiting for this long, Liz. I’m excited about this,” Elvira said with a smile as she handed Elizabeth the papers she had on hand. But that smile faded when she noticed her seemingly bothered about something. “Are you okay?” she asked, feeling more concerned about the look on Elizabeth’s face.
Elizabeth nodded and then shook her head. Before she uttered a word, she flashed a stretched smile and grabbed the papers Elvira had handed her. “Yeah, I’m okay, though I’m nervous about how this will end for all of us. I’m worried for the kids if this won’t make it through. We’ve worked on this for eight months, so I don’t like—”
“Chill, Liz. I understand you. All of us on the team do. We’ve done everything we can,” Elvira paused and clucked, looking away while glancing at Elizabeth as if she was studying her face, “I know this is going to be tough because of that bitch on the board.” She hissed.
Knowing what Elvira meant, Elizabeth couldn’t help but frown and feel more anxious than she was. She was aware of Anais Elizondo sitting with the rest of the foundation’s board members. Of course, she would be there. She’s in charge of the La Familia de Elizondo Foundation generations her family had previously established.
Although she was fortunate to be part of something bigger than she had imagined, she was nothing but an employee, working nine to five, six days a week and sometimes seven, who happened to be passionate about kids. Before she met Clay, Elizabeth knew she wanted to work in social services. She knew life could be much easier if she moved forward with her father’s plans in the entertainment business. She was a Gutierrez, after all. One of the country’s most well-known families for generations as prominent personalities in the entertainment industry since the sixties.
If she wanted a simpler life, she could have been an actress like her grandmothers, aunts, and cousins, who only took the path given to them and did nothing else. They didn’t have to work harder to earn attention because, with God’s grace, the family produced great faces you could only envy. She could have enjoyed the luxury and glamour of her beauty and wouldn’t have to sweat and stand in front of the camera and film her doing whatever they wanted to earn the good stuff. Simple.
Money? Power? Politics? Drugs? Sex? Influence? You name it. She had seen them all and how these had marked the Gutierrezes, which she considered a blessing and a curse.
No, Elizabeth didn’t want those things. So, she chose another path none of her family had ever taken. A world without diamonds, drugs, money, and annulments. A life of service and true love.
As a teenager, she desired to help those who were impoverished and had nothing, especially children who grew up without love. A love she longed at home she knew she would never have. So, when she had the opportunity, she didn’t have qualms about going for it. Although the job required long working hours and extended fieldwork, Elizabeth didn’t mind doing it because she loved it.
Because this wasn’t only a job for her, it was her life.
But when she got the most significant opportunity to showcase the same passion this time, Elizabeth found herself in mental chaos. Lately, not only was she worried about Clay meeting her parents tonight, but she also had to face Anais during the project meeting, who happened to be her future sister-in-law. Great.
Even though Elizabeth understood the boundaries between personal and professional relationships, she barely recognized the thin line before she could explode and lose herself. Though she knew it was wrong to accuse someone, she believed her gut feeling was right. In her mind, Anais might be weaponizing this project against her and Clay.
She was in deep thought until she saw Alain coming in her direction with a big smile, waving at her. She couldn’t help but admire Alain’s physique, which wasn’t surprising. Even though Alain was an ideal homebody and barely spoke his mind, he didn’t have to work hard to gain attention. Not only because he has a towering height but because he was also a head-turner with his tantalizing, droopy hazel brown eyes and thick eyebrows. Though he didn’t look stuffed and bulky, he had broad shoulders and a pumped chest that fit the sewing lines of his long-sleeved polo tucked in his pair of dark denim pants.
Whenever he passed by, the volunteers and staff, young and old, would smile as if they had not been hammered with stress all day long. She thought, God, the Elizondos were that attractive. Not only do they have faces that could save lives, but they also have the skills this country needs. No wonder the family earned that level of respect for generations, which they gave back through this foundation. The family’s social consciousness was the driver of Elizabeth’s passion for pursuing the project despite the years of facing odds and enduring the harshest days with the notorious Anais.
But Alain was different.
He didn’t pursue pre-med like his siblings, though he studied Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of the Philippines and graduated with flying colors. She remembered attending his graduation with Clay when he spoke to thousands of students as the Class Valedictorian years ago. He had it all. If he had pursued medicine, he could be successful as a doctor as Clay. If he were as ambitious as Rafael, he could have gone to St. Luke’s. He could have lived an easier life than dealing with the daily stress here. Instead, he chose a carefree life that disappointed his father and took care of Clay, mothering him as his own.
Now, he had no qualms about extending the same love to her. When the team was desperate, he was there, helping her, as if she was part of his inner circle and his younger sister. She felt welcome and free in Alain’s presence. She appreciated his efforts to make her laugh, and she often forgot he was one of the big bosses and her fiance’s brother. While eyeing him, she smiled when Alain stopped before her.
“Hi, Liz,” he said before moving his attention to her colleagues beside her. “Hi, guys.”
“Hi, Sir Alain,” Elvira, Larissa, and Tanya said in chorus, waving their hands.
