In this very rare occasion, I want to share my personal favorite in my first book Table for Two. For everyone else who has read it, let me know which part in the story is your personal favorite.
Twenty-five part one
The closer I get to the coffee shop, the smaller my steps become. My body becomes frigid and I can’t breathe.
What if he yells at me?
I know I owe him an apology. I’ll tell him I’m sorry, and then I’ll leave. Or if he wants to humiliate me, fine. I’ll take it.
It’s what I deserve. After all.
I swallow. I take a couple steps forward, then push the glass door of the coffee shop. At once I see him towering the rest of the people even when he is sitting quietly in a corner.
I freeze, not knowing what to do.
Should I wave?
What if he’s still angry?
It is too late when I realize that his eyes have ever so slowly fallen upon mine.
Neither of us moves.
And to my surprise, his lips curl to a smile.
The same nervous smile.
“Hi,” I say, trying to stay calm as I get closer to his table.
“Hi,” he says softly in a voice that sounds free of anger or hate. “I was in Palo Alto the whole week and I wasn’t able to check my emails. Sorry, I missed your previous invitation.”
“Oh, no.” I say as I sway my hand left and right, nervously. “Don’t think about it.”
So, it’s not that he hates me or anything.
I heave a sigh.
“So, how are you?” I ask to break the silence.
“Just a little busy with the coming anniversary.” He says briefly and we both fall back to awkward silence.
“So, how’s your friend’s knees?” he asks that I almost fell to the floor.
I grip the arm of the chair tighter.
“She’s—she’s getting better.” I lie.
Instantly, his forehead creases to a frown.
God, now I really give him enough reason to hate me.
I shut my eyes as I see his lips twitch to snarl.
“That’s good to know. Tell her I wish her well.” I hear Evan say in his calm voice.
I open my eyes and bite my lip in surprise.
Something’s not right. He’s supposed to blame me, shout at me, call me names, but instead, he sits in front of me, looking at my face.
“I think I have to get back to work now.” He says finally as he stands up to leave.
What’s wrong with him?
I’d rather he yells at me and hate me than see him leave without a word.
“You know I’m lying.” I say flatly.
He looks at me and instantly I know he sees right through me.
The crease in his forehead, gone.
He smiles his nervous smile, but says nothing and turns around.
“No, wait, Evan.” I say before he can take his second step. “I’m sorry I lied. I never wanted to. It’s just so complicated.”
And before I can even stop myself from speaking, I hear myself telling Evan everything—Beth, Gian, my torrid affair.
“Why are you telling me all these?” He asks in a serious tone after I delivered my long speech.
Oh god, I don’t know.
“I just know I don’t want to lie to you.” I say honestly.
“Are you really happy?” He asks, looking concerned.
I should be.
“But someone will get hurt eventually. It can be her, it can be you. You’ll never know.” Evan cuts in.
Gian has changed.
“It will only be a matter of time before he breaks up with Beth.” I say in confidence.
“What if he doesn’t?”
“Well, I wish you happiness then, Juni.” He says, sending my stomach to another lurch.
“I wish you the same,” I say as I reach for his hand. “Thanks for listening. I really don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I feel lighter now that I told you everything.”
“Remember what I told you?” he asks smiling. “You always try to be honest, just like the day I met you.”
I can feel myself blushing.
“Thanks. So I guess I’ll see you in the coming anniversary?” I say, changing the topic before I turn pink.
“Yes, or maybe sooner will be better. If you need me for anything just call me.” He says sincerely.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I say finally before we part.
I’m about to take my first step back to the office, but somehow my body unconsciously turns toward Evan’s direction, hoping for all hopes to meet his eyes.
Instead, I see Evan’s back as he strides to the opposite direction.
Turn around, Evan. Look at me just once.
But he keeps walking until he disappears from the crowded street.
For a moment, I freeze on the sidewalk wondering why, what, and how. And before I know it, I’m left alone, standing still, amidst the crowd in motion.
