29th of October, 2013
She's never hesitated like this before. Her hand was a few inches from the phone, shaking nervously. She gave a deep sigh and retracted her hand, holding her pen tighter than ever, her writing embedded deep onto the paper with force and reluctance.
An hour later, her gaze swept to the phone again. She bit her lip, feeling the copper taste of her blood. She dropped the pen and told herself to get on with it. It was just a birthday greeting to a fellow friend.
Maybe not even a friend, just a business associate.
Yes, that would give her the excuse she needed.
A business associate.
A business associate would know another one's birthday, right?
Fine, a close business associate then.
She sighed and dialed, gripping the phone tightly, pressing it against her ear. She could hear the ringing. Once, twice, thrice – the rhythm was repetitive, and she didn't know whether or not she was happier that she got his answering machine instead of his voice.
She took that as an omen that this year wasn't the year to greet him. She then immediately slammed the phone down, gasping, panting, and feeling her heart beat out of her chest. She brought a hand to her face, feeling the mist in her eyes, and she sobbed uncontrollably.
"I couldn't even get a birthday greeting right."
9th of August, 2014
It was a coincidence, or at least, she wanted to think it was.
Their eyes met from the far ends of the room. They were both holding a glass of champagne. The soft music serenading the hall was like a background to them, and the people passing through them were like translucent shadows.
He shrugged, a small smile gracing his lips.
She forced a smile back.
She came alone to the king of the business empire’s birthday ball. He came alone too, she noticed. She knew it wasn't right for her to think so, but she couldn't help but feel happy at that fact.
24 thof December, 2015
She gripped her utensils tightly until her knuckles turned frighteningly white. She was seated beside him, and she knew she only had her brother and sister-in-law to blame. Kurt and Lily tried to ease the uncomfortable tension, but it didn't work. There was still that uneasy silence that befell them.
She couldn’t really blame them for inviting both her and him to come over for Christmas Eve, even though they knew full well of the awkwardness that would result from such a situation. They were once the best of friends, after all. They were family. They were childhood friends who once shared a single roof.
After dinner, she sat across the fireplace, her legs crossed. John was the first to leave, saying that he had booked an early flight to London the next day for an inevitable business trip.
After he had given Kurt and Lily his Christmas greetings, he turned his gaze to Caitlyn. "Merry Christmas, Miss Holmes."
Caitlyn let her gaze linger for a moment. "Merry Christmas, Mister Campbell."
16th of February, 2016
She didn’t know how she was able to convince herself to come tonight. After all, it was his charity ball, but then, she remembered. This was for Aunt Ellie, his late mother. This was for the woman who treated her the kindest after her own parents left this world, leaving her and her brother alone to fend for themselves. Aunt Ellie was the one who took both of them in, and she knew that it was out of the respect and love she had for her surrogate mother that gave her the courage to show up.
She found herself resting on the balcony, leaning against the railing. She gazed at the stars, and when the breeze flew her way, she felt a shiver run down her spine.
"You're going to get cold if you stay out here all night."
Caitlyn froze, and when she spoke, she found her voice a little raspy. "I'm used to it."
And John knew it wasn't the weather or temperature that she was referring to.
"Thanks for coming," John murmured. "I'm sure you’re busy with your own company. Thank you for taking the time to come here."
"You don't have to act so thankful about it," Caitlyn spoke, gripping the rail tighter. "If this was really a charity, then nobody would be competing over who dressed the best."
"True," John whispered, standing beside her, taking in her simple green dress that he knew all too well was forced onto her. He smiled to himself, glad that she didn't change one bit. "Still, I appreciate the gesture."
Caitlyn finally turned her head to look at him. "As I have said, you don't need to thank me."
19th of September, 2017
"Miss Holmes." They had come face to face in one of the halls of a large corporation for a joint meeting.
"Mister Campbell," she greeted back, her hands behind her, twisting her fingers especially when she saw a red head behind John.
John lowered his head for a while before raising it again, a courteous smile on his face. "Miss Holmes, you remember Millie Anders, don't you? She's a friend of mine."
