And here we go again! :) Current wordcount: 40,025 out of 50,000 words. Yeah! 10k words to go! I’m dreaming of finishing it by tomorrow, but let’s see. :)
So here we go, a fourth excerpt. No editing whatsoever done, so there’s still a lot of tweaking to be done. Here we go, click on the link below. :)
“Hello,” Meah said. “Mark, what a surprise.” I had ushered her to a seat on the couch with us, and then I stood up and started cleaning myself and my half-empty breakfast plate. I looked longingly at the unfinished omelette which had already turned cold, and dumped them inside the trash. After the series of events this morning, I don’t have an appetite anymore.
“Hey Meah,” he replied. “I happened to be in the neighborhood, so I decided to visit.”
“He just earned big bucks,” I stage-whispered to Meah with a wink and turned back to the dishes I was washing.
“Aaaaah,” Meah said, nodding. “So I guess lunch is on Mark today?”
Mark just laughed. “Ladies, I won’t deny that, but it’s still on check, so I can’t really treat you just yet, even if I want to. And it’s just a partial payment. I get the next one next week.”
“So that means you’re getting more. Better! Bigger bucks, better restaurant,” I placed the dishes on a drying rack and wiped my hands on the hand towel that hung beside the sink. “Do you want coffee Meah?”
“Sure do,” Meah replied. “And do you have some bread or something? I’m hungry.”
I grabbed the bag of wheat bread I offered Mark earlier and tossed it to Meah and then busied myself fixing her coffee, my back turned to the two of them who were talking. To be totally honest, I didn’t want to talk to or even look at Mark after what has happened — or did not happen — earlier. I knew for sure that something was different at that time, but what if I was just imagining everything? What if he was really just helping me wipe my face?
I wonder what would have happened if Meah didn’t arrive. The thought escaped me before I could stop it.
Guard your thoughts, Rain, a warning voice countered. Proverbs 4:23! Remember! I put the third spoonful of sugar in Meah’s coffee and stirred, my thoughts still wandering fast around my head like a chicken with its head cut off. Okay, so I’ve never seen one like that, but you get the point.
The thing is, that scene with Mark stirred feelings that I have long kept silent. The thing that makes your heart beat faster, your skin tingle and your mind reel from the exhilaration of watching someone smile and seeing someone do something special for you. The feeling that I told myself I didn’t need just yet, the feeling that I know and entrusted that God would give me in time, but it wasn’t then. I had focused on other more useful things in life, like starting my career, and learning how to cook and clean up and drive and all that, assured deep in my heart that God will give me the gift of a love life when I am most ready for it.
I certainly don’t need it right now. This isn’t the time, and I’m just reacting to Mark this way because it’s been so long since we got to talk and hang out. Especially now that I have to prepare for my cousin’s arrival and the upcoming cousin gathering.
I took a deep breath and joined Meah and Mark at the couch, nudging Meah aside so I didn’t have to sit beside Mark. “Here’s your coffee, dear,” I said, handing her the mug. Then I saw the empty plastic bag of green Gardenia wheat bread. “You ate them all? Boy, you sure are hungry.”
“She is,” Mark piped up. “I watched her breathe all five slices up. Incredible, especially for a girl.” We both looked at Meah, who just grinned and took in a mouthful of coffee, not minding its temperature. I marvel at her heat-resistant taste buds.
“This is good coffee, Rain,” Meah said. “Not your usual three-in-one, am I right?”
“Yeah, not the usual. It’s this French press coffee from my brother’s girl…I mean, my sister-in-law,” I said, remembering that Ate Alyssa isn’t just a girlfriend but already a wife.
“Yum,” Meah said. “I think I’ll go here every morning just to get coffee.”
I batted her playfully with a pillow and she ducked, making me hit Mark instead. “Ooops!” I said, ducking in case he might retaliate. He smiled instead.
“Why are you so early anyway?” I asked her. “I thought you won’t be here until ten or something.”
“Well,” Meah said, putting down her coffee mug and smacking her lips. “I wasn’t planning to get here until that time, yes, but then I suddenly remembered that today’s cell group night.”
“It is?” I got up and went inside my room, returning with my PDA in hand, clicking quickly with its stylus. “Today is…Tuesday. Oh yeah, right! It is!” I sank down the couch again. “I almost forgot. I missed last week because of all the wedding preps.”
Meah nodded. “I figured we should clean up here early, eat lunch, go to the grocery and then go to the meeting later with Faith,” she said. “That should be okay with you, right?”
“What’s with all the cleaning thing?” Mark interrupted.
“My cousin’s going to live with me in a month or two. She has a graveyard shift on her call center job, so she’s living here until her shift is better,” I turned to Meah again. “That’s fine with me. We don’t have that much cleaning to do; we just have to fill in all those gaps that my brother’s things left. And fix the bedroom to accommodate two girls instead of a girl and a boy. Oh, and we need to clean the bathroom too.” I laughed.
“Do you need any help?” Mark asked.
“No,” I said automatically.
“Yes,” Meah said at the same time. I gave her a look, which she ignored. “We might need to do some carrying and all.”
“I’d be glad to help.” Mark said with a nod.
