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Chapter 4: Roman

So what happened to you Roman? Why were you drunk that time?

I seriously can't remember shit that went down that night. I was at this afterparty of the V. Cornell Spring/Summer Collection Show. It was really, really early into the party and they had to like take me out for a breather.

What did you do there? Why were you there?

I'm a model for the Coveted Agency, they had me booked for that show. That was my second time on it...last year I was in it for the uhh... why should I be telling you this again? And what is that recorder for?

As I've told Violet hours ago, this will serve as a reference for me to evaluate your situation. Honestly, if I'm going to ask you about the significant events in your relationship, I think a lot of times there will be an undeniable amount of discrepancies and contradictions in your story so, I hope you understand that this will remain...

yeah..yeah, yeah whatever. Just get on with it.

... where was I? okay... Roman, how did you end driving if you were too drunk? And that was just before 6PM right?

I don't really know to this day what went on. All I can remember was just I was depressed that time but you know... I was just doing my job and I was trying to be social, meet new people to get my mind of things. Then, after a few drinks I can't really count, I was seeing... things, you know what I mean? I have a strong feeling someone spiked my drink. Cause if I can really recall stuff, there was this old man wearing that white tux and he had this disgusting lisp when he talks, he was being over...friendly... and touchy, I was just...I can't even keep my feet up so my agent and that old man took me out of the premises but they told me I was screaming shit, 'leave me alone!'. They did leave me for a while since they were being called back inside, while I was able to walk myself back to my car and yeah... lucky enough to be alive on my way back home.

H-how is that... okay, you're saying you were able to drive yourself miles back home and the only time you crashed was when you're back in this small town, at the coffeeshop ad?

Beats me as well. I mean, if you wanted me die in my story even before I reach the coffeeshop, it's really fine with me. Cause that only means you're talking to a fucking ghost right now.

That's not what I meant. It's just a bit... unbelievable but... you should be a bit sober that time.

The show was just right near the edge of city, it's not really that far from here and the drive's pretty safe, you know the roads here aren't as used so I was technically driving into a fucking ghost town, all by myself.

Yeah, I get it. So...what do you remember when you crashed?

... I was driving a bit slower that time when I got into the town proper... I swear there were these lights that were moving by my side, I had to really slow down so that I can take a look at what they are on my side window and then boom! Next thing I know, Jeff Brady, the guy from the coffeeshop, Violet probably mentioned him... she talks about him.. a lot, right? Yeah..him. He was carrying me over to the other side and then everything's moving again. It's like a fucking roller coaster. I'm not really sure if that's still the effects or if it was this girl's... intense driving skills.

So... do you remember anything that might have happened that night?

Honestly, no. I-I really don't know.

How was your first... meeting with Violet?

It was the morning after, I woke up probably past ten, the weather was still the same. If you look at the sky everything's just white, blue wasn't standing out, it's like a sheet of thin white blanket enveloped the whole view and the sun is just nowhere to be found yet its light was everywhere, you know what I mean? At some parts though it does look like rain is building up and I was just standing by this large clear glass window in my house. My head leaned on it while my hand was brushing of the curtains to let more light in. I swear if the sunlight was on full, my eyes will be shrinking itself into my skull. Everything just hurts, I don't know why or what happened, I must've been stumbling all over before I even got back to my house. My head felt like it was constantly getting scrambled by a group of dwarves. Then I realized, wait a minute... how did I get back here? All the blood suddenly rushed back into my head and I felt so alert, I was just scanning the place like a fucking Terminator. Left, right, left right, my eyes went wiping the view clear. No one was there. There was this pain on my knee, I had to pull the hem of my jeans up and there it was, a glorious dark bruise on my left knee and it hurt like hell. I took of my top cause it felt like dried sweat everywhere then I limped my way out of the living room.

My phone vibrated from my pocket and jeez, I have never been this jumpy in my entire life. It was my agent calling.

"Roman! Where are you? You.. you disappeared! Where did you go? People were looking for you and I had to make really lame excuses for you, you know that? I could've booked you more projects with all those designers at that party, man. What were you thinki..." His voice can be heard clearly even if I held my phone inches away from my ear.

"Daryl...Daryl.. Okay, calm down. I'm safe. I'm at home. Miraculously. I don't even know how I got here but seriously man, I think someone put something in one of my drinks and if I stayed any longer... I would've been booked for private hotel room shows instead, you know what I mean?" I answered.

"Oh, are you alright?"

"Yeah..yeah, I'm fine. There's just this ringing in my head so if you could please keep your voice down on the other line...please"

"Yeah, I'm sorry, I was just gonna tell you, I've got really great news for you. You know, J.P. Gaultier? Well guess what, you're going to casting! Show will be at Milan... hello? Roman?"

