Every single thing that I passed seemed to blur because of the speed at which I was driving at. I was faster than usual but I made sure I stop at every red light since what I should be doing was find Alana, not getting arrested for violating traffic rules.
As I sped across the highway, splitting through the air, the sky suddenly blackened and it started to pour as if waiting on que for the day I take my motorbike out.
I sped up to the fastest of speed, shifting through the blurring cars and trucks, taking over anything possible.
Damn. These drops are heavy.
Two hours later.
I walked into a small roadside cafe, water dripping from my hair. The counter girl gave me the kind of look that you would give to a dripping wet stray dog. She eyed me up and down. The place instantly fell into an unavoidable silence the moment I walked in. Every single one in there were staring at me with their mouth open like I was some soaking wet Michael Jackson.
I walked over to the girl, wiped my face with a hand and asked, “Can you...” I cleared my throat. The first time I spoke, no words came out. I tried again. “Can you tell me which way’s Clayton’s florist shop?”
Blinking two-three times and without a word, she reached out for a wad of tissue on the side of the counter and handed it to me.
“Thanks.” My hand shook a bit as I reached out from the almost minus temperature of my body. Driving motorbike under the rain was like standing right under the air condition after you’ve dived into a pool of ice water.
“You’re welcome.” She nodded kindly and a bit staggered, the jet-straight fringe of her hair swaying uniformly.
“So. Clayton’s?” I reminded her my question as I wiped my face and neck with the tissue and saw the steam rise from my mouth.
“Oh yeah.” She grabbed a pen and a tissue from the counter. “It’s this way,” she said and helped me with the direction by drawing an instant map on the tissue. “It’s the fifth store on this street.” She pointed with the tip of her pen on the ‘x’ she’d drawn over the fifth box.
I took a good look, memorized the direction and nodded to her with a smile. “Thanks again.”
“You’re welcome again.” She smiled back and said, “If you’ve got time to spare, I would like to offer you a cup of hot chocolate.”
I chuckled. “Thank you so much but I... Uhh.” I swallowed. It felt like my words were freezing in the mid of my throat. “I’m kind of in a hurry.”
“Oh. Okay.” She smiled back sadly, “I hope you reach your destination soon and change into some warm clothes.”
I chuckled again and nodded, “Thanks for your kindness.”
I looked at the map again and walked out of the cafe. It was still pouring heavily. I got onto my bike again and headed down the road.
Alana. Alana. Alana.
I was happy that I had finally reached East Port and even more nervous, thinking what if she wasn’t here too?
God, I hope she’s here.
I finally reached the street where the florist shop was supposed to be. As I peered down the road, I saw that the store was already closed, all lights off.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Holy fuck.” I frowned deeply and cursed angrily under my breath.
Yet I continued to drive on... and on, hoping against hope until I swore ‘fuck’ again. It wasn’t the fifth store that was closed. It was the forth one. I miscounted. Back to kindergarten, I guess.
I parked my bike a few meters down the street and walked back to the store. My breathing was short and rapid as I walked, steams rising from my breath. My hands and face felt numb. I wasn’t feeling anything at all on my skin but inside, I was burning in anticipation and prayer. Finding her was the only thing left working in me, the only thought, the only wish, the only prayer and nothing else. I couldn’t wait to see her again.
With a wildly beating heart, I mentally prepared myself for what fate awaited me and came to stand in front of the glass door. With what I saw inside, I felt like screaming till my throat tore into shreds, and then laugh like a maniac until my lungs give out.
She was there. She was right there inside the store, sitting on the counter, facing away from me and helping the elderly lady pick flowers. The sign with the word ‘closed’ was dangling from the door and facing me like ‘what’s up, dude. You see this word? Closed? Yeah? Yeah. Now go back to wherever you came from. Shoo!’.
I felt like screaming at her through the door until she panic. I felt like breaking through the door and try knocking some sense in her head. But just seeing her there, safe and sound and daintily playing with roses, I knew the only thing I really wanted to do right there and then was grab her and kiss the life out of her. I was so relieved that she was safe.
But what the heck made her drive up to East Port?
Really, Alana. You’re one unpredictable creature.
