"They're having another reunion again next week."
I groan and put my head in my hands.
"But it'll just be the five of us," he adds again with an almost pleading voice. "It'll really be just like old times."
“That’s what you said last time,” I say, closing my eyes as the memories start to rush back all over again. I try even harder to stop them this time, mostly because I want it to stop altogether, and for good.
“I’m in!” I hear Izzy yelling from across the room, in the kitchen area where she’s making chocolate chip pancakes for herself since the selfish bitch refuses to share me any.
I’m not complaining as much as I normally would, though; I immediately ran downstairs and booted up the computer the moment I finished showering this morning, rejuvenated with inspiration on how to continue this goddamn novel after getting stuck on the sixth chapter yesterday. And at this point, I don’t even care if I’m not getting any breakfast this morning—I should start writing this shit down before the inspiration burst fades away and I’m stuck down in the pit of hell I left myself in last night.
Then of course, he had to call me just five minutes after turning the damn thing on, because Skype just has to launch the moment the computer turns on, doesn’t it?
“Nobody’s asking you!” I retort back with another yell, even though we’re just thirty feet away from each other and yelling with further agitate the landlord living right next door. We’ve already gotten a warning letter from him last week, too.
“Glad to know I’m included in this goddamn conversation—Cam, don’t forget that she still has a boyfriend!”
I turn back to the computer screen, refusing to meet his eyes as blood rushes to my cheeks. God, I must be blushing now.
“Don’t mind her, she’s still drunk,” I groan, running a hand through my bedraggled hair.
“After at least twelve hours of sleep, she’s not sober yet?” Cam shakes his head. “Glad to know you two are still the best of friends, too, seeing how you’re looking after one another.” Then, with a louder voice, he yells back, “Don’t worry, Izzy, I’m just your friendly, neighborhood, good-friend-slash-best-friend’s-ex. And besides, I have a girl of my own, just so you know.”
“Ooh, pray tell,” I say, suddenly becoming more interested in this conversation. Not because I’m jealous, but because at least there’s something to get my mind off our shared past because my Number One Rule in dating is to never hook up with someone else’s significant other. “How come you’ve never mentioned her to any of us before?”
“Well, for one, you never asked, then there’s also the part where I didn’t think it mattered in any of our conversations, so I don’t see why I need to bring that up,” he mutters, out of Izzy’s earshot. “But, if you must know… Her name is Anna and she lives downtown. I met her during college, so you don’t know her and she doesn’t know you—all she knows is that I’ve dated someone else before and I’m completely over it now.”
The finality in his voice makes me go uneasy for some reason, and I straighten my back while trying to maintain my composure. It’s more like a poke than a slap to the face, and yet I should’ve been finding some comfort in knowing that he also thinks that whatever was between us, was just in the spur of the moment.
“Then how come she wasn’t with you at the festival?” I question as curiosity has gotten the better of me. Somehow, I can’t help thinking about Cam’s new girlfriend—what she looks like, what she’s like, how he treats her and how she treats him in return, not to mention all the reasons why he chose her over me.
I shake my head violently, hoping he doesn’t notice me doing so like a crazed maniac. I look away and stare at my feet, confused how in the world did my mind just conjured up a thought like that.
“She, uh, had something to do at the time—something about her job, you know.” His voice continues to drone on, and when I do glance at him, he’s not even staring straight at his webcam anyway, or the screen as anybody else usually do, but rather at something beside his computer, on his desk. He moves only to reappear with his cellphone, apparently vibrating like a wild animal since he put it on silent mode, and picks up a call.
Great. Just leaves me with more time to ponder about my crazy thoughts, ones that I have no control over because my brain is apparently a separate entity at this point. I don’t know why I’m even fussing about this so much like an internal debate about whether to have pizza or pasta for lunch, only a thousand times more intense because it doesn’t seem like there’s a plausible solution to this.
