I wasn’t entirely sure whether this was a good idea or not but Naomi said it could be fun to make. We’ll basically be playing ourselves but adding something more to it to make things interesting. This is just the intro, but I hope I can get the next video done by next week. Please like and subscribe to our channel. Your support is very much appreciated. =)
Early Monday morning, two moving trucks parked outside of the apartments below. I watched from the balcony as Naomi and Moira directed the movers to their new place. So they were the ones renting the space underneath my rooftop.
A red Hummer parked just behind the second truck and soon after Ashley stepped out from the passenger’s side. She was welcomed by our landlord with the lease on his hand.
A very handsome Asian man got off from the driver’s side and soon approached Ashley, wrapping an arm around her waist. It was Jessie Kanzaki, her fiance. After a few moments of chitchatting, our landlord led the couple to the apartment next door. I guess we’re going to be neighbors.
Movers began unloading their trucks and bringing in the furniture to the houses, and I stood there admiring each expensive-looking piece. It must be nice to be rich and buy all those things. I began to miss the city again. Have I not given up, I might have actually been starting the life I want. But instead, I nestled my chin in my hand and brood in envy.
“Sae!” I heard someone call below, and my gaze followed the source.
Naomi looked up from the street smiling widely and waving. A corner of my lips curled up.
“Come down!” she called.
The only way to my rooftop was this tall spiral staircase that rose two floors from the ground. I made my way down, trying not to feel nauseated by the repetitive circular motion. When I finally reached ground and walked out into the street, Naomi approached me with a hug.
“How about this, you and me neighbors again,” she said.
“Yeah, this is gonna be great,” I said. I tried my best to sound convincing but my tone seemed awkward. I really like Naomi but having them living so close kind of puts more pressure on the whole project proposal thing. I haven’t really given them an answer ’cause I’m still unsure of the whole deal. But I’m hoping they don’t ask me about it yet.
Moira was looking down from their second floor balcony. She gave me a tiny wave and I smiled.
“Oh! I almost forgot,” said Naomi. She pulled out a folded envelope from her pocket and handed it to me. “Your roommate wanted me to give you this.”
I looked at the note on the back of it:
Don’t think I forgot our deal.
Deal? What deal? I tore the envelope open and pulled out a card with a sticky note attached to it:
Just because we’re no longer roommates doesn’t give you an excuse to say no. You’re very lucky that the flood only got to the first floor. They hold lessons on the second floor.
Lessons? I peeled the note off and my eyes widened. On the card in big bold letters:
YOU HAVE BEEN ADMITTED TO M.A.D. HIP HOP WORKSHOP.
I remember now. Back when Lee first moved in to Sweet Homes, I told Catalina that I would try to go to the dance school they’ve been rehearsing in. But hip hop? I can’t dance hip hop!
“There’s another note on the back,” said Naomi. “I’m gonna help Moira unpack our stuff, I’ll see you later?”
I nodded without looking up. I was too overwhelmed with disbelief. At the back of the card read:
1 week lesson cost a grand. Only the best for my Dolly.
For a moment I thought I had lost my ability to speak. Why would Catalina spend so much for lessons that’s way impossible for me to learn? I ran back to my roof. When I reached the top of the stairs my legs were shaky and my blood was warmed up—a good reason why I can’t take this class.
My phone sat on my bed being charged. I unplugged it and immediately searched for Catalina’s number, then pressed call. It rang, and rang, and rang, until it stopped ringing.
But there was nothing on the other line, just dead air. It didn’t even go to voice mail. My jaw clenched feeling slightly cheated. This was part of her plan. She made sure that I would take the class.
I slumped on my bed defeated. I kept repeating to myself that everything was fine, and this is nothing. It’s just a couple of dance classes. It can’t be that bad. But I was having a hard time believing it. Besides, how the heck am I supposed to look for a job now when I’m busy taking these lessons?
I looked at the card again in my hand and saw that workshop hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. I guess I have no choice now. Tomorrow, I learn hip hop.
