Hey folks :) So this is the final chapter. To tell you the truth, I tried to stall. I really didn't want to finish it. But all good things must come to an end -___-
I wish you all enjoy this finale. I'm sorry if it turns out to be the ending you don't want, please bear with my storyline. haha :D
And I also genuinely hope that this story has given you entertainment, because that was what I aimed for. I honestly loved every minute that I spent on this work. See you all soon? If you have any comments, PM me. OR comment on the website (in my bio). Thank you all so much for the reviews. They mean more to me than I can (sentimentally) express.
"Sadness flies away on the wings of time."
- Jean de La Fontaine
Meet Me Halfway
Time had kept dragging on and on.
And the worst part was I felt every hour tick by.
For awhile, I had thought that life lost its meaning. For weeks, I had felt abandoned with no direction. Like I was walking myself into walls and doing it numerous times unknowingly.
It was difficult, not only because I missed him so, but also because I missed how wonderful life was when we were together. I had missed the magic, when there was beauty in the smallest details, when my heart fluttered for no apparent reason. I had missed the days and nights when I was coated with affection, and felt lighter than air. It was when smile had come so quickly to my lips and when laughter was as natural as breathing.
After flying magnificently in the clouds, I couldn't just easily adjust myself back to land. That was how I initially saw it.
Days piled up, months flew by, and soon I had realized that I had to pick myself up. I had realized that I needed to glue the broken pieces of myself together, for no one ever would.
No matter how I kept thinking that the world ended, it really didn't.
"Life goes on" --- they say.
So, it did.
It was Jakey's ninth birthday.
Jed had lit the last candle on Jakey's enormous Transformers cake. His friends all gathered around the table and eyed the yummy treat.
"Alright, kiddo, come over here for your birthday cake! Everyone's waiting!" He called out to my brother, who was at that moment, checking his reflection in the mirror.
"You look handsome already, Jakey. I'm sure Tanny would be impressed." I teased.
He blushed and faked annoyance. "No, it's not that…"
My poor brother had developed his first crush on Tanny. It was so ironic, that it was funny. Apparently, we both had a little infatuation problem with the Lee's.
"Honey, you know I'm kidding." I hugged the boy lovingly.
"Yeah, I know I know." Jakey laughed.
Then the door flew open to reveal the ecstatic Jordy, followed by my dad.
"DAD!" My brother screamed. And he ran to give him a tight embrace.
"I hope I'm not too late." Dad chuckled. "Happy birthday, son."
He handed Jakey his gift.
"Whoa! A basketball!" Jakey exclaimed gleefully. "Thank you, Dad!"
I hugged my father as well and inquired if he was feeling healthy, and if he was all right. But instead of answering, he gave me a sympathetic smile and asked if I was feeling better, if I was recovering.
I hated that.
"I'm fine." I emphasized.
"Good. So am I. I missed you, darlin'." And he gave me an innocent smile.
Jed broke us up and clapped his hands energetically.
"Alright children," He started. "Let's all sing Jake a big, loud Happy Birthday song."
"One, two, three…" He flicked his wrists in the air.
And everybody joined in. "Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Jakey…"
My brother closed his eyes for a wish and blew the candles as everyone clapped and cheered.
Jed turned on the music and all our little visitors, about eight to ten in number, fell in line in front of my spaghetti and meatballs. I saw hands dart from box to box, grabbing garlic bread and pizza, and I watched with delight as they blithely wolfed down the food.
"Looks like your brother's having fun," Jed walked over to me and handed me a cup of soda.
"Yeah, seems like." I agreed.
I looked at Jed's eyes gratefully.
"Thank you so much. For planning this, for the cake, for the presents, for the party hats, for everything!"
He gave me a warm smile. "You're welcome. I'm just glad Jake's enjoyin' it."
I was then struck (once again) by Jed's stunning change; from the cute nerd ten years prior, to the tall, built, handsome teacher he became after.
He had gazed at me affectionately. But I averted my eyes.
No, I wasn't ready.
The doorbell rang, and I was thankful to be given a chance to avoid any awkward moment with Jed. I couldn't afford to lose a friend.
I had let Tanny in into my humble home. She looked fabulous, as always, without even any evident effort. She wore some gray jeans with heels, a white tunic and topped it off with a jacket and scarf.
Jakey couldn't conceal his excitement.
"Hey, Ms. Tanny!"
"Hi Jake, happy birthday!" Tanny bent and greeted. She gave my brother a long hug. "Wow, so how does it feel like to be nine?"
"Not much of a difference." Jakey commented. "I feel bigger though."
