“Your dad extended his stay in Oasis Springs? He’s been there for over 8 weeks now!”
Carly continued her barage of questioning while Kian mulled in doubt and worry. Athena sat beside them, quietly sipping her drink.
“That’s all I got from his voice message yesterday. It barely lasted a few seconds,” Kian replied.
“You told us he was meeting a work-related contact. Did he give you a name or an address? Maybe you could contact his colleague instead?” Athena asked.
“He didn’t give any details – only said that they were on the same side and that we shouldn’t worry.”
“Then, you shouldn’t,” Carly chimed.
But Kian thought of the strange hug Jules gave him on the day of his departure. Their usual affections never extended more than a squeeze on the arm or shoulder. Jules had called out to him as if to say something important, but after a brief hesitation, he simply asked his son to ‘Take care’. Kian watched as his dad’s outline disappeared into his vehicle and into the distance.
“I’ll give it another week. If he doesn’t return my calls by then, I’m going after him.”
Carly gasped. “First Term begins next week! You’re going to miss out on classes, not to mention the orientation fairs and club events! I’m looking forward to checking out UBrite Spirit Corps too.”
“I’m not asking you to come with me. And I never wanted to go to university anyway. I’d do just fine without some paper stating I can mix drinks or run a bar.”
“You’re still on about that? Don’t you want something more? I- I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with it. Anyway, I wanted to join the UBrite Spirit Corps with you.”
Kian wasn’t fooled by Carly’s deflection.
“Hold up, what’s wrong with wanting my own bar?”
As Kian and Carly debated on their future direction and campus life, Athena found herself cut off from their conversation. She checked her phone for the fifth time, but her inbox was still empty. Her mind began wandering to her own relationship.
She found them both looking at her worriedly.
“What’s wrong? The last time you made a face like that was during Trevor’s party.” Kian said.
“What happened?” Carly asked.
“Um.. It’s really nothing.”
“It’s Curtis, isn’t it?” Carly’s expression turned sour. “Every time we hang out, your boyfriend’s always missing! Even today when we’ve planned weeks in advance, he still can’t make it. I’d feel just as you do now! I still don’t get why he’d slave for a company that robs him of his life!” Kian and Athena glanced briefly at each other. Carly had believed their tale about Curtis’s ‘career’. Neither wanted to explain why Curtis avoided high surveillance areas.
Athena sighed. “He would’ve actually made it this time. He did the necessary preparations and cleared his schedule.” She overheard his shady phone call from which she caught the words “gifts” and “lessons”. She shook her head, not wanting to think further.
“Where is he now then?”
“I don’t know… We fought right before I came here. He said he needed to clear his head. I’m not sure where he went.”
“Don’t worry about him.” Kian said. “He’s not a drinker and he doesn’t do drugs. He’s probably sitting someplace by himself being all mopey, puffing his lungs out as usual.”
“Anyway, what did you guys fight about? Kian and I can offer our advice. Kian, maybe you can talk to Athena’s boyfriend since you’re close to him.”
“I can’t.” Kian replied. “He’s avoiding me, told me to stop coming around. He’s moving out and he won’t tell me where either! Stubborn gnomehead!”
“He’s… moving?” She felt her heart shatter inside her. “He never told me. He kept something so important from me…”
“Athena, don’t overthink this. Maybe he wanted to surprise you,” Carly replied. “Let’s take this one at a time. Tell us about the fight. After that, we can talk about his moving.” She looked at Athena expectantly, as did Kian.
… It’s been half a year since we’ve been together. Why are you still involved in crime!? Kian said you promised to leave this line of ‘work’ once you took down some guy, and you have!
Things’ve changed! I told you, they know about your magic. You’re safer with me running the show.
Stop trying to protect me all the time! You know I don’t like being treated like a helpless damsel! I can take care of myself! I can do strong spells and I take my potion every day — nothing happened to me even when I visit you here on my own. You just don’t want to leave this life because you have men taking orders from you and others kissing your boots. Let’s not forget those trashy perfume I smell all over you when you come home – you like them all! That’s the real truth!
You say it like its a bad thing. At least I worked hard to get to where I am. You on the other hand, threw us under the bus to get those damn spells you so happily speak of!
You.. you promised that when we started this we wouldn’t bring up the past! She’s her and I’m me! This is a brand new relationship!
If you truly think that way, why’d YOU go dig up our past from Kian? You should’ve just gotten to know me. Now you’re tryna dictate my every move.
I was curious about you! And it was only after I found out what happened that I decided we SHOULD try out as a couple! You should be happy I asked about us because that allowed us to happen!
Well, that guy from the past is dead, just like her! This guy’s all that’s left now. Take it or plummin leave it!!
Liar..! If you’ve truly moved on, why are you always living in your head when you’re with me? You think you’re so good at covering up but I catch you drifting in your thoughts — you’re cold and distant. You’re thinking about her, aren’t you? You don’t love me, you love her! Sometimes, I think you secretly hate me..
Well, what you’re doing now ain’t exactly helpin’.
How… how could you say that…! Are you trying to say you do hate me..? That’s it, isn’t it!? You resent me for not being her…
“… Athena…? “
This is stupid! I’m out.
Curtis…! We’re not done!
