To know me, you have to read me. Otherwise, I'm just like everybody else. Without identity. Choose well.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Short story: THE MAN WHO MOVED part 2

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
"Cinth!" She jerked as Caterina suddenly whisked her out of the turmoil brimming in her mind. "Snap out of it! Just figure it out. You still have until afternoon to weigh all of it anyway." Cat continued with a consoling smile. "If you really can't decide, just follow your heart okay?" She patted her back as she got up and head back to her desk. "I'll get back with you later. Mr. Grumpy is heading this way. You know how he loves working! Hahaha." Cat snorted and smirked as she walked away.

She looked down and tried to preoccupy herself with her workload. It did help. It took her mind off what's bothering her at the moment. The people she know would always say she's a workaholic.  Because she tends to do more work when she has a lot to think about. At least that's how she understood the term. Which she never really admitted. She just really love her work. They say, when you choose a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life. And she never did. Cinth graduated in Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from NYU (New York University). Now she is working in LY Enterprises as one of the assistant accountants to the Chief Financing Officer Shadler Simmons. She started as rank and file clerk and worked her way up in the 2 years she's been in the company. You could really say she is a hard worker. She was already immersed in numbers and figures when Allen or you can say Mr. Grumpy loomed on her from the back. She jerked away, surprised by the sudden close proximity of their anti-social boss. "Miss Claiborne, it's already lunch. You're the only one left here if you haven't noticed. I don't want my employees getting sick when we have deadlines coming up."

"Ow! It's already 12nn? Thanks boss! Did you already have lunch? Wanna have lunch with us at the cafeteria?" That's how casual she is with Allen. He doesn't seem to mind. Even if all the other employees could not even strike up a conversation with him. "Hmmm... I haven't. Yeah, sure. Take the lead." Cinth was gathering her purse, tumbler, and mobile phone when she quickly looked at him. Surprised that he actually accepted the offer for interpersonal relations. He usually just turns them down whenever they try to invite him at anything. The rest of the employees already got tired of inviting him at all.

Cinth walked towards the lobby door while Allen trails behind her. She asked him about the progress of the latest proposition submitted by their team, his thoughts about the financial analysis she handed over yesterday, and what happened with their client meeting with Chad earlier today. They were discussing business as usual when suddenly she noticed the group of chitchatting female co-workers staring maliciously at her and Allen. She rolled her eyes at the inefficient, attention deprived, unassured spectacle of pseudo-professionals clad in perpetual zest to appear noteworthy. In a way, they were successful... in a not so preferable way to get noticed. Because people heard about them. How they seem to leave traces of bile wherever they go. Transferring from departments because they seem to get involved in all matters of conflict with co-workers. You couldn't count how many times they've visited the Human Resources department. Whether they are the ones complaining or getting a complaint. But you have to give them credit for always being able to worm themselves out of it. They might have memorized the entire employee handbook to find the loopholes every time. What a bunch of fiascos.

They both ignored the unspoken clamor being ignited by the said groupie and continued walking towards the cafeteria. The rest of the department is already halfway to their salads, sandwiches, and fruits. Their food committee is always creating ways to promote healthy living. Thus, every other day is a "healthy diet" day at the cafeteria. Whether they like it or not. All heads turned, gaped, and some food spilt as they see the miracle before them- Mr. Grumpy joining them for lunch. In that awkward moment, Cinth caught Cat's eye as if she was saying, "Why the hell did you bring him here???" Gulp. Because women love to do the telepathic conversations, she replied with her eyes saying, "Ow c'mon, this isn't so bad." And seated herself in the nearest vacant seat beside Seraphina. Allen seated across her. The initial awkward pauses turned back into the normal riot an hour break could indulge to update one another on the intricacies of regular lives. Which brought her back to the time, about almost a year ago, when she had something going on for this mysterious, poker-faced, new boss.

"Meeting in 5 minutes! Conference room 1." Shadler shouted over heads cooped up in deadlines.

There was so much tension in the air you can actually taste it. Today was when we are supposed to meet the new boss. Shad has worked us down the entire week just to get the deliverables early to impress the rumored master of ferocity. Doesn't really seem like good news to the rest of them. Especially Cinth who still have some bandages from a very nasty fall the other day. Everyone was busy picking up their reports and cleaning up their desks as they wade their way to the conference room.

