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Writings > Short Story > Love

Victim

Previous short story:
One Less Story to Tell
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The First Rain, The Last Rain



It was the first time I actually put them to practice. Only one time, and I decided, henceforth, that I do better without them.
 

But before that, let me reprise this; in my defence, it was also the first time I have ever read such magazine. What magazine, you ask? Ah. Those aimed at teenagers and young woman. Lifestyle magazines. Packed with fashion know-how, makeup tricks and relationship jump-starter and advices – or whatever they call it. I, weakened by numerous failed attempts to hint at her that I want her, was susceptible to such idea.
 

Only to become a victim of these unrealistic (a post-conclusion I conjured after all trials) advises;
 

The lessons were;
 

Number one; pretend to know her. I used this tactic on her first; because it was listed first – no other reason, really. (well, really?) It was a fine day. We were rushing back from our subject class when I chanced upon her walking toward our studio, totting her books and bag. My dear friend Zahari hinted at me. Nervousness came invading but I decided that such coalition will seem better than any other way or attempt so I waved at her, had her stop her strides and said to her;
 

 “Hey there, have we met before? You are familiar,” to which I successfully topped with a rotten cherry of, “You are in my studio, correct?”
 

To this she cringed, her jaw dropping very dramatically and told me; “What on earth is that cliché entre? Did you read that magazine again? You will fare better if it is other people, but stop using us (studio) girls as your test subject. That won’t work. Ever. And it was borderline disgusting.”
 

Ouch.
 

Borderline disgusting?
 

For real??


Already Zahari was trying his best not to laugh, his face red by the attempt. I felt betrayed (for no reason) and that ought to show vividly on my face because the moment I met Zahari’s gaze he burst out laughing, which of course had the effect of salt on bleeding wounds. Damn you. A little help here?  
           

She lingered for a second more, snorted for a moment and shook her head in mild amusement before reinstating her journey. I panicked. Does that mean I just failed? Oh no! Oh oh look at that step! She’s picking up speed! Wow. Give me a second gal! Wait up!
 

“Than what do you suggest I do?” I hollered and she slowed down.
 

“Just go straight to her and tell her you want her.”
 

I was stumped.
 

“FOR REAL?!”


“Or rather, that is how I prefer it to be, if I am in her shoes.”
 

And then right before she was about to take a turn into the staircase, she paused, peeked from there and smiled, complete with a wink, and said “because I am not your average woman, so normal rules don’t apply to me.”
 

Oh lady, I wonder how you will react if you know you are the one I am after. And have you no idea how sexy was it when you do that wink? Oh dear. And girl, did you know, you had me further deeper into your grasp? And then you want me to confess straight up to you? And tell you I want you? Want you? Want you??


“Good luck, bro. this ain’t gonna be easy for you,” wishes Zahari, a giggle still lingering. “Words of advice here; just go along her suggestion. She already gave away her secret to you,”


I know. If I went according to her preference I might have been spared by this ridiculous embarrassment, but have you any idea Zahari how much courage must I muster if I am to walk up to her and say that I want her? Have you? This is her we are talking about. Not an average woman! If you need 100% ego and courage to approach those normal lady, she would require maybe twice, or thrice of that. And by a confession you will be drained off ego and courage for another three to four years, leaving you a scaredy-cat and she may leave you and then you will…


Okay. I know I am overreacting, but hey!


It could happen, right?


And then as a coward that I am, I moved on to advice number two;


Pretend to ask for time. Classic one, isn’t it? And this magazine was written recently. Go figure! Maybe a timeless advice like this will work!


It was the following day, right after a presentation. Happens that I was somewhere near her and seized this chance to put into motion of this woo-her project.


But as I was just about to ask her, she turned around and our eyes met. Again I drowned in her bottomless black eyes, reduced to a blundering idiot from the previously believable charismatic potential boyfriend.


To which I croaked, “What time is it?”


And she cringed again, this time not in disgust the way she did before, but in confusion. No words spoken, she held up her wrist and smiled meaningfully. Oh right, IDIOT. She has no watch! Why didn’t I bother to study that detail first? Idiot idiot idiot me. Sensing the curiosity brewing in her eyes, it was necessary for me to remove myself from her presence before my ego and courage suffer thorough defeat again. Sheepishly, I said;


“Oh alright. Sorry,” I took one step backward, when she pointed to my wrist. Oh shit. Correction! Not my wrist. My WATCH. The horror of it!


