Fate and Fortune

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about summer love — the quarantine edition.... view prompt

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Romance Funny Drama

I dreamt of this: you walking down the aisle, flower in hand, radiant smile. But that's what it was, just a dream. Who would've thought we'd beat the statistic.

Our story began the summer our mums met. I was eight, you were nine, and Cupid was only a name. We hid behind our mothers' skirts as they bonded on the bus, and I pretended you weren't watching me with those obsidian eyes. It was when my mother said Why don't you say hi? that I found the courage to meet your steady gaze. From that moment, I couldn't look away.

Some days after, we ran into each other, and I knew fate and fortune were playing matchmaker. We attended the same school, but you were a grade higher. Maybe that was the reason I never noticed: I had a phobia for seniors.

We started talking the day you stood up to Bradley, though. Before the incident, I formed the habit of walking past your class. The hope of seeing you won over my fear of your classmates. It wasn't in vain either. Several times, I caught you staring too. Your eyes held an impish smile that always had me flushing. However, when Bradley had enough, he cornered me in the hallway.

You have no right to look into your senior's classroom, talk more of our girls, you freak, he said.

Bradley was skinny, with a lot of blackheads. But my experience with his hard knuckles made me cower in his presence.

When I said nothing, he punched my stomach. Who are you looking at? he asked. At that point, many middle schoolers had already gathered around. I briefly wondered why they never got tired of it. In the school, Bradley bullying me was like watching a movie over and over again. No matter how "interesting" it seemed, eventually, one would get bored.

It was my first time hearing you speak. Leave him alone, you said. I didn't know if it was the deep timbre of your voice, the slap you gave Bradley or both that scared him off. But then, I felt a weird sense of gratitude towards my bully. Are you okay? were the first words you said to me.

Into sixth grade, there was a polite yet distant air around you. Nevertheless, I was determined to break your walls. I followed you almost everywhere, a giddy boy who'd made his first friend. Your fellow seventh graders called me your lapdog, and time after time, you defended me. Not that you needed to, I didn't care what they said. My concern was how you treated me: like a little brother, not a friend.

We had our first fight when you started dating Bradley. That was towards the end of sixth grade. Jealousy, like a vindictive cobra, raised its ugly head. Why are you with him? I asked, frightened and angry. You had a surprised look as you replied He's changed. And for a year, I watched you get cozy with the person who hated every inch of me. Bradley picked on me throughout seventh grade, just not in front of you. Get away from her, she's mine were his usual lines. Back then, I'd befriended a few people, and one of them, Clara, agreed with Bradley. In a kinder fashion, but she said the same thing.

She's your senior, Ryn. Plus, childhood crushes never amount to anything.

And up until ninth grade, I forgot—tried to forget—my feelings for you.

It was the news of your breakup that had me searching for your dark eyes again. According to Clara, it happened during a row you two had in the infamous hallway. Her narration of the event was disturbingly explicit, but what interested me was the thing you told Bradley: You drove him away.

Without a doubt, I knew I was him. The rekindling of our friendship only cemented that fact.

It was a new kind of friendship. Our houses were close, so for a change, you began to visit. Sometimes, we played video games, other times, we had actual conversations. When you laughed for the first time, I knew I'd done it: I'd broken through your invisible barrier.

I wanted more than friendship, but I was careful, if not scared. As the rotund chess lover of my grade, being with you was like a pauper wearing a crown. I wasn't worthy, so I buried my desire.

However, in tenth grade, puberty worked its magic on the both of us. The day we met, you already had beauty, brains and brawn; grade eleven only enhanced those qualities. And attracted a lot of competition.

At least you have a fair chance, if we're going by physical appearance, Clara said with a smug smile; she wasn't wrong. I grew from chubby to muscular, and my chin began to spot stubble. Even your mother was surprised by my growth the day our families had dinner together. He's one of the lucky irregulars, my mother told her. Maybe I imagined it, but the moment our eyes met, your olive skin turned red.

Still, our relationship didn't change. I remained the goofy friend, dishing out joke after joke to make you roll with laughter, and you remained open, telling me things about you I doubted anyone knew. The atmosphere always got weird when you talked about your admirers. Maybe the problem was from me, but anytime you complained about a flower someone stuck in your frizzy hair, or a love letter you found under your desk, I became quiet, distant. Then you'd quickly change topic.

Just tell her already, if it bothers you so much, Clara said one morning in the cafeteria. I told her you were older, and I was scared, and our relationship was practically doomed to fail. However, my heart said something different. It hoped, against all odds, you'd remain available till I made a decision.

You didn't. And I didn't either.

One summer, a year later, you finally chose one of your admirers: Peter. It was then I decided to let go. I mean, obsessing over a childhood crush wasn't very manly, right? At least that's what the team said. Our captain, Harold, thought my attitude was downright gross. He even scolded me after a game we lost, no thanks to me. I'd seen you on the bleachers kissing your new boyfriend.

Destiny isn't a cougar, Ryn. Get your stupid head out of the clouds and into football!

I didn't say one year wasn't much of a difference. After all, more than that separated us.

Weeks later, I started dating my classmate, Priyanka. She'd asked me out many times, and there was nothing wrong with her. Priyanka was daring and smart. I just didn't see that because she wasn't you. After beating me hands down, she rekindled my love for chess, and with her, I frequented the most bizarre costume parties. Eventually, I grew to like, even love, my first girlfriend.

However, I wasn't blind to the fact that something shifted in our relationship. We were still talking, but you weren't laughing at my jokes anymore. On the occasions when I asked why you looked worried, you blamed it on your college applications.

We were in the library one afternoon when you asked, Are you happy with her?

Confused, I watched as you glared at your SAT book. I had a feeling that look was meant for me.

Who?

You rolled your eyes. Priyanka.

Immediately, I flushed with guilt. I'd never mentioned Priyanka to you. Maybe it was just me, but talking about my girlfriend with you didn't feel right. When I slowly nodded, you only smiled in response.

The following day, you broke up with Peter and became downright cold towards me. Maybe she really liked you, Clara said, but I couldn't even find out: you avoided me like the plague, even after your graduation. I finally got the message when you changed your number.

For six years, we weren't in each other's lives. Until that sweltering afternoon, yet another summer.

You were mopping sweat off your forehead when I offered you a handkerchief. I recognized those black-as-night eyes the instant you raised your head. Judging by your expression then, you were not only surprised by your boss giving you his hanky.

That year, our relationship was dry ice. You tried to resign many times, but I wouldn't have it. I wasn't a joker anymore, but I did use some of our inside jokes to make you smile at me, at least. But you remained my "polite" receptionist.

In the end, I decided to, once again, let you go. Nonetheless, I wasn't planning to do that without getting an answer. If my experience in the business world had given me anything, it was a backbone.

Why do you hate me?!

You broke down before I completed the question. A sobbing mess, you confessed everything: how I became your first crush the summer we met, how you struggled to tell me many times, how you never did because you were afraid, how you dated other people to get over your ridiculous but growing love for me, how you never stopped loving me even to that moment.

Then it hit me. I hadn't moved on, not one bit. Someone had simply hit pause on our story, and with your confession, time was moving again. Destiny, I feel the same way, I said, before sharing my own experience. When you stopped crying, I asked you out.

Four years later, I got down on one knee, shirtless and tanned on the fine sand of the beach. I didn't even know why it took that long; our love was obvious to whoever was watching. I guess Covid-19 reminded me I didn't have all the time in the world. It gave me a reason to live life to the fullest.

And through a sea of masked guests, life approached me.

We wedded in our fated season.

August 07, 2020 10:51

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