Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 40: He is a Changed Man

After calling my dad and letting know I’ll be there for Thanksgiving, I feel a lot of weight lift of my shoulders. It felt good to listen to his raspy voice again, hearing them tell me he missed me and that he wanted me back home. He wasn’t businesslike when he handled me at all, at that moment, he was just plain ol’ dad.

If this is him turning over a new leaf, then I like the new side of him. I like it very much.

Cara and I finish the last of our drinks and head back into the campus for more classes. I manage to snag Daniel away Simon (and at the same time wriggle my eyebrows at him, silently telling him I know about him and Cara. He blushes madly and Daniel cast me a puzzled look, wondering what the hell do I know).

Classes pass by in a blur and next thing I know, Daniel and I are heading back to my car. I start towards the driver’s seat when Daniel shoots over me and slides in instead.

“Hey!” I call out. “Get out of there. I’m driving!”

“Let me drive, please,” He begs, “I want to take you somewhere.” “Hopefully not dead in a ditch somewhere,” I groan.

“Haha. Very funny,” He rolls his eyes, similar to how I do it. I place my hands on my hips and make a face.

“So, where the hell are we going?” I ask him irritably.

“I’m hungry. Let’s go eat,” He starts the engine. “I was thinking Jap food?”

“We always go for Jap food.” I pout. “How about Italian?”

“Fuck no, I’m wearing white. I’m not going to risk dirtying it if we’re eating bolognese.”

“Sometimes, I swear, you’re such a girl.” I bat my eyelashes and slide into the front seat. “Why do I even put up with you?”

“Because you’re wildly attracted to me,” He winks at me.

“Wrong. I’m wildly repulsed by you.” I attempt to correct him.

“Oh, sweetheart, why do you keep lying to yourself...” He smirks, shaking his head. Then, he presses his foot forward and the car starts to move.

After we have lunch at Applebee’s, Daniel insists we have dessert at the nearby cafe because he needs his sugar. But that’s okay with me because I myself have been craving some ice cream since this morning.

Outside, the leaves fall from the trees, scattering the pavements. The early winter wind has arrived, lightly teasing my face with its talon-like fingers. I shiver in delight and hug my coat closer. Daniel notices I’m cold and drapes an arm around me, tugging me to his side. The little gesture makes me gasp slightly. “There,” he presses me closer against him. “Feel better?”

I close my eyes and relish the warmth radiating from him. “Yes.”

“So what are you thinking of getting?” He asks me as we continue walking. “I wonder if they have pancakes with ice cream…”

“We have pancakes every morning, Daniel. As much as I love them, I’m starting to get sick of it. Aren’t you?”

He shakes his head, chuckling. “I will never get bored of pancakes.”

I swivel my head to his direction. “How do you even know how to make them? Last time I checked, you were horrible cook.”

“I am not-”

“Uh huh. You are.” I nod my head vigorously. “You screwed up my eggs this morning. EGGS, Daniel. It’s practically impossible to screw up eggs.”

He throws his head back and laughs, his crystal blue eyes twinkling under the afternoon sun. “Sorry about that. I only screwed it up because you were arguing with me about how Harry Potter was much better than Lord of the Rings. That, I’m afraid is an argument you couldn’t have won because Lord of the Rings is the best movie series I’ve ever-”

“Finish that sentence and I’ll stab your eyeballs.” I scowl at him.

He laughs even harder. “With what?”

I fish in my bag for something pointy and sharp. I wrap my fingers around it and show it to him. “With this!”

“What the fuck?” Daniel eyes my weapon in confusion. “That’s a-”

“Plastic fork, UH huh. And I’m not afraid to use it!”

“How the hell do you even have a plastic fork with you? Do you always carry them around in case you want to threaten people?”

I blink a few times, wondering how the hell am I going to answer this question. The truth was I had no idea how that plastic fork materialized in my bag.

Just as I am about to answer, I’m interrupted by a random passer-by.

“Oh my god!” The feminine voice exclaims. “It’s YOU!” She sneers. I whirl around to her direction and notice her immediately. You can never forget that thick red hair.

It’s the girl whom I had watched fight with Daniel after a one night stand three months ago.

Daniel’s face has gone so pale. He widens his eyes at the sight of the redhead, and I know he knows exactly who she is.

She places her hands by her hips and hisses at him. “YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” “Whoa!” He stands back with two hands up in the air, a universal sign of surrender. “Chill woman-”

“Do you even remember me?” she seethes, glaring at him. “I bet you don’t considering that I was trash to you!”

