Chapter 9 – The Real Version

Chen Yi parked his car and got out, making his way to the entrance. He knew he was late but he also knew that Achel won’t mind. Just to be sure, he glanced at his watch again. He was only fifteen minutes late. No big deal, right? At least he hoped so. Just when he was reassuring himself that Achel was not those kinds of unreasonable girls, he could see her ahead, talking to someone. He stopped where he was standing at, just enough to keep her within view. He could see the guy putting a hand on Achel’s shoulder. Then the guy flashed her a big smile. He couldn’t see Achel’s reaction since she had her back to him. Just when Achel turned toward him, he resumed his steps and pretended to just arrived. She smiled upon seeing him to which he sent one back, making sure that guy could see it.

“Hi,” Achel greeted him casually–but still with a cheerful smile.

“Hey, you,” Chen Yi said back, placing a hand around her shoulders–and making sure that guy could see it. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Don’t worry about it. I was just talking to Brett anyway.”

That was what I was worried about, Chen Yi thought.

“Are we going?” Achel asked, bringing him back to reality.

“Um…yeah,” He said quickly, continuing back to where his car was parked.

“Where are we going today?”

“Um….”

“Are we meeting with Qiao? Is she around?”

“Nah. I just part ways with her before coming here.”

“Oh.” She looked disappointed.

He smiled. “You want to hang out with her and the others then?”

“It’s okay.”

“Sure?”

She nodded.

He could almost feel there was something wrong with her. However, he didn’t pursue it. He unlocked the car and gestured for her to get in while he circled to the driver side.

“Can we go somewhere to talk?” She asked when he pulled out toward traffic.

“What’s going on?” He asked, knowing that there was no avoiding the conversation.

“I rather we talk somewhere else than while you’re driving.”

He stole a glance at her when they stopped at the red light. “What’s going on?”

“I…”

He could see her almost in tears.

“Xiao Yu…”

“Please…”

“Okay. Where?”

Someone honked behind them. He continued driving, waiting for her to come up with an answer.

“How about East Shore Café?” She finally said.

“Sure?”

“Yeah.”

It only took fifteen minutes but he made sure to drive carefully. He couldn’t let his anxiousness get the better of him.

“So…?” He said finally when they were there.

“Let’s go,” She said firmly.

Why was her mood changing so fast? She was cheerful at first then sad and now determined? He couldn’t stop to ponder. He locked his car and followed her to the back of the café.

“We’ll order in a bit,” She said when a waiter came up to them.

The waiter nodded and smiled before heading back inside.

Achel continued to walk to the back area–where the water was. He watched her from a distance, almost too scared to come closer. When they were finally by the pier, she turned around to face him again. Somehow, he could almost imagine the scenario, except it was him and Qiao Qiao that time.

“So…” He repeated the word he had uttered out when they were out in the parking lot, feeling unsure still.

She turned away from him and dropped down to sit on the ground–with her legs dangling into the water. He walked toward her and dropped down next to her.

“What do you want to talk about then?” He asked.

“Did you find someone yet?” She asked suddenly, still looking out at the water.

“Huh?” He asked, wrinkling his face.

“I just want to know.”

“Why are you asking?”

She didn’t answer.

He finally understood. He turned sideways, looking at her. “You’ve found someone! Don’t tell me it’s that Brett!”

“Well…he sort of asked if I had anyone…”

“Oh…no wonder he was getting friendly earlier. So, I guess this is it for us, huh?”

She turned to face him finally, her right leg folding in and her left leg still dangling in the water. “So does that mean you’ve found someone?”

He shook his head with a smile. “No way.”

“Does that mean you still like Qiao Qiao?”

“It just means that I’m still single.”

“Then why do you want me to accept Brett?”

“I can’t allow you to pass the opportunity of meeting another guy just because you agreed to help me for so long already.”

“But what will you say to the others? We’re attached, remember?”

He shrugged, folding his feet in and turning his full attention to her. “So? We could say that we broke up. It’s not the end of the world.”

“Oh.”

“What do you mean oh? A guy’s interested in you and you’re not the least bit excited?”

“Maybe…”

“What?”

“Maybe I’m just scared to try it.”

“What have I told you all these times? You’ve got to be brave.”

Achel stared at him silently.

“Come on. Don’t be like that.” He patted her head. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I already got past the worst, right? It was all thanks to you for agreeing to help all this time. Now it’s your turn to find happiness, okay?”

“Maybe I’m already used to it.”

He smiled. “You can’t be serious. I’m such a bully. Come on. Let’s call for a celebration.”

“You serious?”

He got up and pulled her up with him. “Of course, I’m serious. I’m happy for you. Let’s go grab something to eat.”

She allowed him to pull her toward the side entrance and into the café. It was one of those rare times they were actually going inside. She watched in silence as he ordered for the both of them and excused himself to go to the restroom.

She couldn’t help but remember back to last year when he had asked her for a favor. It was for Qiao Qiao’s sake, he had said. Because he knew Qiao Qiao knew he would never pull such a scheme, he did. That was how they’d become attached since that day when Chen Yi cheerfully declared to the others of their status.

Suddenly, she felt tears forming in her eyes. Was she reluctant to let go of it? Was she taking it too seriously, turning it into reality after all? It was she who wanted to declare her freedom after playing a role for too long. Then why was she feeling so sad about the whole situation? Or maybe she was just feeling the fear of stepping out to the world on her own and trying out a new relationship–a relationship with someone who she knew little of. It was finally her chance to step out to the real world. A world that only belonged to her and leaving behind her friends. Leaving behind Chen Yi.

© Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Posted: Thursday, March 11th, 2010

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