I laughed as Tanny straightened up. "Glad you could come."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world! I've been looking forward to seeing you… and Jordy, and Jakey of course."
She looked around. "Hey, your dad's here--- Hello Mr. Channing!"
And she approached my dad and kissed his cheek. Tanny was the sweetest thing alive.
I observed her give my brother two huge presents.
"Okay, this one is from me." Tanny animatedly showed Jakey a long box wrapped in red.
"And this one is from…"
She briefly glanced at me and lowered her voice. "… well, this one is from Mr. Lee."
Jakey understood and whispered something inaudible to Tanny.
I automatically turned around and restacked the remaining pizza boxes on the table. I didn't want either of them to think I was listening. I even almost convinced myself that I wasn't interested to know.
After they got married in April, I had vowed never again to show any sign of obvious weakness. I was tired of flaunting my pain to an audience. I had stopped crying, I didn't vent out on Jordy, and I even refrained from saying his name. I wanted to lift off the burden I had placed on my family's shoulder. I knew they felt sorry for me. In addition to that, it was time to haul my pride back together.
It was too long ago to admit that I was still wounded inside. I had refused to evoke sympathy from the people that surrounded me. I knew they were sick of the depression I had displayed in the beginning.
Eventually I just needed to pretend like nothing had ever happened. It was the least I could do.
I swallowed nervously as I heard Tanny's heels click their way towards me. I knew she was going to mention something regarding my situation and thus, open doors that I had preferred tightly shut.
"So, how are you sweetie?" She asked, empathically.
"I'm fine, thanks. How about you?" I purposely avoided her eyes as I attempted to sound jovial and apathetic.
"Well, I'm excellent. Still no guy, but maybe that's why I'm doing so great." She joked.
Then her expression changed. "You, on the other hand, don't look so good."
"I take offense in that." I giggled. "For your information, I do try to stay fit and fix myself but—"
She had cut me off. "Keys, you know what I'm talking about. Stop making a fool out of this."
I gaped at her. She was the first one who had talked to me as straight-forward as that. Everyone had been so scared to speak of the subject, in fear of hurting me.
"I- I don't know what you're saying." I shrugged. "Everyone acts as if I'm going to drop dead. I'm perfectly well."
She just stared at me, similarly the way Dylan did when he tried to see past my pretenses.
"I don't want to talk about it, Tanny. Please." I implored.
"I don't either." She said sincerely. "Except, your brother just asked for me to talk to you."
I was surprised. "Jakey?"
"Yes. He's worried." She nodded solemnly. "He says you're different. It makes him sad, Keys."
Tanny and I had quietly settled in my room. It was oddly unsettling sitting there with her.
"What did Jakey say?" I mumbled shamefully.
My heart broke when I learned that my brother had actually felt my anguish. He was nine, for god's sake and I somehow pulled him and his spirits down with me. I felt terrible.
"Jakey knows you're still hurting." She simply stated.
I remained silent.
Tanny heaved a loud sigh.
"Do you still love my cousin?" She was quick to the point.
"No, I don't. I—I just feel very tired lately, that's all. Maybe that's why Jake thinks that--- that something's wrong."
She rolled her eyes and scoffed. "That's bull. You and I both know that your brother's right."
I stared down at my feet. It was shockingly easy to control the tears.
"I said I'm fine." I repeated through clenched teeth.
I could feel Tanny's stare as she touched my shoulder.
"You need to let it go." She spoke softly.
"I don't believe you."
A minute passed. I could hear the unusually loud ticking of my clock above the door.
"How--- how is he anyway?"
I needed to know. "Is he happy?"
Tanny gave me a disapproving look. "Look, I really don't think the answer to that will help your situation."
"Doesn't matter." I replied coldly. "I just want to know. Curious, that's all."
Tanny seemed tongue-tied for several seconds. "No, I shouldn't tell. This is none of my business."
I locked my eyes with hers, silently begging for her to see through my facade and know --without me confessing-- that I ached to hear what she had to say.
She had caved in faster than I thought. "Uh, I guess… you have the right to know."
I waited expectantly.
"Dylan's doing--- horribly. Much worse than you are."
My jaw dropped, my eyes widened. That was not the answer I had anticipated.
"Why?" My incredulity was difficult to mask.
"He's miserable." She stood from the bed and started pacing the room.
"First, he's married to Danielle, a person he doesn't love,"
She was counting the reasons with her delicate fingers. "Second, his mom is a manipulative bitch who dictates his every move and third, LARE's rating dropped by half a point."
"Oh, my g---"
Tanny had held up her hand to stop me from reacting, just yet.
"And he misses you, so much. He's lifeless without you." She added desperately.
"What…" I whispered in disbelief.
