The emotional departure was a display if Astus had ever seen one. Women were weeping on to each other and men hugging. It was the last day of school, and many of the long-time friends were returning to their homes in other countries.
But Astus was not weeping or hugging, she was grinning. Freedom. and hope for the future to be brighter than the past.
Only one person turned to Astus. Lemah smiled weakly, "Astus, aren't you going to miss the days we had here?"
"No." Astus smirked, "nor am I going to miss anyone here. For you have been the only friend I've had."
Lemah became teary eyed. "What do you plan to do, tomorrow I mean? You're grants run out, being that you are 18 and all."
"I plan to leave. I have a job in Stockholm. I should do well there."
"I'm getting married." Lemah blurted, turning red with excitement and embarrassment.
"Married?! When were you planning on telling me?" Astus asserted.
"I've not told anyone. But, well will you attend the ceremony?" Lemah, always somewhat overly excited about men, smiled hopefully at her friend. "Please, I so look forward to you being there."
"If I have the money to fly back."
*Stockholm and a new beginning*
Astus was hired as a receptionist in a Stolkholm law firm. Her employment was a humble one. But she immediately aspired to become invaluable to her employers. "Oh, let me order lunch for you, gentlemen, you must be positively famished!" "Oh! My Mr. Pitt, you look weary, can I help you file those papers?"
With time Astus became invaluable. Not only did she assume many duties at the Law Firm, she also made a place for herself in the personal lives of the gentlemen. Balancing check books, doing laundry, cleaning, even occasionally cooking for them.
Mr. Lawrence, a senior partner, oft took advantage of Astus's eagerness to please and she began doing more and more for him. She would walk his dogs, clean his home, arrange dinner parties and participate in all functions of his life. Mr. Lawrence soon found himself in a state of dependence on our dear Astus.
During this time, Mr. Lawrence's wife was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the arrangement. But Sir Lawrence did not allow a confidential meeting between the two, cautiously arranging their schedules to never join for more than a moment here and there. But after a year of such, the juggling act, which Mr. Lawrence had become so skilled, encountered a flaw.
Mrs. Lawrence, Mrs. Jaythen Lawrence, was taking a look at her husband's books. She had not done so in so long, surely he had forgotten to reconcile at some point. Or perhaps forgotten some entries all together. But as she scanned the books, she found them in perfect order, and found that her husband's hand had not made an entry for sometime. Rather, she saw the delicate hand of Miss Astus.
A touch of jealousy made her investigate further. And to her excitement, she found an entry for 111,360 SEK at Tindra, the local jewelry store. Embarrassed, she quickly closed the ledgers. "And our anniversary is coming so soon. It's no wonder he's acted so strangely, such a generous gift he has gotten me!"
Mr. Lawrence approached Astus very shyly, smiling goofily at her. "Miss Astus?"
"Ah, Mr. Lawrence. How are you today?" Astus said as she smiled prettily at her companion. "I." Mr. Lawrence cleared his throat nervously. "I was hoping you would join me for dinner at Fransk tonight. On honor of.." He again cleared his throat. ~Awkward, bumbling man, get to the point!~ Thought Astus, keeping her pretty smile locked on his face. "In honor of you year with us here at.. at the firm.."
"Oh, how I would love to, Mr. Lawrence. I would love nothing more. I thought no one but me remembered."
Mr. Lawrence nervously shifted his feat, "I shall drive us.. to, at.. I will drive us."
"Oh wonderful. Would we be leaving at 7?"
"That would be perfect."
Dinner was awkward, as Astus expected. A mumbling, bumbling fool of a man he was. How he was so good at law, Astus would never know. ~I would do better. If given the oppurtunity~ Astus thought bitterly. ~How such fools rule this world, I'll never understand~.
But yet the young lady charmed him with her rapt attention to his every word. Until Mr. Lawrence finally got the nerve to pull the velvet box from his briefcase.
"I've.. that is we... no I... well I took the opportunity to get you a gift." Mr. Lawrence opened the box to reveal the beautiful diamond pendant.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Lawrence. Thank you." Astus's eyes filled with tears as she accepted the gift. "You are ever so kind to me!"
"I have.." Again the bumbling idiot paused, looking nervously at Astus. "I have grown fond of you, my dear..."
Mrs. Lawrence sat at the dinner table anxiously. October 7th... today was their anniversary and Jaythen, Jay, waited for her gift. But Mr. Lawrence had not even mentioned anything. She had called their favorite restaurant and found that there were no reservations. And now he sat on the couch, reading a novel and glaring at her suspiciously as she stared whimsically at him.
"What? You are just going to sit at the table and not make me anything?" Mr. Lance Lawrence demanded.
"Honey I... well I just thought that you had something to say to me. I mean... it is October seventh after all." Jay said worried, now she knew something was wrong.
"It is what? The seventh? I knew that, do you think I'm dim... oh.. Oh honey, you know we agreed not to give gifts anymore. It took me far too much effort to find you anything. Here, take some Kronas, go buy yourself a hat or a purse or whatever strikes your fancy." Mr. Lawrence had no idea how grave his mistake, but he saw his wife's face twist with anger and sadness. "Oh now, Jay, what's an anniversary if not a tool used by marketing companies to.."
"SHUT UP! Just stop!" Jay leapt to her feat and stormed away.