Starting over from the Beginning

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Who is Brandon?

April stood rigid in place, letting the silence seep into the room as she didn’t dare to look at her friend’s face after her public display of affection with Mark. Cherry saw how the red enveloped her best friend’s face and opened her mouth to say something, but because of the surrounding silence, even a small tug of breath could be heard and April held her hand up towards her friend to deter her from speaking further.

“Please... don’t… say anything.” April squeaked out in a stammering voice before hiding her face in her palms. She just wanted the earth to swallow her whole.

Cherry gave April one second of space before ushering in a teasing tone. “At least I know for sure that you’re getting enough action from your hubby.”

“Shut up!” April whined and Cherry fell in a fit of giggles at her pregnant friend’s cute reaction.

April stomped over to her friend, whose body was convulsing from all the laughing, and plopped next to her with her arms crossed over her chest as she pouted sullenly. “Having fun?”

“A lot.” Cherry’s laughter quiets down to snickers, wiping a lone tear away from her eyes using her index finger. “I’ve missed you, girl.”

On hearing Cherry say that, April’s sullen look dispersed to have a simpered smile take over as she rolled her eyes at her friend and muttered, “I’ve missed you too.”

“We’ve got a lot to talk about.” Cherry said, not forgetting that April acted weird today when she called her over.

“I know. Shall we watch that K-Drama of yours?” April grabbed the remote from the coffee table, turning the wide screen TV on, before going to the streaming app.

“Of course! I have already watched a few of the episodes, but for you, I’ll watch them all over again.” Cherry answered excitedly. Her eyes scanned over the coffee table in search of something and when she didn’t find it, she turned to look at April with her eyebrows furrowed.

“Where are the snacks? You haven’t offered me anything to drink either. What kind of terrible host are you?”

“The type of host who has promoted you to a tenant. Serve yourself. This is not your first time visiting me. You know damn well where the kitchen is.” Commented April as she scrolled through the dramas in search of the one that April wanted to watch.

To that, Cherry narrowed her eyes begrudgingly at her friend, but said nothing and rose from the couch, trudging solemnly towards the kitchen as she grumbled under her breath at how mean her friend was and seconds later she appeared back in the parlor, carrying a bunch of snacks in her arms.

The sun had descended from the sky, making ways for the moving clouds to decorate the sky. The ladies were many episodes deep in the drama where even April got sucked in the pace. Her focused gaze fixed on the screen that displayed a complex love story between a human girl and a goblin, while her hands were mindlessly filling her mouth with snacks when suddenly-

“Okay, cough up. What’s the real reason that you called me over?”

April stopped chewing on a piece of chocolate as she blinked obtuse at Cherry.

“Hmm? What do you mean? Can I not ask my friend to come over because I miss her?”

Cherry snort. “yeah right. You never offer to watch a K-Drama with me unless something is really eating you up.” She gave April a penetrating look to receive a wobbly smile.

“There’s really nothing going on. I just... really missed your company.” Her eyes lowered down together with the hand that held the piece of chocolate as she wore a sad smile on her face. The words drawn from her mouth sounded happy, but there was a hint of sadness in there, which was loud for Cherry to hear, causing her brows to furrow in suspicions. For the past few days, because of Mark’s weird behavior when it came to hanging out with her friends, April worried whether Mark was reverting to his old ways, which was locking her up in a room with cameras pointing at her. She also felt out of place with the people living in this luxurious apartment, and with each step she took out of the building, she could hear the clacking sounds of shoes hitting the pavement that stopped when she stopped.

Anxiety kept building up until it turned into a full panic that reigned her body and clouded her judgment where she was quick to call her best friend, who didn’t know that April’s husband was someone who gave her sleepless nights from his incessantly stalking and was next to that an ex-murderer now a hired hitman. An important fact that she forgot about until Mark and Cherry waltzed into the apartment. She couldn’t tell Cherry the truth as April made a deal with Mark to harbor that secret in exchange for her loved ones’ safety.

Thankfully, it appeared that Mark was just throwing a tantrum, and she succeeded in calming him down. But how was she going to convince Cherry that nothing happened?

