I have strange cravings. Pickles (always), chocolate, grilled cheese, peanut butter, watermelon, RAISIN BRAN. (Why. Why do I always crave raisin bran???) I’m kind of like a pregnant woman, except all the time and minus the fetus. Fun!
I never know what will trigger said cravings, but they come in waves, intuitively, so that one minute it’ll be nothing, and the next I’ll HAVE TO HAVE an herby, vinegary hardboiled egg salad with fresh summer corn and avocado and olive oil grilled bread. It’s strange and perfect.
This most recent longing doesn’t even have a name—as far as I know, but if you know what this hybrid egg salad is called, please divulge!—so I made one up. Tartines sound good, don’t they?
“Huang ZiTao?! Who is Huang ZiTao!?!?” your best friend screeched as you cupped your hand over your gaping mouth.
You snatched the marriage certificate from her hands to take a closer look. Perhaps, it was fake…perhaps…
With every word you read, your heart mercilessly drummed faster and faster against your chest. But you wouldn’t – couldn’t believe it.
“Young Lady! You have some explaining to do!!” Sojin demanded as your body lost its strength. You slid down the wall and huddled over in mixed emotions of bewilderment, confusion, and guilt. “You got married?!”
I don’t know.
“Why did you not tell me anything?!!?”
I don’t know. I don’t know.
Excessive oxygen raided your lungs as you surrendered to hyperventilation. Unforgivingly, Sojin grabbed your shoulders and physically shook you for answers. The scar along your bandaged heart unstitched itself and spilt of fresh blood.
“I don’t know. I don’t know!” you repeated as you cradled your head in between your lap.
“What do you mean you don’t know. You either got married or you didn’t! You’re an adult, how do you not know?!” your best friend scolded.
Flashbacks of the fateful night scampered into your defenseless mind. The way he caught you before you fell, the way he bundled you up with his jacket, the way he squeezed your hand in reassurance. The way…his lips trailed down your body or the way his skin pressed against yours…everything. Everything slowly unraveled itself from a heart you thought had accepted its fate and had mended itself over time.
But marriage? You didn’t have a single memory of the moment.
“Answer me!” Sojin ruthlessly ordered but softened as soon as she heard a hint of your suppressed sniffles. Hey…” she coaxed. You pressed your face deeper into your guard. “I…I didn’t mean to yell at you, I’m just worried,” she stroked your back. “I am your best friend, I want to protect you,” she explained as she threw her arms around your uncontrollably trembling form.
“I know…I know…” you choked on your tears.
Patting your head, Sojin encouraged you to spill the whole story.
“Wait. Wait, so he took advantage of you and just left?!” she exclaimed.
Immediately, you shook your head in firm denial. “He said he had an emergency.”
“Emergency?!” your best friend scoffed, “It’s been a whole month. If he wanted to find you, he would have!” Your head dropped low in accordance to your heart, which stooped even further. Rolling up her sleeves she stood up and announced, “I’m gonna find this guy and break his face!”
“Wa-wait!” you cried and pulled her back down. “I…” you stuttered, “It’s my fault.”
“Oh, no you don’t with your self-blaming tendencies,” she knowingly cautioned.
“I honestly didn’t know that we got married,” you internally reprimanded yourself.
“Did he not mention it the morning after?” Sojin’s tone softened with sympathy.
Clutching your throbbing chest, you shook your head. As the older female parted her lips to respond, the door squeaked open and in came a group of your girl friends rushing the two of you to the engagement party. With the squeeze of your hand, Sojin pulled you up onto your feet.
Another week passed and though your best friend was adamant about hiring a private investigator to find your husband, you cowered away and, instead, chose to avoid, or otherwise you liked to sugarcoat and say “leave it up to fate.” And the best way to forget and heal was also the most cliché way – to dive straight into work.
The clock ticked away time. Fluorescent lamps blinked above you as the morning sun gradually eased its way to the peak of the sky. Typing diligently away, you vaguely heard the conversation a few cubicles down regarding the aging chairman falling ill.
“Ah, what will happen? What will happen?! Will the company file for bankruptcy?!” a colleague feared.
“What?! I can’t lose my job. I have a grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles to feed!” another wheezed as she sipped her hot chocolate.
“Hah. You gossip girls,” the manager slapped a manila folder against their desk, “Even if the boss dies, the company will just get passed down to his sons. Now get back to work or I’ll personally hand out pink slips!”