“Practicing another of your pick-up line?” she laughed, shook her head, gathered the projector and shoot out of the studio, still laughing.


I felt like curling under the table, never to come out, and forever rot there. That was how bad it was, and how terrible I felt then. I could not look at her for the rest of the day, feeling as if she was leering at me although she barely ever glanced at me. I suffered internal defeat that day and will never, ever forget it. Never ever!


But…um…the stress lasted only until the end of the week. Come Monday, I was already well on my way to put to test the number three option.


Find a certain similarity between you and her and hook her up the subject.


Aha! Finally something I could relate to and sound workable. I would like to think, that despite her bold claim on how she differed from other woman, she is still just a normal woman. And as human I believed that we enjoy the company of someone similar to ourselves, even if the similarity is just as simple as loving the same kind of food. A lot can come from that one similarity, and with that affirmation I found new kind of hope.


So this was what I did;


“You’re always drawing, aren’t you?” I said to her one fine day while she was doodling.


“Always?”


Right. A question as an answer huh? I found my self-defence flaring up. I had underestimated her. When she sighed instinctively I asked;


“Am I not right?”


“I wish it is. But unfortunately, no.”


No
? NO?? Oh boy.


“How come?”


She did not answer me with words, but with a smile; an enigmatic smile that haunted me the rest of the day and night and week and month, which stole all my words, and made the idiot me realize that I have again underestimated her. The depth of her eyes and the mysterious smile made me realize that I have never, never ever, known her.


And as you may have guessed, I chickened out, and abandoned my mission partway. I never revisited my mission, eventually becoming a lost cause. I tried hitting on other girls, but could never bring myself to pursue them full-heartedly. My mind kept returning to her, and being in the same class with her made things a lot harder.


Until one day, one fine day somehow the odds decided to side with me. I was showered with the chance to know her, to understand her a little better. It was during an unscheduled, completely out of class topic on marriage, started by a fellow classmate Sharil. He had recently been married, when another friend who were engaged and to be married in a year’s time complained at the cost of planning his wedding quite openly. Suddenly the studio was in chaos, with two sides; the girls on one side, the boys another. The originally two-person discussion turned into a heated debate, and when girls started wringing their neck trying to get their points across to the boys that their desire should be fulfilled at best since they will only be wedded once, things turned into an argument. Voices kept rising, and I was afraid they would fight at the end of the day, when someone slammed a magazine onto the table between the two warring sides, inducing a complete streak of silence. It was her. It was her. She wore such a cool look, her eyes hiding her very stance. When they realized that the answer for her interruption won’t be coming from her, every pair of eyes went to the magazine instead.


On the page of the magazine, it was emblazoned with a huge title reading ‘custom vs. necessities, outlook on Islam and weddings’.


Intrigued, I took the liberty to ask her; “So your stand?”


“Only do it if you are with means.”


“That does not answer my question.”


“My stand is not important in this matter as the original discussion was not of my wedding. But I would like to let you know that trying to get everyone to agree with each other’s ideal is useless.”


“Are weddings supposed to be troublesome to you?”


“To the very least, it is meant to be enjoyable.”


And by that she left. I was pulling my hair out at her attitude that day. She was being difficult, overtly irritated and point blank cold. But her interruption lessened the noise and we could all see that there were others trying to study for the upcoming tests. I can’t quite remember my other thoughts, but her very smug and cold comments etched a mark in my memory. At that moment I was reminded that she wasn’t one woman I could toy with.


But well then, let’s see…


A year would pass us by quietly without me attempting anything, or her showing changes, not even a sign of interest (in me). She went on to acquire various recognitions by the people around her, and I remained conscious, more than ever, of the bridge between us. As I quietly watched her from the sideways. There were few times I tried to ignore her, tried to snuff the flame out. But as you may have guessed it, yours truly isn’t a very adapt soul that could well dictate his heart’s instinct. Like cheese and wines, soy sauce and our own belachan, the quality, depth, taste intensifies as you let it ferment further, untouchable. The same could be said about this bubble of feeling I felt for her. It barely wears off, only intensified, to a point that the acid splinters were hurting corners of my heart. Despite that I decidedly let things drag around, and thought; perhaps one day this thing will somehow work itself out.


What an idiot I was.


Turns out, things did not work itself out.