I knocked on the door. She looked back and I bet she gasped... Loudly. With those glistening big eyes staring at me, she looked like a raccoon. So cute. I grinned at her.
“You scared the shit out of me!!” I shouted at her through the door, not sure whether she heard me or not.
I guess she did. With one hand that was not holding any roses, she clamped it over her opened mouth. And then the next moment, she’d ran out of the store and jumped into my arms, wrapping her legs around my waist. I caught her and took two strides back to keep my balance from the momentum of the impact.
“Hey! You’ll get wet!” I shouted.
My body was as wet as a wet-spongebob and it was still raining outside but she didn’t seem to mind getting drenched with me. She pulled herself higher up to my body and nestled closer. I hugged her tight and we stood like that in the rain for a moment without exchanging words, just feeling each other’s presence.
“God, Alana. If you ever dare pull this again, I swear I’ll marry you before we graduate. You understand that?”
She nodded into me, hugging me tighter, and whispered, “I’m sorry, Xavier.” With the way she was burying her face into my neck and with the weak quiver in her voice, I knew she was crying now.
“It’s okay, baby. I’m glad you’re okay.” I kissed the side of her head deeply.
“You came all this way to find me?” she asked me as her teary eyes locked with mine.
I smiled. “For you, I’d drive ten thousand miles, Mushroom.”
“How’d you know I’d be here?”
“I didn’t. I couldn’t find you anywhere in town. This was the last straw.”
“You were all over town looking for me?!” She asked, surprised, with a smooth frown of guilt drawn in between her eyebrows.
I simply smiled back.
With more tears in her eyes, she pulled me in and kissed me deeply. This was the ultimate prize, finding her and getting her kiss. Her lips felt so soft and warm like one damn fireplace. She warmed me with her touches and all that I’d been through in the rain, looking for her, was nothing compared to this. I kissed back passionately, holding her head in place with one hand knotted in her hair. Her arms which were wrapped around my neck strengthened and her kissing intensified ten fold. I could’ve passed out right there. She kissed damn good.
“I’m so sorry, Xavier,” she said again, breathlessly.
“It’s alright. Forget it. Let me just kiss you some more,” I said, while kissing her again... and again... and again in heated eagerness.
When we went inside the shop, the aged lady (which I assumed was Alana’s Mrs. Clayton) sighed at us dreamily and, at one point, like we were totally insane.
By now, Alana’s head also looked like she’d dip it in a bucketful of water.
“You could’ve come back inside first!” She said but she eventually waved it ) with a grin, “Oh boy, look at you! We should head home now, Alana dear. Else your boyfriend will freeze to death.”
I liked her instantly. Because of so many reasons. Out of which, one was because she kept Alana safe. And one was because she knew my condition well. I started to shake again once Alana and I stopped kissing.
Xavier sneezed and his head bobbed back and forth like a spring. The one year old toddler sitting on his belly laughed. He grinned at it as he pulled out another tissue from the box, which was also on his belly.
“You sure she won’t catch my cold?” He asked for the second time while gazing up at the baby in concern. And then he shot again, covering his nose with the tissue. The baby laughed more.
“Nope,” Lena answered from the kitchen, “She never gets cold even when I do. Her immunity’s a whole lot stronger.”
“Oh great,” Xavier mumbled mostly to himself and adjusted the cushions beneath his head.
We’d driven back to Mrs. Clayton’s house. Xavier had changed into Richie’s (Mrs. Clayton’s son) clothes; pajamas, knitted sweaters, socks... Anything that would keep him warm. And I had changed into Lena’s PJs. Lena was Richie’s wife. But it was just Mrs. Clayton and Lena in the house for the time being. Richie was a soldier. He wasn’t home. He was posted somewhere in Kazakhstan.
Xavier lay on a couch in the living room, looking after the the baby, Emily, as we’d told him to rest and try to stay warm while the rest of us cooked in the kitchen. He looked funny in the couch though. It was too cramped up for his long body and he looked like he was being folded into a cardboard box. But he managed.
I walked over and he moved up on the couch a bit to make space for me. Sitting down on the edge of the couch, I held out the coffee cup I was holding to him.
