IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK !! :) heeey guys, it's me again, hoping to spend some time in my own little romance world AND provide at least a little bit of entertaining to you all.

ENJOY! Please tell me what you think..


ALMOST

We were two miles away from the LAX airport. I was purposely sulking, making it obvious to my new wife that I hated the fact that she had to leave for two months.

I stomped exaggeratedly on the gas pedal when the green light shone.

She looked at me half amused and half irritated. She, of course, knew that I was just being a pain in the ass and doing the best I could to let her know how much I was going to miss her.

"Babe, this is the last time. I promise." She assured lightheartedly.

"We just got married, Hales." I sighed dramatically. "Couldn't they have postponed this trip… next week, maybe? We haven't even recovered from our vacation jet lag."

"Not to mention---" I continued. "I haven't had enough of you yet. Technically, we're still on our honeymoon. And now you're leaving me, cold and blue."

Hailey giggled. "I know, I know. But this trip was already planned three years ago by my boss. That was even before I met you. It's just going to be for two months. Then I'm all yours again."

"Won't there be many hunky French men there, in Paris?" I pouted.

I was just trying to be cute and complicated. She shook her head in quiet hilarity.

I grabbed her left hand and kissed it, as I remained focused on the road.

"Really though, Hales, I'm going to miss you like crazy." I remarked, quite more seriously.

"I'll miss you just as much, probably even more."

"Not possible." I answered.

"Very possible. I have no one in Paris. Our whole gang is still going to be with you here." She was trying to make me feel better.

"Yes, yes but so what? I'll be the ninth wheel as all our friends couple up? I don't think so, babe. Besides, you'll be working all day. You'll hardly even think of me."

She rolled her eyes. "You have A LOT of single buddies to hang out with when I'm gone. Too many, if you ask me. If I didn't know any better, they'll take this golden time to convince you to file a divorce. I'll have no husband by the time I get back."

"Oh, no Hales, you're not turning this on me." I grinned. "Remember, you're abandoning me for the sake of fashion."

Hailey started laughing. "Okay, Connor. Your whining is definitely starting to scare me. Has something changed overnight? You were still a bully last night."

I chuckled. "Alright, fine. I'll cut it out."

"Thank you." She said. "We've been together for three years. Sap and clinginess are not included in your package deal."

I gave her a knowing smirk. She was right.

---

"Final boarding call for Flight 14 to Paris, France."

"That's me." Hailey jumped up enthusiastically.

"God, Hales, why are you so excited? I'm feeling a little bitter here."

She laughed apologetically. "It's Paris, Connor. Paris! The big city of Fashion! I've been dying to go on this trip. I'm sorry if I seem so tactless."

"Ha, I'm just joking." I affirmed and gave her a goodbye hug. "Be careful. Call me when you land."

"I will." She breathed out of my tight hug. "I'll see you in two months, hon. I'll miss you."

"Same here. Have fun, Hales. Bye."

"Bye, baby." She whispered. "Don't forget about your meeting in two hours."

"Aw, great, thanks for reminding me."

"Don't you dare forget about me." She joked.

I gazed at her green eyes and touched her strawberry-blonde hair. "Never."

And then I saw her off.

I unhappily drove to the nearest mall where I chose to have my late lunch. I thought the crowd would make me feel less lonesome.

That was a wrong theory, and naturally a wrong choice.

Having lunch by myself that afternoon was the start of my missing Hailey. It was just awkward. I had a sandwich and a soda. I didn't talk, I didn't laugh or joke. I wasn't asked to pick up ketchup, some Splenda packets or wasn't commanded to ask for extra condiments from the counter. There was no need for extra light mayo or a sachet of salt and pepper.

It was awfully quiet and somewhat bizarre to do things alone, without someone by my side.

That was when I shamefully realized that I despised being alone.

I thought to myself that maybe--- maybe, that was why I couldn't wait to marry Hailey.

I was only twenty-six years old, she was twenty-four. Men at that age weren't really considered men yet. Sex, gambling, and alcohol (I heard) were never better around that phase. Most of my friends at that time scurried away from the word commitment.

Even my parents had said "a couple more years of waiting wouldn't hurt."

But I didn't want to wait. The routine that Hailey and I had established two years prior the engagement was too strong to be torn away from. And I was afraid that if I didn't marry her, I could lose her and lose myself again. I was afraid I wasn't going to recover the second time around.

