That night, alone inside my room, Heidi¡¦s words still lingered ceaselessly on my mind. The words spun around and around until they mingled together in a tangled web of confusion that worsened my headache. I placed my palm on my forehead and felt that it was warmer than usual. I thought whether I was having a fever but knew that I could not let it stop me¡K for Lee¡¦s sake. Quietly, I tiptoed down the stairs. I glanced briefly at the clock hanging on the wall of the dark, empty living room. It was almost midnight and I knew there was still time. With my parents still sleeping in their room upstairs, I quickly walked outside of the house into the darkness of the night, heedless to any possibilities that might endanger a teenage girl as me walking alone so late at night.
I kept on walking on the same road that I habitually used to go to school each morning¡Xonly it was surrounded by the dark curtain of the night this time. The only thing that lit my way other than the hazy light of the neon lamps along the road was the watery beam of the full moon and the twinkling stars above. The sound of a hooting owl could be heard from somewhere far away. The rustle of the leaves almost sounded like strange footsteps following me to my pounding heart I braced myself as I kept on walking. Now and then, I threw a long gaze at the full moon hidden by dark clouds above. It reminded me of the night when Lee had kissed me¡K and again and again, Heidi¡¦s words began replaying inside my aching head:
In fact, he¡¦s never been interested in any girl other than you, Sabrina. Yes, sure, I¡¦ve tried to seduce him a lot of times but it¡¦s always you that he wants, Sabrina. It¡¦s always been you from the very beginning.
I¡¦ve tried hard to impress him and make him like me as more than a friend but of course I failed¡Xhe¡¦s too much into you, Sabrina. He¡¦s been into you for years and years and I hated you.
Sabrina, Lee needs you
You¡¦ll always have him, Sabrina
I had never felt so confused in my entire life. What a fool I had been! I thought that it was Heidi that he really wanted but all this while, it had been me all along. Why couldn¡¦t I see? God, how could I be so blind? I mean, wasn¡¦t it obvious after the all the mysterious stares full of yearning he used to give me, the comfort and encouragement he gave at the peak of my downfall, the way he held my hands, the way he told me all those caring words I thought he didn¡¦t mean, the way he had his arms around him, the way he wiped my tears away, the way he was willing to show up at my birthday party in the end despite all boundaries, the way he planned it for me, the way his hands felt warm and gentle against mine on the piano keys, the inevitable kiss¡K. Just then, Lee¡¦s words long ago that fell on deaf ears tumbled back into my ear, suddenly making sense:
Sabrina, I know you¡¦re trying hard to avoid me¡K but can you please let me explain?
But the thing is, I¡¦m not lying! God, Sabrina, why is it so hard for you to believe it?
I didn¡¦t play games with your heart!
God, why didn¡¦t I see? Why didn¡¦t I let him explain? Why didn¡¦t I trust him more? How could I believe Heidi so easily and so blindly when I knew she was the person I could trust the least in this world back then? Just as I felt like I could burst into tears, I was aware that I had finally reached there to find a big group of noisy teenagers with guys in their black leather jackets and helmets, and girls in their sexiest outfits, standing by the roadside with rows of motorbikes parked ahead of them. They seemed to be partying wildly with a festive air revolved around them under the shelter of the faint light of the neon lamps. There was an occasional rumble of laughter and noise went to a crescendo before it fell again into meaningless chatter among them.
Slowly, I walked gingerly out of the shadows of the bushes. Gathering every ounce of courage within me, I paced slowly into the heedless, ecstatic crowd. The black top and dark jeans I was wearing at the time blended well into the crowd. I pulled my dark cap down so that my presence remained unnoticed. My eyes hunted wildly and desperately for Lee amid the sea of faces intoxicated by wild ecstasy and heedlessness. I felt my headache worsening as I made my way namelessly within the boisterous crowd yet, I tried hard to hold on. Lee, where are you? I asked as if trying to send him a telepathic note. I felt suddenly exhausted after the constant pushing in the middle of the crowd. I felt like I was left aimless until suddenly, I crashed into a broad-shouldered guy.
¡§Hey, watch where you¡¦re going!¡¨ The guy almost shouted but paused when he observed my face. ¡§Hey, I¡¦ve never seen you around here before. Are you the new girl?¡¨ His shadowed face broke into a mischievous grin. ¡§Hey, you don¡¦t look that bad¡K.¡¨ I felt a shiver running down my spine as he looked at me slowly from head to toe. ¡§You look lost, baby. Come let me show you around here. Perhaps we should go somewhere a little bit more private for just the two of us? How about that, baby?¡¨ I stared at him in horror when he suddenly grabbed hold of my hand forcefully.
¡§Let me go!¡¨ I shrieked, struggling helplessly to break free but his manly hold was too powerful for my weakening strength.
¡§Oh come on, baby.¡¨ The guy kept on grinning as he leaned closer. ¡§Come on, just a little bit of kissing, that¡¦s all.¡¨ I could feel tears almost streaming upon my face as he began to wrap his big arms about me. ¡§Please, let me go!¡¨ I begged.
¡§Don¡¦t touch her!¡¨ Just then, a mighty blow landed on the guy¡¦s face that made him fell down onto the ground with a blank expression. I turned beside me to know who it was. I was more than relieved to see that it was Lee. ¡§Lee¡K¡¨I almost whispered as we stared at each other for a while in the midst of the stunned silence of the crowd. Without speaking another word to the guy he just punched or to the speechless crowd, he quickly took my hand, ¡§Let¡¦s get out of here. You don¡¦t belong here.¡¨ He said as he led me away from there to an isolated corner somewhere far away bathed by the pale glow of the street light.
Just as soon as we were left alone, I slapped him on his face impulsively. He stared at me, surprised tinged with deep hurt shone clearly upon his face.
¡§So you think that you¡¦ll have my pity that I¡¦d come running back to you after seeing you¡Xafter seeing you like this?¡¨ I finally voiced out my disillusionment. I stared down at his black shirt embraced by a dark brown leather jacket and his faded dark jeans. ¡§Lee, you¡¦ve changed so much I can hardly know you anymore! You told me that you wanted to quit racing, you told me that you would never skip school again, you told that you¡¦d never get into fights¡K.¡¨ I walked up closer to him, I could almost smell his breath, ¡§¡KAnd you even drank, didn¡¦t you? Lee, you told me that you¡¦d never go back to your old habit again! Now what¡¦s happening to you? Do you know that you¡¦re close to being kicked out of school?¡¨
Lee turned away as he took a step farther. ¡§I might as well just get kicked out, anyway. Nothing in this life appeals to me anymore.¡¨
I stared at him hard as if I could not believe what had just come out of his mouth. ¡§Oh really? Not even me?¡¨
Lee stared at me silently.
¡§Lee, I¡¦ve defended you in front of Mrs. Ng, I¡¦ve begged the principal not to expel you from school, I¡¦ve even come here all the way for you¡K and now, you¡¦re telling me that nothing in this life means anything to you¡Xthat you¡¦re giving up just like that? And that you¡¦re going back to your old habit again? You told me that you¡¦d never be the old Lee you once were back in England. You told me that you wanted to make Darren proud of you but you never attend the basketball practice anymore, did you? You told me that you¡¦d be a whole different person to start a brand-new life for you, for your mom¡K for me¡K?¡¨ I paused to catch my breath. ¡§Did you forget all that?¡¨
Lee shook his head. The tenderness that I thought was in his eyes now lost to the dim severity burning in those hazel eyes. ¡§It¡¦s my life, Sabrina. You can¡¦t tell me what to do! I¡¦m sick of your telling me what I should do and shouldn¡¦t do! Why should I listen to you or anyone on how to run my life! After all, it¡¦s my own life anyway! I have the right to do what I want!¡¨ He yelled suddenly out of frustration. I had never seen him at such a state before.
