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It started with a drop of tear.
Andy tried to wipe away the tell-tale sign discreetly, before anyone saw his moment of weakness. But the cinema was dark, and he was, as always, alone. Not much fear of detection.
When the movie ended, Andy took his time to leave. He was not certain if his eyes were still red and blotchy. The movie was way too touching. He cursed himself, he should had just bought the DVD and watched it at home with a ready box of tissue. But that would be pretty incriminating, and it would be worse if his sister found evidence of him watching “sissy” movies.
He was lost in such thoughts when he felt a light tap on his shoulder. He turned around, bewildered to see Lena confronting him. Lena was one of the most sought after girl in his class. Just the fact that she was popular guaranteed her exclusion from his social circles.
“Oh my god! It is you! I thought so too, but wasn’t certain.”
As always, without even a brief greeting, she launched into her points with no hesitation, shooting away like a machine gun with no pauses in between. Even before she was well-known, Andy did not associate much with her. There were times when the ferocity of her attitude freaked him out. She did not seem to mind the casualties from her random attacks.
Then with no prior invitation, or encouragement, she stationed herself by his side and rattled on about the movie they had just watched. He answered in a civil manner but could not help wondering why she was seeking his company when a handful of guys had came up to her inviting her to various activities. She chose not to acknowledge their presences and focused her entire attention on him alone. Andy felt some of the guys’ jealousy, but he felt no pride at having Lena to himself. In fact, she was beginning to annoy him. He felt like she was plucking at his nerves, as if she was an angel with every right to strum at them like they were strings on her harp.
“Are you always quiet cause you have nothing worth saying or do you just happen to enjoy being taciturn?”
“Do you always ignore questions directed to you?”
“Are you just shy? Or at loss of what to say?”
“Do you always cry when you watch sad scenes?”
It was not that he was trying to push her away with his rudeness, but he really could not comprehend what she wanted of him. Did she really think the whole world would turn to her liking and that he must act as she expected?
Silence lapsed between them.
Finally. Andy breathed a sigh of relief. Beside him, Lena gaily matched her steps to his before falling into a demure state. They strayed till they found themselves at an ice-cream parlour. Andy asked Lena if she desired anything, but she nodded to everything he said without uttering a word.
Uncertain what was the right move to make, he duplicated his order and gave the double to Lena who took it after shoving some money to him. He pocketed it with no protest. He vaguely recalled Lena refusing treats in class, joking that she only allowed her boyfriends to treat her. He thought it would be safer not to allow any misunderstanding from occurring.
After that incident, they went back to their usual lives. Him, the quiet fellow who hanged out with the “geek group” and she who stoned in her own world. Andy noticed one thing then, Lena did not belong in the “cool gang” as he had assumed. They were in friendly terms, no doubt, but Lena seemed to distance herself from the crowd.
He was quite pleasantly surprise when she approached him again a week later. She asked if he was interested to join her in another romantic movie promised to make the audiences weep.
“I usually go alone cause it’s so hard to concentrate on the movie and have a good cry when the person next to you is munching on his popcorn so very loudly. Even my girlfriends must be accused of such insensitivity!”
Andy had no idea what spurred him to say yes. But before the next thing he know, she had placed a ticket on his palm before twirling away like a tiny hurricane. When they met again, it was in the dark cinema where Lena had already prepared tissue (and plastic bags for disposal purposes).
That was one movie. Followed by another. And the next. And one more…
By then, horror movies succeeded the line of romantic ones. Andy began to ponder that just maybe she might had planned it all, especially when she slipped her arm into his at the scary parts. Eventually, her little hand found its way into his when they were watching romantic movies again, claiming that the cinema was too chilly.
Before long, Andy was flattered by her attention. True, they were not a couple, officially. But he was seeing her so much he just had to wonder. Having no experience in this field, he considered the wisdom of a proposal. but decided against it. Maybe she was used to treating every guy in this brazen way. Why made a fool of himself when he was contented with their current relationship?
“Andy! Give me one of your t-shirt.”
She did not bother to explain. But when he never followed that instructions, she repeated it again some other day with a trace of annoyance. Andy requested for a good reason for such demand.
“Oh, I collect them. I like using guys’ t-shirt as my pillowcase so I could pretend I’m hugging them to sleep at night.”
Andy interpreted it as she had sufficient affections for him to wish to hug him at night. His heart soared and he allowed her to fumble about in his bag where he had readied his favourite shirt a while ago. She smiled so broadly as she waved the shirt triumphantly in his face that he mused at his doubt of her genuine feelings.
“Oh, Andy! Roses!”
And he plucked those thorny beauties at the park after risking his neck to climb the fence that had protected the rose bush, at the expenses of his jeans. How she had giggled when he swore loudly at the loud rip of his favourite piece of cloth.
“Oh, Andy! Serenade me!”
And he rushed to his piano, attempting to write her a worthy love song to sing of his emotions that had grew pro rata to every effort toiled just for her. The product was a raw piece he was not proud of, but she claimed she loved the passion in it.
“Oh, Andy! I want chocolate!”
At her sweet plea, he skipped classes to walk a few blocks away to the nearest store to get his love the snack she desired. It was a hot day and all he need was to remember how beautifully those seductive eyes had begged him and it was all worthwhile.
He readied water for her after her work-outs and dance practices. He climbed trees with her to rest on branches and watch the blue skies. He stood still under the hot sun, just so she could use his shadow as shade. He took courage to accompany her to rooftops so they may count the stars together at late nights. He sneaked out of bed to join her at the beach to dance under the moonlight.
A month shy of graduation, he made up his mind: it was now or never.
“How are we going on after graduation?”
“I mean, you’ll be going overseas while I’ll be staying here to continue our studies.”
“Dear Andy, look at you now. You’d improved beyond recognition! You’ve finally crawled out of you shell to shine such radiance in others’ lives. I guess my work is done.”
“What do you mean, Lena?”
“I’ve done what I meant to do. I’m no longer worthy of you.”
“You’re always priceless to me!”
“Oh, Andy! It’s time for the curtains to fall! You now possess every skill to turn a girl’s heart to you.”
“Lena… what are you saying?”
“It was pure fun. You were the best among my collection I had a poet who wrote the sweetest things. I had an artist who painted me in the best possible light. I had a playboy who was familiar with courting and flattery. But you… the ‘virgin’ of Love. So naïve, so innocent, so pure…”
“You used me? What am I, your toy?”
“No! My trophy. The only one thing we could not imitate from those movies is the walk down the aisle. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could don on wedding garments, pure and white, and say ‘I do’ in a church with blessing family and friends. Ah, then this whole affair would had been nothing short of perfect.”
“Lena, tell me… Do you love me?”
“I do. I love you, Lena! You mean everything to me!”
“It is such a beautiful Love. And it’s all the more precious because I had shared it with you. Let’s not spoil it with quarrels. There is never a ‘happily ever after’ as the movies have us believe sometimes. I love our Love too much to risk any damage to it. I love having it as a memory, so my imagination can decorate it into something more and more wonderful each passing day as I love you more and more…”
And it ended with a smile. No hugs or kisses in between.