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Eve's Obsession

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"Why do I have to be so lucky?" The stranger smirked, moving closer to Eve. Eve bit her bottom lip, breathing hard as she heard his deep and unmistakably s*xy voice for the first time. He was not doing anything to her yet, but the mere sound of his voice and his brown eyes slowly traveling down to her body made her burn with desire. Suddenly, she realized she should have done something during those years of being alone because, at this point, she was like a walking volcano at its highest alert level, ready to erupt. "I..." She forgot her name, even her purpose of being there. Maybe that was because she had forgotten herself and put others first, thinking it would mean a happy life. She was a single mother and hoarded problems like they were collections. Her problems grew faster than her children. When the stranger crushed her mouth with his soft lips, she kissed him back. Eve thought of becoming selfish, wishing him to fill that emptiness in her life, even for a while. She was already unhappy. What else could go wrong?

Chapter 1 – Not Rest, But A Reset

(Eve's POV)

 

‘I want to reset my life. Please, can somebody push that button?’

 

I groaned, wincing at the bright light when my expected guest turned on the switch. I immediately pulled the old, worn-out blanket and covered my face.

 

“Reset? Where’s the button, Eve Bennet, and I will.” Bethany sneered, grasping the edge of the blanket and tugging it towards her.

 

Bethany Bennett, my chirpy and goddess-looking best friend, beamed like the sun in her flouncy, off-shoulder yellow floral dress, contrasting my black pair of silk sleepwear, and like my blanket, it was old but comfortable.

 

I grumbled, clutching the sheet and pulling it back to my chest as if it were the last thing that tied my sanity to me. I must have said my wish aloud when she entered the main bedroom.

 

“Why are you still in bed?” Her eyes grew wider as she crossed her arms over her chest.

 

I bet the sun wasn’t up yet because the bright light would usually spill through the window and cast a warm glow over everything. The humming of the electric fan, the soft rustle of the papers on the side table, and the clanking of her heels were the only sounds that broke the stillness of the room.

 

“Because I have no money. I need money… Lots and lots of money,” I sniffled pathetically, curving my lips into a downturn and tossing the blanket away, reaching the old model of my Samsung phone on the side table.

 

Bethany rolled her eyes and turned her back on me.

 

“Yeah, yeah! You’ll have your millions when you stay in bed all day. If you desperately need it, why turn down my offer a million times?”

 

‘Because I had borrowed much from you!’ I sighed, pressing my dry lips tightly, afraid I might say the words out loud again.

 

Bethany and Marga were my lifeline in case of emergency, but recently, I was reluctant to turn to them for financial support. Marga got married last year and is now two months pregnant, while Bethany is saving money because she plans to pursue her fashion design studies in Italy.

 

Besides, I could not decide which of my problems was more urgent. They seemed all needed to be addressed. Whenever I had money, something always came up. My two best friends always tell me they understand and say I can pay when I have extra. I wondered when that time would come. Will it ever come?

 

As if on a catwalk, Bethany walked toward the closet.

 

My ears twitched at the clanking of her high-heeled shoes as she entered the closet. I raised my eyebrows and leaned to the side to see what my best friend was up to. I saw her picking through my old clothes from the open door and disappointedly taking them from the rack individually.

 

“These are… awful! When did you last buy a dress?” She asked, glancing over her shoulder. “Have you packed them already? Are these for donation?” She clucked her tongue. “Who would want this?”

 

“I have nothing to pack,” I answered lazily and murmured, “That’s all I have, and I’m leaving them behind.”

 

I sniffled, wallowing in self-pity as I hardly remember the last time I bought decent clothes for myself. The new pair of underwear I planned to wear later was her gift to me on my birthday.

 

“Eve, wake up!” She demanded, thinking I had gone back to bed because I did not answer.

 

“I’m awake!” I frowned but gasped, cursing inwardly when I saw the time on my cell phone. “Shit! Why didn’t you tell me it’s already six?” Where did the sun go?

 

Freaking out, I jumped out of bed, remembering I had five children who were probably hungry by now.

