CHAPTER 9

LUKE

I felt the blood rush through my veins, from my head to my heart up to the very tip of my toes as I looked at Mace giving me her most awaited "yes", her face all-smiles.

I held her hand tightly. "You mean it?" I said, still unable to believe what was happening. "No taking it back?"

She nodded and her brown eyes sparkled as she looked back at me. "I mean it," she said her voice a little breathless. "No taking back."

I swallowed hard. "So, we're really boyfriend and girlfriend now?"

"Yes," came her answer with an expression on her face that looked the same as when she had laughed inside the pick-up truck when we pretended to be lovers and held hands for the first time.

I tried to emit a mature and cool expression but I couldn't help it. I felt my mouth curve into a wide smile and right then and there, I knew I was grinning like a sappy guy as she looked at me but I didn't care anymore. I was so happy that I wanted to jump up and down but I knew this would look lame so I just held onto her hand tightly and sat beside her on the stairs, smiling like a fool.

Beside me, Mace cleared her throat. "Uh Luke," she said a little uncertainly. "Would you please say something?"

I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of summer air that blew our hair as we sat by the stairs of the church. "I'm so happy Mace," I said softly. "So happy."

She squeezed my hands and I felt her lean back to sit in a more comfortable position. "I'm happy too," she replied just as softly.

I turned to looked at her and seeing that her expression mirrored what she said, I swallowed the lump in my throat. The night before, I barely slept, wondering what her answer would be. I just couldn't take the anxiety anymore so I ended up leaving the house after lunch and arriving at the church an hour and a half earlier than 2:00 PM. And with all the time in my hands, I sat down on the pews and had a man-to-man conversation with God, asking him to please let her say yes. I played it cool when I saw her walking towards me when she arrived but to be honest, I was scared that she would be able to hear the pounding of my heart. I was a mix of feelings – fear, excitement, anticipation, uncertainty and hope.

I slowly brought my other hand up to gently touch her hair. It was shaking but I still mustered up the courage to tuck a strand behind her ears. "Do you know how nervous I was waiting for you earlier and what your answer would be?" I confessed.

She looked at me in surprise, clearly not expecting what I just said. "Really?" she asked. "I thought you looked rather confident when I arrived plus you did your ninja moves quite smoothly."

I laughed at her last remark. "I couldn't resist," I replied and pinched her nose. "I just had to hold your hand again."

To my delight, Mace's face turned into a red color. She's embarrassed, I thought and my heart, as sappy as it sounds, started fluttering. She looks so cute when she gets all red and flustered like that.

"Well, it's not like I resisted when you held it in the first place," she said in a very fast, robotic way.

I looked up in surprise. Woah, that was unexpected, I thought. "So, does that mean you wanted me to hold your hand too?" I dared to say.

She looked down and shrugged her shoulders. "That's where all this started from right?" she said still in the same pace and tone.

I laughed and placed my hand under her chin so she could look me in the eye. "Yes, that was the turning point but to be honest, I've already begun to notice you before election day." I closed my eyes briefly before looking back at her again. "That day though, something stirred within me and I realized that I wanted to be with you more. And I had to do something to make our paths cross again 'coz if I won't step up, you would never notice me."

Mace smiled but rather self-consciously. "Yeah and when you told me you like me this way, I just couldn't believe it," she said avoiding my gaze.

I turned her chin towards me again so we are eye-to-eye. "But I want to make something clear," I said seriously. "Do you believe me now? Do you see that I'm sincere with what I feel for you?"

This time, she met my eyes and still in the same conscious way, she nodded shyly.

I squeezed her hands. "Thanks Mace," I said feeling a dark cloud being lifted to reveal a ray of sunlight. "Thank you for believing in me and for giving me this chance to be your boyfriend."

Sha laughed. "It still sounds surreal you know," she remarked a little breathlessly. "That you're my… that you really are my…"

"That I'm your boyfriend and you're my girlfriend?" I supplied my eyes twinkling mischievously as I found a way to tease her, wanting to see her all flustered and embarrassed again.

"I… " she stammered.

"Or that I'm yours and you're mine?" I said lowering my voice suggestively.

The look on Mace's face after hearing that was absolutely adorable and comical. "C'mon Luke," she muttered. "Cut it out! You know I'm not used to that kind of talk."

I had to stop myself from pulling her into my arms for an embrace. She's the cutest, I thought as I placed my other arm around her instead. "Better get used to it then," I said softly. "Coz now that we're going steady, there'll be lots of that kind of stuff."

Instead of answering, she leaned her head on my shoulder. "So long as all you do is sweet stuff, I'm fine with that," she said rather coyly.

Something about the sensual tone of her voice got may blood racing. "Brace yourself then," I whispered looking down at her face on my shoulder, my cheek grazing her cheek.

She gasped and inhaled sharply.

I had to smile thinking of our positions right that instant. We were seated on the stairs, our hands still interlocked on top of my knee. I had my other arm around her shoulder, holding her close while her head was on my shoulder. And that one small movement I made already has us cheek to cheek.

Mace was frozen on the spot. "You're a little too close for comfort now," she stammered nervously.

I did not budge an inch. "I know," I whispered. "And I like it that way. I like having you near me, this close to me." She was still as stiff as a pole so I massaged her shoulders and started tracing her thumb. "Don't worry, I won't do anything drastic. I just want to hold you close, that's all."

She relaxed a bit after I said that and in response, she scooted closer to me. She did not say anything but I took her action as a good sign. I moved my arms and started stroking her hair. "Hey," I said softly. "Today's a pretty important day for me. I mean aside from you and I being official already that is."

She looked up at me. "Why?"

"It's the 12th of May, my mother's birthday."

Her eyes widened. "Oh wow, that is something! Did you remember to greet her?"

I hid a smile at her reaction. "Yeah, first thing in the morning. We had breakfast together with my sister."

"Oh? You have a sister too?" Mace asked. "I didn't know that."

"We're only 2 siblings in the family," I answered. "Her name's Kate and she's the same age as you."

"I see," she murmured. "I'd love to meet them one day… but I hope they'll like me though when that time comes."

I leaned back a little shocked at what she just said. "First of all, I'm really happy to hear that you want to meet my family but where did you get that idea that they might not like you?"

"Oh, you know," she said trying to sound nonchalant. "It's often said that it's hard to please the female members of the family when meeting the boyfriend right?"

She made it sound casual but I could hear the uncertainty in her voice. I touched my nose to hers this time instead of just pinching it. I was glad to see that she didn't seem to mind. "How could they not like you Mace?" I said gazing at her fondly. "You're beautiful, smart, kind plus a great dancer at that!"

She looked back at me her gaze still uncertain. "You think so?"

I nodded. "Yes, I'm sure of it," I said confidently. "I've already actually told Mom about you and Kate knows your name. So, it's just a matter of timing as to when you'll meet them."

"That's good to know then," she said looking at both of our interlaced hands. "I hope you're right about what you said." She paused and looked at me shyly. "Will you tell your mom happy birthday from me?"

I swallowed the lump in my throat. I wasn't expecting that and I couldn't help but feel touched at the sincerity in her voice and her hopeful expression. I pulled her into an embrace. "Yes," I whispered hoarsely. "I'll tell Mom when I get home."

She looked back at me then, the uncertainty in her eyes gone.

She smiled as bright as the sun.

She laughed like a million tingling bells.

She could drown me with those brown eyes.

She just gave me her sweetest yes. She is now my girl. I have her in my arms right this very moment.

And I could just bask in this glow of happiness forever.