Chapter 47 - What are Friends For?
༻ Daniel ༺
My phone kept ringing non-stop and I had to blindly search under my pillow for the cursed thing.
What time was it?
I winced when I tried to open an eye. It was still dark out.
I finally got a hold on my phone and immediately answered the call without bothering to check who it was. I just wanted it to shut up so I could go back to sleep.
"Hello." I yawned. I heard a deep chuckle on the other line.
"Ohayōgozaimasu, Daniel-kun. Were you still sleeping?"
(Good morning Daniel, were you still sleeping?)
When the thick Japanese accent registered into my brain, I quickly looked at the screen and winced again from the brightness. An unknown number, but I know very well who this was.
And kun? Did he just use that kind of honorific on me? Since when did we get so close for him to address me that way?
"Good morning Mr. Watanabe," I replied, trying my best not to sound too sour. Does he not understand the concept of different time zones? Why does he always call at odd hours?
London was eight freaking hours ahead of LA.
"What do you want?" I said, forgetting that I was supposed to be polite. But I just got woken up in three in the morning by a guy I disliked to a certain degree. I'm allowed to get cranky.
Again, he chuckled, as if hearing my replies were amusing. "I just call to wish you a Merry Christmas. Such bad temper you."
Oh yeah, well such bald jerk you... you...
I sighed. I'm really not in the mood to joke around at this hour.
"And also, to remind you of meeting after New Year. You remember, yes?"
How could I forget. He's the cause of all our misery. That 'meeting' is the reason why we're all so tense.
I stifled a yawn before I replied, hoping to get this thing over with already. "Yeah, Tops and I will be there after New Year's."
There was a dead silence in a span of a few seconds. Before I could wonder why, I realized it was because I had mentioned my cousin's name.
I remember him not being so fond of Tops since, well, forever.
But he contacted him too; he told him to meet him after New Year's too. Why would he ask him to come over if he disliked him so much?
The answer was obvious. For business, of course.
He cleared his throat and changed the subject.
"Ah, I met your otou-san two day ago."
"What of it?"
"Nothing, really," he chuckled again. I was getting irritated by the second. What was this, small talk? "Just sharing. And ah, I also been informed about your engagement. Admirable, Daniel-kun. Was it of own choice or by parents' decision?"
It pissed me off how he just asked questions and revealed how much he knew about me as he pleased. What was he aiming for? Getting on my very last nerve?
"I don't see why you should care about my personal life, Mr. Watanabe." I replied, coldly.
The engagement was never really discussed seriously between our families. It started off as a wish from our mothers and a tease from our parents, but no one forced us to it.
But how could he know? I know my dad will never tell him such a thing. Did Chie probably get the information from Ella and then reported back to his father?
But Ella also wasn't one to expose such things, especially since she herself already started doubting him for some time now.
Richard made a small humming sound or something. I don't know. I couldn't concentrate. The terrible headache forming at the moment wasn't helping my case either.
"I just curious see," he mused. "In Asian cultures, arranged marriages are quite common. Same with business relationships."
Where the heck was he going with this?
"I also happen to see picture of this... Poopy-chan. Quite strange name for beautiful lady."
Upon hearing the nickname, I got up immediately and felt the blood rush to my head. Never mind that headache. My whole body tensed up as soon as the nickname came out of his mouth.
"She beautiful, yes." He said, more to himself rather. "My son also a big fan of her after seeing picture."
My fists were clenching as I gritted my teeth. My grip on my phone tightened.
Chie? But he was with Ella. Was he really just using her after all? But why--
"He saw Anne-chan's posts and told me. Sent me pictures of your group of friends. Good to have lot of friends, Daniel-kun."
I was this close to throw my phone across the room. I was this close to curse at him.
Why the heck was he bringing all that up? Was he showing off how he had an advantage against me? Was he threatening me?
What did I ever do to him to make him act this hostile towards me? Towards my dad and Tops?
After receiving my long silence from what he said, he began again, this time his tone serious. Or menacing, if I had to describe it more accurately.