 

“Oh, God, breakfast,” I muttered in a panic as I looked for my slippers. My heart battering my chest wasn’t helping.

 

“Relax, Eve. I brought breakfast. Your little mini-mes are probably having them now,” she peered at the doorway, informing me and smiling proudly at herself. “You know what, I’m lending you mine,” she decided. “Are you still bringing these?” 

 

“Bring what?” I pretended not to know, although I knew she was referring to the box of my self-help and personal growth books.

 

She pushed the box outside the closet. “This. Why don’t you just donate them?”

 

I pouted my full lips and shook my head. “Na-ah! I need them.”

 

“Why keep them when you don’t follow their advice? One book is enough.” Her eyebrows arched as she waited for my answer.

 

“Leave my books alone, Bethany,” I said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

 

If only Bethany knew my struggle last night. Whether I would keep the books or just donate them to the library was a battle, but I couldn’t do the latter because I still hoped those self-help books would give me the right formula to improve my life.

 

“Fine! Just please get into the shower. We must get to this Moira’s place, whoever she is, and then be at the hotel by three. The event’s starting at seven,” Bethany informed, disappearing from the doorway again.

 

Bethany used to work as a Store Sales and Operations Manager at Sarah’s Sweet Beauty, a global clothing, lingerie, and beauty retailer company, but she was pirated by Bob, her gay friend, who asked her to join their company. She now worked as Marketing Manager at Secret Temptation, a new business offering the same product and a promising competitor of Sarah’s in the future.

 

Since she knew I would turn down her offer to lend or give me money, she asked me to help her at their event later tonight and promised to introduce me to Bob. If lucky, I might get the sales representative job.

 

“Move, Eve!” She yelled, her eyebrows raised as she peered at the door again. “We have plenty of stuff on our plates today.”

 

“I’m moving. See?” I hissed, grabbing the table calendar on the side table and squinting at the encircled date.

 

It was the 25th of October. I sighed, glancing at my bills as if they were waving at me and reminding me of their due dates. Curling my lips, I returned the calendar and headed to the bathroom but halted, turning around before entering the small room.

 

My brows furrowed, and my lips pursed as I paused, wondering if asking her about the payment was okay. I was desperate, very desperate for money. Borrowing again for the nth time would be my last resort.

 

My late husband’s cousin, Moira, suddenly popped out from somewhere and offered her home, but I had to look after her property in return. She was hopeful we could stay at her house because she would be traveling with her boyfriend for a year or two. Although I would not worry about the monthly rent and the bills, I didn’t want my children to stay there without anything to use for our expenses.

 

We had to eat. We had needs. My children had to go to school.

 

“Umm… Bethany, you think they’ll pay me after the party?” Heat crept down my cheeks as I asked my best friend.

 

She leaned on the doorframe, nodding at me.

 

“I’ll make sure of that. If not, do what the other desperate models are doing.” She grinned and waggled her eyebrows naughtily.

 

My eyes widened, waiting to know if there was a secret temptation in Secret Temptation.

 

She giggled, raising her hand and invisibly counting money with her fingers. “I heard rumors that if you can quench the thirst of those hot-to-trot men, then the price is right. You get paid right away.”

 

“You mean…” My eyes grew wider, although I could not imagine selling myself for money. Dignity is all I have left.

 

“Yup,” she said as if understanding what I meant. “Our CEO wants to investigate this matter, though. He finds it…” She pursed her lips, narrowing her eyes as she thought of the word. “Inappropriate.”

 

“I agree,” I nodded briefly.

 

“Maybe it’s your chance to get laid again. When was the last time you had sex?” She chuckled, walking back to the closet room.

 

She knew I didn’t need to answer her question. My husband had been dead for six years. My youngest daughter is turning seven, and the last time we had it, Isabella was two months in my belly. When Marcus found out I was pregnant, he did not dare touch me again.

 

“I don’t need it to live,” I sneered, leering at her even if she could not see me.

