Surprise Me Maybe

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Woman to Woman

I’ve seen miserable Sophie when she learned that her college boyfriend cheated on her, or dejected Sandy, my college bestie, when she found out her crush only led her on, but the hurt that flashes in Diandra’s eyes right now is more painful to see. She’s not my sister or my best friend; I should care less. Yet I feel this way. Maybe it’s because I’m the reason she’s on the brim of breaking down right now.

“Mr. Knight, Ms. Garnett, there you are!” says a voice from down the hall. Chloe’s party’s event organizer is walking up to me and Ashton, who is already standing behind me. “It’s almost blowing-candle time. We’d better go back to the table.”

None of us moves or speaks. We stay rooted to our spots, trying to get our minds back on the gear.

“We’ll be there in a minute,” Ashton finally says, his voice sounding tense.

Diandra’s hand clutches her stomach and the other hand covers her mouth. “I feel sick. Oh my god,” she mutters before hurrying to the restroom.

“Diandra, are you alright?” I ask but only answered by a soft thud of the closing door. I turn to Ashton and our eyes meet, silently exchanging our unspoken words. I know he feels the same way as I do now: concerned, and maybe feeling bad for having to see Diandra like this. “I need to go check on her,” I murmur, and Ashton nods.

“But this is almost the time,” the event organizer interjects.

“Give me fifteen minutes.”

“What will we do for fifteen minutes? Everyone is ready and waiting now.”

“I don’t know, think of something. Make Ashton sing, or dance, or whatever,” I reply as I walk to the ladies’ room.

“I’ll take care of the fifteen minutes.” I hear Ashton’s answer before the door behind me swings closed, swallowing the muffled voices coming from the hall. The commotion from one of the toilet booths is the only thing I can hear right now. Slowly, I tiptoe to the door and knock softly.

“Diandra? Are you alright?”

“Go away,” she croaks between her gaggings. “You’re a lying bitch!”

Okay, I deserve that. “I- I am sorry you had to find out this way,” I stammer.

“You’re a backstabber! A two-faced and a pathet... blaaaargggggghhh!”

I wince at her words, also at the painful sound of her vomiting. “You sound very sick. Should I get Dickson to take you to the doctor?”

“I’m sick because of you,” she seethes. “I don’t need a doctor. And stop asking me questions now. Just, go, Charlotte. You make me pu... blaaarrgggh!”

Hearing the intense hatred in her voice, I choose to stop asking. I slowly walk to the restroom counter and lean in while waiting for her. I know I can just go now and ask someone to watch over her, but I need to make sure that everything is fine, especially after she found out about me and Ashton. Unmoved, I’m listening to her battle with nausea while my mind is roaming over. Is she catching stomach flu? Or is she really feeling sick because she heard me and Ashton make out? I hope it’s none of them.

From her point of view, I can understand why she thinks I’m a hypocrite and two-faced person. I blatantly lied that I wasn’t dating anyone thirty minutes ago during our table talk. And instead of hinting to her about what had been going on between Ashton and me at the bar that night, I gave the impression as if I supported her advance to her ex-boyfriend.

I was still in denial about my feelings for Ashton back when we talked at the bar. And in my defense, I didn’t know what Ashton felt about me. I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself if it turned out to be one-sided feelings. Plus, after learning that Diandra didn’t know about the kiss, the guilt changed the whole game.

After a while, the gagging sound dies down and the vomiting stops. I hear the toilet being flushed for the last time before the door is pulled open, revealing Diandra’s pale face and watery eyes. I can’t mutter any word; I just silently watch her trudge to the basin to wash her mouth and face.

“How long?” Diandra asks, breaking the silence between us. “How long have you been seeing him?”

“Not long. A couple of weeks, or so.”

“What about ‘we’re just co-parenting our daughter, nothing less, nothing more’ line?” Diandra smiles cynically. “All forgotten after you tasted Ashton’s lips on you, right?”

“I didn’t... it’s not...” I can’t find the proper answer to that. “It’s complicated.”

Diandra rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Give me that famous line,” she spits before leaning forward to the basin, her hands clutching the edge of the granite counter to support her weight. “You gotta give me the real answer, Charlotte. At least you owe me this after lying to my face. I want to know what’s going on. Are you guys just fooling around or is this the real thing?”

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that. If there is also a term called probation in dating life, then it must be it. But for how long? Three months? Six months? Or a year until I can call it a real thing?

Seeing me having trouble answering, Diandra draws her conclusion. “So, it’s just a fling then. It explains why he hides this from everyone,” she says, still with the bitter tone in her voice.

“That’s not the reason why we keep this from the public. It’s for Chloe.”

