Aug 19, 2011

When The Fireworks Begin (Chapter VIII)

Chapter VIII

James woke up with an insistent buzzing on the bedside table.  James sat up and looked at the peacefully sleeping Devon. They have been at home for a few days already and the good news is that no accidents have happened in the past few days.  Devon insisted on going back to work, but James worry about her health. 

Dr. Alvarez backed Devon the last time they talked with the doctor.

“As long as it she keeps it easy and slow, she’ll be okay,”  Dr. Alvarez advised.  “No overworking and stress.”

James was still reluctant at the idea and Devon understood about his worries.

“Why don’t we meet halfway,” Devon proposed. “I’ll just take half of my teaching load. I will talk to my dean to reassign half of the subjects to other professors. Really James, I can’t stay at home the entire day and do nothing.”

James had no choice but to agree. These past few days, everything seems to be normal, except for the medicine schedule plastered on their refrigerator door, reminding them that things are not really normal.

James rubbed his eyes and looked at the alarm clock.  It was already seven o’clock in the morning, James bolted up and realized it was Saturday.  Definitely an excuse to sleeping late. James looked for the source of the buzzing sound, it was his cellphone vibrating.  It was Aleli calling. Devon stirred on the bed, with her breathing slow and peaceful. 

James answered the phone, “What?”

“Good morning, honey,” Aleli sweetly greeted.  “I’m going jogging today. Want to come?”

James looked at Devon who was still sleeping. “No,” James decided.

“Come on,” Aleli persuaded. “You’re all out of shape. Besides it is good for your health. Not just because Devon is sick you’ll do everything to get sick too.”

“Aleli,” James started. “My health is fine.”

“I bet you can’t keep up with me anymore,” Aleli joked. “C’mon James. Sam’s not jogging today, he’s out of town. I have no jogging partner. Besides we haven’t seen each other for ages.”

James went quiet, he has been turning down Aleli so much lately. He felt guilty, after all she is still a friend. “Okay,” James gruffly responded. “Where are you, anyway?”

Aleli gave him instructions and James ended the call. Before leaving he wrote a short note, “out jogging” and figured to leave the Aleli part out of the note.  He kissed sleeping Devon’s forehead and walked out of the bedroom. When the house is already quiet, Devon opened her eyes and stared at the note.

“You came,” Aleli happily greeted and ran towards James, hugging him tight. James pulled out of her embrace.

“Really, Aleli,” James said irritatingly. “It is not as if we haven’t seen each other for more than a year.”

Aleli looked ready for some posh jogging. She was wearing really short shorts, tight halter top and pink rubber shoes. James immediately did some stretching, to prepare for the run.

“Well Mr. Suplado,” Aleli countered while pouting. “We haven’t talked for a long time.” She started to stretch beside James, her long and slender legs being eyed by numerous men around them in the park.

James shook his head, still the same. Aleli is still an eye-catcher, and she knows how to dress her body to make her more noticeable. Devon does not need to overdress to catch anybody’s attention, James smiled to himself.

“What’s so funny?” Aleli asked and started stretching her arms.

“Nothing,” James answered. “Ready?” James asked and started to run even before Aleli could say yes.

Aleli ran after James and they jogged continuously in silence. Aleli would ask once in a while, how was work. James would give short reply. To Aleli that is nothing new, James is not somebody who would offer explanations or tell stories without prodding or some persuasion.  But Aleli saw the chatty James when he was with Devon.

Aleli remembered seeing James and Devon together.  They were chatting away, as if there are thousands of things to talk about. When Aleli and James were together, it was almost always Aleli talking.  Aleli stopped jogging and started to walk. James noticed that Aleli was no longer jogging besides him.

“I can’t keep up with you eh,” James joked.

Aleli smiled and sat at the nearest bench, trying to catch her breath. “Let’s rest for a while.”

James walked besides the bench but did not sit down.  He remained standing watching the people passing them by. “I thought I was the one who’s out of shape.”

Aleli laughed. “Well, you ran faster. It’s called jogging, James. Not sprinting.”

James smiled and relaxed a bit.  He was tensed this morning, thinking about what Devon will think when she finds out that he was jogging alone with Aleli.  Devon rarely gets jealous.  She trusted him, but also James knows she is uncomfortable when he is alone with Aleli. After all, they used to be together.

“James what happened to us?” Aleli asked after the long silence.

James was surprised with the question and looked at Aleli. Aleli looked at him, weakly smiled and continued, “Sometimes, I ask myself. What really happened during that time? Did you really love me?”

James did not answer. He looked away from Aleli.  “It was a different kind of love.  Later on, I realized that it was brotherly love. I loved you like a sister.”

Aleli did not react.  She quietly looked ahead.  “I still love you. After all this years, I still do.”

James did not offer Aleli a glance nor any response.  He heard Aleli standing up and approaching him. Aleli stood up and kissed James on the lips. James did not answer the kiss and pulled his head away.

“I love Devon,” James answered.

“I know,” Aleli said.  “I will wait for my time.”

James looked at Aleli. He understood what Aleli was thinking, when Devon dies, if she does, she is willing to take her place. James could not bear to be angry against Aleli for thinking like that.  Instead, he feels guilty.  He feels that he has left Aleli hoping over the years.

“We had our time Aleli,” James softly explained. “And it didn’t work out.”

“Perhaps, it can this time,” Aleli hopefully asked, while holding to James arm.

James slowly removed Aleli’s hands. “It is about time you move on. Things between us have been over for years.”

Aleli looked hurt.  “All this years, I thought that there is still hope for us. You will ask my help whenever you are on a tight spot.  You let me call you honey, you were there when I asked you to be there. I thought…”

James shook his head.  “Well you thought wrong,” he was so angry to himself right now. “You’re a friend, Aleli. It has been always that way. It was just convenient  and practical for us to get together, that time.”

Aleli was now crying. She sat on the bench with tears streaming down her face. James felt so bad, for leading Aleli on. For letting her believe that there is still hope for them.

“You have to move on,” James slowly told her. “You will find the right one for you. But it is not me. My heart belongs to one person and that’s how it will be until the end.”

Aleli did not say anything. She buried her face on her hands. James started to walk away.  Aleli hurt and crying,  has finally reached closure.


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