 

“I’ll tell you when you don’t get paid so I can point where you can go later,” she joked, walking out and pulling my luggage out. “Don’t you miss it?”

 

“The toy you gave me satisfies me well,” I lied, not telling her I had used it once; then, I felt pathetic and ashamed of using it, so I threw it. “You just said it. Your boss is investigating the issue. He must be a boss with good morals.”

 

“Nope! I assure you he’s an asshole.” Bethany raised her head and stared at the ceiling. “He’s a bit weird, though. He used to change his girlfriend more than the number of times he changed his clothes, but when his wife died, he was worse than a priest who vowed celibacy. Now, everyone in the office thinks he’s gay like Bob.” She narrowed her eyes, looking at me. “And an evil boss.”

 

I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

 

“About the pay, you’ll surely get more than working your ass as a library assistant in a month,” Bethany added. “Don’t think about it, please. Just get into the shower and wake up. You know I hate traffic.”

 

I am wide awake.

 

In fact, I didn’t get much time to sleep. I blinked at the open window, yearning for a strong tornado to arrive and destroy my side table and shred the papers on top of it. Those papers did nothing good but accelerated my heartbeat and made me age twice. Maybe three times.

 

I needed money—lots and lots of it.

 

The piles of letters from the bank, reminding me of the foreclosure of the house, unsettled bills, unopened envelopes of medical bills and results, and letters from my children’s school reminding me of the tuition fees that needed to be paid, pumped much blood to my heart, causing me heartache and headache.

 

I didn’t feed my problems, but they grew much faster than my children. Last night, I hyperventilated and cried, wondering how I got myself into this situation, unsure how to solve these unsurmountable problems. Who could sleep well when my bills were screaming at me every night?

 

“Eve, shower?” Bethany reminded again, pointing her index finger to the bathroom door.

 

“Going!” I mouthed.

 

“Mom?”

 

Rosie’s soft voice blinked my tears away, stopping me from entering the bathroom. I turned my head on the closed door, waiting for my daughter to enter. Slowly, the door opened, and Rosie peered her head at the ajar door.

 

“Yes, sweetheart?” I asked, faking a smile.

 

My sixteen-year-old daughter noticed the papers on the bed. She bit her lips, narrowed her eyes briefly, and shook her head.

 

“Never mind, Mom.”

 

Rosie didn’t need an explanation of what the papers were. The other night, we had a heart-to-heart talk, explaining our situation, showing them the unsettled bills and letters from the bank and school, and telling them about Moira’s offer.

 

Between her and her twin sister, she understood our situation better. However, I could not blame Jessy for hating me. I could hardly give them what they wanted and fell short of providing for their needs. The house was the only property their father left his children, and I failed to keep it for them. But I tried hard… very, very hard.

 

“Rosie, what is it? Come in,” I said quickly before she closed the door.

 

“Cooper’s having another asthma attack… and umm…” She fidgeted her hands, glancing at the letters on the side table again.  “He needs a new spray. Theo’s still complaining of headache,” she sighed, lowering her gaze.

 

A while ago, I considered wanting lots and lots of money. Now, what I needed was a miracle.

 

Bethany told me I was top-notch at having problems. Marga, on the other hand, joked that I hoarded them like a collection. I bit my bottom lip, remembering I used to be number one, the best student in class. Instead of having a good life, I aced living my life but made it bitter, not better.

 

The day Marcus died, I promised him I would do anything… everything for our children, making sure they would not feel they were a burden to me. Despite my weak knees, wobbly because of worrying about where to get money, I lifted the corners of my mouth.

 

“Where’s Jessy?” I asked, walking toward her as I looked for her twin sister.  

 

“She’s in her room, talking to her friends on the phone.” Her face turned crimson. 

 

I nodded briefly, patting her cheek gently. “Have you said goodbye to your friends?”

 

“Jessy had announced it in the whole school as if she’s campaigning for president,” she chuckled and sighed. “Shay’s my only friend, and yes, we had said goodbye as if the world was going to end.”

