Chapter 22 - Best Friends
Tops was quiet when I finished telling him my side of the story. He was staring at his joined hands with bewildered eyes, as if he couldn't believe the truth. I felt my throat get dry so I grabbed my drink beside me and took a few sips.
I said a lot of words. More than usual. I'm not used to talking a lot so it's quite tiring.
"So..." Tops mumbled after a moment of silence. He was staring hopelessly at his food now. "That's... She... I..."
I watched as he fumbled in his words, searching for the right thing to say. To no success, he ended up sighing heavily as he buried his face in his hands.
"I'm an idiot."
"Indeed you are," I said as I raised my drink. I'd toast to that.
It was a relief to finally tell him. He finally listened. And even better, he believed and trusted every word I said. Otherwise, he wouldn't be acting this way right now.
He groaned as he heaved another sigh. "Okay, so that's cleared up. I misunderstood the situation and made a complete ass out of myself."
I raised my drink again. I can get used to this.
"But I still want to know Anne's side of the story." He mused. "I want to see her again."
I slowly lowered my drink before nodding in agreement. The hurt in his voice was real. I knew our fight was killing him too, but knowing was different from actually seeing it. "You should talk to her. It's been so long."
"It's not like I can go and transfer to her school just so I can talk to her." He reasoned. I raised a brow.
"The irony of that statement." I scoffed.
He took his hands off his face and looked at me with a bit of hope in his eyes. "Do you two still keep in touch?"
I shook my head as I stared at him accusingly. "A few months after you left, we stopped talking. I haven't seen her since then."
I left out the part that it was because we felt like it wasn't right to keep in touch after what happened. But even without saying so, he seemed to understand and reacted the way I thought he would.
Tops lowered his head again. If he keeps lowering it a couple more times, he'd be kissing the concrete right now. A few more seconds of silence passed before he sighed again. "I'm sorry."
He should be.
But truth was, I was sorry too. I shouldn't have stayed away after he told me off. I should've went back to that house and talked to him.
If I did that back then, things would've been different. Maybe.
"But are you at least friends in any social media account?" He asked again, careful with his tone of voice.
"Nope." I replied. His shoulders just kept sinking lower and lower. "Don't have an account in any of those."
He looked at me in disbelief but then shook his head in an understanding matter. "Of course. Antisocial as always."
"What about you?" I asked, disregarding that comment just now.
It almost felt unreal. We were actually having a normal conversation again.
"She blocked me in Facebook," he sighed. "And most of her accounts are private."
"She didn't seem like the type to hold a grudge," I mumbled.
"She had every right to," Tops replied. "After everything I said to her."
I sighed as I watched his expression grow darker. He cleared his throat as he momentarily snapped out of his trance.
"Actually, before I left, Anne went to see me."
My eyes widened. Really?
When she told me the news that he already left, she didn't mention this. What did they talk about?
"And I made it even worse." He groaned as he buried his face in his hands once again. The heck. I thought he was gonna say they talked about it or something.
"Hey Tops," I called his attention, annoyance clear in my tone. He looked up. "Let me punch you once."
He narrowed his eyes. "No."
I scoffed. Shouldn't have asked permission and just went for it.
His expression softened when he recalled something. A grateful smile lit up his face.
"I'm glad I talked to Tinz," he said. I felt protective all of a sudden. Poopy did say that Tops told her the truth. Maybe that's how they got closer. Now I'm curious about what they talked about. I want to hear it from start to finish.
He looked at me for a second before looking away. Yeah, it was still hard to maintain eye-contact. "I didn't mean it when I said I'd take her away from you, Danny. I'm sorry."
I scoffed again. "Not like you could've pulled it off anyway."
He snorted. "Probably not, but I got you all worked up. You got all annoyed and jealous and shit. I'm satisfied with that."
We looked at each other heavily and then burst into a fit of laughter. I felt light, float-y, and it seemed like nothing bad ever happened in the past.