"You love her?"
Why was he asking? What was he gonna do about it?
After receiving another moment of silence, he burst into a fit of laughter. As if he was very much entertained at our conversation.
I felt the total opposite.
He's really living up to his villainous character in my mind.
"Is this the reason why you called?" I asked him, keeping my breath steady. I was furious. How dare he threaten me by using Kristina? By using my friends? "To tell me all these?"
He stopped laughing when he heard my change of tone. This time, he became quiet. As if he realized that joke time was over now.
I waited for what he had to say. Was he gonna be serious now?
"I hear my niece went there to meet you and that boy." He said, thoughtfully. I raised a brow. "She not answering our calls."
"Hm," I mumbled in understanding. I see what was going on now. So Anne was ignoring them?
"How is she?" He asked, no sign of humor in his tone now.
Despite being well-known in the world as a notorious tycoon, he was also well-known to have a soft spot for his niece.
He doted on Anne just as much as he doted on his children.
"She's with Tops now," I told him. To spite him. "They made up, and they're now developing into a romantic relationship. Their progress despite the three year absence is quite impressive, don't you agree?"
"Usotsuki." He whispered in disbelief. "Fuzakeruna."
(Liar. Don't fuck with me.)
I hid a snort. Oh-ho. Did the old man just swear?
"That boy hurt and left Anne-chan." He mumbled to himself. He sounded quite agitated at the news.
What, he knew about my engagement with Kristina but didn't know what his niece was up to? I scoffed.
Time to return the favor, old man.
"She forgave him," I articulated, honestly happy about that fact. "It's about time you did too."
"Kesshite." He hissed, sounding like he was gritting his teeth. I can imagine him throwing his phone on the ground after this call ends. "Anata no itoko wa bakadesu. Boku wa anata ga onajode wanai koto o negatte imasu."
(Never. Your cousin is a fool. I hope you are not the same.)
He spoke so quickly and didn't care whether I understood or not. It was probably because he was getting more and more disgruntled with the information I kept providing him with.
I released an inaudible laugh, feeling a bit triumphant that I managed to shake him a bit.
"Fuzaketenanka imasen." I said, as a reply to his earlier statement. "Baka o atsukau no wa bakade wanai ka? Sore wa anata mo bakada to iu kotodesu ka?"
(I'm not kidding around. Is it not foolish to deal with a fool? Does that mean that you are also a fool?)
He wanted to involve Tops and I in this after all. And he called Tops a fool. Wouldn't that make him the bigger fool?
He was suddenly quiet after hearing my words. He probably didn't anticipate me actually understanding him, and that I could converse with him in his native tongue.
Maybe I shouldn't have revealed it so soon. But I wasn't thinking properly anymore. He successfully provoked me.
After a few seconds of thought, he burst into another fit of laughter.
Amused. He was just so amused.
"You speak nihongo!" He exclaimed in between laughs. "And even know of old Japanese proverb. Amazing, Daniel-kun. As expected from child-prodigy."
The term hit a nerve.
He sounded like he was excited and at the same time challenged. I can't understand this man at all.
"I'd appreciate it if you don't call me that," I said, then sighed after glancing at the time.
I was gonna get up in a few hours since we were going to Tops' private resort later. Maybe I should just sleep on the way there. How was I supposed to sleep after this? Ugh. Damn bald man.
"Is that all, Mr. Watanabe? I have important matters to attend to."
And those important matters are more hours of sleep.
He sounded pleased with me. What the heck is wrong with this guy?
"Ah, of course," he replied, as if he just realized that this phone call took longer than expected. "You need to meet with your wife, yes?"
"She's not my wife," I sighed, my head hitting the pillow. My eyelids were getting heavier by the second. "Yet."
Before he could sneak in another word, I ended the call and set my phone on the side table.
To hell with his bald head. I'm going back to sleep.
༻ Kristina ༺
We have only one week left before the boys leave.
I couldn't contain my worries as I zipped my bags close. I think I packed enough stuff to last three or more days in Kristopher's private resort.