 

“Good!” I shook my head, rolling my eyes. “I mean, good that you said goodbye to Shay, not the world-ending part.”

 

I walked toward the dresser and took another spray from my bag. My best friends joked that it was not a purse but a first-aid kit bag because I had extras of my children’s medicine inside. I called it my just-in-case bag.

 

I had to be alert. I always have Epinephrine injections, asthma spray, and a first aid kit. Rosie and Jessy are allergic to tuna and peanut butter. Cooper has had asthma since he was a baby. Theo has mild autism and trusts only me and his siblings, especially Rosie. He sometimes tantrums when his environment becomes stressful for him, and a first aid kit comes in handy in case he accidentally hurts himself. Isabella, my precious youngest daughter, was born with a congenital heart defect, having a small hole in her heart.

 

Bethany grabbed the spray from me before I could exit the bedroom.

 

“Eve, take a shower now. I don’t want to be late. I’ll take care of them,” she muttered, holding my son’s medicine and grabbing Rosie’s hand. “This Moira lives in the countryside, so please….” She growled, tugging my daughter toward the door, not finishing what she wanted to say.

 

“Why didn’t I know Aunt Moira?” Rosie’s forehead creased, asking my best friend curiously.

 

Although I had explained to them already that Moira was their Dad’s cousin, it remained a mystery to me, too, because I had met Marcus’ entire family in his wake but never heard of her name. Moira called me the day I received the foreclosure letter from the bank, introducing herself as Marcus’ distant cousin.

 

At this point, I didn’t care about their relationship. All that matters to me is my children. Marcus has been dead for six years, bringing my luck with him in his grave. Whoever Moira was in his life, what I cared about now was my children, and we had a place to live. I was exhausted with all the problems drowning me every day. Bethany said that all I needed to do was rest.

 

I didn’t need to rest… what I wanted was to reset my life. 

 

*****

 

“Are you sure you have everything you wanted to keep?” I asked, my eyes shimmering with tears pinned on the mansion that had been my home for eight years.

 

I was done mourning over the loss of Marcus’ second loved possession. He first lost his three sports cars after being scammed in a business he had invested in, retaining the two sedan cars I had sold when he died. Jessy hated me for it, but at least their father’s funeral was decent, and I could feed them for a month without worrying about where to get money. 

 

“I want to keep the house,” Theo, my eight-year-old son, murmured sadly. “Can I keep it?”

 

A sigh escaped as he pouted when I shook my head. His eyes shimmered in tears, glancing at the neglected playground before entering Bethany’s seven-seater car.

 

“Why are we leaving, Mommy? Why can’t we live here anymore?” Isabella asked, blinking her round eyes at me.

 

I bent and pressed my lips on her forehead, holding her hand and helping her hop into the car. I opened my mouth, hoping to explain to her again, but Jessy beat me.

 

“Because it’s not ours anymore, idiot. Move and get seated.” Jessy sneered, placing her left foot on the car floor. 

 

“Jessica, what did your mother tell you about cursing?” Bethany sneered, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“Which mother?” Jessy lifted her eyebrows, giving my best friend a death-stare look for a second, and rolled her eyes as she entered the car.

 

“Grrr!” Bethany hissed, her eyes bulging and her nose flaring in displeasure as she turned to face me. “I’ll give you a million now; just give me permission to hurt Jessy.”

 

Rosie chuckled, entering last, but she did not utter a word.

 

“Bethany, she’s sixteen,” I reminded her, peering inside the car, silently counting the children inside, and then closing the door. “When she’s our age, you don’t need my permission,” I joked, walking toward the front passenger door.

 

“Which mother?” She repeated irritatingly. “I doubt that,” Bethany smirked as she settled in the driver’s seat. “Ready?” she looked at the rearview mirror, checking on my kids.

 

No one answered her. The truth was that no one was ready to leave.

 

As if someone had crushed my heart, my eyes welled with tears, feeling the pang of seeing five pairs of eyes at the back of the car, looking sadly at the mansion and watching it become smaller as Bethany drove away from their home.