I loved her. I did not propose to her for the sole purpose of being in a comfortable state. But I had to admit that it was a very big, provoking factor.

Past experience had traumatized me.

I had learned, and I was sure that a lot of men have had too (we just never admit it), that loss leads to pain. And men didn't like pain. So they stuck to what's guaranteed will not cause pain.

Hailey Rink loved me, and I knew she was never a threat to me. She was safe to grow old with.

After finishing that sandwich, I realized how much I already missed her, and thought to myself how the next sixty days would suck.

Then I had checked my watch and involuntarily dropped my jaw when it dawned on me how late I was for my meeting.

I shot up from my seat, threw all the trash away and practically ran to the packed parking structure that was initially empty. I assumed that malls really do start to fill up at three in the afternoon.

I started up my car, listened to the Acura's beautiful roar, and smiled. I backed up and glimpsed at the digital clock.

'God, Mike's going to kill me if I'm late again today.'

I sped up through the alley and the sudden burst of speed caused a silver bracelet –which I didn't even notice- to slide off the sleek dashboard. I heard the very light thud when it touched the floor mat.

I quickly bent over and picked it up from the car's floor. 'She's going to miss this one.'

But then, when I looked out to the road again, a black Bentley that must have just backed up from a parking space was literally a foot away from my car!

I slammed on the brakes. My head even lurched forward. But it was too late, my bumper made contact with the bumper of the shiny car in front of me.

"Damn it! Damn it! A Bentley!?"

I saw an aggravated lady, in her jeans and blouse, step out of the car and walk angrily towards me.

Out of respect, I stepped out of mine and faced her.

"I'm so sorry, miss. I---"

"I just bought this car yesterday!" She was biting her lower lip, attempting to control her anger.

It was then no mystery why it was so shiny.

"I don't know what to say," I reasoned dumbly, but sincerely. "I'm really, really sorry."

"What the hell were you doing anyway? You weren't even looking out on the road! Couldn't you at least stop? If you're not going to be looking where you're going, you should have at least stopped. OR---"

"You could have slowed DOWN!" She bellowed.

I could tell she was trying exceptionally hard to not be hysterical. I stared at her face in agony and slight fascination. She appeared to be ready to bite my head off.

I walked over to her Bentley and spotted a sizeable silver scratch and dent on its bumper.

I glimpsed at my watch again, and sighed. 'Of all days!'

"I'm so, so sorry. Look, I know a lot about cars. I can fix them too. I can provide you a new bumper. Plus, it's just a scratch---"

"Just a scratch?" She breathed deeply.

I felt sorry for her, and I understood where she was coming from, but I wanted to laugh. Her eyes were ready to jump out of their sockets.

"Just a scratch? Do you know what car this is?"

"I'm sure if you give me a chance, miss, I'll be able to get rid of it for you."

I took out a card from my wallet and handed it to her. She snatched it out of my hand before she personally checked out the "damage". I could swear I saw tears in her eyes.

"Oh, no! There's a dent too! I can feel the dent!" She exclaimed.

She turned to me with a flushed, livid-looking face.

"I need all your information. Your Insurance Company? House number? We need to discuss this. I don't even know your name!"

I chuckled involuntarily. "I would love to stay. But---"

"Why is this so funny to you?" She insisted. "Do you enjoy seeing people as distressed as this? Do you?"

I halted the moment she gave me another furious look.

I cleared my throat. "I apologize, miss. I didn't mean to laugh."

She gazed at my face with curiosity. I returned her stare. She was actually quite stunning, and oddly familiar. She had dark brown eyes and a small, straight nose. She had pink, shiny lips that contrasted her light complexion. Her long, wavy black hair--that fell just before her stomach -- was being pleasantly carried back and forth by the wind.

"Don't tell me this is going to be a hit and run?" She inquired, a little calmer than her previous outbursts.

If she wasn't very pretty, a critically late man like me would have already gotten very impatient. But she was quite entertaining.

"No, miss. I hate to leave you here, believe me I do. Like yourself, I don't approve of unfinished business and even more, unreliable people. But I am awfully late for a meeting that will start –well, started… about ten minutes ago. Please call me. Anytime after eight tonight is perfect. I will not run away from you, and I will definitely return your call."

"Why should I believe you?" She calmly inquired.

"That card I handed to you has my real name, phone number and office number. It even states where I work. Feel free to check for yourself."

She stared at the card with apparent doubt.

