It was a simple date. He was a very busy person, he had told her. He had many things to do, many things to take care of.
But he could possibly spare an hour for her today.
She was self-conscious as she sat quietly at the table, sipping from her sweating cold glass of Coke. Was her hair in place? Did she look nice? She wanted him to smile when he saw her. Would he?
She was not hungry yet. She would wait for him to arrive. Yes, she had arrived there before him. Not because he was late. No, it was because she had been nervous and was fidgety with anticipation before their meeting. She ended up leaving the house an hour before their proposed meeting time. Never mind, she thought, I can see his expression as he walks in and sees me.
She places her elbows on the table and holds her chin in her hands. She lets out a quiet sigh. She has been waiting for this moment for so long, she cannot believe it is actually happening right now.
She first saw him in school, two months after the new academic year had started. At that time, he had just transferred over from the all-boys school near town. Why he had chosen to continue his Upper Secondary studies in a co-education school all of a sudden was unclear. But whatever the reason, she thanked her lucky stars that he did, and her school at that. It is fate, she thinks wistfully.
That afternoon, she was on her way to the teacher’s room to collect her class’s English exercise books from Mrs. Lim. She chatted excitedly with her friend Hui Yen about the new cineplex that had opened in Terminal Two. As they walked past the school field, she heard a yell from her friend, and suddenly everything turned black.
When she came to, she stared up into the sweaty face of a boy who was holding her head up. Hui Yen was frantically fanning her face with a makeshift paper fan. “…you alright? Swee Lin?” His face looked concerned, and rather guilty too. She was suddenly aware that she was lying flat out on the ground, her head throbbing painfully. And the boy’s arms were around her back and shoulders.
She sat up abruptly, much to the astonishment of the group of boys who had gathered around them, and the boy who was holding her. It seemed to be a mistake as her head began to swim and she closed her eyes to stop the dizziness. Hui Yen continued to fan her face with even more enthusiasm.
A small tap on her shoulder, but the hand remained there. “Swee Lin, are you feeling alright?”
She turned to look at the boy and, even with his sweaty face and messy hair after a game, she noticed his eyes were a lighter brown than most people and she thought to herself, Wow, he’s really cute.
Her face grew hot with embarrassment at that thought. She tried to stand up, but could only do so leaning on his broad shoulders and so she flushed red even harder. “Oh, I’m fine really. I-I-I’m perfectly fine,” she stammered as she dusted her pinafore which was stained with muddy prints all over. Hui Yen rushed over to help. She focused her entire attention on dusting her uniform, avoiding the gaze of the handsome boy.
“I’m really very sorry. I did not mean to hit you on the head with the ball,” the boy replied.
Oh, that explains the throbbing pain in her head.
She looked up, feeling slightly annoyed. But as she looked at his sorry face, she knew she would not be able to say anything more. She nodded and fled with Hui Yen trying to catch up behind her.
She heard him call after her, saying something like he wanted to make it up to her, but she ran off before her beating heart could burst out of her chest.
She found out later that his name was Timothy and she could not wait to see him again. This time, I will not look so pathetic, she grimaced as she remembered how awful she must have looked to him during their first meeting, with her dirty, muddy pinafore and swollen forehead. She certainly did not look her best.
She bumped into him in the library a few days later and she knew then, that it was fate. What else could have brought them together twice in a week? Just when she was hoping so badly to see him. That initial two meetings led to lengthy online conversations and then handphone chats.
He seemed absolutely perfect. He was sweet and kind, attentive and flattering. Every day she fell asleep with his voice ringing in her ears, smiling.
And now, they were here. Their first date. She had blurted out her intention without thinking one day, and surprised, he had said yes. Finally, she thought. Finally.
Hui Yen had expressed her doubt, questioning how much Swee Lin really knew about Timothy. They got into a huge fight just the other day, she accusing Hui Yen of simply being jealous of her relationship with Timothy. They were not on talking terms now.
She pushed that unpleasant thought from her mind. Why should she care about that girl? She was going on a date with the boy of her dreams. She does not need Hui Yen.
She sipped her Coke and realized that she had just drunk the last drop. Confused, she looked at her watch. It was already ten minutes past their meeting time ! Yet, Timothy had not yet arrived. She ordered another drink despite the fact that her stomach had begun growling. She will continue to wait.
She stared at the ceiling and counted the number of tiles from left to right. When she had finished, she drummed her fingers on the table, anxiously waiting. She listened to music on her handphone. The music was not able to soothe her, so she stared out the window of the KFC establishment and counted the number of people who passed by.
An hour and fifteen minutes passed. Timothy was nowhere to be seen. Where could he be? Was he on his way? Is he alright? A terrifying thought gripped her. Was he hurt? Did he get into an accident?
Hesitant, she finally picked up her phone and dialed his number. After six rings, The number you have dialed cannot be reached at the…it went into voice mail. Her heart beat hard against her chest. She was worried now. He could be in trouble, or worse. Finally, she texted him, Wher r u? R u alright?? -SL-
She bit her lip. She had no idea what else she could do. Just as she was imagining the worst, her phone tinkled. She grabbed for her phone with amazing speed and read the text message: Wil x b able 2 make it. -K-
She slumped into her seat, all her energy seemed to drain out of her body like air from a balloon. She read the text again and again. No reason given, no apology, no regard for her waiting for him for the past one hour.
It was a half hour later before she realized that she was foolish for still waiting, that he was really not coming. Her feet felt like lead as she walked out of KFC into the sweltering heat. She stared up at the blinding light of the sun until her eyes hurt. They hurt to the point that she did not realize that she was actually crying.
Wiping away hot tears, she turned towards home. She looked forward and saw a couple, their arms wrapped around one another and she felt a pang of jealousy. She had hoped for a perfect date, a wonderful meeting, one that she could think back to and get butterflies in her stomach. But he had not even shown up. She was disappointed, no, devastated. She wanted to talk to him immediately, demand an explanation. But her heart felt too numb to bother at the moment.
She walked a little faster for she suddenly felt extremely tired. She caught up to the couple in front of her and she stared at the guy’s hand around the girl’s shoulder. She studied the guy from the back, He must be a sweet person to take time to take his girl out on a date, she thought sadly.
The guy seems awfully familiar though. Maybe someone from school? She stared harder at him. She stopped walking when she spied something on his left wrist. Could it be? No, it is not possible. She shook her head. It is only coincidence that the guy who had his arm around the girl owned the exact same wrist band as the one that she had given Timothy just two days before. The exact same shade of colour, the exact same pattern, the exact same one. She looked up at the guy again, hoping she would not see it there. No, there it was – a scar shaped like an L on his left wrist, exactly like Timothy did.
“Why do you have a scar on your wrist?” I asked him, curious. “Did you have a bad fall?” “No,” he said smiling down at me, and my heart melted right there and then. So much so that I did not really care about the scar anymore. “It’s a birth mark,” he replied. “Well, it looks like an L,” I said. He looked down at it, and chuckled. “So it does.” He suddenly looked at me, serious. “Maybe it was fated that I meet and fall in love with you, Lin.”
She watched as Timothy pulled the girl that was not her closer to him and they burst into secret giggles. She watched as the boy of her dreams walked away with someone else and she hated fate with a vicious fury for bringing him into her life. She burned with anger as she saw the boy of her dreams for who he really was.
Silently, she stood there and cried.