I have to apologize. I haven’t been showing my dedication to this blog for the past couple of weeks. But in my defense I have a very good reason.
A few days after I was presented a very appealing project proposal by Naomi Wright and her friends, disaster struck Alcove Heights. The town was practically demolished by a hurricane. And since the area we lived in was close to water and the mountain…well let’s just say the lower apartments of Sweet Homes, including mine, were now housing fishes instead of people.
We had to move in with the tenants upstairs. There was no electricity, no internet or phone service, and we had limited supply of food. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was having to move in with Jill and Nery, who I was very sure weren’t as thrilled about the arrangement as I was. After the whole incident with Lee in the photo booth, they’ve been throwing me dagger glares, like I stole something from them.
For the first time, I was glad Catalina was under the same roof as me. She always made sure that everyone kept cool and that our entire stay there was cat fight free.
Lee was lucky not to be in town at the time. Some of his buddies, including our landlord, took his stuff to one of the apartments upstairs when the water level on the street started to rise. He had a gig in the city that required him to stay there for a month.
I was really looking forward to spending more time with him, you know, go on a real date. But I guess that’s not gonna happen. Even if it did, I’m not sure if I’m okay with him traveling a lot, if he ever gets a tour contract. And with the lines being dead and having no way to charge my cellphone to keep in touch, I’m not really sure what to make out of what we actually have—if there’s anything there that could lead to romance.
Anyway, after surviving Jill, Nery, and the hurricane, my apartment was practically unlivable. I had my furniture stored along with Lee’s stuff, but I had no idea where to go from there. Our landlord said it might take a while to get the units fixed and the upstairs units were full.
Catalina decided to stay with her daughter until our place was restored. But she lives in a small space so she couldn’t really invite me to stay with her. It was then that Naomi, Moira, Ashley and her fiance Jessie came over. Their apartments next door were pretty trashed. They didn’t have enough time to move the downstairs furniture up, so they lost a lot of stuff to the flood.
Our landlord suggested that we look at apartments uptown. He said he has a cousin there who owns a few apartment houses that might be suitable for us. But I was practically broke and uptown is where the upper class residential lots are. There was no way I could afford a place there. But my landlord insisted that I try calling his cousin anyway, and said something about cheap rooftop houses that might fit my budget. So I did.
Lucky for me, he had one rooftop apartment available. It wasn’t much, and it was extremely smaller than my previous apartment, but I can’t really complain. It was one of those studio type places that takes you one step to get from the bedroom to the kitchen. At least it had a tub. And it being on the a rooftop of a two-story apartment house isn’t so bad. Being located uptown has its perks. For one, I had this beautiful view of the small mountains on our backyard, that had a narrow river and a man-made rock waterfall. There’s also a hot spring bath available for all the tenants to use, and a really large swimming pool. Plus the best part is, I get to enjoy all of that for only $400 a week—which I know is still a lot for the small space, but I think with the extra stuff available for me it’s pretty reasonable.
I haven’t had the chance to take a picture. I still have some boxes I need to unpack, but once I’m settled in I’ll definitely show you how awesome this place is. It’s like a mini paradise. For now I leave you with this photo for my next post.
I saw Naomi getting off a cab in front of The Oriental restaurant along with two girls. I recognized them immediately from the photos she e-mailed me. When she saw me coming from the parking lot, she gave me a quick wave and a cheek-to-cheek welcome.
“It’s so good to finally meet you,” Naomi said. She turned to the two girls behind her. “I want you to meet my friends.” She gestured to the girl with dark short hair and dark skin. “This is Moira Rider, she’s also my roommate.” Then she gestured to the pale Asian girl with long jet black hair. “And this is Aoi Erizawa, my next door neighbor.”
“Hi, nice to meet you,” I said giving the two girls a handshake.
“You can call me Ashley,” said Aoi. “It’s my American name, and people usually have a hard time pronouncing my real one.”