Eggs. I could smell them. Why would it smell like that in the morning? Unless... then I heard some clanking noise from the kitchen so without thinking, I rushed my limp leg toward the sound and there she was.

"Who are you? What are you doing here?" I'm telling you, there is nothing more surprising than waking up with a hangover and finding a girl in your kitchen cooking eggs.

"Hey, you're up! I'm sorry I opened the fridge and I found there was like two eggs left so... I decided you may want to get some breakfast when you wake and..." She stopped upon seeing me. I forgot I had my top off, but fuck it I could care less.

"Who the hell are you? And what are you doing in my kitchen?" There was a bit of annoyance in my tone. Don't you just hate it when you ask them something and they answer with an entirely different thing as if they didn't hear your question and you just had to repeat it with increasing intensity?

She was obviously stunned but she replied, "I work at the coffeeshop...well technically not yet but... I drove you back here, don't you remember? I-I didn't really have anywhere to go, I haven't found a place to stay in this town yet and it was night so I slept in..."

See what I mean? Don't really understand what is wrong with those two questions that this lady won't answer me directly. So I took a deep breath and in my head I was trying to figure out the various possible reasons why a girl would be in my house in the morning.

"Did we have sex?" I dropped the bomb. "...then why are you still here? Shouldn't you be like...gone?" then I added quickly, "Haven't I paid you yet?"

Bombarded, she turned on her bitch face and dropped the pot holder in her hand, "No. Excuse me? I'm not what you think I am."

"Then what do you want me to think you are?" Frustration. Headache. Morning blues. Whatever it is that can justify my mood.

"Okay, mister. I only did someone a favor and I would at least deserve a little 'thank you' instead of this. Brady was right, I shouldn't have stayed in a house of an ungrateful twat."

"Just leave. Okay?" trying to keep my cool, I kept my voice down. "You got me back home like you said, and you're done"

Yet she still won't budge. She was standing there like a fucking puppy waiting for some treat that I don't have. Her face was... unreadable, it's something that I first noticed in her. I mean she makes this meanest straight face I've ever seen in my life.

"LEAVE!" I shouted while she flinched then took her satchel on the countertop and hurried her way to the door. A dramatic look back was what I was expecting but no, she went for the door quietly and made her way out. Automatically, my initial reaction was to rush toward the door and lock it. For all I know, she could be a burglar, a serial killer... a stalker or what. It was second in nature that I peeked through a small vertical window built next to the door to check if she's gone. She was standing far back on the streetside, waiting for a bus., a car or a van where all her co-criminals are waiting to attack. You know you just can't stop me from thinking all of those thriller stuff when you've been living alone for a year and it's the first time a stranger got into your house without your knowledge.

Next thing I know, I was running around the house checking for possible missing items. Dashed upstairs, tripped my foot on the very last case of stairs and rolled like I had nine lives into my bedroom. Safe box remained sealed shut. Opened my closet, all designer clothes still in place. In the drawer, all jewelry are kept neatly. The glass case built beside the closet where all my collection stood unharmed was unopened. DVD library under that glass case remained stacked and not one single case missing. Tired and relieved, I hopped onto my bed and turned the TV on. First channel was on MTV yet there weren't any music videos playing, not even reality shows... just pure advertisements or public service announcements related to wearing condoms or avoiding sexual diseases.

My eyes kept shutting close every after ten seconds. It's probably a really bad idea to sleep again in this headache but my lids keep on going off like a shutter. Noise. All the sounds that I'm hearing are becoming static to my ears. Looking at the linear panel of windows to my left, I found droplets. It was raining. Nope, more like pouring. Great, intensify the sleepy atmosphere in this room. The sky was dim with all the dark clouds it had been gathering since yesterday. Before my body finally gave in to the calling of sleep, another call came. Hunger. It was enough to make me jump up the bed, pick up a plain white tee and rush down the staircase carelessly as I tried to put it on.

It is only then that I realized there were pancakes too resting on the countertop with the freshly cooked eggs. Six layers of them. How long have I been asleep? As I pondered on the time, I checked out the layer of pancakes. The whole chunk of butter that was on the surface had already melted perfectly down the four streams of honey like an 'X' marks the spot, you know, just like the one's on the cover of the those instant pancakes boxes. She may be nice but how dare her touch my stuff. Before I take bite from a chunk I sliced on it with a fork, my gaze averted back to the window where it's almost impossible to see outside with the sliding water on the glass. Got my face closer to the window, my eyes tried to squint its view better of what's outdoors.