Things were starting to go back to normal now, right?
He rolled his eyes as our laughter died down. I can't believe the matter of three years was partially resolved with just one lunch?
If only we sat down and talked about this from the start.
"I heard from my dad that you were branching out here?" Tops asked, his tone casual now.
I was happy about it, but I definitely didn't let it show. The matter's not completely resolved yet. We still need to talk to Anne. Have a short vacation back at London, probably?
"Yeah," I replied.
He nodded and sent me a thoughtful look. "Does Richard know?"
I resisted a frown when he mentioned him. "Apparently. He sent his son here to spy on us."
"That jackass?" Tops' brows widened in disbelief. Oh yeah, he knew that guy personally. "Oh wow. Good luck with that."
"You also hold one of the controlling interests in the company," I reminded him. "You should be worried too. As far as I can remember, Mr. Watanabe doesn't like you very much."
Tops scoffed, rolled his eyes, groaned and then sighed. It was pretty amusing to watch. He did this almost every time we talked about him.
"That's because he knew I liked Anne."
Maybe. That man spoils her like his own daughter. Maybe it's because he doesn't have a daughter of his own.
"To be honest with you," Tops started, facing the vast space behind me. "I just came here because I heard you were attending this school. Thought I'd take some of the heat off you since I know you hate all the attention and all."
The sincerity in his tone made me cringe.
"I can't help thinking you have an ulterior motive."
It sounded so weird coming from him.
"This is me being real here." He said. And then he smiled all creepily at me. "Accept my sincere feelings, Danny. You know how I feel. I love you, man."
"Dude, rephrase that last part," I cringed again, my face looking like I ate something bitter and sour combined. "Or I'm not talking to you anymore."
He chuckled as he playfully flipped the finger. "You suck."
"And you swallow."
"Oh damn, we're getting deep."
We both snorted and burst into another fit of laughter. It was just like old times. I never thought we'd joke around like this again after what happened. I never thought making up would actually feel this awesome.
"By the way," he began again. "Tinz got a cold? What'd you do to her?"
"How the heck is me doing anything to her related to her cold?" I scoffed.
He snickered as he grabbed his drink. "Trust me. It is."
Now that I thought about it, how did she end up sick? She was fine yesterday. Was it overwork? Did she study too late?
Or was it because of our conversation yesterday?
"I might've..." I mumbled, intriguing my dolt of a cousin. "Said something to her yesterday."
He grinned as he raised both his brows. "Ah. You confessed?"
How did he know that?
My silence brought him back to his laughing fit and I didn't like being laughed at. I should probably punch him for real now.
"Dude you are so lame." He said. "Why don't you just admit it. It's so obvious. This is why it's so fun teasing you--you're ridiculous."
"Shut up." I said as I threw him my empty cup. "I don't want to hear that from you."
As for the rest of our lunch time, we talked about random stuff and did some catching up. It was still a bit awkward here and there, but it was fine. It was a start.
We didn't notice how long we kept talking until the bell rang. We chorused a groan and went back to our classroom.
The teacher wasn't here yet, so Tops went to my desk to have a little chat. I still can't believe it. Sean came over when he overheard us talking about our favorite manga, Dark Magician. Turns out, he was a big fan too.
Fast forward, and classes were over. I grabbed my bag and breathed as I stood up.
This day felt like an accomplishment.
Ah, I can't wait to see her. I want to tell her all about it.
"Bring that to Tinz, Danny." Tops pointed at the take-out I was holding. "Don't eat it by yourself. See you."
We exchanged a brief nod before he left the room. To my surprise, Ella jumped out of nowhere with a cheeky grin on her face.
Oh yeah, she was coming with me to Poopy's house today.
"Well isn't everybody getting along with Kristopher now." She teased.
I wanted to make a witty remark but I just dropped it. What she said was true anyway, there was no point in denying it.