"Where were you? And what happened to those gashes??" Queenie who was the one who had to take over her workload after she had to take almost 2 days off to recover, asked with concern.

"Ow this is nothing, Shad was just overly generous to let me get 2 days off. For some unexplainable reason. But..." She had to give her the details of her fateful encounter with her dashing debonair in shining armor. Queenie is one of her confidantes at work. They share all their boy troubles when they have one. They were laughing so hard as she retold the story while opening the conference room door.

The first thing she saw was the enigmatic stare from the 6 foot, blonde hair, brown-eyed, fair-skinned man with Apollo's build standing at the end of the rectangular, solid wood, board room table with mahogany finish. Cinth suddenly stopped dead on her tracks. Causing the people walking behind her to bump into each other, crashed to the floor, and brought tumultuous laughter inside the conference room.

"Settle down! Everyone, settle down!" Shad was shouting over the noise while hardly containing his own laughter. "What an unforgettable way to introduce yourselves to our new boss. Especially you, Cinth." he said, with a slightly disapproving look.

As the meeting progressed, Cinth could not stop eyeing the stranger who she accidentally bumped with, caused her gashes, brought her to the clinic, and took her home a few days ago. Which as if by divine intervention, now the mysterious, infamously ferocious boss standing before them. Who on the other hand she swore gave her a hint of a mischievous smile before he started to introduce himself. Queenie, who was sitting beside her, nudged, "You look like you saw a ghost," she whispered. Cinth mouthed, "That's him!" For a moment Queenie was confused, "Who?"  then realized, "Oh! That guy from the other day?!" She exclaimed which got her a hush from Shad. "OMG! Let's talk. Later!" she mouthed.

True enough, after the 2-hour meeting, everybody was convinced that Allen Fitzgerald is not someone to be trifled with. As everyone were picking up their things and filed out of the room, Allen called her out to stay. Everybody immediately turned their heads toward her with their eyes saying, "What's going on???" Cinth just smiled and waved them away.

"How are your wounds?" he asked once the room was already clear.
"They're healing pretty fine."
Long pause.
"You didn't say you were going to be my future boss." she smiled accusingly.
"About that, it didn't come to mind. Are you feeling better?"
"Never been better."
Long pause.
"Is that all?" Cinth, smirking, was already getting used to this awkward silence.
"Yes, you can go." he smiled.

She went out first and was surprised that all her workmates were trying to eavesdrop just outside the door. They barraged her with unending questions like there's no tomorrow. They only went back to their respective cubicles after getting a decent explanation that she and Allen knew each other from way back. Leaving out the detail of way back 3 days ago. Cinth was not fond of being specific. She isn't good at lying either, so she'd rather do half-truths. She is somewhat of a private person when it comes to things like this. Whatever "this" meant.

With a beautiful face and a sexy body, you can say at first glance "this girl must have never been single since she started dating." Cinth, however, was actually a one-of-the-boys type in her younger days. Which got her more male friends than female friends. But never really stopped the opposite sex to still pursue her. Even lesbian friends couldn't resist her. Cinth, on the other hand, was more concerned about studies and hanging out than getting involved in relationships. She would reminisce and wince at her cruelty every time she remembers the struggle her suitors had to put up with. There was this relentless childhood suitor from grade school until college that had always come up with ways to pursue her. That she tried to politely ignore at first which eventually turned into quite a laughable incident where he proclaimed his undying feelings in front of the whole neighborhood. Hitherto meant, a zero-tolerance policy for him and other guys thereafter. There was also a time when she gets love letters from boys that she tears them up on the spot. Along with whatever gifts included. How she never shows up when she gets invited by a guy to meet him someplace at school after classes are over. It scared the hell out of her. She was running away from what she referred to as "awkward situations". It was only later in life that she fully realized her potential as a woman.