“What will we carry?” I asked, ignoring him. “There’s no heavy carrying here. And why are you worried about it? I’ve known you carry three hollow blocks during summer builds and I don’t hear you complaining.”
“Well don’t get on my case about it!” Meah said with a laugh. She winks at Mark and adds, “Rain’s trying to get rid of you, can you see that?”
“I do,” Mark said with a grin. “She’s always doing that, you know. Always running away from me, always making me go away. The last time we saw each other she ran away so fast that she even left a pint of barely eaten ice cream with me.”
Meah looks at me and raises an eyebrow. I met her eyes and it dawns to me that she was putting some missing pieces of the puzzle together from our last ice cream fest with my missed promotion as the spotlight topic. I wonder at that girl’s memory: she has the worst memory in remembering names and faces, but she can easily remember whatever we tell her and connect all stories together and figure out if we are not telling the truth somewhere. I swear, this girl is not only a good psychologist, she’d even be a good detective or a private investigator. I must take note of that.
I looked at Meah, then Mark and then saw the clock hanging on the wall above the television (which was still on, though muted; no wonder we have such a high electricity bill), and saw that it was already ten o’clock. “Don’t you have somewhere to go?” I asked Mark.
“Well yeah. But it’s still ear–”
Guys really can’t take a hint. Then again, I’m shooing him away and it’s not because of some female reason — like suddenly getting your period or something — so I can understand why he can’t get it. “You know, the bank? It’s already ten, the mall is open, the banks are open,” I stood up and pulled on his arm. “Come on now, you better deposit that check so it will clear.”
“But it takes three days to clear a check!” Mark said, standing up nonetheless.
“Some banks clear checks within a day you know,” I blabbed, dragging him to the door. “Come on now. If it doesn’t, the earlier you deposit it, the earlier it will be cleared on the third day. And you won’t have to fight the line in the bank because you’ll be the first in line.” I opened the door and then nudged him out.
“Thanks for visiting, Mark, I really appreciate it!” I interrupted, giving him a winning smile. “Let’s do this again soon, but next time wait until I have made myself look presentable. See you soon!” I pushed him out the door and he turned and looked at me.
“Yeah yeah, let’s have lunch soon,” I said, waving at him. “Text me first, okay? And it’s okay if I don’t drop you at the elevator, right? Thanks, Mark! Bye!”
Mark still looked confused, but waves goodbye. I made moving motions and he starts to walk away, looking back at me a confused (but awfully cute) look. I waved one last time and closed the door behind me.
“You might want to lock the door this time, you know,” a female voice behind me say.
Oh so that’s why she just barged in earlier. “Okay that was a big boo boo.” I looked at my best friend, who was now munching on some crackers coming from the tin of Skyflakes which I bet she found in one of our cupboards.
“What was a big boo boo? That you left your door unlocked earlier while the two of you are alone?” Meah raised an eyebrow, and even if that’s exactly what I meant, I know that it’s the wrong realization. Or, the wrong words to say.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” I said, but the heat coming up to my face was a telltale sign. One of the things Meah, Faith and I agree with is that we shouldn’t be left alone with a guy without any other company. It’s okay for us to hang out with a guy but not when we’re not in public. It’s okay for any one of us and a guy to go to the mall, or some gathering, but not when we’re not with anyone or if there’s not enough lighting, like in the movies. We are only allowed to do that if the guy we are with is someone we’re related to, or if he is our husband. Entertaining a guy on a one-to-one basis has to be somewhere public, where other people can still see us, and at least one of us must know about what is happening. It’s a way for us not to put ourselves into temptation, because being entirely alone with a guy — whether we like him or not — could lead to other things. It’s quite strict, but we know our human will is weak, and it’s better to run away from temptation than to resist it.
So my hanging out alone with Mark earlier was really a big violation on the standards we set for ourselves, and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I liked it. Hanging out with him. I couldn’t help but wonder what really would have happened if I had locked the door and Meah didn’t barge in at that time. Was what happend a moment?
But everytime I think of it, I slap myself mentally because I know my thoughts are not of the pure kind, and that’s not right. And entertaining those thoughts is not good for my heart, which I should be guarding. Slap.
And the way he held my face? Although we have both pinched each other’s cheeks one time or another, he has never done that to me, not even when I was crying. Wait, he never saw me cry. But anyway, I could feel in my gut that there was something different about the way he looked at me then, but then…
There I go again. Slap, slap.
“What I meant was, my big boo boo was that I allowed the both of us to be alone here, without any of you knowing,” I said. “Thank goodness you got here.” I don’t want to tell Meah that I liked it, really. I’m not supposed to be liking Mark anymore, plus I should know better. Really, I mean it.
She looked at me for a moment, chewing thoughtfully on a cracker and I prayed that her inner psychologist wouldn’t see through what I said. Not that I have anything to hide or anything.
“Okay, but let me ask you one last question about Mark, and we’ll leave the topic.”
“Shoot,” I said, joining her on the couch.
“What’s the ice cream thing?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew she wouldn’t forget that.
“You know what? It’s not really important,” I said, linking my arm through hers. “I’m really glad you’re here, let’s go and start with what we have to do, shall we?”