I stared at him, shaking my head despairingly. ¡§I never knew you could be so selfish, Lee. They¡¦re right. You really have changed more than I¡¦ve ever expected. I don¡¦t think I even know you anymore. You¡¦ve changed, Lee. You¡¦ve changed.¡¨ My voice lowered, burdened by a painful weight of disillusionment.
¡§No, Sabrina, I haven¡¦t changed.¡¨ He smirked as he shook his head. ¡§This is me, Sabrina. This is the real me, if you really want to know. This is me¡Xit has been me all along. Only that you have to accept the fact. This is who I am, Sabrina! Believe it!¡¨ There was an aura of mockery filling his every cynical word.
I shook my head in disbelief. ¡§No, I don¡¦t believe you.¡¨
Lee suddenly let out a hoarse laugh as he turned his back to me. ¡§Why should I listen to you or what everyone else said, Sabrina? Why should I when you gave me nothing but pain? Why should I when you don¡¦t trust in me anymore? Why should I when you left me feeling so lost, so weak, so pathetic?¡¨
¡§What are you talking about, Lee?¡¨
¡§You know just what I¡¦m talking about. It¡¦s because of you that made me do all this. Sabrina, I feel like I¡¦m leading an aimless life without you. I feel so lost, so weak, so pathetic¡K I¡¦m not that strong anymore without you, do you know that? I can¡¦t stand on my own feet when you were gone. It¡¦s like I don¡¦t have any support anymore ever since you ended our friendship. I feel that life has been meaningless. I don¡¦t any courage left in me anymore, Sabrina. I¡¦m tired. I¡¦m just too tired of life. I don¡¦t think I can go on when you¡¦re not by my side. And it¡¦s killing me to know you¡¦re with¡Xwith Shawn¡K.¡¨ He fell into silence as he kept on bowing his head. ¡§As if I haven¡¦t got enough misery already, mom is going to get married to another man¡K.¡¨
¡§She really loves him, Lee. Mr. Harris is a nice man¡K.¡¨
¡§And so you knew?¡¨ Lee paused for a while as I kept on watching his back. ¡§Life doesn¡¦t get any better, does it? You knew and I happened to be the last one to know about it even though I¡¦m her son.¡¨
¡§It¡¦s not her fault, Lee. She¡¦s just worried that you¡K.¡¨
¡§Worried that I won¡¦t agree to her having a second marriage? Yeah, she¡¦s right. I don¡¦t agree with it at all. No one can replace Dad¡Xnot ever. Besides, we don¡¦t even know this guy! How can I just simply let a stranger come into my family and straightaway trying to play happy families when we hardly know him? What if he turns out to be nasty like my father used to be before he died of alcohol?¡¨
¡§No, Lee. You¡¦ve got it all wrong. I¡¦ve met him and he seems to care great deal about your mom, about Darren and also about you. I can tell that he¡¦s a very decent man and only wants what¡¦s best for your mom because he just simply loves her, you know? I can tell by the look he got in his eyes when he stared at your mom. I can tell that they are in love so much with one another. You know the feeling don¡¦t you when you love someone¡Xthat you just want to be together despite it all?¡¨ At these words, Lee finally turned to stare at me in awed silence. ¡§Sure, Mr. Harris can never replace your dad but at least, he¡¦s committed to your mom, you and Darren by willing to marry her. I¡¦m sure your mom has suffered enough after your dad¡¦s death. Although I¡¦ve never really been there to experience it with you or your mom, I know it had been a difficult time for you and your family. It wasn¡¦t easy for your mom to live her life and support you and Darren single-handedly without a husband and I¡¦m sure it wasn¡¦t easy for both you and Darren, either, to lose a father. You see, Lee. Your mom did this for the benefit of you and Darren, too. You two needed a father. Besides, didn¡¦t you tell me that you wanted to start a new life? Maybe by accepting Mr. Harris into your life, you can try to start all over again. Maybe it¡¦s a sign for you and your family to move on and start a new life. That¡¦s what it¡¦s all about isn¡¦t it when you came here?¡¨ the intensity of the atmosphere somehow died down. I could feel the soft feel of the night wind caressing my skin gently.
¡§Trust me, Lee. Your mom will always love your father somewhere deep within her heart but he¡¦s gone now and it¡¦s time to move on, don¡¦t you think so?¡¨ I thought about Lee telling me how Mrs. James used to nearly end her own life after the death of his father, ¡§Your mom has suffered a lot in the past, Lee. Don¡¦t you think she has the right to be happy now that she has actually found a man who can fulfil her needs and desires like Mr. Harris?¡¨
Lee looked away as if he did not dare to meet my eyes. I added quickly, ¡§I know you love your mom and only wants what¡¦s best for her, don¡¦t you? I can understand that. She¡¦s doing the same thing for you, too. She knows you needed a father. Lee, both of you deserves to be happy.¡¨ I walked slowly to Lee who still had his back to me. ¡§Lee, I know you¡¦re not a bad person. I don¡¦t believe this is the real you. You¡¦re just confused, that¡¦s all. Beneath all that rebellious streaks of yours, I know you¡¦re a wonderful person deep inside¡Xyou¡¦ve always been, Lee. Lee James I know is heart-warming, kind, always helpful, always motivational, and always patient. You¡¦ve all that qualities in you that make you the best friend I could have ever wished for out of this crazy life.¡¨ I sighed as he remained voiceless. ¡§Lee, we¡¦ve known each other for too long and I¡¦m sorry for not trusting you enough back then. I mean, I shouldn¡¦t have believed blindly what Heidi said to me back then when I found her at your door. I should have¡K!¡¨ His fingers upon my lips silenced me. I looked up and found his eyes were staring deeply into mine.
¡§Lee, promise me that you¡¦d quit all this racing and everything. Promise me that you¡¦d start all over again. Please, Lee¡K for me¡K.¡¨ I spoke as softly as the soft whistling of the leaves above us.
Lee sighed. ¡§Sabrina, you don¡¦t know why you¡¦re here. You don¡¦t know what you¡¦ve got yourself into.¡¨ As he turned around and began to walk away hopelessly from there, I blurted out without thinking, sinking deeper into frustration, ¡§Oh yeah? I tell you what I got myself into! I tell you why I¡¦m here! It¡¦s because I care!¡¨ I shouted that made him paused on his track. ¡§Because¡K I do care¡K.¡¨ My voice slowed down as I saw him turning slowly to me from a distance. He was staring at me in amazement. ¡§¡K I do care¡K.¡¨ I repeated truthfully. The world suddenly fell into a deathly silence as our eyes met in the longest moment.
Then, unexpectedly, he walked up to me as quickly as he could and began to kiss me again¡Xthe familiar soft touch of his lips reflected the feelings he was keeping inside. Just then I realised how much I had missed him after so long¡K then, at the blink of an eye, the imaginary image of Shawn appeared out of nowhere in my mind.
¡§What¡¦s wrong?¡¨ Lee whispered with his half-shut eyes still looking deeply into mine.
¡§Lee, I¡XI can¡¦t. We¡Xwe can¡¦t.¡¨ I pulled away guiltily.
¡§Why not?¡¨ His voice sounded husky to my ear.
