This story is of alternative fiction. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, either stop reading now or change the laws for love should never be illegal. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
Disclaimer: The story is all mine. Please do not use it nor lift off it.
Disclaimers: The song Inside of You is by Madonna,
copyrights of Maverick Recording Co, Warner Group Co, and Sire Records Co. No
No one has seen her true face after she threw on that cloak. it was rumoured that this woman was once ravishing. Her beauty surpassed that of the gods. Her smile could make hearts melt and crying babies happy; and when she walked through the crowds, heads would turn and a sense of peace and wonder would settle over the people. Such, was her beauty. Her name was Rowanna. She had long straight hair the color of the darkest night, and sparkling sapphire eyes. Look into her eyes, they said, and you'll forever fall under her spell.
But that was in the past. The lady fell ill. Or that's what the people said. A sickness. An illness. Infectious, probably. Everyone kept out of her way. She was scorned at. People who once adored her spat on her. No one opened their doors for her. Mothers wheeled their children away from her, and taught them to throw stones at her. People, who once loved her, now detested her.
Her disease claimed her years ago. More correctly said, it came to be known. She fell in love. with a woman. That was wrong. Or so it says. From that moment on, she was condemned. No matter her dazzling smile. Who cared about her kindness and loveliness? She was plagued by the worst sickness of all. Homosexuality.
Cammy was a plain girl. She had short blonde hair that framed her face. Her features were not spectacular. Her brown eyes, though big and luscious, often had a glassy look to them. Her skin was deathly pale. The only thing that complimented her was her full sensous lips. Many people would not even notice Cammy at the first, second, or even the third glance. The others who did were probably attracted to her wealth. Cammy was the only daughter of the rich merchant Tobias. Everyone had, at one point or other, heard of him. Dressed in only the most expensive fineries, Tobias had a whole team of servants at his biddings. The town council respected him, and all the other merchants would practically fall at his feet if they were asked to. That was how rich Tobias was. And that was probably the only reason why Cammy had any suitors at her door at all.
Cammy had a lonely childhood. Her only friends were her servants and her long line of nannies who buttered her up no end. It sickened her, their false warmth and adoration. It was one rainy day when Cammy and her father were at the local tavern where she first set her eyes upon Rowanna. Rowanna was working as the barmaid there and was serving them. Cammy had taken in all her loveliness and demanded that Rowanna be her personal maid. Shocked at first, Rowanna was about to reject the offer when Tobias took out such a big bag of gold that no one could ever refuse. Wide eyed and thinking of her sick mother, Rowanna took the offer and ever since then, Cammy and her were inseparable.
When Rowanna was led to her room at Tobias' mansion, she was
flabberghasted. Her room was bigger than the tavern's best suite and it was
only the personal maid's chamber! Never had Rowanna seen so much finery than
she did as she walked into the mansion. The garden, for one was so huge that
if crops were grown there, the poorer section of the village would be well fed.
There was a pond, no, lake in the garden with ducks sitting on the glassy surface.
As the gates closed, she could almost swear that that was the gate that separates
heaven and earth. Then her eyes fell upon the mansion. Gods, the building was
huge. As the big oak doors swung open, she stepped into a hall of gold. Well,
that was what it seemed. Everything was in the color gold. The floor was tiled
with gold marble. The windows were draped with gold curtains. The stairway balestier
was gold. The steps.. Gold.
What is it with this man?she thought. Too rich and nowhere to spend his money?
"Your room is upstairs... Rowanna, right?" Cammy's bored voice broke into her musings. She turned to look at Cammy and then wondered for the zillionth time why she was asked to be her personal maid.
As the days went by, Rowanna found herself more and more drawn towards Cammy. She had first found her a boring plain jane and had told herself that she just needed a younger companion to serve her. But boring was the last adjective that could describe Cammy. She was.. Adventurous, interesting, and vibrant. She was full of life and fire... Something that no one had ever bothered to get close enough to realise. Whenever they were alone, which was rather often, Cammy would tell her stories about the faraway lands. Cammy would capture her attention with one hand movement and kept her enraptured in the tales she spun. Soon, Rowanna felt that Cammy was the only girl that would ever make her life complete. No one knew what the two girls talked about, their heads bent close. No one knew how Cammy really was and no one cared. Tobias was just glad that Cammy stopped being so lifeless. No one knew... That Cammy and Rowanna fell in love. Or rather, Rowanna did.
Two summers passed. It was another day of loving when Tobias suddenly decided that he wanted to talk to Cammy. He opened her room door and caught his precious daughter naked with beautiful Rowanna astride her. Red in the face, Tobias had Rowanna thrown in the streets with just the dress on her back and a black cloak. Cammy had turned around and accused Rowanna of seducing her. Tears and begging had done nothing to take away the cold hard look in her lover's eyes. Tobias arranged for Cammy to be married to a prestigious male of the next town and Rowanna was ancient history as long as he was concerned. Till this very day, Rowanna could not forget the look of disgust on Cammy's face when she was turned out. The betrayal and hurt that was etched on her tearstreaked face could have broken thousands of hearts but Cammy had just spat on her and closed the door. From that day onwards, Rowanna closed her worn and battered heart.
The red and amber autumn foliage should have enlivened the scene before her eyes but everything was grim and bleak to her. Rowanna drew her cloak around her more tightly and sat down in the woods. She had taken a wandering life. Nothing had meant anything to her anymore. She clenched her jaws, stood up and trudged on. Her meagre meal of stale bread and cheese would not last very long. She felt tears rushing to come out but stilled herself. Never was she going to cry again.
As she approached the next town, Rowanna scanned the filthy
streets for somewhere she could sleep in the night. She spotted an alley and
turned in, pulling her hood more closely than ever. She huddled in the pile
of rags and dirt, trying to derive some warmth from them. She shut her eyes,
envisioning Cammy's heartless face. Hate grew within her, and it is from that
hate that she finds the strength to live. Thud... Something landed on
the dirty ground at her feet. She peered through the folds of the cloak and
saw that someone had thrown his rubbish there. She undid the bag and rummaged
through the contents, hoping for something to eat.
"Here." Came a voice. She looked up and saw a dark haired girl offer her some cake. She started to look away but something in those eyes stopped her.
"We'll share. I still have a bit." came the soft voice again.
Not wanting the charity but hunger overriding her will, Rowawnna snatched at the cake. The girl sat beside her. Rowanna flinched as the girl brushed against her accidentally. As she started to chew on the stale cake, she quietly observed the other girl who was munching hungrily too. The girl was average built, dark shoulder length wavey hair. She couldn't see anything else clearly as her hood obstructed her but she remembered that the girl's eyes were gray when she first offered her the cake. The girl looked up suddenly and Rowanna looked away hurriedly.
"My name is Ling." she said with a small smile. Seeing that Rowanna made no move to introduce herself, Ling continued and said, "My parents were too poor and they sold me to the slavers. I escaped and have been wandering round."
Rowanna had finished her cake by now and rose to leave.
"There's nowhere else to go in this town." Ling interrupted silently. "Please don't leave." she added, barely a whisper.
Rowanna almost didn't catch it. She flickered a glance at the now sombre looking girl, and saw the plea in her face. She didn't reply, but just sat down and tried to sleep in the cold night. Ling looked pleased and cuddled against the wall. Rowanna opened her eyes slightly and saw that Ling had only a crude peasant dress on.
"Come here" She said gruffly, offering some warmth from her cloak. Ling's eyes shot open, stunned momentarily by the sound of her voice and scuttled over. "I'm not being nice. This is payback for the piece of cake." Ling heard Rowanna mutter before she fell asleep.
Dawn broke. It was a gray morning. Everything, however little, that the sun illuminated looked deathly pale. Rowanna opened her eyes and started to get up when she felt a soft body beside hers. Memory rushed back to her and she settled back down. She couldn't wait to get moving. But something just stopped her from waking the girl up from her slumber. She wondered yet again what brought the girl to her.
Ling. That's what the girl said her name was. She breathed out heavily and Ling stirred. Rowanna watched her as she rubbed her eyes and looked around. She saw that Ling was glad when her gaze dropped on Rowanna's form. Rowanna got up.
"Where are you going?" Ling asked.
"Off." Came the reply.
"C-can I come? I promise you I won't be a bother..." Came the meek request.
Rowanna didn't bother answering and walked off. "Please?" Ling was following her. "I'll do anything. I'll be your servant, I'll steal for you. I'll..."
Rowanna whipped her head around when she heard that and said coldly "I travel alone." Then she resumed her long strides.
"I can't stay here. I have to leave... Please take me... Please? They'll kill me if they find me... Please?"
Rowanna stopped. Ling saw that she was considering. "Till the next town, girl." She growled.
"As long as you let me leave with you." Came the happy reply. Rowanna noted that Ling did not agree to her demand but continued to walk.
They stopped at a lake. Rowanna stared at the calm water briefly and started taking off her clothes.
"I-isn't it a little cold...?" Rowanna ignored the question and stepped into the cold water. They had no choice. No money meant no bath. She'd be damned if she had to carry any more of that smell with her. Ling imitated her actions and lowered herself into the freezing water.
"Ooo-ooohhh..." She muttered. She scrubbed at herself and looked up to see the mystery woman doing the same thing.
She never told me her name, Ling thought. This was the first time Ling had the chance to see the mystery woman's face.
She's so beautiful... Why is she so hard and cold?
While Ling was doing her quiet speculation, she failed to see that Rowanna had looked up and saw her staring at her. The next thing she knew, she was staring at those ice blue eyes. Ling found that she couldn't pull away from that strong magnetic gaze. She sucked in her breath and waited. Rowanna was the one who looked away first.
"What?" Came the question. Ling wasn't sure she had uttered the question.
"What are you looking at?"
Ling recollected herself. "Was just wondering what your name is."
Her mystery woman didn't speak. They got up from the lake and put on their filthy rags.
"Rowanna." Ling's head snapped up, unsure if she had spoken. "My name." Cold blue eyes looked straight at her again. Ling felt that her soul was probed twice in the last hour.
They collected firewood and settled down after a long day's walk. Ling felt for her bag. She took out a loaf of stale bread and handed it to Rowanna. "It's all that I have."
Rowanna raised her head. "You eat it. I'm not hungry." What a lie. Her stomach was rumbling so much that she could eat a cow! But somehow, she felt that she had to take care of Ling.
"Really? Cos I'm really not hungry either. I thought maybe you could help me finish this horrid piece of rock."
Rowanna narrowed her eyes at Ling. "We'll eat it together." This girl could read her like a book.
"So... Why're you travelling?" Ling asked after the meal. Sensing that she was stepping into unwanted territory when she saw Rowanna stiffen up comsiderably, Ling said "Well I couldn't care less. But I know you'd wanna know my story so here it goes." She swiftly changed the subject. It was all Rowanna could do not to smile. In the next hour or two, Ling told her entire life story, from her parents to her sisters and her dogs and chickens in her farmhouse back in her hometown. Rowanna acted as if she couldn't have cared less if Ling's dogs had laid eggs but in truth she was grateful for some human interaction.
I felt her hand touch me. So soft, like a butterfly's wings brushing against my skin. I yearn... She doesn't know how long I've yearned for her touch. That light caress, setting my cool skin on fire. Sending sparks of desire to the pits of my stomach. That one touch. So real. So true. Makes me whole again...
Rowanna awoke from her restless slumber to the callings of the birds. A dream. All a dream. Rowanna sighed. She didn't know who the person in her dream was. She never did. But then again, she never had those dreams so intensely before. These few nights, the same dreams kept recurring to her. She looked over and saw the huddled form of Ling. It had seem like eons when she had a human so close to her. She sighed inwardly. The next town was just one more day away. Somehow a part of her didn't want Ling to leave.
But she must. Rowanna thought to herself. By staying on, Ling would be labelled as she was.
Sick. She flinched inwardly.
Detestful. She shouted mentally.
Disgusting. She muttered under her breath.
No. She would not entitle another human to this kind of treatment. She would not allow herself to be touched by another person again. Never was she going to be vulnerable to emotions again. She was past that. All the hurt, the anguish.
Never. she swore silently.
"Hmm?" Ling had stirred. She looked around groggily and met Rowanna's stare. "I thought I heard someone talking." She said. Rowanna looked away.
"We have to get going." She said abruptly.
Ling sat up. "Oh. Sure." She had almost gotten Rowanna out of her shell the night before. She could swear she had saw a slight smile on Rowanna's beautiful face when they were huddling close at the fire. She exhaled loudly and then picked up her pace as she saw Rowanna hurrying away.
Both of them were deep in thoughts and did not hear the sounds of approaching company. "hello ladies... Going our way?" Came the leering voices. The two vagabonds snapped out of their worlds and saw a band of three men looking at them.
"Shit." Ling muttered under her breath. She saw Rowanna fumbling for something in the cloak she had on and then saw a blade in her hand. Ling crouched in a fighting stance, praying to gods that the little kung fu her father had taught her would keep her alive. The disgusting men with wine in their breaths started at them, confident that they would have some fun in a while. A fight ensued. Rowanna's use of the blade was fast and Ling managed to bring one man down. The other however flicked out a blade and lashed out viciously at Ling.
Slash. Metal sliced flesh and Ling felt pain searing as blood started gashing out from the wound on her side. She pressed on and kicked the blade out of the man's grasp and suddenly his eyes went blank. As he fell onto the ground like a chopped tree, Ling saw that Rowanna's blade was embedded in his back. The last thing she saw before she blacked out was Rowanna rushing towards her to break her fall...
Rowanna looked at Ling twisting and turning in her restless slumber. Her moans had filled the cave that Rowanna had found in the woods for the past two nights. She dampened the cloth and started cleaning Ling. She did it gently for fear of hurting her burning skin. The gash in her side was sewn up and cleaned. However the lack of medication slowed its recovery. The fever had raged through her for the past two days with no sign of letting down. Rowanna left the cave in search of some herbs that may help Ling.
Fire... Burning... Screams... Echoing... In her head... Flames... Leaping at her... Tears... Blurring her vision... "Come! We must leave!" Papa... Her small hand clutched in his bigger, callused ones. She will be safe. She knew that papa would not let her down. Suddenly she could breathe. She turned round and round... Papa? where are you? papa... She felt darkness consume her... She swirled in the darkness... Round and round... "Nooo!"
"Are you alright?" A worried voice jolted her into the present.
She looked around groggily. A pair of blue eyes came into focus.
"W-water" She muttered through her cracked lips. She felt liquid running down her parched throat. She tried a feeble smile. "Yeah I'm okay." She said reassuringly.
"I'm glad you came round. I was so worried the herbs I brought couldn't help."
She looked at Rowanna. The woman had dark rings around her tired eyes.
"Do you know that that's the longest sentence I've ever heard you speak?" She joked weakly. Rowanna smiled.
Well i'll be damned! She smiled! Ling thought.
"Well I'd like to stay and chat but I think my eyes are protesting..." With that Ling fell unconscious again.
When she next awoke, she found Rowanna sleeping. She looked at her wound. Not bad, the redness was gone. She just felt stiff. She tried to stand up.
Not too bad for someone who was sleeping for... How long?
she didn't know how long she was unconscious. She found that she could walk with the help of the walls of the cave. She saw that the fire was burning low. She manuveured herself till she was sitting in front of the dying flames. She threw in more firewood and let her thoughts drift off in the direction of her past.
Her father was asian. He was a great healer who travelled the
lands. When he met her mother and fell in love with her, he knew that he would
be outcasted by his people. For the woman he loved had brown hair and gray eyes.
She was not one of them. It didn't matter to him. Their love was great. They
lived simply and happily alone in the mountains. Ling had a younger brother
and two younger sisters. Their home was always filled with laughter and love.
She was brought up in love. She was ten when the fire burnt down her prefect
childhood. The villagers from the village where her father was brought up in
had done it. They had waited till her grandparents had passed on and took it
onto themselves to "right all wrongs". Her grandparents had loved them too.
They were the reason why Ling and her family were not "dealt with" Till that
Ling's eyes clouded with tears. Why did they have to pay for loving someone? was her mother not human just because of her coloured eyes and differing features? her father had managed to save her and her brother but he never came out when he went in a second time to get his beloved wife and her sister. She never saw Jie, her brother, after she regained consciousness. From then, she had travelled by herself, away from her painful past, from the realisation that she would never be accepted in her society. Or rather, her father's. Till this day, she didn't know if Jie and her younger sister were still alive. Deep within she prayed that they were.
"Hey." She looked up and saw Rowanna staring at her. She wiped
her tears hastily.
Rowanna sat up. She had awoken several minutes ago and had seen Ling crying.
"What's wrong?" She asked. "Does your wound hurt?"
Ling looked confused for a minute and then seem to recall that she was injured. "Oh, no. It's fine. I was just.. Thinking. That's all." She replied with a watery smile.
"Wanna talk about it?" Came the question that surprised both Ling and Rowanna.
Maybe she's opening up thought Ling. "Sure." She started telling Rowanna about her past. Unlike the last time, she told her the sad parts that she had left out previously. The night passed with Rowanna listening spellbound to Ling's tale. By the crack of dawn, Ling was too exhausted to say "good night" And Rowanna drooped off to sleep with the thought in her head that her pain was so minute compared to this girl's. Another part of her heart melted. Before her eyes closed, she said "Good night, friend."
Ling smiled in her sleep, almost as an answer to that simple phrase.
The days passed. Ling recovered steadily and their friendship grew. Rowanna smiled more and talked more, slowly creeping out of her shell. However, she had not shared her past with Ling yet. Her wound was more or less healed. What was stopping her was the fear that Ling may reject her as her friend once she knew. Ling waited patiently. One day, she believed, Rowanna would come out completely with her.