I’m not being jealous. I’m not. I’m over it—I’m over him. I have Drew now, and that’s all that matters.
My phone buzzes from beside the sleek black mouse my hand still hovers upon, and I snatch it up a little too quickly with the anxiety still bubbling inside of me and I sigh in relief as soon as I read Drew’s name on the screen. Just in time.
Unfortunately, it’s only a text message, but it’s a single text message that warms my heart right up again, banishing away any unwanted thoughts and putting a smile back onto my face.
On my way to the airport; buying some last-minute gifts for my favorite girl!
My jaw nearly drops as soon as I read the last part—‘favorite girl.’ He’s never called me that before—it’s usually just ‘babe’ or ‘Em’ or just ‘Emma,’ and he’s never the one to be romantic and buy me anything more than just one souvenir because he’s usually too busy to visit popular tourist spots and attractions where all the best things are. The fact that he’s bringing home ‘gifts’ this time, and has specifically said that they are for his ‘favorite girl’ and sent the text to me, means that something must’ve happened during his trip there.
Either that, or I’m just being a fucking paranoid again.
Goddamn stupid supernatural taxi.
Maybe he’s turned over a new leaf for once. Appreciating me more than just someone he takes out on dates with and someone he kisses every now and then. I’m not even talking about the gifts—I don’t care about what he buys for me, about how much money he spends on our dates. It’s the ‘favorite girl’ part that stands out, meaning that he means it when he says that he loves me because he has considered me as one of his favorite people, and that alone is a very short list.
“Hey, so, Emma.” I lift my head to see Cam staring straight at me this time—well, as straight as it can be with a webcam and a computer screen and about a mile of distance between us. “Are you coming or not? Because it’s not going to be the same without you there. You know that, right? You barely caught up with Will last night and Max was too busy with his wife and getting all freaky with her by ten o’clock, so it’s about goddamn time we really spend some quality time amongst ourselves—just the five of us friends, and nobody else. Not even any of our spouses, our girlfriends, boyfriends, SOs…”
“Aw, I was hoping Lucy might come with us—she was a real nice person, too,” Izzy says not too far from behind me, and I turn around to see her sprawled across the sofa with her plate of mouthwatering pancakes and a glass of chocolate milk. That bitch. “But you should come with us, Em! He’s right—it’s not going to be the same without you!”
Do the guys really miss me, I can’t help but think to myself, or are you trying to drop some hints there?
I recall to moments ago when he told me about his girlfriend. Somehow, I can’t shake the hesitance and uncertainty in his voice, and how distant it was, too. I don’t think he’s telling the truth—the complete truth, anyway. He’s always been good at that—bending the truth into lies whenever he feels he like he needs to. It adds another point to the list of reasons why we broke up.
“All right, I’ll join you fools,” I say, raising my hands up in defeat. “But only to babysit you assholes to make sure nobody breaks anymore bones or does something they’ll regret in the future. For example, Max flirting with that waitress at the diner we used to hang out in. She’s a slut—or worse, a prostitute—for all I know, and Lucy ain’t gonna be too happy to find her husband and the soon-to-be father of her child in someone else’s arms.”
Cam chuckles and shakes his head at the memory, while Izzy throws her head back and laughs so loud she almost chokes on her half-eaten pancakes.
“And there I thought we got her fired after the whole ‘coffee and ketchup’ fiasco we pranked her with ages ago.”
Drew’s busy for the rest of the day—more meetings with shareholders and executives, otherwise known as boring business people he claims he wishes could be replaced by me and have a date altogether—so I have the day all to myself, and that means nothing is going to disturb me while I babysit three grown men, one of whom has a wife, and one grown woman who goes around with a crop top and jean shorts, showing off her perfect thighs and calves other women would dream of.
And I’m pretty sure Louis has asked her out for three times now, and it’s just a matter of time before they make it official, even though Izzy insists on having them both make it ‘Instagram-official’ when the time comes.
