#28 He is someone I cannot give up on
Whenever others told me that Cinderella and I are similar people, I could never understand it. I have always been so focused on our differences.
What Angela told me yesterday changed my view completely. I have always assumed that she grew up in a good surrounding. Even though her parents were not together, I had assumed that her Mama had always been protective of her. So it came as a shock as I heard that her Mama tried to kill her in childhood.
She must’ve been so terrified and lonely. I know that feeling...the feeling of losing trust in people.
But it looks like she has been stronger than me. Not only did she overcome her hardships but also she turned out to be this optimistic and cheerful person.
I have never been so wrong about judging someone as I did her. The apology I gave her yesterday was sincere and heartfelt.
And the feelings I have for her...I am starting to be attached to her. It took me a long time to get adapted to Jenni’s family. I kept expecting rejection until my foster father died. When Jenni gave me that account number he had saved for me, it honestly made me doubt myself.
Maybe it’s my problem that I don’t trust people...I had always put up guards against people, but Cinderella seemed to be the only exception.
My phone beeped and I opened the Whatsapp message.
“Good morning, Michael, I love you.”
I chuckled at the selfie attached to it; she was half-covered in the duvet, her eyes sleepy and her face devoid of any makeup.
“I love you, Princess...” I typed back. “So what’s the plan today?”
“I am meeting Jenni in the evening.”
“No. We only have one more week for the tech-fest, let’s prepare for it.”
“What! So you asked me out to study with you?”
I chuckled at that.
“I am asking you out for a study date.”
Cinderella sends me the running emoji from Whatsapp, making me smile.
A study date?
I thought as Uncle Jose opened the door for me in front of the college.
Well...The College’s best student is my boyfriend, so I guess it’s normal under the circumstances.
My phone started to ring and I picked it up.
“Jenni, I was about to call you, Michael said I need to study for the tech-fest, so I won’t be coming this week to-”
“You have to! We are leaving tomorrow!”
“What! I thought you have enough time?”
“That’s what I thought, but then I thought I will surprise Andrew by going there to welcome him, he won’t expect that.”
I smiled at her excitement. “Then I will definitely come today, I want to meet you and the twins.”
“Mm, I will talk to Michael.”
We disconnected after fixing a time and place to meet.
I met Sam and Nisha at the bougainvillaea canteen and walked to my class when it was time.
“Did you hear the news? Senior Michael filed a complaint against one of our third years-Rijo, and they are angry.”
I heard snatches of conversation everywhere and became alert.
“Yeah, I too feel it’s too much, he didn’t have to go that far.”
“I don’t understand why he would do that, he didn’t usually get involved in other people’s business.”
“The guy must have done something terrible.”
“But he didn’t have to deal with him legally; we could have solved our problem by other means.”
That was enough for me to intervene.
“If senior Michael did that, he must have a good reason for that,” I said loudly.
“To make his junior locked up doesn’t sound cool to me.”
“You cannot judge him without knowing the full story,” I said.
“Then do you know the full story, Ella?”
“All the third years are upset about this,”
“This guy who is locked up by him doesn’t even come to the college and he is on the verge of dismissal,” Angela spoke up suddenly and I turned to her in surprise.
She gave me an evil glare and I turned back without bothering to respond.
The conversations slowly died down and I left the class as soon as possible.
“They are not back yet?” I looked at Jenni. “What about their school bus?”
Jenni just asked me to pick up the kids from their school.
“It’s their annual day and the parents need to pick them.”
“Why? Are you waiting for Ella here?” She asked me with a smile.
I looked at her.
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Wow, now you are starting to shock me.”
“This is what you wanted, right?”
“Right.” she smirked victoriously.
I chuckled and walked to the car.
As I reached the school, I was surprised to see that the parking area was almost full.
I parked my car and walked to the main building. Jenni had already given me their class number and I walked along the corridor.
I stopped as I opened the door. Around 15 people were inside, including the parents, students and a teacher. All the students were getting ready for the performance.
“Michael? Are you here for Jiji and Jinu?” The class teacher recognised me and I nodded.
“They are getting ready, their performance is not over yet,” she said and pointed to a corner.
They are getting ready? But Jenni is not helping them, then-
I stilled as I saw them. Jinu was dressed up in a white tux while Jiji was wearing a beautiful white frock.
In front of them, fixing Jinu’s bow was Cinderella. She was knelt down in front of them. Her navy blue gown accentuated her figure and her pearl necklace matched her earrings.
I moved towards them.
Jiji and Jinu noted me first and ran to me. Both of them hugged me from either side and Cinderella looked surprised as she turned to me.
I looked at the kids.
“You guys look awesome,” I smiled and bent down and hugged them in each hand.