“Okay, Ashley,” I responded with a smile.
“Let’s go in,” said Naomi locking her arms around mine.
The Oriental was different from what I expected. I was hoping for a more Eastern interior but everything seemed modernized, and not in a good way. The bright red wall paint made me feel uncomfortable, almost irritated. Contrasting it were blue and yellow stripes on the white columns in the corners of the wall, that made me feel like I’m in my parents’ era. Even so, people say that they serve the best lobster dishes in town and Naomi agreed to try it out.
We got a table by the window. Despite being so popular, the restaurant was nearly empty. It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be too. It could only accommodate about 20 people, but it seems that no one needs reservations if they were planning on dining here.
I slid on the seat next to Ashley and as soon as I did, the conversation began.
“Hey Sae,” said Naomi. “Remember the guy you said you’ve seen in commercials next to Ashley in the photo collage?”
I nodded. The waitress came with the menus and distributed them to us.
“Well, his name is Jessie Kanzaki,” Naomi went on. “He’s slowly breaking into showbiz, and he’s gonna be guest starring in a crime series. And he’s…”
“He’s my fiancé,” Ashley added, bringing up her hand and showing me her huge engagement ring.
I gasped and covered my mouth. The ring was silver, with small diamonds on its double band, centered with an intricate diamond studded snowflake. It was truly gorgeous.
“That’s one of the most beautiful rings I’ve ever seen,” I told Ashley. “Congratulations. You are so lucky.”
“That’s what I told her when I saw it,” said Moira. “You should tell Sae how Jessie proposed, she’ll love it.”
The waitress came back before Naomi could add anything. “Are you ready to order?”
“Um…sure,” said Ashley. “Do we all agree to their famous lobster dish?”
We all nodded.
“I’ve been actually looking forward to eating here,” said Moira. “I love seafood.”
“Me too,” I told her. “So what kind of work do you guys have?”
“I’m CEO of a small publishing company, Polaris Publishing?” said Naomi. “Moira is VP.”
My eyes widened. Most of my favorite books were published by them. I was an unemployed amateur blogger, sitting with corporate big shots. What they want with me I’m not really sure, but at that moment I was feeling pretty intimidated.
Naomi instantly noticed my reaction. “I don’t mean to freak you out. Polaris was built by my grandfather and I’m still new to the whole thing so… I don’t have a full grip on the CEO thing.”
“Sure,” I said. “I’m just confused why you’re so interested in my blog. I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of talented bloggers and writers out there. I’m just doing it because I have so much free time at the moment.”
“Well, we didn’t come here on behalf of Polaris,” Moira explained. “We came here as fans and Naomi and I have always wanted to do a project separate from the company.”
I bit my lip and furrowed my brows. “I don’t get it, why did you come to me for this? I’m sure you guys could start your project without my help. I’m not even sure what I can contribute.”
“It’s not just you who will be in on it,” said Ashley. “We’ll be working with a lot of people in Alcove for this project. Naomi already asked me to help and we agree that your blog is the best place to share it. You have a good amount of readers from different places and you’re very likeable from your stories.”
Moira and Naomi nodded.
I was still unconvinced whether working with them was a good idea. I still need to look for a job and if I’m too busy doing this project with them how will that help my employment?
“We’ll give you some time to think about it,” said Naomi. “But let me explain what you’ll be getting in with us.”
I gave her a quick nod. The waitress came back with a pitcher of ice cold water and the moment she filled up my glass, I took a huge gulp, but my mouth was still a little dry.
“So Moira and I were talking one night about how Alcove has a lot of great places and interesting people that have hidden stories waiting to be written,” Naomi began. “Some of these stories are truly inspiring, but let’s face it, real life is boring.”
“We want to put a twist to it,” Moira continued. “We want to create stories based on their lives but with something extra.”
I wasn’t sure if I had full grasp on what they’re saying. “How do you guys intend to do that?” I asked.
“We put another theme to it,” Naomi replied. “Readers nowadays don’t read stories about things that are closer to reality. The farther they are from it, the better.”