The convertible pulled up in front of the house as soon as Izzy and I walked outside, with Max in front of the wheel, Will sitting beside him and Cam in the back, which means that he’s sitting right behind us and we would be leaning back against the seats and would find his leg brushing up against our hair. In other words, we had to keep our distance from his legs throughout the ride, heading to wherever Max decides to drive us to.
We head to the big city this time, seeing that there’s a wider range of options to choose to visit than just in the same little town three out of five of us have been living in for the past half a decade. To be honest, I’m a little bit disappointed that we can’t completely relive the good, old days back in our hometown, but driving home would take up most of the day and give us little time left to spend, so I’ll take this option any day.
Our first stop earlier, since we left at around lunchtime, was just at the local McDonald's, where I could’ve sworn seeing a longing look on Max’s face as soon as his eyes spotted the kids’ playground area. Either he continues to refuse to grow up, or he’s becoming even more nervous about his child that’ll be born in eight more months. God I hope it’s the latter.
After we finished out lunch, Cam leaned over to Max and whispered something to him while the latter nodded, and the creepy look they shared made me suspicious about their intentions, even though they're probably talking about where to go next. In the meantime, Will continued to entertain Izzy with his various mishaps in past relationships, putting her in the spot of matchmaker now as she helps our struggling friend find love, seeing that he's the only one of us who's still single, if Cam wasn't lying straight to my face last night.
When we're done, we head out back to the car and Max just starts to drive without saying where we're heading next, even though Isabelle continues to demand it from him by poking him in the back until he almost loses control of the wheel and of the car. We can thank his excellent driving skills for not crashing us straight into the rocky, mountainous side of the road or collide head-on with any vehicles, before he slows down a bit to give Izzy a glare through the rear-view mirror.
Izzy kept quiet for the rest of the journey.
And now we're here. Standing in what seems to be in the middle of nowhere, already towards the mountainous side of the region where the only people who come here are tourists being fooled into thinking this place is a hiking trail when the real mountains are far from our reach and require more rock-climbing than mere hiking. There's not even a direct pathway out there, and I've heard more than just a few people getting injured trying to climb these cliffs. I'm not one of those fools taking a chance at it, though.
I have to admit, the view's pretty, though. We're surrounded by mostly trees, with autumn-shaded leaves creating a canopy and providing shade for us from several feet above us. Many of them have suffered the effects of the season and weather and can be found in great numbers on the ground, dried into fragile, brown flakes and scattered all over the are beneath our feet. Birds are chirping and other usual nature sounds are there, too, making me remember why I've always said that autumn is my favorite season of all four—mostly the view I get during this time of the year, which is exactly what I'm seeing before my very own eyes right now.
“C’mon.” Cam’s voice breaks me out of my thoughts and I turn to see him waving for us to follow him as he walks off towards one direction, disappearing behind the trees.
Max shrugs and follows, along with Will after the latter gives us a look of hesitation. Like mindless soldiers, Izzy goes as well, which leaves me alone standing beside the car, still perplexed and reluctant, doubting if Cam still retains his sanity for having us drive all the way here, in the middle of nowhere, where some deranged serial killer can just jump out and murder all five of us with no other witnesses and no one to help us at all.
What a great way to start the day off with.
I’m fully aware that this is how most horror movies start off with, too, but getting separated from the others will only make the situation worse so I follow suit, towards the direction the others have gone off to. I’m not that far behind, only a few feet away from Izzy as we walk in a single file line through the one-person dirt pathway leading through the forest. Shivers run down my spine and I instantly regret this decision, but at this point I don’t know where to turn to head back to the car anymore without getting lost in wherever we are right now.
“Where are we going and how far is it again?” Izzy asks with annoyance ringing in her voice. She’s already finished the McFlurry she decided to buy for herself earlier and threw it recklessly to the ground, but it doesn’t seem like anybody goes through here that often to even mind anyway.