Cinth had never actually fallen in love with anyone. It's true that her heart had been broken a lot of times. But you can't really say it was unless you have truly loved someone, right? For her, love is time. Love is allowing yourself to fall freely. Without restrictions. Like bungee jumping into the abyss.  Love is no fear. It is putting yourself out there for that one single person. Giving your entire being without asking for anything in return. Love is involvement. Being part of each other's lives. Sharing joys, events, laughters, achievements, as well as pains, suffering, and anxieties. Caring for your partner's opinion. Trying out what they like. Avoiding what they don't. Love is intimacy. The desire to be with the person you love even for the littlest things. Hugs, kisses, making love. Love is romance. Silly love notes. Holding hands while walking. Sitting by a bench in each other's arms. Candles, flowers, chocolates. Love is remembering. The sweet little things. Conversations, dates, history. Love is patient. That there is joy in waiting for love. And once it has arrived, nothing can ever go wrong. "Love does not boast. It is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Above all, she believes, "that love has to be possible. Even if it is not returned right away, love can only survive when the hope exists that you will be able to win over the person you desire. Anything else is fantasy."

Cinth has never had that with anyone. Sure she has had relationships. But time wasn't on her side. Everything else indeed, became fantasy. It didn't mean though that she never had her heart hurt. In fact, the opposite happened. She had more heartaches than happy moments. Considering, her heartaches was mostly brought about by unrequited love interests. Yes, someone as hot as she, can still have unrequited feelings. Why? First, because she wasn't always beautiful. She was a late bloomer. A sickly, stick-figured, brainiac in grade school. A one-of-the-boys, nerdy, rowdy teenager in high school. And a serious, but not goal-oriented, lazy college student. However, that hasn't stopped men from noticing the beauty within. She had suitors. But never liked them. Even if they were decent boys. Which brings us to the second reason why she had unrequited feelings. She used to be drawn to guys that "friendzoned" her. Because she was blessed with great friends, who later on became great people in their respective fields, she met too-good-to-be-true men as well. Cinth wasn't the type to like men just by their looks. Even back then, that was never how it worked for her. She doesn't understand the concept of being head over heels for someone at first sight. Sure enough she admires good looking men, even women. But she doesn't blindly get infatuated by them like some favorite celebrity. She only liked guys that she became close with as time goes. Guys that she had a lot in common. The tall, chinky-eyed, lean, young-harry-potter-look-a-like psychology student wouldn't have captured her attention had it not been for the school's ministry they were both in. The literally tall, dark, and taylor-lautner-look-a-like education student wouldn't have entranced her had it not been for being in the same school's publication staff where she used to be an editorial writer for. The lists goes on. But the common denominator is that, they were long time friends before they were someone special.

The problem with liking friends in secret is that, it remains a secret. Until one of them spills the beans. Which in her case, neither of them did. On her defense, she says, due to pride. She thought confessing first was a bad idea. On the guys end, she never really knew. Whether or not the feeling was mutual, was gone with the wind. Because she wasn't much of a risk-taker back then. The shame it might bring far outweighs the probability of a happy ending. This was her love cycle. Countless of times. Nothing changed. Until finally, being fed up with hurting alone, she vowed never to play the friend or lover game anymore. Gradually she learned how to differentiate between love and friendship the hard way. There were no tears shed but sometimes, not crying it out makes it bleed more inside. The tears could have had cleansed the negativity brought by one-sided longings, wasted emotions, and the pain after hearing your friend finally found "the one".

However, the love cycle was brewing up again. To her, and this freakishly good looking boss. Like a teenager, she secretly swoons while feigning a nonchalant smile as he passes by her cubicle. Then hides behind her monitor while hardly containing a giggle as he smiles back before getting inside his office. Everyday she struggles whenever Mr. Grumpy comes up to her to get some of the reports needed for the day. The actress, from an acting workshop/club, that she once was back in high school days had paid off in order for her to remain calm and composed whenever he's around. At some point she believed the feeling was mutual. What with all the unnecessary approaches, small talks, and not to mention, she was the only one who can talk to him as if he's not the boss. To the extent everyone had thought there was something going on between them too. Especially the women. Because indeed it is true, that women are the discerning ones when it comes to interpersonal relationship. It went on for months. But nothing happened. She became unhappy with her work. Stuck in the misery of ignored affections. She knew she gave the right signals so she kept thinking and dwelling on what's holding him up. Until finally, Cinth gave up her hopes that he will ask her out on a date one day. She had come to a resolution that this shy-on-the-inside guy will never come out of his shell. And as her belief was that, if a guy is not even manly enough to ask her out, he will never be manly enough to fight for her. To her, that is very crucial. But then of course, everything could have just been false hopes. She could have just over-analyzed little things like all women do. For all she know, he might even be gay. Again, another way women console themselves with. In her defense, the guy was never rumored to have been with any girlfriends since he started working for LYEnt 3 years ago.

