“You sure about this?” Nic asked as he and Wallace were standing outside the shop the next afternoon.

Wallace nodded, buttoning up his coat as he was waiting for Nic to lock up. Their shop was finally back in business mortar and brick wise. And it was actually an autumn day like many times before that they shall stop to discuss any source of a serious topic. And it had made Wallace smiled because of his silly answer years ago. The one about Nic asking him about Yvonne. Wallace still didn’t understand why Tammy even pulled that one with trying to bring him and Yvonne together, but he had guessed that Tammy was still playing the supportive role despite being pulled out in the whole ‘fake death’ schemes, knowing she wanted to secure her place in his heart even further. If not, why would she ask Nic to do that years ago?

“It’s funny that you’re finally getting rid of me and you look like you’re getting ready to go to a funeral or something,” Wallace joked as they were making their way to his car. “It’s not like you, Old Nic.”

Nic indeed looked like he was going to a funeral. He didn’t understand why either. Perhaps it was because he was used to working with Wallace all these years. And somehow along the way, they’d become friends. He was indeed reluctant to see Wallace go. “You and Yvonne could always come back here.”

Wallace stopped since they were standing by his car now. He shook his head before answering. “This place doesn’t belong to us.”

“Are you saying our friendship means nothing to you?”

Wallace smiled at Nic’s choice of words and how he’d caught on that Nic was offended. It was hard to miss. “Come on now, it’s not like we’re not going to come back and visit you all one day. After all, we have a wedding to look forward to, right?”

Nic didn’t understand why Wallace was driving the conversation into that direction. He shrugged. “I’m not so sure Amber’s interested in me in that way. I meant, okay, we’re starting over and all, but who knows?”

Yes, Nic and Amber had started over again, knowing that their previous interactions might or might not have the influence of her trying to cover up her identity. That was why Nic wasn’t so confident in himself anymore.

“Come on now, Nic,” Wallace spoke up again, not including the word “Old” with Nic’s name this time. “She quit the agency for you. What more do you want?”

“Maybe she was just fed up at them for causing Yvonne so much grief,” Nic muttered, his voice still unsure about matters.

“She was more fed up with me,” Wallace reasoned. “Besides, she loved that job, I could tell. You might not get along with Rick, but he’s right in that she’s like me. And if she gives it up, it has to be for love, not for some sudden burst of anger. After all, Patrick wouldn’t let her go if it was just some tantrum she’s throwing.”

“Who’s the dramatic one now, man?” Nic retorted. “Love? We barely know each other.”

“You can’t measure love with time.”

“Now you’re scaring me, in a different way.”

Wallace smiled, not sure why he was getting all mushy either. Yet perhaps his relaxed state had to do with the fact that he knew he would succeed in finding Yvonne this time.

“Are you going to wait for the others?” Nic asked as he scanned the perimeter and then checking his watch out of habit.

Wallace shook his head. “I hate goodbyes. But it’s only fair that I told you.”

Nic stayed silent, not knowing what to say either. Before he could react though, Wallace reached into his coat and pulled out a folder. He handed it to Nic before speaking up again.

“I signed it already. This is just security in case I disappear for good.”

Nic nodded, understanding why. From Wallace’s current placid state, Nic knew, at last, he shouldn’t hold Wallace back. Or used any other source of challenging words to change Wallace’s decision. Not after months of seeing how Wallace was trying hard to operate on normality for his sake.

“Good luck,” Nic said at last.

Wallace smiled, clapping Nic’s shoulder before reaching for his car door. Nic stepped back to give Wallace some space as he watched Wallace pulled out of the spot behind his car. He stared until the car disappeared into the horizon with the sun setting dramatically to announce the end of their friendship.

*****

Wallace arrived at his and Yvonne’s hometown two weeks later. It was indeed well into autumn now. He took his time to explore the town and familiarize himself with the place again. With each step, it was all coming back to him. And he didn’t have to guess which direction led to Yvonne’s house. No, their house. It had helped that Yvonne was making her way toward him. She didn’t notice him at first. In fact, they didn’t have a clue they were within minutes of crossing paths. He was distracted by a structure toward his right so he had turned before realizing Yvonne was heading toward him. But it was like he knew–or just by sheer coincidence–that he turned when she was walking by him. And that was when his smile turned even wider.

“Yvonne!” He called out, reaching his hands out to stop her from proceeding to wherever she was heading toward.

It was like Yvonne hadn’t paid any attention to her destination previously. So she was quite alarmed the minute she realized someone was having a hold of her. She finally broke out of her trance and realized it was Wallace. She blinked once, twice. Then she was convinced she wasn’t dreaming. The tight grip around her was the obvious proof.

“What are you doing here?” Yvonne asked, her composure intact again, ignoring his smile. She had also shrugged his hands off. “Aren’t you supposed to be with your wife?”