Talk of leaving Ling behind was not discussed again. By the
time they knew it, winter passed and spring arrived with the calling of the
birds. They were companions now. And Ling was glad. It was one sunny day when
they were passing through a crowded marketplace when Ling felt Rowanna freeze
"What?" Ling inquired. She followed Rowanna's gaze and her eyes fell on a blond woman. She had a look of icy boredom on her face. The jewels that were pushed before her by the fumbling merchant did not interest her. Behind her followed about five servant girls. One of them was holding onto a baby with golden locks and another was holding a toddler boy who was about three summers old in her hand.
Cammy. It had been a long time. As if on cue, Cammy looked up and met Rowanna's stare. Cammy dismissed her maids with one hand and walked over to them. She looked distastefully at Ling and then back at Rowanna.
"Hello Rowanna. It's been a long while." Rowanna clenched her jaw.
"Don't you dare speak my name." She said quietly.
"My, my. What a temper. How do you put up with her?" She directed the question at Ling.
"That, like everything else concerning me, has nothing to do with you." Rowanna cut in.
"Poor Rowanna. Still pining after me?" Cammy taunted. "I don't think this wench here can satisfy you the way I did." She continued. She didn't see what was coming. Rowanna lifted her arm and gave her a slap right across her face.
"Y-you" She stuttered indignantly at Rowanna.
"That, was for what you did, five years ago. Oh. And I forgot to thank you."
"What for?" Cammy asked, angry at the slap but still curious.
"For setting me free from a bitch. I was young and immature, took what I felt for love. So thank you, love. You were a great fuck, but I could do better."
at this, Rowanna turned and walked away, leaving Cammy red faced and embarrassed beyond belief behind her. When they reached the turning, Rowanna and Ling could hear Cammy shouting obsceneties at them.
Ling looked worriedly at the quiet Rowanna beside her as they walked out of the town. "Rowanna?" She tried. Rowanna started laughing. "Wha-?" Ling was confused. She never expected Rowanna to laugh.
Rowanna caught her breathe. "Damn, that was rich. I should have done that years ago, instead of hating her." Ling looked at Rowanna and saw that she was in fact serious. She smiled.
"Yup. The look on her face when you said that she was a good..fuck... " She started grinning. Rowanna recovered herself. "You aren't bothered by... This... Are you?"
Ling looked at her. "No, why should I?" Rowanna let out a sigh of relief.
"So that's what's so dark about your past." Ling commented.
"Look. Whatever you prefer... However you look like, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you follow your heart. And if I see that you are doing just that, i'll support you, no matter what. That's what friends are for. They love you, no matter what."
Rowanna looked at Ling, speechless. It had been a long time she felt love and concern from another. "Thank you." Was all she could say.
"Come on," Ling chided, "Let's get going." Rowanna grinned and picked up her pace.
Rowanna and Ling decided to settle down in small village in the country where Ling was born. In that simple town, everyone was warm and friendly. They did not cast Rowanna out because of her colorings, neither did they reject Ling because of hers. The two women opened a craft shop and lived simply. Ling got married to a healer's son, Jun, the following summer and they gave birth to a lovely daughter. Rowanna lived with them and shared their happiness. She was alone yet not lonely. She accepted the fact that she may not find someone who would love her for who she really was. That was what she thought. Until the day she came into their shop.
Trying to ignore that weird uneasy feeling that had grown instead of diminishing as she thought it would, Janelle took in a deep breath. She glanced around her, taking in the same surroundings that had been where she lived for the past few months. The familiar sight did nothing to sooth her. It just added onto her already straining bundle of nerves because all that had become familiar to her did not reassure her anymore like it did in the past. She felt lost. The happenings of the past few days had caught her by storm. It had changed her life and it had made her... Feel.
The market was crowded as usual. Voices of haggling customers and exasperated merchants drifted in the humid air. Her job did not require her to arise early but that day, she just had the sudden urge to go out and take a walk amidst the people. That came as a surprise for Janelle never liked to be around people much if it was not requirred of her. As long as she could remember, Janelle had spent most of her life hurting and hating until one day she decided that she would be better off not feeling. That was when she shut out emotions. She could not remember smiling in the while 19 years of existence. The only memories of her childhood were those flashbacks in her dreams. Happiness, if ever experienced by her, was not remembered in reality. Janelle had walked through the crowd, taking in the sights and sounds around her. She looked disinterestedly at the trinklets dangling before her when an oddly familiar song reached her hearing. She looked around for the source as wave after wave of nostalgia washed over her and found herself looking into a pair of smiling gray eyes.
"Hello, can I help you?" He asked her. The young man was sitted in front of his shop, she assumed, sawing on a long piece of wood. She found herself staring at him and recovered when a look of uncertainity settled in his features. She shook her head and turned away.
"Wait." He called out to her. She did not bother and continued her walk. She was just surprised that she would meet another person who had gray eyes and asian heritage.
Night fell. The warm humid air evaporated, welcoming the cool evening breeze. The moon yonder always marked the beginning of her work. Day by day, she lived in a human shell. It blocked out all feelings of dread and disgust, but also successfully stopped any warmth or loving feelings to be exchanged. That was good, for she was hardly associated with the latter set of feelings anyway. Her job was simple. She had to sleep with her customers. Her cold facade drew many men to her, all wanting to break her, but none succeeding. Lying there on the bed, she would let her mind drift away while her customer grovelled all over her. She did not feel shame anymore. She had come to accept this as her fate. For two long years ever since that thing sold her to the slavers, her body had been abused. Well, before that already, she was raped by that thing. That thing who had found her in the forest and taken her in. That thing that claimed that he had saved her life and that she should do all she could to repay him. She was past the stage of feeling to tell him that she had rather been left to die in the woods. Her hatred for him had kept her going. After he sold her to the slavers, she had manipulated one of the slavers who was... Satisfied by her services to kill that thing. That had been the only time she felt anything. When the man let her stab that thing through his heart after a hearty beating. That, was the only time she really smiled. But it was a smile of twisted hate.
She saw him walk in. The familiar set of gray eyes scanning
the crowd at the tavern for someone. She had a distinct feeling that he was
looking for her. He caught sight of her and strolled purposefully towards her.
She eyed him coldly.
"Can I ... Have a minute with you?" He asked nervously.
"I'm paid by the hour sir, you'd have to pay for an hour even if you only take a minute." She answered with a smirk.
"Uuhh.." The man's eyes bulged out. He was apparently shocked by the offer. "A-alright. An hour then." She turned and walked up the stairs. "A-wha?" He didn't know what was going on. Janelle didn't think there was still such innocent men left in the world.
"You don't want me to serve you here do you?" She shot at him. "Oh." He grinned and followed her up. When they entered the room, she started disrobing. "W-wait!" He half shouted, alarmed by her actions. She looked at him.
"I just... Want to talk."
"You're paying me to talk. Gotta warn you, I'm not a good talker." She said.
"Alright. What's your name?" He queried.
"What's it to you?" She replied.
He gave an audible sigh. "For Gods' sakes, I am paying you to talk, aren't I?"
"How old are you?" He asked again.
she frowned. What was that man up to?
She heard him take in a sharp breath.
"Where did you come from?"
She was hardly a person to share so much about herself to a stranger. She paused for a long period of time, just sitting there, staring at him. Unnerved, he said "Look, I think you're my younger sister, alright?"
She remained silent, face showing no emotions whatsoever. After a long while, she replied, "Tzang village. That's where I'm from." The man stared at her and said "Oh my God I don't believe this. You're alive!" He got up and started to dance around the room, whooping for joy. She looked at him, amused. He stopped when he realised that she wasn't sharing his joy at all.
"What are you, a statue? I'm your older brother! I thought everyone else were dead. Ling, you, ma, pa..."
"Look, mister," Janelle began, "Just because you come in here and claim to be my family doesn't mean that I have to believe you, right? I have met bizarre customers but by far you are the weirdest."
"Ok. You don't believe me. Ok. Wait. This morning. You stopped when I was humming a song. Your subconscious remembers even if you don't! We used to play in the woods and..." He launched into a whole story of their supposed childhood. She sat there, motionless, not showing any trace of emotion. Then, suddenly, she stood up. He looked at her, eyes hopeful.
"Your hour is up sir. You want more, you'd have to pay more."
He sighed. "I..." He dugged into his pockets and pushed more money into her hands. "Not enough, sir. I have to make a living you know?" He dug deeper and came up with more coins. She looked, satisfied with the amount and sat down, back on the bed.
"Please, don't you remember anything?" He asked pleadingly. She merely looked at him. Most of what he described sounded closely like her dreamscapes. But she wasn't going to let on about that. She shook her head. Another hour passed and when she rose up again, he hung his head dejectedly and she walked out of the room.
Before she left, he said, "My name is Jie. Please at least remember that." He said it with so much raw emotions in his voice that Janelle walked back to him and said, "I'll remember you as the man who paid me to talk, sir."
Back in the present, Janelle frowned. Was he really her brother? She had dreamt about what he said.
So what if he is, she thought. She was a prostitute. Nothing could shange the fact that she's soiled and dirty. She shook her head and went to bed. There, she dreamt yet again of laughter and children playing in the wind. Carefree and happy.
"Believe me.." Janelle's eyes opened wide and she stared into the ceiling. As she shook the cobwebs from inside her head, she sat up. Blood rushed to her head and the pounding of her heart inviberated through her. Ever since that man claimed that he was her brother she had been having those dreams. She took in deep breathes and leaned against the wall of the dingy room. Did that mean that she should believe him? what rubbish. She never believed in all these psychological stuff anyway. With that she shut her eyes and forced herself to return to sleep.
Days passed and each day Janelle had to curb the compelling
force that pulled her to that man who claimed to be her brother. What was his
name again? Or did he tell her? She couldn't remember. Her heart wasn't in anything
that she did. It never was anyway. Sometimes she wondered if she still had one.
She had already taught herself to treat her body and her mind as separate entities.
Defiling her body did not mean that she had to defile her mind either.
she looked up and saw him again. Quenching her frustration she walked up to him. "Pray, tell me, what would I have to do to have you leave me alone?"
he looked at her with eyes filled with sorrow and determination. "I... Come with me away from this place." Not expecting that, Janelle shot him a questioning glance.
"I have heard that our sister is alive too."
Great, now I have a whole happy family waiting for me. her lips curled into a smile that never did reach her eyes.
"You mean your sister still lives. Look, mister, even if I am who you said I am, I am no longer her, alright? Why don't you just leave and get on with your happy life while I carry on with mine."
His deep gray eyes penetrated hers. "Are you happy? I don't care who you have become, you're still my sister. My baby sister. And I won't allow you to stay here a day longer." A smirk was what he got for a reply.
Jie looked off-balanced. He didn't expect her to agree that readily.
"You'll have to buy me from them."
Janelle rolled her eyes. "Yes, brother, I am their slave and you'll have to buy me from them.
Janelle could almost hear the wheels turning in his head. "Alright. I'll get you out of here no matter what. Give me a few hours, i'll get the money." She was impressed. He really did believe that she was his sister, didn't he? no matter, she didn't mind being free.
"They told me she is residing in the next village. We'll get there in a few days on feet." He said to no one in particular. He glanced over and took in the slim figure that was his sister and sighed inwardly. He was convinced that this girl is his sister. He just didn't know how to break through past the wall she had constructed for herself the past.... Ten years? He couldn't even remember when the last time he saw her was. He shook his head. When his neighbour's son returned from his travels, he had told Jie that he had came across a small craftshop in the next village and that someone had called the owner "Ling". It had to be his sister. No one else had gray eyes. No one except their family. He was filled with happiness and trepidation upon anticipating the reunion. Would she recognise him? Would she accept him? And Janelle. Would there be problems? He frowned. He wasn't that old but time had taken its toll on him. He was forced to mature faster than he should. A man of twenty three looking as tired and haggard as one of fifty. He almost laughed out loud, but recovered himself. He glanced at Janelle again. She seemed deep in thought. He wondered what she went through and promised himself that he would never let another man touch her again that way. The trudging went on as the siblings both wrapped themselves in their own thoughts. Neither of them knew what the future held for them. Neither of them understood why they were able to let go of their past lives to ram heedlessly into new ones, but one thing they were sure about was that what they had were not worth having. As the journey wore on, so did their anticipation to their uncertain yet welcomed change in future.
As she lay there, staring into the sky, Janelle wondered at the beauty of her surroundings. She was never one that would stop to look at simple things. In fact, she never saw anything in her empty life. The stars were speckled out like diamonds in the dark velvety night. The realisation that she was free hit her like a rock. Torrents of emotions, ones that she never knew existed, came forth and before long she found herself crying. The act of shedding tears was almost foreign to her.
The only time she remembered doing it was the time she was raped. Even then she did not cry in front of it. She did not want to give him that satisfaction as well. She only recalled sneaking away into the barn after that and cried. She swore that no one, man nor woman would see her vulnerable side.
They reached their destination two days later. Both siblings
were on the brink of exhaustion. Walking long distances had never been necessary
for either of them.
"Come, let us look for her." Jie said to Janelle.
She looked at him and let some wonder creep into her eyes.
"How do you do that?" She blurted out. He looked at her in confusion.
"How do you manage to believe the best in everything? How do you manage to be so ... Trusting?"
Jie held her with his eyes. "I just do. Life is only what you make of it." She looked away from him and at the marketplace that was coming to life as dawn broke and took a deep breath.
"I guess you're right." She replied and glanced at him with a tiny smile. His heart melted. It was the first time he had seen her truly smile. He grinned back at her.
"Well then let us be reunited with Ling too. Even if it isn't her I'm sure everything will turn out fine. We'll never go back there again. We'll start a new life. You'll start a new life. Find a good man, settle down and have a happy family." A pained look crept into her face but it was replaced with a forced smile.
"Maybe." That word marked the end of the topic and they strolled in silent companionship the last few minutes before their goal.
Janelle watched in amusement as Jie paced nervously before the shop. It was still early and the shop was yet to be opened. He was biting his lip unconsciously as he raked a shaking hand through his wavy brown hair.
Funny she thought. How I have come to be comfortable around this man. She had stopped questioning if he was really her brother. She wanted to believe it. Wanted to have a taste of how a family really feels like. But she was still very foreign to this feeling of want and need. Her mind was not allowing her to be attached to anything. She still felt cold and indifferent to everything. Cynical to the possibility that she may be bestowed happiness. He had mentioned a man, and a happy family. She had flinched with those words. No man would want her for who she was. And she wanted no man either.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the creaking sound of the door opening. She looked up to see a dark haired woman.
"Hello." Jie said to the woman. She looked up at him and Janelle saw that her eyes were a brilliant blue that contrasted with her jet black hair.
"Yes?" She asked, her glance slipping over to rest on Janelle's guarded look.
"I-I'm looking for a person called Ling." Jie stuttered out.
The woman channelled her attentions back to Jie and said "Right. Uuhhh... She'll be out soon, Mary is giving her some problems."
"Yeah, her daughter."
Janelle observed a sparkle of pride in the woman's eyes as she spoke of the kid.
"Daughter.... " Jie smiled at looked over at Janelle. "Did you hear that? We have a niece!"
The woman looked over at Jie, startled. She raised a dark eyebrow and Jie hurriedly answered. "I... I think Ling is our sister."
When Rowanna heard that her face broke into a smile, hiding
wheels that were turning in her head. Ling did mention about a brother and younger
sister before... What did they have to gain anyway? Warmth flowed into her smile
as she decided that they were sincere. She took in their gray eyes and brown
hair and concluded that no one outside Ling's family line would have that. She
led them into the shop and said "Well, why don't you wait here, she'll be out
in a minute."
the man looked very friendly. Tired, but friendly all the same. She couldn't say the same about the girl though. She looked... Sculpted. Like an ice sculpture that a master sculptor had carved. A masterpiece, but cold. Even if she was Ling's sister, whom she may not be, she did not have Ling's soft lines. This girl had a sharp and determine jawline that was clenching right about now. She shifted her observation as she felt cold gray eyes bore into her blue ones.
"Where are you from... Uuhh.." Rowanna directed her question at the man.
"Oh, how impolite. I'm sorry, my name is Jie and this is Janelle."
Rowanna smiled. "I'm Rowanna."
"Row..." She turned around and saw Ling and Mary. Ling had an exasperated expression on her face and Mary had a fistful of her mother's hair, giggling at Rowanna. Rowanna burst out laughing and went over to carry the handful toddler from her mother.
"And who are these?" Ling asked after Mary was safely in Rowanna's arms. Jie stood up.
"Hello, Ling. I- I'm Jie and this is Janelle. I believe that you are our sister." Rowanna saw the look of disbelief on Ling's face turning into one of recognition and then happiness.
"This is just too much!" She said, when tears start falling down her face. She was smiling and crying at the same time. Rowanna left silently, with baby Mary in her arms. "Come on, darling, we'll give your mommy and your uncle and auntie some privacy, shall we?"
Ling blinked her flooding eyes. She never thought that she would see her brother and sister alive again.
"Come. Come in and we shall talk." She profused. As they were sitted before the fireplace, Ling started to speak. "How, how did you find me? What made you so sure that it was me? Why didn't you come earlier? How have you been? Whe-"
She was interrupted by Rowanna who entered with some drinks and a crisp sentence "How do you think they're going to answer you when you're shooting them off already?"
She couldn't help but smile fondly at her friend. Ling turned around and smiled at her. "Yes yes Rowanna. Come, join us. Mary is sleeping?"
"Yes she is, but I don't th-" Rowanna started to object but changed her mind when she caught the pleading in Ling's eyes.
She is nervous Rowanna realised.
"Oh, alright." She smiled and sat down.
"So, where were we?" Ling looked at Jie and then at Janelle. Jie burst out laughing, choking on his tea. He was amused by Ling's enthusiasm. Rowanna took a liking to him almost immediately. His eyes twinkled and he had an honest look that Rowanna was sure it couldn't be faked. He looked relaxed after he realised that Ling accepted him. Janelle, on the other hand had not much expression on her face.
