– It’s freezing in this place!
– It’s not even winter yet, you know.
“Come on, let’s go. Sen is waiting for us.”
Sen was indeed waiting. “Hi, welcome back.”
“What, is that it? I’ve been gone for months and that’s all I got?”
“I was only teasing you, you big dummy! It’s good to see you.”
Sen then noticed the presence of a young woman. “Huh?”
A young woman who jumped into his arms.
– Ivy? Is that you?!
– You don’t recognize me?
– Well, you’ve grown a lot since I last saw you.
– But what are you doing here?
– I’m going to try and live here. I hired someone to run the bar for me.
– Live here, huh?
– I only need some time to find a place for myself.
“You’ll tell me all about it in the car. Let’s go.”
– You know we’ve moved, right?
– Yes, he briefly mentioned it. I guess it’s only a detail for him.
– Ivy, do you plan to stay with us?
– I can find a hotel… It’s only temporary.
– No way. There is a very comfortable guest room.
“It’s just next to Nathaniel’s bedroom” Sen added with a wink. Neither of them replied but Ivy blushed.
They crossed the gate and Sen was starting to unload the luggage when Nathaniel saw the person he dreaded to see opening the front door.
His father stood in the doorway. It struck Nathaniel how he looked older than when he had left him. “How do you find the new place?”
Nathaniel eyed him with dislike. “Slightly excessive. I’ve been accustomed to less luxury.”
As they passed the threshold to gather in the entrance hall, Nathaniel expected to see his mother and was disappointed not to find her.
– Where’s mum?
– She’s coming.
Hearing footsteps in the staircase, he turned round to see Ange coming down the stairs.
– I’m so relieved to see you safe and sound.
– Mum… I missed you.
– Let me have a look at you. You look so much like a grown man now…
– Well, that’s what I am after all.
In the background, Sen was suggesting to Ivy to show her to her room.
Giving Nathaniel some private time with his mother.
– How’s your health? I heard that we moved because you were affected by pollution.
– It’s nothing alarming, but your father took it very seriously.
– And rightly so! Do you feel better here? Wouldn’t you have preferred a small house in the countryside?
– The countryside is too isolated, Nathaniel. You know very well we have to stay close to the city.
– But it’s so big here! Don’t you feel lost?
“It is also very comfortable and it has a garden. Anyway, tell me about yourself: how was it over there?”
Nathaniel thought it not safer not to mention anything too risky to his mother, so he limited his description of Lucky Palms to that of a tourist’s perspective.
– You can use this room.
– Listen, I don’t wanna sound intrusive but is there something going on between you and Nathaniel?
– We get along quite well, but there’s nothing more, Sen.
– Nothing more? Was it him who suggested that you come here?
– I guess he wanted to give me some kind of opportunity… I don’t know yet what I can be good at.
“So there’s nothing between you two, eh? Mmph… That blockhead.”
– And this is your bedroom. I chose the colors myself, I hope you like them?
– It’s great, thank you mum.
– Hum… Your father asked if you could go and see him in his office when you’re ready.
– Yeah, I can imagine that.
Resolved to the worst, Nathaniel went immediately to his father’s office.
– You wanted to see me?
– No need to look so combative. It was a mere enquiry. Close the door and sit down.
– You did well in Lucky Palms.
– Wow, a compliment from you. I thought I’d never live to see the day.
– Have you also been taught how to be unpleasant?
– Anyway. As I told you, the Chinese gangs are out of the picture. And while you were away, I have grown into an old man with a failing constitution.
– You don’t have to be so much in the field now. You can leave that part on to me.
“Actually, I was thinking about having you take everything over from now on.”
– You cannot be serious?!
– I’ve never been more serious. The papers can be prepared any time and are only waiting for your signature.
“I don’t see the point in waiting, Nathaniel. While we wait, rumors are gathering that Golzine has grown old and vunerable. I won’t have any of that. You’re going to take that inheritance, and don’t worry: it’s only to keep up appearances. I will continue to ‘rule’, as you phrased it, from the sidelines.”
“… Fine. I’ll sign, just give me those papers.”
– I’m glad that we’ve reached an agreement. One more question though: what is your relationship with the girl you’ve brought here?
– That is none of your business.
– She is living under my roof, Nathaniel. In addition, she is the daughter of one of our men.
– She helped me. I’m helping her now. That’s it.
– … I’ll get the papers ready and will let you know once I receive them.
“Oh, and go shave yourself properly. I don’t like that ragged look of yours.”
Nathaniel slammed the door a bit harder than what he intended.