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Romance

I regret wearing this dress tonight. There is so much cold, it chills you straight to the bone. Yet here I am, on a Thursday night - work night, might I add-on the rooftop of The Golden Tulip with nothing but a sleeveless short back dress on. No - scratch that - I regret coming here in the first place. I look at the two empty chairs across the table, food on the table barely touched. I blink away and that is when I realise that I have this wetness in my eyes. Damn this cold weather!

I am on my feet as soon as I make the discovery, fishing our my phone and pressing it to my ear, just in case he would ask the waitress why I had left. I am almost leaving the table when I stop and write my number down on his linen napkin. In hindsight, I know it's more about benefit than rekindling our friendship. You know, if he ever heard of a better employment and remembers me. Remembers me. I turn on my heel and walk out hastily, as if being chased by a lion yet I know it's my guilt and shame showing me out. I pass the door saying muffed thank yous to the waitresses and the doormen as I head out and hail myself a cab home.

I sense you are confused. Let me run it back for you a bit.

***

Earlier this morning

Ngrr... Wipe. Ngrr... Wipe. Wipe. Ngrr...

I am slightly annoyed by the incessant way Aunt Jenna docs this, not stopping to give the population in her vicinity a break.

"Darn these sinuses! You know last night..." I zone out as she rambles on about her night. Don't get me wrong. I just can't keep up with her stories. I tried, really. Buy it seems she is into monologues so I just let her be. I only add in encouraging mumbles to give her the cue to continue her verbal vomit.

I adjust the miniature Japanese cherry blossom tree branch in the clear vase when I hear a customer walk in. I swivel my chair to face frontward.

"Good afternoon sir," I say, judging by the navy slacks I see just above my desk. "Welcome to Golden Tulip Hotel. How may I help you?"

The computer is still showing the Golden Tulip logo as it struggles to wake up, giving me time to look at the customer and offer him the smile I'd practised in my shoddy apartment the day I heard of my acceptance to work here.

Navy slacks, navy suit jacket, gray shirt - typical. The woman beside him must have tiptoed. Am I getting old? Is that why my ears are slowly losing function? I don't dislike her immediately. I only truly agree to dislike her after I take in her appearance and stance. Burgundy palazzo pants and corset top. Leaning on the man, orange claw-like nails on.

"Thank you. I want a-" I look at the man's face, mentally scolding him for letting this woman splay her orange stick-ons on his expensive suit jacket like that. She will tear your jacket and you'll have to pay the valet to take it to the dry-cleaner's. Urgh Rich people.

I am ready to type in the room he is requesting when he says, "Excuse me?"

I look up at the man, only to realise that I had just said that aloud.

"Sorry. It's nothing" I say.

Why am I so against her? Jeez. It's time I looked for a date. What about that Tinder guy-

"Err. Okay," he says, his brown eyes narrowing slightly. The blonde on his arm shifts uncomfortably. He has definitely heard what I've said. Now I worry that he will rat me out to the Sasha the hotel manager and I'll get fired. Focus, love. Focus!

I ready myself to type the instructions that will spew out of his mouth when my head snaps itself upward, looking at his face again. This time, his brows furrow and his mouth frowns.

Those brown eyes. That mouth. But what assures me that I'm not losing my eyesight as well, is the small scorpio dragon tattoo at the base of his wrist, not quite well-hidden by his Rolex,

"Jay," I find myself saying.

It comes out hastily as a hoarse whisper, the quality diminished by the ridges in my throat that have now been filled with a lump.

Moments pass before a tiny wisp of recognition flicks in his eyes. But it's gone as fast as it came

I outstretch my hand. "Jade. Remember?" He doesn't take it. I am so caught up in the moment that I even point at my name tag several times. All in a desparate attempt to gain that wisp and magnify it.

I give up. I shamefully sit down, surprising myself that I had even stood up. Needing a moment to myself for gathering myself up. The apology is on my tongue, when I hear, "Sullivan."

It happens in an instant. My eyes flutter and the way my heart races, I won't even try to put in words. He remembers. I meet his eyes. They run deep. A rich honey and walnut mix. A

wild-

"We are running late, JJ," Blonde McClaw says. I had momentarily

forgotten she exists.

"Sorry," I am smiling now. I try to straighten it by chanting JJ? Really?Urgh but it refuses to straighten out.

"How may I help you?"

I type out the words that spew out her mouth something about setting up a conference in room J1.

"Jade, I'd love to stay longer but I have to go," His voice resonates deeply within me but my heart deflates a little.

"But we can meet up in the evening, catch up." I notice how some things about a person never change. He says it more of a question than it is a statement.

"Sure." I smile.

I watch them walk off and to me, the rest of the day is a blur. Even when Sasha summoned me in her office, shouting about how improper I treated the customer. "Last warning, Sullivan." Last warning blah-blah-blah. You're not going to tell me how I treat my long lost friends, Sasha, just not today!

I usually take a cab till five metres away from the hotel Sasha says that we should portray a professional aura even outside the hotel) and run till home But today, don't. I take a cab all the way. I get to my apartment, clean up, put on fresh make-up and put on the black knee high dress. I can't wait.

In the evening, he said. Oh well. I'm still going to be there by six. I giggle. As I settle in the cab to go to the hotel, where I assume we will be meeting, I realise how fateful my day has been. Meeting Jay! I mean- what were the odds. And even better, he remembers! I laugh and cover my mouth. The cab driver looks at me through the rearview mirror weirdly. I normally would have returned the look with a scowl but not today. Today, I smile.

As I climb the elevators, I can't help but think, does he still like Rock music, is his celebrity crush still Amber Rose, did he fall in love again?

The hit his head took in the car accident in the last year of high school wiped out his memory. His memory. Wiped out me.