¡§It¡XIt won¡¦t be fair to Shawn¡K.¡¨ I finally said.
Lee stared at me then. The gentle sparkle that shone in his eyes faded away in an instant. He turned away from me. ¡§I see.¡¨
¡§If you¡¦re still with him, why are you here then?¡¨ He raised his voice again all of a sudden.
¡§Sabrina, I have to go.¡¨ He finally announced.
¡§I¡¦m just wasting my time here.¡¨ He began to walk away then.
¡§Lee, promise me¡K!¡¨
¡§Forget it, Sabrina! You have your own life with Shawn? So why should you interfere with mine?¡¨
¡§Lee¡K!¡¨ As I watched him walking angrily farther and farther away, I felt my headache hurting me more and more at each step he took. My head was pounding so hard and the pain was unbearable. My eyesight suddenly blurred before darkening into pitch-black. I fell onto the ground with a thump and the last thing I heard was Lee¡¦s voice screaming my name¡K then, there was no more sound¡K.
I opened my heavy eyes slowly. The fluorescent white light hanging above the ceiling almost blinded me as I gave a soft moan. I felt like I just woke up from the longest sleep I had ever had in my life. I slowly rose from the cold, fluffy white pillow and looked around me for a while to find that I was lying on a hospital bed. There, sitting on a chair at the side of my bed, was Lee still sleeping, with his head lying upon the white sheet of the bed. I tried to recall back what just happened. I remember myself walking in the darkness of the night to find Lee with Roy and his other troubled friends preparing to race illegally on the road¡K and the guy who tried to molest me but Lee arrived at the nick of time to protect me¡K the argument between him and me¡K the kiss¡K the aching headache¡K. I smiled tenderly as I carefully pulled my hand away from his hand, which rested calmly against mine.
I thought I felt a quiver in his hand. And just then, Lee slowly held his head up. His half-shut eyes widened at the sight of my smiling at him. ¡§Sabrina, you woke up!¡¨ I could see the most relieved expression blooming upon his hopeful face.
¡§Yes¡K.¡¨ I smiled. ¡§What happened, Lee?¡¨
¡§You fainted.¡¨ Lee explained worriedly. ¡§The doctor told me that you were having a fever. Your temperature was high, that¡¦s why you passed out. You¡¦ve been in a coma for two days now.¡¨ Then, motioning me to lie my head again on the pillow, he held my hand tighter as if he would never let it go, ¡§God, Sabrina, I never should¡¦ve gone there or else, none of this thing would¡¦ve happened!¡¨ He said in frustration.
¡§No, Lee, it¡¦s not your fault¡K.¡¨
¡§Sabrina, I really thought I lost you when I saw you lying helpless on the ground. I was really scared¡XI had never been so scared in my entire life. I thought I lost you forever¡K.¡¨ He held my hand to his lips. I thought I could see tears glistening in those concerned hazel eyes. He took me by surprise when I saw a tear trickling inevitably down his face. ¡§I¡¦m sorry, Sabrina. I¡¦m really sorry. God, Sabrina, you¡¦ve no idea how afraid I was¡Xhow afraid I was of losing you. I¡¦ve lost my father, I¡¦ve nearly lost my mother and I don¡¦t think I can bear losing another, Sabrina¡Xespecially not you. You mean so much to me, do you know that? You mean the world to me.¡¨ His eyes were staring deep into mine. ¡§Sabrina, I¡¦m so sorry. Even if it weren¡¦t because of¡K.¡¨
¡§Lee, it doesn¡¦t matter.¡¨ I silenced him by the forefinger I placed upon his cold lips. ¡§I¡¦m here, aren¡¦t I?¡¨ I smiled. ¡§Lee, promise me that you¡¦d quit racing. Promise me that you¡¦d start a new life from this day onwards and never look back. Promise that you¡¦d never go back to your old habit anymore¡Xnot ever. Promise me, Lee.¡¨ I pleaded softly.
He nodded slowly as another tear rolled down his cheek like a shiny, precious, ivory-hued pearl rolling upon seashore by the waves. ¡§I promise, Sabrina. I promise.¡¨ At those words, I closed my eyes with the most tranquil smile forming quietly upon my lips.
I spent another three days in the hospital ward. Occasionally, I would receive visits by my classmates especially Anita and the rest of my concerned friends who would always bring all sorts of gifts, flowers and fruits at each visit. I was thankful to have such caring, kind friends. Mrs. James and Darren along with Mr. Harris, too, did not forget to pay me a visit. I was happy that they came¡Xhappier still that Lee seemed to finally accept Harris. Lee seemed to take my advice when he did not try to be aloof in Mr. Harris¡¦s presence anymore like he used to during Mr. Harris¡¦s first visit. During the rest of the visits, he and Mr. Harris got along surprisingly well. I was more than glad to see them cheering excitedly together like father and son while watching football on the television as they accompanied me by the hospital bed.
Shawn, too, visited me once in a while. He insisted on staying with me at the hospital but my parents would always decline gently, saying that they did not want to burden him. I knew deep inside that they would rather have Lee taking care of me at the hospital since he was the one who was responsible enough to take me to the hospital. Besides, they had always been fond of Lee and sometimes it seemed as if he was the only guy friend I had that they could really trust even though they knew Shawn was my boyfriend, of which they silently disapproved. But of course, I did not care. To me, Shawn had been the most perfect boyfriend I could ever have. I knew it would be unfair to him if I were to just simply leave him for Lee. Besides, Lee was still my best friend and that should be enough, shouldn¡¦t it?
Yet, as much as Lee seemed to accept the fact of the romantic relationship between Shawn and I, there were times when I caught him staring at us from the open door when Shawn and I were alone inside my ward. There were times when I caught him staring each time Shawn kissed me on the cheek, each time Shawn held my hand and each time Shawn brought me beautiful bouquets of flowers. However, I tried to let it fall on blind eyes but of course, I could not. No, I could not¡Xnot when Lee seemed to be the only one who spent most of his time at the hospital with me even when my parents were around. Not when first thing he did after school was come to the hospital just to accompany me. Not when each time I insisted on him to go home since he did not have to accompany me so late at night for I did not want to burden him, I woke up only to find him sleeping at the chair by my bed. Not when he would always pull the warm blanket over me each time when he thought I was sleeping. Not when I would always catch him watching me when he thought that I was sleeping. Not when he would always bring with him all kinds of delicious homemade foods just for me. ¡§I know how sucks the hospital food is,¡¨ He would say understandingly with a wink. Then there was one time when he brought me hot baked macaroni and cheese. ¡§I know it¡¦s your favourite. This time it¡¦s my recipe, not my Mom¡¦s.¡¨ He grinned.
¡§Oh really?¡¨ I would say, grinning back.
He just smiled at seeing my devouring the macaroni heartily. ¡§Hey¡K¡¨ I felt my heart thumping loudly when he suddenly leaned closer to me. ¡§There¡¦s a smudge¡K.¡¨ He said as I let his fingers wiped off the smear of the yellowish gravy upon my chin with a gentle caress.
