The following weekend, Remy threw a dinner party for a few of us in the circle. Even Prof. Goode was invited too. Over the weeks and sessions, the circle had slowly become a family. When I reached his apartment at Tiffany Heights, I found Timothee and Sophia cooking with him while Shirley and Frederick were in the living room, checking out Remy’s fishes in the aquarium.
He had an apartment huge enough for a family, adorned with expensive furniture and artworks on the walls. The fact that he lived in Tiffany Heights was enough proof that he had enough money.
“Hey, handsome!” Remy greeted me with his usual extravagant smile from behind the kitchen island.
“Hey! Am I late?”
“You are just in time, honey. Drinks? Anything?”
“Uh. . . water maybe.”
He pointed to the refrigerator on the left side and said, “Help yourself,” before he laughed, causing the rest of us to laugh too.
“Is there anything I can help with?” I asked as I headed for the refrigerator.
“Nah. We’re good. All that’s left is the salad and that’s Timothee’s job. You have the option to go show some love to my fishes, exactly like how Shirley and Fred have been doing for the past thirty minutes.” He chuckled. “Or either take a nap.”
I picked out a water bottle, walked back to them and settled down on a stool in front on the counter.
“Seriously though, I’m a little concern for my fishes. With the way those two have been staring at them for forever, I might need to sue them. I mean, bitch, please. What happened to privacy? My fishes need them.” He sighed dramatically and I saw Sophia laugh from her end.
And just like that, she completely stole my attention.
When she met my eyes, she asked, “The kids with Sonya?”
“Yeah.” I nodded and drank my water again.
“What about Marlon?”
“He’s probably on his way. When did you guys reach?”
“Not too long ago,” Sophia answered.
“You?” I turned to Timothee.
“I live here.” He looked up from the chopping board where he was slicing some mozzarella. “I mean I live in this building on the 10th floor.” He added with a slight shake in his voice.
“Oh? Didn’t know that.”
“Yeah. Never told you.”
I hung around them and helped them with some cooking. I couldn’t help but notice that the three of them had grown really close as friends since they got to know one another from the circle. I’ve seen Sophia hanging around with Timothee and Remy a couple of times in the campus too. And sometimes when she was alone with Timothee, I couldn’t help myself but wonder if they were starting to date or something.
With the fact that Sophia always had her brightest smiles for Timothee and the way the two coordinated as a team while playing games in the circle and everything. . . God, it bothered me a whole-fucking-lot. It seemed like she likes him a lot and it killed me inside to think that I fucked up and he was doing so well with her. It drove me crazy inside.
“August, you know I’m a very straightforward person.” Remy suddenly said, demanding my attention back to him. “I speak my mind and I speak what I see. No sugarcoating. No filter. Would you like me to say something?”
Placing a palm on the counter, he stood hip-shot and wondered out loud. “Honey, what’s going on? You’ve been going all Shirley and Fred on Sophia since you came inside. You really couldn’t look away for a second?”
I immediately looked over at Sophia. She looked just as stumped as I was.
Remy continued. “I mean I would diiieeee to have all that attention but it’s bothering my baby a lot. Seriously a lot and in a good way like she knows you’re looking at her and she’s blushing because God! She doesn’t know what to do.”
Whether Sophia was really blushing or she was just red because she hated seeing my face, that I wouldn’t know. But one thing was sure. She was definitely blushing now. Her mouth agape, she stared at Remy and when her gaze collided with mine, she looked away.
Remy paused and smirked at our reaction as his fingers tapped away on the counter like he was enjoying the scene in front of him. I shifted my eyes at Timothee too. He had his eyes on the chopping board and from what I could see, he had a small smirk on his lips too.
“I’ve been wondering for a very long time. . . when are you guys planning to start dating?”
Sophia clearly was on the verge of hyperventilating. Her eyes flashed between me and Remy and she could hardly frame a sentence.
Remy went on matter-of-factly regardless. “You know, I’ve always been the Love Guru since high school and my astrological and observatory predictions are hardly wrong. I think you guys are meant-to-be. I can see that your stars are aligning.”
Sophia scoffed and laughed shortly, “Impressive. But that’s not happening.”
“Why not?! The two of you already make great parents, looking after two kids at home. . . I think you’re good to go.”
“Help me convince her. I’m ready.” I smiled at Remy rather jestly.
“See I told you. I am never wrong. I’m getting you two married this month.” He laughed again, throwing his head back.
Sophia remained quiet and Timothee looked a bit troubled at the moment.