“Drink it up,” I said, “It’s honey and Ginger. It’ll help.”
He drank once and leaned his head back with closed eyes to savour the taste and the heat. And when he wrinkled his nose, I grinned. He looked so cute. Of course, he was 6.4 but at that moment, he looked like a kindergarten.
“Is the waterbag still warm?” I asked.
“Yeah. I guess.”
I reached into the quill he was covering his legs with to check the water bag on which he was warming his feet. It was still hot enough. Then I touched his feet too. He gave me a broad, crafty grin.
“It feels good.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“It feels like we’re married. You taking care of me. Ahhh geez.” He threw his head back and started laughing, obviously embarrassed. I couldn’t help but grin back.
“I think House is going to be my new favorite game,” he joked and I laugh.
He reached up and wrapped one of my brunette curls around his finger and then he rubbed it with his thumb. My hair was still damp from after shower.
“You look beautiful in wet hair,” he said softly, thoughtfully, with a gentle smile tugging at the corner of his lips as he stared into my eyes, “And sexy. I wanna kiss you so bad right now.”
I smirked at him challengingly. “I’ll let you kiss me if you finish that cup to the last drop before it gets cold.”
Then I stood up and turned to go back to the kitchen. He held onto my hand. His fingers were still cold. When I looked back, he was holding the cup to his mouth with the other hand and drinking the homemade syrup like water.
It’s still hot, idiot.
I frowned at him. “Doesn’t it burn your tongue?”
He shrugged and wiped his lips with a tissue.
“Now.” He writhed, adjusting his position on the couch. “Come here, honey. Let me kiss you.”
I laughed. He grinned and pulled me down to him. I was sitting again. He reached for my head and gently pulled me down for a kiss. We kissed. Little Emily started to cry. We stopped kissing immediately.
“Oh. What’s wrong, Emily?” I asked, gently touching her little shoulders.
“Hey. Baby. Shhhhh.” Xavier tried consoling her by lightly shaking her body.
She kept crying heartbrokenly with her mouth wide open and eyes closed. In within seconds, she started hiccupping.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong, Emily?” I asked her again, stroking her little shoulders.
“Did you kiss in front of her?” Lena asked from the kitchen.
Xavier and I exchanged confused glances.
“A little bit?” Xavier answered.
We heard Lena and Mrs. Clayton laugh at the answer.
“Emily’s scared of people kissing mouth to mouth,” Lena said chuckling, “I don’t know why.”
Xavier laughed loudly and maybe it was too loud for Emily, she started to cry more after staring at Xavier for a split second.
“Oh. No. No. No,” Xavier said and shook the baby a little more.
She didn’t stop.
“Okay. I got this,” Xavier said and he pretended to sneeze.
Emily stopped crying immediately and stared at him, her short breaths hitching between hiccups. Xavier pretended to sneeze again and Emily started to laugh.
“Oh, yeah. That’s it.” Xavier smiled up at the baby and he pulled his trick again, making the baby laugh continuously.
“I’m going back to the kitchen,” I said and stood up.
He held onto my hand again, pouting his lips cutely like a child and giving me those puppy eyes. “Make sure to come check on me once in a while. I’m very sick, honey.”
I stuck out my tongue to him, knowing he just wanted me to baby him. He laughed at my reaction.
“I don’t know who’s older. You or Emily,” I said and he laughed again.
After dinner, Xavier and I played with Emily. But Emily kept crying whenever I held her in my arms. Her little arms kept reaching out to Xavier.
“It seems the two of you have bonded well while we cooked.” Lena chuckled.
“Yeah. She likes me a lot.” Xavier grinned proudly.
“It’s only because he keeps sneezing,” I mumbled.
I was so jealous of him that Emily liked him so much. Because I loved babies so much and I was dying to hold Emily. I wanted to keep on kissing her pinky, chubby cheeks... Until she cry. But she wouldn’t come to me.
“Aww... Look who’s jealous,” Xavier teased me, pinching my cheek with a hand and shaking my face left and right.
“Stop!” I swatted his hands away with a frown.