She was still there. Standing by the street soaked up in the rain, she had both her arms embracing herself in the cold. What is wrong with this girl? Hastily, I grabbed an umbrella from the depths of the stock room just in some hidden trap door at the kitchen, possibly the only umbrella I had since I really don't use it. The first step was the coldest to my bare feet. I walked from behind and hovered the umbrella on top of us.

"Hey. You can come inside"

"No." She answered bluntly.

"I don't think you have much choice out here!" It was completely shrouded in mist. What is with this rain?

"I'm not going back in there with you!" No matter how loud she tried to be, the downpour was just too much to drown our voices out.

"Stop being a whiny bitch cause the neighbors might see us and wonder what the fuck we're doing out here. Let's get you back in and wait the rain out. Come on." I tried to tug her arm with my free hand.

"I will go with you, just get your hands off me" She struggled her arm loose.

"Alright. Okay, I'm not touching you. Let's just stop making a scene right here." calmly I said. We tried to catch each other's pace in walking as we both tried to be under one umbrella. She stood by the front door not wanting to go in with her arms still in embrace. A bathrobe and towel, that's what I handed to her, and a floormat so she can step inside. She left the satchel she was embracing in her arms the whole time by the door. Damn her hair and clothes were so soaked and it was the first time I actually took longer look at who she was.

What did you think of her that time?

I don't know... she's... I just thought she badly needed help... yet I—uh, I couldn't quite figure it out with the kind of face she held up on her chin. I'm not saying she's not beautiful cause she is but she appeared smart and decent, yet so alluring. You know what I mean? Her hair was dripping wet, but it was neatly pulled back so a strand wouldn't stick on her face. You know that look when the hot chick in action flicks gets out of the water at the beach? That. Not so much but maybe a bit close.

Anyway, she was silent the whole time but with just a stare in the eyes, she was like telling me, "Get me a damn towel now", so I did. Never understood why I was a bit nervous at the time, probably guilty that it was my fault she was under the rain for sending her out but whatever, she shouldn't be messing around someone's house when we barely have any connection at all. She was just the girl who drove me back home. That was it.

"You can stay for awhile, ONLY until the rain stops. The shower is at the guest room upstairs...if you need to, you know, and... I have some...plain dry shirts you can borrow and most probably you need not return them to me anymore, I left them at the guestroom, again upstairs just the door to the right... Just...don't try and touch anything you see upstairs like you did with my kitchen. Hands off my stuff." It was weird to establish authority over her with that gaze she had on me while I handed over a bathrobe and a large folded towel to her. She just stared at me. I hate it when I can't figure girls out, which is most of the time an everyday happening.

"Alright. What am I even doing? Do you have a name?" I asked her clutching the bathrobe and towel back into my side, since she didn't accept it. Once again she stared at me blankly. You know what, forget it, I'm done trying to play nice.

"Okay, miss. If I can remember it right, awhile ago you weren't deaf-mute. So be a little polite and have the courtesy to give an answer when someone asks you a question, unless your parents forgot about giving you a name."

Once more, she was without any reply. She stood there like she was some badass motherfucker who is never gonna let anyone bring her down. I'm telling you, this girl... she knows how to get into your nerves and she will use it every chance she could get. But I won't let someone step on my integrity on my home court.

"That's how you want to do it? Alright. I'll call you 'Opportunistic Slut', how does that sound? Slut?" and finally after saying that right to her face, a reaction was achieved. I threw her the robe and the towel which only rolled down to her feet, "Clean yourself up and leave, alright?"

Well, what can I do? She was being an annoying cunt. Act like one and I'll treat you like one. Always have been a rule that I live by. But she stood there with her head down and I heard a sniffle. She picked up the robe and the towel and tried her best to avoid getting her face seen as she walked past me to the stairs.

Shit. That was like a wrench in my chest. I hate it when girls cry. It's a massive guilt squeezer. All of a sudden, it was as if my conscience was telling me you're the bad guy in this story. I'm an evil man who takes advantage of the weak and poor. No, this is a technique. All of them belonging to that specie uses this defense mechanism. It doesn't even mean anything, those tears are empty and a ploy to escape further conversation. Why does it feel so bad then? How can something so little and so meaningless affect a person even without proper and established connection. Seconds turned into minutes. What do I say, what should I say?

