“Jared! You won’t be late for the party later, right?”
I don’t know how Monica thinks going to my apartment early in the morning will do her any good on getting a nicer response from me, but here she was bouncing (what the hell) around in my kitchen while I prepare my breakfast for the day. I yawn loudly and ignore her, but of course, she doesn’t notice.
“Hey, Jay…” she pleads, that sickly sweet tone audible in the way she spoke. I sighed, scratching the back of my head.
“Yes Monica, I’ll be there. Now, stop talking.” I reply, putting down the food I prepared. She nodded, grinning happily and sat herself down next to me.
“You do realize I’m not nice to you, right?” I asked, not really wanting an answer. “That I don’t see as anything but a little sister?”
“I know, but that just makes you more interesting.”
She looked at me closely, a smile on her face. “No one ever talks to me like you do. You’re not nice to me, and I find that intriguing.” Monica explained, “No one is ever rude to ‘Mr. Sullivan’s daughter’, you see.”
I turn to look at her curiously. I met Monica in Japan two years ago while researching for a paper I had to write. I vaguely remember her saying that she was looking for a book to read (though I wasn’t really paying attention and was ignoring her) and she thought mine would be interesting, so she sat down next to me. That day, she kept reading over my shoulder and asking me questions about it until I snapped and told her to be quiet. She smiled at me the way she smiled at me now. Curious, intrigued.
It still pisses me off.
“Why did you agree to this, Monica? We both know this isn’t what you want.”
Her eyes dim, and her shoulders became stiff. I knew about her past. About the man she let go for her family’s happiness. The sad expression her face was enough for me to know what she was thinking about. And for a moment, I felt bad about what I said.
That moment is fleeting of course. Monica’s eyes became bright again after a second and she pinched my cheek. I scowl at her.
“There is no use looking back into the past, Jared. My life is for the future.”
She grins at me, inching closer. I know where that was going and I glare at her, standing up at once.
“Your life is for the future, that’s true,” I replied, “but that future shouldn’t include me. I don’t want to be in that future.”
“Then why don’t you break this off then?”
I scowl. “If I could do that, I would have already done it.”
Monica stepped towards me. “Or are you waiting for something?” She put her hands on my shoulders. Gently she pushed me to face her, and I meet her eyes dead on.
I frowned. The way her hair framed her face at that moment… an image of another person’s face flashed through my mind. I wince inwardly, knowing fully well who that person resembled Monica at that moment.
“There is someone, huh?” she said simply. I ignore the smugness in her tone.
She shook her head at me before placing a kiss on my cheek. “You should find her and tell her how you feel before someone else does.”
I glare at her. “I don’t have someone, Monica. I don’t have anyone to find or tell something to.”
Again she shook her head, and this time kissed me on the lips. There are no feelings that sparked, but I let her kiss me for as long as she needed…
—“You’ve never kissed anyone?”
“What? I don’t give kisses to just any boy who comes by!”
“What the—Diane, are you serious? You’ve never kissed anyone?!”
“Shut up, will you!”
“Maybe I should remedy that?”
My lips touch hers softly at first and then harder before coming to an end as quickly as it had started. It was just the one kiss, but it was not without heat. It’s everything I could ever hope for with this girl.
“Let’s get back to class, Diane.” —
Suddenly, I hate myself.
“I’ll kill you if you ruin this dish!” I hear Theo yell from outside the kitchen. I shake my head, laughing. He was prickly when it came to the perfection of his dishes – a trait I’m happy he has besides being such a goofball all the time.
“There he goes again,” Lisa, Theo’s wife, said from behind me. They never told me how they got together, but from what I gather from the times I visit them at Theo’s family’s home – they two met in culinary school while fighting over the use of truffles. In the end, Theo’s mother told me, he gave her chocolates with truffles for Valentines’ day and she was shocked because she had some ready to give him as well.
“Oh, Lisa, he’s just being… himself.” I told her, bumping my shoulder to hers in greeting.
Lisa laughed and nodded. “That’s true. If he’s not screaming in the kitchen, that wouldn’t be him in there. I guess I should check on him and save those poor assistants he has inside.”
She waved at me before going in, and after a moment, the commotion in the kitchen stopped. I breathed a sigh of relief and went back out to the main reception hall. I saw David standing at the far side of the room, pointing at the arrangement of plates and explaining something to the waiters. I waved at him and continued to go out into the lobby.
“Mrs. Sullivan, everything is ready,” I said, greeting Mrs. Sullivan. She looked up at me and nodded.
“Very well. The guests should be arriving shortly,” she replied smiling, “Thank you again for your service.”
I bow daintily to her. “It’s no problem.”
The guests start to come a few minutes later. Popular businessmen, celebrities and alike came in and the program started without delay. I smiled to myself, watching the guests happily eating their food. Things were going so smoothly, I was proud of myself and my team.
“It’s quite a big turn-out,” David said, standing next to me. I nodded.
“I heard from Yana that you girls hung out with Monica the other day. How was it?”
Monica told me she was engaged to someone named Jared Wyatt, I said to myself, wincing inwardly at the slight pang in my chest once that thought registered. The same Jared Wyatt who came by my house unannounced to ask about my phone number and pat me on the head. The same one that still has my—
“It was okay. She’s fun, we became fast friends.” I managed to say. David nodded.
