Precious Gem Boutique is finally ready for opening! The day had finally come where I was now officially a business owner. My own boss.
I couldn’t wait for people to start strolling in to drop loads of cash on all of the name brand clothing and accessories that lined the racks and displays of this place. But more importantly, I couldn’t wait for the other source of income to start rolling in so I could get my cut which would finally make this investment into retail worthwhile.
One step at a time though. I needed to hire employees to stock the shelves and dress the mannequins before I officially opened the doors to the public. I decided only one employee would suffice as I didn’t want too many people to manage and watch over to make sure they didn’t discover the illegal parts of this operation. There was one girl named Angelina who seemed right for the job. She was the only applicant who had experience in sales and she was also pretty, and pretty girls attracted men and could get them to spend more than they’re willing to just to make a good impression. On top of that she was a total air-head which meant she couldn’t possibly figure out what was happening right under her nose, so I hired her.
Even though I could sell two dresses in one day and still make thousands of simoleons on the books, I took Zachary’s advice about making the business appear successful so no one would question why I was earning such a huge profit. I would also feel very proud of myself if I could be successful as a business owner first before having help from laundering Dad’s money.
Zachary came over to the store for support. We’d been dating for a while now and it’s been really great. He’s such a sweet and funny guy and always the gentleman. I got really lucky to have him as my boyfriend and he’s really lucky to have a mogul in the making such as me as a girlfriend.
“Do you like how it looks?” I asked him.
“The store looks great Gem. By the way, don’t forget that Gunnar and Aubree are coming over with the cash tomorrow evening after closing so you’ll have to make sure no one else is around when they come, not even Angelina.”
“I got it. I’m not stupid.”
“Of course you’re not. I’m just looking after my girl, that’s all.”
“I have a question for you. Does it bother you at all that you’re going to be involved in something illegal and working alongside criminals?” I asked him, hoping he’d give the right answer. I needed to be sure he was the kind of man who understood me and wouldn’t be a liability to this whole operation. Dad seemed to trust him, so I needed to be sure I could fully trust him too.
“Does it bother you?” he retorted.
“No, I trust my father.”
“I trust Stephan too. I grew up with parents who were also thieves, but they were good people. It didn’t matter to me what they did to earn money because they loved me and were always there for me. Just because you’re involved in something illegal, doesn’t make you a bad person. And the way the economy is these days, I’d say that as long as you’re not killing anyone or taking from the poor then you should do anything you can to build your nest egg as fast as possible.”
He moved in closer, staring into my eyes. He was always so romantic. I could tell he had already fallen in love with me.
I was quite fond of him too.
“I love you, Gemma.” He whispered into my ear. It was the first time he said that phrase and although I was expecting it, it still touched me nonetheless.
“I love you too.” I said it because it was the appropriate thing to say in moments like these and not because I felt it as well. I really liked Zachary and he was everything I ever wanted in a man including being a good kisser. But love? I wasn’t sure, however, I’m not stupid enough to express that to him and risk ruining our relationship.
That night was the opening of the store and I was not at all surprised by the number of people that showed up on the count of Zachary using his influence in the media to make sure ads ran for an entire week before in print and online. Everything in the store was on sale as part of the opening week promotion. Most stores wouldn’t have such a sale during their first week of business but I could easily afford it.
Uncle Felix and Jackson came to show support since Mother, Clay and Leni couldn’t make it. Leni went off the deep end after her breakup with Ayden and embarrassed the entire family by throwing a fit in public. I wasn’t there to see it so I could only imagine the look on people’s faces and what they thought about us because of her.
Mother and Clay decided it was best for Leni to go to a rehabilitation facility in Newcrest for treatment and they went with her to get her settled in. To me, her crazy self needed to become a permanent resident of an asylum but Mother would never allow her favourite daughter being locked away in some looney bin even if it was the best thing for her and the rest of the family so, once again, she chose Leni over me and missed my store opening. No big deal. I’m used to these things by now.
“I’m very proud of you, Gemma.” Uncle Felix said to me. “Look at all these people here. You’ll surely sell out all of your merchandise in a week. I know your mother wishes she didn’t have to miss your big day.”
Uncle Felix was always nice to me so I decided to be nice to him by politely smiling and nodding in agreement even though he couldn’t be more wrong.
It was closing time and while Angelina was cleaning up and restocking the shelves for tomorrow I was checking the money in the cash register. It looked like I made over a thousand in sales! And this was before the laundered money entered the picture. I started wondering if I even needed Dad’s money at all, but then I’d be a fool to refuse.
A few days after Mother and Clay returned home, I invited Zachary over so they could meet him. It was the proper thing to do since he was my boyfriend and given how well things were progressing in our relationship it would only be a matter of time before he proposed to me.
“Mum, Clay, this is Zachary Chin, my boyfriend. Zachary, these are my parents, my Mum Danielle and my step-dad Clay.”
It was obvious to me why they remained in their work uniforms instead of changing into more casual clothing since they knew what time he was coming over and that time was hours after their shifts ended. They wanted to intimidate him by making him aware that my parents were cops and if he messed with me, they’d deal with him. Though I understand why, it was completely unnecessary. Zachary was perfect, and my Dad already checked him out and his approval was all I needed.
After nearly fifteen minutes of routine questions about what he did for a living, where he grew up and what his hobbies were, Mom finally got to the real question she wanted to ask.
“Zachary you seem like a really nice young man, but I need to ask, what are your intentions with our daughter?”
Without hesitation he said, “The truth is I’m going to marry your daughter, if she’ll have me of course.”
“What?” I asked trying to maintain my composure and not show how excited I was. Was this a proposal?
“I’m not proposing right now. I want that moment to be special and a surprise but that is my intention with Gemma. I love her and I know she’s the one. I’m hoping that once you two get to know me you’d see that I’m honest, dedicated, and I will do anything for her and this family, and then you’ll give us your blessing.”
“I can’t believe you said all of that!” I was shocked by all that he said. I knew marriage was on the table but I didn’t think he’d come right out and boldly declare his love for me and his desire to make me his wife. He never even said those things to me in private. I was beaming. This man was too good.
“Well you have our blessing,” Clay stated. He and Mother were impressed. I could tell from the looks on their faces that they had let their guards down.
“I was a little nervous about this…” No I wasn’t. “… I thought you might be concerned about the age difference and the fact that we haven’t known each other for very long but I’m glad we have you guys’ support.” Not really.
Now I was anticipating his proposal. I knew it wouldn’t happen anytime soon as he wanted it to be a surprise and that would mean letting a few days pass before doing it. I already started planning our wedding in my head – the gown, the location, the honeymoon! I’ll admit I was worried about the way my adult life would turn out since I had a series of dead-end jobs and no dating prospects but with my store being a success and my relationship getting more serious by the day, I was finally content with the way my life was going.