Surprise Me Maybe

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Secret and Sensibility

Embracing my lucky stars, I glance at the red-haired next to me and force a smile. “You can say that again.”

“I see you’re here with your team. What’s the occasion?”

I turn my head to her, giving her my full attention. “What do you want, Diandra?”

“What? I can’t say hi and have a chit-chat with someone I know?”

“The last time we talked, we skipped the introduction part, remember?”

Diandra drops her head and sighs. “Look, I know I overstepped.” She swivels in her chair to face me completely. “I’m sorry for everything I said that night at the gala party. It was uncalled for.”

If I can be honest, Diandra coming to me to apologize is unexpected. I’ve heard about her from the girls and it’s enough to learn that she is not everyone’s favorite. She’s spontaneous and emotionally driven, which reminds me of myself, but I don’t create enemies because of this nature. Diandra just has this vibe that makes people steer clear of her.

“I know I did what I did. It happened. I just wish I could take back everything I said. I was–” Diandra sighs in defeat “–panicked from the news about Ashton having a daughter out of nowhere. And her mother is right there, young and pretty, probably wanting him back. It was an immature reaction of mine but I just couldn’t help it. I’m sorry for lashing out at you, Charlotte.”

“Yeah okay. I can see where you were coming from. Now we’re good,” I conclude, forcing another smile while waiting for her to take the hint and go. When I notice she doesn’t get my silent message and stays rooted to her spot, I add, “Shouldn’t you go back to–” I glance at Dickson who is talking to Max at their table “–your date?”

“My date?” Diandra follows my eyes and waves her hand in dismissal. “He’s not my date; he’s Dickson. Don’t you know him? He’s Ashton’s brother.”

“I know, but I haven’t officially met him.”

“Should I introduce you to him?”

And reveal my connection to Ashton in front of everyone? “No, it’s fine. I’ll see him soon anyway. I’m just going to get my drink and go back to my team.”

“Okay,” she replies, still not giving any sign that she was going to head back to her table.

Why is she still here exactly? After what happened months ago, we’re definitely not at the point of being friends right now, not even strangers who can peacefully sit at the bar side by side. Maybe I should go back to my booth empty-handed now and come back later.

“Ladies, what can I get you?” asks the bartender who is already standing in front of us, his eyes back and forth on me and Diandra.

“Tequila with extra lime, please,” I reply. “Can you add it to the bill for booth number two?”

“Of course,” chirps the bartender before shifting his gaze to Diandra.

“I’m good, thank you,” Diandra says. Once he turns around to get my order, she continues, “You see, this has been troubling me for weeks now. I feel terrible that I acted like a total bitch that night. I… things between me and Ashy have been rough for a while. Maybe that’s why I did what I did.”

Ashy? I refrain from gagging. “Well, talking nasty about the child when your situation with her father was going south is pathetic. My daughter was not to blame for the downfall of your relationship. On the contrary, she was also having a hard time adjusting to the new situation.”

“I know,” Diandra murmurs.

“But for real, did you really think of me that shallow? Cornering Ashton by using his daughter to get what I want?”

“No! Well, yes at that time because I wanted to believe it was true.” Diandra brings her hand to rub her temple, her elbow against the counter. “As I said, I was in a dark place. It was just hard to see things in positive ways.”

Ashton’s explanation about Diandra having an infertility issue pops up in my mind, giving a soft jab in my chest. I didn’t want a kid in the first place, but having Chloe is the best thing I’ve ever had in my life. I can’t imagine her pain for wanting a kid yet not being able to have one. I fix my eyes on the pale face in front of me. The closer I look, the more I can see the pain behind those grey eyes. Even the perfect smokey-eye makeup she’s wearing now fails to hide it. An aching feeling slowly creeps in me.

What’s happening to me? I couldn’t stand her a minute ago, and now I feel sorry for her. Am I that drunk?

“I’m sorry it happened to you,” I say spontaneously. “I’m not gonna say I know what you’re going through because I don’t. But I believe it’s hard. I just hope you will find a way, you know, with all modern technologies, women nowadays can...” my voice falters when I realize the change in her expression.

“Did Ashton tell you this?” The frown on her face causes my breath to hitch in my throat.

Shit! Is she not supposed to know that Ashton told me this? Shit, shit, shit. Of course, she never anticipated this. It’s a topic that any woman can’t easily share with others, especially with someone they barely know. Or worse, with someone they call a rival. Why don’t I think before I open my mouth? I feel like the bigger insensitive bitch at the moment.