They lost patience after a few moments and let go of me.
“Are you here to see our performance?” Jiji asked and I nodded, then I turned to a still frozen Cinderella.
“Michael...” she recovered slowly.“I thought you are going shopping with Jenni?”
She started to get up and I touched her shoulder.
“Wait,” I said and confusion flashed across her face.
I bend down and moved the end of her gown from the heel of her golden stilettos before she got up.
“Thank you...” she murmured slightly and tried to get up. I supported her elbow as she swayed slightly.
“Uh...I am okay, I was on my knees for some time, I was getting them ready,” she steadied herself.
I looked at her. One of the beads that held her hair into the bun was sticking up in an awkward way and I pushed it back to the place.
“I guess,” I chuckled. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Jenni just told me and I had to hurry here, I didn’t want to miss this!”
If Jenni wanted to surprise me, I should admit that she has succeeded.
“Jiji and Jinu, you are the next number, hurry and reach the backstage,” The teacher reached us with her clipboard.
So we guided them to the stage side and I watched as Cinderella was looking nervous and kept fixing their already perfect dress again and again.
“It’s alright, just do your best and enjoy it as we do at home, okay?” She asked them and both of them nodded.
“Uncle Mike and I will be watching from the front row.”
“Don’t worry, Auntie Ella, we will perform well.” Jinu reassured her, making me smile.
Jiji nodded. “Our music teacher said that we are good.”
“I know guys, you are the best,” Cinderella nodded while touching Jinu’s bow for the umpteenth time.
I moved closer and took her hand. Cinderella jerked and turned to me, but I looked at the kids.
“Good luck, guys.” I told them and both of them nodded.
Cinderella gave each of them a hug before their teacher guided them backstage.
I yanked Cinderella’s hand slightly and walked to the audience. We got the front seats that were beside the bright light.
“I hope Jinu will stay in the rhythm even if he play the wrong notes, he used to try to correct the notes and-”
“I think you are more anxious than them,” I gave her hand a squeeze. “Relax.”
She took a deep breath.
“They are my first and only students,” she smiled weakly. “What do you think about their dress? I designed it with Jenni.”
“I never thought the little devils could be turned into little Angels,” I said and Cinderella smiled, looking relieved.
Soon their names were announced and Cinderella turned back to the stage. She was still holding on to my hand.
Jiji and Jinu looked confident as they reached the stage. They started to play and it surprised me how well they did...um...despite the fact that I don’t know much about Violin...
But since Cinderella looked happy and proud as she watched them, I guess they have done a good job.
They got loud applause when they finished.
Cinderella wiped the corner of her eyes and got up in her seat and clapped loudly as Jiji and Jinu bowed slightly to the audience.
“That was a wonderful performance!” One of the judges said as they stopped. “May I know who your teacher is?”
“It’s Auntie Ella,” Jiji said in her cute voice.
“It looks like your teacher was very strict with you.” The teacher said again.
“No, she said to do our best and enjoy it,” Jinu said and a few audience laughed.
“Is your teacher Cinderella?” Another judge asked and Jiji and Jinu nodded.
I was surprised at that and turned to look at Cinderella who seemed to be frozen.
“Is she here in the audience?” The judge asked again and Jiji and jinu turned to where we were.
“Cinderella?” I touched her hand and she turned to me, still looking surprised.
“It’s...I think it’s my...violin teacher...” she said slowly.
“Cinderella, if you are in the audience, may I ask you to perform a song for us?”
I helped the kids with packing up and walked to the staff room were Cinderella was talking with her teacher.
“Michael.” Cinderella saw me.
“Take your time; I will be in the car with the kids.”
“Michael, please come in,” her teacher turned to me and I was surprised.
“I am Lakshmi; I was Ella’s first Violin teacher in India.”
“Nice to meet you, Ma’am, I am her boyfriend; Michael.”
Cinderella looked surprised, but she didn’t say anything.
“Ella is very talented.”
It had felt magical to see her play on the stage. The music felt so binding and moving to me.
Above everything, I had seen how Cinderella seemed to be so absorbed and involved in the music, it was truly an enchanting scene.
“I had felt disappointed when I knew her decision to give up on Violin, but after the way she played today, I know that she hasn’t given up,” she looked at me. “I am even surprised to meet Ella’s students.”
“She loves playing the Violin; she enjoys teaching the twins as well.”
The teacher nodded, “More than anything, her music has a fire that was not there before, Michael, I hope you will protect it and help her to grow it,” her words surprised me.
I turned to see that even Cinderella looked surprised at her statement.
“Ella, I hope you will continue this, not everyone has this gift,” she added. “When I was invited by the school’s music teacher, I never expected to see you here. But I sure am glad that I was able to meet you here.”