It still amazes me how extremely wealthy he is. Well, he is a celebrity. But Daniel did mention that his family was already wealthy before he was even scouted.
I held my necklace between my fingers and sighed. I have to prepare myself. I have to get stronger; both mentally and physically.
"Can I come in?" I heard a light knock on my door.
I glanced over my shoulder and made a sarcastic laugh.
"Since when did you ask permission to come inside my room?"
Daniel stepped in and casually laid down on my bed. He yawned and made himself comfortable by hugging one of my stuffed animals. "Since now."
"What's wrong?" I asked, noticing his pale expression. I sat down beside him and placed a hand on his forehead. "You feeling sick?"
He took my hand and laid his cheek on it like it was a pillow. His cheek was kind of cold.
"Nah," he mumbled, brushing his nose and lips on the back of my hand. He looked and sounded exhausted. "A bald man just called me in an ungodly hour and told me a lot of disturbing things. Couldn't sleep well after that."
I held my breath.
He was talking about Richard Watanabe, right?
I didn't know what to ask or what to say. I was just quiet.
Daniel opened his eyes and rubbed his thumb across my hand. "Don't worry. I'll handle it."
How could I not worry?
"Be careful," I mused, gazing at him pleadingly. I had no idea how I could help at all and I feel horrible about it. "We don't know what he's thinking or what he'll actually do."
For all we know, he could be a secret leader in the underworld or something close to that.
"You be careful too," he said, then sat up. "Tell the girls not to post your pictures on any socials for the time being."
I didn't understand what he meant by that but nodded anyway. It might be because we were being spied on.
I had to tell Ella to be more careful around Chie too, but I guess she already knows that.
"You ready to go?" Daniel asked, motioning to the door. "Tops is picking us up any minute now. We should probably wait downstairs."
"Yeah. Okay." I replied, wearing my sling bag over my shoulder. He took my duffel bag and carried it downstairs.
I'm going to do my best and enjoy myself today. I won't hold back from expressing what I really feel. I've wasted enough time already.
I'm running out of time.
I stopped by my parents' room before I followed after him.
"Mom, dad, we're leaving in a bit. Kristopher's almost here."
Dad was still asleep, but he already granted us permission last night and made us promise not to do anything stupid. Mom got out of bed and rushed to give me a kiss and a hug.
"You kids take care. Call us if anything happens."
I hugged mom back. Her hand patting my head warmed my heart. I almost felt like a little girl again. I was starting to calm down a bit. "Okay."
"And honey," mom said, cupping my cheeks and gazing at my eyes intently. Her brows furrowed in worry and I was beginning to understand why. "If you ever feel the need to tell me or ask me anything, anything at all, please don't hesitate. Okay? If you're afraid, just tell me. Please."
Her eyes were welling up. I could feel myself mirroring her feelings. She knew about our situation. And she knew me more than I probably knew myself.
"I don't ever want you to feel alone. If you want to be alone, that's fine too. But when it all gets too much, please... Talk to me, okay?"
I bit my lip to stop myself from tearing up. Of course my mom would worry about me. Especially at a time like this.
I held my breath and made up my resolve. I definitely had to get stronger. For all of them.
I nodded before I hugged her again.
"Okay. See you in three days mom. I love you."
"Is everybody here?" Kristopher asked before checking the headcount.
Daniel and I were the last ones he picked up in a mini van. Tim, one of his trusted bodyguards served as our driver for today.
Sean sat at the front seat beside Tim and seemed to be enjoying his conversation with the guy. Leave it to Sean to make friends with anybody on the first meeting.
Kristopher and Anne were seated next to each other, of course, and Ella right beside them.
She was wearing a neck pillow and a pair of sunglasses softly brushing her hair up.
Her eyes gleamed when she saw us climbing in and heading for the vacant back seats. Anyone could tell she was excited.
I was still worried about her though. What did she and Chie fight about the other day? Was she gonna be okay with this trip since Sean was coming along with us?