Gasping, the crowd dispersed back to their rightful desks. Minutes passed and then hours. You typed up reports like chopping wood. Chop. Chop. Chop. Always chopping at tree branches and trunks but never getting to the root of the problem. With a deep sigh, you rolled your aching neck and stretched your arms out wide in celebration for completing another difficult report.
But your momentary jubilation subsided as a shadow casted across your pile of paperwork. Raising your head up, you faced the excessively sweetened grin of your co-worker, Amy.
“Hm?” you blinked and poked your black-rimmed glasses back against the bridge of your nose.
She laced your name with oozes of honey enough to cause diabetes had it been concrete. “It’s my boyfriend and my first anniversary today…” the young secretary informed as she dreamily hugged the folders in her arms. When you continued to blankly stare at her, she cleared her throat and reasoned, “You don’t have a boyfriend so no one books your schedule…so…” her voice faded as she discreetly placed the files onto your desk while gingerly eyeing you for your reaction.
Your eyes trailed to the poker card clipped to the side of your keyboard. As if someone had taken a needle and stitched on your smile, your smile bled of 80% longing and 20% self-reprimanding.
“Please! Pretty please. He’s waiting downstairs already,” the female changed her tactics and though your mind told you to veer away from your pushover inducing actions, your compassionate heart fell for her act.
Because even if you couldn’t find happiness, you wanted to grant others theirs.
“Okay,” you nodded and took the folder from her hands.
“Thank you! Thank you! I owe you one!” she cheered. As she sprinted away, she vowed, “I’ll bring you to speed dating to find you a boyfriend next time!!”
Shaking your head, you skimmed the reports and refocused back to the computer screen. Pages flipped; the minute hand revolved around its circular imprisonment once, twice, three times…Massaging your stiff shoulders, you lifted your cup at a 45 degree angle to reawaken yourself with some caffeine but only a tiny droplet landed onto the tip of your tongue. Empty.
As you got up to refill your mug, you scanned the perimeter; screen savers played on monitor screens, chairs half pushed into desks. Just as empty. The clock read half passed two. Ah. Lunch hour. Normally, you’d stay behind to continue the data entry reports, especially when you had to complete another person’s share too, but today, your stomach felt a bit queasy. You pressed your tummy when it growled.
“Um, a Tuna, Egg, Avocado sandwich and an espresso please,” you ordered at the company cafeteria.
As you scanned around for an open seat, your eyes landed on the isolated ray of sunlight gleaming through the glass windows and casting a hazy halo along the polished wood floors. Like a crystal wall, magical and shimmery, it presented you with the satisfaction of enjoying the sunny day amidst frost even though work prohibited you from the outdoors. Perhaps, it was a good thing to be sheltered and protected.
“To go or eating here?” the waitress inquired, breaking you from your self-induced vacillation.
Having taken your lunch break late, all the tables were either reserved or taken. With a discreet sigh, you replied, “To go,” retrieved the paper bag and your coffee, and reluctantly headed for the elevator. However, like a juggle of fate versus intuition, a cloud maneuvered its way over, veering God’s ray to the spot, about ten feet from your toes. Mesmerized by the fairytale-like enchantment, you followed the path, stopping only when the beam of light illuminated the silhouette of two men. Automatically, your attention zoned to the young man on the left.
Your world stopped.
Tall, dark, and handsome. Every time he laughed, his eyes sparked flames as dangerous as a Devil’s but radiated an unfathomable glow of ambiguous vulnerability. His hair, silky smooth, was gelled up to perfectly ease your attention back to his gorgeous face.
Your heart floated in its own pool of agony. Every inch of your being pulsated in a mixture of unexplainable emotions. Not now. Not now. Why now? Seconds felt like decades as you began to habitually question your own observations. Perhaps, a look-a-like? Perhaps, you missed him too much or insomnia had finally taken full control of your mentality? But those sharp flickers in his eyes told you otherwise. You couldn’t believe it; you thought you’d never see this man ever again. Was God handing you another chance at happiness?
Situated into a stiff paralysis, you could only wait, like a caught prey, for the predator’s advancement. Round orbs moistened over in a flash of distilled liquid and lips parted to call out to him but ultimately, recoiled back at his reaction or lack thereof. His broad shoulder brushed passed you in absolute nonchalance, in his journey, also taking away the smile on your face. As your heart counted down the seconds before its own collapse, the strength in your limbs vanished. Inevitably, your fingers loosened its grip around your coffee, sending it splashing down onto the wooden tiles, some of it rebounding to scald the side of your unprotected legs.