April’s eyes met the caring brown ones that waited for her to elaborate on her words. “I” April starts hesitantly. “felt uneasy about my pregnancy. I’m worried whether I could be a good mom.” Unconsciously, April’s hands wrapped themselves over the baby bump. Instead of telling her friend the initial reason she called her over, she spoke of a different matter that clawed for a long time on her mind.

On hearing her friend’s concern, a sad smile painted Cherry’s lips as she knew why April was so anxious about becoming a mom knowing her background. She had lost her dad at a young age and her mom, who couldn’t accept the loss of her husband, spiraled into depression and drowned herself in alcohol that caused her to neglect her young child, April, to defend for herself. At some point, April’s mom met a new man whose name is not worth remembering, and married him. That man had done some despicable things to April that made Cherry’s stomach churn and her eyes burn with unshed tears at the lone thought of it. But the worst thing was that April’s mom watched it all happen.

April run away soon from that hellhole and was by herself ever since. Years went by and her mom had found her once again, apologizing and telling her she was sorry and that she had divorced the man that brought a harrowing experience on her daughter and found someone else who seems to be a good man according to April. Though April reconciled with her mom, the scars still run deep. She was worried that she would be just like her mom and give her child a hard childhood. But she was nothing like her mom and she will never end up like her, thought Cherry, and placed her hand over April’s hand that laid on her belly.

“You’ll be an awesome mom. I can guarantee that.” April nodded her head to that but didn’t seem fully convinced. “Besides, your child got a cool auntie like me who will look out for them if something ever happens.” Cherry added assuringly, giving a firm squeeze to April’s hand earning a small smile from her.

“Thanks Cher.” April exhaled, feeling some weight being lifted off her shoulders.

“But tell me about your day. We haven’t seen each other for a while and I’m sure that I missed something.” April segued to a different subject, to something less heavy and not fearsome. Something that could air the room and bring some smiles on to their faces.

But the different subject wasn’t as lighthearted as April thought as Cherry told her everything that had occurred today. How Brandon was acting secretive lately, how her friends at work accused Brandon of cheating, and how Leona’s words offended her. When done talking about her day, the drama that failed to keep their attention grasped was already sequencing to the next episode, and April leisurely plopped a new piece of chocolate in her mouth.

“Was she really wrong though for saying that?” April asked, talking about the last words said by Leona to Cherry.

April’s words got Cherry’s brows raised, and she found herself leaning away from her friend, as she couldn’t believe what she just heard. “You can’t be seriously agreeing with what she said.”

“Why not?”

“Because we are talking about Brandon here! My husband and your longtime friend.” Cherry exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air to emphasize the agitation that she felt on seeing her best friend siding with someone else. “You know Brandon better than anyone else!”

“Do I really though?”

“What?”

April sighed before grabbing the remote to put the drama on pause, her eyes then focusing their attention on her scowling friend. “What do I really know about Brandon, no,” Closing her eyes, she shook her head before opening them again. “what do we both really know about Brandon?” April gently took the hands that were still helplessly in the air in her hands, bringing them down and cradling them on her lap as her thumb brushed over the back of Cherry’s hand to calm her down.

“When you told me what happened today, something in the back of my mind clicked. Do you know what Brandon does outside of meeting with us or you? Or do you know with whom he hangs out with besides us?”

Cherry’s eyes furrowed in hardened concentration- she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know what her husband does in his free time when he’s not with her or at work. She really didn’t know.

April continued, not noticing how her friend’s face kept paling at each word that escaped her mouth. “We don’t even know nor met his family.”

“But I talked to his aunt on video call.” Cherry countered with her uneven voice that was losing its confidence.

“You spoke to her once or twice at most and how long time ago was that?” Years ago. At the beginning, when they just started dating, Cherry inquired Brandon about his family, but he told her he had lost his parents at a young age and the only relative that he knew was his aunt who lived at the other side of the country.

Every time when she opened the matter of his family and wanted to know how his parents passed away, Cherry would come on the receiving end of her husband’s rusty smile that brought a guilty pang in her heart. She concluded it was a sensitive subject that was better left alone. The most important thing, after all, was that they loved each other.

