By Diana Jean Ibay
“Never lose me, and I will grant you your heart’s desire.”
The line was stitched on my Brisé fan in pink-and-gold thread, and upon reading it, I wasn’t able to stop a chuckle from coming out of my lips.
“Yeah, right!” I snorted, rolling my eyes, “That’s what I need now – a magical fan – who would’ve thought?!”
“Why not, then?!”
I jumped up from my Indian sitting position, as soon as I heard the familiar masculine voice speaking up behind me.
I turned around, and after confirming my suspicions, veiled my surprise with a nonchalant inquiry, “Ah, what brings you out here, dear cousin-of-my-bestfriend?!”
“Followed at your heels when I caught you making your great escape from the shindig back there!” he grinned, adding with mock-seriousness, “As well as escaping the hordes of young women your bestfriend Jenny has been desperately trying to match with me!” then, he inclined his head towards me, “You?”
“Fresh air, mostly. God, the air inside nearly got me high from breathing the massive puffs of smoke of all the cigarette brands known to man coming from all direction!” I admitted laughingly, “And, as you know, this is my favorite place inside this exclusive enclave.”
He nodded understandingly, “Of course.”
With no other words exchanged between the two of us, we proceeded to remove our shoes, fold the hems of our respective outfits, and dangle our legs mid-level into the pristine turquoise waters of the pool.
“There’s just something calming and peace-of-mind-restoring when you look at clean water – something purifying and enlightening…” he grinned once more, gazing subtly at me, “Like you, this is my favorite place here.”
I returned the smile, and nodded, opting to keep silent since I had nothing new to add.
We remained that way for quite some time – bliss in silence, with only the cascading waters of the infinity pool breaking the delightful lull.
I found myself resting my aching head on his strong shoulders, our feet still in the water.
He was speaking about his plans for his immediate future – like pursuing Graduate Studies as he review and prepare for his Librarianship Licensure Exam, and become an assitant-cum-apprentice of the Director of the National Library.
I smiled, wishing that I could have as much foresight and vision as he evidently does, and…
…That somehow I could have a bigger part in his life.
Pathetic, isn’t it?!
For him, I will always be his beautiful cousin’s bestfriend – nothing more.
And, the most painful of all, I can’t help but agree.
For I never went out of my way to make myself larger than life in his eyes, so damn it if I expected something more from him.
This is why I never liked attending parties such as this… It just makes it harder for me to remove such distractions from my system.
Sighing inwardly, I once again eyed my pretty Brisé fan, which seemed to be sparkling with life.
I raised it up, inspecting it closely, and to my surprise, two new words appeared on it.
He noticed my sudden apprehension, prodding him to inquire, “What is it?”
I pointed the two words on the fan, shaking my head slowly, “Those weren’t here when I looked at it earlier…”
He looked at me as if he found it hard to believe what I just said, yet he was torn by the fact he has known for a long time: I’m not an inverterate liar, and I don’t lie just for kicks.
“Do it, then.”
The recherché fan throbbed slightly, as my eyes widened and my lips ajar in shock, a melange of thrill and fear pulsing through my veins.
“You will never know until you do it.”
He closed the miniscule gap between us, then turned towards me, and ended up clasping my fan-holding hand with his own, murmuring, “Let’s do it together, then.”
His eyes never left my face, as his hand prodded mine to do the inevitable.
Slowly, the fan unraveled gloriously on our hands.
Then, there was light…
“Mommy! Mommy! Wake up! We’re going to be late! Auntie Jenny’s already here! She’s brought Becca and Laurie with her, too! C’mon, Mommy, wake up!” young and excited voices filled the air.
I sat up, and wiped the remnants of my interrupted slumber off my eyes, which I drowsily closed again.
Little hands poked at me, as I stretched and yawned groggily, grumbling, “Didn’t dawn just break a few moments ago?! I think it’s too early to get out of bed just yet…”
“Alright, alright!” I immediately waved the white flag, as I covered my deafened ears, “I get your point! Mommy’s on the move now, see?”
My sons cheered joyously, as I stood up, and hurriedly left the room – most probably to tell my best friend and her children that I was awake at last.
Before I got off from my side of the bed, I nudged at my husband, and murmured, “Honey, time to get up now…”
I heard a groan and shuffling of bed linens before I saw any remote hint of a face –
I let go of the fan, as I uttered shakily, “That… That’s not possible!”
I tried to break away, but he caught hold of my waist, “Why is it not possible, then?”
I laughed mirthlessly, “Oh, c’mon! Do you really have to ask that?!” I shook my head in disdain, “You ask me that question, when we both know the answer to that!”
“Why then?” he repeated, as I recoiled from his slight embrace.
“Why?!” I echoed, bristling at the mere thought, “Why?!”
He never made a move to change his query, so I thundered, “You don’t even know I exist beyond my capacity as your cousin’s bestfriend, Lucas!”
Lucas winced, confirming my worst suspicions.
Indeed, I was only his cousin’s closest confidant, partner-in-crime, right-hand-woman (take your pick) in his eyes – nothing more.
I looked away, pain etching itself on my breaking heart.
This is why some people believe Ignorance is bliss.
It is far better not knowing sometimes…
I got on my feet, dusted non-existent filth off my gown’s skirt, and made a move to leave, but Lucas stopped me, catching hold of my hand once more.
“Don’t leave until you hear me out… please?”
I steeled myself for the apology I didn’t want to hear – simply because it will not be the words I yearned for him to tell me for so long.
“Lia, I…” he paused, as if he couldn’t muster enough courage to say whatever it was he wanted me to hear, “I… I like you – a lot.”
Alright, that was certainly not what I expected to hear from him at all.
“What?!” I cried out in shock, then I looked around frantically, “Oh, God! Am I hearing things, or what…?!”
“No, you heard right!” Lucas cried out, tightening his hold on my hand, “I really do like you a lot, Lia! And, when I say a lot, I really do mean-!”
Then, he made a wide circling gesture, like what we do when we emphasize a point about the entire world, and he grinned, “A lot like that, Lia!”
My heartbeat quickened, as I realized the significance of his words, “You… like me?! Like this?” then, I cheekily made a heart gesture with my two hands, eliciting a chuckle and an emphatic nod from him, as well as a brighter smile.
I pulled him closer, and whispered, “No matter how cliché this may sound, but goodness me, I’ve been waiting for this moment to happen for so long…”
The clock tower beside the colossal tree that has been carrying the massive treehouse (where I used to play with his cousin) since time in memoriam, struck the hour of midnight.
He chuckled softly, and gently tilted my face towards his, as I secretly held my breath in anticipation.
Slowly, his lips descended upon mine, and cliché or not, it really felt as if dazzling fireworks were popping and exploding around the two of us, as we shared our first kiss together.
“I could get used to this…” he murmured lovingly, as I gazed at him, my eyes sparkling with delight, and bantered affectionately in return, “You better!”
We kissed again, then catching sight of the unfolded fan knotted securely on my wrist…
“Lia + Lucas”
Life couldn’t get much better than this!