Making a Decision
Away from the hospital, an elder couple enters a house after coming back from grocery shopping. Welcomed by darkness and piled-up dust scattered on the first soft breeze seeping into the house, inducing a sneeze from the older woman.
The old man laughed, watching how his wife cutely wiggled her nose to prevent another sneeze from coming and said, “It seems that our son-in-law hasn’t come home ever since Cherry got in the accident.”
“It felt like the world was ending when I heard about it. Can’t imagine how Brandon must have been feeling.” Cherry’s mom said with an understanding sigh.
Removing their coats and shoes, they entered further in the dim house, threading their way in to the kitchen. Placing the groceries on the counter, Cherry’s mom said, “I will start preparing dinner. You can make yourself comfortable.” and rolled up the scuffs of her sleeves, before pulling out the vegetables.
“You sure you don’t want me to help you?” The husband asked, his hand already gripping the handle of the fridge.
“That’s sweet, but I got this, Richard. You’re not familiar with their kitchen yet and I’m worried that you’ll hurt yourself more than you’re going to be helpful.”
“I’m not that bad.” Richard grumbled petulantly, rolling his eyes at his wife before opening the fridge. His face instantly beamed at the sight of the stashed away cans of beer. Grabbing the can of beer, he popped the tab before taking a big gulp out of it.
As he was taking a sip from the corner of his eyes, Richard noticed how the soft lines on his wife’s face deepened. The corner of her lips tugged down with a grimace. Already knowing what brooded his wife’s mind, Richard pulled the can away from his lips. He closed the space between them by one step and placed a hand on his wife’s shoulder, his other hand still holding on to the chilled can.
“Still worried about it?” Hearing the question, the scowl on her face deepened.
Wearing a smile on his face, Richard gave a small squeeze to her shoulder. A squeeze that wasn’t meant to bruise but meant to encourage. “Don’t worry Bri. You saw our daughter, and she’s fine. Though it was unfortunate that she got in the accident and suffered memory loss. We were at least able to confirm that she remembers nothing from that time and she never will.”
Briana’s lips pressed into a thin line. She placed the knife down on the cutting board and turned to the side facing her husband, who shared the same height as her. “I know, but I just can’t let this bad feeling go-”
“Ssshh.” Richard moved his hand from her shoulder to her head, stroking it gently from crown to the nape. Behind her blue eyes, there was a sharp glint.
“Richard Andres Baker, did you just hush me? What did I say about that-!” Briana said through gritted teeth as her hand went for Richard’s cheek, pinching it between her thumb and index finger with all her might.
“O-Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I’m sorry!” The hand that was patting Briana’s head a second ago stilled, its fingers spread with tensity, twitching each time pressure got exerted on his cheek. His body shrunk away, trying to flee, but like a fish caught on a hook, Briana didn’t let go. “I won’t do it anymore!”
“You better!” Giving Richard’s cheek one last good pinch, Briana let go with a huff.
Richard stumbled a step back from the pain, placing his hand on his bruised cheek, trying to soothe away the red tint. “God, that hurt. Have you been training in secret, honey?”
“I’m not sure if you would still be standing in front of me if I was.” Narrowing her gaze at her husband, she folder her arms in front of her chest.
Richard chuckled nervously before closing their distance again. Cupping Briana’s face, he said as he peered into those lovely sea-blue eyes, “I was only trying to calm you down, Bri. You have been jittery ever since the news.”
Briana’s irritation shimmered down. “I know, but-”
Her words never got the chance to leave her mouth as Richard pressed his lips on hers, minimizing the anxiety circling in her gut. Disconnecting their lips, he softly bumped his forehead against hers, whispering in his calming voice, “We will be fine, Bri. Our family will be fine.”
Briana placed her hands over the hands that cupped her face, sighing as she closed her eyes, trying to ride on his easiness. “I hope that you’re right.”
The next day, darkness created by clouds drew over the city. Water falling from the sky spotting the ground. The pitter-patter sound amplified over time, hitting the windowpane, drenching it until the outside world became a blur. The earth using this time to get nourished and the people using this time to shelter themselves in their homes, enjoying their alone time.
In one room of the hospital, laughter seeped through the gaps of the door, brightening up the hallways. Cherry and April both sat on the bed, their legs stretched out as their backs perched on the headboard. Giggling as they went through the pictures stored on April’s phone.
“Oh! And this one!” April said, her voice edged with mirth. Her finger stops swiping at a picture with Brandon hurled over a toilet while Cherry and April made a peace sign in front of the camera. “This picture got taken at a restaurant after we forced Brandon to chow down a mega large pizza in an hour.”