Tao, who had been entertaining one of his clients, halted in his tracks. His habit of pulling all-nighters exchanged for symptoms of delayed recognition.
“ZiTao?” the older man called out after moments of nonresponse.
With arched brows, the handsome man whirled his head around in earnest hopes that God had finally answered his prayers to see you again. But crushed and self-blaming, you had already rushed away from the scene – away from the man you thought no longer remembered you – or perhaps, even worse, recognized but disregarded you.
“ZiTao?” his client waved his hand in front of Tao as he pushed pass him and frantically dashed back to the cafeteria but all that remained were the remnants of spilled over coffee.
“ZiTao? Is everything okay?” the man worriedly questioned after catching up.
“Ye-yeah…” Tao stuttered. Pinching his pulsing glabella, he murmured, “I must miss her too much.” With a coerced smile, he apologized and motioned for a waiter to clean up the mess.
Uncaring to your destination as long as it wasn’t stagnant in front of the man who had stolen your heart, you ran, as fast as possible, into an elevator that went opposite to the direction of your department. The side of your calves stung from the previous heat exposure but nothing could compare to the ache in your center, thriving organ.
What did you expect? It was one night…
You pushed on the elevator buttons.
Just like miracles, you believed in love at first sight and happy endings, just, you didn’t believe it would ever happen to you.
Still half shaking, you stumbled your way back to your desk. Three glass fulls of water emptied into your stomach in efforts to calm yourself down. It’s okay. It’s okay. You hadn’t expected anything from him anyway. Might as well find out that he no longer cared and end this now rather than later.
As the water hydrated your cells and organs, the beating of your heart quieted down to a whisper.
“It’s okay now. There’s nothing to let go if he wasn’t…” you breathed, “…wasn’t mine to begin with…”
The tips of your fingers grazed the glossy surface of the poker card.
It’s okay. Smiling sadly, you reluctantly flipped the Queen of Hearts over. You felt so weak to be hurting over something so miniscule – something so miniscule that whomever you shared the story with would probably roll their eyes. “People just don’t fall in love in one day,” others would say, “It was simply because he was your first and forever will be just a one-night-stand.”
As you took a series of cautious deep breaths, the excruciating burn in the depths of your heart subsided to a lesser pain, like needles pricking on the outer tissue layers, bearable but nonetheless lethal over time.
Staring off into the distance, you mindlessly nibbled at your late afternoon meal. Lack-luster. The tuna tasted too watery, egg too bland, and even the avocado sent your stomach into a whirlwind. Eventually, you surrendered to your lack of appetite and returned back to work.
Employees piled back one by one but time seemed to fly by just as fast. As fluorescent lights flicked off to yield the glory back to the stars in the night sky, you spun your head around to soundlessly absorb in the solitude. So calming. So beautiful… The moon faded into a semi-crescent, just like that night of love. Maybe, this was God’s way of granting you closure. Unknown to you, just five stories apart, Tao peered into the same moon, longing for your presence and thinking the same forlorn thoughts as you.
“Boss! I found her!” his subordinate rushed through his office door without the need to knock nor perform formal greetings.
Tao swiveled around in his chair, sprinted forward, and snatched the papers, detailing your credentials, schedule, and whereabouts, from the man’s hand. The latter jolted back in shock at his boss’s uncharacteristic actions. Ignoring his stare, Tao flipped through page after page. A heartfelt smile tickled along his thin lips as soon as he pinpointed a photo of you attach to your resume.
“It’s her,” he asserted, his voice filled with utter emotions, “It’s really her. She has glasses on, but it’s her,” he breathed, “I recognize those round eyes. Only…only she has those beautiful eyes.” His vision clouded in liquid and salt. “I finally found you.”
A/N: So, what do you guys think of this story so far? ʕ≧㉨≦ʔ So quiet on Panda Island compared to my previous stories. Did I take too long of a break that you guys don’t remember me anymore? ʕ´•㉨•`ʔ
Well, unlike most of my stories, this one gives you glimpses of Tao’s POV. Do you guys enjoy that more or more so one it’s only the girl’s POV?
Comment, Like, Reblog, Follow, Spam my inbox. I update a new chapter everyday :)