Ella was unusually silent when we walked back. The kids kept chattering excitedly but Cinderella looked deep in thought.
When the kids settled in, I started the engine and changed the gear.
“Michael, we need to stop on the way and get them something to eat, they might be tired,” Cinderella said, surprising me.
...Came the excited reply from behind and I chuckled, and then looked at my watch.
“It’s going to be 7; you will be late if we stop on the way,”
“Mama won’t be home today, I will say that I was hanging out with Julian.”
“Your Mama seemed not to mind you hanging out with Julian,” I stated.
I admit that I am a little bit jealous of this guy.
“Yeah, he is the first guy she was okay with me hanging out with.” she nodded without thinking much of my words.
“Mm...” I nodded. “Were you always close with him?”
“Julian and I were childhood friends, so we clicked right away when we met again.”
I am actually feeling surprised because of this unpleasant bitterness inside me. I had never experienced it before.
“Is he that close to you?”
“He is one of my good friends-” she stopped and turned to me slowly.
Uh...was I that obvious?
“You are the most important person in my life now, Michael.”
I was pleasantly surprised when I felt her hand over mine that was placed on the gear.
...and strangely, I felt better instantly.
I didn’t expect that loving someone can turn you to be a weird person.
“Uncle Mike, here is the Ice-cream shop,” Jiji squealed.
“Thank you, Ella.”
“No, I should thank you, Jenni, I had a great time. Is your packing over?”
We were inside Jenni’s house. Cinderella wanted to meet her as she couldn’t make it tomorrow.
“Thanks to you, I had enough time to do it,” she smiled. “I hope my brother helped you out with managing the kids.”
“Jinu and Jiji are wonderful kids, they behaved well.” Cinderella smiled and looked at my direction. “I was happy to see Michael though, thank you for sending him there.”
I stilled in between going through my phone. I looked at her. I don’t know how someone can be so open and free about the feelings.
Cinderella often makes me feel that it’s so simple to express love.
“Ahem, you are welcome dear...” Jenni gave me a look before turning back to her.
“I will miss you and the kids,” she said while holding Jenni’s hand. “Keep in contact, Jenni.”
“You should spy on my brother and tell me everything,” Jenni winked at her.
“That’s a promise,” Cinderella smiled mischievously.
“I am right here,” I got up from the chair and announced.
“He could be a handful to deal with at times, but he will come around.”
“Hey!” I interfered again, but both of them ignored me pointedly.
“I got it,” Cinderella said. “Don’t worry, Jenni, I will take care of him.”
So I let them have their time and waited near.
She hugged Jiji and Jinu while both of them gave her a kiss.
“It’s already 8; I need to send you back.” I looked at my watch.
Cinderella said goodbye to them and walked out of there with me.
“So you are going to spy on me?” I asked her on our way back.
She smiled sheepishly.
“Am I that difficult to handle?” I asked again.
I pulled the car aside and looked at her.
She looked startled at my action and looked around.
“I...I was just...playing along with Jenni,” she stuttered
“What about spying on me?” I removed my seat belt and leaned to her.
“Mich...ael, we...we are in a public place...”
I leaned closer and looked into her eyes. “It’s the riverside road that you took the other day; no one will be here at this time.”
“Why...why did you take this route?” She whispered and I turned the headlights off.
Everything around us engulfed in darkness and I touched her face.
“I wanted to do this...” I leaned closer and kissed her lips.
I had wanted to kiss her the moment I saw her at the school so unexpectedly.
She gasped slowly as I literally crushed her lips with such a hunger that even surprised me.
It seems like Cinderella has the ability to awaken the dormant side of me.
I moved my hand to her hair and deepened the kiss just as she started to respond to me.
I helped her as she tried to remove the seat belt and both of us lean to each other, not willing to stop.
Our bodies brushed against each other and I groaned and moved back.
In the semi-darkness, I stared at the girl in front of me in wonder. I don’t know what the heck is happening to me.
“Michael...” she whispered. “I love you.”
Goosebumps erupted all over me as I watched her shiny eyes that were full of love.
“I love you too...Princess,” I whispered as I leaned forward again. I brushed her lips with my thumb. “You are doing...things to me; I don’t want to...stay away...”
That’s right. My body has started to crave her, it has started to respond every time Cinderella was too close and it’s starting to make things difficult for me.
Cinderella blinked, looking worried.
“Why do you want to stay away from me? I don’t want to stay away; I want to be with you forever.”
I stared at her for a moment and realised that she hasn’t understood what I meant.
If only she knows what I meant...if only she knows that I am craving for her physically...
But it amused me as I watched her innocent wide eyes. She looked worried at the prospect of staying away from me literally.
I dropped my hand back and chuckled.
