Chapter 1 First Love
Danica Waylon started feeling nostalgic as soon as she looked around the familiar surroundings after getting out of the airport.
Welcome home, Danica, she told herself and glanced at her eleven-year-old brother who was ecstatic to be back in California after being gone for three years.
Danica couldn’t help but smile at his excitement. Seeing the suddenly confused expression on his face, she ruffled his dark brown hair and said, “Aziel, you don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. I know how to get to our old place.”
Crossing his arms against his chest, Aziel frowned. “Why can’t I remember where we lived before? It was only three years ago, so I shouldn’t have forgotten our hometown.”
Danica pursed her lips, not bothering to answer him immediately. She pulled the luggage along with her and headed towards the cab. Aziel ran ahead and blocked her way with his small frame.
“Why don’t I remember, Dani?” he asked again with an undercurrent of disappointment in his voice.
She sighed and replied before opening the cab door, “Aziel, you were only eight at that time.” Aziel pouted but got in the cab nonetheless, like the obedient kid he’s always been. “Just focus on enjoying your summer here.” Danica hopped in as well and rolled down the windows on her side, blocking the scorching afternoon sunlight.
“Dani, you haven’t forgotten my birthday wish, right? You will help me fulfill my wish, won’t you?” he asked with hopeful hazel eyes.
Glancing at him, Danica nodded her head. Aziel grinned in happiness and placed his head on her shoulder. She started to pat his head lightly as she started pondering how she would possibly be able to grant this one wish. The smile on her face dropped as soon as her brother closed his eyes, a cold and distant look took over her face instead.
Danica had decided to come back to California after three long years, just to try and help Aziel get his wish and she was absolutely clueless on how they could go about it. On top of that impossible situation, coming back to their hometown brought with it a lot of happy memories which are now painful. It was her decision to return, yes, but now what?
She sighed, something would come to her, it just had to.
“Hey, my Stones! How have you been doing? Welcome back to Troy’s Reels. If you are new to my channel, let me tell you why I call y’all Stones. It’s because you guys are my rock. Without your support, I am nothing. So you guys mean the world to me,” Troy Kingston said, facing the camera kept on his table, recording his new WhyNTube video. WhyNTube was a hot, up and coming social platform where people could upload different videos and gain popularity. “Today I had planned on doing a vlog and it will start with—”
“Troy, I am going to ChocoVivo Café. Want to tag along?” Hernan called out after barging into his bedroom without knocking—as usual.
“Wherever there’s free food, you will find Troy Kingston with his camera. So is the food free?” Troy asked. He turned off his camera and looked at Hernan Matias, who was one of his best friends and a WhyNTuber just like him. The eccentric name of the café was enough for him to decline the offer, but that wasn’t the real reason he did not want to visit that place—it would remind him of someone he did not want to remember.
Hernan narrowed his eyes at Troy and let out, “No, but it will be helpful for your vlog. At least your fans won’t think you are a social shut-in who rarely goes out and keeps making the same old vlogs which include nothing but your exercise regime and what kind of takeout you prefer.” Troy snickered at the last sentence. He lost his interest from the moment he heard there wouldn’t be any free food. “And who knows? If you are lucky, you might just bump into one of your crazy fans whom you can include in the vlog,” Hernan suggested.
Twitching his lips, Troy thought for a while before giving in, “Fine, give me two minutes. I’ll change into something better.”
Hernan chuckled, looking at his current outfit, which almost made Troy look like he just got out of bed. “I’ll be waiting in the parking lot then,” Hernan announced and made his way out of the Rose mansion—a mansion where an exclusive group of young celebrities lived, who just so happened to be close friends since their middle school years.
“Stop,” Danica let out when her eyes fell on a certain café. The cab driver hit the brakes at that instant moment and peered at the brown wavy-haired girl through the mirror. “I need to grab a cup of hot chocolate from here, if you wouldn’t mind stopping for a minute.”
The driver smiled and glanced at the coffee shop, which was famous for its special hot chocolate. Aziel was sleeping peacefully in the car, so the driver, who looked like he was in his mid-forties, assured, noticing Danic was skeptical about leaving Aziel alone in the car, “Get your cocoa. The kid is safe here.”
Pushing a few locks of her brown hair behind her ear, Danica got out of the cab. She straightened the light wrinkles that formed on her white top and dusted her mid-thigh length denim skirt before walking inside her favorite coffee shop. She stood in the long line, patiently waiting for her turn to come.
While she was looking around, her heartbeat thrummed all of a sudden. Danica huffed and wished for the line to move faster. She knew that when her heartbeat sped up, it was because something was about to happen—good or bad, it didn’t matter. Given the kind of life she was leading, she didn’t expect anything good to happen to her anymore. Even smiling wholeheartedly was hard for her nowadays.
Was it a good decision to get out of the cab just for a cup of hot chocolate? She had no idea, but at least she could keep the cab in her sights while she was waiting.
