He received an email from one of his clients telling him about the information he had asked from them. He searched for a pen and paper on his desk, but didn't find any paper. He opened his desk cabinet and instead of finding paper, he found a picture.
It was the day he asked Pia to marry him. After she said yes, they asked the waiter to take a picture of them. They kissed for the picture as Pia showed off her ring by placing her hand out to the camera.
His heart began to ache and tears slowly filled his eyes, blurring his vision. Man up, don't cry you idiot. She doesn't deserve it.
No matter how much time had passed, he could never forget about her. She was his everything. How could he live without her? Costano thought of himself as a disgrace, towards his family, his job, and to anyone in his life. He wanted to drown himself in alcohol the moment things went downhill, but knew what that did to those who abused it.
Brownie's barks snapped him out of his thoughts. He looked down at her and smiled. He picked her up and placed her on his lap.
He petted her fur and said, "well at least I have you now."
Brownie barked and licked his cheek. Costano laughed before placing her back on the floor and getting back to work. Brownie made herself comfortable beside his desk and laid down before falling asleep shortly after.
• • •
Later that morning, Arabella questioned herself on how she would style her hair for her meeting with Costano. She remembered asking him once while they where in the university if he preferred up or down. Costano told her he preferred it down, but that she always looked beautiful.
The thought of it brought natural color to her cheeks.
Arabella released her hair from the high ponytail she had formed and ran her hands through it. She applied a minimal amount of makeup before grabbing her purse from downstairs and leaving her home.
The drive lasted less than she thought it would. Before she knew it, she was at the coffee shop Costano had took her to during their last meeting.
As soon as she stepped inside, she scanned the area and saw Costano sitting by a window. In that moment, he looked up and noticed her. He smiled and she made her way towards him.
"Hey Cosmo!" Arabella sat across from him. "You really like coming to this coffee shop, don't you?"
"Yeah, I like their coffee and it's not far from work either." He pulled out her file from his suitcase and began scanning the papers he had from her.
"So how are things with your husband?" He asked. Since the time he took her to his home, Costano didn't know how things between Zoilo and Arabella were going.
Arabella sighed, "they're okay I guess."
Costano decided not to ask anything about the topic when he noticed her frown while she was lost in her thoughts. He sipped from his cup of coffee. "Would you like anything?"
"I guess some tea would be nice," she smiled. Costano nodded and went to order her drink.
Arabella stared at the passing cars through the window. There were splits seconds were her mind would drift back to a memory with Zoilo, but quickly pushed it away. When Costano came back, he placed her drink in front of her.
Arabella thanked him and asked, "so how's work? How are things going?" She smiled before taking a sip of her tea.
"Work's good," he answered. "Life's good too. Can't complain when I have a roof over my head, food at home, and a job to pay for my bills." Costano was grateful for all those things. He could've easily lost a lot more, but he didn't.
"Of course," Arabella stated. "Till this day I'm still amazed at how far I've come in my career. I don't know where I would've been if it didn't work out."
It wasn't a surprise to Costano why she was successful in modeling and in earning her business degree. Arabella was intelligent and dedicated to the things she loved along with the fact that she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, both on the inside and outside.
"I always knew you'd make it," Costano smiled at her.
He looked back down at her papers and his thoughts instantly went to the day Pia unexpectedly showed up at his office. Costano knew he shouldn't be telling Arabella about his ex-wife, or anything other than their case, while he was still Arabella's lawyer.
But in a way, he needed his best friend.
He wanted to know what she'd say. So before he would stop himself, he told her.
"Pia stopped by my office the other day," he looked up at Arabella.
Arabella's eyes widened. "She what?! What did she want?"
Costano continued, "she said she wanted to speak with me, but we didn't get the chance to." He ran his hand through his hair, remembering the excuse he told Pia. He wasn't ready to know what actually happened, not even now. "So we decided to plan a day to meet up."
"Do you want to meet up with her?" Arabella slowly ran her thumb along the side of her cup.
"I'm not entirely sure," he mumbled. "But I guess I won't know what she wants to tell me until I see her."
Arabella could tell he felt uncomfortable talking about Pia. She understood a part of it since she was going through the same thing he went through. But she wondered if it was just discomfort that she saw.
"Do you still love her?"
