“A magic taxi brought you to Cam’s place instead of home?”
Skeptical, Izzy crosses her arms and glares at me like I’m insane. In fact, I very well may be just that.
“That’s true, yes,” I say as I sit crossed-leg on top of the living room sofa, already changed into a t-shirt and a pair of comfortable shorts. I’ve already taken a bath, which was the first thing I did as soon as I got here other than be tackled to the ground with a fatal hug from Izzy herself. Once I was done, she demanded that I tell her everything that happened yesterday and earlier this morning, so I did. Over some pizza and pasta for dinner on top of that, too.
And here we are now, with one of the DIY cushions she makes in her spare time on top of my lap while she clicks away on the desktop computer right beside the TV set. Since it’s unfortunately the only PC we both own and share here, I distract myself by turning on the TV and trying to keep up with the latest news. Who knows—maybe someone puts an ad for a job opening in between these television commercials.
“I think I’ve actually heard some people broadcasting about, like, similar experiences through social media and whatnot,” she says without tearing her eyes away from the monitor screen. “Oh—here it is! Okay, according to this article from this very-reliable website—” she shakes her head but continues anyway, “—it says that there’s an urban legend around the area about a taxicab that pretty much matches your description of the one you encountered last night… and apparently, it’s a good thing that you get to encounter it in the first place at all.”
I scrunch my face, refusing to believe what I just heard her say. “What? You’re kidding, right? How the hell is being dropped off at my ex’s place a good thing for me? What if Andrew finds out and thinks I’m cheating on him? And I got fired from my job this morning, too.”
“Well, I think the ‘fired’ part is all completely your fault, but sure, blame it on something else that’s innocent,” she says, rolling her eyes which I ignore. “Anyway, it says here that this particular taxicab doesn’t necessarily take you where you want to go. Instead, it takes you where you need to go.”
I frown and ponder it over. Where you need to go? It still doesn’t make sense; why would I ever need to go to Cam’s house? And how the hell would the taxi driver even know where the passenger needs to go in the first place?
There’s some strange, unexplained magic, possibly some voodoo shit happening around here, if any of that exists at all. Maybe it’s just the crippling depression of having no purpose in live slowly devolving into delusion, or maybe it’s just my roommate being a jerk and messing with my head.
“You’re joking.” I turn to glare at her and see the hint of amusement on her face, though I’m not sure if she just found this situation amusing or she was pranking me with the whole ‘where you need to go’ bullshit. “Right?”
“No, I’m not,” she says, shaking her head. “I seriously am not. You can come over here and look at it yourself, if you want to.”
Still disbelieving her claims, I stand up and make my way over to where she’s sitting, peering over her shoulder to scan the page the monitor is showing. It looks like a legitimate article from a legitimate news website. There’re some sort of ‘testimonials’ from people who have experienced the same thing I did; they claim that the driver took them to the wrong places, and yet somehow, their lives ended up a lot better after the incident. Unfortunately, the Facebook comment thread below the article are filled with skeptics such as myself, and more than just a few of them are calling the writer of the article out for the bullshit.
“This can’t be real,” I insist, returning to where I was sitting on the couch. “Why would I need to be at Cam’s place last night? If anything, I needed to be here, back home, where it’s safe and sound and nothing crazy would’ve happened.”
“Well, nothing too crazy happened there last night either, right? Maybe what the driver’s trying to tell you is that you needed to meet him last night.”
I frown. “Who? Cam?”
“Yeah,” she replies, shrugging nonchalantly. “Maybe you two just needed to reinstate your friendship again—note, I said ‘friendship’ and not ‘relationship.’ Hey, maybe he can even help find you a job—who knows, right? It said that the taxi takes you where you need to be, and we may not even know what you truly need right now.”
“Or what I needed last night.”
She cocks an eyebrow and returns my questioning glare. “What? For a place to stay the night in? It can’t be just that—there has to be something more than serving as a temporary motel for you last night.”
“I hope there isn’t anything more,” I mutter, all of a sudden feeling drained and exhausted despite waking up late today. “I know I promised to meet up with him someday, but god I hope that day never comes. I mean, he’s a great guy and everything, but you know why we broke up. You were there.”
There’s an eerie silence that fills the room, until the static-like voice of the news reporter on TV breaks it and fills the empty gap between us. It wasn’t like one of those nasty celebrity breakups that are so dramatic that it spawns about a million theory discussion videos on YouTube and a thousand headlines in magazines and such—ours was initially a legitimate and mutual agreement, something we both agreed upon because we were both just too different and we were heading towards different directions, those of which did not include one another.