I reach the rooftop. I pass the doormen, greeting them each with a smile.

"A reservation Tor Sullivan and Jayden?"

"Right this way."

To my surprise, the reservation was for three. I find Blonde McCall seated already. Hmmm...

"Hi," she says.

"Hi. I'm so sorry about earlier. I was just carried away by meeting Jayden

that's all."

"And about that comment?" She

prompts but continues as soon as she sees me open my mouth to speak.

"You know one thing about Jayden that changed? Everything. I saw how you looked at him," she smirks before continuing, "I know you were with him in high school. But let's be honest, do you still think high school romances make it out here, in the real world?"

The waitress arrives with the menus and I'm given a delayed grace period to digest the woman herself and the information she is dishing out.

"The wine is so good!" She says, sipping from her glass.

"Only the best ma'am," the waitress replies.

"Mmmhh..." She raises her eyebrows but they are still far away from her hairline. I smirk a little.

"Hmmm. So why isn't he here with you?" I retort, ignoring the hurt her words earlier had caused. I can't deny I had some hope. Now I'm ashamed. Had I really thought that we'll fall for each other again?

"There's a difference, you know," she says." You're his past, I'm his future. Doesn't matter who he's with now."

"So why are we having this. discussion?"

"I hate the way you think-" she paused when she looks behind me, aware she has spoken too loud. " -that you look so dashing in that suit and it happens to be true."

I scoff. She stands up and walks to hug

him.

"I already ordered for us. Veal piccata."

"I see you two have already met,' a deep baritone says. And I can't help but notice that he does it again. Say a statement as a question. I smile and

turn up to meet him.

"She is the most pleasant."

He frowns and hugs me apprehensively. He knows I'm lying. Hmmm...

Please sit," he says.

We all sit.

We barely make it through the first exchange with Jay when I hear a sharp whine from McClaw.

"I think they put egg in the veal!" she wheezes out. Hand covering her stomach.

Egg in veal? I've never heard of that. And I guess neither has Jay, because we share a confused look before-

"In the picatta, or the salad, or-or-or something!"

And now I'm sure she's just playing me. She doesn't want us to see each other. Jay and I.

I look up at Jay, expecting a, " Really? I didn't know you're allergic to eggs." But in stead, he stands up, holding a hand to signal the waitress.

"Did the veal or anything in her dish really have any egg?" He asks as soon as the waitress reaches our table. I play with the corner on the napkin I've folded in my lap.

"I'll have to ask the cook sir. Right away." She whisks the plate back to the kitchen.

"Here, have this." Jay says, offering his leather jacket. She puts it on over her fur coat.

"I think I need to puke" she heaves, holding her stomach and scrunchingh her nose in repugnance.

"Aaaaahhhh... Hold it in a bit," Jay says, leaving the table with Claw in arm, headed toward the restrooms.

Alone. Again. I smile humorlessly. Did I really think that high school romances still survive? Am I that naïve really? I play with my napkin. Does Jay even remember what I like? All these years, he must have moved on. To think that I have the audacity to have hope makes my heart deflate once again today.

"Ma'am, the food didn't have any egg But we are truly sorry and are willing to- "the waitress says.

No, you had me in the first half Ms. Waitress. Her first statement resonates deeply within me that I take it personally as a cue to get my arse out of this place.

The hell was I thinking? Huh? That we would just go back to how it was? Huh? That we would FALL IN LOVE AGAIN? Am I crazy? Maybe I truly am getting old.

***

So that's why I'm here. In my shoddy apartment. Nursing the glass of 13-year old Lily Classic Cabernet Sauvignon we bought with Jay at a convenient store. The only thing of ours I kept, in hope his return to me. To the world. He wasn't the Jay he was after the accident. This one smiled more. Followed the rules more. Was chastened. Not the dare-devil we all knew. But that way, the world appreciated him more. And the world moved on. So yes, I am stuck in the past hoping he'll return- well, not presently. Presently I'm drowning those hopes. By tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be fine. I'll be moving on! I wobble on my feet to the calendar in the living room and mark tomorrow X. Moving on day number one! I'm so excited! Can't wait! Shhh... You don't have to say it thaaaat loud. I know I'm lying to myself.

But today. Today I wallow. I wallow in my misery of ever thinking that we could bend the rules. You know, show them that even high school romances survive.

Hahaha...

I sip the last of Lily in my glass before I quit it and take in hand the whole bottle.

You know, in fantasy, we had built our house and had our children play amongst themselves in the backyard.

Hahaha...

I laugh humorlessly and chug the rest of the cheap wine down, suddenly wishing it was something stronger.

Hahaha...

I laugh at myself. For being so stupid and naïve.

Hahaha...

C'mon, don't tell me you don't find it funny!

Hahaha...

But my eyes are spilling. So I furiously wipe the tears away, stand up to go plop myself in bed.

I am just about to close my eyes when my phone pings.

I'll explain to Katie later. Katie is my friend. I roll over and start counting sheep when it pings again. Urgh

I just have... to... roll.. over. Grunt.

I quickly type in, "Can't really talk right now. Tomorrow will be great." I hit send and I'm about to close my eyes when I realise that Katie was not the sender.

I unplug my phone to see the sender and his/her message.

New number:

Hey it's Jay.

Second chance at dinner?

Hell yes! And just maybe at everything else!

August 13, 2020 13:34

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3 comments

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06:03 Sep 03, 2020

Wow! This is so creative. I also loved the descriptions as well, it brings the whole story together

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Cee Rani
18:59 Sep 03, 2020

This means a lot. Thank you 💯💯

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Show 1 reply
07:19 Jan 22, 2021

Superb story . I appreciated you much.

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