"Love?" he scoffed. "I don't believe in it, at least not anymore." He stopped believing in love the moment Pia left him.
"You can't just give up on it." Not that easily. He must still feel something for her. "I'm sure there's someone out there for you, even if you don't think so." Even I want to believe it too.
Costano knew that what she said was true, but he'd never get to be with Pia again. He lost her. And if by some miracle she came back for him, he wasn't sure if he could go back with her. He couldn't risk getting hurt again.
"I wouldn't believe it even if someone told me they loved me."
Arabella raised her eyebrows. Was he serious? She wondered just how much had Pia hurt him. She could see just how much Costano loved Pia, and that stung her heart.
Would he not believe it if I told him?
In an instant, it felt as if she was revisiting an old wound. A wound that was covered by a bandaid and in order to treat it she would have to remove it.
She could tell that look on her face and the sound of her voice as she called his name had him furrow his eyebrows.
She took a deep breath and ripped the bandage off.
"I like you more than a friend." She felt as hot as a pot full of boiling water with its lid closed, pressure building up inside. Heat spread through her body and her cheeks were tinted in a light shade of pink that slowly darkened. "I have since college."
Costano was shocked, although his face didn't show much, he was. He thought he had heard her incorrectly, but he didn't. He noticed the change of color on her cheeks, ears, and nose. Was she embarrassed?
Many thoughts ran through his head, and yet, he didn't know what to say. He continued to stare at her. He knew that look on her face. The look that the words that would leave his lips would hurt her.
She frowned, and stared at him confused, not expecting that to be his response.
But he didn't stop there.
"You're in a fragile state. It's normal for these kind of things to happen." Costano couldn't believe the words that were coming out of his mouth.
Arabella's frown deepened and in a matter of seconds, her wound had reopened and pain followed.
"These feelings you have for me aren't real. This fragile state you're in has made you think that." He closed the file he held in his hands. "Don't worry it won't affect anything between us. I'll still be your lawyer, but I don't think you can see me as anything more than a friend."
Arabella was speechless.
It felt as if the longer she sat there, the more painful it felt. Her eyes began to burn and she quickly grabbed her things. "I'm sorry," she said as she stood up. "I have to go. I'm sorry."
And with that she left, ending their meeting.
As soon as she closed the door to her car, a cry escaped her lips and she began to sob.
She started the engine and drove home.
• • •
Meanwhile, Zoilo placed his phone down on his desk and sighed.
"Who were you talking to?" Veronica asked, stepping into his office.
"My parents." He leaned back against his chair.
"Have you told them?"
"No, I still haven't told them about the divorce."
"You should tell them. The date is coming up soon," she said as she walked up and around his desk.
"I know," Zoilo rubbed the side of his temple.
Veronica placed a hand on each of his shoulders and began to massage them. She brought her lips next to his ear and asked, "need help with anything?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Well," she patted his shoulders and stepped away from him. "You know I'm only a call away."
Before she left his office, she said, "your next meeting is in ten minutes. I was told Mr. Barnes was already on his way up the elevator."
Zoilo slightly nodded his head and watched Veronica close the door on her way out.
Something felt off and Zoilo knew it had to do with Arabella. It all started a few minutes ago after finishing up a meeting with a group of his employees. He hadn't called or texted her to see if she was okay, thinking it was nothing. But the feeling didn't go away in the slightest.
Zoilo pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent her a quick message.
Hey, hope you were able to get through all of your plans for today.
I'll be home late tonight. Just wanted to let you know.
Arabella didn't respond. He figured she wasn't near her phone or was doing something at the moment. Zoilo stood up and headed out of his office.
• • •
Later that evening, Arabella stepped out of the shower and stared at herself in the mirror. She looked horrible, she thought. Her eyes were puffed up and her cheeks and nose were covered in red.
Before her shower, she saw Zoilo's messages. She didn't bother responding back. She didn't want to speak with anyone. She knew that even if she didn't respond to him, he was probably busy doing other things and wouldn't even read her text.
He was probably with some other woman.
She slid under her covers and laid on her side. She pulled the bedsheets up to her shoulders. Just forget about him.
Arabella didn't even want to think about Costano. What he said offended her. She thought he knew her better than that. Did he really think so low of me?
The moment she felt her eyes sting, Arabella closed her eyes and drifted into a deep slumber.