"Well," Jie begun, "I'm working as a blacksmith in the next village, have been for the last I don't know how long. It was always my hope that I would reunite with my family. I never stopped asking traders in my village to keep a look out for people who had my... Features."
Ling nodded. It was not common that asian had certain features like gray eyes and brown hair.
"So one day, my neighbour's son returned and he told me that he saw someone who might be who I'm looking for. You. "
At this, Jie looked up happily at Ling.
"A few days later I found Janelle, a stroke of luck I might add, packed up some stuff and here we are." He finished his brief story.
Rowanna looked at him. "You mentioned that you found Janelle. Where was she? How did you find her?" Ling nodded and looked at Jie for an explanation. Rowanna, on the other hand was looking at Janelle. She found the girl unsettling. She was too calm and too detached from her surroundings.
Janelle looked over at Jie as he silently struggled to compose a story that would not reveal too much of her to Ling and Rowanna and decided that she would help him out. She didn't care what they thought of her.
"I am a prostitute." She started. Three pairs of eyes fell on her.
"Was." Jie insisted.
"Well, whatever. I was out in the marketplace, I heard him humming this tune that I found familiar and I stopped to look at him. He came to look for me that night and tried to persuade me that he is my long lost brother. It took some time but he made me an offer I couldn't resist. He offered to free me. So I followed him."
As abruptly as she began her tale, she ended it. Different thoughts were coursing through each one of the three listener's mind as they fought to take in the information that was thrown to them.
An offer she couldn't refuse? Does that mean that she still doesn't believe me? Jie pondered.
My sister, a prostitute? How could this happen to her? Where was I? Why didn't I save her? Why wasn't I there? Ling's self accusation screamed out in her head.
I didn't see that coming. She didn't even feel anything when she told her tale. Cold. She is so cold. No wonder she is so indifferent to everything. Rowanna realised.
"What?" The one word broke all train of thoughts. They all looked at the girl who said it. "You asked." Janelle finished.
Ling went over to Janelle and said "I know that it had been
difficult. Nothing can change what happened. But I would want to be a part of
your future. A loving one." The words, though simple, hit home. Rowanna looked
at her friend and wondered how she always knew the right thing to say. Then
she looked over at Janelle to see her reaction.
"Thank you." Her eyes held some sort of wonder in them. As if she couldn't believe that someone would say that to her. But that look was quickly gone behind a mask and she looked as if she wasn't affected by the words at all. Ling did not know how to react. How could her sister be so cold? And the damn bastards who did this to her... She started to turn away resignedly until she felt a light hesitant squeeze on her arm. Startled, she looked at Janelle.
"I mean it." That was the furthest she could go to make Ling understand that she was sincere. Never had anyone said that kind of words to her and she appreciated it. Rowanna grinned, relieved that it was all over.
"Well now, let's all get some breakfast shall we?" She was met with approving looks from Jie and Ling. Janelle, well, she just looked on.
Ling's husband was introduced to the new additions of the family. He was a quiet man who did not say much, but Rowanna could see that he was happy that Ling was so happy. She wondered when she will be loved that much, if ever. She finished her chores and went to the backyard. She would sit alone in the backyard, watching the stars before she went to bed. That day she wasn't alone. She saw a huddled figure on her usual spot and sauntered over. She realised that it was Janelle.
"Hey." She said softly, not wanting to spoil the beautiful silence of the night. Janelle looked up in answer and then stared into the night with a faraway look on her face. Rowanna sat down beside her and both of them spent a long time in silence, taking in the vast beauty that nature bestowed mankind. Much later, Janelle got up and walked in, leaving Rowanna alone, wondering how anyone would ever be able to penetrate that mask.
The days that followed the reunion were happy ones. Everyone was getting to know everyone, well, almost everyone. Mary was becoming decidedly over pampered by her newfound uncle and remained the centre of everyone's attentions. Rowanna, however was more concerned with Janelle. She had seen a little warmth and affection on Janelle's face when she was playing with Mary, thinking that no one was looking. That look was quickly replaced with a mask of indifference whenever someone came near. It was almost as if she was afraid of being happy. Afraid that someone would take that happiness away. Every night, Janelle and Rowanna would sit in silence together watching the stars. It had become an unbreakable routine and Rowanna enjoyed her presence even though she sometimes wished that Janelle would talk to her. Now she knew how frustrating she was to Ling when they first met. She was determined though, to make Janelle come out of her past. Ling had helped her, and now she would help this girl.
"Why do you sit out here every night?" Came the quiet question, so soft that Rowanna almost didn't catch it. She looked hurriedly at Janelle as she formulated an answer in her head. "It's peaceful here. The sky, the stars, makes me yearn for what there is out there."
Janelle looked as if she didn't hear Rowanna at all. Moments passed before she said "I yearn too."
Rowanna didn't know what to say. She had come to enjoy the quiet company of the girl next to her. She had yet to figure a way to break through her silence but Janelle had been steadily coming out of her world. Rowanna had been there to help her if she needed, a look, a touch. It may not have seemed much but it had meant a lot to the girl who hadn't known gentleness for the most part of her existence. Now as she let her gaze drop on Janelle, she realised that she wanted more than to help her. She wanted to love her. To have her love in return. To make her stop hurting. To share her pain if she had to. She realised that this girl had captured her heart, something that she thought no one could do anymore.
She inhaled sharply as Janelle turned over to look into her eyes. They sat like this for a long while, both thinking that it would never end. Neither one moved, afraid that it would spoil the moment. Then Janelle reached out and touched Rowanna's face. She smiled, not a cold one that didn't reach her eyes, but one filled with admiration and warmth. Then she leaned over and kissed Rowanna softly on her lips. Before Rowanna knew what was happening, Janelle had gotten up and left.
Rowanna touched her lips where Janelle's were just a moment before and wondered if she had dreamt it all. Then she looked up into the sky, her thoughts never leaving the enigma of the girl who had just taken leave.
Even though Janelle and Rowanna spent the nights together, no one knew about this routine. Jie had quickly become infatuated with Rowanna. He watched her every move, the smile that lit up her face and his world.
Gods she is so beautiful... his mind rambled on each time he thought of her. Which was rather frequently. Rowanna on the other hand had her mind on Janelle. She just couldn't shake off the memoryof the kiss that they had shared and wondered what was going through Janelle's mind. Janelle had resumed her cold mask after that night and everything that happened was not mentioned again. In the daytime however, Janelle had become more vibrant as the days passed. The love that was shared between Ling, Mary, and Jie were helping her a lot. She seemed less unfeeling. And she smiled more often, though never once like the smile she had bestowed upon Rowanna that night. As Rowanna let out a sigh, she stood up from her chore and almost stumbled into the fumbling Jie.
"Gods I'm sorry!" She exclaimed, all thoughts of Janelle tucked into the back of her head.
"N-no, no I'm alright." Jie returned with a sheepish smile. He raked his hair and took in a deep breath, opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish gulping air. Rowanna looked at him, eyes crinkled in amusement.
"Is there anything you need?" She inquired.
Damn, I have to gather enough nerve to ask her out! Jie chided himself mentally.
"Yes well I-" Jie managed to say before Ling came running in with a loud shout.
"Row! Mary is gone! We've got to find her!"
All smiles left the faces of Jie and Rowanna as they responded to the anguish in Ling's voice.
"Wait. Slow down, tell me what happened?" Rowanna grabbed a very distressed looking Ling.
"S-she .. I ... I was in the yard and she was just playing as usual. Suddenly I looked up and she was gone. I- I thought she was playing hide and seek again so I got up and looked for her. I searched everywhere, and I shouted her name. She doesn't normally stay hidden for that long, Row, you know that. She's only three, for heaven's sake, she can't go far. Then I rounded the bend and I saw Maggie. I- Mary would never leave Maggie... And I..." She couldn't continue. Rowanna looked down and saw Maggie, Mary's favourite doll in Ling's hand.
There was blood on the ragdoll's dress.
Rowanna, Ling and Jie ran out of the shop to where Ling had found Maggie. Rowanna bent down and looked intently on the ground.
"What are you doing? Let's go get her!" Jie had shouted almost frantically.
Ling stopped him. "Wait. We'll see what Rowanna can find."
Rowanna moved off to the side and found a gnawed bone and a pail of water that was turned over. She frowned. She stood up.
"I think Mary was taken by an animal. A coyote perhaps. The blood on Maggie may not be hers. It may have came from the bone that the animal was previously chewing on. It must have decided that Mary was a better... Meal..." Ling cringed when she heard that but Rowanna continued "We'll go in that direction. The blood is still fresh so I don't think they have been gone long. Grab some weapon, a pitchfork or something. It may help. Ling and Jie nodded and all three ran in the direction of the woods. Something was tugging at Rowanna about the pail of water but she dismissed it, focusing on the search for Mary.
As she was running through the forest foliage, Rowanna had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She prayed that Mary was alright. She followed the blood stains that were along the way and hoped that it was not Mary's. There was too much blood. She turned to see how Ling was doing and met with gray eyes filled with unshed tears. She had seen the blood too. Rowanna took in a deep breath and ran faster. The sight that met her was totally unexpected. There was a coyote lying on the ground. It was bleeding. It's head was hit by something hard, maybe a rock. Mary was there, soaked in blood, and crying. Rowanna ran up and checked her. She was alright, safe for some bite marks on her arms and some abrasions on her tiny legs. She was dragged by the coyote into the woods, Rowanna summed up. The blood wasn't hers. It was Janelle's. Janelle's prone body was over mary's protectively. She was unconscious. Apparently Janelle saw the coyote attacking Mary when she was back from taking water from the well and had tried to save her. That had explained for the upturned pail of water. She was defeated in a brief struggle that had tore her side but had recovered to chase the coyote that had taken Mary, regardless of her wound. When she had caught up with the animal, she was engaged in another struggle in the woods. The second struggle was longer but Janelle had succeeded in taking the animal down with a rock. But her victory was with great sacrifice. She had multiple bite marks and wounds. Rowanna passed Mary over to Ling and took Janelle in her arms.
"Oh my god, Janelle!" Ling and Jie were so stunned that Rowanna had to shout at them.
"Come and help me, Jie!" That shook Jie out of his shock and he ran over to carry Janelle. Ling was looking Mary over and soothing her.
"Let's go." The small company turned to leave the bloody scene before them.
Jun, Ling's healer husband, took over almost immediately. He bathed his sister-in-law's wounds and sewed them up. Then he applied some salve on them and bandaged them. His precious daughter was asleep, all wounds cleaned and sewn up too with the help of Rowanna and Ling.
"How is she?" Everyone asked Jun worriedly.
"She is fine. Her wounds should not get infected, I applied the required herbs. And I've sewn her up. She is alright just that she lost too much blood. All we can do is to hope for the best." Ling looked at Janelle. She smoothed her sister's hair and started to weep.
Rowanna came beside her. "Hey... Come on... I don't think she'd want you to cry..." Ling looked up and cleaned her tears.
"Why does this have to happen? We have just reunited. Why must God try to take her away from us again?"
"It's not anyone's fault, Ling. She had tried to save Mary and she did. We must be strong and take care of her alright? She's a determined and strong girl, I'm sure she'll pull through alright?" Rowanna countered soothingly. Ling nodded.
Jie looked at Rowanna in wonder. How could a woman be so strong and unfazed at a time like this? Then he looked down at Janelle and his heart ached. Why wasn't he there? He had promised himself that he would not let her get hurt again. What kind of brother, protector had he been?
"Stop blaming yourself, Jie." Jie glanced at Rowanna. She raised
her eyebrow."You're an easy man to figure out. One look at your face and anyone
would know what you're thinking. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone's. So
let's just take care of the wounded, okay?" He nodded mutely.
"Now you go and get some sleep, I'll watch over her."
Jie started to object until Rowanna added,"She'll need someone at all times. We'll take turns." He exhaled heavily.
"I guess. I'll come down in a couple of hours." Rowanna nodded and he left. Alone in the room with Janelle, Rowanna pulled herself closer to the patient. In the candlelight, Janelle looked so fragile. She stroke her face with gentle fingers. "I just found you, please don't leave me." She whispered. Almost as if she heard her, Janelle's eyes fluttered open.
"You're awake!" Rowanna exclaimed. Janelle looked at her and smiled painfully.
"What happened?" Came the soft inquiry before she winced.
"Ssh, don't move." Rowanna said when Janelle tried to get up.
"You were wounded."
Memory of the coyote washed over Janelle. "How's Mary?"
"Fine. You saved her. Quite the heroine." Rowanna grinned, moved that Mary was the first thing on her mind.
"Good. Because I think I need to sleep now. No more energy to fight." Rowanna's eyes widened in surprise.
"Did you just make a joke?" Her only answer was a slight smile tugging on Janelle's lips as she floated off to sleep. Rowanna smiled and leaned down to give Janelle a kiss on her forehead.
So sweet and loving though she tries so hard to fight this side of her she thought. careful, you're falling for her, Row. she raised a mocking eyebrow to herself and concluded that maybe she had already fallen for this mysterious girl.
Janelle got better everyday and was pretty much embarrassed by the admiration of everyone in the family. "You're our hero, Jan. Right Mary?" Ling would say teasingly and Mary would give her that smile that would brighten up her day. Everyone had started calling her that nowadays. She looked up and saw her brother looking fondly at her.
"You're our hero. And we love you. Sis."
She was so touched. She felt so... Loved.
"Okay, okay, don't say anymore." She grinned at them. Rowanna's heart almost lurched at the grin that lit up Janelle's face. Then it did when Janelle looked straight at her and gave her that special smile that spoke volumes.
Rowanna and Janelle had spent lots of time together on her road to recovery. Rowanna did not let herself hope that Janelle might actually love her like she loved Janelle but she found it more and more difficult as each day passed. Her warm and loving side was Rowanna's undoing. They had shared laughs and light touches. Rowanna never wanted to lose that closeness that they had developed in the last week or so.
Jie, oblivious to everything that was happening around him, save for the fact that his sister was getting better, mustered his courage and went up to Rowanna to finish the sentence that he had started on the day of the incident. "Are you free this evening, Rowanna?" Rowanna was dusting the shelf in the shop as she turned to face him.
"Yes, why? You need help with your shop?"
Jie was in the midst of opening a blacksmith shop near his sister's craftshop. "Uuh... No. I was wondering if you would go out to dinner with me?" He managed to stutter out.
"Why, what's the occassion?" Rowanna asked, still ignorant of the young man's feelings towards her.
"I... You... Well... No special reason." He answered, trying to calm his plundering heart.
"well.... Sure." Rowanna agreed, though she had wanted to spend the time with Janelle. She was sure that Jie wanted her to help him with something.
Maybe he wants me to be his matchmaker she mused, wondering who the girl was.
"Great! Ahh... Great!" Jie almost shouted. He gave her a silly grin and sauntered off. She smiled to herself and returned her attention to the shelf.
"What's that about?" Ling asked as she entered the shop.
"Hmm? What?" Was the distracted answer from the dusty shelves.
"Jie. Why is he looking as though he just won the top prize in lottery?"
Rowanna glanced over distractedly. "I don't know. He sure is in a good mood. He wants to take me out for dinner."
"Is that so?" Ling gave Rowanna a conspiratorial grin. "Maybe that's why."
"Huh?" Rowanna was totally confused. She put the duster down and sneezed.
"Yes, Row. I think Jie likes you."
"What?" Came the incredulous exclamation.
"But that's impossible! I don't like him ... That way."
"Why not? I mean, you should settle down, row, you deserve it."
"No.. I mean, he's too young for me. And moreover... He..." Ling rose an eyebrow in mock imitation of her best friend's.
"Well... He's a he."
Ling rolled her eyes. "Right. Okay. Whatever. Just let him down softly okay?" Rowanna let out a sigh of relief.
"Yeah I will."
"Was the dinner to your expectations?" The eager young man cantered.
"Yes..." Rowanna said while she was wondering how she should broach on the topic.
Damn. This is too hard.
"Would you like to have a drink before we go back, Row?"
She looked at the pleasant man and sighed inwardly.
"Sure." She forced a smile. "I think we need to talk."
"Yes, we do. Rowanna, I know that it hasn't been long that we've met but I really, really like you and I was wondering if.. You know... You would be my wife?"
There, I said it.
"What?" She never expected that. Boy, was he in deep.
"Uuhh.." He looked uncertainly at her. "I know that I don't have a job yet but the shop will come around fine and I will care for you the best I can and..."
Rowanna shook her head and interrupted his speech. "Don't take me wrong, but I don't feel for you that way. You're a great guy but I just... I can't."
He gazed at her dejectedly.
"I'm sorry." She added.
"No" He shook his head. "I should have expected this. I... How could you fall for me, I'm so silly. No, I'm sorry."
Geez! What is wrong with him?
"Jie listen. You're a good man! A great husband to a lucky woman. It's just that the woman isn't going to be me."
He nodded his head resignedly. "Let's go back." He smiled sadly. "Everything's fine. I'll get over it."
"Good." She said with a relieved smile. "I don't want our friendship to be affected by this." He grinned at her and she knew that they'd be okay. After a while, that is.
Rowanna changed into her nightclothes and slipped into Janelle's room to check on her before going to bed.
"Hey." She smiled as she heard Janelle's voice.
"Hey. I missed our evening together."
She sat down beside Janelle. Janelle got up and Rowanna steadied her. As they settled into the comfortable silence, Rowanna suddenly spoke up.
"You know, you're so different from when you first came here." Janelle's eyes clouded.
"Hey, don't close up on me... Please?" Rowanna's pleading look broke Janelle's resolve to put the mask on. She sighed.
"Well?" She asked.
"Well what?" Came Rowanna's question.