But the aftermath was what hit me the hardest; it was when the aforementioned crippling depression started to kick in, and I found myself longing to have someone by my side again the way Cam did.
Then Izzy invited me to a bar where I met Andrew Hurst, a young man who had just inherited his father’s company and appointed as the new CEO, but above all he is also a man with ambition and responsibility, things that were lacking in Cam and those that I admire in Drew. Although he doesn’t take me out to crazy parties and make me feel as young and energetic as I used to anymore, the stability of our relationship is what I really need right now, because at least we’re not constantly on each other’s throats whenever something goes wrong and an argument sparks up.
So why in the world, again, did I need to see Cam again after two long years of not speaking to him?
“But you two were such a great couple,” she says with a hint of sadness in her voice. “He brings out a side of you that nobody else has seen, not even me if it wasn’t his doing. Not even Drew, I don’t think.” She pauses for a brief moment, then adds, “What if the reason why you needed to see him is so that he can remind you of what you two had when you were together? What if the reason why is because it turns out that Drew isn’t the one and Cam is?”
I roll my eyes. Of course it will come down to this conclusion. Isabelle hasn’t been such a big fan of Drew ever since I started seeing him; she shoots death glares at him whenever he comes to pick me up for date nights and whatnot, and I can’t leave the two of them alone in one room for just a minute without Izzy staring him down like an overprotective mother-slash-father who reluctantly allows her daughter to date this guy. She says it’s because the typical romance story that involves hot-shot CEOs with dashing good looks always turn sour, mostly because of distrust that comes in one package with the good looks and the almost-perfect personality, because nothing in this world is perfect.
And I do admit, our relationship hasn’t been that perfect either. Any normal couple would have arguments and yet so far, we seem to have none. It can be because there’s a good dynamic going on, but it can also be because we don’t get to see each other that often with him travelling from place to place to seal business deals so we usually don’t want to argue the few times we get to see each other within one month. I’m just afraid it may be because we just don’t care enough to even argue with each other to begin with.
I hope not. With everything happening lately, I don’t think I’ll be able to take it anymore if it does turn out as one of those ‘too good to be true’ situations.
“It’s not gonna be Cam,” I say with persistence, refusing to believe that somehow, in some alternate world, Cam and I might end up together again. “We’re polar opposites, Izzy. We want different things, and those different things don’t include each other anymore. It’s better that we’re apart. And I know you don’t like Drew very much, but he’s what I need right now.”
I glance at the clock and realize the time. “And that means that some good night sleep on my own, comfortable bed is what I really need right now if I want to wake up on time tomorrow so I can pick him up from the airport.”
I stand up and grab the mug formerly filled with hot chocolate that I made earlier, then head towards the kitchen area to wash the last of the dishes for today. I hear her footsteps as she leaves the living area as well, walking towards the stairs that leads to the second floor where our separate bedrooms are.
“Doesn’t he have his own assistant to pick him up? Or maybe executive managers or something, seeing that he’s some big business guy and all that? He has his own bodyguard and driver, for fuck’s sake. Why must you be the one to pick him up?”
“Because,” I say as I put the dishes on the rack to dry and follow her up the stairs, “I’m a good girlfriend and that’s what good girlfriends do. Maybe you should try getting a boyfriend of your own and then you’ll know what it feels like to know that someone else will be picking up your boyfriend from the airport and not you.”
“Ouch.” She rolls her eyes. “I’m just waiting for the right guy, ya know? I don’t want some boring old business dude, and I don’t care if he’s rich or not—not that you care about it, too, but you get what I mean. I know I can do better.” She stops then looks at me almost sadly. “I know you can to, Em. But that’s completely up to you.”
“What does that suppose to mean?”
“Oh, nothing,” she says, finally reaching the top of the staircase where we part ways to head towards the respective directions of our personal bedrooms. “Night, Em. See ya tomorrow, probably tomorrow noon!”
“I’ll buy the coffee,” I add, winking at the end before we both disappear into our rooms and rest for the night.
Again, I still can’t sleep right away. Even after an hour since I lie down on my bed for a good night’s rest, I can’t help but think about the so-called ‘urban legend’ Izzy told me about earlier. What did it mean that it took me to where I needed to be? How can Cam possibly be the ‘thing’ that I need right now, at a time like this?
After the third ring, she finally picks up her phone.
“Emily Torres here. Who is this and how may I help you?”
“Mrs. Torres! Hi! It’s Emma—Emma Patterson.” I lift my head up from my hand and feel the energy bringing me back to life again. “I called to talk to you about your book… ‘The Future of the Past’?”