She blinked back tears and pulled herself back to the present. “I’m sorry. We uh.. we fought about his work…”
“I think your fights are about much more than that.”
Trevor and Kian exchanged a chest-to-chest bro hug along with their usual greeting. “TREV! Thought your old man had you working overtime today,” Kian bellowed.
“I’ve got clients to entertain in a bit.” Trevor gestured towards the empty spot beside Athena. “Expecting someone?”
“Nope. How much time do you have?”
“A few minutes.” Trevor took the seat. “I dropped by because you said Athena’s with you. I’d like to speak with her alone.” He looked to her. “Can we talk in private?”
“This isn’t the best time.” Carly interjected. “We’re in the middle of an important conversation.”
“I heard. You and Kian have very loud voices.” Trevor replied. “I waited by the stairs to give you space, but I’m running out of time.” He reverted his gaze back to Athena. “What I’m about to say is related anyway. Hear me out.”
Athena stomached her feelings for now, burying them inside her as she studied Trevor’s face. His smile gave nothing away.
“… Fine,” she said after a long silence.
Kian and Carly drew sharp breaths simultaneously. Kian thought of the last time Trevor and Athena were alone together while Carly thought Athena’s ‘fine’ sounded not fine. Trevor ignored them both and called an attendant over to service their table. “Go for a 5-minute walk. I’ll be done in that time.”
As the couple left, Trevor fished out a burgundy clutch from a shopping bag and placed it in front of Athena. She stared, recognising its brand and value from her mom’s high-end fashion catalogs.
“Trev! What on earth..”
“This gift has been sitting in my room for the past five months. It was meant to be your Love day present,” Trevor paused. “By some strange miracle, you seemed happy then so I didn’t give it to you, but I think it’s time.”
“Dew, I’m sorry. I’m flattered you feel that way, but..”
“You don’t need to come to a decision today. Just listen.”
“I know we can barely count the number of times we’ve hung out together, but I’ve been keeping up with what’s happening with you. I know things are difficult between you and him, that…”
“… you’re constantly bickering, you can’t see eye to eye and you both want different things in life. Don’t you see that you’re just not right for each other? That you belong in…”
… different worlds?
“I’ve only met him once and I can already tell he won’t be able to understand you. People like him resent us – as if we’re sinners for being born into fame and fortune. He doesn’t understand the struggles and pressures we face, the…”
“…. circle we keep and the things we’re forced to do to get by. She’ll never understand your lifestyle and decisions. She’ll hold you back from reaching your full potential. You’re both too different.”
“You can stop right there. And take your gift back! What you say is not important. Curtis and I may come from different backgrounds but we share ourselves and our lives. We make new memories and experiences. We love each other and we make our relationship work!
“And how are you sharing your lives? You’re always on your own if not for Kian and Carly. You’re never with him at wherever he disappears off to either. You’re both headed…”
“… towards different directions, but stay with each other for ‘couple activities’. Anyone can provide that. Heck, I’m a better candidate than her. And this ‘thing’ you have for each other? It’s not love. You’re…“
“…using him to fill a void in your life. You want someone to stand on your side, someone to quench your loneliness. You want…”
“… some place where you belong. Be honest. After all this time, does she feel like home? You’re stuck in an illusion, deluding yourself that she’s the right person for you, but you’re falling apart because it’s not true. You’re unhappy, but you don’t want to be alone.”
“That’s enough!” Athena rose abruptly, scraping her chair against the floorboards and gathering a few onlookers. Trevor studied her curled shoulders and hands crossed around her heart as if to protect from his words. He slowly got up and made his way to her.
“We had a connection that night.” His arm held hers, his soft voice crooned in her ear. “That’s why you avoided me for the longest time. Because you know I can understand you better and what you’re going through. You didn’t want to face the truth that I’d…”
“… appreciate you much more, how you fight every day against a cut-throat world. You know that you’re better off with me — I’d be able to stand by your side and take on your challenges with you.”
“Kian and Carly are too polite to say this, but…”
“…you’re just not meant to be together.”
“Unlike him.. I come from your world. I know what you’re looking for. I can take care of you, the…”
“… way you deserve, the way you need. I will encourage you, aid you and be there for you.”
“You chose (me as your savior/ to save me first) that night. You like me. You find me intriguing. You know we’ll work out.”
“You’ve given it your best shot. It’s time to let go.”
She was inches away to a second strike but stopped herself. No, she can’t give him the satisfaction — the satisfaction that he had shredded her heart and unleashed all her fears; that he arose doubt and uncertainty in her. She had to stay calm. Trevor. Is. Wrong! She’s NOT using Curtis! What they have is real! Their differences make it tough, but they work at it together. She did everything she could for their relationship. She kept his secrets, accommodated his lifestyle, learned more about him and that girl so she could-
“You finally realised it.”
“You know where to find me.”
- Athena, Carly & Kian’s Shirt: Maladi777
- Athena’s Bob hair and White top: Saurus
- Curtis’s Jeans & Boots: Darte77
- Buildings: Blackmojitos
**So because of my newbie-ness, I didn’t realise this entire section is considered a proper chapter instead of an epilogue. So I’ve changed the headings. Sorry for giving a false impression the whole time. 😅