“We came up with the first theme,” said Moira. She took an envelope from her purse and handed it to me.
Inside was a sketch of people in costumes. “Midnight Circus?” I said reading the title below it.
Naomi nodded. “It will be about someone in Alcove, but we change the setting and add more to the plot. We make it as close to their life story as much as possible but add that theme to make it more interesting.”
“And you guys think that people would enjoy reading it?” I said.
Naomi and Moira looked at each other and then back at me. “We’re not sure yet,” said Moira. “But I think it’s an idea worth trying. It might gather people’s interest, who knows?”
I raised my brows. “Then if people don’t like it, I might risk losing my readers.”
“That’s where Jessie comes in,” said Ashley. “I know he’s still new to show business, but he already has several loyal fans who would be happy to support us. He’ll be participating in the project too as much as he can.”
“And we know you have some problems looking for work,” Moira added. “If you sign up with us for Midnight Circus, you’ll be compensated well.” She handed me another envelope. Inside was a cheque for $10,000.
Just then, the waitress arrived at our table with our order. The lobster smelled heavenly with herbs, butter and lemon still sizzling inside the stuffed shell. With my stomach grumbling and the scent of the food, I couldn’t really concentrate on our conversation.
“Think about it,” Naomi said before we started digging in.
We were all quiet for some time, as we tried to satisfy the hunger that I didn’t seem to feel earlier that night. But even with the delicious meal that I happily introduce to my palette, my mind was on Naomi’s proposal. The money would sure help me out with my financial problem, but I’m still not entirely sure of what this all was. No matter how much they explain it, I couldn’t really see why of all people with blogs in cyberspace, they wanted Gossip Sae. But then there was another thing that I wanted to know.
“Whose life are we adapting to Midnight Circus?” I asked Naomi.
She gave me smile before she said. “Yours.”
Naomi surprised me one day with a list of “interesting” people she knows. She sent a photo collage through email with the message, “Can you guess who they are?” I scanned the photo, knowing some of them are my neighbors, but there were several people who really caught my attention. (Click on the images for a larger view)
I’ve named those people I know below, including myself. I don’t really know most of them but I’m guessing Naomi will e-mail me again to educate me.
Here’s one with Nery’s photo since they wouldn’t fit with the collage above.
Naomi sure knows a lot of people, including Mayor Lanchester (the red-head man above with the beard and mustache).
The walls of the C.O. Nightclub vibrated from the loud dance music played by the DJ. Crowds lined up outside, awaiting their turn to get in for tonight’s show. I took my place at the end of the line and made a brief assessment of the energetic atmosphere. I never had problems being around dozens of people before but at that moment I wished I wasn’t alone.
I would have invited Conrad to come along, but I still haven’t figured out whether that tiny memory of a kiss we shared was real or not. I wouldn’t really know how to deal with it if it were because I’m not entirely sure of my feelings for him.
Catalina already left this morning for a last minute rehearsal. I’ll finally get to watch her dance. I’m still unconvinced that she’s a backup dancer for a hip hop crew. I just can’t picture an old lady break dancing without breaking something.
Lee stopped by my apartment before heading to C.O. just to make sure I was going. He had to go to rehearsals too before the show started. But it was good that he stopped by. After my extreme partying with Conrad, I’ve completely forgotten about his invitation.
I was nearing the entrance when I noticed that the line behind me was getting much longer than earlier. I’ve never been in shows like these so I wasn’t expecting there would be this much people. C.O. usually had only two Bouncers but tonight, the place was crawling with security personnel.
“Tickets?” said a brawny bald man who instantly reminded me of Mr. Clean.
I pulled the envelope from my pocket and handed the VIP ticket to the man. His hands were a couple of sizes bigger than mine that my two fingers would make up his thumb.