“Michael!” She looked alarmed. “I don’t understand why we should stay away from each other!”
I took hold of her hand and looked into her eyes.
“I don’t think I can stay away from you even if I want to, so relax.”
“I am serious!”
“Do you think I am not?” I looked at her.
How am I supposed to tell her that she’s the only person who was able to get inside my heart without any kind of rejection?
Sure, I freaked out and tried to deny it first, but now that I think about it, after getting to know her, my system seemed to accept her without auto rejection like it usually did with others.
“Then why are you thinking about staying away-”
“Cinderella, I am talking about “physical attraction”, I want to be with you physically but I am controlling myself and staying away from you.”
And that, made her shut up. She was flushed to the roots of her hair as I switched on the headlight and started the car.
“Um...forget it, I just want you to concentrate on your dream now,” I said. “Cinderella, you looked enchanting when you were playing the Violin. You looked like a different person, just like your teacher said; I think you belong in the music world, not the IT field.”
“I love music, but I can’t pursue it as a career.”
“Because I want only one thing now, it’s you, Michael, I can give up on everything else like Mama wants me to, but I cannot give up on you.”
“You already have me, so go and do the things that you love the most; no one is going to stop you.”
“I don’t want to go against Mama on anything else,” she said slowly and I looked at her sad face before turning back to the road.
“Are you angry with her?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I love my Mama, she’s my family and she has only me.”
“Why do you love her even when you are suffering like this?”
“Because I know that she won’t abandon me,” she said. “I was so scared when my Mama and Papa were getting a divorce. I thought they didn’t want me, but my Mama never left me.”
I thought of what Angela told me about her.
“Mama had a difficult time to start over again in India, but I know that she did that for me.”
Cinderella looked far away as she told me this and I didn’t interrupt her and just listened.
“There was a painful incident once...” she said. “I realised then that my Mama won’t abandon me even if she is to die.”
My knuckles turned white as I clutched on the steering wheel. I had a hard time pretending that everything was okay. I could easily guess what that incident was.
Her Mama had tried to kill her before trying to commit suicide.
It pained me to think how lonely, terrified and insecure she would have been to feel reassured when she realised that her Mama won’t abandon her even if she’s to die.
I wonder how she could take everything so positively.
“My Mama is overprotective and strict, but I know that she loves me,” Cinderella turned to me. “I know she was not exactly good to you, I am sorry.”
“You don’t have to say sorry for her, you didn’t do anything wrong. And she was trying to protect her daughter, I can understand that.” I said. “Hearing it from you, I believe she is a good person.”
“She is!” Cinderella looked relieved as I accepted her. “I try not to hurt her and do everything as she asks me to...but you are one person I cannot give up on.”
Even though I was concerned about how she has restricted herself according to her Mama’s wishes. My heart trembled at her heartfelt confession.
“Don’t worry, we will find a way to convince her.”
I hope I won’t be a reason for Cinderella to be unhappy.
It was 1:15 AM by the time I reached back. I was exhausted and wanted to have a good night’s sleep. I was on my way to the room when I heard the music.
“Ah...Ella had been playing her violin; she was in a good mood.” The maid told me.
But I know that she was not just playing the violin, she was making a song...
She hadn’t made one since she joined the college.
A sudden headache started and I walked to my bedroom.
All my weariness felt nothing as I thought about this problem at hand.
Sara had already investigated and told me what happened at her college.
Apparently, Ella was publicly rejected by her Senior and a video of it was circulated among the students until one day it disappeared from the college website.
It was also confirmed that it was her senior who took down that video.
Even though I was relieved about it, I got bothered when I came to know that her senior even tracked down the hacker and locked him up.
It was just like when he tracked her phone and the guys that day she had the attack.
I did another background check up on this guy; Michael, as it was necessary for me to find his weakness. But I couldn’t even find a speck of dust on him. He looked clean, hard-working and an outstanding guy.
Everyone praised him and talked about his achievements, but all of it just made me more stressed and upset.
I don’t care how outstanding he is. I cannot let him and Ella be together. Ella is my precious daughter. Nobody can have her hand without my consent and he is clearly not worthy of her.
I know that I cannot interfere in Ella’s life thoughtlessly. She has already talked for him in front of me.
The fact that Ella and this guy might be really in love with each other terrified me.
I know that kind of love; I have experienced it and lost it. It had taken me a lot to get out of the depression and stand up again. It had even made me hurt my only daughter deeply. I don’t want my daughter to be going through the same pain.
All I want for Ella is to have a stable, comfortable and happy life with an equal partner.
I was thinking of letting her complete her semester before sending her abroad, but it doesn’t look like I can wait any longer.
I need to deal with this guy and send her away as quickly as possible.
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