But why do girls have to point out those stuff anyway? It just makes things awkward. If they notice then they should just leave it.
After that, I drove her to Poopy's house. She ran up the stairs to her best friend's room as I stopped by the kitchen to pick something up.
When I got to her room, the two of them were already chatting animatedly. Poopy looked lively now, but it seemed like her cold didn't get any better at all, judging by her voice.
When she saw me come in, she smiled lightly and I subconsciously returned it. My heart's beating faster again. God help me, I have it bad.
"Feeling better?" I asked as I sat down on her bed. She nodded. Then she noticed what I was holding.
I raised my hand to show her what I was carrying. "Kung Pao chicken and fried rice. Tops bought it for you."
"And the other one?" She pointed at the bowl I was holding on my other hand.
"An onion." I simply replied as I placed it on her side table.
"Are you gonna make me eat that?" She asked, horrified. I chuckled as I shook my head.
"It's to get rid of your cold," I explained. "Placing a white onion cut in half in a bowl in your room will absorb the virus from the air."
I could've done this earlier if I wasn't so distracted.
Ella cooed as she looked at the bowl in amazement. "That's cool."
Poopy nodded slowly as well before she glanced at me. "You rubbed a tomato on my burn before too. Where do you get these ideas? Did you come up with it all by yourself?"
"It's not a new idea," I shrugged as I prepared to give them a short history lesson. "I read about it before. Onions were used in Europe to successfully fight off the plague in the early 1900s. They're also good for coughs, fevers and flus."
Slowly nodding again, Poopy just stared at me. What? Did I sound too nerdy or did I sound like I was just making it up for fun?
Or was she just staring at me because she realized how loveable I am oh wait.
"Alright Professor Curtis, or Doctor Curtis," Ella slow-clapped, giggling at the way her best friend was gawking at me. I did a mock-bow. "Let's hope it sucks Tina's cold and get her better quickly."
Not hope. I was sure she was gonna get better sooner than later. I tried it in our office before when our employees passed on their colds from one person to another until it spread. It was bad. So I put cut onions on everybody's desks and then the next day, everybody got better.
The smell was a small price to pay for better health.
I took a seat near her study desk and hid a snort when I saw her bra hanging over said seat.
I swear I didn't touch it.
"By the way Ella," Poopy started, not noticing at all. "How are things with you and that guy?"
Ella's face brightened, her smile reaching up to her ears. She quickly shook that expression off with a cool one, but she already made it obvious she was giddy. "It's going really well. Last night we started video-chatting. For hours. I didn't notice the time at all. He's so nice to talk to."
"That's great," Poopy looked genuinely happy for her best friend. "Do you think it's going somewhere?"
Ella's face faded for just a bit. "I don't know... I hope so. Should I try going out with him once if it'll spark anything?"
Poopy made a helpless smile. Oh darn, that smile. "Why ask me? I don't have the experience to give you an answer. What does your gut tell you?"
So she wanted an experience huh.
I can provide her with enough experience.
Unholy ideas, vanish.
"Maybe you forgot, but Daniel's right over there," Ella laughed heartily, making Poopy glance at me once and then looking away with a blush. "But... Well, I think I should try going out with him. That's the only way to get to know the real him. Right, Daniel?"
I nodded, hiding a smile. What was she implying?
"By the way, what school does he go to?" Poopy asked, trying her best to look at her best friend and not at me, because I've been sending her smug grins the whole time.
Her attempts to ignore me were adorable.
"Oh, he's home-schooled in London." Ella replied, sparking my interest when I heard the mention of that place. "He's only here for a vacation. He doesn't know until when though."
A vacation? From London? Well that doesn't sound suspicious at all. I decided to pay more attention to their girl-talk.
