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(Happy laughter in the living room (2)

Lily nodded in happy agreement,"Of course master. My lady takes such good care of me that I couldn't even think of leaving her. And my little master is so cute, I cannot bear the thought of leaving him either!"

Derek sighed,"Well it seems like love is all there is."

But Cherry didn't let that slide. Now that Derek was here, she wasn't going to let even one chance of bullying him, slip away. "She is never leaving us and she will never work for you Derek. You better make your peace with that," she said triumphantly.

Again, at a loss of words, Derek began to stammer,"You, both..." Seeing him in a fix, the three of them started laughing.

Amy stood up,"Well, I better go upstairs. It is time for Joe's piano lessons and I don't want to delay him. You all continue, I'll just go."

"Alright!" said Cherry.

Amy hopped upstairs and she said,"See you all in a bit!"

Cherry turned to Jackson and said,"I don't mind if you and Derek want to go upto your study and discuss business. I'll be fine here, watch some TV."

She had been noticing Derek's fidgetiness since a while and figured that he probably wanted to talk to Jackson in private. Due to her pregnancy, Jackson had been at home a lot, keeping her company and looking after her. She realised that he must have lost out on a lot of work. 'I must give them some privacy to talk about business, ' she said to herself silently.

"Are you sure you'll be fine?" said Jackson, a worried look on his face. He had his apprehensions of leaving Cherry all alone. His only goal in life was to look after her to the best of his abilities. And for that, he was even ready to suffer some losses rather than see her get hurt.

So he simply said,"It's fine, Cherry. We have no important business, just a few trivial things we need to talk about. We can sit here and chat too." Derek understood that Jackson did not want to leave Cherry alone for even a minute, such was his love for her. So he too urged Cherry to not worry.

"It isn't important at all, Cherry," he said.
Not to be fooled, Cherry knew that it was Jackson's love and his hesitation talking. Even though she wasn't quiet familiar with Derek, she understood his concern for her.

But she had also decided that she wasn't going to let Jackson waste all his time on her. She went and sat next to him and nudged him persuasively,"Look, I will be watching soap operas here and you both will get bored. Neither of you have any interest in them. And your conversations about business will bore me to death. It's best that I sit here comfortably and watch my shows, while you two chat about more important things in the other room."

Seeing that she was not one to be deterred, Jackson gave in. "Fine. But promise me if you need anything, just call Lily. We will be right in the next room."

Cherry smiled,"I know! I'm not a kid. I can look after myself. Now go!" She let go of Jackson's arm that she was holding and gestured them to go on.

Once they were out of sight into the next room, Cherry snuggled into a comfortable blanket and sat on the couch watching TV.

In the study, Jackson pensively stared outside the window, overlooking the road and the trees. He seemed to be in a bad mood.

Derek quietly sat on the table and said in a low voice,"She has left."

Without looking up, Jackson asked,"When did she leave?" He asked not because he cared about Sally. In fact, he couldn't be less concerned about her.

"Mond told me she left this morning." replied Derek sombrely.

"Are you absolutely sure that she has left?" Jackson knew Sally very well and he knew that she was capable of pulling some mean tricks too. He had to be doubly sure.

"Yes. Mond sent a man after her to be sure. The man saw her board the flight, with his own eyes. This time, she has surely left for good," answered Derek. He knew that Mond would never lie to them. That meant that Sally had indeed left and Cherry was now in no danger.

"Well, I hope she never returns ever," said Jackson solemnly, gazing out of the window again.

"Jackson," Derek called out his name suddenly,"Do you want Sally to leave for her sake, or was it only because you were worried about Cherry's safety?"

Derek tried to gauge his friend's feelings towards Sally, but could not seem to do that. He wasn't sure if Jackson had sent Sally away for her own good or because he was worried that she might hurt Cherry.

The bitterness in Jackson's voice was unmissable, as he responded,"Both."

He continued,"If she doesn't return, she can actually start a new fresh life, in a new place. She can leave all this behind her and become a new person, wherever she goes." His voice echoed in the study, whereas Derek remained silent and listened.

"But most importantly, I know that with Sally gone, Cherry is completely safe. I have no feelings for Sally, but we were friends. I have known her since we were children and that means something to me. I don't love her but I would have never laid a finger on her. However, Cherry is my responsibility and I will never let anything happen to her. Even if it means dealing with Sally then."

As Jackson vented his feelings, Derek looked on. He understood that what Jackson had done was in favour of everyone.

Derek rose from his seat and sauntered over to where Jackson was standing. He gave a slight pat on the back, as if in an effort to comfort his agitation.


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