“Oh, yes, Emma!” Her bright and joyful voice almost seems ironic to the situation, which only makes it more difficult for me to break the news to her. “I was gonna call you yesterday but I got caught up in some family business, then my husband pulls me away to help him pack up some stuff since, you know, I’m moving to a place that’s a lot closer to where he works and all that. Then my sister called to help her pick out her wedding dress—she’s getting married next week, you know—and by the time I got home, I was just so exhausted it completely slipped my mind that I had been wanting to call you the entire day.” She pauses, inhales sharply then sighs. “Anyway, any good news?”
I bite down on my lip and hesitate for a moment. Her excitable personality has slipped my mind earlier when I planned this whole thing out about how I’m going to break the news to her, which means that destroying her mood for the rest of the day will only make me feel even worse about myself and reminds me of how much of a terrible person I am.
“Well, it’s news, but it’s not good,” I say, all the while mentally preparing myself for the worst. “Basically what happened is that, when I tried to promote the idea in the meeting with the publisher, it… well, basically it got rejected. I tried to tell him it was worth the effort and time, and I know this isn’t your problem but… it kinda got me fired?”
I have no idea why I made my last statement sound more like a question, but thank the heavens that I’m telling her this through the phone than face-to-face because I can’t possibly imagine how she’ll react after this.
“Oh,” she murmurs at first, sounding lost. “Well, I, uh… I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m really sorry, Mrs. Torres. I know you had high hopes for this one and I know you put a lot of effort into it, but the publisher, he’s just—”
“No, no! That’s fine! It’s okay,” she suddenly exclaims, cutting me off when I least expect it. I frown as she continues, “I’ve sent the manuscript to a couple of other publishers as well—I know your boss isn’t very… um, how do you say it… open-minded when it comes to fantasy and out-of-this-world aspects in stories. So, I figured I should send it to other publishers as a backup plan, even though I was hoping I can get approved in Pendleton. What I’m really worried about right now is your job. Like, are you okay? Do you have any other jobs aside from this? Maybe, uh, a part-time job or something? Another income source? I know because it’s pretty difficult to get a job around here these days, and the mayor should really look into that, too…”
“No, no, I’m fine,” I say with a persistent voice, determined not to bother anyone with my own personal problems. I regret having said that to her in the first place now, but it’s not like I can take back what I said. “I’ve, uh, been saving some money just in case—I should be good for at least a few months, so hopefully I will have found a new job by then. Just don’t worry about me, Mrs. Torres, and I do hope you’ll find success in that novel of yours.”
“Oh, just call me Emily—I’m only, like, five or six years older than you? And calling me ‘Mrs. Torres’ makes me feel a lot older than I actually am. I still use my maiden name sometimes, too, like around friends who don’t know I’m married already. It’s not that I’m still making myself available or anything, it’s just… I don’t want people to know me as my husband’s wife—I want them to know me as, well, me, you know? Don’t get me wrong, though, the marriage life is pretty sweet… Have you thought about settling down, Emma?”
“What? Me?” I’m taken aback by the sudden topic change, still confused why this woman can be so talkative at a time like this but somehow I don’t feel as bothered as I should be. Maybe what I need right now is someone to talk to. Anyone to talk to. “I… have a boyfriend. We’ve been dating for almost two years now. He’s coming home today, actually.”
“Oh? Is he a foreigner?”
“No, no, it’s just his job,” I say, realizing all too late that my voice has gone distant, and the more I say it, the less excited I become to meet him again. “I don’t think we’re getting married anytime soon, though. I don’t even know if I’m ready for that sort of commitment yet.”
“Yeah, that’s okay. Marriage is a real big step. Don’t fall right into it until you really know you want it.” She chuckles for a bit, sort of reminding me of the way my mom laughs if she and I were having the same conversation, and that reminds me to perhaps plan a visit to my old childhood home where she still lives with her two dogs—it’s been a while since I’ve gone there, and maybe that’ll help clear my mind for a bit.
“Anyway,” she continues, “I’ve gotta go. Still have some more packing up to do, but I do hope for the best for you, Emma. You’re a skilled and talented woman—I don’t think you’ll have too much of a problem in finding a new job at all if you try hard enough. Hey, maybe you’ll stick around in this writing-publishing industry so we can still keep in contact, all right?”
“Will do, Mrs—I mean, Emily.” It feels weird calling a client by their first name, even if they’re a former client. It’s almost like we’ve become friends now after sharing a bit too much about personal information. “Best of luck for your novel, too!”
“Oh, thank you! Have a great day!”