“I’m sorry-” Daniel says helplessly. He casts a quick glance at me as if to say ′help me get rid of this bitch!′

“And I can see that you’re still whoring around, huh?” She eyes me warily, shooting daggers at me. “You should stay away from this man. He is poison. He will only hurt you, just like how he did to many other girls.”

I widen my eyes, her words digging into my very skin. Not because she’s right, but it’s because that’s the exact same thing I would have said to any girl that hung out with Daniel back then.

But that was four months ago.

Circumstances have changed… Hasn’t it?

Yes it has. Because I know that Daniel has changed. I know it.

I feel a rush of anger run through my veins. I open my mouth to tell the redhead off.

“You have no right to speak to me like that, girl. As a matter of fact, I’m his fiancé.” I snake an arm around Daniel’s. I can feel him sag in relief that I have finally come to his aid. “Yes. I’m engaged to him. Which means that he has fully committed to me because he loves me. I’m sorry that my fiancé has done you wrong in the past, but I assure you, he is a changed man.”

Her mouth hangs open, gaping at me in utter surprise. “I… D-didn’t-”

“You didn’t know?” I finish her sentence for her. “Yeah, well now you do. I’m sorry you got screwed over but I think my fiancé’s really sorry about that.”

I nudge his shoulder. He nods.

“Yes, I ah- I’m sorry I treated you that way, ummmm... What’s your name again?”

She clenched her jaw, and says through her gritted teeth. “Elaine.”

“YES. Elaine. I’m really sorry.” He says, his tone as apologetic as possible. “But I hope we can manage to move past this and get on with our lives. What do you say?”

Her face softens, and I’m starting to believe she can actually forgive Daniel for what he has done. She extends her hand, I’m guessing to shake hands, but no sooner when Daniel reaches for her, she lifts her hand and slaps him in the face.

“Jerk.” She spits at Daniel and walks away.

I can’t help it. I burst out laughing. “Oh god.” I pry his hands of face and take a look at the part where she slapped him.

“Son of a bitch,” he hisses, “that fucking hurt.”

“Let me see it,” I say, half laughing. “Oh shit. I think there’s going to be a nasty bruise and -oh, I can see her handprint on your cheek-” “You’re not helping, sweetheart!” He complains.

“Let’s get you ice on it, okay?” My eyes search his as I touch his cheek. His body relaxes under my touch and my heart does a somersault. “Come on.”

“Damn that girl hits hard,” he groans as we buy some ice from the ice cream parlor. The guy behind the counter gave as a suspicious look before handing the pack over to us.

I press the pack of ice on his cheek. “That okay?”

He nods, and presses the ice over the red area. “Yeah. That feels good.”

After a while, I start to recall what happen again and can’t help but snort.

He rolls his eyes. “You think this is funny?”

“Yeah it is.” I laugh. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it.”

“Yeah. Well,” Daniel winces, “She kind of reminded me of you.”

I pause at his words. “What? Why?”

He shrugs, “remember the first day of college? You punched me.”

The memory of that comes rushing back to me. I had almost forgot I had been where that red head stood. Fuelling with anger that was directed at Daniel.

“I almost forgot,” I look down in embarrassment. “Yeah. I forgot to apologize for that. I should have.”

“Nah it’s fine,” Daniel waves me off, “I deserved that slap. Same as how I deserve this one.”

My face is fighting against a smile. He continues. “I really am sorry though. I treated those women like shit. I didn’t give a damn about them. And now...” he gestures to his cheek, “this is the consequence of my actions. And I have to take it as it is.”

“Do you feel guilty about treating those women like that?” I ask him. I never thought to ask him that before. It was never discussed, and suddenly I want to know. Because if he’s not guilty... it would hurt.

“Of course I feel guilty,” he nods his head, “you made me feel damn guilty about it ever since I met you.”

“So, it’s because of me that you feel guilty.”

“It’s not just you. After we started to... You know. Grow closer… I started to think about the asshole I used to be. I was a rich, spoilt brat who didn’t give a shit about anything except to have my way with girls. I was lost, Alex. But you helped to set me straight. And for that I’m forever at your debt.”

A grin forms on my lips. “Forever in my debt, huh? I like the sound of that.”

“You’re going to use this against me for the rest of my life, are you?” Daniel groans.

I wriggle my eyebrows. “No. But I think we should start somewhere.”

“Oh shit. I never should have said anything. I never should have said-”

“Oh shut it, will you?” I roll my eyes. “If you do feel guilty about how you treat those girls, I think you should be the one apologizing to them.”

At first he looks confused at my suggestion. But then, he finally gets it and tilts his head. He narrows his eyes. “You’re not suggesting that we...”

“Oh yeah,” I nod my head. “We’re going around the whole of Boston and you’re going to apologize to every single girl you’ve hooked up with.”

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