Wallace rubbed his temples, his eyes closed. He was waiting for Tammy to come back with her specialty to reduce his headache and end the hungover.
“Here,” She said, tugging a cup into his hand.
He downed it without question. He had always trusted Tammy. Trusted her enough to drink whatever it was with his eyes closed, without checking its contents, or uttering another question.
“I’ll take it,” She said after he had emptied the cup.
He lied back on the sofa and relaxed. She was back a few minutes later. He turned left and leaned on her shoulder. Unlike many times before, she moved away. Not so abrupt that he lost his balance, but still at a speed that he would notice the difference in attitude. He opened his eyes and stared at her, still leaning his head on the edge of the sofa, not wanting to sit up straight.
“Yvonne’s right,” She said, her voice too trained, apparently uncomfortable. “We shouldn’t create any misunderstandings.”
“Why does it matter what others think?” He asked, his voice stubborn. He was suddenly so mad at Cyndi. Even if she was right about keeping distance.
Tammy still kept her calmness–though she had detected his hostility. “It doesn’t matter what others think. It matters what your girlfriend thinks.”
He let out a sigh, sitting up properly again, edging further away from her–as she had wanted it. “So it’s finally the day our friendship ends?”
“We will always be friends but we’ve already grown up. You can’t deny that.”
He scoffed. Then he stopped himself. He did not want to take it out on Tammy–of all the people. He rubbed his forehead, thinking. Letting out a sigh, he turned to her again. “What’s so different about us and other friendships is that we could always be ourselves and never have to care so much to keep a distance or do those silly things society wants to mold in us.”
“Maybe it’s because of our stubbornness and maybe it’s because of my ignorance that your past relationships never last so long.”
His anger raised another notch. In fact, he was boiling with frustration inside. “Don’t ever blame yourself for what happened with my life. I could ruin it on my own pretty well.”
He shook his head and got up. He made his way down the hall and to the door. He did not care to respond to her call. He was not mad at Tammy. He just wanted to leave so he would not take it out on her.
He arrived at Angela’s shop around noon and found her talking to one of her customers. He waited patiently until she was free.
“What happened last night?” She asked, her voice full of concern. “I tried calling you last night but Cyndi said that you were busy with something so I didn’t want to bother you.”
Guilt overtook him once again. Guilt was on constant visits these past days. He took her into his arms and held her tight. “I’m sorry.”
“For making you worry.”
“You were working. You can’t expect me to be so unreasonable to demand your attention all the time, right?”
Wallace closed his eyes and let out a sigh. “No, I wasn’t working. Cyndi did not have to lie for me.”
Angela was taken aback but she kept quiet.
“I was drunk last night.”
Then he spent the next half an hour explaining what had happened.
“I know you have the right to be mad and I have no right to persuade you otherwise,” Wallace said when he was done with his recounts.
To Wallace’s surprise, Angela did not question his feelings for Yvonne–or Tammy. He realized she was so different from her strong front, comparing to Cyndi. They were such opposites. He had expected to receive the worse. If Cyndi was boiling mad at his actions, Angela’s rage would double that–or more. Yet she wasn’t. Or was she using the wait as torture? As his punishment?
What did Angela do instead? She just leaned into him and gave him a tight hug. “I’m so lucky to have such an honest boyfriend.”
Clueless was the only word that described Wallace’s state of mind. How could he not be shocked that she would rather hear the ugly truth? Other girls would’ve opted for a simple, logical yet vague answer–like what Cyndi had told Angela last night–and be done with it. Knowing the truth would cause more complications. Yet Angela… Then Wallace knew. Angela did not want to be deceived. Or lied to. Regardless of how ugly it would eventually turn out to be.
That afternoon, Wallace parked in front of the bar he visited last night. That did not mean he was back for another trip of drowning himself in the poison. He was just back to try his luck. And it struck around 8. Wallace got out of his car and walked toward the other car. And the guy inside it stepped out.
“Hey,” Wallace said.
“Wallace, right?” The guy asked. “I’m Jiro.”
Wallace shook the guy’s hand. “I have to thank you for last night. I’m sorry for behaving that way.”
Jiro smiled and shrugged. “Forget it. Lost love, right?”
Wallace looked confused.
“Mitch just broke up with his girlfriend too so you don’t have to feel like you’re the only one,” Jiro explained. “It’s life.”
Wallace smiled, shaking his head. “No. It’s something different.”
“Whatever it is, bring a friend next time.”
Wallace wrinkled his face.
“So he or she could drive you home. I told Mitch if he wanted to get drunk, I’m coming with him. That was our deal.”
Wallace nodded. Then he remembered. He retrieved his wallet and turned to Jiro. “How much do I owe you?”
