a story about a girl and two boys – 9

I notice that she hasn’t been home a lot lately. I notice her late hours. I remember the first time coming home to an empty house. I remember panicking, worrying if there was an accident or something because throughout our years together, Kate had never once came home late. I called her cell and she picked up after the first call went to her voicemail. She said she was busy writing and didn’t pay attention to the time. I told her to come home soon because I had brought dinner.

I remember she barely touched her food that night. She played with her fork, and was completely immersed in her own thoughts. I caught her smiling to herself and looking happy. Happier than the pouty Kate that I was almost used to.
After that night I notice more changes. I don’t know how to explain it, but it seems like she has some kind of a new purpose in life, if that makes any sense, which is strange to me… To say that she’s happy is an understatement for she’s practically glowing. If I wasn’t engaged to her and she was some total stranger, I’d say that I’m looking at someone in love…

I look at her sleeping. She seems so at ease. I touch her cheek, and she smiles to the touch. Earlier I asked her about her day, she looked at me, shrugged and said, “It was okay”. But then when she thought I wasn’t looking, I saw her smiling, looking very pleased with herself… I’m pretty sure she’s working on a new project, or maybe it has something to do with the wedding. Strange how she hasn’t even mentioned it once. Normally she wouldn’t shut up about a new project, so I got curious…

The first place to look is her satchel. She brings it everywhere, as far as clues go, I’ll find them there. I open it and the first thing I see is this sketch of her. She looks very beautiful in it. The artist drew it perfectly. And then I find more sketches. More of her faces with various facial expressions. I toss them around and when I realize it, I’m surrounded by Kate’s faces. Many of them. I wonder to myself, who drew them? There’s an initial on every sketch. It simply says LR. Who’s LR?

Days went by since that night and I keep on waiting for her to tell me about them, about her late hours, about her days, about LR, but she has grown quiet. Very quiet. Too quiet. I can’t even remember the last time she nagged me about our nonexistent conversation.

But I keep telling myself that she has snapped out of whatever funk she was in. At least that’s what I need to believe. I need to believe that she’s finally happy again. And that we’re finally in a good place in our relationship again. And that this change is because we’re finally getting married. I want to believe that so much, but there’s this small annoying voice at the back of my mind, persisting, telling me that something is not right. And somehow it has something to do with those darn sketches…

a story about a girl and two boys – 8

I spend most of my days here in Riley’s workshop now. Me writing, him sketching, but mostly we just talk. He never bores me. I love watching him talk about his work. About my writing. About life. I love how passionate he is about most things, and it’s good to be the one who listens for a change. But most of all, I love how he understands me. He just gets me. He never pushes me to talk about Charlie. He lets me play my pieces and watches me as I complete the puzzle. Patiently.

It’s been months since that fateful night when he asked me about my engagement ring. At this point, I know in my heart that I’m cheating on Charlie. As cliché as it may sound, I know I’m falling for this guy in front of me. Hard. And fast. And I’m not even sure if I want myself to stop. I never tell him about my feelings though… He never says anything anyway. He never demands anything anyway. In the back of my mind I keep toying with so many scenarios. So many what ifs… What if he just feels sorry for me and decided to be my friend because he knew I needed one… What if he basically is just a good guy whom is nice to all his friends… What if his affection towards me is just out of kindness, or even worse, pity…

Despite it all, I also know that right now there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I love being with him. I love staying here until late, watching the afternoon sun streams in and its light hits his paintings. It’s so serene, the quietness is almost deafening but somehow I can still hear his heartbeats around me… And they’re always around. I love that. I love how his smile hits the corner of his eyes. I love his almost slouched back when he paints. I love being around his paintings. Being around so many beautiful pieces I could almost pretend that I was someone else. I love closing the workshop with him, our quick dinners. He usually orders something in and we will share the meal… After all, I have to be home before Charlie does and if I don’t eat with him he’d be suspicious.

Sometimes I want Charlie to be suspicious… Like the first night when I got home late. The very first night that started all of this. I wished he would at least be a bit curious and instead of just asking about why I was late, and when I fed him a feeble lie, I had wished that he would pester me a little. But he never did. They’re polar opposites, Riley and Charlie. One insistently dragging me towards him. One steadily pushing me away. And here I am, a mere bar of steel. Helpless to it all.