 

I sighed, looking ahead and thankful Bethany had decided to turn on the radio. Only Kelly Clarkson seemed to mock me with her song.

 

‘Remember all the things we wanted… Now all our memories, they’re haunted…’

 

I blinked, freeing the tears, agreeing with the singer but hurting because I never meant to say goodbye to Marcus’ memories. Despite how our marriage ended, I loved him. It was not as if he cheated on me, but I felt betrayed when he died, leaving me with five children and making me promise I would look after them no matter what.

 

Bethany breathed, probably rolling her eyes at me, and changed the station, only to hear Kelly Clarkson singing ‘Breakaway.’

 

The singer didn’t know me, but my lips quivered, moved at her message, ‘Take a risk. Take a chance. Make a change and breakaway.’ Only I didn’t know how or where to begin. My best friend, who hated seeing me cry, gave me peace and quiet in my own little world and drove silently.

 

My draining state pulled my consciousness and sent me into the land of Nod. When I opened my eyes, Bethany had pulled the car over. She shifted to her seat and looked at my children. I sat up straight, tilting my head to check where we were.

 

“Mommy hasn’t eaten her breakfast yet. This will be quite a long trip. Anyone up for McDonald’s?” She asked, trying to sound perky.

 

“Can I have a happy meal?” Cooper asked, his eyes wide with excitement.

 

“Of course, sweetie.” Bethany nodded briefly and smiled sweetly. “How about you, Theo? Do you also want a happy meal?”

 

He only shrugged, turning his head and locking his gaze outside the window. 

 

“Mommy, can I have fries today?” Isabella blinked without breathing, anticipating being allowed to have junk food on our trip. “Please?”

 

“Oh, please, Eve. Let the poor child have her fries. She just lost her home,” Bethany spoke low as she pulled the visor, applying remarkable red lipstick to her puckered lips.

 

My best friend turned to me, blinking her eyes adorably, trying to be cute.

 

I sighed, looking out the window, only realizing she had already parked the car. Glancing at my old wristwatch, it told me Bethany had been driving for an hour. Another hour of driving was no joke.

 

“Fine,” I answered, a cue Rosie was waiting.

 

“Yes!” She breathed, opening the car door and hopping out. “I really have to pee. Jessy, help Mom.”

 

Her twin sister scowled, getting out of the vehicle next and opening her arms for Isabella, carrying her but putting her down. Without waiting for us, she held her younger sister’s hand, and together, they walked toward the fast-food restaurant.

 

I didn’t know what Cooper said to Theo, but he successfully encouraged him to come out with him. I watched them follow Jessy and Isabella. 

 

“Let me have that large coffee, and after that, I’m good. I’ll drive,” I said, peering inside the car before sliding the door.

 

“Not happening, Eve.” Bethany wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “I need you alive and kicking later.” She pressed the car remote, locking the doors at once. “I’m afraid you might fall asleep while working.”

 

I chuckled, walking beside her. “Sleep?” I lifted a brow. “It’s not in my vocabulary, Bethany.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. That’s why you’re drooling and snoring for an hour,” she joked. Or maybe not.

 

“I did not!” My eyes were wide as I denied it, but just in case, I lifted my hand and touched the corner of my mouth.

 

“You’re hilarious, Eve. You lost your sense of humor when you married Marcus,” she chuckled, pushing the fast-food restaurant door open.

 

My heart stopped beating when I saw my kids standing in front of the counter. Isabella raised her arms to Rosie, wailing so loud I thought she got hurt. My sixteen-year-old daughter did not carry her. Instead, she turned to her twin sister.

 

“Look what you’ve done!” Rosie grumbled angrily.

 

“What?” Jessy chuckled as if it was nothing.

 

“What happened?” I asked, pacifying my pounding heart as I carried my youngest child to stop her from crying. I didn’t want Theo to get stressed.

 

All eyes of customers and crews were on us, and I hated it when people stared at my children.

 

“Are you hurt?” I asked worriedly, my thumb wiping the tears in her cheeks.