Just like that, she turned from the swooning teenager to the fun, comic, cheery girl that she really is towards Mr. Grumpy. To her he became a friend. Any other feelings was buried someplace where she dumps all her unrequited love interests with. Being with Allen was already so natural to her that even jests on their status comes off as an old joke to her now. Smiling with the thoughts from the past, Seraphina nudged her with confusion written on her face as to what she was smiling about and dazing out for. Remembering they were eating lunch, Cinth got back to her food.

♫♪ Munja Washong! Munja Washong! ♪♫ Her text message ringtone never fails to put a stop to any conversation her workmates has. As they find it so strange that she had to use a Korean ringtone. So all eyes were on her for a fraction of a minute and then not anymore. Cinth quickly checked her phone only to be left speechless again.

The message read:
I didn't receive a reply, please don't let this be a no. :( -- Oliver
With the panic registering on her face, Cat came up to Cinth's side and pulled her away from earshot. "Was that Oliver again?" Cat asked. Cinth almost crying while handing Cat the phone's message said, "Yes... And I still don't know what to say to him..."

"Okay, calm down... It seems you'll need to decide as soon as possible. So lets go back to our desks and sort this out." Cat said while leading her out of the cafeteria. She chanced a quick look back at her workmates and saw Allen's eyes on her with a curious expression. She ignored it and went back to the office with Cat.

"What do we know about this mysterious guy?" Cat immediately asked even before her voluptuous behind hit Cinth's dark gray swivel chair.
"That he was in love with me for a long time?"
"But why come out now?"
"I don't know... I really don't."
"If you ask me, I don't think you need to choose him over Oliver. Oliver is sure. Right from the start. No drama. Isn't that what you like? A guy who knows what he wants and goes for it?"
"Yes, yes, I keep saying that. But this mysterious guy is making me really curious. I mean, if it's you, wouldn't you want to know who your secret admirer is? From the same office??"
"Ahmmm... yeah.... you have a point. But this is Valentines day Cinth! And Oliver is asking you out! You obviously like him. And this mysterious guy, can't he wait? He apparently waited long enough. What's another day?"
"The problem is, I don't have a way of telling him that. Remembeeerrrr?" Cinth laughed. Some of the anxiety leaving her. This is what she likes about talking to her friend Caterina. She thinks out of the box. Being the oldest and wisest among the group.
"Seriously, if you decline Oliver today, he'd think you're not really into him. He'd think you'd probably be in a date with someone else. Are you willing to mess it up? What you and Oliver have? For a mysterious guy that for all you know, you don't have any history with?"
"What do you mean history?"
"What if he's that fat hairy guy from the Loans department that has been crushing on you? Or that ridiculously tall bearded guy from the Insurance team that keeps eyeing you every time we go to lunch? Do you see the difference here?"
"Yes ma'am! I know. I know. But... he just sounded so dignified and perfect." Cinth pouted with her romantic notions visibly potent.
"Cinntthhh! You should seriously stop reading those romance novels! This is real life. Fantasies are not real." Cat exasperated, heaved a sigh. Then suddenly, "Wait wait wait. Don't tell me... Oh no you don't! Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"What?" she feigned ignorance.
"You are vaguely hoping it's your dashing debonair in shining armor huh? Oh c'mon Cinth!"
"I didn't say that. You did!"
"Riigghhtt. Oh girl, this is proving harder than I expected. Tut tut." she sighed. Caterina was also one of her confidantes at work. She also tells her of her boy troubles whenever they have the time to catch up.

Cinth deflated to the chair next to her. "I know I shouldn't be hoping it's him. I shouldn't even be thinking it at all. I thought... I buried those hopes months ago. But the romantic in me, I guess, is still waiting for that grand moment."
"I can't take that away from you Cinth. I knew how much you liked him. I just thought you already got over it.'"
"I did. I think I did. But this hope is still there. For some reason. I can't shake it off."
"I don't even understand why you like him anyway. Being grumpy and all."
"Haha. For the nth time, he's not! He's just not a people person. When you get to know him more, he's this gentle, funny, beautiful person who gives me that stare. That stare that I thought meant something. But I guess, didn't." She sighed. "But, I know what to do now. Thanks Cat. This really helps." She smiled, then hugged her friend.