I smiled nervously as I tried hard not to blush. ¡§Well¡K¡¨ I tried hard to think of what to say just to ease the awkwardness, ¡§¡Kwell, since you claim that this time it¡¦s your recipe, I hope you cooked this yourself.¡¨
¡§Of course I cooked it myself.¡¨ He grinned proudly before adding with a chuckle, ¡§¡K better than cooking rice, though....¡¨
The night felt quiet as I walked outside of my room towards the balcony. I caught sight of the white grand piano that occupied most of the empty space of the balcony. I moved slowly toward it as the memories once shared by Lee and I long ago, surfaced one by one from its hidden shell somewhere at the back of my mind. As I sank myself down upon the comfy seat before the piano, I thought about the moonlit night of my birthday when he left me my first kiss ever. And just the other night, he kissed me again. Although I tried hard to shove the memories aside, I knew I could not pretend that they did not happen. I could not pretend that they did not mean anything to me. And I knew Lee was feeling the same, too, just by the loving touch of his lips upon mine. Oh, the hints were countless yet memorably sweet but I endeavoured to push them aside for Shawn¡¦s sake but I never did let them fade into nothingness.
The full moon was still shining brightly in contrast to the dark setting of the midnight sky. It had been a week since I last went out of the hospital and carried on with my usual everyday routine. Lee was still my best friend although we did not go out together as often as we used to. The afternoon walks we habitually had now replaced by my dates with Shawn and surprisingly, Lee seemed to understand. Yet what made me feel happiest was the fact that Lee seemed to be his old self again. He no longer involved into fights, or skipped school or even hung out with Roy and his gang anymore. And no longer did he go racing or even go drunk again. He had also continued attending his basketball practice, picking where he had left off with extreme determination. His perseverance paid off for not long after that, he became the star in the school basketball team, making Coach Jeff and even Darren felt nothing but proud of his admirable achievement. And of course, I was proud of him, too to see the old dear Lee James I knew coming back to life again.
He became more popular in school then after being the school basketball star, with his old undeniable charm and friendliness, his looks, as well as his excellent performance in academic that made him an all-rounder. As he became popular, more and more girls in school started having a crush on him. There were moments when I caught myself drowning in an unseen jealousy at the sight of some girls flirting with him like crazy. I tried to act unaffected but the feeling kept coming back, haunting me like an unbroken spell.
Then as days passed by, I started to silently worry that the fame and the attention would transform him into being someone he was not like what happened to most people I knew. I knew very well how fame could sometimes blind and lead people to their downfalls when they got too carried away, but what feared me most was the possibility that Lee would forget all about me. However, Heidi who had recently became a good friend of mine, comforted me that it would not happen to Lee. ¡§Besides, you¡¦ve known each other for so long, Sabrina. In case if you haven¡¦t noticed, he¡¦s always been fond of you. He hasn¡¦t changed a bit whenever he¡¦s with you¡Xit¡¦s so obvious how he still cares a lot about you, Sabrina.¡¨ She would say convincingly. ¡§It¡¦s you who¡¦s just too blind to see it. And up until now, I can¡¦t see why you¡¦re still with Shawn when it¡¦s so obvious that¡K¡¨ Her words trailed away as soon as I threw her my sternest warning stare.
I sighed as I rose from the seat and returned back to my room. I took a look at my computer that stood at the corner of my room and sat facing it before switching it on. After waiting for it to finish loading, I clicked the ¡¥Yahoo Messenger¡¦ icon before signing in under the nickname, ¡¥Babyduck¡¦, which I had been using for years and years up until now. I did not know why I felt like being online that night when I had not touched the computer for so long since¡K since the day I met Lee in real life and found out in great shock¡Xalmost unbelievable that we were suddenly neighbours after being separated by the great distance between us for so long.
Just as I had signed in, I was surprised to see Lee was online, too, with the same, favourite nickname of his, ¡¥Spike2004¡¦:
Babyduck: What a surprise. You¡¦re online, too?
Spike2004: Yup. I haven¡¦t been online for so long. What a nice coincidence.
Babyduck: Yeah. Ha-ha.
Spike2004: I guess you¡¦re having trouble sleeping at night, too, eh?
Babyduck: Yeah. Kind of. I hope I¡¦m not having insomnia or something.
Spike2004: Ha-ha. Nah¡K maybe you just want to have some peace. It¡¦s nice to go out to the balcony at night. The silence and the moon, the stars¡K it¡¦s just so relaxing, isn¡¦t it?
Babyduck: yes it is. Hey, waitaminute, you saw me at the balcony just now, didn¡¦t you? I can¡¦t believe you were actually stalking on me!
Spike2004: ha-ha. I didn¡¦t stalk on you. You scared me. At first I thought you were a ghost with your pale skin and white nightgown¡K and you were standing all alone at the balcony so late at night¡K.
Babyduck: It¡¦s not funny, Lee.
Spike2004: ha-ha. You know this reminds me of this ghost they were¡K.
Babyduck: stop it, Lee. It¡¦s not funny at all
Spike2004: I¡¦m scaring you, am I not? He-he.
Spike2004: aren¡¦t you scared of ghost?
Babyduck: Lee, quit it.
Spike2004: okay, okay¡K I don¡¦t think it¡¦s romantic to talk about ghost, either¡K
Spike2004: well, yeah¡Koh, you know¡K.
Babyduck: I didn¡¦t know you were such a romantic, Lee. Ha-ha.
There was a long pause. I thought for a moment that he was not going to reply, that something had happened to him but just when I was about to type on the keyboard worriedly, he finally replied¡K.
Spike2004: Maybe it¡¦s because we haven¡¦t got the chance and enough time to develop our friendship to the next level¡Xto be more than just friends. Perhaps things would¡¦ve been different for us if we have¡K.
I stared at the monitor screen of the computer, speechless and frozen at his unexpected words.
Spike2004: I¡¦m sorry. I shouldn¡¦t have said that. I¡¦m sorry if it bothers you.
Babyduck: that¡¦s okay, Lee.
I thought of changing the topic as quickly as possible.
Babyduck: Anyway, this feels like the good old days when we were just online friends back then, don¡¦t you think?
Spike2004: only better.
Babyduck: yes. Much, much better. ƒº Remember how you loved using all those smileys?
Spike2004: yeah. Until now I still can¡¦t see why I¡¦m so fascinated by them.
Babyduck: ha-ha. And oh yeah, remember the monkey emoticon that you taught me to use?
Spike2004: yes. I remember what a quick learner you were. And remember our biggest secrets?
Babyduck: about you hiding your bottle of liquors under your bed so that the police won¡¦t find out?
Spike2004: ha-ha, yeah. It still remains a secret although I can¡¦t say that I¡¦m proud of it.
Spike2004: and your biggest secret is how when you were a child, you cried at the thought of your parents growing old and having grey hairs with all the horrible wrinkles on their faces, right?
Babyduck: yeah, silly isn¡¦t it? I remember how my parents had laughed their heads off when they found out. Well, as a child, I used to think that old people looked like the evil witches and wizards in those favourite fairytale stories of mine.
Spike2004: No matter how silly those memories may seem, they ¡¥re the ones that make our lives interesting, isn¡¦t it?
Babyduck: true. You know what, Lee? No one knows that except for you¡Xnot even Shawn.
Spike2004: I¡¦ve never told my secret to anyone but you, too. I don¡¦t think no one has ever known me better than you. You¡¦ve seen me at my worst and you¡¦ve even encouraged me to be a better person.
Babyduck: and a better person you are now. I¡¦m so happy for you.
Spike2004: well, thanks to you¡K.
Babyduck: you thank me too much, Lee. Ha-ha.
Spike2004: ha-ha. Anyway, I was just wondering that¡K.
Babyduck: go on.
Spike2004: I know this may sound a lot to ask but I¡¦m wondering if we can go star-gazing tonight¡XI mean, just the two of us?
Babyduck: tonight? Star-gazing? But where?
Spike2004: remember last time the day after your birthday, I had asked you out to go to this very special place for our first date?
