Two Years Ago
“Do you really believe he will propose tonight?” I implored my best friend, Ryan. He was seated across the bed from me.
He glared at me with an annoyed eye roll . “If you ask me one more time, I’m leaving.”
I stared at him, batting my lashes. “Sorry,” Ryan sighed aloud and settled his phone next to the lamp. “Ava, you’ve been with Jason for four years. You’re both old enough to get married so I don’t see a reason why he wouldn’t propose,” he further commented. I let out a scream of frustration in my pillow.
“It’s about time he proposed. It’s Valentine’s Day for crying out loud and also your anniversary.” Ryan squeezed my arm to reassure me.
“I won’t have a problem if he doesn’t propose tonight. It’s just that he’s been giving me subtle hints since last week and I can’t help but think of the possibility.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “He told me that he was going to the jewelry store but he refused to tell me what he was going there for. Then this morning he called and told me that he’s taking me out tonight and I should wear a dress.”
“Okay listen, I’ll help you choose something to wear and you just go on ahead with him and see what’s up. If he proposes, you say yes of course. If not, douse him with a glass of wine in his face, yeah?” He replied, confidently.
I chuckled and he joined in. “Okay sir.”
“Besides, he’d be stupid not to propose. You’re perfect,” Ryan added, just to boost my confidence. It worked.
He and I have been best friends since we were four years old. His family left their hometown and moved in next door. My mom decided to make a casserole as a welcome gift and dragged me along with her. It was Ryan’s mother who answered the door. “Hello. I’m Isabella and this is my daughter, Avanelle,” my mom introduced us. I was clinging on to the hem of her floral skirt when I heard footsteps storming down the stairs.
“Mom!” It was a boy. “I can’t find my--” his words were cut off as he spotted me. “Who are they?” He asked his mom, eyes filled with curiosity as he stared at me.
“These are our new neighbors. Why don’t you introduce yourself.” The little boy tried to get a better view of me but I hid my face further behind my mother.
“Hi, I’m Ryan. Do you like chocolate chip cookies?” He asked me. I gave him a shy nod and with surprise, he dragged me by the hand inside his house. I glanced back at my mom and she gave me an encouraging nod. I looked towards the boy who held my hand in his, alarmed.
Suddenly, he stopped.
“Mom, is it snack time?” He asked. “Can we have chocolate chip cookies?”
A few baked goodies later, the next thing I know, we’re covered in paint because he decided he wanted to showcase his ‘amazing’ skills.
From then onwards, we were inseparable.
Ryan has ashy blonde hair paired with his hazel colored eyes; ‘five feet ten inches of perfection’ as he would call it.
Girls at college would slobber over him but I never found myself at his mercy. Maybe because I grew up with him and I’ve seen him before he got this hot.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t hit that. Well, mainly because he runs for the other team. He doesn’t look like the stereotypical gay so you wouldn’t even know he is by just one glance.
“Hey, what time did Jason say he’s going to pick you up?” Ryan inquired, from across the room as he fiddled with his phone.
“Umm...” I trailed off. “Seven o’clock I think.”
“Get your butt up, it’s six o clock!”
I had a shower already so all I needed to do was hair and makeup.
I was never the one to indulge in the pleasures of getting dressed or makeup. Music, art, nature and culture was what intrigued me the most. I would go to museums, art galleries, the beach among other places, and that’s where I would find my peace.
Ryan had been running back and forth from the closet to the bedroom with various kinds of dresses with a variety of colors. I didn’t even know I had that much. Simplicity was what I always preferred.
“Hey, what are you going to do tonight?” I questioned loud enough so he could hear me. “Any plans?”
“Uh well I had plans on going to this singles party but....,” he hollered back.
“But nothing Ryan. You should go. Maybe you’ll meet someone.”
“Perfect,” I heard him mutter.
I looked to see what he was doing. “No, not that one,” I whined when I saw the red dress he was holding. He bought it for me last Christmas but I tucked it far away in the closet because it was a tad revealing for my taste.