As I pondered on the right words to use when she comes back, I noticed the satchel she left by the door. It didn't look fancy, well I bet she isn't the type to go for the cute and in fashion. I liked that. For someone like me whose job description includes being dressed up every time with these clothes that at one look you'll be saying to yourself, who in their right mind would wear something like that on the street? At times some of the pieces are really cool but I digress. This is unethical, I said to myself while knelt down on the floor. Clothes. Small girl clothes. Probably enough to last for two days on the road. Is she a runaway case? I was expecting lady stuff to be the first to land my hands but everything was practical. She is a runaway case.

Suddenly I felt shame. Knowing she's behind me, I turned around and asked, "So...did you run away from home?"

She was wearing one of my old shirts, a gray one. It matched well with her skin tone. The ends were tied at the back since it was so loose for her, now making the shirt hug around her figure. It was only then that I noticed, she wasn't wearing any pants on, the length of my shirt was enough to almost look like she had a skirt. Great pair of legs, I mustered. Walking around barefoot? Damn.

Quickly she grabbed her satchel form the ground as I stepped aside, "So which one of us now likes messing stuff that aren't theirs?" she scoffed.

I turned my back on her and replied, "I had to take some precautionary measures... you might have stolen something from my house. And I'm not gonna let you just get away with that." By now she's probably slipping into her underwear I thoroughly checked a while ago in her bag.

"When I want something, I work my way through it." her voice struggled along while she got into her pair of white short pants.

"Well I wouldn't know that, would I?" I heard a zip up and I turned to her, "So... now, did you run away from home?"

"Why do you care?" She replied coldly, fixing her half-dried hair with her hands.

"Oh no, no I don't. I was just asking to ease the tension between us."

"Aren't you going to apologize?"

"For what?"

Should I apologize for something? I welcomed her into my home. Excuse me?

"You're an asshole and at your current state... this?" she waved around at the interior of my home and continued, "... you shouldn't really be like this to people. You treat people like shit standing all cocky like you're someone who has everything to be proud about. Maybe it's because of the length of time you spent in this place alone and all by yourself that made you this person who lacks the necessary social skills you are required as a human being. But you know what? Serves you right! I bet no one can stand living with you in this place, so douchebag, you're gonna be alone for the rest of your life cause no one will ever want to be a few feet near you."

I can still remember everything. She was right, I suppose. It's weird that they teach you in psychology that... your mind, as defense mechanism will try to bury the bad memories, all the bad things that's been done to you or happened to you in the deepest part of your mind so that you may continue living on with a clean slate yet words as simple as they are remain on the surface, reminding you of what you are, how ugly you are, how worthless people see you, and what dictates your remaining existence.

"Who do you think you are for you to talk to me like that?" I gritted my teeth.

"Do I have to be someone?"

"Yeah, you can try to be a friend first?" I croaked.

"I'm not gonna wait that long to correct a mistake. Besides, I don't even think we would be able to get past being just ugly acquaintances."

I hissed, "Well you're nothing to me. Your words mean nothing. Somewhere out there, someone thinks of you the same way that I do with you now, that you are nothing. That person out there is agreeing with me so if you may, we think you should take your meaningless words somewhere else where it would actually have some sense."

"I know that..." she whispered.

It was quiet and the air between us was weighing down on our chests. The familiar trickling sounds have died down from outside.

"The rain is over" I composed myself, "...just lock the door when you leave"

Walking past her, it was difficult to try and not look at her almost crumbling once again into tears. All I know is that she slammed the door shut as I stayed at the couches with my hands on my head. The headaches. They were starting to pierce into my skull again. That was way out of line, I thought. Like me, she's probably having issues that she's trying to face as well but when you're in that moment, where the emotions are high, heartbeats are fast and the voices are loud... there is little comprehension of each of our own little backdrops. What you care about is what is in front of you. And when it hits you, you feel as if you're crawling under a pool of guilt. You try to find reason for your actions, a little piece of shame to save yourself and your precious little ego.

A lot of people treat me like shit. My dad for example. He thinks I wouldn't achieve anything in life and that my pursuits all mean nothing, they are just a waste of time. Doing the things I love is considered a waste of time for him just because his ass won't agree sitting on them. The friends you thought who will be there for you when you need someone to back you up. Well where are they? When I'm not as fun as I used to be, they scatter like mice. And the girl you gave your whole heart to? Well she left me because she didn't want to ruin our friendship. Maybe that's why I like being alone, cause people will treat you like shit out there. Whenever I get the chance, it's like...customary that I treat people the same way as a revenge. People are pretentious. They hide behind the dark. So you gotta learn how to walk that runway with no feelings whatsoever.