I wish the reality was a different one now. I wish I wasn’t someone’s fiancée. I wish I hadn’t said yes to the other man. I wish I could just stay here with Riley forever. No pretenses. No heartbreak. No lies. Just the two of us and all the serenity that draws us so close together. I wish this was my reality. I wish I was braver. But time and time again, I just stand still. In my heart I know I would follow him everywhere. If he asked, I would. I know in my heart I would. But Riley never asks. He doesn’t question.

He’s painting now. And I’m watching him. I should be writing, but I could do that later when silence gets too uncomfortable at home – at my reality. With Charlie. Which is a lie since he’s just around, but never really there… But right now, in this very moment, I’m with Riley. And really, that’s all that matters…

a story about a girl and two boys – 7

The more I get to know Kate, the more I’m sure that what I’m feeling for her is not merely the byproduct of my imagination. Dare I say that I’m falling for her? It’s been weeks since I first saw the engagement ring on her finger, and it’s been weeks that I’ve been meaning to ask her about it. But again and again I keep my lips shut and arch them to a smile. I guess my biggest fear is that if I asked her about it, she would retreat to her shell and clam up, and I would lose that laughter I’ve grown so fond of. But keeping the question to myself is like holding on to a ticking time bomb. If she is really engaged, I will eventually lose her. And I can’t lose her. But what can I do? I’m looking at her now and I see a serene face. It’s been a while since I last saw those pouty lips and frankly, I don’t miss it.

She looks up and catches my eyes. I remember the old me would pretend to be looking at something else to avert my stare, but now I smile at her. She packs up her writing tools and walks towards me. She’s done for the day, but I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. “Do you want to go to grab something to eat? I know this little restaurant that serves the best pasta. It’s just around the corner. You have to eat something you know, you’re practically skin and bones!” She laughs, maybe to disguise that little reservation in her eyes which I obviously notice, but then she finally agrees to have dinner with me.

We walk to the restaurant and I have to restrain myself from holding her hand. We get there, the maître d’ shows us the way to a table for two, and she lets me order for her. We’re then left alone and I ask her, “Tell me about that ring…”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The question comes out of nowhere and it surprises me. He has apparently noticed the ring. But then what’s more surprising is that how the story comes flowing out of me. Easily. I tell him everything. Everything about Charlie. About how we were and how we are now. About how trapped I feel most of the times. About how much I long to talk to someone who will respond with more than just a yes, a no, or a mere shrug. Mostly about how much I blame myself for letting this relationship goes too far south.

All the while I speak, he just sits there. Quietly. His hand on mine. And I let it. I have to try so hard to push back my tears. I grab his hand for comfort and I feel so much better. Why does it have to be this man and not mine whom wants to listen? I don’t understand it. I don’t understand any of it. Am I cheating on Charlie right now? Is it wrong of me to feel so at ease at the presence of another man? A man whom is not my fiancée, whom a few months ago was a total stranger… But I’m tired of asking questions. I’m tired of worrying about every single thing. The food comes and he urges me to eat. I tell myself to focus on Riley and this pasta in front of me. It’s surprisingly good and while eating I keep telling myself that I deserve a break from it all and it’s okay to feel better now.

We have a nice dinner and for a while I let myself pretend that I’m here on a first date. I like how easy it is being with Riley. How liberating it is just to talk about his drawing and my project and every little thing in between. I’m glad that I finally have someone to talk about my project. He has even offered to draw some sketches to help speed things up and I’m thinking of partnering up with him to finish the whole thing. I can’t remember the last time I feel this excited.

But then the phone rings. And I glance at my watch, it’s 9.30pm. It’s Charlie and I’m yanked right back to reality. The one in which I’m still someone’s fiancée…

a story about a girl and two boys – 6

My alarm clock beeps. I reach out and hit the snooze button. I close my eyes again and think to myself, it’s another Tuesday today. It was exactly a week ago when I agreed to something I’m already regretting. I listen to the water running. He’s showering. He’s always the morning person, but long ago he would wake me up and then we would have our morning cuddles. I can’t remember the last time I woke up to him and not to my alarm clock. It was another lifetime ago. When Charlie was the person I knew and I was happy.

