I. New York's Cinderella
I never consider myself to be a genius, but I am smart enough to keep my head intact onto my body.
I’m good as I am, and no one can change that fact. I can feel it in my bones that I can go further than what anyone else thinks. The only reason why I don’t strive for it is that I choose not to run the extra mile.
That, and everything is one damn big show, and the people running it is so stupid. If I spin into the spotlight, they will fail to listen or fail to fight against the beast inside.
The truth is, people don’t like those who aren’t born in the spotlight to be in it. You know, people like princesses, celebrities’ children, and heirs to some sort of fortune unfathomable to ordinary people.
Those kinds of people.
They find people like you and me to be aliens—foreigners in their world. Although we may climb into a higher seating power than them, they will never accept us as one of their own.
It’s the jealous hearts.
People aren’t ugly.
Their hearts make them ugly.
And their ugly hearts won.
Well, that’s what they think.
But that’s not true.
I picked my battles, and I came to terms that some battles aren’t worth fighting.
I’m not going to lie.
Sometimes, I do wonder what would happen if I stayed that night. What would change if I stayed and said: “Yes.”
Nonetheless, the decision had already been made, and I refuse to look back. I know I shouldn’t. Because if I do, those beautiful blue eyes may be the death of me.
When I felt a warm hand tangled around mine, I looked away from the window and smiled at the man beside me. He lifted his right arm and wrapped it around my shoulders, “Are you sure about this?”
I look upward.
“Are you sure you want to leave everything behind and be with a bum like me?”
I cup his cheeks and immediately kiss his lips. “Yes.”
“Hello, passengers. This is your pilot speaking. We thank you for your patience and we apologize for the unexpected delay. However, we are ready for take off. Please put all devices on airplane mood and ensure your seatbelts are tightened.” The voice somehow lightens in the background. Soon, the flight attendant came up and gave us the safety protocol.
He held me closer into his chest, “Piper Lun. I want to thank you.”
I giggled, “Sounds like you’re about to say something cheesy.”
He looks down and smiles, “I am. So cheesy, you will want to unbuckle your belt and run to the bathroom.”
I held onto my stomach, “Good thing I barely ate. What is it?”
“Thank you for giving me half of your boloney sandwich. Although it was stale.”
I playfully punched him on the chest, “It was a good sandwich.”
He nods before grabbing my fist, “Yes, it was.” He kissed it, “And as a gesture of thankfulness.” He flattens my hand and places it above his beating heart. “Please, take care of my heart.”
“Half a not-that-tasty sandwich for your heart? I didn’t know you were such a cheap man.”
“I prefer the term modest.” He smiles, “Come on. Don’t be so surprised. You saw me wear the same stained t-shirt for a week because I was too cheap to go to the laundry mat. You know what type of man I am.”
My face grimaced at the memory, “Yeah. We’re going to have to stop that.” I laugh, “If you live with my family. They would have whooped your ass for even staining your shirt.”
He made small circles around my hand with his thumb. “Instead of living with your family,” he whispered.
The airplane motions toward its perspective destination to get ready to take off.
“I was thinking more on the line of being a part of your family?”
My heart skipped multiple beats, or maybe, it’s beating so fast I can’t tell the difference. While seated there, I can hear his heart. It’s much too fast. How dangerous. Steadily, I lift my head and look at his eyes. “What are you trying to say?”
His hand tightens around my shirt before it loosens. “Marry me.”
My mouth slightly parted, but nothing came out. Before I knew it, a small whimpering sound erupts. I cover my mouth with my hands, and the tears drizzle down. I bit my lower lip to hold back the erupting cry.
He gave me a small smile before saying: “Please marry me.”
The tears stream down, and I hit him with all my power. “What the fuck is wrong with you!”
The flight attendant stops speaking.
“You can’t ask me to marry you while we’re on a smelly plane with strangers!” I hit him again. “You can’t ask me to marry you without a ring, and a thousand rose around us and...and-”
“Is everything okay over here?” The flight attendant asks.
“No!” I burst out. “This idiot here just asked me to marry him after I ran across the freaking city to catch this darn flight with him. He asked me to marry him while I’m all sweaty and-” I look down, “And I’m wearing his nasty flip flop that I kept telling him to throw away, but he never listens!”
He shrugs, “They’re durable flip flops.”
I grabbed one and hit him with it, “Yeah! Damn durable! You freaking idiot.” I bit my lower lip and dropped the item. “Yes!”
“What?” He looks at me like I’m the craziest woman in the world. I may be just that.
“The answer is yes, you idiotic bum!”
