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Christmas East Asian Friendship

“Let’s get married.”

“What?”

“Marry me,” he shrugged.

Barbara could only furrow her brow at him.

On an early December evening, the amihan wind caressed their faces. Kit’s feet were dangling at the edge of her dim lit engawa while she sat by his side, hugging her bent knees. Between them were two mugs of half-finished coffee—decaf—getting cold as they stared aimlessly at her then empty front yard. Her Japanese tea houses inspired forever home had just been finished about two weeks prior.

Kit, an old college friend, was just visiting town. They had dinner in her house and went out after on her porch to chat. They talked about anything: many things. How was she? Fine. How was his work? Alright, but I’m thinking of moving to somewhere peaceful: maybe here? Oh yes, it’s beautiful here especially during the summer—you must see. Yes, I must. Was he finally thinking of settling down? No one to settle with.

And like in most of their conversations before, there came silence. A necessity they both agreed—and appreciated—to have in everything. A comfortable quiet between loud symphonies. An interlude.

“Why?” she asked, pulling the wrists of her sweater to cover her fingers.

“Why not?” He lifted his shoulders into another shrug. He twisted to face her. Lifting his right leg off the edge of the platform, he placed it bent on the floor, then leaned back comfortably against a pillar. “We’re almost in our thirties and we’re both not dating anyone.”

“So? What’s wrong with being single in our thirties?” She answered, rubbing her bare feet gently.

“Nothing wrong. But nothing feels right anymore, either.”

He was right but, “Why would we marry each other?”

    “Why shouldn’t we?”

    “We’re friends.

    “Exactly.”

    “Not a good reason to get married.”

    “Says who?”

    Uh... say the people who married for love? She thought, but answered, “I’m not a fan of arranged marriage.”

    “Every marriage is basically arranged. That’s why it’s a contract,” he smirked.

    When she didn’t respond to his quip, he moved the tepid coffee to the side and moved closer. “You’re twenty-nine years old,” he said. “You already feel too old for parties and bars, so you spend your free time at home reading, cleaning, or something. Do you really believe that you’ll romantically bumped into your prince charming while on a grocery run on Sundays?”

    Why not, she thought. But he was right: life doesn’t usually work like that. And who did she think she was to be the exception?

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s.”

She didn’t know what got into him that night that he asked her—his friend, and nothing more—for marriage, as much as she didn’t know what got into her that she said yes.

“One thing,” she said.

“What?”

“Be a good friend and don’t you ever lie or pretend.”

“Why would I?”

“And one more thing,” she added, “don’t leave me hanging.”

“When have I ever?”

    There were no flowers or ring or having to drop on one knee. It wasn’t the ideal proposal and far from romantic, but it was honest and authentic.

    What difference would dating have made? People are people. Relationships are relationships. There’d be differences, misunderstandings, and quarrels. At least this way, she thought, there’d be no expectations, and therefore, no disappointments. No pretending to be somebody else or somebody better, because there’s no need to impress the other. I am me, and he is him. He knows me, and I know him. Faults and all.

    Barbara would always remember that night every time she would sit on their engawa having wine, tea, or coffee. Now it was almost Christmas again, twenty years later, the amihan wind swept the bamboo wind chimes Kit bought for their forever home on a random day, and carried its melody into the distance.

    The door creaked open. Kit was pushing the screen door with his back, holding two mugs of coffee—decaf. He carefully laid both drinks on the small, wood, round table they bought after the wedding, and sat on his chair. Leaning forward, he pulled a pair of socks from his pants’ back pocket.

    “Here,” he tossed the socks gently to his wife across the table, “I told you to always wear them whenever you’re out here. Especially this time of year.”

    She only smiled sheepishly, as she always did. “The kids’ are down?”

    “It was a long drive from University.”

    “Hm.” After putting on the socks, she pulled the wrist of her sleeves down to her hand before picking her mug up and sipped. “They’ve grown up so fast.”