I'm going to ask her again later when we're alone. She always keeps things to herself and hides her feelings behind a big grin and it just worries me so much.
I keep worrying about a lot of things lately. But I can't help it.
As soon as the doors shut, we all fastened our seatbelts and made ourselves comfortable for the long ride.
Kristopher put on some music and we sang along to some of the songs. Anne told us interesting stories about when they were kids and the boys did their best to change the subject.
It was fun.
After what seemed like a few hours, everyone got tired and eventually fell asleep. It was still early in the morning after all.
I felt myself doze off a few times but I tried to stay awake. I didn't like sleeping while traveling especially if the rest of the group was knocked out.
Sometimes the driver might doze off too. I had to stay awake for that at least.
And also, so my friends won't secretly take pictures of me while asleep. Yeah, that's probably the main reason why I want to stay awake.
I felt a weight press on my shoulder. Daniel snuggled close and even interlocked our fingers together. He was really making himself comfortable.
He yawned a few times and his face clearly lacked sleep. I wonder if he stayed up after Richard called him. What 'disturbing things' did the man tell him?
I caressed his head with my fingers before kissing the top of his head.
That kiss wasn't counted. Just as always.
"Do you want to sleep on my lap?"
There was plenty of room since we were the only ones occupying the backseat.
He chuckled lightly. Even his laugh was weak now. He really was tired.
"Am I awake or dreaming?" He asked, a lazy grin forming on his face as he lifted his head to meet my eyes.
I rolled my eyes laughing before moving into a more comfortable position. I stretched my legs before patting my lap.
He immediately obliged and laid his head on my lap. He sent me a shy smile before laughing lightly again. He reached for my face and softly ran a finger on my cheek.
"I'm kinda embarrassed now," he said, still laughing. I also laughed in reply before pinching his nose.
I took his coat hanging behind our seat and placed it over his body as a blanket. I also pulled it up a bit so it could reach until his neck but then his feet got exposed. Why did he have to be so tall?
I wondered what I should do. His feet would feel colder. Should I get my coat and put it there as sort of an extension?
As I did all this, he just kept staring at me, quietly.
"Do you feel cold?" I asked. He shook his head slowly, took my hand and slid it inside his makeshift blanket.
He didn't say anything else and just gazed at my eyes. It made me do the same; made me admire those ocean blues that pulled me in deeper the more I gazed into it.
And it pulled me into another series of thoughts.
Just how much did he go through back when he was still in London? How much did the people's expectations weigh on him? When he was expected to do everything perfectly because he was a 'genius'? When he carried the world in his little shoulders when he was just a kid?
Who did he lean on when it got too hard to bear? When he was acting strong for his dad and for everyone else, who was there to remind him to take a break?
When he and his best friends fought due to that misunderstanding and parted ways, how did he handle everything in those three years? Alone?
When the world around him got so loud, was that when he became this silent?
I didn't know what he went through before he became the person he is today, but I felt my heart ache just thinking about it.
I just wanted to hold him and tell him that he did a great job, and that everything was gonna be okay.
No words were exchanged and the music was lowered down by Tim so everyone could sleep.
Daniel's blinking turned slower. He was fighting his drowsiness. I fondly lowered my head to press my lips on his eyes, and they slowly closed when I did.
"Get some rest."
"We're here!" Anne's chirpy voice startled me. I had actually fallen asleep when I said wouldn't.
Still a bit winded, I looked out the window and saw lots of trees lining on the sides of the road. We were approaching the biggest gates I've ever seen in my life, and they automatically opened when Kristopher made a quick phone call.
As soon our van entered the gates, there was still a long road ahead. And on the end of the road was a completely different world altogether.
"Rich people are crazy." I mumbled to myself.
Then I heard chuckling right underneath.
Daniel was awake.
Before he got up, he pushed the back of my head to his face to give me a small peck on the lips.
With that, he stretched his limbs and sat straight up. I hid a smile. He seemed to have slept well.
"Not counting that. We're here already?"