The alarm beeps again and I turn it off. I’ll pretend to be asleep so I can dodge another awkward morning. The water stops and I listen to him humming. He’s in a good mood today. He opens the bathroom door and simultaneously I close my eyes. I can hear his steps walking around the room, but they are always distant. From the bathroom to his closet, to the dressing table on which he stops for a while – combing his hair most likely, but never to the bed. The steps grow fainter and he’s out the door. I sigh heavily. There is no more goodbye, no more morning kisses, nothing. It’s just silence. Is this really how it’s supposed to be between two people that are getting married? This feeling I’m feeling can’t be normal. Time and time again I want to tell him that every single time you see me looking at you with nothing more to say, that’s me slipping away. So do something Charlie! Don’t let me slip away! But I hold back. I always hold back, I don’t know why. Maybe the rejection, I just cannot stand it anymore. I wipe the tears that are welling up. No more crying Kate, I scold myself. I get up and decide to get myself to the workshop earlier today. Writing will distract me – even for a little while.

I park my car and walk to the entrance. It’s closed. I peek inside, it’s too dark, I can see nothing, apparently I am way too early. I look around and see a Starbucks across the street. I’ll just grab a coffee and wait there until the owner opens. I hate sitting down by myself, but it beats standing in front of a closed workshop. Crossing the street, I think to myself, I don’t know the owner’s name, maybe I’ll ask him today. Maybe it will be nice to have a conversation with a stranger for a change. I get to the coffee shop and surprisingly it’s quite deserted. I order my usual Caramel Macchiato and Peanut Butter Panini, choose a seat across the door so I can look across the street, and start munching.

The front door opens and the workshop’s owner enters the coffee shop. What a coincident! Surprising myself I wave and gesture at him to come over. He looks genuinely pleased to see me and wave back. He goes and gets his coffee, walks up to my table, and says “Where were you last Tuesday?”

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I put my coffee down and take a good look at her. She’s even more beautiful outside my workshop with all her seriousness aside. I cannot believe that I’m looking at the person whom has occupied my mind for the past week. And she’s OK. I am so glad that she’s OK. I don’t know why but I had been worried sick that something was wrong with her. I feel so stupid. She’s practically a stranger but she has this powerful hold of me. And I’m looking at her. And she’s so beautiful.

I sit down and put my sketch book on the table. “By the way, I’m Leon. Leon Riley. I don’t think I know your name?” I put my hand out and she shakes it. “Kate Adler. Oh, Leon is your name!! I thought it was just the name of your gallery. It’s not a common name, is it? Can I just call you Riley? I insist. I’ll call you Riley. What time do you open, Riley? I came early and your shop was closed so I decided to come here and wait. Who knew that I’d bump into you here…” She finishes her long sentences and takes a sip of her coffee. She looks much more relaxed now but still somehow guarded. I wish I could just sit here and watch her talk all day. We converse over coffee and out of the blue she asks, “Is that your sketch book? Can I take a look?” I hand it over to her and she flips through the pages, stopping every now and then to take a second look, and then she stops and gets really serious.

Oh shoot! The sketch of her face I drew the night she didn’t show! She’s looking at it now. I hope she doesn’t recognize it, but who am I kidding, that’s her face right there. I watch in silence as she scrutinizes the drawing. She looks up at me with amusement in her eyes, she asks, “Is this me?” I nod and tell her briefly about what happened last Tuesday night. Obviously missing the fact that I almost went nuts when she didn’t show. And then she smiles her first smile, the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen, and says, “You have no idea how much this means to me.”

a story about a girl and two boys – 5

I’m running late!! It’s 3pm and I haven’t even showered. That was some nap, I needed that. I haven’t had a good night sleep for I don’t know how long. This new project has managed to get my mind off things, but I haven’t slept well either. I need to get to the workshop soon. Shoot, I will only have a few hours to write. I may need to talk to the owner to let me stay a bit later. I found myself smiling thinking about that guy. What a funny dude. I remember him mumbling words when I first visited his workshop. He’s one talented artist but words definitely fail him. He never speaks to me again ever since, which is good because I need to concentrate, but sometimes I feel his stares following me and strangely I don’t mind.

I shower quickly; dress up in my usual writing ensemble: white tee and jeans; then tie my hair up in a ponytail. It’s getting too long, I need a haircut. Charlie loves it long but he hates it when I tie it up. I think that’s partly why I keep doing it. Finally he has something to say about something. His silence has been too loud lately. It’s all there is between us. Silence. And I hate it. I don’t understand why people say that love is when two people can share comfortable silence together. Trust me, when silence gets comfortable, when it gets too comfortable, you’d better start worrying because something is definitely wrong.