“Tequila with extra lime.” The bartender pushes the cocktail glass towards me.

“Thank you,” I mumble as I grab my drink, desperately needing a liquid in my throat all of a sudden. But when the familiar tang of alcohol hits my taste buds, I refrain from taking another gulp. I need to be as sober as possible for this talk or I will keep having trouble controlling my tongue.

“Charlotte, did Ashton tell you about my… situation?” Diandra asks again, with more urgency in her tone this time.

“Yes,” I reply, looking away from the glint of hurt in her eyes. “But I believe it’s for the right reason, you know.”

She narrows her eyes on me. “What do you mean?”

“I think he just wanted me to see reasons,” I reply with the first thought that comes up in my head. “I was hurt by your words that night at the gala party, and it was so easy to hate you for making me feel incapable as a mother. Later, he told me what happened. He wanted to open my eyes that you did it because you were not in a good place.”

“When did he tell you this?” she asks, her eyes peering at me in anticipation, giving me no room to negotiate my answer.

“The same night you guys broke up.”

“I see.” Diandra nods, but I can feel her mind is changing gear. “We had a heated argument that night, and I said things I shouldn’t have said. I hurt him badly. God, I wish I wasn’t such an ass that night and listened to him more.” The pain in Ashton’s eyes that night when he showed up in my driveway flashes through my head. He was indeed sad and hurt.

I’m so close to asking Diandra what terrible thing she said to him, but I bite my inner cheek, refraining from doing so. It’s not my business, it’s not my business, it’s not my business.

“He probably hates me now,” she shudders, her voice thick with regrets.

“I don’t think hate is the word for that. He could have talked shit about you, but he didn’t. I think, even when he was hurt, he still tried to see the good things in you,” I reply, not sure why I say it. Am I going completely out of my mind?

“Do you think so?” she asks.

I nod while looking down at my fingers fiddling the stem of my cocktail glass. Why do I tell her this? Is it because of the glimpse of pain in her eyes? Am I falling for the same pattern which is making up situations to make someone feel better? But it’s Diandra I’m dealing with. Why should I care about what she feels? I need to get my mind straight.

When I see Diandra sigh in relief from the corner of my eyes, I add, “I’m not saying what you did is right, though. My point is we tend to make wrong choices when we’re not in a good place. As long as we acknowledge it, we’re good. That makes us human, you know.” I turn my head to look her in the eye. “And I’m sorry I was acting like an ass when you said hi.”

“It’s fine. I guess I deserved that.” The tension has gradually left Diandra’s face. She brushes her bangs backward with her fingers, the blue-painted nails contrasting her ginger hair. “Did you know that Ashy spoke so highly of you? Now I can see why.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Huh?”

“He respected you. I could tell by the way he talked about you.” Diandra smiles bitterly. “And it got me so mad even though he told me you were just the mother of his child. Nothing more, nothing less. You guys didn’t even date back in uni, right? But you know, I was so blinded by jealousy.”

“Oh.”

“It was just hard to wrap up my mind around the idea of being involved with him without wanting more from him."

“We might have spent time together but we were just co-parenting our daughter,” I reply, a little bit too quickly. “I still needed to help Chloe to get herself used to her dad in the beginning.”

“That’s what he always told me too, but I didn’t buy it. I was always suspicious of your intentions for him. I’ve been blaming you for the downfall of my relationship with Ashy for some time.” Diandra smiles weakly. “And now I feel so dumb.”

The scene of me and Ashton kissing on the sofa in my living room invades my mind. Didn’t she know it? Did he not tell her about this when they broke up?

“D-don’t be,” I stammer.

The relieved glint in Diandra’s eyes throws an invisible arrow straight to my chest. An arrow called guilt. If I didn’t initiate a kiss that night, I probably wouldn’t give Ashton the last push to end things with her.

“I’ve been trying to reach out to him,” Diandra continues. “He’s still kinda closed right now, but I know Ashy. He just needs some time. He will come around eventually. As always.”

“Okay,” I reply, swallowing the imaginary lump in my throat, a lump of guilt and fear. I feel guilty because I came between them when they went through a rough patch. On the other hand, I fear the idea that they might get back together. What should I do now? What do I want?

“But I wanna do it right this time, by building a good relationship with his kid and the mother.” Diandra brushes her hair backward once again. “And knowing that you seem cool with this, and not hating me–” she winces “–that much, I’m feeling optimistic about this. This is a good start. Who knows we can be a solid team to support Ashy. Right?”

I blink. And blink again. “Yeah.”

And my guilt has won the battle.


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