I found my mind flashing back to the memory along with the memorable yet secretive words of his to me once upon a time¡K.
Well, I just thought that I could take you out to a place after this¡Xyou know, as in, our first date?
Oh, just some place I¡¦d like to show you. It¡¦s really special.
Spike2004: you don¡¦t mind, do you? I mean, I understand that we can¡¦t really spend time together as frequently as we used to since Shawn¡K but I just thought that maybe this would be the last time we would ever go out together at night, but oh, it¡¦s okay if you don¡¦t want to¡K I mean, I understand¡K.
Babyduck: No, Lee. Star-gazing sounds wonderful to me. It¡¦d be lovely.
“Wow….” I took a deep breath, completely struck by awe, as soon as we reached our destination about half an hour later. As soon as I got out of Lee’s midnight-blue convertible, I found myself charmed by the widest grassy park I had ever seen spread before me. I could see the silhouettes of the giant old pine trees and also oak trees, which lined the outskirt of the park, cast a massive shadow upon the dewy grasses. The uneven shadowy carpet of lush green grass of the quiet park formed a kind of slightly mountainous geography. There were indistinct vapours of mist soaring upon the greenery, offering the park a mysterious yet dewy aura.
“What do you think?” Lee smiled down at me as we began to walk side by side upon the wet grass.
“It’s the biggest park I’ve ever been in my entire life—and not to mention, the most beautiful….” The park was almost deserted except for a few couples walking hand-in-hand along a pathway. There far ahead of us was another romantic-looking couple sitting on a bench, staring at the starry midnight sky together. “I’ve been living here practically all my life, how come I’ve never known anything about this place?” I wondered. Then I thought about the location of the park that was quite isolated from the rest of the world when Lee drove me here through the seemingly endless winding road.
“Maybe it’s because you haven’t looked hard enough.” He smiled. “Come, follow me.” He led me to the loneliest part of the spacious park. While we were walking side by side, I could see at the corner of my eye how his hand quietly began to inch closer to mine—for a moment, I thought that he was really going to hold my hand. Then I saw his hand paused in a moment of hesitancy, before he let it fell helplessly away from me, as if there was an imaginary wall that separated us. Shawn…. I found myself clarifying as a strange kind of sadness silently taking over me.
“Perfect place for star-gazing, don’t you think so?” He winked playfully as we began to lie next to each other upon the verdant earth.
“It’s so beautiful… so enchanting….” I whispered silently as I shot a long gaze at the twinkling silvery gems hanging upon the dark midnight sky. The countless clusters of dotted stars dusted upon the pitch-black sky looked like as if they were being sprinkled like magical powder of spells fell from the heaven to the dark background of the night. I had never seen so many stars in my entire life before not had I had ever seen anything so beautiful. I could not help smiling at the glowing full moon hiding shyly behind the translucent veil of the dark clouds ahead, forgetting momentarily of the reality and every cruel wound it brought.
“Isn’t it?” I heard Lee whispered back softly from beside me. “I’ve always wanted to bring you here. I fell in love the first time I saw it. And I just knew at that very moment that I had to bring you here.”
“You always have the knack to bring me to every beautiful place you’ve discovered, haven’t you, Lee?” I let out a mild laugh as I thought about the day Lee brought me to the slope where we had used to witness the sunrise together.
“If possible, I want to bring you to every beautiful place around the world, Sabrina.” His tone sounded heartfelt that it almost touched me.
I fell quiet suddenly. I realised that this serene, beautiful place would have been the perfect setting for our first date if we were still to be more than friends. I thought about the whole misunderstanding when I saw Heidi at Lee’s house. I could not help wondering what would have happened if the whole misunderstanding had never existed—then perhaps, we would have held hands together right now… or perhaps, Lee would have surrounded his strong arms around me… as we both star-gazed together underneath the silvery sky that looked like heavens in the skies—however, I realised how those romantic dreams seemed to be far away out of my grasp now….
“You know, I’ve always come here to comfort myself back then….” He finally broke the silence as he cushioned his head onto his arm, “… back then during the difficult time I had to go through without you….” I was quiet before he went on, “… It was like as if the past back when I was in England came back to haunt me again. It was like without you, I could feel no support. It was weird, I know but maybe because I had always been so used to having you around with me most of the time. Remember the afternoon walks we had? And the sunrise…? The revision we did together?” The kiss, I found myself uttering silently inside me but for some reason, he did not seem to mention it. “… I realised now that those were the times that I was truly happy—they were the happiest moments of my life….” He seemed to focus hard upon the dark sky above.
“Believe me, Lee. They were the happiest moments of my life, too.” I replied truthfully. Then, glancing sideways briefly at him, I said apologetically, “I’m sorry for not being there for you during those difficult times. I mean, I’ve been such a fool to believe what Heidi said back then. I mean, I should have….”
“That’s okay.” He finally turned to me, smiling. “You’re here now, aren’t you?”
“Yes. And I’ve never been happier to be here in this wonderful place.”
He turned his gaze back to the sky then. “It’s a miracle how nature can give such great comfort to you, isn’t it? It has such magnificent power to calm even the most restless mind.” I felt, rather than saw him smiling. “It’s a wonder how simple things like star-gazing, staring at the sunrise, breathing in the fresh morning air, or just listening to the birds chirping while you’re taking a solitary walk can really put your mind at rest away from the complicated crazy life, isn’t it?”
“You’ve always been a nature lover, haven’t you, Lee?”
“I guess I’m just influenced by you….”
“I feel honoured to be so… influential….” I giggled. “Anyway, Lee, do you want to know a secret?”
“I hope it’ll be as interesting as when you cried at the thought of your parents getting old!” Lee joked laughingly.
“No.” I could not help laughing too as I punched him playfully on his arm. “Be serious, Lee!” I said before our laughter gradually waned. “You’re the first and only guy to whom I’ve ever chatted seriously with on the Internet, you know.”
“Really?” he asked. “May I ask why?” he could not help smiling.
“I don’t know, Lee. I guess it’s because you’re just different from the rest. I mean, all my life, I’ve never really taken online chatting with a stranger seriously until I met you at the chat room. I remember how I was feeling bored since no one bothered to chat to me and then there you were, asking if I’d like to chat with you.”
“Remember when I was doing a countdown before I had to go?”
“Yes. I remember how specific you were—you even counted the seconds!” I could not help laughing. “You really made me laughed then. And my cousin who happened to be nearby just stared at me as if I had just gone mad, laughing hard by myself in front of the computer.”
“I would love to see that before my eyes.” He grinned. “And I still remember your long emails. I’ve never really been good at writing emails or even letters so I felt guilty about sending you such short emails. I didn’t really know what to write.”
“Well, for me, I was worried that my long emails would bore you….”
“No. Your emails never did bore me, Sabrina. In fact, they were the only ones I actually looked forward to each time I checked my email inbox.”
“Do you always like to flatter people like this, Lee?”
“I was just telling the truth.” He said honestly.
I smiled at the dark clouds that moved slowly, away from the pale moon to the slow motion of the night breeze. “And one thing about you is… you always made me forget about Shawn back then…”
“Perhaps….” He said slowly yet carefully, “… perhaps, maybe, Shawn doesn’t mean anything to you?”
His words almost shocked me, yet they could still leave a great lingering impact upon my mind, and I knew they would haunt me later on.
“I’m sorry I said that.” I heard him said so innocently.