Hunger. It struck my empty stomach once again. I jumped up weakly from my seat and dragged my feet to the kitchen where the faint aroma of pancakes and eggs subsided. No way I'm going to eat something made from that girl's hands my mind wrestled at first but the call for hunger was stronger than that, god, what time is it? Don't you just hate it when it rains for so long and you couldn't tell what time it is anymore in the afternoon? I don't know how much time I spent there thinking of stuff on that couch.

First bite. Hmm. Passable. Good enough. Not great. Second chunk. Oh shit, this is great. How do you even... I scanned the box where the flour came from and checked if it had a special feature along with it or what. Or maybe... she's really that good at cooking pancakes. No. Come on, why am I even thinking of her still? She's gone and we probably won't see each other again.

Third munch. Oh my god, where does she live? Seriously, I don't know if it's the intense hunger or... again. Like I said, she's nothing.

Something caught my eye underneath the plate where the mighty pancakes lay was a corner of a piece of paper. Post-its? It was a note I had in my hand. "Don't worry... that penguin clearly doesn't know a great fish when she sees one, smiley face", reading this resulted in an uncontrollable smile on my face which was immediately morphed into shock.

What did I tell her last night?

That time, bits and pieces of what happened flashed in my head. She took care of me. She didn't get enough sleep because in the middle of the night, I asked to be brought to the toilet so I can vomit my stomach dry. It was messy and I hit my knee on the edge of the toilet, hence the bruised left knee.

"Why are you so good to me?"

"Why shouldn't I be"

Then it hit me. A stranger took care of me at my worst. That stranger didn't care about who I was... about my past... about my problems, she was there to help me. She even cooked breakfast and meant to leave unnoticed that's why she left the note. A kind heart. The only person who genuinely cared for me and I forced her out. Fuck. My. Life.

It was 10pm and as stupid as I was it wasn't the best time to be reminded of that simple detail that she said she worked at the coffeeshop where I crashed. It's closed perhaps and I won't see her ever again cause she decided to go back to where she came from. Okay, stop with the pessimist thoughts. My car drifted in the empty parking space just in front of the shop. There were still lights inside.

With careless steps I made my way up to the door just in time to stick my left foot in before she closed. She had a surprised look on her face as we saw each other eye to eye on that glass window of the wooden door. Flipping the sign to "We're Closed", she gave me a fake and annoyed smile, then a slight harsh push on the door to squeeze my foot. Ha. I was wearing quite the thick boots. They're designer.

"Just one cup", making a deal between that glass window proved to be more difficult. It was cold outside. Giving up, she left the door and I pushed my way in with a sigh. Not done wiping the counter off, I see. It was warm and cozy inside. Honestly, I don't go in this place as much, I always had the other guy Billy deliver cups at home.

Obviously, she was trying to avoid the fact that I was there, watching her work yet she doesn't seem embarrassed. Taking a quick scan, I found her stuff prepared on one of the soft couches lined up on the side. She was planning to sleep in. Really? In this place? It doesn't look quite comfortable and this could cost her... her job.

"What are you doing here?" sliding the cup and saucer on the counter, she had her hands remove the apron she's wearing. My shirt, it was still on her.

"Are you sleeping here? This doesn't really look all that... cozy."

"I haven't found a place to stay so please just be quiet about this, Brady doesn't know... I had him put me in charge of the closing of the shop so that I can... look... if you're here to mock me some more, I really don't want to..."

"I'm sorry." I cut her at once.

There was silence between us so I forced a half-smile. "What's that?" she asked.

"I said... I'm sorry for... treating you that way... and..." Nothing is as hard as saying the words you rarely say in your life and had the person in front of you suddenly giggle to herself in a mocking kind of laughter, "...hey...this isn't funny!"

It was cute seeing her laugh like that, that kind you know that will only last for a few seconds because the person was so caught off guard.

"What's gotten into you?" she inquired.

"Nothing... I just... FINE! I made a mistake and I admit it, I shouldn't have treated you that way, I'm an asshole and you can start calling me names if you want but I...I just want to say I'm sorry... and thank you for taking care of me last night."

"Did you want your coffee to be free or something?" a rhetorical question with a smirk. Great. I'm doing well. Just great.

Without any more prepared lines I have in stored in my head in the drive, I claimed,

"Stay with me... please?"

Stunned, she didn't know how to react. Finally, she shook her head, "No. Thank you."


"I said no. I can't. I'm fine. If that's what you came here for... just... I'm alright here, I'll make it on my own." composing herself, she went out of the counter and to her belongings stuffed on one side of the couch behind me.

"Then I would stay here with you if I have to"

Spinning a seat for myself, I comfortably placed myself in her view. She knew it was a choice she can't stop me from making. There wasn't any reason to drive me out.

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