Cherry’s shoulders trembled as she tried to keep her laughter in. “Why did we do that?”
“Because the price was a free ticket to all you can eat ice cream for a year!”
“No way! Did we win?”
April grinned ear to ear. “Obviously we did. Brandon hated us after that- wait no, let me rephrase that. He hated me after that. With you, he acted as if you weren’t my accomplisher.” April scoffed at the remembrance of Brandon’s stale attitude after that. That man made sure to let April know about his sufferings in the pettiest way. Putting salt in her tea, telling her the wrong time and place of their meetings so that she would have to wake up at the crack of dawn, but still end up running to the right meeting place- oh now she’s annoyed. The tendons at her temple were twitching together with her brow.
While April mulled over the past that got her smoldering with resentment, Cherry took the moment to continue scrolling through the phone. The look in her eyes kept teetering between curiosity and uneasiness. “It’s sad that I don’t remember any of these moments. It seems that we had a blast.” Cherry confessed, her face still holding a smile but her voice coveting edges of wistfulness.
She looked so happy in these pictures. She never knew that her lips could stretch so wide in a smile. And those delighted smiles only happened around him. Her husband. She is still weary of him, hesitant and scared at how to world around her has moved on fast while she’s still stuck in the past, which for her was the present.
Her hands wrapped around her arms, turning herself small. It felt like some random spirit possessed her, had fun with her body, and when they were done, gave her body back after turning her world upside down.
Noticing the shift in emotions in her friend, April placed her hand on Cherry’s, giving it a slight squeeze to gain her attention. “This must all seem so crazy to you, right? Being married.”
And Pregnant- was pregnant, Cherry thought once again as her eyes lowered to April’s stomach, hidden behind maternity clothes, but its presence jarring to Cherry. She couldn’t help but wonder how her own child would have felt in her arms if she had only just hadn’t chosen that damn day to drive.
There was this sickening twist in her stomach and she had to force herself to tear her forlorn gaze away from her friend’s protruding belly, afraid she may start spilling out words that aren’t refundable.
April drew in her bottom lip between her teeth, watching how her friend’s face turned a few shades darker. She pondered, her mind and feelings conflicting with each other about the choice of words that she should use for the discouraged Cherry. Last time April was too elated at the news of her friend waking up from her deep slumber that she wasn’t able to think straight. But after she went home, suspicions toward Brandon budded inside of her and each passing day was like water for the growing bud, allowing April to think more. She couldn’t help but think that Cherry’s accident was weird, but she didn’t have any evidence to back her thoughts up. At the same time, she didn’t want to doubt one of her friends. Also, she doubts that Cherry is in need of a barrage of unwanted worries.
“But Brandon- ugh I can’t believe that I’m going to say this.” April groaned begrudgingly, cutting herself off as she tilted her head heavenward, contemplating if she should carry on. “His ego will start the grow if he hears this, so make sure not to repeat the words that I’m about to tell you, okay?” She pressed with urgency behind her voice, receiving a slow nod from Cherry.
“Brandon is a good man. I have witnessed the weight of love that he carries for you, as I was forced to be the spectator for many years. I’m not telling you to accept him immediately, but consider giving him a chance. Observe him for a while and after that, decide if you still want to be with him.” None of the words spoken by April was a lie, but she made sure to put emphasis on the word ‘observe,’ giving her friend a subtle hint. Not noticing how that hint flew over Cherry’s head.
Cherry soaked in the words like a sponge. She had contemplated staying with her parents for a while until every lost fragment in her head got sorted out before deciding, but seeing the pictures and hearing her friend’s opinion, should she perhaps give Brandon a chance?
Three knocks sounded from behind the door, startling both Cherry and April out of their engaging conversation.
“Y-Yes?” Cherry answered. The door slides open a hairsbreadth, revealing Brandon’s head peeking through.
“May I come in?” His eyes wandering from April to Cherry- a sign that it was time for April to hit the road again.
“Sure, I was going to leave now, anyway.” April said, swinging her legs over the bed. Cherry panicked for a moment and reached for her friend’s sleeve, twisting her fingers in the soft fabric. Cherry threw a glance over her shoulder, her brows quizzical raised at her friend, whose enlarged eyes implored her not to go, shaking her head deliberately.
April offered her a benign smile, her lips shaping out the letters that spelled ‘You will be fine.’ Carefully she pried herself free from her friend’s vine like hold, throttling her way out of the room, but not before giving one last wary glance over her shoulder.