"What do you wanna know?"
"Everything. If you'd let me. You could tell me everything. I want to know every single thing about the woman I love." Janelle looked at her in shock. Both women were surprised at the last part of Rowanna's sentence.
"Uuhhh..." Rowanna bit her lower lip.
"I... Think I better go..." She started to get up.
"No... Don't you dare take it back, Rowanna."
This was the first time Rowanna heard her name uttered by Janelle. She relished in the sensations that shot up her spine.
"You ... Love me?" Janelle asked tentatively as Rowanna sat back in her seat again.
"Yes... I... You don't have to reciprocate... I... " Janelle cut her off with two fingers on her lips. Both women looked at each other, each wondering at the other's eyes.
"That's the best news I've heard since forever." Janelle said, not taking her fingers away. "For I love you too, blue eyes." She leaned in and replaced her fingers with her lips.
All of Rowanna's uncertainty was washed away in that kiss. "You said you want to know about me." Rowanna looked at her love. She nodded. The rest of the night was spent in each other's arms, telling each other about themselves in words and more.
"Row? These are for you." A bunch of wildflowers was pushed in her face and Rowanna looked up in surprise at Jie.
"Uuh... Thanks..." She muttered and took the flowers awkwardly. She walked into the shop and took out a vase.
She smiled before her eyes looked up to find Janelle descending from the stairs. "Hey yourself." Janelle walked over and looked around to make sure that there was no one around before she planted a kiss on Rowanna's brow.
"How are you today?" She asked gently. Rowanna felt like the luckiest woman on earth as she answered
"Great. With you here, everything's great." Janelle blushed. Rowanna was getting to see more and more aspects of her young love. And she wasn't complaining.
"Who're these from? They're beautiful." Janelle touched the lavender flowers that Rowanna had placed in the vase.
"Oh." An eyebrow rose unsuccessfully, taking the other one up as well. Then came the playful "I guess you captured all our hearts, Row... But I'm the luckiest."
Rowanna chuckled. "No love, I'm the lucky one."
The new lovers looked at each other and smiled as Jie walked in. "Jan! you feeling alright? Don't you need to rest longer?" He asked, concerned.
"I'm alright, brother, thanks. I've... done much... exercise." She threw a look at Rowanna who blushed slightly.
"Oh. I'm glad you're up." Jie said, totally clueless about what was happening.
"Hey, let's go out for a celebration dinner tonight then. For the opening of my shop and the recovery of you."
"Sure!" Jie smiled at Janelle's reply, happy that she had gotten out of her shell and that she had recovered from the injuries.
"This is Ming and that, is Wong." Jie introduced to his family his two new found friends. They looked at Janelle and Rowanna appreciatively.
She has that mask on again Rowanna noted. Then she smiled to herself. Only she has seen the warm and passionate side of her. The little that she shows to the family was nothing compared to what Rowanna has experienced.
The evening passed by uneventfully. The advances made on Janelle were unnoticed. She had the air of indifference about her. At the end of dinner, Jie caught up with Janelle.
"So what do you think of them, sis?" She looked at her brother and couldn't help but smile at his warmth.
"I don't think it's what I want. And I don't think they'll be able to accept me for who I was." Pain crept into her voice. Rowanna walked up and took her hand. She was hurt when Janelle pulled away.
"I'm soiled." She stated and walked stiffly away.
"Oh no..." Jie said. He never meant to hurt his little sister.
Row found Janelle at the stream near the woods.
Janelle didn't move a muscle. Row flopped down beside her. Long moments passed before Janelle said "Look at the fish, swimming freely in the water. No cares, no worries." Rowanna didn't know how to answer her.
"I never did feel anything you know? When.. When he raped me, I just... I knew it would happen one day so I just let it happen. Then that slaver... I needed his help to kill the asshole. And he did. The other men... They all wanted to see if they could break me... I... But they couldn't. No one ever did. No one, except you, that is."
The words were spoken with such clarity that Rowanna shivered. She reached out to touch Janelle, who let her hold her now. "No one can break you, nelle..." Only she called Janelle that. "I didn't break you, I just made you a part of me. I love you."
Janelle touched her lover's face. "Thank you."
Rowanna held her tight and stroke her hair. "Everything will be okay. We'll figure something out." She relaxed when she felt Janelle nod against her chest.
Jie took in the sight in anger. This cannot be happening! his sister, with the woman he loves? He ran into the woods, blinded by rage and jealousy.
Janelle and Rowanna walked back to the shophouse swinging their hands that were weaved together. "I like it when you have that mask on." Rowanna commented. She could hear the silent question in Janelle's gaze.
Man, this girl talked less than I do. But when she speaks, she just takes my breath away. No, she doesn't even have to speak to take my breath away.
"Just now, when you were at dinner. You put on this cold and indifferent mask, very much like the one you had on the first time we met." She explained. She felt Janelle smile.
"I thought that you were like an ice sculpture." She added. This time she heard soft laughter. She grinned. She loved making Janelle laugh. It was such a sweet sound to her ears.
"But please, don't put it on intending it for me. My heart would surely break."
At this, Janelle stopped. She leaned close to Rowanna and whispered "Never, my love. I shall only look at you with love."
"Never say never." Rowanna jibed, feeling warm all over at her lover's words.
"Well then, never, never. If you mean it enough to say it twice, it counts." To this, Rowanna could not find an answer to. She lowered her head and kissed Janelle, taking in the scent that belongs to her and only her.
The next morning found the whole family sitting on the dining table solemnly. Rowanna fidgeted. She felt that something was not right. She looked at Ling. Ling could not meet her eyes. She furrowed her brows and let her gaze fall on Jie. He looked angry. And his eyes looked swollen, like he had cried the whole night. Jun had his gentle expression on, playing quietly with Mary. Janelle just looked calm like she always does, although Rowanna could feel the clashing of emotions within her.
"Jan, Ming has asked for your hand and I want you to agree to it." Ling spoke up, breaking the silence that was becoming deafening. Rowanna's head jerked up and she started to speak.
"No. You're not a part of this, row. Please, don't speak." Came Ling's curt voice. Hurt, Rowanna looked away. All eyes were focused on Janelle now. She had her frosty look on.
"You want me to agree. Is that it?" She shot the question at Ling.
"Yes." Even though Ling cringed at her tone, she answered firmly.
"What right do you have?" Came the next question.
"Why, I'm your older sister and I want the best for you!" Ling almost shouted.
"No." Came the answer. Ling was frustrated at her younger sister's display of coldness and defiance.
"Why not? He's a nice boy. He'll give you kids and a happy family. That's what a woman should have!" She accused, her voice a higher pitch than normal.
"Really?" Came the sarcastic question. "Don't I have a say in my happiness? I've taken care of myself the last 19 years before I met you and I'll continue taking care of myself. If having a family and their love means giving up my right to my life, I'm sorry i'll choose the latter."
Shocked, Ling started trembling. This time, Jie started shouting. "So you'll do what? Be abnormal? And be with a woman? A woman that I love?"
Startled, Rowanna looked at Jie. His eyes looked almost wild. Janelle cut through his rantings with a simple "Love knows no boundaries. If you're not open minded enough to realise that, there's nothing I can say." Rowanna could not remain silent any longer.
"We really love each other. I thought you'd be able to accept that, Ling." Ling looked at Rowanna. "I could... Accept you... But you and my sister... I... Can't."
Betrayal shot through Rowanna. She coudn't believe what she was hearing. She felt a hand on hers and looked down. It was Janelle. Gods, this girl was her strength. She couldn't lose her. She held on.
"Enough! let her go!" Jie shouted, looking almost insane with jealousy and anger. Suddenly hands were upon Janelle and Rowanna, pulling them apart. "I'm sorry it has to come to this." Ling said to the two women she loved. Jie's friends have come and they tore the two women apart. Janelle was dragged upstairs roughly even though she struggled and called out for Rowanna. Rowanna was pulled into her room at the back. "noo!" She shouted as she heard her lover's anguish cries.
"The wedding would take place the day after tomorrow." Ling said to Rowanna. "Please. Stop this. It's tearing me up inside for me to have to do this but I... Jie really loves you and.. It's for the best." Rowanna just looked at the wall in front of her, her face expressionless. Ling knew that it was useless. She had lost her best friend to her prejudice. She left the room and Rowanna started to weep when the lock was turned. She can't lose Janelle. The wedding between Janelle and Ming was to be taken place the day after next. And after that Ming would take Janelle away to a place where no one would know and Jie would do the same with her. No! she rebelled within. What right had they to tear them apart? She would not allow it!
"Alright." Ling was astonished that Janelle answered so readily.
Maybe she didn't love Rowanna that much after all. But she was still suspicious.
"Can I go to the marketplace tomorrow to get some stuff?"
There. Ling thought. That's the catch.
"Sure. But Jie would follow you." Janelle didn't answer and turned her back towards Ling. Ling sighed resignedly and left the room. Tears fell down Janelle's face as she thought of her love crying downstairs. Her heart broke. She knew she had to do it. She could never live without Rowanna. Her jaw clenched tightly, she prepared herself for her plan.
The marketplace was bustling with activity. Jie was following closely behind his sister. He knew that he was selfish but he couldn't help it. He couldn't even look at her anymore. They bought the necessary items and Jie was about to steer her back home when she walked into the chemist's. "Why are you going there for?" he asked.
"What do you think?"
"No. Let us go." She swirled around and spat in his face.
"I need medicine alright? I have certain allergies that you don't know of, brother." This shut him up. There were still many things he didn't know of her. She walked into the shop and bought the medicine. Then they went back.
Clutching the poison to her heart, Janelle slept.
"Oh my god!" Ling's cries drew everyone to Janelle's room. She
had Janelle in her lap. All dressed up, Janelle was a vision of beauty in her
wedding gown. But she was also dying from the poison that she had taken. Janelle
struggled to sit up.
"No, no stay down." Was all Ling could say.
Ling leaned in to hear Janelle speak.
"Bring Rowanna up here!" She shouted. Jie was reluctant to do that but Ling's eyes bore into his as she shouted again. "Or do you want your sister's last wish to go unanswered?" He fled downstairs.
"Love.. Oh God... Why?" Rowanna was up in a flash. She cradled Janelle in her arms as tears rolled off her lovely face.
"Leave us!" She screamed to everyone. Left alone in the room with her dying love, Rowanna stared into those beautiful gray eyes that she had come to love so much. "I can't live... Without ... You..." Came the soft whisper.
Rowanna kissed the woman she loved so much. "Neither can I, love... And I never, never wanna do that."
"I... Swear... That i'll find you... No matter what it takes... " Janelle coughed out the blood that was in her throat and continued "My next life... And the next... For eternity... I love you..." She started taking in short laboured breaths as the effects of the poison deepened.
"And I swear too, my love... I will find you and love you for the rest of eternity... I love you..." Rowanna choked out. Knowing that her love was going to die, she walked towards the open windows.
"I will not allow you to die alone, love. I shall follow you... Wherever you may go..." With this parting words, Rowanna leaned in to kiss her lover the last time on her lips and jumped out of the window...
When Ling and the others heard the loud thud, it was too late. They ran to the backyard and found the lovers' bodies entwined together. They couldn't be together in life... therefore they found a way to be together in death. "No....." Ling and Jie cried out. They would never be cleared of the murders of two people who did nothing wrong but to love each other.
Ralling... Shoutings.... She tried to shut out the noise. God... Why is it so hard?
The first thing that came to her mind was to not bother, to ignore all that was going on around her and to lapse into her own musing. But that cannot be. She can run, but she would never be able to hide. She sighed. They said that when a person was angry, they tend to say things that they do not mean. But she thought otherwise. When a person was angry, he or she lets all their innermost thoughts and anger tumble out unguarded. And that, was when she got hurt the most.
Why is it that you're always in pants?.... Why don't you wear make up?... Why are you so unnatural?.... All these random thoughts fleeted through her mind. Her mother had said that to her at one time or other. She was a shame to them all. She tried so hard... To make her mother not notice. She tried so hard to convince everyone of something that she found harder each day to run from. She knew that it hurt her mother, her being the way she was, but she could not help it. Knowing that, she left.
Oh boy. She knew it was the easy way out. Leaving. Running.
But she just couldn't take it anymore. The pressure, pounding down on her. Her
conscience, pounding down on her. She did not know what else she could have
done. Driving down the highway in her second hand four wheel drive, Kristel
brushed absently at her hair. The vehicle was quite old, but it was in okay
condition. She had bought it from a run down auto shop. Sitting here with the
wind whipping through her hair gave her a very soothing feeling. Almost as if
all her problems were blown away by the strong breeze rippling through her shoulder
brown hair. She pushed the unhappy memories to the back of her head and took
a deep breath.
She had a new life now, at least for the next couple of years. And she was gonna make the most of it. Just when she was about to give her reflection in the rear view mirror a brave smile, a glaring light blinded her vision and a sickening crunch followed it before everything became a blur...
"Is she alright?"
Someone was talking and it was driving her nuts.
What the hell? Why can't everyone just let her sleep in?
She opened her eyes reluctantly, expecting to be greeted by the ceiling lights at her small apartment.
She looked aroung incredulously.
"Oh, there she is."
She rubbed her groggy eyes, trying to recollect where she was.
"Are you ok? I'm so sorry, my boy.. my friend, he crashed into you."
Realisation flowed through Kristel. Someone crashed into her car... Someone crashed into her car??!!!
Oh no she groaned inwardly. There goes her paycheck. She looked at the frantic woman who was talking to her. Blond hair, brown eyes, she looked quite shakened also.
"Hey, hey, slow down. I... The room's still spinning alright?" Kristel muttered. The woman stopped her frantic ranting and pinched her nosebridge. "Okay. I'm really really sorry about what has happened. I'll see to it that my... friend pays you for the... damages."
Kristel tried to smile but it came out looking more like a grimace.
"Mind telling me what happened?" the blond lady smiled uncertainly.
"My name is Sophia. And well, my friend and I were having a big fight and um... He was drinking before that... So he kinda crashed into you." Kristel looked down at herself. Bloodied shirt, torn jeans. Her left arm was bandaged and her left temple throbbed. She looked up to see a pair of concerned eyes peering at her, very much like a guilty child expecting a punishment.
She mustered a grin and said "Hey, it's okay. Really. Uhh... The scars, if any, would just add to my already... Surly reputation at school. If anyone notices anyway." Sophia looked interested.
"Surly, huh? Surely not." she gave Kristel a once over. Long, brown hair that was in a mess right now, a pair of... Gray eyes... Gray? she frowned. This girl looks asian... Contacts maybe. She did look fit, though most of her body was hidden under the blue buttoned down shirt and faded blue jeans.
"Do I pass?" came the amused question and Sophia jerked out of her private musings.
She grinned sheepishly and said "Yeah well..."
Not knowing what else to say, she changed the topic. "Want me to give you a ride home?" Kristel raised an eyecrow unsuccessfully.
"Your car wasn't as damaged, huh?" Sophia felt a blush rising in her cheeks, though she did not know why this girl made her feel so nervous. "I sent someone down with my car. Freddy, my... Friend, he's gonna get it from the cops when he wakes up."
Confused with the sudden answer, Sophia said "Huh?"
"I'll take the ride, ma'am." came the answer with an accompanying smirk.
Kristel got up from the hospital bed and followed the woman out. She wasn't very tall, just about Kristel's height. She sighed. She couldn't wait to plunge into the shower and then go off to never-never land.
"So, what do you do?"
Kristel propped her uninjured right arm on the window in the luxurious jaguar. This lady was loaded.
"I'm in the university." Kristel replied.
"Really. Where're you from then?"
"Not around here. I just arrived two months ago." Kristel was not ready to let this lady into too many things concerning her. "What about you? What do you do?"
"Oh I'm an accountant."
Explains for the jag, Kristel thought wryly.
"Uh huh. Who do you account to?" she bantered playfully, surprised that she let herself joke around.
"Myself, apparently? " came the cheeky answer. "I just got started on it. I came out of the University two years back." Sophia continued seriously.
Ahhh... So that makes her twenty four? Five? Kristel looked out into the night and was silent for a while.
"Damn" she muttered under her breath.
"Why, what's wrong?" Sophia threw a concerned look at her passenger.
"Huh? Oh, nothing, just that I'd have to get up early on Monday for school when I was looking forward to sleeping in."
Sophia frowned and then realisation hit her. "Your.. transport." she said with a smile.
"Yes ma'am. My car. Is done in. "
"No worries, I'll come pick you up."
Kristel was surprised at the offer. "Nah... It's okay. I'll just get up."
Sophia tried to insist but Kristel brushed it off.
"Alright. At least let me make Freddy buy you a new car."
Kristel opened her mouth to protest but was shut off by a stern raised eyebrow from Sophia. "It's the least that asshole can do." she said.
"Thanks for the ride." Kristel turned to leave when a "Wait" halted her. She turned around and Sophia got out of the car.
"Here," she fumbled around in her handbag and took out a card. "Here's my card. Call me if there's anything you need.
Somehow, I doubt that. Kristel thought to herself but she reached out for the card. Sophia watched as Kristel walked gingerly up the steps to her apartment. Then she sighed and prepared her speech that was inevitable for Freddy. They were drinking at the pub and she suggested that they chill out for a while. Freddy was not enthusiastic about that apparently and they quarelled in the car too. Why couldn't he understand that she did not feel that way for him anymore? She sighed again and mentally told herself that she may win the "Guiness Book of Records" for the person who sighed the most times in an hour. Then she backed the car out of the driveway and left.
"Oh this feels soooo good." Kristel said to no one in particular as she let the hot water soak up her battered body. Then she towelled herself dry carefully and plopped onto her bed. She stared into the ceiling and let her mind wander off again.
Where are you? she thought. Are you out there looking for me too? she sighed. And closed her weary eyes.