He studied the ticket for a few seconds before pulling a clipboard from under his armpit. He scanned a list of names, looking in between my ticket and the paper. “Ms. Sae Jung, Mr. Kim has reserved a table for you,” he finally said. “Show this ticket to one of our hosts inside and she’ll direct you to the table.”
I gave him a quick nod and a tiny smile before heading inside. Tall silhouettes stood by the doorway the moment I stepped in. It was darker than usual with only strobe lights illuminating the dance floor. The air was thicker and hinted a smell of cigarettes. C.O. seemed different from the first time I was here.
The DJ was pumping up the crowd on his microphone while scratching some records when a lady approached me.
“Ms. Jung?” she asked over the loud music.
I nodded. “Yes?”
“Mr. Kim is waiting for you,” she said.
She led me through the crowd towards a set of tables on the side of the room where there were less people. Most of the girls in that area stood out from the rest with their designer cocktail dresses and high heels. Maybe I should have dressed in a prettier outfit.
I was so distracted by the lovely clothes everyone was wearing that I didn’t notice that Lee was already sitting at our table. He was wearing a bright red collared jacket with white piping on the sleeves and gray-blue jeans. I let out a small sigh of relief, knowing that I’m not totally underdressed.
“Glad you can make it,” Lee said standing up from his seat to pull out a chair for me.
I happily sat down. “Well, Catalina threatened to break my arm if I didn’t go, and I don’t think she was kidding.”
“It’s nice to know you two are getting along,” he said with a laugh as he sat next to me.
A waiter pushing a cart of food approached our table. Lee gave him an approving nod and he began serving us meals in small amounts. The scent of the beautifully presented food sent my mouth watering. It was a good thing I didn’t stuff myself with today’s lunch or else I wouldn’t have room in my stomach for any of these.
“I hope you don’t mind me ordering for us,” Lee said.
I was already helping myself with the appetizer. “Not at all,” I told him. “I’m actually starving.”
Lee smiled and we spent a couple of minutes in silence while working our way through the delicious cuisine. “I wanted you to have a good time tonight,” he finally said. “To be honest I’m…a little nervous performing in front of this crowd.”
I looked over the dance floor seeing twice the number of people from when I came in. “It’s incredible how many people are here. Do you always have this many come to your shows?”
Lee nodded. “They’re mostly dancers too or dance enthusiasts, but what we’re really looking out for are talent scouts. If we get signed up for concert tours, music videos, or even do choreography for someone famous it will open a lot of doors for us.”
“So this is more like a talent showcase?” I said.
“Yup,” Lee replied. He brought an icy glass of soda to his mouth and took a sip. “I’m hoping to get signed for a concert tour. I would love to travel and meet a lot of people.”
I planted my elbows on the table and rested my chin on the back of my hands. “You seem to be really popular with everyone in the building, I bet you wouldn’t have any trouble making friends,” I told him. But then for some reason, something was forming in my throat, making it difficult for me to swallow. “If you get signed…that means we won’t get to see much of you. That is, if you still plan on keeping your place.”
He leaned forward, keeping his eyes on me. “I’ve thought about that,” he said. “Living in Alcove was supposed to be temporary, but everyone seems nicer here. If my situation permits it, I might keep my apartment.”
I smiled. “I bet Jill and Nery will miss your company.”
Lee shrugged. “I’m sure they’ll be fine. However…” he lifted his seat and moved it closer to me. “I’m wondering if you’ll be thinking of me when I’m away.”
I pressed my lips together to suppress my laughter. “Um…”
Lee chuckled. “Too cheesy?”
I nodded. “Just a little.”
He stood up from his seat. “Well, just in case I get signed tonight…” He took my hand and led me away from the table to one corner of the room.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
“Making a memory,” he replied.
The smell of cigarette smoke got lighter the moment we left the VIP tables. Concealed at a corner with black drapes was a photo booth that I recalled was placed by the front window. For some reason it was moved back here, probably to give more space for tables.
Lee pushed aside the curtains to make way for me. “After you,” he said.