“Dude, are you okay?” I asked him.
“Yeah. I’m good. Okay.” He chuckled rather nervously.
“You’re trembling!” Sophia frowned at him.
“I’m good. It’s. . . nothing.”
“Are you really okay?” The look on Remy’s face had shifted all of a sudden to one of serious concern. “You don’t look so good to me. I think. . . you need to take a break, Tim.”
Timothee finally put down the knife with his shaky hands and agreed, “Yeah. I think so.”
He went out of the kitchen and for a few minutes, he sat on one of the couches in the living room. He sat still. He didn’t even utter a word. He sat like he was trying to stay focus but I could clearly see the uneasiness and the anxiety crawling within him. He looked like he seriously needed help.
When I finally approach him again, he was already sweating too. I sat down next to him and quietly asked again if he was alright.
“Can you get me some water?” He labored out, dragging his nails across his forearms like he usually did.
I went inside the kitchen to get the water but when I came out, he was no longer on the couch. I looked around for a moment but he’d left the apartment. I went outside and surveyed the hall. The elevator opened right at the moment so I rode it up to the 10th floor.
The moment I stepped out, I saw Timothee pacing in the hallway frantically, checking the elevator to descend. He’d thrown in a jacket and he his car key was firmly clutched in his palm. After kicking the metal door once out of frustration, he made a run for the stairs.
“Tim!” I called out for him but he didn’t stop.
I ran after him, calling him again. He continued to run. He was in a hurry. I sped up and caught up with him at the stairs. Leaning over the railing, I reached out and grabbed the collar of his jacket. He immediately spun back to look at me, eyes burning red and restless.
“Where’re you going?”
“Let go, man. I gotta go,” he panted.
“See I don’t have time to talk right now.”
“Tim, are you really okay?”
“LET GO!!” He yelled at me in utter frustration with eyes filled with anger and anxiety before he yanked off his jacket from my grasp and dashed down the stairs.
As I watched him disappeared out of sight for about five seconds, I became more convinced of my presumption. The way I observed him, he had always appeared slightly feeble and unstable most of the time.
I met Sophia in the living room when I went back inside.
“Where’d you go?” She asked me.
“Nowhere. Just out the door for a moment.”
“Guess he went out for a while.”
“Is he alright? He seemed really sick.”
“He’ll be fine.”
Timothee didn’t return that night. Nobody knew where he went. I dropped Sophia home since Timothee and Remy had come to get her in the evening after they went for shopping groceries.
“Where do you think he went?” Sophia asked me inside the car.
“Not sure. I was thinking maybe I should go down by the metro and look around.”
“What’s there by the metro?”
I wondered for a moment if I should talk to her about it. Everything was still my assumption and I could be wrong. But I trusted her. I knew she could keep secrets.
“I might be wrong but. . . I think Timothee might be taking drugs.”
“Really?!” She gasped in shock, twisting in her seat to take a look at my face.
“That’s what I’m thinking. I might be wrong.”
“But why? What makes you think that way?”
“Haven’t you noticed? The way he is. . . I mean, he doesn’t look healthy. He’s too thin you know. He gets tired very quickly. And if you’ve been observing him, he seems pretty restless most of the time.”
“I haven’t think of that!” She gasped again as the idea dawned on her. “You’re right!”
“But don’t share this idea to anyone else. We might be wrong. It’s just between you and me. I’m only telling you because I trust you.”
She sunk into her seat and directly turned to look at me. “Thanks. The idea is safe with me. God, I hope he’s okay. Will you really go down the metro to look for him?”
“Can I come too?”
“It’s too late now. And it’s not really safe down there.”
“But I’ll just be inside the car with you?”
I shook my head. “No. You stay.”
“Ugh.” She huffed and sulked in her seat. And it floored me for no reason.
“You say it’s not safe there and yet you go there every Saturday to fight and earn money. . .” she drawled. “Are your matches legal?”
I took my time before I gave my reply.
“Not those by the metro.”
She gave the world’s most dramatic gasp. “YOU’RE AN OUTLAW!!”
That had her laughing. For a while, as I listened to her laugh, I felt as though things were back to normal. For so long, a feeling of emptiness had been eating me alive inside. I needed Sophia back. I needed her sunny smiles, her laughter, her jokes, her drama. . . I needed her. All of her.
Just as I used to fear, I was definitely slowly falling in love with her. And when she finally wished me goodnight and got out of the car, it took every bit of my willpower not to grab her and kiss her.