Well wherever you are, goodnight.
Kristel never knew who she always talked to. Neither did she care. It made her look forward to her future, uncertain as it may seem. She anticipated meeting the love of her life one day... The completion of her broken life. Then she drifted off to deep sleep.
"What the hell happened to you?" Jacintha cried out in dismay.
"What?" came the quirky reply.
"Your arm and your head and oh my... It's stitched up, woman!"
Kristel looked at her friend in amusement. Jacintha was probably her only friend in the school. She had kept to herself from the beginning and hadn't talked much at all. Jacintha was the one who came up to her one day and told her that even though she thought she was so cool, she needed a friend too. And Jacintha was going to be that friend. Kristel smiled to herself at the memory. Jacintha was also a newbie and she took it upon herself to break Kristel in. Well, Kristel didn't mind her company much. Outspoken and funny, her friend had made life more interesting. Thus began a weird friendship.
"So? Are you gonna tell me or just go off into your own world again?" Jacintha demanded.
"Someone rammed his car into mine."
Jacintha rolled her eyes. "You make it sound as if you're telling me the weather! gods woman do you always have to be this cool?"
Kristel had to smile at that. "I'm not trying to be cool, Jac, it hurts like hell but that was what happened." she fended off her friend's muttering and they went off to class.
"Let's go down to Lyn's for a beer tonight."
Kristel nodded. The beer was cheap at lyn's and the atmosphere was not too boisterous. She sighed as the lecturer came in. No time for musings.
"Hi sexy." Kristel cringed inwardly as she picked up her beer mug for another swig of beer. What was it with these people? Did she look easier to pick up because her arm was wrapped up? Her head pounded.
The evening wasn't going well. She ignored the lump of a man who was beside her, trying to get her attention. Then he tapped on her shoulder. She swirled around, irated, tongue in check and ready for some heavy lashing when they all fell short.
"Hey! What a surprise!"
It was Sophia.
"Hey." she gave her a half smile and finished her beer. Jacintha was nowhere to be seen.
"Alone?" Kristel almost nodded when Jacintha appeared out of nowhere.
"Kris! Guess what? Tommy said hi to me!!! Oh man, he is sooo cute!!!"
Kris grimaced. Jacintha's voice made her headache worse.
"Oh! Who's this?" she asked, noticing Sophia finally.
"Ahh... The friend of the guy who crashed into me." Kristel provided the information.
The two women shook hands and Sophia said "Why don't you guys come join my friends and I? We're just over there." Kristel started to refuse but Jacintha, taking things in her own hands again pulled Kristel from her seat at the bar. "Cool, we'd like that." Kristel rolled her eyes and followed.
"Everyone, this is Kristel and Jacintha."
Three pairs of eyes fell on them. Kristel was unnerved as the party of three looked her over. "Kristel, this is Ken, Jason and that, is Rachel." Kristel sat down at the proferred chair next to ken and took the drink that was offered. She leaned back and sipped at the beer, eyes farwaway.
"Kristel?" Jacintha nudged at her.
"H-huh?" she shook her head.
"Ken here just asked you a question." Jacintha hissed. She was always hoping to get Kristel out with guys.
Kristel turned to Ken and said "I'm not feeling too good. Carry on without me."
Satisfied that he got her hint to leave her alone, she sat back and tried to make herself as inconspicious as she could. She couldn't. Feeling like she was being watched, she glanced up to sink into a pair of blue eyes. The pull, almost magnetic in its nature, was overwhelming. It was Rachel, with her inky black tresses and swirling blue eyes. She looked oddly familiar... Achingly so... Then Rachel smiled and the moment passed. Kristel got up, her head pounding mercilessly. Everyone turned to look at her.
"Uuhh... Sorry I have to go. I'm not feeling too good." she explained lamely. She looked at Jacintha and silently asked her if she'd be okay alone and once she got the nod, she walked off.
Punching the bag before her, Kristel huffed and puffed. Two
weeks of lazing around made her all mushed up. She was panting heavily and her
bra top was soaked. As promised, she got a new car from Freddy. What shocked
her was that it was a brand new BMW convertible. She had wanted to return the
car but Freddy said that it was the most he could do in return for her not suing
him. She shrugged her shoulders. The car was a beauty. Jacintha had informed
her that she was now known as the cool girl with the mega cool car around school.
She smirked. She would allow herself the indulgence of that sleek vehicle for
only a week. The agent would get the necessary paperwork done by then and she'll
get a second hand drivable vehicle, not to mention enough money for her school
fees for a considerable amount of time.
at least that problem is solved ...
She let out a deep breath that she was unaware of holding and her thoughts returned to the dreams again. She always knew that running away from reality was not the sole reason for her leaving. Then, she had convinced herself that she was just adventurous and curious about independent life. But now, the reason was becoming less concrete. The dreams that she had when she was still back home were shrugged off then. She had always known that her imagination was untamed. But since she got to the University in Australia, the dreams had occurred every single night with relentless fury. There was a need gnawing at her insides. And that need, though subconscious in the beginning, had dragged her to this foreign place. Now it simply made her ache with longing. Thinking about it made her head pound. What was happening to her?
"...love you... follow you..." strangled voice fighting for
air... "Next life, and next... for eternity..." Hot tears running down the stranger's
blue eyes... A searing kiss... Pain... Oblivion....
Kristel jerked up. She was sweating profusely, her long hair matted on her forehead. She gasped for breath, not knowing why her heart was racing so. Then the blue eyes shifted into view again and she racked her brains to think where she had seen them...
She shook her head.
No way girlie...
She smirked at herself as she thought. You gonna fall for every single woman with blue eyes? There are loads here.
Jacintha had blue eyes too, and so did many of her classmates.
Then why does Rachel seem so familiar? she shut her eyes and took in slow, deep breaths, pushing the rambling thoughts out of her head. These dreams had to stop. She did not get enough rest. She shut her eyes tightly, willing for dreamless slumber to come to her. Slumber came, but it was filled with dreams... of a life she had known so well once upon a time...
Kristel looked up from her book, flustered. "Sorry, can I help you?"
Her part time job down the street gave her the much needed income. Moreover, books were her life. Getting the job at the quaint little bookstore was more than she could ask for. Mrs Cole even let her do her work in the shop.
"Remember me?" Kristel frowned and her heart lurched. It was Rachel. "Uuhh... Yeah... Sophia's friend, right?"
Rachel grinned. "I thought you'd forget me already, you left so early that night." What she didn't add was that Kristel left immediately after she smiled at her. She felt unsettled because of that. The moment Sophia introduced the girl, she felt a weird sensation, almost like de javu. She shook herself mentally.
"Yeah well... You have nice eyes." was all Kristel said. "What are you looking for? Fiction, non-fiction... Anything, just name it and i'll see if I can help you alright?"
Kristel felt so at home when she talked about books.
"Sure. Know what I should get for children around five? It's my son's birthday soon and I don't know what to get him."
Son...Kristel's heart dropped for no reason.
"My ex- husband wanted me to get him toys but he's got too many already I think." Rachel added, not sure why she had to let Kristel know that she wasn't married anymore. Kristel must have sensed it too, for she gave her a dubious look and then a cheeky grin.
"Well, you've come to the right place ma'am. I'll get you what you need." Kristel walked towards the dusty shelves with Rachel following behind her with a small smile.
"No, it's definitely brinjal. Yuck. It's so goopy!" Kristel's face was contorted in such a comical way that Rachel burst out laughing.
"What?" Kristel demanded, still unwilling to take her eyes off her offending sandwich that contained brinjal.
"You just seemed so... solemn and cool and... well I didn't think that you had this playful side to you." Rachel explained. Kristel finally looked up and smirked.
"Yeah well, you haven't seen anything yet you got that right." one brow rose while Rachel took in the unexpected flirtatious comment.
"I'd like to."
Kristel looked disbelievingly at Rachel. She was already regretting her remark but this lady over here actually flirted back!
"Okay..." she didn't know what to say.
This time it was Rachel who was smirking. "I just feel... comfortable with you.. I can't explain it." Rachel said. After a long silence, Kristel whispered "Yeah... So do I."
The pair finished their dinner at the restaurant opposite the bookstore Kristel worked at. Rachel had stayed so long at the bookstore that they decided to take dinner together. "I'll... see you around?" Rachel asked tentatively. Kristel just smiled her half smile and waved lightly. Then she walked towards her convertible and hopped in.
Rachel's eyes followed her all the way till she drove out of sight. Shaking her head, not understanding what had just happened, she climbed into her sleek porsche and drove home to her son, Eric.
The following nights plagued Kristel with more dreams. This time, however, she could recognise Rachel. But Rachel garbed in different clothes. And she had her hair down. Rachel... Holding her... Rachel... Kissing her... Kristel jerked up from her slumber. She got up wearily from her bed and walked to the toilet. There, she splashed her face with the tap water and eyed herself in the mirror.
Get a grip, Kris! An attractive woman comes walking into the shop and you have erotic dreams about her?
But she knew it wasn't true. She had had those dreams since forever... She sighed and went to her desk. She knew there was no more sleep for her that night.
"I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
"Honey, what's wrong with you? What were you thinking about?" Jason's voice broke into Rachel's thoughts.
"I was just.. Uuhh.. Thinking of work." came the unsure reply. Jason looked dubious but he didn't pursue the matter.
"I was just asking where you wanna go for dinner tonight?" he put his arm around Rachel and she leaned against him.
"I'm rather tired... I think I wanna go home" Jason smiled.
"Alright, you look very tired. Go get some sleep okay? I'll send you home."
Rachel nodded, relieved. She had been seeing Jason for almost half a year now. He was a kind, gentle man, funny and sensitive. She thought that she found the right one after her last marriage, but now... It didn't feel so right anymore. She glanced at him driving beside her and took in his hair, his face... Everything that she once thought she loved... Now they just seemed like a lousy substitute for.... Kristel... Rachel took a sharp intake of breath. She was unwilling to see that but the more she thought about it, the clearer it became. Jason was a chinese. Her ex- husband also had asian blood in him. She shut her eyes and rubbed her temples gingerly, not able to think anymore.
"You okay? You look terrible, maybe you should take a break from work, hon." Rachel cringed. She was used to him calling her endearments but now... It just didn't feel right.
"I think I will, maybe.." her voice was thoughtful. "Goodnight." she closed the car door and walked to her house. Jason came out after her.
"Hey you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, why?" she looked at him, irritated.
"You didn't kiss me goodnight."
Somehow she didn't want to. She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek and quickly stepped in the house in case he objected and wanted more.
"I really need to sleep."
Jason put his hands up in mock surrender. "Okay, I get the message. Call me when you feel better okay?" Rachel nodded, impatient to go upstairs and Jason left.
Miraculously, the headache went away the moment Rachel closed her door. She went up to Eric's room and saw him sleeping. She smiled. She walked over to his bed and tucked him in. Then she kissed his forehead and whispered "Sweet dreams, my love..."
She turned and went up to her room. After a cool shower, Rachel sat on her bed. She felt so restless. Her mind raced. She thought of Kristel and wondered where she was.
Maybe I really need a holiday. she sighed to herself. She was never attracted to women... She didn't understand her attraction to Kristel.
The club was smoky and filled with people laughing and talking. The music wasn't very loud, just nice for a drink and smoke. Rachel walked towards one of the empty seats and ordered a drink. She had decided to go to a club where she would not see Jason or anyone she knew. She convinced herself that she was just stressed out, and it had nothing to do with Jason. He was a good man. Sipping her drink, she heard a commotion somewhere at the back of the club. She turned, trying to see what was going on. A lot of people were cheering and whooping.
The bartender, sensing her curiosity, told her "The crowd gets excited when they watch the pool game. " She nodded absently then she grabbed her drink and walked over.
"That was a great shot lady!" a boisterous man shouted after a thwack. She sitted herself and watched the ensuing game. The girl, with her back towards her, was taking a shot. Well, as it went, the girl was taking all the shots. Her opponent looked very angry.
"Hahaha! You're gonna lose, sucker!" someone beside her shouted. She turned and asked him what was going on.
"That asshole over there was bothering this lady, yeah? She got majorly pissed. He wanted to bet that he could win her over by the end of the night and get her into bed and so she suggested that they played 3 rounds of pool. If he wins, she'll fuck him and if she wins, he'll buy her endless flow of beer and fuck outta her sight."
Heavy bet... The girl must be damn sure of herself. Rachel turned her attention back to the game. Then she sucked in her breath. The girl had walked to the other side of the table and was now facing her. It was Kristel. Oblivious to her spectator, Kristel bent and took her shot. Another ball went in. The crowd roared again. Rachel started to feel uneasy. What if the man won?
"How's the score like now?" she asked her companion.
"Right now the man has got one game on his side. The girl looks like she's gonna win this one though, so we'll all have to wait for the third game."
Rachel looked anxiously at Kristel. Kristel's face was closed up in concentration as she took her last shot- the black ball.
"Yes!!!" Kristel won the second round. Rachel couldn't help but noticed that Kristel looked very good at that moment. With her leather jacket and pants, she looked like a slick ranger. And her face... Her cold look... A strand of stray hair fell across her cool expression as she sipped her beer... Rachel shuddered.
Oh shit... last ball... Kristel thought nervously. The
third round had gone on and the asshole had all the balls in and was posing
to shoot the black ball.
Please.... Don't let it go in... Despite her jittery thoughts, Kristel was a mask of ice on the outside. The ball missed the hole slightly. The whole room let out a huge breath. Kristel smirked slightly at that and then recovered herself. She strolled up coolly and took her shot. Whack! Thwarp! All the balls went into the respective holes smoothly.
She finished the game and everyone started cheering again. She turned to her opponent and gave him a look. He was red with anger and humiliation.
"I'll get you for this, bitch." he almost lifted his arm when a few men who were watching shouted "Hey, sore loser! You touch her and you'll get it from everyone! She won fair and square! Now give her that treat!"
More shouts of approval rang through the crowd and the man backed off.
"On my tab." he grunted and he left. Kristel let out a breath of relief and turned. Into the pair of blue eyes again.
"Hey." her heart started racing. This cannot be, she came out because she wanted to get away from dreams about her and now she meets her here?
"Are you okay?" Rachel's concerned voice came to her.
"Oh, yeah." Kristel managed a tight smile. "You.. watched?"
Rachel nodded with a smile. She didn't add that her heart almost beat right out of her chest when that man was down to the last ball. "Let's go, I've got much beer to finish hon." Kristel grinned cheekily.
Hon? A warm sensation coursed through Rachel when she noted that.
"So, what's up?" Rachel inquired when they settled down in a quiet corner. "I couldn't sleep." Kristel answered. "Neither could I." Rachel confessed. Kristel smiled.
"Oh well, thank goodness for my one week break from school. I can laze around a bit then." Rachel took in the information.
"Really? Have you been around here long?"
Kristel shook her head. "Nah... Been here for about 3 months? haven't seen anything except some pubs and the bookstore and my school... Oh, and the hospital."
Rachel grinned. "How's the hand and the head?"
The head wound looked fine... But it was going to leave a scar. So was the wound on her arm.
Even the scars look sexy... Rachel thought to herself.
"Huh? Who?" Rachel asked absently. She had lost track of the conversation.
"My... wounds?" Kristel eyed her suspiciously before breaking into a ravishing smile. "Too much alcohol huh?"
Rachel nodded, trying to cover up. "So, anyway," she recovered. "I'm on leave for a week... want me to take you around?"
Kristel looked at her, as if judging the truth of her words.
"What?" Rachel asked, slightly irritated. "I was just wondering if you were speaking the truth, that's all." she replied with a mischevious glint in her eyes.
"Oh you..." Rachel laughed. "Yes I'm speaking the truth and I will remember what I said tomorrow when I wake up. Now you answer my question."
Kristel considered for a moment and shrugged. "Sure, why not?" Rachel's heart lifted at that. She didn't question her reactions to this girl anymore. She just wanted to follow her heart.
Kristel clicked on her computer and started typing. It was what she did daily now, ever since her dream became so vivid that it resembled a story of sorts. She had always loved writing, and she knew a good story when she saw one. The words came out effortlessly from her fingertips onto the keyboard, reflecting on the monitor. It felt better when everything was written out. It felt more... Real. It made her believe that her sanity was still intact and that her dreams had more than taken hold of her life. Sometimes she wondered if she had lived to dream. That life was more fulfiling in another dimension that wasn't reality. She sighed as the night's entry was finished and she switched off her trusty electronic apparition. Even Jacintha wasn't told of her dreams. She climbed wearily into bed, hoping for a night of peace. When she closed her fatigue eyes, she envisioned the lovely face that was Rachel. Her mind went through everything that had happened. The night at the club... The dinner at betty's diner... The day in the dusty bookstore... Even the first night at the pub. When she finally drifted off, she dreamt of laughter and warmth, black tresses and blue eyes...
Morning came abruptly with someone knocking on her door. Kristel
dragged herself from her bed and stumbled to the door. She opened it without
thinking and saw Rachel standing outside, bright and cheery. She was holding
the hand of a cute little boy who had her mother's eyes and slightly asian features.
"Oh shit." Rachel's bright smile dulled a little.
"I overslept." Kristel stated sheepishly.
"No we're early, I was just feeling hyped. Sorry, did I wake you?" Kristel looked amused. It was a silly question and Rachel knew it.
Kristel gave her a sleepy smile. "Come on in. Make yourself at home. I'll just... go wash up."
Rachel walked in and closed the door behind her. "Hey darling, let's take a seat while she goes wash up okay?" Eric nodded and ran to the bed. Rachel noticed that the apartment was actually one huge space that held the living room, bedroom, study room and kitchen in it. There was only one other door in the place and it led to the toilet. The large bed was sprawled in the middle of the room, gray blankets and pillows all askew. Scattered around were books, papers, and stationary. There was a laptop by the bed. A small fridge at the other side of the bed. Rachel smiled to herself. Everything in this apartment was centred around the bed, she noticed.