I slipped in the booth, feeling slightly overwhelmed by Lee’s gentleman manners. It was nice to know some guys can still treat a woman well. I willed myself not to feel too nervous when Lee sat next to me.
“Is it okay if I put my arms around you?” Lee said.
It took me a few seconds to process his request and argue with myself whether it was proper to allow him to do so. I guess it would be alright. I don’t think it means anything more.
“Sae?” Lee said.
I realized I was thinking way too long and I instantly gave him a smile and an awkward nod. I scooted closer to him as he wrapped his arm around me.
“Ready?” he asked and I nodded again in response.
We were staring at each other at the first flash, and I couldn’t help myself from smiling. Lee was more handsome up close. His light brown eyes had a mix of green and gray flecks, and his skin was smooth and almost spotless.
I pulled away from his gaze just before the second flash and managed to smile at the camera, but from the corner of my eye I could still see him looking at me. I put my fingers on his chin and turned his head to face forward. We were both laughing on the third flash.
Lee’s hand ran up on my arm until it reached my shoulders. He pulled me closer to him and my head leaned against his as we waited for the last flash. When it was over he looked at me again and tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear.
The curtain behind him suddenly whooshed open and I almost screamed. “Lee!” said Catalina. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you, we got to get ready.”
I immediately noticed Jill and Nery peeking over Catalina’s shoulders. Their faces changed from interested to annoyed the moment they saw me.
“What are you guys doing?” asked Jill. Her red hair was tied up in a neat ponytail, revealing her strong jaw line, which was more defined by her clenched teeth.
“What do you think?” said Catalina with a smirk. “They were having a moment.”
Jill shot me an evil glare before grabbing Nery and disappearing into the crowd. But instead of feeling mad, my cheeks were burning. Why can’t Catalina learn to be more discreet? Lee was turning pink too as he scratched his head out of embarrassment perhaps.
Catalina shrugged. “I really hate to interrupt Sae, but I need lover boy to come with me.” She took Lee by the arm and pulled him out of the booth.
“I’ll see you after my performance!” I heard him call as the curtain concealed me from the crowd once more.
I stepped out of the booth. The DJ was telling the crowd to clear the dance floor and everyone was cheering and screaming. I turned and tore the photo from the dispenser and put it in my purse.
I walked in tip toes, trying to see the dancers who are now assembling in front of the DJ’s turn table. Squeezing through the bodies lively bouncing to the music, I scanned the area of what’s only available to my sight. I found an empty spot close enough to the floor that I could see Lee.
The DJ began making his introductions and the noise from the audience grew louder. I took my phone out my pocket and readied my camera. I zoomed in to Lee and he spotted me, giving a quick wave before returning to his opening position.
The speakers boomed as the music blared through the entire room. The dancers started moving. It was all too quick for me to keep up with. There were some guys spinning on their heads and sliding on the floor, and girls doing tumbles and jumps like gymnasts. Lee was dancing along with the other performers as they move across the floor, and I feel my heart beating faster as I absorbed the magnificence of their entire routine.
The music suddenly changed and the dancers made their way for another group. I spotted Catalina right away wearing a large loose white shirt and neon splatter print leggings. Their group began moving in sync like robots and then shifted to softer moves that made it seem like they had no bones. It was surprising how energetic Catalina moves when she’s dancing. She seemed like a teenager in a grandma costume.
The crowd cheered louder every time Catalina did a solo routine. I guess they were as amazed as I was of her abilities. I suddenly felt envious of her. It must feel good to have so much people root for you like that.
The performance ended with all the groups dancing together. There were a few more stunts here and there and additional fireworks and confetti shooting out on the corners of the floor. The audience applauded, whistled and screamed their favorite group names over and over. And the dancers celebrated and hugged each other for the success of their show. I couldn’t help smiling from the excitement that surrounded me. Even if I went alone, I was really having fun.
There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned seeing Lee behind me. His hair stuck messily on his forehead as his skin shimmered with sweat. “How was it?” he shouted over the noise.