"We can arrange a dinner, a meeting place, or a court trial, if you wish, and I promise I will do the best I can to restore your car back to its perfection."

She lifted the edge of her lips. "Are you mocking me?"

"No, miss. I'm just really late." I answered innocently, but yes I was.

I ran back to my car and asked her one more time to call me if needed.

"I sure will. I need that scratch fixed, and the dent. Or I'm suing." She threatened. Then she went back inside her car, slammed the door shut and sped off.

I scoffed in the car. 'People these days.' Sue? I didn't know someone could be sued for denting a car.

It was just too hilarious. She was almost dying, seeing her car hurt like that.

It was obviously the best part of a miserable day.

I, of course didn't know then that, that funny Bentley lady was going to cause me the most painful sixty days of my life.

---

As expected, when I arrived home at eight forty-five, my answering machine was flashing its red light.

I had four missed calls from the same number, predictably from the car lady.

I smiled, despite myself and pushed the play button.

"Hello, this is umm.. Well, this is Ann."

I wrinkled my forehead in surprise. I was expecting a shout, or a demanding voice, not one that didn't sound certain about its own name.

"Uh, well, I'm just calling to--- to let you know that I'll be waiting for you in—in front of Olive Garden in the Manhattan Village mall at eleven thirty. In the morning, of course. I—I—"

She was stammering, which naturally bewildered me. She seemed nervous, almost scared. She was adequately articulate when she was upset. I didn't understand.

"Of course you, well---you know where that is because obviously, that's where we, we had the car incident. My number is …"

And I jotted down her number with a confused look on my face.

I seriously didn't comprehend how women can change from one thing to another. I had expected her to be extremely persistent, bossy and overeager, like she was hours ago.

I knew I had no reason to worry. But my stomach twisted itself into that nervous knot that I hated. It was like receiving an unwanted premonition of something horrible.

Being a man, I easily brushed it off and watched sports the whole night.

I slept in the couch, forgetting about dinner.

---

It was already ten in the morning when I returned home from my daily run in the park. Right when I locked our door, the telephone rang and I ran to answer it.

"Hello?"

"Hey, sweetie!" Hailey squeaked.

I had to admit, I was faintly anticipating Ann, offering some sort of explanation regarding the strange, anxious voice in her message.

"Oh, hey Hales." I greeted. "How are you feeling? How was your flight?"

"It was fine. The hotel is divine, but Connor you have to see Paris!" She exclaimed.

"Oh, I'd bet it looks exactly like California."

"No, it does not. It just has this--- this romantic bubble around it. It's just so fantastically beautiful! I wish you were here with me!"

"I wish I was too. I'm dreading lunch right now. I have to meet up with this Ann person and---"

"Ann?" Hailey was quick to pick up. "Who's she?"

"Beats me." I replied. "I accidentally dented her car, not serious damage, but there's a dent alright."

"But, you've never gotten into any of these before." Hailey prompted me. And she was right.

"Yeah, well, just my luck right? Mike got really upset too because I was twenty minutes late."

"Even after me reminding you?" She scolded. "Geez, Connor. And how did you dent her car?"

"Well, it's your bracelet's fault actually…" And then I resumed telling what had happened in that stupid parking lot alley way.

"Oh, dear. A Bentley? " She whistled. "Well honey, good luck. Don't get into any more trouble. I won't be home to clean up after you for another 8 weeks."

"Call me later, Hales. I'll tell you how it goes." I told her gloomily. "Take care."

And we hung up.

I took a cold shower, put on my usual jeans and polo (I picked light blue that day) that I wore to work every day and topped off the uniform with a plain black tie.

Within another hour, I was already parked right outside Olive Garden.

Five minutes after I had pulled over, the black Bentley made the right turn and pulled in next to me. I especially took notice of her backside and cringed at how ugly the scratch was.

I couldn't believe my luck. A Bentley? Seriously?

I stepped out of my car first, to somehow show remorse and chivalry.

She stepped out of her car with her sunglasses on, hair down, and her face as calm as possible.

"Hey, Ann." I started, as charming as I could, to block away any potential violence.

"Hey." She forced a small smile.

"I suppose we should exchange the---"

She cut me off. "You think--- Could we--- would you have lunch with me?"

"Here?" I asked stupidly. "Olive Garden?"

She nodded worriedly, her eyes barely making any eye contact with mine. She looked distracted and very tentative of what she was doing.