For a moment or two, there seemed to be only the rustling sound of the leaves from the nearby pine trees blended with the murmuring of the gentle wind, filling the gap of silence between us. “Do you miss England, Lee?” I asked suddenly as we both kept on staring at the shimmering powdery sky, drowned deeply in our own thoughts.
“As much as I hate my life there, I can’t really say that I hate my own birth country, can I?” He said. “Oh, there were good times….” There was a twinkle of dreaminess in his eyes as he stared into the space in reminiscence. “I remember going fishing with my uncle almost everyday at the riverbank….”
“Yes. You were really into fishing back then, weren’t you, Lee? You always told me about that in your emails…” I smiled, remembering.
He smiled, too, as if he could see the smile on my tranquil face reflected against the sky above us. “Yes. And also, I can’t forget my grandma’s home-cooking. Her home-cooked meals the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.” He glanced at me. “I think I have to bring you there to my hometown in England. Her home-cooked macaroni and cheese tastes the greatest.”
“Really? Wow… I wish I could taste it.”
“You will, Sabrina.” It was barely above a whisper as he said that with an air of deep assurance, “…You will…”
“You know something, Lee?” I began again as we let a moment of silence passed by. It felt so right to be there with him under the stars. In fact, I had never felt anything so right before at that moment at peace, which had been the most serene moment in my entire life, I began to realise. “I’ve always admired you how you could so easily adapt to a new surrounding, miles and miles away from your hometown. I mean, of course it isn’t as easy as it seem to leave your country and start a new life at another country, surrounded with strange cultures and people you’ve never even met. Then, people around you will always stare at you as if you were from another planet because of your foreign look and the fact that you’re a foreigner. It must be… awkward, isn’t it? I can’t imagine myself moving to another country, leaving my friends, my home, and start living in another country with the different surrounding, different atmosphere, and different kind of people. I know it takes time to get used to it but there’s always that anxiety, isn’t it?”
I could see him smiling at the corner of my eye.” Well, they say, life is a daring adventure. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
I laughed in spite of myself. “True. Where did you get that wise words from, Lee?”
“Oh you don’t think they’re coming from me then?” He grinned. “Well, actually, I found it somewhere in a magazine. I thought the quote was the most motivational quote, don’t you think so?”
I just nodded, smilingly. “Yeah, true. I suppose that’s why you seem to have no problem adapting to the new surrounding here?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I think it’s because of you that I seem to be getting along fine to the change of environment here. I had to admit that I did feel nervous of coming here with all the new faces and new surroundings like you said but when I met you, suddenly, your presence made everything seem so simple to me, that I found myself adapting easily to the surrounding here and all its cultures. I was getting on fine because you were there for me, Sabrina, “He said softly, “… You were always there for me….” I closed my eyes as I felt the heartfelt touch of his words upon my pounding heart.
Then all of a sudden, I could almost feel his hand moving closer to mine upon the wet fresh-cut grass beneath us. It almost felt like a dream, almost took me by surprise at its sudden realness, when I felt the gentleness of his hand holding my trembling hand. Not long thereafter, I heard him say softly again, “I hope you don’t mind my holding your hand… for the last time. The future is unpredictable, they say. You never know, perhaps this beautiful moment we share will probably be the last moment we’ll ever share together… and who knows perhaps tonight will be the last time we’ll ever see each other….”
“What do you mean, Lee?” I thought he sounded strange.
“You never know, Sabrina. You just never know….”
You don’t mind, do you? I mean, I understand that we can’t really spend time together as frequently as we used to since Shawn… but I just thought that maybe this would be the last time we would ever go out together, but oh, it’s okay if you don’t want to… I mean, I understand…. I felt myself almost choked with tears as I said, “Lee, will you—will you go back to England?”
He was as silent as the night that embraced the world around us. The air seemed to be standing still as I waited in vain for his answer. His silence hurt. Then, I could no longer strain the overflowing lake of tears in my eyes. I let the few drops of tears flowed silently down to my cheeks before they trickled away from my chin.
Lee, who must have had realised the odd silence coming from me, turned to me slowly. I could see shock tinged with deep concern shining on his face. “Sabrina, you’re crying. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have….” He drew closer to me in worry.
“You won’t leave me, will you, Lee?” My pleading voice shook with tears. “Promise that you won’t leave me.”
“Hush….” I felt his warm breath pouring mildly onto my cheek. “I’m here, aren’t I?” He comforted as he began to wipe the tears gently away from my face. Then, silence began to fill the chilly air again as I found his hazel eyes staring feelingly into my watery eyes. Inevitably, I felt his hand began caressing the side of my face. His touch, as soft as the breeze blowing against our skin, made me trembled with electricity. Just lying there underneath the starlit sky with his soulful eyes meeting mine and his face just inches away, kindled back the strange yet heavenly feelings I had been struggling to hide deep inside me over the years. I knew he could see the secret yearning written in my eyes. I knew it was useless to fight it any longer for I kept failing at every endeavour.
I did not try to pull away as his lips began nearing mine… then the spell of the magical moment suddenly broken at the loud cry of my cell phone coming from my handbag nearby. He paused, still staring at me as I let my hand delve into my handbag beside me. “Hello?” I said nervously into my cell phone under his stare.
I observed the change on Lee’s expression as I said slowly, “Oh. Shawn, hi….” Lee’s expression was unreadable as he began to pull away from me.
“Hey, what’s wrong? You sound…a bit disappointed…” Shawn sounded worried.
“Oh, no… I’m fine, really. So, um, what’s up?”
“I wanted to ask you if we could meet at Fairy’s Bell café tomorrow. I hope you’re free tomorrow… because I missed you, you know….” Shawn said softly.
“Oh. Um, okay.” I said awkwardly.
“So where are you now? I called your house but your mom said you went out.”
“Well, I….” I stared at Lee and he stared back at me. “Well, I….” I struggled in quest of what to say so as not to hurt Shawn’s feelings by saying that I was alone with Lee at this romantic park and that we almost kissed…. “Hey, Shawn, I’m sorry but I have to go now. See you tomorrow, okay?” I finally said before I quickly hung up the phone.
“It’s Shawn….” Lee said slowly as if it was hard for him to get the words out, “… your boyfriend?”
“Yes…” I nodded. “My boyfriend….”
Lee nodded slowly before he finally looked up with a forced smile. I knew instinctively that he was trying to act unaffected. “Anyway, there’s another thing that I’d like to show you. Come with me.” I realised that his hand had already fallen away from mine.
He took me to a secluded corner of the park where we stood near the railing there. He told me to look beyond the railing and I did. The picturesque scenery ahead of us dazzled me completely. With my hands rested upon the railing, I could see the calm outspread river below ahead of us glimmered brilliantly, mirroring the pale beam of the full moon and of the bejewelled stars accompanying the lonely night sky above. Other than the breath-taking panorama, I found myself revelling in the dark river, reflecting the black hue of the midnight sky that sheltered it, carrying with it a sense of enchantingly cryptic atmosphere about it.
“It’s so beautiful, Lee.” I breathed in deep reverence.
“Yes. So beautiful….” And he was staring at me with tender, melancholic eyes….
“Sabrina, did you hear what I was saying?” Shawn asked suddenly that gloomy Saturday afternoon.
I blinked at him. “Uh, sorry?” I looked around me and found myself back again in my favourite café, the Fairy’s Bell café with Shawn sitting before me. “I’m sorry I didn’t get that.” I smiled sheepishly, cursing myself for being so distracted again.
“What were you thinking of?” He asked gently as he touched my hand lightly.