"There's water in the fridge by the bed" called out Kristel from the toilet. Rachel walked over and opened the mini fridge. There was so many bars of white chocolate in the fridge! Eric looked at them longingly. "Can Eric have a bar of chocolate?" she shouted.
"Yeah" came the muffled reply.
"Here." Rachel smiled. That's one thing Eric and Kristel had in common. Then she wondered at that comment. Kristel came out of the toilet.
"Ready to rock and roll hon."
Rachel looked up. Garbed in a white t-back tank top and faded jeans, Kristel looked damn attractive to her.
"What? Is there a hole in my shirt?" Kristel joked.
"Nah..." Rachel averted her gaze.
"Well, I haven't made the necessary introductions yet have I?" she pulled a busily munching Eric up and said "Eric, this is Kristel, and Kristel, this is my son, Eric." Kristel put out her hand solemnly and Eric shook it.
"I see you love white chocolate as much as I do." she commented. Eric nodded and bit into the chocolate. "A man after my own heart."
Eric grinned, finally finishing the bar and said "And you are a woman after mine." Kristel was surprised at that glib reply and starting laughing.
"Well, I see you two like each other." Rachel said, satisfied. She was afraid that Eric and Kristel wouldn't get along well for some reason and now she thought that she was worrying needlessly. "Let's go!"
A big garden stretched between the house and the gate. Shrouded
with bushes and plants. The driveway was long and it winded up to the house.
Rachel opened the door and was greeted by cecilia, her housekeeper cum Eric's
nursemaid. Kristel passed her precious bundle to the housekeeper. She had carried
Eric while Rachel opened the door. Then Rachel and her trooped down to the kitchen
where Kristel started rummaging the cupboards.
"You sure you don't need help?" Rachel asked again.
"Rach, you've asked me that five hundred million times. And the answer is still no." Kristel replied over her shoulder.
Rachel snickered. She hadn't been this relaxed for so long.
"I want to thank you for a great day out, and this is the least I can do."
"Well okay and in return, why don't you stay over these few days? You can be my cook for a few days." she asked Kristel jokingly.
"Like a holiday or something."
"No clothes." came the answer.
"That's easy, I'll lend you some of mine and I could drive you back in the morning to grab some."
Pleased and feeling suddenly relieved for no reason, Rachel moved to the living room. "I'll get you a drink. Any favourites?"
"Tequila shooter." came the reply. Kristel came out of the kitchen, arms ladened with plates of food.
"Smells good." Rachel passed Kristel her drink.
"Come on. Chow time." Kristel winked. Rachel grimaced.
"You sure they're edible?" she asked mischeviously. That earned her a swat on her arm.
"Nnot bad." Rachel conceded. Kristel stacked up the dishes.
"Leave that. Cecilia will get that tomorrow." Kristel nodded and settled herself on the couch. The erotic voice of Madonna was serenading the room. Kristel closed her eyes, letting the words wash over her.
**"I can't stop thinking of you
The things we used to do
The secrets we once shared
I'llalways find them there
in my memories
But this heartache isn't going anywhere
In the public eye I act like I don't care
When there's no one watching me
I will always have you
Inside of me
Even though you're gone
Love still carries on
Love, inside of me..." **
Kristel sighed. Where are you? I'm still keeping the love alive... Where can I find you? I will always have you... Inside of me...
She was oblivious to Rachel studying her.
I seem to be doing this a lot. Rachel mused. She was still unsure why she had requested Kristel to stay. Then I won't have to go pick her up every morning her mind supplied the lame excuse. She didn't even know why she had offered to bring Kristel around. She just knew that she wanted to be near this girl.
"I feel like I'm imposing on you." Kristel said uneasily before they turned in for the night.
"What rubbish." Rachel brushed the comment off. "I need the time off and by the way I was the one who suggested this. Eric likes you around too."
Kristel grinned at the mention of Eric. "Yeah well..." she trailed off reluctantly.
"Goodnight, Kristel. You can sleep in tomorrow, we only leave at 2 in the afternoon."
"Where to?" Kristel's curiosity was piqued.
"Any problem?" Rachel asked, concerned.
"How much is it gonna be? I'll have to check my resources." she said softly.
"It's on me." Kristel's protests were curbed by a stern look from Rachel. "Just a fun trip for you, me and Eric. Anyway you're gonna be my cook remember?"
Kristel nodded, uneasy but not wanting to reject the opportunity of seeing Rachel more. "Goodnight. And thank you, Rachel."
Sleep came easily that night for both of them.
"No... It's not you... I just... Yes..."
"I just need a break. I... " Rachel furrowed her brows. This was gonna be hard. "Yes Jason. I just want to stop seeing you for a while."
"No, there's no one else."
A longer pause.
"I'm glad you understand. Okay. I will. You too. Bye Jase."
With that, she hung up the phone. Her hair was tied up in a loose ponytail when she fumbled through her kitchen cabinets. Taking in the smell of freshly brewed coffee and frying eggs, Eric stood rubbing his eyes at the kitchen door.
"Morning mom." he said sleepily. Rachel turned around and gave Eric a hug and ruffled his hair.
"Slept well?" Eric nodded groggily. "Here, breakfast."
Eric scrambled up the dining table and poked at his eggs. "Are we going out with Kristel today?" he enquired.
"Yup." Rachel sat down opposite her son and sipped at her coffee.
"Goody. I like her, don't you, mom? I wanna marry her when I'm old enough." he claimed. Rachel smirked. "Where's she?" he asked again, mouth full of scrambled eggs.
"In the guestroom. I'll go see if she's up okay?" Eric nodded, all this attention focused on his breakfast.
Rachel shook her head with a smile and went to the guestroom. When no one answered her knock, she peeked in. Kristel was sprawled on the bed, on her stomach. A pillow was covering half of her head as she tried to shut out the sunlight streaming into the room.
Suddenly, Kristel shifted and the blanket fell from her body a little, revealing a very bare back, covered only by her tattoo. Then, almost as if she knew Rachel was in the room, Kristel mumbled something about the sun rising at the wrong time. Rachel snickered and Kristel looked from under her pillow, fully aware that someone was in the room.
"Hey there." she smiled, sleep still evident on her face.
"Sorry to wake you up. Can't help with the complaint about the sun though." Rachel jibed. Kristel blushed and sat up, hand combing through her tousled hair.
"Ahhh..." It was Rachel's turn to blush. Kristel's action had left her bare upper body in full view.
"Oops." was all she said and she pulled the covers closer to her.
"Breakfast's ready." Rachel announced, hoping that Kristel didn't notice her shaky voice.
"In a minute." Kristel answered and Rachel went out.
"This is so beautiful..." Kristel said to no one in particular as she glanced out into the vast blue ocean. She took in a lungful of salty seabreeze and sighed in contentment. They had been on the cruiseboat for a couple of hours now and dinner was to be served soon. Earlier that day, Rachel had driven her back home to pick up some clothes and necessities. "Formal wear." Kristel didn't know what to wear for dinner. She comtemplated not showing up but that would be utterly rude. She walked back to her cabin and looked through her clothes.
"Hmm..." she bit her lower lip in consternation. She pulled out a gray turtleneck, her leather jacket and pants.
This should be formal enough I hope.
She frowned. Somehow she didn't think so. She peeked into the cabinet and spied a long blue evening dress that Rachel had brought along. She tried it on and scrutinized her reflection.
Not bad she thought grudgingly. Rachel had said to borrow anything she needed. Yeah well, she needed this, if not she may not be able to enter the restaurant. Rachel and Eric had changed and left before she returned, leaving her a note to join them at the restaurant. She went over to the dressing table and looked at the lipstick and foundation.
What the hell... she thought. Girls just wanna have fun, right?
She picked up the foreign feeling apparitons and started applying them. When she finally looked herself over in the mirror, she nodded in satisfaction. She put her long hair down and they fell in slight waves down her shoulders.
"I'd pick you up if you weren't me" she mumbled and then snickered at herself.
Rachel and Eric sat in the restaurant, waiting for Kristel to show up. Eric had wanted to leave earlier to check out some of the things in the giftshop. He had wanted to bring some things back for his dad. They ended up buying a big sweatshirt and cap. Pleased with his purchases, Eric finally allowed his mother to bring him to the restaurant. Rachel looked up and almot couldn't recognise Kristel.
Wow. Big difference when she puts on a dress... She couldn't decide what she liked better. Kristel in pants or dress. Kristel herself was overwhelmed by Rachel's beauty. She finally let her hair down and it flowed smoothly down her bare back. Her blood red evening gown revealed the most of her back. She looked ravishing. Kristel sat down before her heart overworked and caused her to faint.
"Wow, Kris, you look pretty!" Eric said enthusiastically.
"Thanks." Kristel blushed. She wasn't used to this. "I.. Borrowed your dress and some of your.."
"I know. It looks great on you." Rachel interrupted with a smile.
"Lady in red huh?" Kristel said in return. Rachel smirked. "Well you look ravishing, if I may." Rachel looked down and fidgeted with her napkin.
Kristel nodded emphatically.
Eric had insisted sharing one of the twin beds with Kristel. Conceding defeat without much of a fight, they finally settled down for the night. Morning arrived with the sun streaming in the small cabin. Kristel burrowed deeper into the pillows, one hand cradling Eric.
Rachel woke up first, and as she observed the view before her, her heart melted. Kristel and Eric painted such a lovely picture together. Kristel's hair was tousled in her sleep and so was Eric's. Eric was cradled in Kristel's arms and for some reason, Rachel felt envious. At that moment, Rachel realised that she was deluding herself about Jason, or anyone else for all that matter. She realised that all her life, she was waiting for that woman, lying there in the bed with her precious little son.
"Mmph." Kristel moved. She turned her head to Rachel and opened an eye. "Do I look funny when I sleep?" she joked.
"N-no..." Rachel cleared her head and grinned. "You look hilarious."
"Ha-ha. Funny." Kristel retorted.
"I'll go wash up." Rachel got up and went to the bathroom. When she returned, Kristel was asleep again. She walked over and stood by the bed. Suddenly a hand was on her arm and she was pulled onto the bed.
"Gotcha!" Eric and Kristel both shouted at the top of their voices. They started tickling Rachel senseless.
"No... Stop... Ahhahaha.. No... Eric.... " Rachel couldn't stop laughing. "T-t- truce.."
"Okay, we'll let her off this time, won't we, Eric?" Kristel piped up. Eric nodded and slided off Rachel. He ran to the bathroom and slammed the door. Left on the bed with Rachel, Kristel suddenly felt very warm. She caught blue eyes staring at her and whispered "You know, I dream about your eyes every night..."
Rachel lifted up her hand to Kristel's face and touched her lightly.
"Hey Kristel! your turn!" Eric rushed out, interrupting the moment. Rachel immediately sat up and Kristel almost jumped off the bed and went ran to the toilet.
God I'm falling for her more for every single second that passes. Kristel agonised.
She didn't know if it was good or bad.
It's all so confusing... What if she doesn't like me that way? What if... Aw man...
All her insecurities came crashing down on her. She knew that she couldn't stop herself. She had never been good at this. The day was great, as usual. She was beginning to think that every minute with Rachel is good. No matter where they were or who they were with. She had come to love the way she looked at her, the way she smiled...
Love? she thought incredulously. No way...
It's just an infatuation she kept muttering over and over in her head. Yeah right, Kris. Keep telling yourself that. Maybe you'll start to believe it too.
Eric had fallen asleep once they reached their cabin. Rachel had went out for a walk and said she would be back soon. Kristel sighed. She wanted to be near Rachel. She got up from her bed and went out. Standing at the door to the cabin, Kristel debated if she should go look for Rachel. She took a deep breath and decided to find her. She found Rachel standing at the starboard, gazing at the stars. As she walked towards Rachel, she felt a sense of dejavu wash over her again.
Rachel had felt Kristel before she spoke. "Hey."
Somehow, Rachel had known that Kristel would come to look for her. As they stood beside each other, shoulders touching, both of them felt like they have done that exact thing before- stargazing. They kept quiet for a long time, relishing in the comfortable silence.
Then Kristel asked "Why do you stargaze?" Rachel considered and answered "Because I yearn for what lies beyond."
Before Kristel could answer, Rachel said "And you yearn too, don't you?"
She didn't know how she knew that or why she said that but she just... knew. They looked at each other for a long time before Rachel bent her head and gave Kristel a soft kiss on her lips.
"Goodnight, Kris." they walked back in silent companionship to the cabin, knowing that something special had just occurred.
"Well... We had great time, didn't we, Eric?" Eric nodded. The
three of them were outside Kristel's apartment. Kristel had decided that she
would use the weekend to catch up on some work and Rachel had sent her back.
"So did I" Kristel grinned. She ruffled Eric's hair and have him an enigmatic smile. "Well thanks for everything." She glanced up at Rachel just in time to see a look of... reluctance? on her face.
"Maybe you could leave me your number and you guys can come over some time for the day or something." Kristel suggested hopefully.
"Sure, we'd like that, won't we, Eric?" Eric nodded again. He sure liked Kristel alot.
"Great." they exchanged their numbers and Rachel turned to leave.
"Bye!" Eric shouted. Kristel waved and went into her apartment. It seemed so... Empty and cold. Well, back to reality, dreamer...
The warm water rushed down her head to her back, soaking her whole body. She sighed, eyes closed, enjoying the caress of the cascading water. Her head was filled with images... Warm kisses, comfortable hugs, doorbells ringing...
Doorbells ringing?? Rachel opened her eyes in a start.
"Coming!" she shouted. She grabbed hold of her bathrobe and put it on hastily.
Who could it be? It's eleven in the night!
Not to mention that the person had just interrupted her fantasies about a certain asian girl...
Maybe it's her, she hoped...
She opened the door to be greeted by... Jason?
"Hey love... I missed you." it was Jason with flowers and champagne. She groaned inwardly. This was not what she expected.
"Jason, what are you doing here?" she tried not to sound too exasperated.
"I never did need a reason to drop by hon..." Aw man, he's sulking! Rachel couldn't keep the irritation off her face.
"Well that was then and this is now."
"Why, what has changed?" he looked at her.
"I... I thought I told you that I wanted some time off..." she trailed off.
"Yes and you had what, five days? I missed you, honey... I..."
Rachel sighed. "Okay. Come in and we'll talk alright?"
Sitted on the couch, Jason started to place his arms around Rachel. She flinched and moved away. "Rach..."
"No, you listen to me." she interrupted. "I've decided that we shouldn't see each other anymore." she announced.
"Huh? Why?" he started, bewildered. "What did I do?"
Rachel shook her head. This was not going too well. "No, it's nothing to do with you, Jason... I just... I just don't think it's gonna work out, that's all."
"Why not? Don't you love me anymore? Did you ever?" he accused.
"I..." How was she going to answer that question without hurting him too bad? "Well maybe what I thought was love just wasn't love..." she answered guiltily.
"No.. This can't be... Is there someone else?" Jason was tearing, all his hurt showing in his face.
"I.. Maybe... I don't know..."
"You don't know?" he almost shouted, incredulous.
"I'm not sure okay? But whether there is or not is not the point here. It's not the reason." Jason tried to kiss her.
"No!" she fended him off. "Please. Don't."
He fought to stay in control. "I.. I'm sorry."
Rachel shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. I just can't do this... Please... Understand."
He nodded resignedly. "I'll see you around?" he asked. She just nodded mutely and he left.
Shaking, Rachel lifted the handset. She didn't know why but she just had this burning impulse to call Kristel. Just to hear her voice.
Rachel felt her heart racing when she heard that. God this girl is sexy even saying that!
"Hello?" Kristel didn't get any answer and was about to hang up when she heard a shaky greeting.
A sniff and then "Yes... I don't know why I called but I just... Needed someone to talk to..."
Sitting up, Kristel asked, "Are you okay?"
"I... something just happened and..."
Anxious now, Kristel cut her off. "You want me to come over?"
Do I ever! Rachel's heart pounded. "Y-yes.. If it's not much of a trouble.."
Click. Rachel hung up. She's coming over! her heart shouted ecstatically. She poured herself a drink and sat on the couch.
When the doorbell rang again, Rachel went to it happily.
"Hey." she was greeted by a worried Kristel.
"What's wrong?" Kristel could see that Rachel was crying. "Hey... Everything's gonna be okay." as Rachel started sobbing again. She held her close and waited for Rachel to stop.
"I- I'm sorry." a muffled voice came from behind her head.
"Nah.. No prob." Damn, she felt good. Pushing that thought back to her head, Kristel let Rachel go reluctantly. "So... Wanna tell me what's wrong?" she inquired.
Rachel took a deep breath and told Kristel everything that had happened. Finishing her story, Rachel went to refill her martini. "Oh, right, I forgot to get you a drink. Tequila shooter, right?" Kristel nodded.
When she returned with the drink, she saw Kristel smoking. "I didn't know you smoked." she commented.
"You mind?" came the question.
"No, I just didn't know you smoked. I do too, sometimes."
"Yeah well," Kristel replied "Only when I'm bored... Or nervous." Rachel lifted a questioning brow.
"So are you... Bored or nervous now?" Kristel grinned, embarrassed. "Nervous."
Interesting... What's she nervous about? "What are you nervous about?" she asked out loud.
"Uuhhh... Nothing... So... Is there someone else?" Kristel asked, taking in a deep drag.
"It's not the reason... "
"So there isn't?" Kristel pressed on, heart sinking.
Hmm.. What kinda answer is that? Kristel frowned. "Well? is it a yes or a no?"
Rachel fidgeted with her fingers. "... yeah. But it's not the reason why I broke up with him... It just wasn't right and the person just made me realise, that's all."
