Notion Press Malaysia Short Story Contest 2017

Almost

By Bernice Kok in Romance

Almost.

A word so often used to portray hope and faith.

An anticipation of something that is about to occur.

The First

We met the first day of high school, both fresh-faced (acne-filled, even) and wonderstruck by the endless possibilities of what the future held for our young souls. I was nervous. I had never been good at making acquaintances, let alone friends. I often pondered on how I was going to survive till graduation.

I was a tragic mess of an awkward teenager.

As the class settled, I took a seat and so did he. Neither of us thought that the seats we took that first day would change our lives further down the road.

Then, I heard his voice. I knew right away that falling for him would be inevitable. His voice was everything a teenage girl could ever dream of – deep and smooth. His voice drew me under his unwitting spell. How could I resist?

The first few years, I kept my feelings under wraps. Though, not well enough as practically the whole class knew I was head over heels for this guy. I thank my lucky stars, that he had no clue as to what I truly felt.

I was content being the best friend, the confidante, the one he went to when there was something on his mind; or at least I thought I was.

Eventually, the truth came out like it always does. I accidentally blurted out a confession in the heat of the moment. The silence between my confession and his reply was deafening. I knew that I had just ruined our beautiful friendship with 4 simple words:

“Because I like you.”

I was about ready to run away as fast I could when he sheepishly admitted that he felt the same. We just stared at each other for what seemed like forever and then started laughing uncontrollably.

From then on, we were quite inseparable.

Phone calls, text messages, lunch breaks, study groups; we’d be together. At the time, we made the wise decision to put off making it official till we graduated. We knew our parents would not approve of us dating in high school, so we were patient; but that didn’t stop us from dreaming about what life would be like together once we were finally free.

We worked hard, to prove to our parents that we weren’t letting our feelings distract us from getting good grades to secure a better future for ourselves; and we did.

Then the waiting game began. Days passed, then weeks, then months; but not a single word was uttered from his mouth about the two of us.

I tried not to overthink it, playing with the possibility that he could be caught up with some work or family issues. I distracted myself with part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and sports but nothing could help calm me down.

In the end, I resorted to writing. I wrote letters to myself and to him, hoping beyond hope that one day we would look back at those letters and laugh at how juvenile we once were while snuggling in bed together.

Phone calls grew scarce, text messages went unread; and all I could think about was why he wouldn’t talk to me.

Hey, we need to talk.

With that, we were over before we even really began.

The Second

I had just started college, made new friends, explored new passions. I was about as happy as any freshman could be at the prospect of starting fresh in a place where no one knew who you were.

Then there he was, a guy I had met through the organising committee of a club event. He was the textbook definition of a nice guy. He would send me good morning messages at 7:00 am even though he knew I was most definitely still snoring in bed. He would give me a ride to college whenever I needed one. He would bug me to visit him at his part-time job just so he could treat me to a cup of coffee.

Everything about him screamed: “I like you.” Everything. Except his words.

I was reluctant at first, but eventually I started reciprocating his feelings. We would go out on movie dates, lunch dates, study dates; anything that would give us an excuse to spend time alone together.

Soon, my shell started to crack and I let him in, something I hadn’t done in a long while. I shared my fears, my dreams and my innermost thoughts with him. In return, he gave me a hope I thought I had lost, and I started to have faith in what society call love, again.

It went on for months without a hitch. I thought that we were stable, that maybe this time it would actually work out and I’d have a happy ending. Unfortunately, that was not the case again.

He went away for trip and when he returned it was like a light had been snuffed out inside him. He was so deflated and lost in his thoughts, hardly having the time or energy to talk to me. I was worried, I wondered if something bad had happened during the trip.

I talked to his friends, trying to get some semblance of a clue as to what was going on in that brain of his but no one would give me answer.

Then it came, like a silent deadly gust of wind, knocking me off my balance once again.

Hey, we need to talk.

The Third

We had been best friends before, the low maintenance type, not needing to talk every single day. We would catch up perhaps once a year, but when it came down to emergencies, we would always have each other’s backs.

When he wiggled his way back into my daily life, I made sure he knew I wasn’t looking for a relationship. He, on the other hand, was insistent. He continued to saturate my daily life with his presence, be it online or in person. He made sure that I knew that he was always going to be there for me, even if I felt like I didn’t want him to.

At the time, I had fortified the walls around my heart. I didn’t want to let anyone in, but with great persistence he managed to bring those walls tumbling down. I shared everything I had with him, things I never thought I would ever bring back out into the light. He helped me make peace with my past and encouraged me to have hope in the future.

Then those fateful words came out of his mouth:

Hey, we need to talk.

I braced myself for the worst. I blamed myself for be so naïve as to not see it coming yet again. I started beating myself up internally, swearing to myself that I would never again open up to someone since they were all going to just leave in the end. The pressure built up till I started crying, the tears never ending.

But the blow never came, instead he welcomed me with open arms and restored my faith in finding love.

I thought my happy ending was finally here. I was living the dream. I was dating my best friend, the one person who should care for me and understand me more than anyone else in the world. Life couldn’t get any better than that.

Then after I had shared everything I ever could, my mind, body and soul, with the person I thought I would end up spending the rest of my life with, the hammer hit.

I was left broken and alone.

The Last

I had only ever conversed with him once before. His intellect attracted me, his charm seduced me, but alas he was a taken man then. I didn’t think much about him, and he gradually faded into the background that was my Facebook news feed.

We would occasionally strike up a conversation in comments on geeky or nerdy posts, but nothing ever really came of those interactions till I had all but disappeared from his life entirely.

The moment we started talking, it was as if a fire had been lit inside my soul which I could do nothing to put out. After hours and hours of sharing about things we were both passionate about, he finally got the courage to ask me out on a date. Having never experienced anything like it before, I agreed even though I was sceptical of how this would end.

With every moment that I spent in his presence, it was as if a magnet was pulling me towards him and I couldn’t repel from. Everything I did seemed to attract him even more, till I finally gave into that foreign feeling of happiness I had craved for too long.

My heart loved the feeling of being with him, the warmth, the security, the acceptance; but my head kept warning me of the danger that is to come should I let it go on any longer. As usual, I ignored the wise advice of my head and followed where my heart led me.

To him, all that I was right at that moment, was enough. I didn’t need to try to be someone else. I didn’t need to put on an act. I didn’t need to hide who I really was. All I had to be was me.

“I love you,” I whispered, unable to contain it any longer.

I could hear the pitter-patter of the raindrops on my window pane, tapping to the beat of my heart as I nervously awaited his reply.

“I know.”

It wasn’t the answer that I was expecting but it was somehow the answer that I needed. We burst into laughter as that was basically a scene from one of our favourite geek franchises.

We continued living our lives together, in perfect harmony. Not that troubles didn’t come our way, but we always had faith that together we would make it through as long as we kept our spirit of open communication going. We thought we’d be able to get our happy ending.

But in my world, as always, nothing good ever lasts long.

The day finally came when those dreaded words were uttered; but instead of coming out of his mouth, it came from mine.

Hey, we need to talk.

I was tired. I had been waiting for so long, for something to materialise out of the amazing connection we had. Nothing did. And everything just unravelled from there.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t say sorry if you’re just going to give up on us when we haven’t even had the chance to begin.”

“I’m sorry. You can hate me all you want. I’m the one at fault.”

“I don’t want to hate you. I love you. Don’t you love me?”

“I’m sorry.”

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