Caitlyn noticed that his friend looked a little miffed and that she pouted a little. She probably didn't like the 'friend of mine' status. Caitlyn laughed inwardly. Ironic that even though she and John were in a relationship in the past, it would've been a tremendous honor just to be considered as his 'friend'. Miss Anders wasn't satisfied with this title, it seemed.
"Of course." Caitlyn nodded. "Miss Anders, you've grown into quite a beautiful woman."
It was true, Caitlyn supposed. Millie Anders was an acquaintance from college who had a crush on John, a crush that hadn’t disappeared over the years obviously, and Caitlyn noticed that there was a fire in Millie’s eyes – a fire that disappeared from her own eyes.
"Thank you, Miss Holmes." Millie smiled. "You look rather glowing too."
"I appreciate the compliment." Caitlyn offered her a small smile. "I have to go now. I need to attend yet another meeting."
"Well, we shouldn't prolong you any longer," John said as if he was fine, but his voice betrayed him when it cracked a bit.
"It was great seeing you both again," Caitlyn said wholeheartedly. Alright, maybe not so much. "Best wishes to you both."
"Thank you, Miss Holmes." Millie nodded cheerfully. "Best wishes to you too."
As soon as Caitlyn turned at the next corner, Millie stepped a little closer to John. "Why didn't you tell her that we were dating?"
John sighed. "We've only gone out twice, Millie."
"Well, when are we going out again?"
The question was left unanswered.
18th of May, 2018
Kurt and Lily were the first to call early in the morning, greeting her, along with the news that she was going to be an aunt. She wished her brother a happy birthday as well and had a few nice minutes joking with him about his impending fatherhood, and she thought to herself, Maybe today would be a happy day.
As she entered the office, her secretary gave her the same greeting and later, her colleagues and other acquaintances wished her a happy birthday as well.
There was a conference later that day, and Caitlyn was once again sure that John would be present. A part of her looked forward to it; a part of her didn't. Seeing him would be enough of a birthday present. But then again, she dreaded seeing him. After all, she couldn't bring herself to greet him on his birthday.
A lot of the business moguls present shared their greetings, and Caitlyn nodded politely. She was walking down the hall when their eyes met. He smiled, and she knew that that smile was meant only for her, and she felt giddy at that.
"Happy Birthday," he greeted, putting his hand on her shoulder as a gesture of close kinship, or at least she thought it to be. His hand lingered on her shoulder for a few seconds before dropping it to his side again.
"Thank you," Caitlyn answered, and a real smile, albeit small, graced her features. "John."
He didn't answer for a while. "Caitlyn."
They shared a smile and went on their separate ways. Caitlyn felt satisfied, contented and actually happy. She then thought bitterly, At least he was able to greet me face to face. I couldn't even do it on the phone.
But at the end of the day, as she lay on her bed, she went through all the birthday greetings she received, and she came to a conclusion. Aside from Kurt and Lily’s greetings, there was only one other greeting that mattered to her.
It was John's.
29th of October, 2018
It was nine in the evening, and Caitlyn looked at the laptop screen sitting on top of her bed. She sighed, and seeing he was online, called him through Skype.
Ring, ring, ring.
His face then appeared, and she gripped the duvets she was sitting on.
"Hi." He gave her a smile.
"Hi." Caitlyn smiled back. "I just – I just wanted to say – Happy Birthday."
"Thank you," John said. "That means a lot."
"You know, for the past six years, I wanted to call you," Caitlyn confessed. "But I couldn't."
"What made you change your mind?" John asked.
"You greeted me on my birthday." Caitlyn shrugged. "It would be unfair of me not to greet you on yours."
John laughed merrily, and Caitlyn felt her heart flutter a bit. "I had the same problem. Back then, I couldn't greet you, but then I told myself to just get over it. I did, and it felt great."
Caitlyn’s smile widened. "This feels great too."
"I'm glad.” His eyes softened, and Caitlyn could feel her heart thumping loudly in her chest. It was amazing how he could make her feel like a naïve schoolgirl even after all these years.