“That’s good. Anything else?”
He’s looking at me curiously now, and I meet his gaze confused. Did Yana tell him something?
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Oh, you know. Something about the fact that you asked me to give Jared a book he probably doesn’t need anymore yesterday.”
“Well, he said he needed it.”
“Then why didn’t you give it to him?”
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. He got me there. David grinned and pulled me closer with his arm around my shoulders.
“Are you ever gonna tell him?”
“That you still love him after all these years?”
—“I’ll never fall in love.”
“Love messes you up. It’ll take you up for a few moments and then pull you down. It’s not worth it.”
“It’ll be worth it when you meet the right person.”
His gaze is cold. “That right person you’re talking about… that person is not here.”—
My heart caught in my throat.
“David, I- I do not.”
He looks at me. “You forget who you’re talking to.”
I lowered my eyes and sighed. I loved and hated David for his way of reading and understanding me better than I did myself. The jumbled feelings I had ever since Jared came back were summarized by David’s words just like that. It was said so simply, I hated it.
I hated it as much as I hated knowing that he was engaged to someone else. Someone who’s already become a friend.
“Don’t say that, David. It’s in the past. There’s no point looking back to it.” I bit my lip. “I hate that—feeling—so please, let’s just drop this, okay? Monica’s coming out in a while.”
David nodded (thankfully), squeezing my hand reassuringly. And sure enough, the host announced that Monica was going to come out.
Her gown was stunning; light blue and silky even from my place at the back. The light gave off a glowing aura around her and made her look even more gorgeous. Despite the pain I felt in my heart, I had no ill feelings for her.
I smiled seeing Monica with a big smile on her own face as she walked arm in arm with her father towards the middle of the dance floor. Her father looked every bit proud of her as they stood gracefully in the center.
“My dear friends and colleagues, I introduce to you my daughter and sole heir, Monica Sullivan,” Mr. Sullivan said, his eyes twinkling as Monica bowed delicately in her dress. He held her hand and continued, “With her onboard in learning the family business, as a father I want her to be stable in life- both financially and emotionally. And so, I introduce my daughter’s future husband…”
I held my breath as the spotlight moved and focused on a tall figure at the back. David started, squinting to look at the figure then at me.
I nodded, braving a smile as he pulled me into a hug.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my future son-in-law—Jared Wyatt.”
“I have a friend I want you to meet.”
Monica was tugging on my sleeve, and I rolled my eyes. “Alright, stop that. Where’s that friend of yours?”
“She’s over there.” She waved, grinning from ear to ear, “Diane!”
The blood drained out of my face, and I held my breath. No way. I must be dreaming.
But it was real, so real in fact because Diane looked up and smiled at Monica in greeting. Our eyes met briefly and immediately she looked away and slowly started walking towards us.
“Monica, you look wonderful,” she said, greeting my fiancée as though they were old friends.
“You too. Wow, that dress we bought really does look so much better in this lighting,” Monica replied, pointing at the sleek gray dress Diane had on. I agreed silently, admiring her figure and then hated myself for thinking it. Now is not the time.
“Ah, Diane. This is the man I was telling you about. Jared, my fiancé.”
Diane nodded and looked at me with an unreadable expression on her face. She bowed stiffly and cleared her throat, “Hello.”
“Hello,” I replied, a wave of guilt passing through me.
Why should I feel guilty?
“You two talk, okay? I’m going to go get something to drink.” Monica announced, leaving us before Diane or I could speak.
I stood consciously and sighed. I glanced over at her and studied her figure next to me. She had her head turned and was looking far off into the crowd. I bumped my shoulder to hers.
Diane looked at me expectantly and I opened my mouth. Her eyes dimmed as though she knew what I was going to do.
“You don’t have to explain,” she said, meeting my gaze and shrugging, “I was surprised when I found out but I’m happy that you finally found someone to settle down with.”
She grinned (but it came out forced, and I wondered why). “You always said you weren’t going to settle for anyone. I was worried about you at that point. Remember what I told you?”
I nodded. “No one should ever die alone.”
I cleared my throat and stood up straighter. “You don’t understand.”
I put my hand on her shoulder, but Diane edged away. She sighed and looked at me with that unreadable expression once again.
“No, please… don’t let me understand,” she bit her lip, “I don’t need to.”
By this time Monica had returned with a drink in her hand and was looking at us curiously. “What’s wrong?”
Diane shook her head and bowed slightly. “Nothing’s wrong, Monica. But I have to go and check on something. It was nice meeting you, Jared.”
She turned and I held myself back from following her. Instead, I cleared my throat and breathed deeply, turning towards Monica. She was watching me with a small smile on her face.
“She is the Diane you talk about in your sleep, right?”
My eyes widened. “What?”
She grinned, shaking her head at me. I’m amazed at how calm she was. I half expected her to be jealous and angry, and yet instead… she was smiling. Monica Sullivan was hard to read at this moment.
Monica pointed to the direction Diane went to and gave me a small push.
I stared at my fiancée in confusion before drawing myself back into my hardened shell.