He came out sporting a grin. “This is the one.”
“It’s too short,” I complained.
“Put it on,” He tossed the dress at me.
I glared at him but when I realized he wasn’t backing down I gave a sigh of surrender.
“I heard that,” he called, eyes glued to his phone. “You have curves Ava, it’s about time you show them.”
I slipped into the red strapless, deep cut dress and it clung on to me like it was specifically designed to fit every curvature of my bodice.
Ryan whistled, gazing at me from head to toe. “Hot damn.”
I rolled my eyes and chuckled at his comment. Looking at my reflection, a smile crept its way up my face. What can I say, I did look good.
I slipped on my heels and grabbed my purse and phone.
“You look smoking Ava. I’d totally shag you if...you know,” Ryan noted, raising a brow. I felt my face flush in embarrassment.
“You should see your face right now,” he laughed, which made me redder.
“I hate you.”
“You know you love me.”
I turned to look at him and he wagged his eyebrows.
My fingers made their way at typing in Jason’s username on Instat. It was something I would do frequently; not to spy but just to gawk at him. Even after dating him for such a long time, I remember feeling warmth all over whenever I would look at his picture.
I saw a couple of them with him and I snuggled together. One with him planting a sloppy kiss on my face and another with him at my high school graduation.
Jason had dark brown hair, emerald green eyes that resembled the hues of an evergreen forest, along with a chiseled jawline that defied all logics of geometry.
“Ryan!” I called out to my best friend who had left the room.
“You should call him,” he appeared with one of the chocolate bars he got as a valentine gift from one of his secret admirers. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach; butterflies but not the ones that make you feel like you’re stupid in love. It was the one that told you something bad was about to happen.
I chose to ignore it.
The first call went to voicemail so I tried once more. No answer.
“Try again,” Ryan urged.
I did as told and to my surprise someone answered but I did not recognize the voice.
It was feminine.
“Who is this?” I inquired as calmly as possible, continuing to ignore the butterflies. “Where’s Jason?”
“He’s in the bathroom,” her voice sounded oddly familiar.
“Who is this?”
Jason’s voice was heard in the background and the call was disconnected.
I sat there staring at Jason’s caller I.D.
“What is it?” Ryan got closer.
“Spit it out Ava.”
“A girl answered.”
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know. It’s probably his sister.” I grabbed my car keys. “I should go check up on him.”
Ryan blocked my path. “Whoa there Missy. I’m coming with you.”
“No you aren’t.” I started and walked around him.
I quickly backed out of my driveway and started the short journey to Jason’s house.
“Ava, what if he...” Ryan trailed. He somehow got into the passenger’s seat but my mind was too occupied to notice until now.
“He’s feeling sick and his sister is taking care of him.”
“Shut it Ryan!” I belted. “He’s not like Vincent o-or Robbie. He doesn’t cheat.”
Vincent dated me in high school and had me convinced I was the only girl in his life but I wasn’t. He was with three other girls. Robbie on the other hand, cheated on me with the librarian in junior year at high school.
“Okay.” Ryan turned his gaze away from me and towards the road.
“He doesn’t cheat.” I whispered to myself.
“But what if -”
“I swear on my grandmother’s grave if you utter one more word out of that gay mouth of yours, I’m pushing you out the car and I don’t give a damn if you break a limb!” I growled at him.
Ryan mumbled something that I chose to ignore as we came to a stop at my boyfriend’s house.
I found the spare key in one of the pots by the garden. Ryan opted to stay in the car.
As I entered the house, the butterflies multiplied. I went upstairs to where I knew his bedroom was and opened the door.
A not so sick Jason was laying down with a girl on top of him.
My eyes flooded as I approached them.
I cleared my throat to alert them. The girl rushed to cover herself with the blanket.
Our eyes met.
It was his closest friend. Apparently they decided to get closer.
My gaze shifted towards Jason. “What is going on?” My voice failed me as I tried to sound strong.