"Just a vacation?" Poopy sounded surprised. "So you mean he's only here temporarily--"
"I know! I know!" She groaned as she buried her face in her hands. Her outburst caught us in a bit of a surprise. I could tell she was really troubled about this. "I'm probably dancing with a ticking time bomb but... Tina, it's been so long since I've felt... you know... this. I mean, yeah, I've considered being in a long-distance relationship. I've thought about it, it'll be hard, but I think I should concentrate on what's happening right now rather than the future."
Poopy nodded her head, glancing at me for a second.
"I don't know what the heck I'm getting myself into," Ella laughed, waving an airy hand. But both of us saw the flicker of fear and uncertainty in her eyes. "But I wanna try dating him. I don't know where it'll lead to, but then again there won't be any thrill if I knew, right? I'm sure it's a good risk."
"As long as it makes you happy, I'll support you." Poopy sighed, another restless smile on her face. I don't know if she's just tired or if it was because of her worry for Ella.
"Thanks." Ella grinned widely. "I support you and Daniel too."
She ended up laughing a bit too hard after she said that. She sent me a wink and I just nodded with a smug grin.
Lucky I have her support in this.
Poopy awkwardly cleared her throat before she changed the subject. "Chie... was his name right?"
"Yeah," Ella replied. "Daichi Watanabe. Chie's his nickname."
I held back from standing up from my seat, but I couldn't help my eyes widening and my heart beating faster.
"Oh..." she nodded, letting the information sink in. "Is he pure Japanese?"
"He's half-English, half-Japanese." She replied. "And he's totally hot. Plus that accent-- ugh."
The rest of her words faded away when I heard he was half-English.
Dad said Mr. Watanabe was married to an English woman. That would make their son half-English, half-Japanese.
Was it him?
Was he the spy?
"Do you have a picture?" Poopy asked. Ella nodded as she took her phone out of her pocket.
Curious, I stood up and took a look at the picture as well. Ella tilted her phone a bit so I would see it better.
The guy had jet-black hair and hooded eyes, but his eye-color was a light shade of blue. His features were strong, and that wide smile was just too mischievous for his own good. It almost reminded me of Tops.
But even after seeing the picture, it told me nothing. I don't recognize him. I can't point out the resemblance.
I should ask Tops. He's met the guy before.
I'm almost sure this guy's his son. The spy Mr. Watanabe sent here. It's just too much of a coincidence. Did he know I'm acquainted with Ella?
Was he using her to get to me?
I hope not. If it is, Poopy will have his head. And I will too.
"What else do you know about him?" Poopy asked as she studied the picture so seriously. It was amusing to watch her be like that.
"Hmm..." Ella tilted her chin up to think. Then when she remembered something, she smiled. "Ah. He has a twin back at London."
A twin? I'm not sure if Mr. Watanabe's son had a twin or a sibling. I need to ask Tops. But I don't have his number. Maybe tomorrow.
I'm getting uneasy about this. Why does it feel like something's gonna go wrong?
"Oh," Ella mumbled as she made an annoyed pout. She groaned as she read the message she just received on her phone. "It's Peyton. She's bugging me to help her with her Psychology project. I gotta go."
She stood up in a hurry to pick up her stuff then rushed to the door. "Take care of Tina, Daniel!"
"Hey!" Poopy yelled.
"I will." I grinned.
Ella made a last giggle as she rushed out. "See you guys tomorrow!"
It was an awkward five minutes of silence and looking around the room. Both of us were pretending to look distracted or busy.
I cleared my throat once I had enough of that and Poopy did the same.
I joined my hands together and placed them on my lap, wondering if I should start the conversation or what. Or if I should start that conversation or not.
"No." She quickly said. I raised my brows.
"But I haven't said anything yet."
She didn't look at my way once and just kept staring at her hands. She was nervous. "I'm not mentally prepared yet."
I hid a smile. She knew I was gonna ask her about that, huh? Well judging by the atmosphere, who wouldn't?
She was the type to overthink, over-analyze and over-stress, which is probably why she got herself sick in the first place.
It made me happy knowing she thought this much about me, that it still wasn't enough and that she needed more time. It was fine. As long as I lingered in her mind, it was fine.
