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The Promise

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"Here's another one!"

The little gal eagerly ran to the boy crouching under the maple tree that was shedding that autumn. She was grabbing a piece of skeleton leaf as little sweat beads gathered on her forehead. The boy looked up, and nodded as his hands stretched out for the find. The gal's grip tightened, and it would seem that she was reluctant to part with her treasure. But then she broke into a big smile as she laid the leaf gently on the demanding palm.

"What next?"

"A white pebble."

Gina and George were trying to make a spell. In her bedtime story, Gina found out how to discover the most important thing in your life. So here they were, trying to replicate the steps to finally know what they live for. That was one questions adults never answered properly. They would say things like "you will know when you grow up", so now they were doing some "grow-up" the best they could.

Gina kicked at the leaves blanketing the whole ground. As they flew around her, she giggled gaily. A distance away, George hushed her. He was trying hard to read.

"C-O-C...erm... K- arrr- oooh...."

"A-C-H. It's cockroach!"

"I KNOW THAT! Go grab one then, smartypants!"

"Eww!"

Gina ran further to look for the pebble, in case George really made her pick up one of those creepy crawlies. She found one finally, half of it in the soil. She flipped it aside and saw that it was slightly discoloured on the buried side. She frowned. Would this do? Perhaps it would be all white if she just washed it at the tap. She hoped George was not in a fussy mood.

"GINA! HURRY UP! IT'S THE LAST ONE WE NEED!"

"Coming! Sheesh, you dont have to yell."

Gina ran to the tree where she saw that George was stirring the mixture in his favourite red pail. The one where he kept his shovels and other "tools" as he called them. But he too was curious enough to sacrifice one of his precious to get some answer. In the pail, the mudwater, the dead cockroach, the dry skeleton leaves, the chicken bones, the cup of tea with the tea bag, the bottle of tears (Gina and George compiled for a week or so), and some blood (they squeezed some out of the scrape George had). Hurriedly, Gina wiped the dirty stone on her flowery dress, and decided it would pass as a white pebble, and dropped it in with the rest. She held her breath.

George stirred on, and cried out the spell he had rehearsed with Gina over and over. While Gina was the better reader, her voice trembled, the spell had specified that a clear and strong voice was needed to pronounce the curse.

"O Mighty one! Bless us with wits, so we may find our ways. O Mighty one! Hear our cries, and lighten our days. O Mighty one! Here is our sacrifices, lives offered for better ones for us! O mighty one! Hear our curse! Hear our curse!"

Then he added the final item, a pinch of chocolate that had a few ants on it. They both shut their eyes at this. They were supposed to peer into the waters at the count of ten, and look to see what was their hearts' content. But when they peered into the pail, all they saw was the murky (with a fairly disgusting odour) water as dark as ink, reflecting the both of them, and their saucer-big eyes. They blinked several times, but nothing changed. They only saw each other clearly in those dark water.

"Ewww! No way! No way! Impossible!"

"You? Most important? HA!"

"It's just reflection. That's all. The spell didnt work. That's all!"

"But... but... just what if it's real?!"

Gina was worried. Although she would never consider the idea of a guy being most important to her, she realized that adults were fond of announcing things she hate as being good for her: medicines, vegetables, cod liver oil, sweating... What if a guy is also part of the "things you hate equal to things you must have"? OH NO!

"If it is real, I promise I would keep you safe. The spell said if you know what is important to you, you must be true to your heart, and take good care of it. Or you will be sad forever."

"But I dont wanna be sad forever."

"Me too. I wish it showed me Cobby instead... It would be so much easier to care for it too!"

"Excuse me! What is it about me that is not comparable to a stupid dog?"

"One, Cobby is not stupid! He's the smartest dog in the world! And two, you're a disgusting gal!"

"Oh yea, if you dont care for me, you'll be sad! It's a curse! It's a curse and you said so too!"

Perhaps that was the start of a relationship. Gina and George remained friends, but whenever they fought, the spell was brought up somehow. (especially by Gina who would cry and say 'you're supposed to care for me! you cursed!') George did not forget that curse. Even when little Lisa kissed him on the cheek at school and told him she liked him, he said he had to take care of someone else, or he would be sad. He told Gina about it, and Gina kissed the other cheek (the one Lisa slapped) and said he did right. He nodded and chose to say nothing.

Thus they grew up. Gina came to be a pretty lady with admirers chasing after her everywhere. George was not too shabby, he was more brains than brawn, but was fit enough to be in the tracks team. He did not have admirers flocking around him, complimenting everything he did, but many gals had tried flirting with him. His taciturn manner put down a few, but most still hit on him on a regular basis. They dated other people casually, and the curse was never mentioned, although they saw each other often. Although it was just a friends-only basis, they enjoyed several movies and dinners together. They never held hands, but George often hugged Gina when he thought she was cold, and he demanded a kiss on the cheek as often as he could.

It was a sweet friendship that was then put to test by distance. High school graduation came, they went together to prom, and everyone commented how lovely the pair looked together. They never had a serious talk about how to remain together any longer.