Brandon stepped into the room and Cherry noticed him carrying a plate on top of it, sitting a bunch of apples as he closed the door behind him. “I hope apples are still your favorite.” His steps were measured and controlled, his eyes scanning Cherry’s face for any discomfort.
Cherry blinked copiously at him, her face blank but a thunder brewing in her chest. Keeping her friend’s words in mind, she mused in a soft voice. “It is.” Her answer was a permission, giving him the approval to come closer.
The muscles in Brandon’s face relaxed, his smile turning natural. He didn’t realize how nervous he was for Cherry’s reaction until he felt his taut shoulders loosen and droop as he took a seat next to her bed. Placing the plate on his lap, he cuts the first apple, peeling its skin in a spiral before dividing it in four pieces.
“You’re skillful with the knife.” Cherry commented, her sight fixed on the bulky fingers using the small fruit knife delicately. The movement was precise, with no faults.
Brandon froze in his seat. His gaze moving momentarily from the apple that he was holding to Cherry’s face before going back to the apple and continue slicing it.
Cherry snorts, “Not I. Whenever I try to peel an apple, I just take a chunk of its flesh with it. That’s why I just bite them instead of cutting it.”
“That’s true. I always forbade you from peeling fruit or vegetables because you would minimize their size by two-fold.” He shook his head with a quiet smile at the remembrance. “Such a waste of money.”
“I think April was wrong about you being only kind to me. You sure don’t sugarcoat your words with me.”
Brandon blinked his eyes obtuse at Cherry. “I’m sorry, but when was she ever right?”
“Ha!” Pearls of laughter escaped Cherry’s mouth, melodious and contagious, beguiling Brandon into joining her. Their chorus of snickers and giggles filling the room.
“That’s mean.” She said, her words still holding beats of laughter. Eyes closed in the shape of crescent moons as she held her stomach with her hands, a few groans interrupting her joys as her body was still sore with bruises that were now turning nauseas green.
She didn’t notice how Brandon turned reticent next to her or how his eyes locked on to her held a different meaning, like a predator prowling on its prey. How his heart beats out of excitement for the new chance blessed to him or how it cried out for her affection.
He punctured the sliced apple with the fork, bringing it to Cherry’s mouth. Cherry’s fit of laughter got lost at the succulent essence coating her lips and the aroma tickling her nose. She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the piece of fruit. Her eyes narrowed, puckering the skin between her soft brows. Not because Brandon was offering to feed her, but because her lips were unwittingly wrapping themselves around the delicacy as if it was a motion ingrate in her.
The passage would repeat; Brandon poking an apple and Cherry receiving it with no complaints or words. Her chews mixed with the rattling of the window beaded down by icy droplets resounding inside the lit room until the utensil got placed back on the empty plate.
Though the cautiousness that she held towards Brandon hasn’t subsided yet, the silence that shimmied between them was cordial and Cherry didn’t mind it if it stayed liked that.
“But I guess April wasn’t totally wrong about me.”
The hand that was feeding Cherry a second ago was now caressing her face. The pad of Brandon’s thumb swiping across her bottom lip, catching the leftover sweetness of the fruit before giving it a taste himself. “After all, I don’t give this kind of service to anyone but you.”
He had done it so casually that Cherry had no time to react and when the sensations of his fingers left her skin, making way for the cold hospital air to graze it, her face flushed red and her breathing got hitched.
“That surprises me.”
“Why? Would you like some more apples?” He asked and when Cherry shook her head, placed the plate away on the nightstand next to her bed.
“I pegged you to be bristled or even hate me after my reckless behavior got me to lose our child.” She whispered, only to receive a blank look from Brandon. Luring out the chastising voice in her head, haunting her mind and telling her he was only pretending to be not angry at her, not knowing that Brandon was simply stunned as he had already forgotten about the child and didn’t know what to say.
When he saw Cherry’s gaze leveling anxiously down to the blanket that was repeatedly being smoothed down by her clammy hands, he said as he slipped his hand in hers, interlacing their fingers,
“I’m sad about the loss of our child, but I could never hate you.” Using his other hand, he brushed some hair strands behind her ear. “I’m just thankful that you came back to me.”
Though hearing his words brought a morsel of relief to Cherry, the pressure on her chest was unmovable, robbing her of her breath whenever she thought of the baby. Somehow, the touch of Brandon’s fingers was pertinent in grappling her attention to the here and now.
Noticing how her sight slid to their interlinked hands, Brandon asked,
“Do you hate it?”