But the uneasiness that brewed in the pit of her stomach was telling her that only loving each other would not be enough anymore. A question that she always wanted to ask but got driven back in to the dark corner of her mind by her rose-tinted glasses finally pushed through the barrier called ignorance.

Who is Brandon?

On seeing the dull brown eyes void of light as Cherry wandered in her thoughts, April brought her hand up to hold her friend’s cheek, that lost its rosy color. “Cher.”

Cherry silently looked at April.

“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that Brandon is a bad guy. He’s nice and sweet to you, but like an annoying brother to me.” April’s eyes rolled and she groaned petulantly at the memories of Brandon relentlessly teasing her. “I care about Brandon, but I care about you way more, so I can’t push away the thought that it is weird how you, his own wife, don’t even know what his job exactly is or where he even works. What if something happens to him at work? You wouldn’t be able to know where to find him.”

“I know…” Cherry sighs, turning her head away from the hand that cradled her cheek. Cherry knew that this was strange. She had tried to coax Brandon many times before in telling her about his job and his colleagues or friends, and every time Brandon would skillfully maneuver himself around it by changing the subject or by brushing it off, telling her not to worry about it. Brandon was Cherry’s first serious relationship, and she didn’t know whether to keep pressing for an answer as she feared upsetting her lover and would always yield in the end, brainwashing herself that it was okay to not know. Every couple’s relationship is unique and got their weirdness. So did hers.

“I’m not telling you to smack the answer out of him. What I am telling you is to not ignore your instinct. People who ignore their instincts got hit harder by their retribution. If there’s even a small voice that tells you that this isn’t right, listen to it.”

Like her teeth that sunk itself into her bottom lip that she drew in her mouth, Cherry let the words formed by her dear friend sink in when a melodious sound rebounded throughout the penthouse.

“Who could that be?” April asked herself as she rose from the couch to walk towards the intercom. Cherry’s gaze watched how her friend’s figure disappeared in the hallway and she let out an exhale that she had been holding in all this time, but the air that escaped her body got immediately sucked back in when her friend’s loud voice demanded her presence, giving Cherry a fright.

“Cher! Brandon is here!”

Creases formed between her brows on hearing that. Why is he here so early? She wondered to herself when her eyes darted to the window and her eyes widen in astonishment to see how the sun that was once been up in the sky to now set in the horizon, creating shadows that would slowly engulfed the city if it wasn’t for the streetlights.

How did time slip by so fast? They weren’t even that far in the drama that they were watching, and she already needed to leave. Cherry stood up from the couch and made her way to where her friend was standing, her arms crossed and her brows crashed against each other. Her mouth making wide motions. Surely Brandon said something to piss her friend off like always.

Hearing the approaching footsteps that belonged to her pregnant friend, April’s mossy green eyes momentarily shifted to her friend before looking back at the screen of the intercom. “I’m sending your wife out right now, so get your ugly mug off my screen.”

“Ouch” sounded the voice that feigned sadness. “Well, you’re not really great to look at either-” April was quick to silence Brandon by pressing on the red button, shutting off the screen. She turned to look at Cherry with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes and the veins on her temple were thumping angrily.

“You should warn him to not make a pregnant woman angry. He wouldn’t be able to handle my vengeance.”

“I will tell him that.” Cherry tittered and rushed to put her shoes on, not wanting to be on the receiving end of her friend’s anger. She already had to suffer under Mr. Moore’s angry mood. No need to go through something like that again.

“Cher.” April called as Cherry opened the door to have her look over her shoulder, brown eyes meeting the smiling face of April.

“Don’t falter. Stay strong in your shoes. I’m sure that whatever is going on with Brandon that it will turn out fine.”

Cherry gave her friend a warm smile, and she ushered a ‘thank you’ before exiting the door. The smile that lingered on April’s face went flaccid when the door closed and her face countered with worry. She prayed that everything will truly turn out alright for her friend. Though she said that everything would be fine, the sinister smile that she perceived from Brandon on her friend’s wedding day had stained her image that she had over him and the foreboding feeling that she felt ever since never left. But she didn’t want to jump to a sudden conclusion and kept quiet as to not disquiet her pregnant friend any further.

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