“Oh, nothing.” I lied. I knew I could not tell him that I was actually thinking about what had happened last night between Lee and me at the park… when he held my hand… when we talked about the countless memories we shared together… when we went star-gazing together… when he was about to kiss me with the same tender look he always got in his eyes whenever he looked at me… Suddenly I felt a lump of guilt caught in my throat. I knew I was not supposed to think about those things—it would be unfair to Shawn but no matter how hard I tried, the memories kept coming back as if they were a part of me that would forever cling to my mind.
Shawn nodded, somehow unconvincingly.
Then my eyes suddenly caught sight of a pianist playing the white-grand piano not very far from where we were sitting. And I could not help smiling at the memory when Lee played the piano for me on the night of my birthday… there I went again, I thought in horror. God, why was it so hard for me to get Lee out of my mind?
Shawn followed the direction of my stare before he stared back at me again. “I wish I could play the piano….”
I smiled back. “Me too, but you know what’s so surprising? Lee can actually play the piano!” I told excitedly before I could help myself.
“Oh.” Shawn did not look as excited. In fact, the cheerful expression on his face suddenly disappeared away
“Wow… look at that delicious burger that kid is eating…” I stared wistfully at a kid sitting beside a woman, presumably the mother at a table in front of ours. The kid, who must be around five, seemed to be enjoying his cheese burger that he did not notice our stare.
“Would you like to order the same burger?” Shawn offered kindly.
I shook my head with a smile. “Nah… I was just thinking about Lee. He has always loved burgers—only McDonald burgers, he said. But I can’t see what’s so fascinating about McDonald burgers… can you?” I laughed carelessly.
Shawn just nodded, however, without speaking a word.
I could not help laughing, as I carried on, “Well, Lee can be weird, sometimes, rather eccentric, I should say but always kind and caring. Oh yeah, I remember last time when we chatted online, he said he had a rabbit as his pet and so I was like, “Okay, so?” And he asked if I thought it was silly and weird for guys to keep rabbits as pets but of course I said no. I thought it was cute and I told him that there was no need to be embarrassed so…!”
“You’re in love with Lee James, aren’t you?” He suddenly interrupted sharply, that made me almost knocked down the glass of carrot juice that I was sipping on.
I looked up, blinking at him in shock. “Shawn, what are you talking about?” I frowned.
“You were with Lee when I called you last night, weren’t you?” His words sounded sharp.
“Don’t lie, Sabrina. I know you’re never good at lying.” He sounded disappointed now as he shook his head slowly.
“Shawn, yes, sure, I was with Lee last night but that doesn’t mean…!”
“It does mean something, Sabrina.” Shawn looked up at me, “It does mean something, at least to me….”
“No, Sabrina, please don’t say anything.” His eyes were pleading. “You don’t have to deny. I know, Sabrina. I know. You’ve always had feelings for Lee, haven’t you? Even though you two seem to be just best friends, I know it’s actually more than just that. I can see it from the first time we came here to this café when Lee followed you here, and how you acted as if you were my girlfriend in front of him. You just did that to make him jealous, didn’t you? You just wanted to impress him, didn’t you? I tried so hard not to believe it, comforting myself that I was just making silly conclusion but I realise now that I had been wrong. I know Lee have always loved you. I can tell by the way he looked at you. I can tell when he followed you to this café when you were meeting me here. I can tell from how well he knows and remembers every single thing about you. Remember the spaghetti Bolognese incident? I can tell by the sad, heartbroken look he had whenever he saw you with me. And I know you’re feeling the same about him, too, aren’t you, Sabrina?” His tone of voice sounded so gloomy that it almost made me cried.
Seeing me in silence, he faked a laugh. “Don’t worry, Sabrina. It’s not your fault. It’s actually mine. I’ve always known from the very beginning that you two have always had feelings for each other since forever. It’s just that I refused to see it. I was too stubborn to believe it. I guess I love you too much to just simply let you go. You can’t really blame me for that, can you?” His fake laughter sounded hoarse. “And I suppose you can’t blame me for keeping his secret, either, can you?”
“What secret, Shawn?” I asked with my heartbeat quickened.
Shawn looked restless before he finally made himself speak, “I bumped into Lee the other while I was walking to your house to pick you up for my class party. He was holding a paper then. I greeted him and he said hi. He looked sad, however but I couldn’t help noticing the paper. I thought it looked suspicious and that he was trying to hide it. Then suddenly, the wind blew hard and he lost hold of the paper. Anyway, I managed to get hold of the paper and I got to take a peek of it briefly….” He paused as he observed the curiosity shining in my eyes. He inhaled a deep breath again as though it was hard for him to let the words out, “Sabrina, Lee’s going away.”
I felt my heartbeat almost stopped. “Shawn, what do you mean?” My voice almost trembled.
Shawn sighed. “I saw the paper, you see He got accepted into a military school in England, according to the letter. Sabrina, he’s going away today.”
“W—what?” I felt myself rising from my seat before I could help myself. I stared at Shawn almost in disbelief. “Shawn, tell me this is not true!” I said desperately.
Shawn nodded sadly. “It’s true, Sabrina. When I found out about it, he almost begged me not to tell you. But of course, I wouldn’t have the heart to keep it from you any longer. I know how much you mean to him now.” Shawn looked up at me to see my glassy eyes shining with tears. “I know that now…” He added, nodding slowly.
“But it can’t be! He would’ve told me! He would have!” I shook my head as if to shake my mind off from believing this shocking, painful truth. Then, all of a sudden, his puzzling words to me last night began haunting me again:
You don’t mind, do you? I mean, I understand that we can’t really spend time together as frequently as we used to since Shawn… but I just thought that maybe this would be the last time we would ever go out together, but oh, it’s okay if you don’t want to… I mean, I understand….
I hope you don’t mind my holding your hand… for the last time. The future is unpredictable, they say. You never know, perhaps this beautiful moment we share will probably be the last moment we’ll ever share together… and who knows perhaps tonight will be the last time we’ll ever see each other….
At that very instance, I knew his words last night made sense now no matter how hard I tried not to believe it. Just as I tried to make another attempt to disbelieve it to comfort my baffling mind and my pained heart, Shawn’s sad tone came tumbling again into my ear, “It’s true, Sabrina. It’s true. He didn’t want to let you know because he thought that you were happy with me. But he was wrong, wasn’t he? It’s with him that you’re truly happy. It’s with him that you’re truly comfortable with.” He paused again before continued, “… And it’s with him that you’re truly in love with…” He said hesitantly, as if those words pained him too much for them to slip off his lips.
“He’s going now, Sabrina. Now, go before it’s too late.” He suddenly urged. “Just go and stop him!”
I was about to take a step forward when I suddenly paused on my track. “Shawn, I…” I began to speak with the guiltiest expression.
“Don’t worry about me, Sabrina. Just go!” He looked away sadly.
“Shawn, I’m sorry.” I pleaded with a sorrowful look. I touched his arm gently. “But I wanted you to know that you were the first guy I had ever had feelings for. You were my first crush and would always be….” I said gently, although I knew no words of solace of mine could make up to the deep hurt he was feeling, for I was not capable of offering him the only remedy for his breaking heart—my heart. I realised now my heart belonged to someone else—who had long caught my heart just when it almost drowned into its downfall….
Shawn nodded slowly, not even daring to meet my eyes. “Just go, Sabrina. Just go. I wish you happy with him… and all the happiness life can bring—now, go!”