When she announced that she will be flying abroad to further her studies, I found myself in a serious emotional and anxiety war. The week leading up to her departure, I could barely sleep. There was a constant feeling in the pits of my stomach that interfered with my daily function; physically and emotionally. I tirelessly worry over uncertainties, fearing the future…it made me sick. Friends and colleague commented that I looked ghastly pale, and my mother almost sedated me so she could take me to the hospital (since I resisted her terribly) but I knew better. It was a sickness no external medicine could cure; only one bitter pill could cure it.


Confession. That bitter pill is confession; a double bladed sword that could either protect me, or kill me in a single stab. Like a gamble. Like a bet.


And then, came the day.


I tagged along some of our classmate who went to the airport to bid her farewell. We chatted, reminisced, laughed andcheered for her. Zahari was there. He had insisted to drive there, which was strange. Since her flight was scheduled midnight Sunday, majority of the well-wishers left early to prepare for Monday, but Zahari annoyingly insisted that we see her to the departure gate. He provided no explanation, not even an apology, and we hanged out together, talking about work, plans, futures, possibilities. At some point she excused herself, leaving the two of us together. He began blurting cruel comments, calling me idiot, sissy, and things like that out of nowhere which surprised me. We actually bickered at that café, attracting unnecessary attention which irked me, until he actually left due to annoyance.


But he did not left without slapping me in the face with a single sentence;


“The most idiotic person in this world is the one who did not grab a diamond presented to him, which he knew is authentic, priceless and pure; because of his ego and fear the uncertain!”


Now honestly, that sentence sounded ridiculous. Men can’t wear diamonds, no, and Zahari wasn’t exactly a clueless man. He saying that might sound bizarre, but it forced the birth of an idea in my head, which was interrupted when she returned to the table, puzzled at Zahari’s absence. We talked a bit more, and I was growing increasingly disoriented by the torrents of thought swirling in my head, until we heard an announcement for her flight’s final call.


That was when a shiver struck me.


I finally realized the meaning behind Zahari’s words.


She excused herself and thanked for the company, and left her regards for Zahari with me after insisting that I should not trouble myself and walk her to the gate. Despondently I agreed, but with each single steps I took that took me away from her, a piece of nail grazed my heart, one by one, that up to a point, it was so painful, I had to turn around and reclaimed our distance. By then, I have decided that it should be worth a try, and that I had nothing to lose.


Except for my ego, that is.


Okay. So here goes. Here goes nothing! Goodbye ego, goodbye courage. I will be seeing you in three, four years time!


….or maybe, a lifetime!


“I like you,”


“Of course you do. Else we wouldn’t even be friend,”


I slapped my face instinctively. This woman. Please stop making me run in your confusing ginormous roundabout!


“A little more than a friend,” I pressed, expecting a reaction.


“Oh. Thank you, I am flattered,” she replied, still pretty indifferently.


“Really, is that all?” I was beginning to sound desperate, and this raised my internal alarm.


“Well, what do you expect me to say?” she asked. Oh. Right. She did have a point. But I was desperate to have things go differently. I mean, I have been waiting for, God knows, how long (actually, three years) for her to notice, so we could either stop this little charade completely or perhaps, move on to a different level.


Oh what, desperate? Of course I am. Who are kidding? And here in front of her, I am stuttering, trying to make sense, trying to put things in order. It was a do or die situation. I certainly did not want to die. And she seemed like she was having fun, or just plain oblivious, or just…I don’t know! If anything, I wish she would stop looking so calm and indifferent!


So I stammered, nervous; “Like…”


“Like how?” Like, how can you be so calm, woman? Having fun now? While I am dying, trying to get my point across?


“Ohhhhhh boy. How old are we again? Thirteen? Fourteen?”


“Twenty four?”


“Exactly!”


“I am not getting you.”


“And why are you being so oblivious to all my hints? And even when I am being all open and all direct to you all I get is a thank you?”


“Your hints?!” she laughed. “So those were hints? What sort of hint??”


She was clearly driving me into a corner (after putting me on my heels, in an endless roundabout). I felt helpless. My face felt hot, and my ears were burning that it stings. As of that moment, I felt my feet trying to balance the weight; the weight of my desire and the weight of my conscience, of which both seemed and felt ridiculously heavy, while they danced mercilessly trying to tip me to either side; desire, or conscience.


Fulfil my desire and have my conscience laugh at me, or follow my conscience and have my desire weeping for who knows how long.