My heart started thudding loudly, drowning out the noise outside my room, and the rest of the world. I felt blood rush to my head.
I didn't know whether it was the great sensation of relief or the strong feeling of anger that had surged inside of me. Half of me wanted to jump for joy. The other half wanted to thrash around and scream.
The latter half I was speaking of had furiously thought that he had absolutely no right to miss me! He had no right to act like he was the damned victim, like he was the one who suffered! No, he left me, and he was the one who put me through hell! How could he say he missed me?
It was typical. Very typical of Dylan Lee.
"That's… that's not true." I fiercely bit my lips to halt them from quivering.
I couldn't lose my control. I didn't allow myself to.
Tanny sniffed. She was close to tears for reasons I didn't know.
"He asks about you every single time I visit. He secretly keeps a picture of you in the back of his drawer. And- and I hear him mumble your name when he falls asleep in his office. Plus, he just bought your brother the most expensive toy in the store."
She gazed at me. "I'm not making this up. The last thing I will do to you is lie."
"The worst part is," She pursued. "He regrets not telling you how he feels."
My eyes began brimming with tears. I was more infuriated than sad. It took me months of endless nights to become callous enough not to feel anything. Then a minute's worth of information shook up the guard I had prepared.
I then wished I didn't bother to ask about his sorry ass. I should have just left everything unknown.
Tanny had chosen to continue her story. I listened in silence, expressionless.
"He was too much of a coward to lose everything he built. That was why he didn't pick you."
"And he—he told you all this?" I forced myself to appear skeptical.
Tanny nodded. Her tears rolled down her cheeks unstoppably. I had to get up and give her tissue to wipe her face with.
"W—why are you crying?" I murmured, scared that I would follow after her example.
"Because!" She bellowed bitterly. "It isn't fair!"
I was taken aback.
"Oh my god, you should see him! He's so pathetic and dull and unhappy... and completely out of himself. I've never seen such a downfall."
"And what?" I retorted harshly. "Is this somehow my fault?"
"No!" She blubbered. "It's just that… I hate seeing you both like this. It's so sad."
I gave a weak scoff. "Well, that's the way it is. I hardly care."
I was such a horrible actress, Tanny didn't even bother to pay attention to my lies.
"And now, it's much too late." She sniffed.
"No matter how much he misses you, no matter how much he wants you, there's no way he can come back."
"I know that already." I muttered. It was an arduous task to conceal my feelings in front of her. The things she was relaying to me were more than sufficient to send me into hysterics. Her crying didn't help much either.
"I know you still love him." She stated.
I gave no reply.
"But I suppose there's nothing for you to do but let him go. Got to move on and forget about him."
She looked at me piteously, her face distorted into a rueful countenance.
"He's not coming back, Keys. Evelyn won't let it, Danielle won't allow it."
I nodded my head in false boldness and comprehension. I kept my face hard and stoic. I was determined not to present any emotion.
Everything she was telling me was already deeply rooted in my mind. She had just repeated the same sentences I had restlessly told myself. I already knew he wasn't going to be mine. Not ever.
Then she gave me this look; so sad, so heartbreaking, that it was almost unbearable.
I almost gave in. For a second, I was actually afraid of what she was going to reveal.
"Dylan's going to be a father. Danielle is pregnant."
A teardrop, out of nowhere, fell from my eye straight to my lap.
It took me another whole year to completely fall out of love with Dylan.
Yes, it was pathetic. An affair that was never really official, and that lasted less than six months took four times as long just to be forgotten.
After him, I honestly didn't want to affiliate myself with love and all its rumored nonsense that I had begun to believe.
I had focused on work, earned money, spent so much time with Jake (after the tenth birthday, he decided that 'Jakey' was too babyish), had hung out with both Jordy and Jed, and had gone on dinners with Tanny.
I moved on and hid the scar that Dylan left. It wasn't easy, but I had done it.
I supposed that Time does heal all. After weeks of fighting emptiness, the deep void I thought would be forever unfulfilled started closing up. My dad, my brother, my best friend, Jed, Tanny and even Mr. Yukiso's family all welcomed me back with open arms.
Once my happiness was restored and all my attention was redirected, the grief slowly, but surely, dissipated.
It was so liberating, satisfying. I was finally free.
For two whole years, Jed Hastings, this gorgeous, wonderful man waited for my heart to heal. He patiently stood first as a friend and then carefully --- very cautiously, approached me as something more.
At first, I was hesitant, afraid that a failed relationship will ruin the friendship we had established when we were five. I was scared to have to go through the same traumatizing depression I had once experienced. The heartbreak from Dylan became a nightmare that I hoped would never haunt me again.