“Not too far—a little walk won’t hurt, will it?” Cam teases. “Especially after you pigged out on lunch earlier. Two bags of fries? Really, Izzy? What will Louis think of you now?” He pauses and gives it a second thought. “Actually, I don’t think he’ll mind. Scratch that, he’s too much of a gentleman to care.”
I can imagine Izzy rolling her eyes at the remark. “How the hell did an ass like you become friends with someone like him again?”
Cam laughs lightly. “Music, Isabelle,” he says. “Music brings people from all sorts of places together. It certainly brought him to you, didn’t it?”
And me to you, I almost say out loud, but stop myself at the last minute because that’ll earn much more than the sufficient share of glares I need to become so embarrassed at myself I wish I can dig up a hole right here, crawl inside and bury myself alive.
I can’t help, however, the truth in those little thoughts of mine. Music quite literally drew me towards him, because the song was what sealed the deal, what made me sure that letting myself fall into the dark abyss that is love was worth all the pain that I knew would follow. The way the walls around him came crashing down as soon as he was lost in his music and I could see the real Cameron inside that tough shell he would put up every single day. I fell in love with that Cameron, and I thought I wouldn’t regret my decision.
And again, here we are now.
“I love him more than just his killer songs.” As did I. “He has a great taste at fine dining, too. And fashion—basically, he’s literally the guy every single girl out there wishes they can date, except for Emma because she decided to date you for some damn reason. I’m surprised there isn’t a queue I have to wait in before I get a chance with him.
I try as much as I can not to laugh, not because of the insult she threw at him and a little bit at me which I don’t mind because she does that all the time. It’s because my subconscious mind continues to compare Izzy and Louis with me and Cam. He certainly lacks the fine dining and fashion parts, but those are important values to Isabelle, not me. I didn’t care if he dresses up in an old t-shirt and ripped jeans that he’s been wearing for three days straight. I didn’t care if he took me out on dates to the local diner or take-away Chinese food. I didn’t care if we stayed in an entire night and binge-watched an entire movie series or TV series, or to the nearby skate park and watched him and Max and a couple other dudes from our school try out new tricks and earn a bruise or cut or two at the end of the day, which he actually did, once.
I understand Izzy’s view on the subject, now—about how Cam ends up being friends with a literal gentleman like Louis Castro. The two are basically polar opposites, but are brought together by their love of music. After all, it’s called the universal language for a reason, isn’t it?
“Wow, Izzy.” Cam, still walking ahead of all four of us, looks over his shoulder and shakes his head. “That’s a low blow. Emma, you don’t think I was that bad, do you?”
I stop dead in my tracks, even if it’s just for a brief moment because everyone else will notice the shock jolting right through me because I’m put in the spotlight all of a sudden, with no prior warning.
Screw you, Izzy, for bringing it up in the first place.
“Well, she did leave you for a reason, didn’t she?” Max speaks up in my place, and a pang of hurt shoots through my heart like an arrow. He realizes this and puts his head down. “Okay, that came out wrong. Sorry, I forgot—”
“Nah, you were okay in my book,” I quickly cut off, not wanting the situation to turn out worse than it already is, and to spare Max’s ass by changing the topic. “I hate the fact that you only wash your clothes once a week, though. You could’ve at least helped out with the laundry, or be a little more hygienic for once. God, I hope there’s been progress since I’ve moved out.”
“There was!” His voice raises in defense and he feigns a look of hurt as he turns to me, but for a split second there, his expression looks too real to be faked. “You’ve been there recently—do you see any pieces of clothing lying around the house? You know my mom’s gonna kill me if she knows I’ve been trashing my place day and night and never bother trying to clear all the junk out.”
“Whoa, hold on there,” Will speaks up for once, and glares back and forth at Cam then at me. “Did I hear that right? You were at his place not too long ago?”
The blood rushes to my cheek quicker than I can defend myself. “It’s a long story.”