I wasn't rushing.
She may or may not like me. When she told me that she wouldn't fall for anybody else, it could mean a lot of things. Although I'd like to believe it was because I had a reserved place in her heart, even though she keeps denying it.
Even though I keep denying it. But I sure was hell admitting it right now.
I nodded, hopefully conveying the message that it was alright by me, and I was ready to talk to her whenever she's ready.
Guess we'll both just have to play dumb a tad bit longer.
"Oh yeah," I remembered, catching her attention. I changed the subject and when she realized this, she finally met my eyes. I resisted a smile. "I talked with Tops earlier."
She looked genuinely interested and even excited. "Tops is Kristopher, right?"
"Yeah." I replied, getting influenced by the excitement in her face. "I don't know, but we kinda... made up?"
"Really?" She asked, kicking her blanket off her feet and hugging them to her chest. "That quick? How?"
A smile appeared on my face as I told her all about it. It was weird, since being a talker wasn't my thing, but it was refreshing.
I told her important parts of my childhood in London. How I met Tops and Anne. How Tops was head over heals for Anne. How he annoyed the hell out of me since forever but was still my best friend. How people kept stalking me every time I went out. How Tops got scouted for the first time. How he misunderstood a lot of things and cracked under pressure.
I told her everything. Well, everything except for the part about Mr. Watanabe. Okay, maybe I left out a few details about myself too, but that was fine. I'll tell her about it in another day.
Telling her about a quarter of my life lifted some unknown weight in my chest. I didn't realize those stories even weighed in me for so long.
She just kept nodding her head as I told her, asking a few questions in between. It was relieving. I was happy I told her about it.
I felt like she could trust me more now, since I trusted her with this too. I hope so.
"I see..." she said slowly, letting everything sink in her brain. She stretched her legs as she started summarizing everything I told her. "So what started this whole mess was the media. Kristopher believed the false reports because he was insecure, got jealous, got crazy and got into a fight with you guys. And then after that fight he saw you comforting Anne and he misunderstood the situation again. Then he told you to leave his house, then Anne met up with him without telling you but they ended up making matters worse, and then he went off to New York and debuted and it's been three years since you guys talked to Anne. Did I get it all right?"
I nodded and clapped my hands. "Yup. As expected of Poopy."
"I still don't understand one thing though," she said, staring at me. "You said people kept stalking you whenever you go out. Is it because you hang out a lot with Anne? She's sorta like a celebrity there, right? Umm. The niece of some rich guy?"
I nodded again. It's my fault I left out a few details. But it was too bothersome to say everything.
"That, and I was like a celebrity there also."
Poopy scoffed before rolling her eyes.
"You don't believe me?" I asked, holding back a smile. "I've been in a couple of magazines for being in the Top Ten Most Influential Teens in the UK for three years straight."
She just nodded sarcastically, looking surprised mockingly too. Well, the tone I used wasn't very serious so of course she wouldn't believe me. Hm. Oh well.
"Mr. Oak does admire you though," she shrugged. "Why?"
"Because I'm a genius." I replied straightly. She narrowed her eyes. I snorted. "It's true. I'm influential." And then I winked at her. "Very influential."
She released another scoff as she threw her pillow straight to my face. I was just laughing, enjoying this. I just made a part of my identity sound like a joke. I know she knew there was some truth in it, but she wasn't ready to hear it yet. I wasn't ready to say it yet.
Those harmless details can wait.
I left my seat and sat right next to her on her bed. She kept stuffing my face with pillows and stuffed animals and blankets just for the heck of it. And I admit, even I was a laughing wreck about it.
When she ran out of ammo, I grabbed both her wrists and pinned them down on the mattress as she was sitting Indian-style in front of me. I made her look at me, and immediately regretted it because now, after seeing her close-up, I wanted to hide my face.