“It was awesome! You were really great!” I shouted back.
He reached for my hand and pulled me towards him. “Come with me!” he said. He ran a hand through his hair so it was now sleeked back, and I couldn’t help be mesmerized on how good he still looked.
He guided me to the small steps leading to the dance floor. The DJ was still delivering his closing speech when Catalina saw us approaching.
“Dolly!” she called, spreading her arms and welcoming me with a hug. “Are you having fun?”
I nodded. “Absolutely!” I said with a smile.
“Great!” she replied. “I’m gonna look for some hotties to dance with! I’ll leave you two lovers alone!”
Catalina joined the other dancers as the DJ announced the floor open to the audience again. It was then I realized Lee was still holding my hand. I turned to face him, unable to wipe the smile on my face.
“What now?” I asked.
Lee lured me closer to him so he had his mouth to my ear. “We dance.”
I pulled away, shaking my head. “Oh no, I can’t dance like you guys.”
“Relax Sae,” he said. He enclosed an arm around my back and took a step forward so we were only inches away from each other. “I got you.”
I can’t remember the last time a guy made me feel so light. All the trust issues I had with him seemed less important now. My heart was beating at a pace that said I was happy, and this moment was perfect.
We danced slowly, holding each other’s gaze until I could no longer see or feel anyone but us. When the song was over we went over the bar for a drink while we chatted about things we loved. When the alcohol took its effect, we headed to the floor again. Lee danced around me while I tried my best to keep up. I somehow felt like we were performing a courtship ritual, but it didn’t matter. I was having fun with Lee and that was what’s important.
What day is it? It feels like I’ve been asleep for days and my head is like an anchor, weighing me down and keeping me on my bed. So where do I start?
I had the phone to my ear and it felt like one of those moments when everything was on pause. I wasn’t even sure if I heard him right. Did Conrad just ask me out?
“Um…What?” was all I managed to say.
There was a short laugh on the other line. “I just wanted to see how you’d react,” Conrad said, although I wasn’t convinced that he was joking.
There was this teeny part of me that suspected that Conrad might had other feelings for me aside from friendship, and I have to admit, I’ve also questioned my feelings for him before. But in the end I decided that his friendship was worth more to me than romance.
“Don’t even joke like that,” I said, as he continued to laugh on the other line. “I’m serious.”
He finally stopped, but I could feel him smiling. “I’m serious too Sae,” he said. “I got this company party being held at The Lounge and I need a date.”
“Why are you asking me?” I said.
He sighed. “And here I thought you actually like me.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I pointed out. “I just thought that you and Ivy sort of have something going on.”
He laughed again. “Don’t tell me you’re jealous?” he teased. “Ivy’s cool but she’s busy tonight.”
“Ah, so I’m your second choice,” I deduced. “I’m no longer the cool city girl so I’m left as the reserve date.”
“C’mon Sae, you were never cool,” Conrad said. “You’ve always been the dorky fun girl I hang out with on movie nights.”
My brows furrowed. “Is that your version of a compliment or was that all insult?”
“Both?” he said.
We both laughed.
“Please be my date?” he went on. “I really want you to be there.”
“Oh so you’re being nice now?” I replied.
“Yes I am,” he said. “Don’t leave me with all the boring old corporate people. Please. I’m begging you.”
I blew on my nails as if they were freshly painted. “Hmm…I don’t know,” I replied. “You’re begging doesn’t sound convincing enough.”
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you?” said Conrad.
I smiled. “A little bit.”
“So I’ll see you tonight?” he asked.
“Like I can say no to you,” I replied.
I heard him chuckle. “Just wear whatever you’re comfortable in.”
“Don’t I always?” I said.
When the call ended, I realized that Catalina was still standing by the door. She had this knowing smile on her face that made me a little nervous.
“You little minx, who was that you’re flirting with? Is he hot?” she said.
I groaned. “I wasn’t flirting. He’s just a friend from the city asking me to hang out.”