We used to have so many things to say to one another. I remember that we used to abuse the phone and talk until early am. We used to laugh so hard at each other’s jokes. We used to be happier. Those days are distant memories now. I don’t know what went wrong. I keep trying to figure it out, but the best explanation I can come up with is that we just grew apart. I can’t recall the last time we had a real talk. Our daily conversations – if we talk at all – are mostly about what we should get for dinner or who should go get the laundry. I don’t blame him, really. If any, I’m as much to blame. But for goodness sake, I’ve tried to make it right. I tried making him see that we’re not alright. But again and again, it’s like trying to talk to a brick wall. He just didn’t see it. He doesn’t.

At one point I guess I just stopped caring. I told myself that maybe this is what’s normal and I’m just being dramatic. I stopped trying to reach out to him and started focusing more on myself. That was when I had the idea for this new project. I’m not happier but I guess I’m not as sad anymore. I have something to distract me from my futile efforts of fixing a relationship that supposedly isn’t broken according to my Charlie. I didn’t even bother telling him about it, because I know that he will just nod – indifferently – and I don’t think I can handle another dismissal from him. Not yet. I guess somewhere inside I still do care and that’s why leaving him is not an option.

Locking the front door I heard a car pulling into the driveway. It’s Charlie. What is he doing home this early, oh God I hope he’s alright… I walk up to him and see from afar a huge flower bouquet. I stop to a halt and frown. Charlie and flowers no longer belong in the same sentence. Something is definitely wrong. He walks up to me with a huge grin plastered on his face. I get even more worried because he only grins when he’s nervous. And then he gets down on one knee and asks me to marry him.

Wait, what just happened?! Did he just propose to me? Where did this come from? I am at lost for words. I guess I should be happy, but with all that I’ve been feeling lately, all my reservation about his silence, I am suddenly swarmed with doubts. But how can I say no to my Charlie? Me saying no would mean him walking away and I don’t think I’m ready to sever the ties with the guy I’ve known all my life. I look at him in the eye, I put the smile that I haven’t smiled for a while and then I say yes. He smiles then pulls me into a tight hug. But being held in his embrace, all I can think about is that I will miss today’s writing session and somehow, I don’t know why, the workshop owner’s awkward nods and stares…

a story about a girl and two boys – 4

I am going to ask her to marry me today. I know we haven’t been in a good place for a while now. She’s been very frustrating, like I can do no right. But I love her. And I’ve always known that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I’ve got the ring ready. I hope she likes it. I hope I’ve bought the right one. The last thing I want is for her to pout and sulk about not liking the ring. That would ruin the night. And we’d fight once again.

It’s getting really tiring to fight over the silliest things. She keeps saying that I’ve changed, that we don’t have meaningful conversations anymore; that we don’t laugh at the same jokes anymore. Well besides the couple of pounds added to my belly, I don’t think I have. Sure we don’t talk and joke as much, but isn’t it normal for two people who have been living together for 4 years? I still love her most of all. My feelings haven’t changed. Sure I don’t buy her flowers as often as I used to, but she was the one who complained about what we’re supposed to do them anyway.

I remember the first time I met her. We were much younger, and she was the funniest girl I knew. A tomboy whom would ironically wear her shirts tucked neatly into her always-a-tad-too-short-skirts. She had this laugh that was infectious, and everything I did seemed to amuse her. We became the closest friends and she would follow me everywhere. People would tease her. They would say that she had the biggest crush on the boy that would never like her back. She didn’t care. Little did people know, I was the one who thought of the world about her. Growing up, she was my everything. I was just too embarrassed to admit that – even to myself. I was young.

I never asked her out. We just sort of became an item. One summer holiday we went to a party and played truth or dare. One of the dares I got was to kiss a girl. I looked at her, pleaded with my eyes, begging her to save me from the humiliation. Being the good friend that she was she nodded silently and I kissed her. It was just a peck on the lips, but I am forever in debt to that stupid game for after that kiss, everything about us turned one-eighty.