When she smiled, I knew I was the one being played. She did not have to say a word. Not a syllable. That smile was enough to wreck my calm. I sighed twice before I could find my reason, a further minute to remedy my crumbling courage.


Why do you have to tease me so?


“…you are strange.”

She was surprised, very mildly, but I did not mean it in the bad way. It was supposed to be a complement. I regretted the first moment of our introduction, the first second I saw those bottomless eyes. Like a quicksand, she consumed me, and all she had to do was being herself. I had always prided myself as a man, certain of the amount of courage I possess, proud of my belief.


But here…


“I have been told that since I was a wee lass,” she smiled, a little amused, a little less surprised. She had already positioned her body in a tilted angle, which tells me that she was about to leave. My desperation somewhat grew. I fell victim to anger, and cursed the damned magazine.


And my newfound cowardice.


If only I have heeded Zahari’s suggestion.


That I leave the magazine’s advice alone.


This…


When I saw her feet moving sixteen inch away from where I was standing, I knew…


Do. Or die. Or live regretting it. I saw the departure board flicker. The floor of the airport was polished to perfection; it mimicked the reflection of a mirror. I ought to thank the person who cleaned this floor because through that I saw that she was glancing at me, her lips in mum.


“I want you,” I blurted, with the last, every piece and every bit, of my ego, “to…cherish you.”


Pause. Inhaled. Gathered my courage. Feeling the burn in the pit of my stomach, the thumping of my heart, the chill in my spine. Magically my mind came to life, and clear, to begin with, and words simply fall in place without me trying.


“Not as a friend. Or anything more than just a friend.”


Honestly I have never thought of this, but the desperation came from a single source; that I want her. As a lover. As a legit lover. Make her mine. Make her my queen. Put her on the throne next to me. To cherish her…to…


Ah. Why haven’t I thought of this earlier?


Why haven’t I realized that it wasn’t just a simple attraction from the beginning?


That it was…


Love.


I can’t believe it then, but it happened.


“I want your hand,” I said quite clearly, which actually stopped some passer-by and a group of air stewardess. They all wore a shocked face, lingering for a further while, perhaps to witness the unfolding drama, perhaps...whatever! I nearly laughed when one of them asked if it was a prank video, or a drama shooting. In normality I would have been annoyed by all the whispering, but in that truthful moment nothing else mattered.


I must tell her this before she leave, because once she step into that gate there will be chances in which we may not see each other again.


“And I want your heart. Is that okay with you?”


And do you know how did this strange woman reacted?


She kept her cool. No tears, no shock, no glitters in her eyes, no nothing! Disappointing! For the longest time, she just stood there, staring at me, her hand luggage resting next to her, lips mum and eyes unmoving. Silence lasted between us for as long as I could remember, until her lips parted and my heart stopped.


“I…do know you. And it is already nine-fifty-two, because I have forgotten the reason why I draw, no I don’t think wedding have to be burdensome affair and yes I do think you are a fine man,” she said finally, a vivid smile blossoming on her lips. “Well done, Roy. And thank you.”


That was it. That was the only thing she said to me before she quietly made her way toward the waiting gate, now thirty-one minute right before departure. Two men from the bystander crowd patted my shoulder and smiled apologetically, wishing me better luck, but another mentioned how I was doing a good job and congratulated me on the positive beginning. His words surprised me, but as I rethink carefully of the words that she uttered and the way her eyes reacted, he was right. She did not give me a yes, or a no, but there was something in her bottomless eyes that told me that I was far from being rejected. My heart broke a little, but my hope flared greatly. I still have a chance.


I still do.


And roughly a year later, I learned that the last sentence she said to me, well. The enigmatic “Well done, Roy. And thank you.”; the well done was meant to mean ‘finally’, and thank you was a yes. It was a yes to my impromptu proposal.


A month later, I flew to her, and my mother slip onto her finger a sign.


Finally, after a lifetime of choosing my victim…


My
lifetime.


==author’s note==


Love story again? Yeah I know, I am getting rusty here, but bear with me. This is the only thing I think people would want to read because my other genre of writing invovles heavy fantasy, lots of war, angst and...um yeah..drama -_-;. Those, yep. Anyways! This story is a partially true story (except the romantiplicated part, obviously) of a friend who continued his lifelong journey of looking for the one. It took forever to finish! An unedited, first draft piece. As always, comments, critiques are welcome. :)

 

Previous short story:
One Less Story to Tell
Next short story:
The First Rain, The Last Rain
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