The rest of the employees were already coming back from the cafeteria. Cat gave her a reassuring nod as she went back to her desk. Cinth dazed out for a while before finally picking her phone from her table and composing a reply to Oliver. It took her 15 minutes to organize her thoughts.

The message read:

Hi Oliver. I'm sorry for the late response. Was caught up with work. Yes, I'd be glad to have dinner with you tonight. :)
Which he replied:

Great! See you tonight then. I'll pick you up from your place at 6:30pm? I'll get reservations for Le Bernardin. I can't wait to see you! Later then. ;)
She flipped her phone shut and turned right to get some stacked papers from the right side of the table when she realized she's face to face with Allen. Apparently he was looming in from the back again. She wasn't sure if he was able to read the text Oliver sent. With just one inch distance, she couldn't think straight. She gulped and blinked repeatedly. Stared at his deep-seated eyes, high cheekbones, red kissable lips. She gasped, then remembered to closed her mouth. Swore that even Allen can hear her drumming heartbeat. She didn't know how long it lasted. All she remembers was how good he smelled. How hard he stared. And how it seemed he was also lost in thought. Then suddenly, "Ms. Claiborne, it's time to get back to work." he said with his jaws clenching. Cinth just blinked while staring at him walking back to his office. Something's really going on with Allen today, she mused. He's behaving really strange. She shrugged it off and cleared her head. Calmed herself and started working.

At 3pm, the sun rays peeking out from the window's blinds were reflecting the scorching hot weather outside. At home, air conditioners are working double to beat the now normal high temperature of 28°C. It's July and the summer has just begun. Cinth, almost done with work, was now remotely accessing her wardrobe mentally. Going over possible good outfit matches for tonight through her mind. She normally does this while showering to save her time in dressing up for work because she is kind of a late-comer. But during dates, she thinks of what to wear even days before. If it's short notice, at least hours before. Cinth is popular at work for being the corporate girl at the catwalk. She dresses to kill. Probably the reason why some men find it difficult to come up to her and strike a conversation. She is all-out-intimidating until you see her smile. Just like the messenger in a blue overall and a black NY sports cap who seems to be hesitating to come up to her to hand over a package. It was an 18' x 13' x 3' brown rectangular box with a blue ribbon and a note attached. Cinth gaped at it while mindlessly affixing her signature for the recipient's confirmation form. All eyes are on her again as the ladies and ladies at heart are slowly waddling their way to her desk to see what's inside the box.

"OH MY GOSH! Twice today! I mean, TWICE Cinth! Whoah. You're the man! I mean, woman! Haha." Japed Bristol the boisterous bisexual co-worker.

"This guy is serious! Where have you hidden him for so long girl?" Rose teased with her usual swag.

"Read the card! C'mon! Whoah, this is so like the movies!" Seraphina couldn't contain her excitement and looked as if she'd read the card herself.

Laughing, Cinth pulled out the envelope with the card inside.

The message read:

I know this will look great on you. Because in my eyes, I only see you. Everyday you make my heart skip a beat when you pass by. Everyday I'm at a loss for words when we talk. Even for just a little time. So please give me tonight. I will be expecting you 7pm at the same place inside the envelope. I'll be waiting. For as long as it will take. Always. Love, Me.
 "Oh my... This guy is loaded! Cinth, you should definitely meet him tonight." Stella the boobsy, songstress, hottie approved without further ado.

"Yes girl! This guy is like, Mr. Grey of LYEnt! I'm pretty sure you'll nail this later. Haha." Arwin laughed with a glint of malice.

She however, met Cat's eye. Caterina herself was at a loss for words. And then she mouthed, "Your life. Your choice." then finished it with a wink.

Cinth got more confused than ever. Almost the same time, at an even almost same block, two guys will be waiting to be with her for a very special day of the year for lovers and lovers to be. Two seemingly great guys vying for that special spot in her heart. One guy who offers a love that's sure. No uncertainties. Someone he can freely fall for. Without restrictions. Someone who she has amazing chemistry with. Who she shares a lot in common. She can envision life with him as a couple. But this mysterious guy, who offers a love so devoted. Who's willing to wait for as long as it takes. Without fear. She's wavering and torn. Torn between two lovers. Torn between what is. And what can be. Should she go for a sweet soulful boat ride at the lake? Or will her adventurous streak to try the rollercoaster ride get the better of her?

To be continued...

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