"So." Caitlyn swallowed. "How have you been? We've never had a decent conversation ever since – you know."
John's head lowered a bit. "I'm good. Contented. And you? You're eating alright?"
"Yes." Caitlyn bit her lip, steeling herself to ask the darn question already. "And – um, and any girls?"
John froze for a moment, and Caitlyn gulped, afraid that she crossed a line and was relieved that he answered, "No. No girls."
"Not even Millie?" Caitlyn took another risk.
John shook his head. "It didn't work out."
Caitlyn hugged herself, suddenly feeling cold, and she commented offhandedly, "You two looked great together."
John gave her a bittersweet smile. "I wasn't ready for a relationship yet."
A cold silence enveloped them, but John thankfully broke the ice. "And you? Any suitors?"
"I'd be lying if I said there was none," Caitlyn said in a small voice.
"So you're in a relationship?"
"I wasn't ready either," Caitlyn admitted.
She could've ended the call, but she couldn't find the heart or the will to. She wanted to see him so badly, and the short moments that they've come across each other through the years weren't enough.
"Lily is giving birth in a few months," Caitlyn said, and John smiled.
"Yes, Lily sent me a few pictures of the baby." John grinned, almost smirking.
"She did?" Caitlyn perked up. "I got them too."
"Did she tell you that Kurt fainted?" John chuckled.
"I was laughing my butt out!" Caitlyn confessed, laughing.
"They – they asked me to be the godfather too," John informed. "I assume that they asked you too?"
"Yes." Caitlyn nodded. "They also asked me to think of a good name for a boy because if it was a boy, they'd be using the name I came up with."
"Same here." John grinned. "Except it was a girl's name I'd be giving them. What's your choice?"
"Leo?" Caitlyn said questioningly.
"For lion?" John arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I like the animal."
"Kurt would have a heart attack if his little boy turned out to be one.” He snickered.
"He's going to have to deal with it,” Caitlyn said pointedly, snickering herself. “What's yours?"
"Candace. It means fire,” John said matter-of-factly.
"Well, Kurt's going to have a heart attack if his little girl turned out to be what her name means," Caitlyn retorted.
"He's going to have to deal with it then," John said in the same tone Caitlyn used, and they laughed.
"This is nice," John said softly.
"What's nice?" Caitlyn tilted her head.
"This." John motioned with his hands. "Us. Talking."
Caitlyn nodded, smiling. "It does feel good, doesn't it?"
"It does." John nodded. "Thank you for giving me the best gift I could ever ask for."
At this, Caitlyn blushed, causing John to chuckle "I probably don't have the right to say this anymore, but you still look adorable when you blush."
This earned him a redder Caitlyn, but inside, she was happy – ecstatic. Maybe…they could still be friends. Maybe, just maybe.
"So…" John trailed off.
"I'll talk to you later?" Caitlyn suggested.
"Sounds nice," John agreed. "I'll be looking forward to it."
"John," Caitlyn called him.
"Do you think – are we – are we friends?" Caitlyn asked, stammering a bit.
It took a while for John to answer, and the silence was deafening.
"No." Caitlyn's heart dropped. "We're more than that. We always were, and we always will be."
Caitlyn closed her eyes and smiled, nodding, feeling tears prick her eyelashes. "And maybe, just maybe," John continued softly. "Someday, we will become more than what we are now."
"I'll see you later." John could see tears form in Caitlyn's face. "John."
"Caitlyn." It was just her name he spoke, but she felt the message it conveyed – care, loyalty, love and most importantly, the word 'always'.
The line went off.
Caitlyn brought her knees together, wrapping her arms around them, a single tear rolling down her cheek. There was hope, after all.
"And maybe, just maybe, someday, we will become more than what we are now."
They were already more than just friends. It would take time – yes, time. And maybe, just maybe, they'd be able to go back to the way they were, back when there were no complications, back when everything was contentedly simple, back when it was just Caitlyn and John.
Well, notexactly the way they were...
But maybe, just maybe, there will come a time when they'd both be able to sort out whatever issues they had and arrive – finally arrive – at the same stop.
Maybe, just maybe.