Phew. Looking up, she saw Kristel staring at her with a weird look in her face. Oh no... Am I gonna get rejected if I tell her? Rachel pondered.
"Is it... Someone I know?" Kristel asked softly. Rachel got up from the couch and walked to the balcony.
Kristel followed her after downing her drink, the cigarette forgotten. "Maybe... Let's see... The people I know that you know are only... Sophia..."
A gentle shake of the head.
"Ken.." Kristel took another step closer.
"No.. Can't be Jason... Uuhh... Cecilia?"
A soft laughter floated to her ears. Her heart was pounding madly in her chest. Her palms felt sweaty.
Aw man! Don't freak out now! Kristel shouted in her head.
"Okay.. So that leaves... Eric?"
Rachel turned around abruptly, ready to laugh when she realised that her face was much too close to Kristel's, who had made her way over to where Rachel was standing. Her heart thumping in her throat didn't allow her to speak. Kristel gazed into Rachel's eyes and whispered, "Well then that just leaves me, doesn't it?"
It was all Rachel could do to nod. Inches from each other's face, time stopped for the two of them. Then Rachel leaned down whilst Kristel tiptoed at the same time and they sank into a sweet kiss. Kristel never thought that she would feel Rachel's lips upon hers again and she grabbed onto her dream with every ounce of strength she had. Rachel had been hoping to do this again ever since that night on the cruise and she held her back.
The kiss deepened a warm heat enveloped the couple. It finally broke when they had to catch their breaths. "Wow." was all Kristel could say. "Ditto." Rachel chuckled, still overwhelmed.
"Uuhh... So I guess it is me then." Kristel muttered. "Unless of course, you kiss Cecilia and Ken and Sophia..."
Rachel snickered. "Oh I'm gonna get you for this..."
"Really? how?" Kristel bantered.
"Like this..." Rachel leaned down again. "That's getting me? I'll be bad more often th-" was all Kristel could say before her lips were caught in Rachel's.
"Mom?" Rachel looked up.
"Commercial time." Kristel snickered and that earned her a playful poke in her ribs.
"Yes honey?" she walked into the living room, dragging Kristel after her.
"Hey Kristel! Yyou're here!" Eric smiled.
"Hey buddy." Kristel called out chirpily.
"Honey why are you out here?" Rachel asked.
"I thought I heard some noises." he looked eagerly at Kristel. "Hey Kristel, are you staying here tonight?"
Rachel also looked over at Kristel.
"Welll... It is a little late... I'll just drive back tomorrow." Rachel grinned.
"Let's go to bed, mom. Can you sleep with mommy and me, Kris?" Eric looked innocently at Kristel.
"Ahh..." Rachel looked at Kristel, amused.
"Sure." she replied. So the three of them sauntered to the room together, hand in hand.
As Rachel ran her fingers through the brown wavy hair that was Kristel's, she couldn't help but to give a sigh of contentment. Contented, that this girl was here, with her and her son, in her life. She closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the warm sensation of lying beside the person she loved.
Loved? Rachel's eyes shot open. She didn't know what all these was going to lead to. And frankly, she wasn't really caring about it. From the moment Kristel entered her life, all her moves were unplanned. She felt Kristel stir beside her. Rachel took her hand away from her hair. A blurry brown eye peeked at her.
Rachel grinned and whispered "Hey." Kristel tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes and gave Rachel a grudging smile. She was uncertain about where she stood in this woman's life.
She's beautiful, has a child who is an absolute angel, has money, and she's successful... Me, on the other hand... I'm a student. Who's only going to be here for 3 years. What's gonna come out of this?
Rachel noted Kristel's faraway look and asked "Penny for your thoughts" Kristel broke out of her ruminations
"I was just thinking about breakfast." she lied smoothly. No point voicing out her fears. It would only make her more vulnerable.
"Is there only food on your mind?" Rachel prodded, grinning from ear to ear.
Kristel answered by burrowing deeper into the covers. "No" came the muffled voice. "Sleep is." Rachel chuckled to herself. The two very uncertained women lied side by side on the king size bed, both not knowing what to say or do. Kristel's body ached for Rachel's touch. Rachel's arms ached to encircle Kristel's taut body. So near, yet so far... Both let out a sigh of relief and disappointment when Eric muttered "Morning mommy..." and gave Rachel a big smack on her cheek.
Rachel hugged him to her. "Alright, we have to get you a bath before daddy comes to get you." she ushered Eric down the bed and into the bathroom.
Kristel peeked from under her sheets. "Need my help?" she asked. Shaking her head, Rachel smiled and closed the door, leaving Kristel to her thoughts.
"Breakfast?" Rachel asked after Eric went off with his father. Kristel's tousled head bobbed up and down from under the covers as her stomach rumbled to prove her point. Rachel snickered. She had came upstairs to her bedroom as soon as Eric left, heart beating a little faster than usual when she thought of what she would find in her bed. Both women were aware that they were alone on the bed. An awkward silence settled between them.
"Uuhh..." Shit, I hate this.Kristel thought irritated. She reached out her uncooperative hand and held Rachel's hand. A little surprised, Rachel recovered and squeezed it, lifting her eyes to Kristel. They both grinned. This was going to work out. They would figure out how. Two very different worlds joined by the power of love.
The coffee house was not very crowded on that sunday morning. Kristel and Rachel sipped their cappucino, enjoying the relaxing feeling of just being together. Rachel leaned over and gave Kristel a kiss.
"Whoa. What was that for? Though I'm not complaining." she added cheekily.
"I don't know. Just felt like doing that." Rachel replied easily. They smiled. It was unexplanable. They felt so comfortable around each other after they were certain that last night was not a joke. It was as if they had known each other for a long time. Light touches and playful swats came naturally, as if they had done them all their lives. They were leaning back on their seats, fingers entwined, talking about nothing in particular when Jason appeared before them.
"Hi." his smile was forced. Kristel did not know if Rachel was comfortable holding her hand and was about to let go when she felt Rachel squeezing her hand a little harder. She left her hand in Rachel's and gave Jason a half smile. It was missed on him though as all his attentions were on Rachel.
"I need to talk to you." came his strangled voice. Rachel looked uneasy and was going to reject the request when Jason added a hoarse "Please." she gave Kristel a regretful smile let go of her hand.
"Gimme a minute okay?" Kristel nodded. Jason walked over to the corner and waited for Rachel to join him.
"You said there was no one else... What are you doing holding her hand?" he accused. Rachel frowned.
"Jase, she's not the reason why I left you. We didn't get together till last night... After you left." he shot her a dubious look.
"Like I would believe you. Rach, honey, she's a girl. How can you be with a girl? I'm a man, I have a good job and I love you... We're in love... You're just deluding yourself about everything!"
Irated, Rachel tried to calm her fraying nerves. "Jase, listen to me. It was a great relationship. I did think that it was something special, that you just might be the one after greg left me. But you're not. We are not in love and I am not deluding myself. I know what I'm doing. I do feel for Kristel and delusion is nowhere close. I'm in love with her... not you. She didn't come between us. She merely made me realise that you're not the one I'm looking for... waiting for..."
Jason looked almost mad when he heard her speech. "No! I will not lose to a girl! How can that be? You'll come back to me... You'll see Rachel... You're mine... Always have been... Always will be!" his mouth came down upon hers forcefully.
Backed against the wall, Rachel tried to struggle. She pushed him away. Wiping the back of her arm across her face she glared at him. "Don't you dare try that again, you understand?" she stormed back to Kristel while he shouted behind her. "You're mine!!! and no one will take you away from me!"
Kristel looked up and saw Rachel approach her, face flushed. "Let's go." Rachel grabbed Kristel and walked out of the coffeehouse.
Knowing it wasn't the right time to question Rachel, Kristel drove silently while she waited for Rachel to speak up. She circled the blocks three times before Rachel asked "What are you doing?"
Arching a brow, Kristel looked over at her angry yet beautiful passenger. "Getting your attention? And waiting for you to tell this poor little chauffeur where you wanna go, ma'am."
Rachel let out a deep breath. "I'm sorry. He just got on my nerves."
Nodding mutely, Kristel returned her attention to the road before her. "Wanna talk about it?" she asked absently. Rachel's silence gave her the answer. Kristel flipped on the radio switch and the convertible was filled with the seductive tempo of Madonna. She reached over tentatively and held Rachel's hand. The ride continued in this manner till they reached the beach.
"Why are we here?" Rachel asked.
Shrugging her shoulders, "This is where I go when I get pissed or upset. Thought it may help." Kristel opened her convertible's rooftop and the sea breeze swept over the car with the salty smell of the sea. Rachel rested her head on Kristel's shoulder.
"He was being a jerk. I felt bad... But not anymore."
Smiling, Kristel placed a kiss on Rachel's head.
"Why what?" Rachel asked.
"Why me?" Kristel questioned. She turned Rachel's face towards hers and looked into those fathomless blue eyes.
After a long while, Rachel bit her lower lip and said "I don't know... I just... couldn't stop thinking of you... When I saw you and Eric on the bed in the cabin... It just hit me that you are the one. I don't know why I feel so comfortable with you, or why I feel so right with you. I've never been attracted to women before. I'm confused, but I'm not going to deny my heart." Rachel searched those brown eyes that were looking back at her. "What about you? Why me?"
Kristel stroke Rachel's cheek lightly. "Because with you, I feel whole." Rachel's eyes welled up with tears. Kristel's one phrase surpassed her whole speech. They leaned in and sealed their confessions with a kiss that both felt deep within their souls. After the drive to the beach, Rachel and Kristel spent the day at Rachel's place, rebonding their love.
"Yeah." Kristel answered the shrilling phone. Her face clouded.
"No. I can't. I don't want to. Yes. We'll see. Okay? Yeah. Bye." she hung up and sat up on her bed.
Her mother had just called to tell her that they wanted her to go back. They did not like it that she was away on her own. She still had a small sum of money, the agent was coming to take the convertible today so she could remain there for a couple of months more. Then what? her mind rambled. She couldn't leave.
Rachel... she sighed. She was not going to tell Rachel about her situation. Rachel would probably offer to pay for her and she didn't want to take her money. We'll probably get into a fight or something and I wouldn't want to risk it.
She didn't even want to move in with Rachel officially though she would love to. Letting people think that she was with Rachel because of her money was the last thing she wanted on her mind. Crawling out of the bed with no more sleep left in her, Kristel went to the bathroom for a hot bath.
"Kris, what's up?" Jacintha felt that Kristel was drifting further and further away from her. "Huh? nothing." came the answer. "You better tell me what's wrong, Kris."
Jacintha could be very persistent if she wanted to be. Kristel sighed. "My mom. She wants me to go back... But I don't want to... I have not much money and I don't want Rachel to help... I don't want her to think that I'm with her for her money only. And..."
Jacintha looked incredulously at her friend. "What?" Kristel saw the look.
"Nothing, just that you didn't mention anything about you and Rachel..." Kristel continued
"Yeah well... I'm telling you now okay?" at Jacintha's nod, Kristel said "And I've been having all these dreams... They're scaring me... There's this man... I don't know what he's saying but the way he looked at me... I think something bad is gonna happen jac. " she shuddered visibly. "I don't know if I should tell Rachel, or if I'm just reading too much into things..."
Jacintha gave her friend a warm hug. "I'm sure everything will be fine... Just hang in there okay? I'm always here for you." relieved that she had let someone in on her secret, Kristel nodded. "Let's hang out after school, alright? We haven't done that for so long." Jacintha was determined to draw Kristel away from her problems. That's the least she could do for her good friend. Kristel, on the other hand didn't want Rachel to be bothered by her problem, so she agreed. Some time apart might be good.
Rachel stared into the wall of her office. Kristel was behaving a little secretive nowadays. She seemed to evade her questioning each time she asked her what was wrong. They have not been spending much time together lately. Frustrated, Rachel bit absently on the tip of the pen she was holding onto. Why couldn't Kristel tell her what was wrong? Was there someone else? She shook her head. She trusted Kristel.
Then what? She didn't know. If only Kristel would tell her. A loud buzz broke Rachel out of her thoughts. "Yes?" "Mr Tang is here to see you."
Jason? what's he doing here? After a while, she answered her secretary, "Tell him I don't want to see him and make sure he leaves." she opened her files and started going through the huge mountain of documents.
The phone rang. "De Ruiter." she answered formally. Her face lit up in a radiant smile. It was Kristel. "Okay. I miss you too." with that she hung up. Shaking off her formerly dour mood, Rachel went about doing her work, her heart anticipating the meeting with Kristel in the evening. It had been some time since they last met up and she missed her terribly.
"Hey mom! Hey Kristel!" Eric came out of his classroom. His teacher, miss wilskin smiled at Rachel and Kristel.
"Hello love... How was school?" Rachel grinned.
Sric ran up to Kristel and said "Are you coming out for dinner with us?" At her nod, Eric whooped and turned to his teacher. "Miss wilskin, this is the girl I told you about, the one I want to marry when I'm older." he grinned.
Miss wilskin smiled back, looking at Kristel. "Yes Eric. I recall that." Kristel just stood there, a flush stealthily building up on her face. Rachel snickered. She turned around to wave at her son's teacher and the trio marched out of the building. Rachel felt that she was the luckiest woman in the world for she had the two people she loved most in the world with her.
As Kristel caught her eye, she mouthed "I love you" to her and felt her heart skip a beat when Kristel replied "I love you back". She didn't know what she did to deserve this, and made a silent prayer for all that was given to her. Whatever it was that Kristel was bothered by, she obviously wasn't showing it.
Kristel's dreams persisted. For the past few times, it was about a man.
Jason?! her mind shouted. Sweating profusely, she hugged her knees to her. What was Jason doing in her dreams? she had a bad feeling. She got herself a drink and tried to sleep but to no avail. She had yet to tell Rachel her dreams. She tried to calm her breathing. Whatever it was, she didn't like it. She clicked her computer and started typing.
"The man, he looked half mad. Rage and jealousy were etched on his face as he looked upon me and my lover. I knew that he once cared for me, maybe still did, but whatever he was feeling surpassed all that love he had within. He ranted about me stealing the woman he loved. He called me abnormal. The pain I felt for him was nothing compared to the one I felt for my lover, her eyes holding the betrayal of her best friend. Then we were torn apart. I felt like my soul was ripped in two. A woman, she told me that I was to be married. All I could think of was my lover's face, her tears, her pain. I swore that no one would get me."
Kristel pondered. What was happening to her? maybe she should tell Rachel about it. She saved everything in a disc and scribbled "Rachel" on it. She would let Rachel read it.
someone knocked on the office door. "Come in." Rachel called
from under her work. She did not look up till something touched her head.
A bunch of flowers was laid on her desk in front of her. It was Jason.
"What do you want? How did you get in?" she asked, voice as cold as ice.
"I-... I'm sorry, Rach. I was angry and hurt and I just couldn't get over losing you... That's why I lost it that day. I've realised my mistake and I don't want to lose you as a friend... Please accept my sincerest apology." he lowered his eyes. Rachel saw that he was indeed sincere and her tone softened.
"All I can say is that I'm sorry I hurt you... But you have to understand that Kristel did not come between us. She just made me realise that I didn't love you." she saw Jason flinch when she said those last few words but she had to be honest with him. He was a good man and she did not want to lose his friendship over that either. Jason tried to put a smile on his face.
"I accept that now... So we're friends?" Rachel nodded.
The phone rang. "De Ruiter." her face darkened then lightened. "If Kris has him then it's okay." she spoke into the receiver. She hung up and said "Hang on, I need to make a phone call." Jason nodded and sat down.
"Kris? Hey." her face glowed when she heard her lover's voice.
"I have something for you."
"What is it?" Rachel asked. She grinned when Kristel told her it was a surprise. "Okay... Is Eric there? What? She says you have him." she hung up the phone.
"What's wrong?" Jason asked when he saw Rachel's expression.
Rachel pulled up in front of Eric's school. She saw Cecilia
sitting there, fidgeting with her fingers. She emplyed Cecilia a few months
before. The woman was always silently doing her work, and she had nothing to
complain about her. "What happened?"
"Oh ma'am." Cecilia exclaimed when she saw Rachel. "I came her to pick master Eric up as usual and the teacher told me that Miss Kristel picked her up so I called you and you said it was okay." Rachel frowned.
"Kristel said that she brought Eric home. She said that you called her to tell her that you couldn't get him because you weren't feeling well."
"No, ma'am... I didn't call her. Why would I?" Rachel saw Miss wilskin.
"Miss Wilskin... Who took Eric?" the teacher walked up to Rachel.
"That girl with you, Ms De Ruiter. Kristel. I thought it was okay since you were together that day when you picked Eric up... And he was delighted to see her!"
Nodding, Rachel turned to leave. "Let's go back." she didn't see Jason giving Cecilia a curt nod and a satisfied smile. All she worried about was her son's safety.
"Rachel did you find Eric?" Kristel was frantic. Cecilia had called her to tell her that she couldn't pick Eric up for she wasn't feeling well so she drove him back. Then she went home to for fear that her mother would call again and find that she wasn't home after school. She wanted her mother to trust her and let her stay on. "I drove him back and I came home."
Kris hung up the phone. She couldn't leave. She had to wait for her mother's call. Rachel on the other hand was really confused. On top of that, she was scared, panicky and lost. She didn't understand why Kristel could not be there with her. What was so important that she had to stay at home?
"Rachel, take a seat." Jason said softly. "Look, this is how I see it. Kristel went to pick Eric up for some reason or other. The school teacher saw her with her own eyes. Even Kristel admitted that. So Eric's gotta be with her, right? If she claimed that she sent him back here, where is he? Moreover, Cecilia didn't call Kristel. Where would she get her number? Shouldn't she call you instead of Kristel? You could ask your secretary if Cecilia called you... Then you'll see if Cecilia is lying."