Wallace’s smile turned off then. Yet he realized that it made sense that Yvonne didn’t know that he had remembered. She had left that day months ago, disconnecting all communications from them. So, of course, she was still under the impression that he didn’t know. And she was still playing along with his warped memory. His smile turned back on again.

“I’ve left her already,” Wallace returned, feeling like playing along with this game a little longer. “Let’s just say that I finally made up my mind. It was you all along. You won, Miss Yao.”

Yvonne wasn’t impressed with his answer. “You expect me to believe you?”

Wallace shook his head. “I know I deserve this, because of all the cruel words I said to you. But I finally realized that the person who I loved all along was you.”

Yvonne shook her head, still not believing him. Though she knew he would never joke about such matters. He could be a tease, but he would never do that with such a sensitive topic. “No, you don’t love me. Even if you think you do right now. You’re just mad at Tammy because she had let go of you years ago. You know she had no choice but to. If it was me, I would’ve done the same thing.”

It was Wallace’s turn to disagree with her. He shook his head and took her hand into his. “But you didn’t. You told them not to do it.”

Yvonne shook her head again, not wanting to accept his words. Or had opted for her ears being defective at the moment. “I could say those words back then because I treated you like a friend. Tammy was your wife.”

“And she broke that trust with a lie.”

“What you’re saying right now proves that you’re just mad at Tammy for the choices that she made, not because you don’t love her anymore.”

“Looking back, I don’t like myself very much, you know.” He stopped to laugh then, swinging their linked hands in the process. “How cliché could I be? Marrying my high school sweetheart? Too good to be true, right?”

Forgotten all about their linked hands, which he just reminded her seconds ago, Yvonne attempted to yank her hand away. Yet his grip was firm. It was like he was determined to never let go again. Frustrated, she wanted to sever their ties forever. Almost. “Wallace! The least you could do at this point is not using me to get back at your wife.”

Wallace finally let go of Yvonne’s hand and turned to face her. He was no longer putting his focus on the setting sun and its ray of lights emanating the sea.

“No, you listen to me, Mrs. Huo,” He said, his voice dead serious. He had placed his hands on her shoulders but hadn’t put any pressures, only wanting her attention on him for the moment. “You were my wife, not Tammy. Rick showed me the tape. They just had to have some sort of record on file.”

That was what stopped Yvonne from defending her version of the story. Or more like his version of the story up until this point. “What?”

Wallace smiled, a genuine one this time, not the usual mocking one. “How could I not see it? We fought and got back together over the years, it was like a routine.” His amusing smile made its appearance as he shook his head. “It was you all along, not Tammy. I was still affected by the hypnotized state that I wasn’t seeing it more clearly. Lucky we had that incident or I would never find out the truth.”

Wallace stopped his monologue then. He raised his left hand up to reveal the ring still intact on his finger since years ago–whether he was still under the impression of the wrong memory or if it was the current time–for Yvonne to see. Yvonne gasped, but that didn’t stop Wallace. He reached for her left hand as well, knowing that she was still wearing hers. And had every right to be, because like Amber said, it was indeed hers.

“We wasted so much time these past years, so it’s about time we get our lives back on course, don’t you think?” He asked, smiling at her with much warmness.

As if not believing her eyes or ears, Yvonne raised her hand up so the sun could hit the ring. It was like it was already a habit that she had the ring on, but it was just for the sake of wearing it because she was still unwilling to let go of the past. But seeing it now with Wallace standing next to her was a different story.

“You owe me a scarf,” Wallace said, his teasing smile present and accounted for.

He was wearing the black coat. The one that used to match hers so perfectly. And he was hinting at the white scarf she had bought for him that one time when she came back and visited Tammy, even bringing presents for them both.

“I sold it already,” Yvonne responded–at last. Her teasing smile matching his.

“Sure you did.”

Yvonne shrugged. “You never know.”

“I know you would never get rid of anything that’s supposed to be for me.”

“Don’t be so sure of yourself, Mr. Huo.”

Wallace smiled and shrugged. But just in an instant, he was back to being his serious self. He stepped forward and grabbed a hold of Yvonne and hugged her to him. It took a few seconds for her to react and hug him back.

“How could you let me make me the mistake of thinking Tammy was my wife?” Wallace asked after a while, his voice on the verge of breaking.

“Would you have believed me if I told you it was me and not Tammy?” Yvonne returned after about a minute later.

Wallace tightened his grip around her. Yvonne allowed herself to be held, even letting go of herself, and actually closed her eyes for the moment. She just wanted to retrieve that feeling of being held by him like in the past, not just their past of his current life. But the one where they were still married.

“It was my fault,” He whispered into her hair seconds later.

“Didn’t you say let’s not waste any more time?” She reminded him, opening her eyes again.

She finally yanked apart from him and took his hands into hers this time.

“Let’s go retrieve your scarf,” She said.

“Gladly,” He returned, not missing a beat of their usual banter.

The sun had reached its pit. But tomorrow would definitely be another interesting day. Because life would always go on.

© Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Posted: Monday, July 14th, 2014

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