“Shouldn’t she be happy to see her parents together?”

“Well, if we don’t work, it will upset her.”

“So, you guys think you won’t work?”

Okay. Now I’m having a headache talking to this girl. I put my hand on my temple and massage it. “That’s not my point,” I murmur while closing my eyes. “We’re just trying to be responsible adults here. You would understand better if you had a kid.” Once the words escaped my lips, I regret it already. This is a sore topic for her, confirmed with her sucking in her breath. “I’m sor–”

“Don’t.” Diandra’s voice is sharper than a double-edged sword. “I don’t need pity. It is how it is and I’m beginning to accept my situation.”

Slumping my shoulders, I lean back on the wall behind me as I nod. “Okay.”

Diandra brushes her hair with her shaky hands, trying to make them look presentable. She then glances at me from the mirror. The pain I saw several minutes ago has disappeared from those grey irises, replaced by her scrutinizing gaze. “Are you in love with him?”

I knit my eyebrows. “We just started dating, Diandra. It’s too early to talk about love, isn’t it?”

“Exactly,” she replies. “I just needed to make sure that you’re aware.”

“Aware of what?”

“Ashy and I always date random people during the time we’re apart, but it’s never serious. It never was and it never will. At the end of the day, we always find our way back together. So, it’s smart of you for not getting yourself too deep into it and getting hurt eventually.”

“Oh, I’ve heard this so many times already. Yet, here I am.” I shrug. “I’m stubborn like that.”

She tilts her head, an intriguing glint flashing in her eyes. “You’re a smart woman but you really don’t understand what you’re getting yourself into.” She shakes her head while taking a deep breath. “I know I hurt Ashy terribly that night and he seems to not be able to forgive me yet. I wish I could take back my words but I said what I said. But I’m not gonna lie to you, Charlotte, because I’m not a hypocrite like you. I will fight for Ashton, even if I have to go against you. I will earn his trust back to make him ready to open up to me again.”

Diandra’s words make the hairs on my neck stand, but there is no way I will show her that they affect me. “We will see about that.”

Diandra raises her eyebrow, forcing a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. “Meanwhile, you can have fun with him, secretly, as it should be. Enjoy it while it lasts, Charlotte.”

Seeing that there is no point in having a further discussion with her, I push myself off the wall. “I wouldn’t be so confident if I were you. Anyway–”

“Look,” Diandra cuts me as she turns around and leans back to the counter, crossing her arms against her chest. “I know you’re too blind to see now because you’re in love. I can’t blame you because what’s not to love about him? But you’ve only known him for months. It should be me who said ‘I wouldn’t be so confident if I were you’.”

I shrug. “Whatever you say, Diandra. And I don’t understand why I keep talking to you right now while I have more important things to do out there. I just came here to make sure you were fine, which is you are now. And again, I’m sorry you found out about me and Ashton this way.” With that, I make my way to the door.

“You talk too high of yourself, Charlotte, while what you did was sneak your way in when Ashy was alone and vulnerable. Just like any other insignificant girl in his life, it will be over sooner than you think.”

My hand freezes on the door. “That’s not entirely true.” I clear my throat. “We kissed that night before you guys broke up. So, I sneaked my way in when he was still with you, Diandra.”

It takes a few seconds before Diandra reacts. “You what?”

“Yes, you heard me,” I reply while still facing the door.

“Did you guys... ?”

I turn my head to look at her pale face and shake my head. “No, we didn’t. I was drunk but I didn’t go further than kissing him. I was aware that you were still in the picture, and I’m not proud of that.” I sigh audibly. “I encouraged Ashton to come clean to you but he chose not to. I learned later from him that you two were just fuck buddies back then, no commitment involved. So, it should be me who said ‘you talk too high of yourself, Diandra’.”

Instead of answering, Diandra covers her mouth. “I feel sick again...” With that, she runs back to the toilet.

At the same time, the restroom door bursts open, prompting me to jump back or it would hit me flat on the face. Our dear event organizer walks in and looks at me with a stern look. “It’s time, Ms. Garnett. Your child is waiting.”

“Give me a second.” I nod at her before striding to Diandra’s door. “I will get Dickson. You should go home and rest,” I pause a bit. “And Diandra, I’m sorry for how things turned out.”

Letting out a breath of relief, I walk out of the restroom with a sense of victory in my chest. Not a victory of winning Ashton over, but the contentment in how I handle myself in front of Diandra. I hate the feeling of hurting her like this, but the truth needs to be told.

I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen after this. Will there be a war? Will I need to keep looking behind my back? Will I have to get on another roller-coaster ride? I don’t mind one bit because I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. I’m going to fight for my little family, for Ashton and Chloe.

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