"Are you trying to say that Kristel may be lying?" Rachel glared at Jason. She did not trust him, but there was a little credibility in what he was insinuating.
"No... Why don't you just give your office a call and see what happens?" he persuaded her. Rachel dialled her office number.
"What did she say?" Jason asked after Rachel hung up the phone. "She said no one looked for me at all." her voice trailed off in a whisper as many random thoughts raced through her mind.
She missed Jason's smirk as she wondered what could have happened to Eric. There was no way Cecilia could have lied. She didn't have Kristel's number. She didn't even call Rachel's office. So that leaves Kristel. The teacher saw her picking Eric up. Why? why would she want Eric for? Why should she lie? It doesn't make any sense! frustrated, Rachel started crying. "Hey.... Sshh.... We'll find him okay?" Jason comforted Rachel. She just sat there, frowning. This is wrong. Something was bugging her but she didn't know what.
"I'll check up on her for you alright?" Jason's words went unnoticed. He dialled a number. "Rach, I called my friend, he's private investigator." Rachel's brow shot up, as if she had gotten an idea. But she kept the look to herself.
She had this nagging feeling that Jason couldn't be trusted. "I asked him to check out Kristel's background and stuff." he continued before his mobile phone rang.
"Yes. Really. Interesting." he looked over at Rachel. "I've got some news that may interest you." he said as he hung up the phone.
"It seems that Kristel's family wants her back but she doesn't want to leave. She's kinda short on money to stay here."
Confused, Rachel asked "What has that got to do with anything?" Jason answered slowly.
"Well... If she needs money, she can get it by kidnapping Eric, right?" shaking her head, Rachel said "No way. She could just tell me that she needed money, why should she do that for?"
"Maybe she wants more. Maybe all she wants is just money. If it wasn't her, who could it be? You have to agree that everything stands against her. Don't let your passion blind you, Rach." Jason reasoned. Rachel kept quiet. She was contemplating Jason's words.
She took Eric... How... Why?... For money? Is that all she wants? that cannot be! but then... What else could have happened? what? she was going crazy. Jason observed the emotions running across Rachel's face and smiled to himself.
Round one to Jason.
"What do you want?" Rachel's voice was icy.
"I just... Wanted to see how you are. Is Eric found?" Kristel asked tentatively.
"No. All thanks to you." she couldn't help but add the last part. In the last eight hours, Rachel ran through all the possible things that could have happened and concluded that her son would not be found if she showed that she believed Kristel. She suspected that Jason had something to do with it but she did not know what. How did she get Kristel to get Eric then? And when did he get Eric? The teacher saw Kristel bringing him away and even Cecilia supported the story. There were too many things to sort out. Kristel flinched.
"What do you mean, all thanks to me? Where's Cecilia? I want to talk to her."
"I don't think there's any need. Why don't you just tell me the truth, Kris? You need money, right? You could have asked me for help, why didn't you? What really happened? Where did you take Eric?"
Kristel could not believe her ears. "You think that I took Eric?" she kept her emotions in check and slipped on her cold mask of protection. Her heart felt like it was shattered into pieces. This woman whom she loved thinks that she kidnapped her son.
"What else could have happened? Cecilia couldn't have gotten your number... She didn't even call my office, I checked." she looked into Kristel's eyes and saw nothing. Kristel had no expression on her face.
"There's nothing else I can say to you then." Kristel answered stiffly before she turned away.
"Tell me the truth!" Rachel shouted, tears running freely down her face, knowing that Jason was within earshot. She couldn't bear shouting the accusations but insinct made her act out her part as the suspicious lover and anxious mother. Kristel stopped in her tracks.
"I have. You don't believe me." she continued walking away. Neither of them saw Jason standing smugly behind Rachel.
Where can he be...? Kristel wrecked her brains. She was so hurt that Rachel did not have enough faith in her. But she could not let anything happen to Eric... He was innocent. Cecilia had indeed called her. So therefore, she must be lying. Why... she frowned. What good would it do her? Nothing... Unless she was working for someone.
Who? who wants me and Rachel to fall apart? Who could give Cecilia my number? who? she took in a sharp breath as realisation hit her.
Jason. She rushed to her coat and her car keys.
The convertible moved stealtily behind the Jaguar. Kristel finally
waited Jason out. He left Rachel's place early in the morning and drove off
in the direction of the pier. She waited till Jason got out of his car before
she killed her engine. She crept out and followed Jason into one of the containers
at the pier. She took with her a crowbar in case something happened. Looking
around cautiously, Kristel tried to make out where Jason went. She heard a sound
in one of the corners behind the large crates. She made her way there and saw
a blindfolded little boy.
Eric! her heart leapt.
"Yes. Eric." she swirled around at the man's voice and saw Jason pointing a gun at her. "You are smart, Kristel... Who would have guessed? Oh well, I just wanted you out of the picture... But now I guess it would have to be permanent. Why couldn't you have just gone back to your mommy, little girl?"
Kristel fumed inside but she shot him a defiant and icy look. "Little boy just can't take it that his girlfriend wants another girl?" she said sarcastically. That earned her a slap across her face.
"Take her inside." he ordered his men. She kicked out at Jason and he doubled over.
"Bitch!" the men dragged her away from Jason. "Tie her up!" he ordered. He turned to look at the sleeping Eric. "Have you given him the drugs yet?" his man nodded. Satisfied, he walked over to where Kristel was tied spreadeagle.
"You hit me huh?" he smirked. He gave Kristel a few blows to her stomach, leaving her breathless. "Bitch. Took my woman away. Did you think you could win?" he slapped her at the end of each sentence. Her lip cracked. She could taste blood in her mouth. Her cheeks stung. She could feel bruises forming on her face. She gave him a glare and spat out at him, drenching his face in her blood.
"Shit, you're asking for this!" he brought the butt of his gun down on her and drew more blood and an ugly bruise on the side of her head. "This is great. Just great. Perfect!" he shrilled. "Now, now, sister..." her head shot up as he called her that.
"Oh my, don't you know?" her foggy mind couldn't register his words properly. "I'm your brother in your last life honey... Oh, and I know about all those dreams that you've been having. Your friend, Jacintha, was a good help." Kristel's head started pounding.
"What money can do to a person,huh?" he laughed. "And I know all about your financial problems... Your mother wanting you back... But now, I can get rid of you forever. I hate you!" he glared at her. In his eyes, she saw so much hatred that she couldn't help but shudder. All the past came back. Rachel.... Jason.... Love... Hate.... Death..... She sobbed, her shoulders sagging. What was the use now? she remembered only to face death again.
"Rachel?" Rachel's eyes were puffy. The police wasn't
able to find her baby.
"Yeah?" the person in the phone spoke again. "I'm Jacintha."
Jacintha? Who the hell is that? Rachel wondered.
"Kristel's friend." hearing Kristel's name made Rachel flinch. Kristel didn't even bother to call after that day. If she really took Eric... Rachel didn't know what to think.
"What do you want?" her voice tinged with hostility.
"Uuhh.. I was wondering, have you seen her? She didn't come to school today. Kristel never skips lessons. I called her, but I couldn't get her."
Where can she be? With Eric? She really has Eric?
"So?" she said outwardly.
"I just thought... Well... I don't know... I just wondered if maybe you saw her?"
"No I haven't." Jacintha didn't understand why Rachel was so cold. "Well, did she tell you about her dreams?"
Dreams? Now she's telling me about dreams? "What dreams?" she demanded.
"She said that she was having these dreams about a man and that something bad was gonna happen... Didn't she tell you? she said that she saved everything on a disc and was gonna let you read it." Rachel recalled Kristel saying that she had something for her the day Eric was missing.
"No. She didn't give it to me."
She went to her car after the conversation with Jacintha. What did Kristel want to show her? Maybe she could find something at Kristel's place.
Looking around her lover's apartment, Rachel could not see anything amiss. "Rachel, you're here." she turned and saw Jacintha standing at the door of the apartment. She nodded curtly.
"What happened?" Jacintha asked. Rachel told her about Eric and her suspicions.
"You can't believe that!" Jacintha exclaimed.
"I don't want to... But... What else can I think?" Rachel sighed. "Where can she be?"
Jacintha shook her head. Jason had wanted her to look for the disc that Kristel was telling her about. She was in a dilemna. Kristel was her good friend, but she needed the money.
What the hell she thought. "Rachel, I uuhhh... Have something to tell you..." Rachel was busily rummaging through Kristel's stuff.
"What?" she asked distractedly.
"I... Jason paid me to tell him about Kristel's stuff and he... He wants me to get the disc that I told him and you about. I was supposed to get you to open the door for me and get the thing and probably knock you out or something." Rachel whipped around.
"What?!" she clutched at Jacintha's shirt. "Then what makes you think that I'llbelieve you now?" she snarled.
"I.. Kristel's missing and I think he's hurt her. I... Rachel, please, let me go... I really wanna help." Rachel loosened her hold on Jacintha.
"You sit here. I don't want you outta my sight." she growled. Kristel... Where are you? she looked around and saw the disc that had "Rachel" scribbled on it. " she picked up the disc, inserted it into the laptop and started reading. It was Kristel's thoughts and dreams. The more she read, the more she felt that she had known this whole story all her life. As images flooded into her head, she suddenly remembered. All her doubts slipped away.
"Kristel didn't take my baby. She couldn't have... Not when she loved me so much.... What have I done?" she whispered to herself. Now she understood her magnetic attraction towards Kristel. Their easiness with each other, the way they were so close and comfortable to each other. No wonder Jason wanted this. He was afraid that she would remember... That meant that he remembered. Oh no, that was bad. She needed to get to Kristel and fast.
"Tell me! I know all about it." Cecilia stood shivering under her employee's scrutiny. "I... I'm sorry, ma'am. He.... Mister Jason, he gave me a sum of money.... All I had to do was to call miss Kristel and tell her to get master Eric. When she brought master Eric back, I thought that everything was done. I didn't expect mister Jason to take him away... I had to lie to you..."
Rachel was furious. "Do you know what you have done? Don't I pay you enough?" she shouted.
Kristel.... Eric..... her heart broke. Where were they? Just then her phone rang. "De ruiter. Yes. Good. I'll be right there." she hung up the phone and glared at her former housekeeper.
"In case you're wondering, yes, you're fired."
"I told him that I got him the disc." Jacintha panted. Rachel nodded briskly. "Call the cops. Let's go." they hopped into Rachel's porsche and sped off. Rachel could only hope that she wasn't too late. She would never forgive herself.
noo.... Kristel thought faintly as one of the men approached
her. He had a leer on his face.
"Lesbian, huh? you just need a man, sweetie." his partner laughed. "And I am man enough for you..." he unzipped his pants. Kristel tugged at her bonds. Her wrists were bleeding, with the rope biting into them. She glanced up. Jason was laughing along with his men, watching the show. Her mouth was dry and tasted of blood. Her blood. Her temple pounded. Her sides ached. Jason had a great time kicking her. She felt sore all over. Now this damn piece of shit was gonna force his dick on her.
"If you dare bite me, I'll blow your brains out." he pointed his gun at Kristel. She gulped. He rammed into her mouth and she almost choked as he came. "Swallow! one drop spilt and I'll fry your brains." she gave him a defiant look and spat what he ejaculated in her mouth back at him. She heard some noises on her right but she could not focus.
"Bitch!" he shouted. A blow landed on her head as a shot rang out. Her head swung back. Kristel's world turned black. Finally.
"Kristel!" Rachel ran towards her broken lover. As soon as they reached the container, the police arrived too. They recovered Eric, who was huddled in the corner. One of the policemen carried him up. There was no one guarding him. As Rachel reached out to carry her son from him, they heard someone shouting in the room and the police broke in with Rachel following not far behind them.
Kristel!!!! her heart shouted painfully. She let the paramedics carry her son to the ambulance as she rushed in behind the police. What she saw made her freeze. There was a man standing before a kneeling and tied up, injured Kristel. His fly was open and Kristel had spat out at him. The police and Rachel did not have to use much imagination to know what had just taken place.
"Bitch!" as the man brought the butt of the gun down on Kristel, the police shot at him. Jason ran behind Kristel.
"No one moves or I'll kill her, I swear." he looked almost insane. The police started fanning out. "Get outta here!" he screamed.
"Noo!!!!" Rachel shouted, tears rushing madly down her cheeks.
"You, Rachel, you stay." he commanded. "I'll stay, just let her go!" Rachel pleaded.
"All of you, get out!" he shouted again as the police acquiesced reluctantly. Jason was grinning widely as they stood face to face with each other, his pistol trained on Kristel's unconscious head. "Rachel, Rachel honey... Come with me... You and I, we were meant to be." he droned. Rachel was repulsed. But she had to save Kristel. She had to save her love.
"Jason, Jason listen to me." she started. At her every word, he seemed more sane. "Why don't you just put down the gun? there's no point killing, Jason... If you kill, the police won't let you go... Then we won't be together." she knew that she could not aggravate him. He would kill Kristel.
come on, Kristel, wake up... she prayed. Jason had unbounded Kristel so that he might use her as a hostage.
"You'll leave with me?" Jason asked gleefully. Rachel nodded. Kristel was beginning to stir. "Yes, I would. I never loved her, you were the one for me. I realised that soon after Eric was gone. You were the one who stood by me, the one who gave me strength. You are the one I need." she was at her wit's end.
please, asshole, put down the gun!
"I knew you'd realise that one day, Rachel. Let's go. We'll get married, have many children. I'lltake care of you... We'll be so happy... So happy...." Rachel saw Kristel open her eyes. Come on, Kristel... she stepped forward cautiously.
"Okay now, Jason. Give me the gun. I'll tell the police that it was all a big mistake and we can go off alright?" he looked wildly at her. A look of recognition passed his face and he shouted
"No! you're lying! You bitch! How can you love her more than me? How can you choose her over me? You killed yourself over her, Rowanna..." Rachel flinched. Right at this moment, Kristel elbowed Jason with all the strength she had left.
"Ooph!" the cops that were creeping up around Jason when he had started his mad rantings now took action. They ran up to him from behind and knocked him out.
Rachel rushed up to break Kristel's fall. "Hey." Kristel looked up at Rachel. She didn't know what had happened but somehow, Rachel had rescued her. Then, all her strength left her and she fell unconscious again. Rachel held Kristel to her. "Oh God... I'm so sorry love.... How could I have doubted you?" she whispered over and over again as the police untied Kristel.
So much blood... Rachel's shirt and hands were soaked with Kristel's blood.
"Let's get her to the hospital, ma'am."
"Mommy..." Eric awoken.
"Hey baby... You're okay now..." Eric nodded. "Two men came into the house mommy. They injected me... And I feel asleep. Everytime I woke up, they would feed me and then inject me again." he whimpered.
"I know honey... I'm so sorry... Mommy's so sorry you had to go through that." she sobbed.
"It wasn't your fault, mommy..." he sniffed. "Where's Kristel? Why isn't she here to see me?" he asked innocently.
At that, Rachel sobbed harder. "S-she... She's injured honey.... K-Kristel tried to save you but she got hurt... She's in the other room..." Kristel was in the intensive care unit. "I want to see her mommy..." Rachel shook her head. "No Eric. You'll have to wait till she wakes up okay? We don't want to wake her up. She's very tired." Eric nodded. "Now, you go to sleep okay? and I'll go check on Kristel." Eric was asleep before Rachel finished her sentence. The drugs were still taking effect. Rachel got up and walked over to Kristel's room.
Her lover looked so pale... Her head was stitched up and there were numerous bandages on her.
"I'm so sorry..." Rachel touched Kristel's face lightly. The doctor had proclaimed that she was out of danger but it was not safe to move her due to the extent of her injuries. "I shouldn't have doubted you love.... But please... Forgive me.... Please... I love you.... I'llnever doubt you again." Rachel sobbed into Kristel's hair.
"Never say never" a barely audible whisper answered Rachel.
"Kris?" Rachel looked up to meet those brown warm eyes. "Oh Kris... I'm so sorry..." Kristel lifted her limp arm and Rachel held it, weaving their fingers together.
"It's okay." she whispered. "I'm forgiven?" Rachel asked incredulously. Her love whispered softly.
"It's gonna take some time, but we'll work it out together okay?" Rachel nodded. She felt the constriction in her chest loosen a little now that she knew that Kristel was willing to take the chance with her.
"I love you Kris.. And I remember..." Kristel looked at Rachel inquiringly. "Your dreams. I read the disc. I remember." she almost broke down again when she saw Kristel's face break into a radiant smile.
"You do? Ooh Rachel... I love you so much it hurts... I don't want to lose you... " Rachel bent down and kissed Kristel tenderly.
"I love you too... I'll never, never leave you. I'll never, never let you go." they looked at each other, hearts full of love, heads full of memories. It was a promise that preceded time and they meant to keep it.
Rachel and Kristel had their fingers intertwined as they strolled down the beach. Kristel had recovered from her injuries and Jason was put away. Rachel could still remember the look on his face when he screamed at them in court.
"You're mine, Rachel... Rowanna... You were always meant to be mine. I swear, you will be mine even if I have to hunt you down my next life. Even if I have to kill you, Kristel!!"
Rachel shuddered. "Cold?" Kristel asked. Shaking her head, Rachel smiled.
"Thinking of him?" Rachel nodded. Her lover always knew what she was thinking about. It was almost as if they were of one same mind.
"I feel sorry for him, Kris... But he's insane..." Kristel tightened her hand. "And he was my brother." she smirked humourlessly.
"Well, you're the only one I love and will ever love. Past, present, or future. Janelle, Kris, or whoever you become. It won't make a difference." Kristel looked at Rachel tenderly. She did not know how to reply. Instead, she showed her lover just how much she loved her in the hot searing kiss....
Continue on to the sequel......Eternal Love
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