“Why don’t you try sneezing then. If you think it’s not because I’m amazing,” he said and made Emily, who was sitting on his lap, face me.
“Okay. Look here, Emily.” I tipped her chin with my finger to make her see me.
When she did look at me, I covered my nose with my hands and pretended to sneeze.
When I opened my eyes, Emily was plainly looking at me. Then she turned back to Xavier, probably bored of seeing my face. Xavier began to chortle like a maniac.
“She knows you’re a fake!” He laughed.
“Watch this,” he said and held Emily up, making her stand on his lap and then he made popping sounds with his mouth whilst making faces too. Emily began to laugh again.
“See? I’m a natural.” He flicked his eyebrows at me proudly.
I stuck out my tongue to him for the second time that evening. Mrs. Clayton laughed from her chair.
“You’re still the same, Alana,” she remarked, “Still full of expressions.”
I smiled at her. She knew me well enough to read what I’m thinking or feeling by just seeing my expressions.
“How was Alana in East Port? Like, as a kid?” Xavier asked her.
“Oh Alana!” Mrs. Clayton straightened up on her chair enthusiastically like she would be telling stories to a bunch of grandchildren.
Xavier and Mrs. Clayton talked and talked, about me, roses, Emily, the shop, Richard. Mrs. Clayton took no time in liking Xavier. He had great sense of humor and he knew how to talk to old people. Lena and I mostly listened and laughed along at the jokes Xavier would crack.
And when Xavier laughed because Mrs. Clayton had told him something funny about me, like how I slipped and fell the moment I entered the store on my first day of work, or when she imitated my horrifying singing skill the first time I sang Mama Cass’ song with her, it was like he would die laughing the next minute. He would glance at me and then laugh his ass off.
After nine and thirty minutes, we decided to call it a day. Mrs. Clayton and Lena went upstairs, taking Emily with them. The guest room was below. And since there was only one guest room, Xavier volunteered to sleep on the couch. To which I rolled my eyes because once the lights go off, I knew I’d find him knocking on my door. Lena knew that too. She just smirked when Xavier said he’d take the couch. But then, the three of us knew Xavier should fake-volunteer in respect of the elderly.
“I’m sorry the couch is a bit too cramped up for you, Xavier. You’ll have to adjust for the night,” Mrs. Clayton had said disappointedly.
“Oh, don’t worry ’bout it. I’ll be just fine,” Xavier had replied with a big, fat grin.
Lena had laid out clean bed sheets for me. So ten minutes after the living room lights were off and ten minutes after, I’d gotten under the sheets, there were two quiet, discreet knocks on my door. A giggled escaped from me once I heard it. I was sitting up on the bed and waiting for him with my lights still on.
Two seconds later, the door slowly cracked open and revealed a very mischievously grinning Ugly Narcissist.
“Who said I’m sleeping on the couch?” He cocked an eyebrow with a naughty smirk as he reached back and pulled off his shirt.
I laughed and slid under the blanket, covering my head. In less than two seconds, I felt the bed dip like a block of iron had fallen down on it. There was a wild shuffling sound of fabrics soon enough.
“I’m not sleeping with you!” I laughed, edging away from him.
I heard him chuckle at that and from the sound of his voice, I knew that he was already under the blanket. A strong arm encircled around my stomach and he pulled me close to his body, my back coming in contact with his chest.
“Then you’re officially kidnapped tonight,” he whispered into my ear and his breath tickled my skin.
I wriggled a little in his arms with a light laugh as he threw one leg over me.
“Tell me who’s boss,” he demanded with a laugh.
“Of course, I am.”
“Wrong answer.” He chuckled more as we continued to wrestle with one another.
I’d never felt him so strong before. He was wrapping me to his body like vice. I couldn’t move an inch besides my fingers and toes. I was literally kidnapped in a very very nice way.
He demanded again, “One more chance. Tell me who’s boss.”
“I am!!” I laughed out.
He moved up on top of me and fixed my hands above my head with his fingers interlocked.
“Wrong answer.” He smirked stunningly above me with his shirtless torso hovering distractingly. “I am the boss. You are the boss’ queen.”
And then the boss claimed my lips into his, furious and passionate, deep and gentle.