He broke out into a broad smile before he took off his seatbelt. I watched as his fingers fumbled, and he grunted lightly, “Damn, seat belts ruin the mood.” He looks at me, “I was going to give you a kiss, but I can’t get out of my seat.”
I smile and leap onto his seat for a great kiss. The whole plane erupted into a loud cheer, and the airplane attendant smiled sweetly.
She travels back to her original spot, “As you all can see, anything can happen in Martinus. I want to congratulate our newly engaged couple and the happiness that awaits.”
“Congratulations,” the pilot said in the background.
The plane resumes its motion down the lane.
The airplane attendant smiles, “Now, please, buckle up your seatbelts if you haven’t already. We are getting ready to lift off. Everyone, please, look outside for your final view of New York. May this be your last view for today, but not forever.”
I held tightly onto the man beside me as the plane sped towards the sky. I remember three months ago when I arrived in this luxurious city.
It was daytime.
The beginning of summer.
The sun was gleaming brightly when I landed. Outside the airport, there was a luxurious limo waiting for me. An older man held the door open and drove me towards paradise.
Inside paradise was a chandelier larger than the sun that shines wonderfully above me. Down the stairway to heaven, there was a young girl. She was my ticket to heaven. And at the top, there stood a man.
The man I’ve desired since the day I woke up from hell. A year ago, in the rotten streets of New York, he took me in - a stranger.
Since then, I’ve been chasing.
A reckless chase.
The more I climb the stairs, the weaker I get. Each step presents an obstacle, and every time I overcome it, he only gets further away.
But then there was a hand. One that pushes me forward. He told me he would help me; support me whenever I fall back.
He didn’t ask for anything in return.
Just a companion.
That was it. We were only supposed to be companions, embracing one another during our lonely nights. There wasn’t supposed to be a flame between us, only the heat of our bodies.
I had the right, don’t I? If the man I strive for had another woman to accompany him. Where is the wrong when I do the same? What makes it unjustifiable?
Nothing makes it unjust.
But, he looks at me like I had done him wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong. He hurt me first. And so, the relationship started out of spite. And the man beside me knows it too.
It was only supposed to be temporary...benefits for both of us.
For the man beside me, it was for warmth.
For me, it was to give the man I present my heart to a taste of his own bitter medications.
Unexpectedly, I find myself drowning.
Drowning into the warmth, the man beside me had to offer.
And then, the conflict arises.
One from above and the other from below. They both held their hands open for me. A single song was playing, and I could only lay my hand out for one.
I needed time to fix the mess. But that was it. Time was the only thing I didn’t have on my side.
A few hours ago, one man got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. It was everything I had ever dreamt of. We were at the peak of the highest building in New York. It was only us surrounded by dazzling light that drowns out the darkness.
I couldn’t remember anything else - only his blue eyes.
But, then there was a sickly feeling inside my stomach. And when my mouth parted, all I could hear was the sound of regrets. My eyes would flicker towards the dark sky to see the plane fly past us.
When I look back at him.
He knew the answer.
The only thing I could say was: “I’m sorry, Jackson.” Before I rush out the double glass door.
I remember going back to paradise and packing up all my clothes. The little angel would stand beside my door. She would look at me with the same eyes as Jackson and asked me: “Where are you going, Piper?”
I couldn’t respond to her, and all that came out was sobs of apologies.
Before I knew what happened, I found myself escaping heaven, away from the life that I’ve always dreamt of having. It was at the tip of my fingertips, but I withdrew.
Because that was it.
Everything I had always dreamt of was a dream.
The apple skin sits smoothly in front of me, twirling underneath the dimmed lights. There was a promise inside.
It’s happening again.
It occurs to me that if an apple exists without thoughts, then a tree does make a sound when it falls. All because we aren’t there, what surrounds us won’t change. No one is at the center of the universe.
“Apple?” He asks.
Maybe, it was a mistake to be here.
Maybe, it was a mistake to say yes to one but not the other.
Of course, I make mistakes. We all do. Some are forgivable. Others, not so much.
But that’s okay.
The decisions had already been made.
I smile and grab the apple.
Time only travels forward.
With a parted mouth, I took a bite.
And there’s no point in punishing yourself for something you can’t foresee.
My head tilted as the plane curved, and the sight of New York faded more and more. A dream. Yes. Everything was a dream. The beautiful gowns. The dazzling lights. The glass slipper.
New York’s Cinderella.
His hand tangled around me firmly, but the kiss was soft. He smiles, “I love you, Piper Lun.”
And this is reality.
“I love you too, Emerson Hanson.”