“You too,” I murmur in a voice that’s almost too faint as I end the call, and the pit of my stomach starts to feel uneasy knowing that today may not be such a great day—I can’t even remember when was the last time I had a great day.
Glancing at the clock, I realize what time it is and decide to head out now if I still want to make it to the airport on time. Already having taken a shower, I only need to change my clothes to more proper ones for travelling around town and for today’s weather, which I’ve already seen from the TV forecast today that there’s a high chance of rain again accompanied by strong winds. I put on a maroon turtleneck and a pair of dark brown trousers, along with a maroon beanie over my dirty blonde hair that’s wilder than an untamed animal, and as I grab the keys and head for the door, I grab my coat as well and put it on before unlocking the door and stepping outside.
I take the bus again this time, only because I’ve started to grow a paranoid fear that I may encounter the same weird taxi the other night for the second time, even though it’s unlikely. I still have yet to figure out what I would’ve needed that night—other than a place to stay over at—if the whole ‘urban legend’ thing is even true at all. I don’t want to test that theory, though, and when the bus finally comes, I step inside and sit down until I reach my next stop.
Starbucks is as busy as always, of course. No matter how small the population of this town is, it’s one of the two shops they open here so it’s always crowded with people. I think half the town has watched or read the weather forecast as well, though, so it’s not as packed as I anticipated, though there’s still quite a long line to the cashier. The barista recognizes me as one of their regulars and wastes no time in taking my order, which has always been the same ever since Izzy and I started binge-drinking coffee for when we need to do some extra late-night work for our respective projects; hers being a cinnamon dolce latte and mine a latte macchiato or a single-shot espresso when I need an extra kicker.
And when I move to get the beverages I ordered, I suddenly heard my name being called from no more than ten feet away.
I turn around and see him again, waving at me with the same bright smile on his face that I woke up to yesterday morning that almost makes my heart melt.
Against my own will, my feet are suddenly compelled to walk over to him while the rest of me is still overwhelmed in disbelief.
“Cam?” I call back, questioning his presence and my sanity of whether or not he’s actually here. “What are you doing here?”
He looks at me bewildered, then glances around the room. “Um, it’s a public coffee shop? Is it a crime for me to be here?”
He dresses much smarter than I expected him to be; a light blue button-down shirt, dark jeans, white sneakers, a long brown coat and a red scarf around his neck, an outfit I would’ve never thought I’d see him in when we were still together. Maybe he has changed, after all.
He then stares down at me from top to bottom as well, then eyes the empty chair opposite to him, gesturing for me to sit. “It’s not taken, and if you’ve got some time to spare, I’d be more than happy to get a chance to talk again. You know, catch up a little bit? We haven’t really spoken about much two days ago, you know.”
I shrug, but with cautious steps, I move to sit down anyway. “What is there that needs to know? Nothing much has changed; I’m still living with Izzy, I was still working as an editor for the same publishing house I’ve worked in since before we split until two days ago…”
“What about your love life?” he questions all of a sudden, immediately causing me to sit up straight as I go into full caution mode. “The next lucky man who gets a chance at having you as his girlfriend, and maybe even have you as his future wife some day? Remember—we were friends before we started dating, and I don’t see any harm done in inviting me to your wedding, all right? I still wanna see one of my closest pals get their ‘happily ever after,’ even if it’s with someone else. Though, it’s all still entirely up to you—I don’t mind if I don’t get invited, but at least tell me when you do decide to settle down.”
“Whoa, whoa, hold your horses, buddy.” I can’t help but giggle a bit at his ramblings—he tends to do that whenever we talk, initially as nervous nonsense when we’re just starting to get to know each other and later evolving to deep and meaningful conversations that would leave me wanting for more. That magic’s all over now, though, but the slight anxiety is still there. “I’ll think about it for now, but I’m not even sure when’s the damn thing is going to be, so I can’t say that just for sure. But I do think that this might actually be the one.”
My mental self is cringing on the inside right now. Why the hell are people asking me about my romantic relationships today? In fact, why are people being so nosy all of a sudden, including my ex-boyfriend and a former potential client for my former job?
I notice the tinge of sorrow in his eyes before he blinks them away, making them disappear as soon as I saw it as if denying it altogether. “Then I’m happy for you,” he says with a genuine voice and adds a genuine smile. “To be honest, I don’t even care if your happy ending’s not with me, but at least you get one, and that’s what matters to me most.” He looks down on his cup of coffee, takes a sip then straightens his posture. “Anyway, what about the job thing again? Have you contacted your former boss or anything? Maybe try to reason with him—I mean, it’s a shitty place to be, but at least it’s something.”