 

The child in my arms sniffled; her lips trembled as she pursed them tightly. When she could not utter the words, she wrapped her arms around my neck, buried her face on my shoulder, and continued to cry.

 

“Jessy said Aunt Moira’s not really Dad’s cousin. She’s a white witch,” chuckled Cooper. “She said you’re bringing us there because you’re tired of taking care of us,” he added, growling at his older sister.

 

“Mommy, is it…” Isabella eased back, looking at me, hiccupping as she continued. “Is it true she loves to eat children? Are you really leaving us there?”

 

My dream of sipping hot brewed coffee and my hope to relax even for a while disappeared.

 

“Of course not!” I said gently but glowered at Jessy, pressing my lips and controlling myself not to say anything harsh. We had enough fights since her father died, and reprimanding her was not worth my time.

 

“Happy meal?” Bethany blinked adorably at Cooper, extending her hands to my boys. “Um…” She sighed, probably realizing the suggestion about me having a break was not a good idea. “Take out?” she offered.

 

Bethany did not wait for my answer and breathed in relief when Theo took her other hand. Theo trusting someone other than Rosie and me outside our home seldom happened.

 

Maybe because we didn’t have a home anymore.

 

Rosie heaved a sigh, and when I turned to her, her eyes followed Bethany and the boys at the self-ordering kiosk.

 

“Rosie, we’re going back to the car,” I informed her and nudged my head toward my best friend. “Just tell Bethany what you and Jessy want.”

 

“Nah! I’m good,” Jessy said, shaking her head and blocking her ears with her wireless earbuds when I opened my mouth. She stepped toward the exit door, and it would be a miracle if she waited for us in the parking lot.

 

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Rosie sighed and lowered her head.

 

“Hey,” I muttered gently, placing my index finger under her chin and lifting her face to look at me. “It’s not your fault, okay?” I did my very best to curve my lips into a sweet smile. “Go to Bethany and remind her I want a large coffee and fries for Isabella. Get your sister something to eat, too.”

 

Rosie nodded, and her trembling lips managed to curve into a smile before she turned her back on me.

 

“I can do this!” I murmured, holding Isabella tighter and taking a deep breath.

 

I stepped toward the exit door, following Jessy outside before she decided to roam around, stressing Bethany and me more.

 

Jessy leaned on Bethany’s car, staring at the people doing aerobics at the park nearby. She was tapping her foot, so I was unsure if she was listening to music with a faster tempo or maybe she was enjoying herself at the loud music from the park.

 

Heaven must have a message to me through Kelly Clarkson because the song played in the dance was her other song, Stronger.

 

Just me, myself, and I

 

I pressed my lips tightly, wanting to scream and oppose Kelly because I am lonely when I am alone. I cursed but missed Marcus every night, hating him for dying young and leaving me alone with our children.

 

 How many times did I cry whenever I sang All By Myself? Just the mere thought of it made me sniffle, but I stopped instantly when Isabella eased back and looked at me.

 

“Why are you crying, Mommy?” She pressed her cheek on mine. “Are you crying because of what Jessy did?”

 

“No, sweetheart.” I blinked the tears away. “I’m crying because of Kelly Clarkson.”

Chapter 2 – The Forbidden Door

(Eve's POV)

 

“Are you sure this is the address?” Bethany gawked at the mansion. She wasn’t blinking, so I doubted if she was breathing.

 

It was old and… gothic, reminding me of all the scary movies my family watched together. My breathing and the beating of my heart were on pause as I slowly glanced at my children. Like me, their eyes fixed on where we would live temporarily, their mouths open, and I bet their heart pounding faster as we got closer to the place.

 

Bethany slowed down the car, stopping at the gate.

 

Isabella screamed when the tall, beautifully decorated metal gate creaked, automatically opening for us. I opened the window, hoping to find the sensor, but I gasped when the cold wind kissed my skin. Goosebumps broke out over my skin.

 

“Brrr…” I shivered, clearing my throat as I pressed the button to close the car window. I couldn’t find the sensor if this old place had one, or maybe

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