Fortunately, the line began moving faster, and before she knew it; she was standing in front of the barista.
“Oh my god!” the thirty-year-old woman who was taking the orders squealed. She couldn’t believe her eyes; it was like seeing a ghost in front of her eyes. “Is it really you, Danica?” She touched Danica’s cold hand and gasped. “Oh my god. Wait, let me bring your favorite hot chocolate.”
“Hi, Stacy.” Danica tried to paste a polite smile on her face, trying to hide her nervousness. She didn’t expect to see one of her old neighbors working at this place. “And yeah, it’s really me.”
Flashing her dimples, Stacy handed her the drink. “How long will you be staying? Are you back for good or—”
“Are you done yet?” questioned an irritated customer. “Hurry up, please.”
“Come over to my place tonight. I’ll answer all your questions there,” Danica offered and grabbed her drink before moving out of the line in a hurry.
Just as Danica was about to pull the door to leave the shop, she froze when she heard a familiar voice, “Guess who’s at ChocoVivo Café with his best friend today?” Danica reluctantly turned around and looked at the handsome man, wearing a light brown shirt over his white tee with blue jeans. His blue eyes suddenly shifted from the camera to the woman’s face who was looking straight at him. Just like her, his heart also skipped a beat. The only word that managed to slip through his mouth was her name. “Danica?”
Her breath hitched. She tumbled a step at the unexpected encounter with the guy she had a massive crush on back in school. She couldn’t believe how her heart still jumped at the first sight of him. She thought she was over him—her crush on him was years ago. But little did she know that seeing him in front of her would awaken that warm, fuzzy feeling in her chest all over again. She was all too aware that Troy Kingston had become a famous WhyNTuber. In fact, she made sure she took time out of her busy schedule to watch his daily videos every night, not that she was obsessed or anything.
“Troy,” she managed to mumble, expecting a warm greeting from him. After all, Troy had always been friendly, the life of the party type of person. She probably wouldn’t even mind if he pulled her in a tight bear hug like old times. What she didn’t expect was for him to walk right past her, making his way out of the shop without another word. He didn’t even spare her a second glance.
Danica stood there shocked at what just happened. She had bumped into her former best friend, and he just ignored her, like she was just another girl on the street. Her instincts told her to run after him, but she didn’t have that courage anymore. She didn’t know what to say to him. Was he still angry because she had left three years ago without saying a word?
“Hazel, is it really you? I can’t believe it. No long no see.” Danica got startled at Hernan’s shout, he was still as charming as ever. He has always called her ‘Hazel’ ever since middle school because of her hazel eyes.
“Yeah, same. How’s life?” Danica asked awkwardly.
“Great. What about you?” he questioned back. He was really glad to see one of his best friends after such a long time.
“Fine,” she lied, then bit her lip.
“Are you back in town now?”
“Yes.” She averted her gaze. She was in no state to talk to him at that moment. She just wanted to escape—like she had been doing for the past three years. “Aziel is alone in the cab, so I really have to go right now. See you later, Hernan,” she said before rushing out of the coffee shop.
Just as she was getting in the cab outside the shop, her hazel eyes briefly met the intense blue eyes she encountered just a few minutes ago. Troy was standing right near the café entrance with an inscrutable look on his face.
Even though she had known Troy for years, she couldn’t decipher the strange look in his eyes. Without another thought, she closed the door and said to the cab driver, “Start the car.”
Troy watched the cab leaving. He wanted to stop Danica, but he couldn’t speak up, it was as if his voice went missing. But given his confusing feelings, maybe it was better to let her leave. Right now, he was overwhelmed with unsure emotions.
Undoubtedly, he was happy to see Danica. He also wanted to ask various questions. Troy didn’t let anyone know, but he was very hurt when Danica left without saying a single word before. Then again, he couldn’t think of anything else but wanting to know how she had been doing for the three years. Has she been well? She seemed to have lost weight since the last time he saw her.
“What are you thinking, bro?” Hernan asked after placing a hand on his shoulder.
Troy almost jumped out of his skin at the sudden contact, “You scared me!”
“Well, that was the intention,” Hernan replied. “Guess who I met today?”
“Have you seen her?” Hernan was surprised that Troy wasn’t already leaping in joy. Troy simply nodded. “Anyways, what do you want to order?” Hernan asked absentmindedly as he was texting Trevor Bennett, their other best friend, and a model, about the arrival of Danica in town.
“Hot chocolate,” Troy replied with a small smile on his lips.
Hernan stopped typing on his phone at his unexpected reply and placed his hand over Troy’s forehead to check whether he was burning up or not. “You don’t have a fever. Are you sure you want hot chocolate? That was Danica’s favori—wait,” he paused. “What did I miss while flirting with that handsome dude over there? How come I didn’t see you two talking?”
Troy didn’t bother to reply and just looked in the direction Danica left, a brief smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Of course, he had every one of her favorites noted down in his head. After all, Danica Waylon was and always would be his first love.