“No, and I’d rather not,” I say, frowning as the spite and animosity I hold for the dick who fired me and kicked me permanently out of the publishing industry resurfaces in me again. “I’ll find somewhere else, something else to work with. Maybe start freelancing or something like that. Izzy does that kind of stuff, too, and it’s been working for her, so why not?”
“That’s the spirit!” He grins and looks as if he’s about to give me a pat in the back or something before making himself comfortable again in his seat. “I’m sure you’ll do great. Although, I was actually trying to refer to a certain something you’ve been holding off for quite a few years now. Seeing how you’ll have a lot more free time from now on, maybe this is the time for you to finally follow through with that dream of yours—you know, the one where you enter the bookstore and get to see your name printed in bold on the cover of a recently-released bestselling novel of your own?”
I almost drop the coffee carrier as soon as I hear him say this. I definitely did not see this coming, but knowing how Cam is one of the few people who knows me even better than I know myself, I realize that I should’ve, despite having buried that dream years ago. Then again, he was just referring to it two days ago when we last met…
But before I can answer to his suggestion, my phone starts ringing again and I pick it up, expecting Isabelle’s annoyed voice at the lack of coffee on the dining table. But instead, a familiar voice speaks through the phone, and though I’ve missed this voice so much for the past few days, this has got to be one of the worst timings possible for him to call me.
“Hey, babe,” Andrew’s voice surprises me and again, I nearly drop the coffee carrier if I hadn’t placed it on the table first. “The plane has just landed and I know I shouldn’t be calling you already, but I’ve just missed you so much and can’t wait another minute to hear your voice.” He stops when another, deeper but more static-like voice appears from the other side of the line, which I assume to be the pilot’s voice speaking over the intercom. “I still have to grab my luggage and everything, but you’re already on your way here, right?”
“Hmm? Oh—oh, yeah, of course!” I laugh but hope he can’t tell the nervousness behind my voice. I catch a glimpse of Cam’s distraught expression just before it disappears as well, causing the laughter to die out instantaneously. “I’ve, uh, gotten stuck in some traffic here, but I assure you I’ll be there in no time!”
“Great!” He pauses again, then I hear some shuffling before his voice comes back. “I’ll meet you at the arrival gates, all right? See you there!”
“Bye,” I say, my voice becoming faint before I end the call and turn back to Cam, whose joy has already drained out of him leaving nothing but a small but pretentious smile.
“It’s your boyfriend, huh?” I nod and he sighs. “Guess you gotta go now. Bet you don’t wanna get caught chatting with your ex at Starbucks, huh?”
“Look, Cam, I—”
“No, no, it’s okay.” Abruptly, he stands up and brushes off his clothes, taking a messenger’s bag slung on the chair he’s sitting on and pulling the strap around him. “I’ve gotta go myself, anyway. Got some work to do—and yes, I have a job of my own now, even though it’s freelance and you’ve said so yourself that freelance still counts. Oh, that reminds me—does Izzy have a job or event booked lately? Because I’ll be attending this event next weekend and the management guys have yet hired a photographer for the event. Maybe she might be interested in taking the gig up?”
“I’ll ask her when I get home,” I assure, nodding with hesitance as I hop of my bar stool and start heading for the exit while he walks beside me. “What kind of event will this be, might I ask?”
“It’s like a music festival sort of thing.” He shrugs then chuckles nervously. “Oh, hey, and if you’re interested in attending the event yourself, I’ve got a couple extra VIP tickets if you want ‘em. Maybe as a date for you and your special someone—I promise not to interfere, especially since I’ll be busy throughout the entire night that I doubt I’ll ever even meet you guys there, if you do choose to come, that is.”
“A music festival, huh?” I haven’t been out much, I realize, because I didn’t even know there’s an event like that in the next coming week, or any other festivities in the town because I’ve been so caught up in work. I’m sort of finding myself glad that I was fired from my job, because now I’ve realized that I haven’t been spending much time for myself and this is finally the chance for me to do just that. “That sounds quite interesting. I’ll go ask Drew first, but I’ll call you if he says yes.”
“Okay, that’s great, then.” We exit the tiny building located at the edge of a fork in the main road, exposing ourselves back to the chilly autumn air and the moderately industrious surroundings of the town. The only beautiful aspect of the scenery before us is the dried leaves colored in the shades of red, orange and yellow floating down from the trees they originate from, starting to create tiny heaps and piles of dead leaves that will soon be small hills for children of all ages to have fun in. “See you… whenever I see you, I guess.”
Maybe I should go to the festival. Maybe I should meet him again. Maybe that crazy magic taxicab was right after all.ns 220.127.116.11da2