“You will always be a part of me, Sabrina!” I heard Shawn called out to me as I made my way out of the café. I’m sorry, Shawn. I’m really sorry…. I found myself saying over and over again like a prayer under my breath. I began to feel more and more tears gathering in my eyes as I strained not to let them flowed. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me through the busy street. There were countless times I got pushed and shouldered by the many passers-by until I felt my strength weakening, my body wearying, my breath losing and my knees tiring, but I still persevered as memories, one by one, began to play like a roll of film in my exhausted mind.
I realised now how I had been so blind. I realised now how I had been looking so far for things nearby. How could I convince myself that I was into Shawn when Lee had been the one I had been wanting all along? How could I look for Shawn when Lee was always there for me by my side from the very beginning? The questions began to whirl, and blended within one another, as they surfaced from deep inside me, deepening my frustration, yet saved by the light of truth, that gradually erased the ignorance and blindness of my own soul. I thought about those countless days I spent with Lee and now I knew why I had grown to miss all those good old days—especially him that made those days mattered so much to me. I thought about the secret jealousy I kept hiding each time I saw him with Heidi or even other girls flirting with him like crazy. I thought about the hope kindled within me at him mentioning the girl of his dream, wishing silently that the girl was me. I thought about how my heart beat wildly each time his eyes found mine, each time his hands brushed against mine, each time he leaned closer to me that I could almost feel his breath felt electric against my skin. I thought about how concerned I had been when I saw him being friendly with Roy and his gang, how worried I had been when he was trying to give up in getting into the school basketball team. I thought about the sweet security and warmth I felt when he wrapped his strong, protective arms about me to comfort me when I wept for my bitter downfall long ago. I thought about the numerous times I spent attending his every basketball practices, cheering for him at the top of my lungs from the stands. I thought about the calm, tranquil feeling as though nothing in the world mattered to me as he slept with his head tilted on my shoulder when we witnessed the sunrise together. I thought about how my heart soared in high ecstasy tinged with a mild, pleasant surprise when he showed up unexpectedly at my birthday party. I thought about why I didn’t pull away when he tried to kiss me that night during my birthday. I thought about how my world felt complete when I felt his kiss upon my lips. I thought about how I had hoped so bad for his caring, meaningful words were not just merely words, but truth. I thought about how upset and heartbroken I was feeling when I saw Heidi standing in his doorway that left my mind feeling all mixed-up. I thought about why I hardly think about Shawn anymore. I thought about why I could not let Shawn kiss me—especially not in front of Lee. I thought about how I had defended and stood up to Mrs. Ng and even begged Mr. Jay to give Lee a chance so that he would not be expelled from school. I thought about how I still cared when Lee had been absent from school for weeks and weeks, reasonless, ever since we ended our friendship. I thought about how I had gone walking alone all the way from my house in the dead of the night, heedless to whatever danger I could be exposed of, just to stop Lee from risking his life by racing illegally on the road. I thought about how I had felt so relieved at the sight of Lee rescuing me from being molested by one of the motorcyclists in the group. I thought about how I had felt so crestfallen, so upsetting when I found him at such a hopeless state ever since I decided to end our friendship, and not have his life got to do with mine anymore. And finally, I thought about last night… and could not help thinking that it was the most beautiful, most cherished night I had ever had in my entire life…. Suddenly a thought occurred to me. I knew why I did all those things I did. I knew why now as the mist that that had been fogging and blinding my soul over the years gradually cleared away, just as soon as I realised that Lee James being the only reason.
And everything seemed to be crystal-clear now—clearer still as I found myself reaching Lee’s house gate, almost breathless. I stood there for a while. My heart was pounding as fast as it could as I realised how quiet and vacant the house seemed to be. My hope rose sky-high just then as I saw Lee’s convertible parked at the garage. I did not wait for another second as I ran inside the house, raced up the stairs from the empty living room and finally stood facing the door of Lee’s room, which had a sign hung there, that said, ‘Lee’s room! BEWARE!!!’ I could not help smiling at the nonsensicality the words were implying. Well, dear old typical Lee…. I thought to myself smilingly as I quickly opened the door wide with a loud, quick creak. “Lee…!“ My words seemed lost in its trail as I saw Darren lying there on Lee’s bed, reading a sports magazine. He looked up in surprise to see me. “Sabrina?”
“Darren….” I could feel the rapid hammering of my heart almost made my chest ached, “…Where’s Lee?”
Darren got off the bed slowly. He, who was in his favourite red jersey and blue jeans, just stared at me in deep amazement as if I was not supposed to be there. His bewildered expression made me sink more and more into the stormy sea of anxiety raging inside me.
“Sabrina, what are you doing here?” He finally voiced out his utter astonishment. “Shouldn’t you be at the airport…?”
“Airport?” I felt that I could hardly breathe. “Darren, don’t tell me Lee…!”
“I just came back from college, you see, so I couldn’t send Lee to the airport with Mom and Harris. I thought you were supposed to be at the airport.” Darren checked his digital watch before he looked up again at me. “… I think his flight has just departed twenty-five minutes ago….”
No! It can’t be! It can’t be! I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs but the words just would not come out. The heartbrokenness that scarred inside me was too overwhelming that I found myself sinking onto the cold tiled floor. Tears that I had been trying to restrain finally spilled smoothly like thin layer of rivers glistened upon my wet cheek. I tried to be strong but I could not as I savoured this dreadful disillusionment and misery so deep beyond any remedy. I think his flight has just departed twenty-five minutes ago… Darren’s words echoed over and over again inside my throbbing head, deepening this undesired distress. Twenty-five minutes’ too late… twenty-five minutes’ too late…. Tears kept running effortlessly at every crack of my breaking heart.
“Sabrina, oh God, didn’t Lee tell you?” Darren walked up to me with the most concerned expression ever.
I shook my head sadly. I tried to speak but could not for the sobbing made it hard for any words to slip off my lips.
“I should’ve known I should’ve known.” Darren whispered ruefully. “Lee was not being himself, either, last night. I had never seen him looking so miserable. Oh God…. What has he done to himself—to you…?”
“It’s too late, Darren, It’s too late. I love him, Darren. I love him so much.” I sobbed endless tears. “I love him, Darren but it’s too late… it’s too late….”
“I’m so sorry, Sabrina. I’m so sorry….” Darren whispered with concern as he gave me a reassuring hug.
“Sabrina…?” Just then, a voice I thought sounded recognizable stumbled into my ear. Both Darren and I spun our heads around to the direction of the smooth voice that came from the doorway.
My heartbeat seemed to pause for a while and the world seemed to reach to a standstill, as I saw Lee’s tall figure standing there at the door, staring fully at me without another word. I pulled away spontaneously from Darren as I kept on gazing at him, as though to convince myself that I was not dreaming. It was the first time ever that I realised I never wanted to believe in fantasy that the reality was more favourable—the reality of Lee showing up in the most unexpected occasions like his sudden appearance at my birthday party back then, like his endeavour in protecting me when I was in danger… and like right now….
My stunned expression seemed to reflect against his as we locked eyes.
Darren, too, could not help but be more amazed at his younger brother’s out of the blue presence. “Lee? How come you’re here? Weren’t you supposed to be catching your flight…?” However, Lee did not seem to take heed nor did I as we kept on gazing at each other in silence.
Darren watched both of us in awe before he nodded understandingly. “Okay, I guess you two need to talk in private. I’ll just leave you two alone, then.” A few moments passed before Darren went out of the room, closing the door shut behind him.
“I thought you were….” I began to speak with a voice barely above a whisper.
Lee bowed his head slowly. “I—I couldn’t….” He took a deep breath. “I tried but I just… couldn’t….”