I nodded and continued watching the beautiful sceneries we passed by. The landscapes were a work of art. Incredible.
After a few more minutes, we finally arrived at our destination.
Kristopher Walls owned a villa.
When we got out of the van, we were attended to by some people in uniforms. They took our luggage and guided us to our rooms.
The interior of the building didn't disappoint. The lobby was huge--high ceilings designed with varnished wooden boards and decorative lights gracefully hanging down from it.
The floor was tiled with granite and it was so shiny that I was afraid I'd slip and fall, but it wasn't as slippery as I had presumed.
Beyond the wide open space was a path that led to the pool. The sun spilled from the windows, practically inviting guests to come in and it was magnificent.
There were also wooden arches, decorative plants and rattan furniture. It was like a grander version of a cabin. And it all just seemed so luxurious and cozy.
It was like a hotel. This is crazy.
"This is just one of his father's spare villas," Daniel told me as we were led to our rooms. Kristopher thanked the attendants and told them he was gonna take it from here. They politely bowed and left. "Their main one is in London. He gave this one to Tops when he debuted."
I felt like I was getting a migraine.
"So the girls will stay in this room," Kristopher said, motioning to a door on his right. "And us guys will be on the other floor. If you need anything, just call room service. Or if you want, explore the place and take whatever you need."
I was still blinking. So was Ella.
Well, Sean looked like his spirit departed a long time ago.
Anne was talking to Kristopher about something and I couldn't help but think that they completely blended in the place. They looked so natural in here whereas we probably looked like lost children.
If this event happened in a different time period, I'm pretty sure they were of high status such as aristocrats or royalty while we were but mere peasants.
"So we'll rest for today." Anne clapped excitedly, looking at all of us. "Dinner's at seven. In the mean time, we ladies will have a little trip to the spa!"
"Oh!" Ella finally squeaked out a word when she heard spa. "I still can't process what's happening, but okay!"
Anne quickly opened the door to our room and they both entered quickly. They were so excited.
I was still in shock.
"Want to go see the VR Arcade?" Kristopher slyly suggested to the guys.
Sean's spirit seemed to fly back to his body when he heard that. His eyes practically sparkled in the same level of excitement as the girls.
"No freaking way. Let's go!"
Kristopher laughed as he and Sean dashed across the hallways, leaving me and Daniel in front of our room.
"Aren't you gonna go with them?" I asked. Virtual Reality games sounded so fun. I think I wanted to try that one out, but the spa sounded tempting too.
First world problems.
Daniel took my hands again and sent me a boyish smile. "Want to go on a date with me after dinner?"
I returned the smile with a teasing one. "You mean get lost in this enormous estate all by ourselves? Who would say no to that?"
He laughed in response before ruffling my hair. I just smiled.
I still can't believe how completely smitten I am with him. It still feels like a dream.
A dream that I may soon wake up from.
"Have fun with your spa-day with the girls." He winked before spinning on his heels to catch up on the guys. "See you later, Poopy."
I snorted as I entered our room. Charming. "See you later, Butthead."
"Okay, now spill the tea," Anne said to Ella as she drizzled some water over the sauna rocks, creating enough steam for the room. "What's going on with you and Chie? What's going on with you and Sean?"
We were currently inside a sauna. It was my first time being in one too. It wasn't as suffocating or uncomfortable as I had expected. In fact, the sweat coming out of my skin even felt relaxing.
Ella made a nervous laugh as if she was trying to change the subject again. I didn't expect Anne's direct way of asking. Maybe it was because she had a bit too many glasses of wine to drink before coming in here.
I adjusted the knot on my towel-dress and stretched my legs.
Ella also had a few glasses of wine before we got here. In fact, she was the one who spotted the bottle in the room while Anne took out the glasses.
And the rest is history.
Only I didn't drink. Who knows what crazy things drunk me will say or do again.
"Your dear cousin left for London on Christmas eve," Ella shared, sighing heavily.