I cannot remember her not being a part of my life. She was always there. For every single achievement I made I had her to thank as she was the one whom cheered the loudest. She’s my rock. Always has, always will. I want to make her happy again, I need to. That’s why I have tonight planned. I’m going to go home early and surprise her. It’s Tuesday today, so I know she’ll be home writing. I’ll bring some flowers and we’ll go to her favorite restaurant. I’ve made the reservation. I’m going to ask her there – at least in public place I won’t have to get down on one knee…

It’s 4pm and I’m driving home. I keep reciting what I’m going to say. I’ve decided to keep it simple. Something like, “Will you marry me, Kate?” or maybe something that doesn’t give her the option to say no, like, “Marry me, Kate!” I chuckled silently, why the heck would she say no, dumbass. She would definitely say yes, you’re being irrational, I told myself.

Pulling over to the driveway I saw her locking the front door, she’s going somewhere. Odd. I thought Tuesday was her writing day, I didn’t know she had some place else to be. I need a new plan. I don’t think I can sneak in that flower bouquet. I’m just going to ask her now. Surprise, surprise, Kate… She spots me and the flowers, squints her eyes. Did I see a glint of irritation? I shrug my suspicion off and walk up to her. She has her hair tied in a ponytail, God I hate that ponytail, why does she always have to look so businesslike lately. And that pout, it’s like she’s never happy to see me. Once again I shrug whatever I’m feeling off and focus at the task at hand. Nervously I stand in front of her, smile and hand her the bouquet. “You look lovely today, Kate. Going somewhere?”

a story about a girl and two boys – 3

I told her how I feel today. I couldn’t help myself. I know how wrong it was but I’ve always wanted to do so from the moment I saw her walking into my workshop. I remember that day. Clearly. I think I always will. I remember sitting at this very table, scribbling. When I looked up I saw this tall girl, her long hair was tied in a ponytail. A little pout was on her lips. She nodded at me politely and then stopped in front of one of my paintings. I could tell that she wasn’t having a good day. She seemed quite upset and strangely I had this weird feeling of wanting to just walk up to her and comfort her. So I did.

She looked at me with this puzzled look. Well of course, I was this one stranger and had literally just mumbled incoherent words about the nice weather and if she should smile and a bunch of stuff that didn’t even make sense to me. I remember kicking myself in the head, I should have just said hi but no, I had to go and acted like a total idiot. She remained her poised self, still no smile, but she pointed and asked if it was my painting the one she was looking at. She made me super nervous – and trust me, I don’t get nervous. I said yes, introduced myself, and we talked a bit about my painting. I remember trying to think of something interesting to say just to keep her talking to me, but she moved on to the next painting, gesturing that she wanted to tour alone and I excused myself. Swearing under my breath, I promised I would get her name next time.

She kept coming back to my workshop. First it was once a week. On Tuesdays, I remember. She would come into the building with her usual pouty lips, nodded her little nod at me, browsed around and then stopped at one painting. Then she would take out her notepad and start jotting down. She did catch my attention, but since I was quite embarrassed with how our first encounter went, I would just sat and watched her did her thing from afar. She was one fine view. Aside from the sadness that seemed etched on her facial expression, she was really beautiful. How I wished to see her smile.

It then became quite a habit. I found myself wishing for Tuesdays. Wishing that there would be one Tuesday when she would return and instead of her usual sad-self, she would come and actually look happy. I remember wanting her to be happy about seeing me – albeit there was practically nothing exchanged between us but those pathetic first hello and little nods here and there – but I had this strange feeling that she might be happy about seeing my paintings. After all, she kept coming back. I kept my hope high until one Tuesday she didn’t return.

It was one weird Tuesday. Everything about it was wrong. I couldn’t concentrate, kept staring at the door willing it to open and reveal your face. I waited until late, much later than my usual business hour, but you never showed. It rained that night, and looking at the door I felt this unfamiliar pang at the center of my chest. I tried distracting myself by drafting an abstract piece, I kept drafting silently and the lines turned into a face, yours… That was when I realized that the pang wasn’t unfamiliar after all, I just missed you.

Sometimes I wonder if things would have turned out differently if you had showed up that day. Maybe if you had I wouldn’t have learnt how it felt to miss you. I wouldn’t have drawn that sketch of you. You wouldn’t have seen it and finally smiled at me. I wouldn’t have seen your smile. I wouldn’t have fallen for you. I wouldn’t have put you in such a messy situation – exactly where you are right now. But I guess I’m not sorry and I would have fallen for you anyway.

My Blackberry buzzes and it snaps me back. I pick it up, there’s a BBM from you. It’s late so I guess he’s finally asleep. I put my book down and start typing. It’s going to be a long night, we have a lot to talk about…

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