Twenty-five part two
“Welcome back to the Philippines, Sir!” I hear my people greet me a warm welcome after my weeklong vacation in California.
I have to admit one week is not enough to take her out of my head.
Why did she have to lie to me?
I’m sure she has a reason, but what?
Would you like to have coffee at three? I’ll be at Starbucks in Dela Rosa. See you, I hope.
The closer I get to the coffee shop, the bigger my steps become.
Will she be there?
Unfortunately, she isn’t. I open the door to an empty coffee shop. Everything starts to sink so low.
She won’t show up. Why would she when she’s already so happy with that guy?
She won’t show up. So, why else do I bother to look at everyone coming in at the shop?
Maybe there’s a slight chance I’ll see her—or not!
As I sit at the corner table, I can’t help but remember her wide grins. We were having such a great time until after that phone call.
It changed everything.
Suddenly, the door swings open, and I see her as she sweeps the room to look for me.
I swallow, not knowing what to do.
And slowly, her eyes found mine.
Relax, Evan. Relax.
“Hi,” she says as she makes her way to my table.
“Hi,” I say, trying to hide the nervousness in my voice.
She’s right in front of me and I’m not exactly sure what I want to say or do.
“I was in Palo Alto the whole week and I wasn’t able to check my emails. Sorry, I missed your previous invitation.”
“Oh, no.” She says quickly as she sways her hand left and right. “Don’t think about it.”
I nod—not knowing what else to say.
“So, how are you?” I hear her ask while I’m trying to figure out what to say.
“Just a little busy with the coming anniversary.” I say, and once again, there is silence.
“So, how’s your friend’s knees?” I just had to ask.
“She’s—she’s getting better.” I hear her whisper.
Why does she have to make up this story?
“That’s good to know. Tell her I wish her well.” I say as direct as I can.
“I think I have to get back to work now.” I say as I stand up to leave.
What am I even thinking?
She doesn’t like, me, what else am I doing here?
I must be crazy.
“You know I’m lying.” She says flatly.
I look at her instantly and she is looking at me, as though she can read my thoughts exactly.
That look in her eyes, I can’t explain it. It’s so different—so blank and grey.
Turn around and walk away, Evan. That’s what you should do.
“No, wait, Evan.” She called before I can take another step. “I’m sorry I lied. I never wanted to. It’s just so complicated.”
And before I can even take another step, I hear Juni telling me everything—Beth, Gian, her torrid affair.
“Why are you telling me all these?” I ask point blank.
“I just know I don’t want to lie to you.” Juni says, making everything greyer as it can possibly get.
“Are you really happy?” I ask. I just had to know that she is, and if she is, I wouldn’t bother her, ever.
Boom! That is a complete blow.
But what is Juni thinking? That two-timing bastard is just selfish and all he cares about is himself.
“But someone will get hurt eventually. It can be her, it can be you. You’ll never know.”
“It will only be a matter of time before he breaks up with Beth.” She says in confidence.
What is wrong with you Juni? Why don’t you get it?
“What if he doesn’t?” I ask trying to make her realize that that guy is such a douche bag!
“He will.” She says so confidently that it feels like someone just stabbed me.
“Well, I wish you happiness then, Juni.” I say and I mean it.
“I wish you the same,” she says back. “Thanks for listening. I really don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I feel lighter now that I told you everything.”
Why does she know all the right words to say?
“Remember what I told you? You always try to be honest, just like the day I met you.”
“Thanks. So I guess I’ll see you in the coming anniversary?” she asks, changing the topic as though she hasn’t already blushed red.
“Yes, or maybe sooner will be better. If you need me for anything just call me.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” She says finally before we part.
I’m about to take my first step back to the office, but somehow my body unconsciously turns toward Juni’s direction, hoping for all hopes to meet her round eyes.
Instead, I see her back as she faces the opposite direction.
Turn around, Juni. Look at me just once.
But she never looked around, until the crowd blocked her from my view.
I can’t understand how, or why, or even what. And before I know it, I find myself walking alone, feeling empty amidst the crowd in speed motion.