Jason got up naked, not bothering to cover up.
“What are you doing here Ava?” His brows furrowed.
“W-we had a date, remember?” I stuttered. “What are you doing?” I took a step backwards holding my hand to my chest as I felt my heart constrict with pain. The butterflies were on my chest now, making it difficult for me to breathe.
“It’s not what it looks like.”
The classic response.
The man before me was now a stranger.
“It’s not what it is - what does it look like then!” I screamed. The butterflies appeared in my throat. I gulped.
Jason stood before me without a word.
“How long?” I questioned, looking away from him.
My head swiftly snapped upwards.
“How long has this been going on!” I screeched. He cringed.
“Oh my god, take a hint already Ava,” his best friend stared at me with a look of pity in her eyes.
“How could you Brina? I thought we were friends.” Tears escaped my eyes as I spotted the diamond necklace around her neck with Jason’s initials.
My attention reverted to the culprit who was awkwardly shifting from foot to foot.
“How long Jason?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Yes Jason, it does matter!” I screamed at him. He cringed once more.
“Three years.” His face hardened.
My eyes widened.
I felt my lungs collapse as the tears streamed down my face.
“How could you do this to me?” My voice trembled.
Jason clenched his jaw and rolled his eyes. “This is a waste of time. You should just go. I’ll return your things tomorrow.”
I sobbed pathetically. “Did you even love me?”
“I did but that was a long time ago,” he confessed.
My heart shattered and with that I broke down further.
I threw the spare key in his face and ran out the room, tears staining my red puffy cheeks. I continued to run. I didn’t want to face Ryan’s questions just yet.
I wanted to disappear.
“Ava!” He spotted me.
I ignored him and focused on the cold pavement under my bare feet.
I’ve had my heart broken before but Jason was the one. He was my true love. He was my person. I was extremely close with his family and we were even envied by other couples because of how stupid in love we were.
To my unfortunate surprise, the majority of the time I had been with him, he’d been screwing his best friend.
Was our love a lie?
A car came to a stop behind me a few miles later, to which I ignored. Instead I continued to drag my worn out feet.
I then heard footsteps but at that point a hand grabbed hold of me.
“Let me go Ryan!” I tried to shake him off.
“Please calm down.”
My body stiffened.
That voice didn’t belong to Ryan. It belonged to a stranger.
I ceased my fidgeting and faced the person who was holding me.
A piercing scream of fear escaped my lips.
The man’s grip on me tightened and he covered my mouth shut.
“I’m going to explain, just please promise me that you won’t run or scream again,” he said reassuringly with a genuine smile.
I contemplated for a moment before nodding my head. Mentally, I prepared myself to use the defense training Jason had given me to good use.
“Avanelle Day,” the man announced with a smug smile. “You’ve just been recruited.”
I scrutinized him from head to toe with my cheeks stained from the tears I shed earlier.
He was a tall muscular guy. Not the kind to make you feel like running but the kind to make your knees buckle being paired with blue eyes and blonde hair.
“What do you mean by recruited?” I was baffled. “And how do you know my name?”
“If you come with me, the boss will explain everything to you.”
“I think not.” I attempted to escape but he caught me before I made another step.
“Please. If you run, I’m allowed to take you with me by force,” he smirked. “If you come willingly, there will be no need for that.”
The road we were on was vacant and far from where I lived. I instantly regretted not getting in the car with Ryan.
“Fine, I’ll come with you.”
He retrieved a cloth from his pocket.
“You’re gonna have to wear this over your eyes. The location must be kept unknown to you until you accept to be a part of the agency.” He gave me a lopsided grin.
“So I have no choice then,” I stated. “What if you’re a serial killer and that whole ‘you’re recruited’ shindig is total bullcrap?”
The man gave a sigh of annoyance then slowly revealed his gun in its holster.
I gulped with fear.
“Enough stalling,” he grumbled. “The boss doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
He secured the blindfold over my eyes and everything went black.