Vulnerability had never looked so frightening.
But his gray eyes told me not to worry.
"I'll be here. I'll take good care of you, and of Jakey." He had sweetly promised.
"All I'm asking is for you to give me a chance. I can make you happy. I know it."
I had grabbed him and kissed him first. His warmth and his comfort wrapped around me, and for the first time in a long while, I had felt secured. I knew he was going to stay. I knew that he meant every word he said. And I knew that I was the most prized possession in his life. Not a company, not money, not reputation, not a client, but I.
"I love you." Jed had whispered. "And if I haven't proven that enough already, I'll do it all over again if you need me to."
I heard the words I had been waiting for. And it was amazing how great it felt to be certain that he meant it, with all his heart.
I melted in his arms.
The best thing about falling in love with the wrong man was that I learned how to fully appreciate the precious moment when I found the right one.
Jordy, Tanny and I were in the kitchen one summer night, preparing dinner.
It was the perfect girl's night in.
"So this must be how my cook feels at home." Tanny joked. "Touching raw meat and stuff."
"He is very handsome, by the way." Jordy replied casually. "I met him when you invited us over. Very sexy, if you don't mind me saying."
"He thinks the same way about you!" Tanny giggled. "Actually, he asked for your telephone number. Should I give it?"
Jordy's eyes widened. "You're kidding! No way! YES! Give it to the man, lady! And better do it soon!"
While preparing the shrimp scampi, we had talked about boys and their strange but beautiful ways, like little high-school girls.
It was exactly the kind of night I didn't want to end.
Jordy and I had teased Tanny endlessly, and questioned why she couldn't settle with a boyfriend.
"I can't find the right one." She admitted. "I'm too picky."
"That, you are." I agreed.
"Well, not all of us could be as lucky as you, Keys." She feigned jealousy. "Professor Jed Hastings, gray eyes, blond hair, athletic, and smart. Geez. Life's not fair."
"And remember," Jordy interjected. "I have the sexy chef. You really need to find someone, Tanny."
We all laughed together, the pitches of our shrill, excited voices blared in the empty apartment.
Tanny had looked out the window when we heard Jed's Honda roar into the parking lot.
"Aw, your men are here." She declared affectionately. "I think it's so adorable how they play basketball together. It's really cute."
She looked at me cheerfully. "I'm so happy for you."
I smiled warmly, feeling that incredible sensation again. "Thank you."
She had looked out the window again, and then looked again, and again.
"Oh, my god!" She exclaimed.
"What?" I asked, concernedly. Jordy walked over to the window too.
"Whose car is that?"
I followed Tanny's gaze in confusion. The car was parked about ten yards away from our window.
"The dark gray Lexus? That one, across the trash bin outside the building?"
"Yeah, yeah, that."
"I don't know." I shrugged, indifferent. "It's probably the neighbor's or something. It's always parked there when I throw the trash but…"
"But?" Tanny followed up.
I was baffled by her extreme curiosity about the stupid car.
"But I never get the chance to see the inside of it. It's well-tinted. Plus, I was never interested." I answered.
"Tanny, do you want to buy the car?" Jordy asked, also puzzled.
Then Jake had walked in and sniffed the air.
"Smells good, Keys!"
"I hope you worked up an appetite. How was basketball?" I patted his back. He no longer liked long hugs.
"Great! I beat Jed this time."
I exaggerated. "Oh, really? That's ridiculous!"
"Lie all you want, Jake Channing." My boyfriend teased.
He came up behind me and kissed my lips. Then he lifted my chin and lightly bit the tip of my nose. "Hey, babe, missed you."
He had looked so attractive, with his hair damp with sweat, his arms exposed, and holding a ball. It was endearing.
"Why don't you boys freshen up and I'll set the table." I suggested.
They agreed and left the kitchen.
I glanced at Tanny who was still looking out the window.
"What's so special about the dumb car?" I mumbled.
Jordy looked at me uneasily.
"You said it's always there at night?" Tanny questioned.
I nodded, exasperated. "Yes, every night. It's always been there. Since, oh I don't know--- since months ago. After we watch CSI, I throw the trash out and then I pass by it."
"Then it's gone in the morning and it parks again at night. Like re-gu-lar peo-ple." I syllabicated.
"Yes," I sighed wearily. "Everynight! Just leave the poor car alone."
"Oh, alright then." Tanny breathed out in relief. "Well, it seems like you don't mind."
"Don't mind what?"
Jordy had rolled her eyes. She had cut the chase. "Well, apparently, that's Mr. Lee's car."
He really did love me.
Too bad he wasn't willing to meet me halfway.