She arched her eyebrow at him, the corner of her lips turning up an inch. “Now you’re asking?”
He shrugs, his fingers still messaging hers. “Better now than never. I don’t want my wife to hate me.”
Wife... that sounds so weird, Cherry thought. She never thought that she would ever be someone’s wife, but it looks like she was able to scam someone in to marrying her weird ass.
“Do you hate it? Me referring to you as my wife?” Brandon inquired, letting Cherry know she made her thoughts transparent once again.
“Why do you keep asking whether I hate something when you’re already doing it, anyway? Shouldn’t you first ask me if I’m okay with it before even doing it?”
“Then do you like it?” He probed.
“You holding my hand or you calling me wife?”
“You calling me wife is a bit... uncomfortable.” She answered truthfully, but hesitantly as she didn’t want her words to dismay him. Brandon nodded thoughtfully. His eyes fleetingly flickered away from hers before snapping back ones she continues, tracking the lines of her moving lips. “But I don’t mind you touching me...”
Her eyes broaden, realizing how her words must have come over, but they already took flight, their destination; Brandon. Drawing a rakish smile from him that made those mischievous eyes shine brighter than ever.
“Wait! No! That’s not what I meant! I just meant that I’m okay with you holding my hand.”
He hummed in response, the smile on his face never losing strength, telling her he wasn’t even listening anymore and already had drawn his own conclusion. Bringing out a groan laden with embarrassment from Cherry as she hid her bright red face in her hands.
“I’m an idiot.”
Brandon grins. “But you’re my idiot.” Cherry muttered something incoherently, as if telling him to cease his chatter. “A cute idiot.” He added.
“Putting an adjective in front of idiot will not make me feel any less than an idiot.” Cherry remarked, narrowing her eyes to a pinprick, sending a glare to Brandon through the gaps of her fingers.
“But is it making you feel like going home with me isn’t such a bad choice?” He asked expectantly, with his brows touching his hairline and his smile exposing the pearly white teeth behind his lips. His timber like voice taking a sweet turn, imitating a child who’s begging their parent for a candy, beguiling Cherry from her hiding spot.
“That- did you-”
“I overheard you and April talking before I came. Sorry about that.”
“But I promise you that there’s nothing for you to worry about-” His words got cut off by Cherry’s hand pressing the words back in his mouth.
“Will you just let me talk?” She glowered.
Gently, he removed the hand that covered his mouth. “That depends. Are you going to reject or accept me?”
She cocked her eyebrow, a subtle smile present on her face. “Is that a red flag I’m hearing?” She taunted.
“Don’t worry, my red flags aren’t toxic as they became red from my undying love for you.” He wiggled his brows at Cherry and she almost gagged on reflex from this man’s cheesiness.
“I’m serious Brandon.”
“And so am I.” He retorted with a frown, irritation lacing his voice. “If you think that I’m just going to wave you off and let you go with a dumb smile without even trying to keep you with me, then you’re dead wrong. You may have fallen on your head, but not I. I know what I want.” He hooked his finger under her chin, making sure that Cherry saw his humorless eyes, freighted with seriousness and a deep desire that shot tingles through her body. “I want you, Cherry.”
It felt like her chin got stung by a hot iron and jerked her head away from the finger that acted like a vine, spreading its roots and infecting the rest of Cherry’s body with a heat that got her heart trembling.
“Are you always this brazen?” She sputtered out the question and Brandon’s smile became hauntingly sweet, creating the dust of pink across Cherry’s cheeks.
“Only when I’m determined to get something.”
Her lips twisted in a disgruntled frown. “I’m not some kind of object.”
“No, you’re not.” Brandon agrees. “You’re a prize that I want to win so badly that I’m going mad.” He brought their intertwined hands to his face peppering kisses down the back of her hand, the last kiss lasting longer before he says, “So what do you say? Will you go home with me?” The lips that were saying those words were moving against Cherry’s skin. The sensation crawling up her skin and infesting her brain, making it difficult for her to think straight.
Her lips pressed into a slight grimace, April’s words weighting her mind as she observed the clear eyes of the man who the world had claimed to be her husband. Was there any reason she shouldn’t go with him when her own best friend has confirmed his identity and has (in her own weird way) approved of him?
With a resigning sigh, she answered, “Okay.” Brandon’s eyes lit up, his lips twisting, fighting to hold back a grin. “Under one condition.” Cherry added pointedly, holding up her index finger.
Brandon nodded his head vehemently. So much that Cherry worried that his head would fall off. “Whatever it is, I will do it.”