"I'm taking up Maths at the college locally. Have you thought-"

"I'm going to be a nurse, George. My great-aunt would pay for my tuition fees if I took care of her in my free time."

"The one who stays ten gazillion miles away from here?"

"Yeah."

He nodded. It was not like he could do anything.

They went their separate ways, but shared their lives through many envelopes of unspoken Love. Yet they dated others, and kept each other in the loop of all important updates. Once in a while when either one of them was staying up late night to finish one more chapter for the test the next day, or scribbling away furiously for the reports due, the other would call up, and their voices filled what would had been a lonely night as they secretly smiled to the comfort of each other's presence.

Years rolled past. They met up sometimes back at home during Christmas, and it would always be popcorn by the fireplace, which was gradually replaced by beer instead. Still they chose not to discuss of the future. A future they might share together.

Then one day, out of the blue, George received what felt like a lightning bolt through his heart: wedding invitation from Gina. He felt the stabs of betrayal tearing his Love apart. He knew Gina was dating her doctor during the weekends, but she never indicated that she was really serious about him. Maybe he would had been more understanding if she prepared him for it, but this... this... George buried himself in theorems for weeks, in attempt to rid of his depression. The unsolved problems did nothing to aid his sorrow. But he managed to pull himself together to attend the wedding with a forced smile on his face. His grimace turned into a sincere grin when he finally spied Gina in the full glory of her white gown. She was radiating such a joyful glow that he could not help but wish her all the Happiness he had always wanted to give her personally.

She gaily kissed him on the cheek, that little gesture reminded him too much of their past. He held back any tears he would had wept, just as he kept his comments (of the groom he hated at first sight) to himself, afterall that was the man who won Gina. He might not own her heart, but Gina was lawfully his, and there was nothing George could do about it now. George spectaculated a million reasons why Gina would had marry this fellow: she was pregnant, he was rich, her parents arranged it... But he honestly believed that Gina would love no other the way she did him.

Being both selfish and selfless, George chose to distant himself from Gina. She initiated a few mails, to which she received formal replies, polite but lacking of their usual intimacy. After that, she sent only greeting cards with her signature during festives. Once in a while, she sent pictures either to remind him she was happy with her life now, or she really thought they could remain friends after all that.

One fine day, George received a call from an old course-mate. He needed as many mathematician as he could gather to help in calculating the probability of some geographical effects, and it was urgent. Rushing to the research centre, George worked all-night with many others to estimate the possible damage that could be caused by the change in the sudden shift of air some distance away from them. It was a cyclone, it would hit one of the larger cities. George's head was full of figures and he was safe from the disaster so far away, but something gnawed persistently at the bottom of his heart.

GINA!

Promising his friend he would finish the required calculation on his way, he drove like a maniac to the nearest airport, grabbing a ticket for the red-eye flight that would leave the soonest. He placed several calls to Gina's house, but no one answered. He feared for the worst although the hypothesis they had assumed for the calculation showed that the cyclone should not hit within the next few hours. He wrote down the address of her home on a napkin from memory. She mentioned it in a letter years ago, in case he ever felt like visiting. He could memorize all the content of her mails. He could only pray that she had not moved away.

Finally reaching, he hailed a cab as the sky turned darker. He passed the napkin to the driver who sped away with the speedometer reaching a maniacal level, even before George could instruct him to hurry. At Gina's doorstep, Geroge realized he forgot to come up with a good excuse, in case Gina's husband was around. But he pressed the doorbell anyway, planning to play it by ear.

"George!"

"Oh my god! Gina!"

At that, he hugged her, without considering the consequences. Gina was shocked and asked him what was wrong. George told her to pack her stuffs and that they need to go. Gina looked at him, confused and probably indignant. She was not used to being order around in her own house. Especially not by a man who had been cold to her recently.

"We need to go to the airport. NOW! You're flying home with me."

"But why?!"

The radio interrupted their conversation with a loud crackle.

"This is a special announcement. The weather forecast is estimating a huge storm hitting the city in an hour, all flights are cancelled as of now. All flights are cancelled as of now. Stay tuned for more updates."

The radio paused for a few second before breaking their silence with a new song.

"F***!"

"George? What's going on?"

"There's no f***ing storm! It'll be a cyclone! The government just dont want people to panic and go hysterical."

"Oh my god! Would it be serious?"

"It's impossible to tell right now. But flying wasnt a very wise decision if the air shift was faster than I thought."

"George..."

"What?"

"Why are you here?"

"I... I... Where's Leonard?"

Gina held his eyes for a few seconds, and then burst into tears. George rushed to hold her. He suspected it from the start, but he did not wished it to happen to his darling Gina. Between her sobs, she told him about how Doc Leo was cheating on her, with some rich patient.

"George... Oh.... I missed you so much..."

"Dont worry now. I'm cursed, remember? I promised to keep you safe."

"Or you'll be sad forever... How could I forget?"

She broke into a smile, as she burrowed into his embrace, wiping away all her tears on the warm chest that had been ready to harbour her all these times.

And they went to her room, holding hands, ready to brave the storm.





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