Catalina nodded. “Uh-huh, didn’t sound like you’re talking to just a friend.” She added air quotes to the last part of her sentence. “You like him.”
I rolled my eyes. “You seem to think I like every guy I talk to.”
She shook her head. “Of course not, but you should see how you looked like earlier, you had that glow in your eyes.”
I stood up and put my hands on my hips. “Cat, my eyes don’t glow,” I told her. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get dressed.”
She looked at me from the corners of her eyes, wearing a playful suspicious expression on her face. “You’re going on a date.”
“We’re just hanging out,” I argued.
She waved her hand dismissively as she turned away. “Whatever you wanna call it. But be careful with this game you’re playing, I don’t think you can handle the aftermath.”
I shook my head. Half of the time I have no idea what she’s talking about. She can be so obvious at times but when she goes all cryptic she somewhat acts like that Karate Kid mentor. I just blame it on her age.
I wasn’t expecting for Conrad to pick me up, but he did. I had no idea how he found out where I live but at least I didn’t have to drive for hours looking for The Lounge. I had to distract Catalina though before I ran out the door to Conrad’s car. I didn’t want her prying and cracking romance jokes about me while Conrad was around.
The Lounge was like a zoo when we got there. There were people in casual clothes, people in business clothes, and people in costumes…or maybe they were wearing really fancy clothes that looked like costumes—like the ones in pop music videos.
Conrad was in his lazy day casual wear. He said that way no one will pay attention to him. After years working as a freelance photographer I would assume he would develop better people skills, but Conrad still prefers avoiding too much attention.
Some of his friends that I met in C.O. were there including Brandi. We sat at a private booth just on the other side of the dance floor. It had a large black table with a big white leather seat stretching around it and pink glittery drapes concealing us from the crowd. We were served drinks and unfamiliar food that I suspected were middle eastern that all tasted great.
I wish I had Conrad’s job. I don’t care how many people I need to mingle with as long as it came with this kind of VIP treatment.
Conrad left for a few minutes so he could chat up with his boss and their clients. Two of his male friends went with him, while Brandi and I remained in the booth.
“Are you seeing anyone Sae?” she asked as she took a sip of her cocktail.
“No one right now,” I told her. “I’ve been preoccupied with my job hunt and all.”
An old guy suddenly burst in from the curtains. His face was flushed and his eyes looked around as if he was lost. He swung his weight from one leg to another and smiled the moment he saw us.
“Ladies,” he slurred. He walked towards us in small steps. His huge belly was threatening to pop out of his suit as it wobbled with every stride. The red stain on his white beard and mustache, which I can only guess was red wine, looked like blood under the dim glow of the wall light.
“Sir, this is a private booth,” said Brandi. She was trying to sound firm but her had clutched on to my arm so tight that her nails were digging deep into my skin.
But the man kept on walking to us. “Relax… I just wanna have a chat.”
“Mr. Pearson?” said someone from behind the curtains.
The man irritatingly looked over his shoulder. Conrad came in with drinks in his hands.
“Mr. Pearson, your wife has been looking everywhere for you,” he said to the drunk man. “She’s at the bar and she doesn’t look happy.”
The man let out a deep grunt and muttered something under his breath, before he walked out the booth.
Brandi sighed. “Just in time, I thought we had to beat him up or something.”
“He’s harmless,” said Conrad. He handed us the drink in his hands. “After this, you two need to accompany me to the dance floor.”
“Now we’re talking,” Brandi said. She raised her glass. “To partying like we’ve never partied before!”
“Cheers!” Conrad and I said and the three of us clinked our glasses together.
The night felt like it went on forever. I don’t even remember how many drinks I had, but we rocked that dance floor like there’s no tomorrow. And in the midst of everything that went on, there was a moment when I thought I had my arms around Conrad’s neck and we were dancing really close. Too close. Then I felt warm breath on my cheeks, and his lips found mine. I woke up in my room later on, unsure if all of that really happened or if it was just a dream.