They didn't seem all that drunk, but honest thoughts were pouring out of their mouths. The steam from the sauna wasn't helping either.
Alcohol was amazing.
"What?" Anne scoffed, crossing her arms and legs. "Why? Did he tell you he was leaving on the spot?"
She nodded. "Yep. On the spot. Cancelled our date. He called when he was about to board the plane. Said it was a business thing."
Wow what a douche.
"What a complete bumhole!" Anne exclaimed, furiously. "He's always like that! Always leaving in such short notice!"
"Kinda like Daniel and Kristopher huh?" Ella giggled uncontrollably.
Ooh shots fired. Can't deny that one.
"True," Anne agreed wholeheartedly. "And still we adore such arses. Well. Blah. What about Sean?"
Ella waved an airy hand. "I shouldn't care about him anymore."
"So you still do?"
"I don't know," she shrugged, sighing again and burying her face in her hands. "He still makes me... hesitate."
Anne sighed as well. Then groaned. Then sighed again.
Okay, these girls were definitely drunk. This wasn't how they normally conversed, but at least everything was getting straight to the point now.
I made the right decision not to drink.
"He's seeing someone else now, right? That girl at the mall?" Anne said, recalling the memory and then waving her hand as if erasing it from her mind. "It's about time you let him go. He's not good for you. Move on, gorgeous. There are a lot of guys who would beg for your pretty little heart."
Though spoken through a drunken manner, I couldn't agree more with her words.
Ella deserved so much better.
"I know." She sniffed. Was she crying? I quickly slid closer to her and held her shoulder. "I thought about it. I really did. And I came up with the conclusion that maybe... Maybe I'm hesitating to let go because there are still a lot of things I want to say to him. There are still a lot of things I want to hear him say. I want to apologize to him. And I want him to apologize to me. Is that really that hard? Can't that happen?"
She sighed again and then laid her forehead on my shoulder.
What she said made sense. They didn't have closure. They didn't get explanations. They didn't get the peace they deserved. And now it's eating them alive.
"And Chie," she continued with a groan. "I like him. I really do. And I feel guilty because I'm still thinking about my ex--but it's not like I want to get back together or anything. And now I feel scared because Chie might only be using me. And I feel even more scared if his feelings are real. I hate myself."
Each time she spoke, her voice kept getting smaller and smaller. It pained me to see her this way and I wish I knew how to make her feel better.
But I had to thank the alcohol for finally making my best friend fess up. These were her true feelings. But will she regret telling us all this? Or will she feel grateful for the little boost?
Anne walked over to our side of the sauna and placed her hands over Ella's. She sent her a tender look and shook her head.
"You have to tell them. Sean. And Chie. Clear things up once and for all. Not for them, but for you. Free yourself from these thoughts."
"I want to," Ella whispered, shaking. "But I'm just not ready."
I took a deep breath and released it slowly. She tugged on my heartstrings when she said that. Because I knew exactly how that felt like.
I placed my hand on theirs and made Ella look at me. Anne shifted her attention towards me too.
"We're never really ready," I said, my words weighing heavy from experience. "And it's always never the right time. If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives."
I didn't want to tell my best friend what she should do. She already knows that. I know she just needed a little support.
And that's what I'm here for.
A glimmer of hope appeared in her eyes. She smiled and wrapped her sweaty arms around our sweaty bodies. We laughed at how ridiculous we probably looked and when we finally calmed down, Ella sighed and smiled at both of us.
Laughing was always our way of releasing the pent up frustrations, but also our way of expressing relief.
And only we knew how to distinguish one from the other. The three of us were similar in that aspect.
"You girls are right," she sniffled. Then a look of determination appeared on her eyes. Her eyes were brimming with a renewed strength. "I wish I told you a long time ago. Thank you. Thank you so much."
"Silly," Anne giggled, pinching Ella and my cheeks as if we were children. "What are friends for, right?"
Our laughter echoed throughout the whole spa as a heavy weight lifted from my chest. I could only sigh in relief.
Thank God that I was blessed with such great friends.