“So, are you ready?” he said, glancing at Elizabeth. “I’m rooting for you today.”
“Thank you for helping us. Otherwise, we would have struggled to reach this point today,” Elvira said.
He underplayed his contribution with a gesture, though he couldn’t hide his blush. “No, I didn’t help that much. You worked a lot for the children this project could support. I hope it will turn out well during today’s meeting.”
“Can I ask you something, Sir Alain?” Larissa asked, prompting Alain to flick his head, signaling her to continue. “How come you’re nice to us, but your sister, Anais, isn’t?” Even though she was hesitant, and Elvira elbowed her, she managed to drop the Frequently Asked Question most volunteers and staff wanted answers as calmly as she could.
But that question caught Alain’s attention, knowing he didn’t know how to answer it. As much as he wanted to avoid it, he understood the question was valid. Despite having unclear answers, his mind tried to come up with as many possible reasons as he could. When he couldn’t find one, he sighed and shook his head, and they immediately sensed the rift between the siblings. “We already have enough jerks in this world, so I don’t have to add to the population,” he said, which made everybody laugh.
“Anyway, we should get going. It’s time,” Elizabeth said, walking in strides and heading to the meeting room. Alain and her colleagues tailed her until they walked in and saw the stoic and grumpy faces of the members sitting in swivel chairs. “Good morning,” she said when she stood before them, gulping while studying everyone’s faces, anticipating what she would say next. Before she spoke, she inhaled deep breaths and exhaled soft and long sighs, briefly shutting her eyes.
“Can we start now?” Anais sputtered, cocking an eyebrow, which jolted Elizabeth. “We don’t have an entire day to spend watching you doing nothing, dear,” she said with sarcasm, grabbing her phone to scroll through a few notifications and then moving her attention back to Elizabeth.
Alain, seated a few chairs away from Anais, curled his hand while observing his sister, trying to put up a show he didn’t want to see. Even though he was part of the board and his words had weight on their final decision, she was their dad’s apple of the eye. She could do and say whatever she wanted during the meetings, leading to outbursts from staff.
And now, it was Elizabeth’s turn.
After she heard what Elizabeth had discussed, Anais clucked and sighed as she leaned against her seat, pressing her temples with her fingers while eyeing her. A little while later, she pulled forward and arched an eyebrow, glowering at her. “I understand your concern about why you wanted this project to pursue so badly, Elizabeth. You wanted to be their superhero. That’s great,” she paused, planting both elbows on the table with her fingers threaded, “But using my family’s money for the funding?” Anais shook her head. “That’s another story. I don’t think I can accept this proposal. I’m sorry. We can’t pursue this anymore.”
Elizabeth was furious. How could she say something like that so easily, as if the lives of the children weren’t important? Though she disliked the idea of begging, she would do it for the sake of the people affected if Anais said no. They needed the money, and if she could get it today, all the programs they’d planned since last year would move forward at last. They had waited for months to almost a year before she stood there, wanting their yeses, and she couldn’t wait any longer. “But, Ma’am, we need to—”
“Maybe you have forgotten what this project was about, Elizabeth. We gave you the green light months ago because it didn’t require us a lot of financial support. We’re talking about tens of millions of pesos here now. So, no,” Anais said.
Alain clenched his fists on the other side of the table until his knuckles grew white, inhaling deep breaths from his gut to remain calm, even though he wanted to stop Anais right there and then. However, he thought it wasn’t right to disrupt Elizabeth. Besides, this was her project, so exposing himself as one of the backbones of the project would put him into trouble in Anais’s eyes. And he didn’t want to look bad. At least not in the way he wanted him to become.
The problem was he didn’t know for how long.
And the longer he allowed this show to go on, the more frustrated he became. When he noticed Elizabeth’s face had shifted from determined to desperate, he sighed, briefly closing his eyes as if he was sucking the increasing frustration to his limit while squeezing his hand tighter and feeling more impatient.
“This isn’t about you wanting to smell good in our family, or is it? Though my family likes you and knows where you came from, I don’t care. The board trusted your abilities to work on this project because you sounded desperate. How can you assume the Elizondos could support anything this much? Haven’t you mentioned the amount of money this goddamn project needed, have you?” Anais sputtered while on his seat with his hands linked and his torso leaning forward, pressing his chest on the table.
“But if you say yes today, more children will be rescued from abusive homes. How can’t that be a reason for you to understand what we’re talking about here?” Elizabeth raised her voice. Her face flushed in anger. Not only was she desperate for their yeses, but for the children, she wanted to help.
“Ten million? For those brats? You’re asking for a lot of money. I don’t think my dad would even approve of this,” Anais said.
“How could you call those children like that?” Elizabeth was beyond frustrated at this point. If she weren’t the project head and if not out of respect for her sister-in-law, she would have gone straight to grabbing Anais and slapping her face to the floor. As much as she wanted to act like that, the project was too valuable for her to act stupidly. She couldn’t dare lose the faith their recipients had given her and the team of social workers, working hand-in-hand for their sake.
“I don’t care. It’s my family’s money. Not yours,” Anais said, glowering.