Pretty. Adorable. Lovely. Beautiful. I don't know what the heck I'm saying. I feel so utterly defeated by her.
It was a stare down of a few seconds until she broke eye-contact, a light shade of red invading her cheeks. I sighed in relief.
I gripped her hands tighter as I continued to admire her features; she was avoiding my eyes at all costs.
"You had to get sick over that. Seriously." I chuckled.
Alright, alright. She didn't want to talk about that yet. I took her hands and opened her palms, then put them right against my chest. It was a warm, nostalgic feeling.
I laughed shortly as I looked down, keeping her hands pressed against my chest. I was sure she could feel the vibrations of my laughter, and my heartbeats.
My uncontrollable heartbeats.
The expression on her face showed every bit of surprise and uncertainty.
"I'm trying to hold back right now," I said, smiling. I don't know, I just feel really happy at the mere fact that she was right here. I can't resist my lips curling up. "For you."
"I..." she mumbled, quickly looking all over the room as if she'd find her answer somewhere. I just chuckled in reply.
"Don't worry," I said, raising my head and staring deeply in her sapphire orbs. "Just let me keep my promise to you. The rest can wait."
I think I just saw her gulp. I laughed until she narrowed her eyes again, slightly pushing her hands against my chest.
"You're ridiculous," she said. "You don't have to take it literally. It was a silly promise."
"Oh, but I have to take it literally," I replied, trying to look and sound convincing. "Otherwise, I'd have no excuse to kiss you whenever I want to."
Now that definitely silenced her. I laughed again, enjoying it every time she gets flustered.
"Too bad you're sick right now." I sighed, releasing her hands. "I'd kiss you, but you'd get mad at me."
"Well of course," she huffed, folding her arms against her chest. "You always do it at the most unexpected times. And if you kiss me now I'll just transfer my cold to you. Speaking of which, you shouldn't sit so close to me right now, or be in the same room as me for that matter. You'll catch--"
"Alright, alright," I waved an airy hand, obviously too lazy to listen to her nagging. I stood up and looked at her sitting on her bed. She looked up after a few seconds when she noticed I was looking at her.
Her long, wavy hair was a mess with awkward tangles and curls here and there. They looked soft though. She looked good with messy hair. It made her look more attractive, more girly.
Seeing her like that was like seeing a puppy in a basket.
"What." She said, sounding annoyed or embarrassed at the face I had no idea I was making.
"Can I kiss you a lot when you get better?" I asked, teasingly.
Well, not teasingly.
I really did want to kiss her.
"Whatever." She slammed her head on her pillow and covered herself with her blanket.
I didn't stop.
"Do you mind it?" I was referring to me kissing her.
"Of course I do!" She said, catching me by surprise. "We're not even in a relationship yet and we're already..."
When she realized what she was blurting out, she trailed off in her words.
"So, you want us to be in a relationship first before I can kiss you as much as I want to?"
The answer to that question was obvious. I just wanted to hear what she had to say about it.
"Well..." she mumbled, tightening her hold on her blanket in case I pulled it down again. "I don't know."
"Aren't we already in a relationship? Engaged, I mean," I snorted. I could feel the glare she was making even though I couldn't see her.
"That doesn't count. That wasn't even official!"
"So when do we get to be official then?" I asked again. I know I was probably pressuring her but I just couldn't help myself. I was just teasing her, and it was fun since she was taking it so seriously. Well, I was probably taking it seriously too, but by covering it up with these jokes.
She groaned, frustrated. "I don't know."
I smiled. She wasn't sure, but she didn't deny anything. That's progress right there.
I climbed up her bed again and rested my chin on her shoulder. I placed my hand on her waist and felt her jump a bit from the surprise. "Yeah, I think I'll just kiss you a lot when you get better. Brace yourself."
She squirmed in my embrace and I ended up laughing, crushing her body within my arms.
"Damn you!" She yelled, and I could tell she was clutching her heart.
Damn me indeed.