    “Hm,” he chuckled. “I still remember how terrified you were the first few times you held them.”

    “They looked so fragile! I was scared that I might drop them.”

    “You’re very good with children that nobody would suspect that you’d be frightened with infants.”

    “I’m good with school children, not infants.”

    “But weren’t you so glad that we have twins.”

    “Of course. Two babies for just nine months? It’s a promo.”

    Kit laughed heartily, as he always did every time she says the promo thing.

    After their laughter died down, an interlude.

    “Do you remember the first time we had coffee here?” she asked.

    “Why wouldn’t I?” he answered. “We were sitting over there,” he pointed at the edge where they were sitting that night.

    “Why did you ask to marry me?” The first time she wanted to ask him this was on the day they found out that she was pregnant.

She was already at school one morning when suddenly she felt nauseated and threw up in her office bathroom. Still feeling lightheaded, her secretary helped her get to the school clinic. When he called her office, as he always did sometime before lunch, she was still resting in the clinic, and when her secretary failed to explain the real situation, he rushed to the school.

There was something in that moment when she saw his worried face, barging in the school clinic. Something. But she opted not think more of it.

“Because I wanted to.”

“Why?”

    “Why not?”

    She avoided his gaze and stared at her coffee. She knew it was silly to do this now, but she had to. For years she suppressed it. Just appreciate the little things. But it was gnawing at her. “Because you didn’t have a better choice, did you?” I was a safe choice. The last choice.

    “Exactly.” Exactly.

    “There’s no better than best,” he continued.

    She looked up at him, but he was looking far ahead. “It was very peaceful that night,” he smiled. “Just the two of us talking... drinking coffee. It has always been like that with you. And that night, I just thought, ‘this is what I want for the rest of my life.’”

    He looked at her the way he always did and said, “Why wouldn't I want to marry you? It’s peaceful with you.”

    She didn’t know what got into him that night that made him ask her to marry him as much as she didn’t know what got into her that made her say yes. But whatever it was, it gave me a friend, family, and love.

December 18, 2020 15:30

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6 comments

Michael Boquet
21:37 Dec 23, 2020

Interesting take on the prompt. I think the story would of benefited from either more details about their marriage through the years (how they fell in love, etc..) or more insight into their friendship before he proposed. You tell us they fell in love without actually showing us or explaining how/why.

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Jodie Althaia
17:51 Dec 24, 2020

Thanks Michael for taking the time to read. Now that I read it again, I noticed that I did rush it. So thank you for the insight! I'll keep it in mind for my next stories.

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Ann Sable
16:54 Jan 03, 2021

I loved it! I felt that the story is in a way divided into two parts (a talk in the past and a talk in the present), although of course the past and present are layered on top of each other throughout the text. I particularly liked how elegantly this was done at the beginning. (initial dialogue - preface - expansion of the dialogue) I liked how universal and at the same time unique the story was: you can imagine these characters and this story in more or less any setting, but the tiny details ("amihan wind", "bamboo wind chimes") made it a l...

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Jodie Althaia
18:18 Jan 03, 2021

Thank you, Ann! To be honest, I wasn't sure how to end it, so I guess the later part turned out to be off and out of place. I have no excuses for it, haha. And I'm really glad you noticed the small things. It's my way of putting bits of my culture in my stories. I really appreciate your feedback and they're be very helpful. Hope you'll read more of my stories. Thanks again!

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Ann Sable
19:06 Jan 03, 2021

I loved it! And I surely will read more, looking forward to your future work!

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Jodie Althaia
18:18 Jan 03, 2021

Thank you, Ann! To be honest, I wasn't sure how to end it, so I guess the later part turned out to be off and out of place. I have no excuses for it, haha. And I'm really glad you noticed the small things. It's my way of putting bits of my culture in my stories. I really appreciate your feedback and they're very helpful. Hope you'll read more of my stories. Thanks again!

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