Everyone flinched when they heard a loud slam on the table.
“Enough!” Alain screamed, flinching everyone in the room, including Elizabeth. His clenched fist pressed on the hard surface. His body shuddered, trembling from the adrenaline rushing inside his being. “We have enough of your nonsense, Anais!”
Anais turned and saw Alain standing with his fist pressed on the hard surface. “What’s wrong with you, Alain?” she sputtered and scoffed when she had not heard an answer.
“I should be the one asking you that. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you understand it? We’re talking about lives here, Anais. Your approval meant saving their lives.”
“Why would I even listen to you? Dad assigned me to oversee this foundation. So, I’m the person in charge here. Not you.”
“Maybe you’ve forgotten. I’m also his son. You may be dad’s favorite, but I’m still his second-born child,” Alain said coldly, panting and enduring the painful sting he felt in his knuckles while boring Anais with a piercing stare. In hindsight, he never liked announcing it because being a second-born son or an Elizondo didn’t matter to him. But for the sake of winning this heated argument, he felt he needed to.
Unable to announce her rebuttal, Anais scoffed as she pushed her chair back to stand and pressed her palm on the table with her body swiveled, leaning forward to face Alain. She cocked an eyebrow and flashed a menace, studying his face as if she was having fun watching him in distress. Though she tried to ignore her discomfort, Alain’s stare was frightening, as if a gun was pointed at her chest.
Alain remained unfazed, swallowing the respect he once had for his sister. The look in his eyes scared Elizabeth because they weren’t friendly at all. “This project is necessary because a lot of work has been done. Elizabeth didn’t just stand there to waste your time. She studied every number printed on this sheet of paper,” he paused and grabbed the files, waving them at them, almost throwing them, “She went to every child, every home, and talked to every parent for years. And you? All you did was sit here and do nothing but sign papers and perform a stunt in front of the camera, speaking a language you barely know. How could you say she didn’t know what she was saying when she knows this foundation more than you do?” he sputtered, leaving Anais speechless. “If you think you’re better than anybody else, you’re delusional,” he paused again and hissed as he swiveled his head to check on Elizabeth. When he saw her eyes were red, widened in shock, welling tears, he gulped, drawing his eyebrows.
Then, he flicked his head in the opposite direction, moving his attention from her to everybody in the room. It was as if he was checking their faces to figure out their decisions. When he locked stares with Anais again, he began boring her with his eyes, though feeling embarrassed and regretful of what he has done that scared Elizabeth.
“Fine. We have to talk to dad first, and we’ll see what he says. Do you feel better now?” Anais said, letting out a frustrated sigh while shaking her head.
After minutes of silence, the other members of the board cleared their throats, bringing Alain to his senses as he pulled back. Then, he continued staring at Anais, who remained in shock, looking away as if he couldn’t stand looking at his sibling any longer.
“Meeting adjourned,” Anais announced lowly as she grabbed her purse on the table, glancing at Anais and Elizabeth before she walked out, and slowly the members followed behind, leaving the two of them alone in the meeting room.
Alain stood and walked to Elizabeth, helping her clean up. “Are you okay?” he asked in a hushed tone, knitting his eyebrows as his mind filled with concern.
Still frightened, she looked over her shoulder and quickly wiped her eyes. She turned and looked at him and flashed a smile. His face soured when he saw her inhaling deep breaths as if she was trying to hold them in. He could see she was on the verge of crying.
“Yeah, I am,” she said while avoiding his gaze.
“No, you’re not.”
She stretched her smile wider, thinking it was effective to fool Alain like that. “I am,” she said in a tease, giggling, before she looked down at the desk, gulping and pressing her lips.
When he couldn’t stand it anymore, he grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her body. Then, he patted his palm on the back of her head while pressing the side of his cheek against it. “I’m sorry for putting you through this, Liz.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No. Don’t be. We did everything we could anyway. But still—” She paused, crying to ease.
Alain sighed. “Don’t worry. I’m here,” he whispered, shutting his eyes while Elizabeth pressed her face against Alain’s chest, sobbing. “I won’t leave you.”
Thank you so much for spending time reading this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did when I wrote this part three months ago. This chapter, in particular, reminded me of those times when I sat before my desk, seemingly prepared to type in words, but I struggled to keep it up.
It took an external motivation to get it through, and, at that time, the NaNoWriMo event was upcoming. At that time, I thought, “This could be a great opportunity to try and give this a shot one more time. You’d done an excellent job with ‘The Rival,’ so you could do it, Mecyll.”
You know, it’s easier said than done because writing a chapter with a clear intent to finish it requires more than just a skill. Since I started writing fiction, I realized how much this work demands my ability to be naked and the guarantees to answer whether I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to face my fears, conscious or unconscious.
So, being able to write this down meant I managed despite the countless times dancing around with depression and enjoying the roller coaster rides my anxiety provided me.
This is why I don’t know how I could thank you for your support, regardless of the scale or contribution size, from sharing my work with others or buying my books. It doesn’t matter because, for me, every small act you show is appreciated.
Again, thank you, and have a great day!