"Sure." I answered. I supposed I could butter her up, convince her not to press any charges. I really wanted to have a clean record.

"Fine. T-thanks." She responded and walked in front of me.

I watched her as she strolled coolly to the restaurant. She was poised, sophisticated and quite… well, beautiful. I could have sworn I have had seen her somewhere.

I then thought yet of another theory.

I smirked at the thought of Ann having had a crush on me. I fancied that it was just the attraction that was making her awkward and uneasy. I had formed a farfetched story in my head that: maybe she wanted to ask me out but was too scared, and THAT was why she sounded fretted on the telephone.

I thought, hey it would be easy. Just say I'm married and pay for the damage. Then I'll never have to see her.

"Party of two please." She sweetly asked the host.

The man smiled and gave us a comfortable two-seater booth. He asked for our drinks. And I wondered when I should say that I was already married.

To expedite the process, I immediately pulled out my wallet to give her my insurance information that I had prepared the night before.

"I was thinking," She had abruptly begun, stopping me. "That, if you really do restore my bumper back to its perfection…"

She was quoting me. "Then, I won't call any insurance company. Neither yours nor mine."

"Oh?" I was slightly taken aback. "What changed your mind, miss, err-- Ann?

"Well, I was convinced that--- I was a little overdramatic yesterday."

I tried to suppress my laughter. She had looked down in embarrassment.

"But I don't blame you." I tried. "I'll be really upset too if my new Bentley was damaged that instantly."

"Yeah, it really was maddening. I mean, I saved up for this car for a whole year. And then on its second day, it was bruised. Already."

She talked to the table cloth. She couldn't look at my eyes.

"Right." I agreed. "But I can and I will fix it."

Then there came this pause. She was looking at her hands and I found myself staring at her eyelashes. They were very long, unlike Hales' short ones.

The waiter came. "Would you like to get started with our breadsticks and soup?"

"Sounds great." I responded somberly.

"Well, sir—which soup?"

"Zuppa Toscana please?" She charmingly requested.

She was very skilled in putting up a front. She seemed perfectly relaxed when she talked to other people, although I could tell she was deeply troubled inside.

The waiter beamed at her. "Right away, madam."

I quietly watched her blink, breathe and swallow. Her long hair was straight and her bangs was swept to the side of her face. I couldn't quite figure if I was staring because I was wondering why she was so apprehensive, or because I enjoyed her very pleasant sight.

That was when I knew I was strongly attracted to the woman who was sitting across from me. Suddenly, I felt the same anxiety, same worrisome, sinking feeling.

After a good minute, she finally resolved to speak. She cleared her throat and slowly met my eyes.

"Connor," She gave me a tiny, painful smile. "You really don't remember me, do you?"

I stared at her face, dazed and lost for a second. "Wh-- Pardon me?"

She softly scoffed. "Well, of course you're not going to remember me."

"Wait, what are you saying… Ann?"

"It was ages ago. I don't suppose you could even remember someone for that long. And I suppose I look different..." She started mumbling to herself.

"Excuse me, I don't understand." I admitted, somewhat annoyed.

"Look at me." She insisted. "Just… look at me."

And I did. I looked at her dark brown eyes, her high cheekbones, her black hair, her soft, curvy lips. Yeah, the same familiar features that I already had spoken about.

But then I saw the mole, her mole, that wonderfully weird beauty mark on the left side of her face, along the lining of her jaw.

Then my heart had sunk to the pit of my stomach. The room where I was sitting suddenly went silent and I became insanely aware of the blaring beating of my heart.

I could literally feel the blood flow through the veins of my forearm, and when I swallowed, the sound was ten times more amplified.

She gave me an apologetic, shameful smile. The smile that told me; I'm sorry I'm doing this to you.

I forced myself to find my voice. "M- Mia?"

She slowly nodded with glossy eyes. "Yeah, it's me..."

"Mia? Mia Ann. Laraway." I murmured weakly as she continued nodding.

She was my childhood best friend, the love of my life, the girl who had lived in my dreams and haunted my waking moments. The same one who had gone and ripped my heart out.

The woman who I had fought so hard to fall out of love with was back in my life. And she was sitting so damn beautifully in front of me.

I stared at her, while being in the state of oblivion. I didn't really know what to feel, or what to say. Any capability of language and communication had temporarily left me.

"Connor, please say something." She pleaded.

"This is ridiculous." I whispered bitterly, and cursed the bracelet.