“One that involves a dark and stormy night and lost little Emma stumbling her way to my place for shelter and I, being the generous man that I am, offered her to stay for the night until the next morning.” He pauses again. “Okay, that came out wrong, too. She slept on the living room couch, by the way, if you assholes were trying to imply anything.”
“And there I thought you have decent manners, Cameron.” Will shakes his head. “You could’ve offered her the bed and you could’ve slept on the couch, but you let this poor woman rest the night on that god-awful couch of yours? The same one that I spilled my coffee on when I came over the other day?”
I hold back the puke rising from my stomach to the throat. Goddammit, Hood.
“Stop complaining; if we hadn’t been reunited on that fateful day, this little outing we’re going on right now won’t be happening at all,” says Cam, glaring at Will but not too intense since he’s joking for the most part.
Actually, when I think about it, there is some truth in his words after all. We would still be pretending we’re strangers right now if I hadn’t reconnected with him that night. He might’ve never invited Izzy and I to the reunion party at Max’s place because we’ve fallen out of touch with the others, especially after going our separate ways after high school and even more so after college. The whole gang would’ve never been reunited if that strange taxi didn’t mess up and insisted that I was at the place where I needed to be, leaving me stranded like a lost puppy right at Cam’s doorstep.
Maybe this is what the taxi driver was talking about. The epic reunion of our five-member gang, almost an entire decade since we first established our friendship at the early days of high school. Or maybe the fact that I’ve returned to my passion for writing stories and getting to do what I really love to do.
Either way, I no longer hold a grudge on that creepy taxi driver anymore. I’m happy now, surrounded by my friends, getting to do the thing I love most, having a boyfriend who loves and supports me just as much as I love him by my side despite everything that has happened, and that’s all any girl can ever ask for.
I look up at the sound of Cam’s voice, just in time to watch him pass through in between two trees right in our path and sunlight bursts through the open gap, almost blinding me with how bright everything is compared to the darkness of the forest we’ve just made our way through. Max raises an arm over his head as he follows as well, then Will then Izzy, until I’m left in the darkness. I hear gasps of awe from the other side of the barrier, and, not wanting to be left out from whatever they’re experiencing right now, I step through and join them.
Before me is a view I’ve never seen before in my life, and didn’t think I’d ever see at any point of my life. Standing at the top of the cliff, the view from up here overlooks the entire town I’ve been living in for the past half a decade, banishing away any previous judgements of what I’ve been assuming was a quaint, little town with lovely townsfolk and excitement only occurring every now and then. Dusk has fallen over the horizon and the street lamps have been turned on, illuminating the town like little fireflies as a faint outline of the moon high up in the sky looks down upon the streets and the buildings. Beyond the town is the city, bustling with life and neon lights as its skyscrapers pierce the sky, and from here it looks like they’re inches away from touching the clouds. It looks like a professionally-taken photograph, or a scene from a high-budget movie if I’ve ever seen one.
“Wow,” is the only thing Max breathes out, his eyes sparkling with amazement. All of ours are, in fact. “This is—”
“Quite the breathtaking view,” Will finishes off. I don’t think even the artwork in the video games he’s played can ever compete to something like this.
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Izzy agrees, her eyes looking like the stars that have started to blink into existence in the skies above us.
I open my mouth to speak, but stop only when I feel an arm circulating around my neck and my shoulder, pulling me against a body I’ve grown familiar with, and I look up to stare Cam straight in his hazel eyes, brimming with joy I’ve never seen before in my life.
“So,” he says, “What do you think? Worth the trouble and the time, isn’t it?”
“Definitely.” I lean my head against his chest without thinking, but finding myself not regretting this decision and stayed there while I continue to enjoy this view—and this moment—while it lasts. It’s not like anybody else is watching right? “This is definitely worth all of it. And for that, I thank you.”
He chuckles and pulls me closer. “I know. I get that a lot.”ns126.96.36.199da2