She turned back to her laptop to continue writing. Her publisher had been eagerly and impatiently waiting for her second story for months now. After the first one, she went on vacation to be alone and to think. Despite clamors for a second book following the huge success of the first, she opted not to write. Well, not that she didn’t want to. She just couldn’t. She simply felt like an empty dry well.
It took her publisher weeks and a ton of enticement to get her to write again. She could have had her way and not cared at all but Valerie’s insistence was just too much. She just wanted to be left alone. With Valerie calling her almost every day, she felt pestered. So, in the end, she capitulated. Maybe, writing again could help her get her mind onto something else. It was a real challenge in the beginning. Blank white screen glared at her every time she sat to start. She and the screen played a game of looking at each other until she surrendered and left. She felt very frustrated. She had just become too dry, words withered. But Valerie, the critics, the readers became the spring that watered them. Or did they?
Now, the book is almost finished. She’s just working on the ending. She has only a few days. She’ll complete the book, on time. She promises herself.
… Then, her friend called. There’s a big party in their company. Actually, it’s the annual company gala and there were some outside personalities coming. VIPs. Part of the event. She’d worked with the company before and was also invited last year but she didn’t make it as she was deep in wrapping up her first novel. This time all excuses would be unacceptable, well, not really, but would be impolite - somehow. Stephen, the company president, who’s also a friend, would feel snubbed.
Yet, she told her caller friend she couldn’t come. She had a deadline.
Her phone sang again – Korean ballad. This time, it’s Stephen. The three of them were friends actually.
“Hey, lady! What’s a few hours? Surely, won’t hurt. You still have plenty of time to get your work done.”
She didn’t want to argue so she simply said yes, but she wouldn’t stay long.
As usual, the large grand lobby of the company building was the place for the occasion. Tux and gowns ruled the evening. Debonair. Mesmerizing.
Frida spotted her first and gleefully approached her. “So glad you could make it, friend,” her smile shimmered with her navy blue gown. “As always, you look stunning!”
Indeed, dressed in wine red sheath gown, she looked strikingly beautiful. “You’re gorgeous as well, mermaid,” referring to Frida’s gown cut.
Stephen joined them and for a while the three looked like a photograph from the past. Old friends - chatting, laughing, enjoying. Then Stephen had to leave to greet a VIP.
Friends and colleagues were glad to see her again and congratulated her on the success of her novel. Someone asked if she’s working on another one. Frida answered for her. They asked what it was about. Was it the sequel to the first? No.
People kept appearing – employees, stockholders, clients, friends. Dressed in peonies and red chrysanthemums, the lobby couldn’t look more stylish and luxurious. It matched the elegance of every man and every woman in attendance. The night glittered. Buzz was all over, laughter filled the room, wine flowed down throats, food was a feast. Frida returned with a plate of assorted meat. Obviously, figure was not an issue with her. She offered some to her BFF who was content with her fish and salad.
Someone caught Ley’s eye, “Isn’t he supposed to be in the Pacific?”
Frida turned to see who it was. Alex. Wearing an ink black tuxedo, he looked dashing as ever.
“He’s only here to finalize the sale of his parents’ house. He’s settling permanently in the South. His fiancée’s from there.
“When’d you know?” Ley struggled. What did she just feel?
“Stephen told me couple of weeks ago.”
“He didn’t mention anything when he called me.”
“As if you cared,” Frida looked at her, wondering.
“Cared! He’s the only love I ever want,” her thoughts screamed at her friend. But of course, Frida didn’t know. No one did. Including she – until now.
Frida checked the time. “Aren’t you supposed to be going now? We both can go. I’ll tell Stephen in the morning. Anyway, he knows.” She gave Ley a nudge but Ley did not move. Her eyes were fixed on Alex, who was having a conversation with friends.
Her friend’s behavior perplexed Frida. “Now, what are you thinking, Ley?”
“When is he getting married?”
“I think in a few months. Why do you ask?”
Ley looked at her friend, “I love him.”
“You rejected him, remember?” Frida wasn’t sure whether she was mocking or was simply confounded.
It’s the latter, she realized. Yet, she felt her voice came out as insulting. “He pursued you but you refused his intentions. Still, he continued until he finally understood that there would never be a he and you. Everybody actually believed you two were suitable for each other. But, of course, you didn’t see that.”
“I love him now.”
Alex was the sweet kind of guy. Gentle and respectful also. But she didn’t see that. He was good-looking with penetrating eyes and lips that either brooded or smiled. But she didn’t see that too. When he gave her flowers or something, she accepted and said ‘thank you’. But only that. No smile. Didn’t matter if the flowers were her favorite. She didn’t show any emotion at all. Until one day, Alex stopped. She didn’t care.
But now she cared – very much. When Alex stopped courting her, he didn’t court another woman. Yes, he went out with friends but never on a lone date. But now, he’s getting married. That struck Ley and shook up her sleeping heart. She couldn’t let another woman have him. Never mind if she rejected him. He loved her. And now, she loved him. Ahhh, why is the heart full of tricks?
Ley turned to her friend and said, “I’m gonna get him. Tonight.”
“What!” Frida almost shouted. “Are you crazy? What are you up to?”
Ley smiled, “You’ll see,” and took a step away.
Frida grabbed her friend, “Let’s go, Ley. You have a book to finish. Have you forgotten?”
“My life will be finished if I don’t act now. Foolish me. Tonight I end my foolishness.”
With that, Ley walked to her future, got a microphone, ascended the curved stairs, and stopped after a few steps, then turned to face the party. Standing perfectly in her alluring wine red gown, eyes seeing nothing, no one but Alex, Ley’s voice was quivering but sounded determined.
“Good evening every one. I have an announcement to make. This goes out to someone.”
“Alex, I love you!”
Frida’s jaws dropped. Stephen could not believe what he was hearing.
The room hushed itself. Time froze. People turned still.
Alex looked at her, unsure.
Staring right into Alex across the room, Ley cried, “Well, aren’t you gonna say or do something?”
No longer willing to wait for Alex to make a move, Ley descended the stairs. In her haste, she lost her footing and almost fell. Fortunately, Walter, the Head of Finance, who was somewhere near the foot of the staircase, was quick enough to catch her. But as soon as Walter got her, he tripped or something, so they both ended up on the carpet.
Looking up at the faces staring down at them, or more precisely at her, she asked herself, “Did I just make a fool of myself – again?”
While her thoughts were busy, a hand reached out, an arm went round her back. Alex. He gently helped her get up and brought her back on her feet. Now he’s looking at her face.
With that last sentence, Catherine types below The End.
Her second book is complete. Finally. The words came out at last. Words that had refused her. She thinks of him, as she always does and always will, and wonders for the nth time where he is. Her heart pines. Will she ever see him again? Will they ever meet again?
“Foolish, foolish me.”
Before leaving the screen, she types a dedication, ‘For Him’.
Her tears roll down.