Jiro waved his hand. “Forget it.”
“No, don’t try those with me. I appreciate your help but it doesn’t mean I could just forget it.”
Jiro was able to detect the determination on Wallace’s face so he agreed. They parted ways afterward. And they didn’t forget to exchange numbers either–just in case.
Wallace hung the coat up to the far right of his closet. It had been there for a while. He had no idea why he had worn it yesterday. And again today after he’d gone home for a shower after he left Tammy’s place. Perhaps he couldn’t let go yet. Not quite.
Yes, he was able to go home again. It happened the same day he found out his software had been stolen. But he did not bring up the conflict he still had with his mother regarding Angela. He’d been drowning himself in an effort to expose Sylvie that he no longer felt like he had to prove a point. Now that he looked back to those days, he realized that was too typical and minimal to what he was feeling now. The injustice, clichéd feeling was nowhere near the torn feeling that existed inside him currently. If he had to choose, maybe he rather dealt with persuading his mother to accept Angela, not persuading himself to shove his guilt aside and move on.
“Get a grip, Wallace Huo,” He scolded himself.
And he did.
The following days continued in a blur with him pushing forth with a new project at work. For real this time. He did not bother to clarify with his mother about his working with the police and private investigators to trap Sylvie. It was a matter of principle. He loved his mother dearly. Yet he wanted to make a point that Sylvie was robbing him of his effort. It was not about fame or the applause received but tipping the scale of justice. Not just for him, but for everyone out there who had ever been robbed of their energy and taken credit from. Those thieves needed a lesson. And it had to start with Sylvie–and her despicable buyer.
Two months soon passed and life was getting back to its routine course. It also meant Wallace no longer visited Tammy like in the past. Nor thought of Yvonne. But he also felt something ripped right out of his life. And that he had chosen the wrong choice again. Yet it felt right again at the same time. How could that be? Cyndi was no longer mad at him. He and Nic were delivering their constant attacks once in a while. Angela no longer looked worried for his sake. He was beginning to take control of his life like before. But something was definitely wrong. So wrong.
“Wallace, could you meet me at the pier by 7?” Angela asked one afternoon.
“Yeah, sure,” Wallace said, looking at his watch.
They hung up after that.
Wallace was several minutes early. She came on time. She looked serious. Too serious. At least he hadn’t seen that expression used on him lately. Even when he and Nic were engaged in those senseless debates.
“Hey,” Wallace greeted her, attempting a casual smile.
She returned his smile with a passive one. “It’s about time we take the next step.”
He didn’t expect that. Not from Angela. She was never nagging. Now she wanted to get married? That was a major leap all right.
“Let’s break up,” She said.
Wallace froze. Like really froze. He had already frozen to the point of speechless when he thought she wanted to get married. But this? “What?”
Angela smiled again. “I’m not doing this as one of those schemes to force you into acknowledging my existence or make you feel guilty. It’s the best solution for both of us.”
“We’re doing pretty good, aren’t we?”
Wallace did not answer.
“I can’t stand to see you forcing yourself to try and focus on me and lose your other friends.”
“They’re still around.” That was a lie. Even he wasn’t convinced of his words.
“I know you feel responsible for initiating our relationship,” She continued. “And maybe you pity me.”
Angela shook her head. “You don’t have to protect me by ruining the rest of your life. I will never forgive myself for it.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders. “I choose you.”
“You did. But you’re also so stubborn to prove others wrong that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself. It doesn’t matter what Cyndi said. It doesn’t matter what the others said. What matters the most is you know that you’re not doing anything wrong. That you’re not going against your principles.”
She put a hand up to stop him. “And the person who matters the most is the person still by your side all these years and is still willing to forgive you no matter what you’ve done.” She stopped briefly–as if to collect her thoughts. “Cyndi, Nic, and I could be gone from your life sooner or later because we have different goals in life. So why pressure yourself into pleasing us and abandoning the ones who’d been there for you all along?” Another pause. “Could you release me from the guilt I felt these past months watching you torture yourself with changing your lifestyle?”
Wallace did not want to. He felt like a coward. Yet he knew Angela was right. They were both torturing each other holding on like that. He remembered someone once told him about the stubbornness of holding onto a sinking ship. It would only drown them both, making them miserable in the long run. He nodded at last.
Angela smiled then, letting out a sigh of relief. She hugged him, finally crying into his shoulders. “Thank you.”
He hugged her back, tight. Guilt was still on his mind yet there was also a sense of relief.
“Now I can return to my fashion code,” Angela joked several minutes later.
He smiled, remembering the time Nic scolded him for controlling Angela’s dressing habits. A time not long ago yet could be so long ago at the same time.
© Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Posted: Sunday, April 3rd, 2011