The Glitch

You weren’t suppose to fall in love with me, the pattern has been broken. You should’ve stayed in and have a normal life. I should’ve flown alone.

I don’t understand it logically. It’s love, isn’t it supposed to be illogical?

It’s true what they said that someday we would break, because you and I can’t collide. You had a pattern and you should’ve followed it. I was not in it.

But then… Maybe it’s not me who broke the pattern. You did.

It’s illogical.

Because you’re a glitch.

I was too wild to settle down and you were too domestic for my kind of adventure. I moved away from you, but you broke the pattern and you flew with me.

You didn’t let that pattern define you.

You’re the glitch.

Eloise: The Story. Chapter Ten.

Ben wipes off his mouth after he munches his last bite of quesadillas and clears his throat softly, “I guess you heard me clearly, you just didn’t know what to answer.”

“What do you mean?”

“About destiny. Do you believe in it?”

“Well…” and then I pause.

“Do you?” He sounds demanding.

“Do you?”

“I do.” It doesn’t take seconds for Ben to answer that.

“And why is that?”

“When I was fifteen years old my Dad had a heart attack.”

“Oh my god–”

“Yeah, he had this habit to read newspaper at the terrace after he dropped me off to school. My mom would serve him a cup of coffee and then went back inside and started cooking. It’s always like that for as long as I remembered. But that day, my mom didn’t start cooking after she served my dad his coffee, she called her cousin. It was too early I guess to call people, but she did it anyway.”

“Early? How early?”

“Well, My dad just dropped me off… so I guess around seven, seven-thirty?”

“Ok.”

“After my mom called her cousin, she supposed to go to kitchen to cook, right? But she didn’t. She went out to the terrace to ask my Dad something. She had never done this before. Ever. Do you know what happened?”

“Your dad got a heart attack?”

“Yes. How weird is that?”

“It’s coincidence, Ben. Not a destiny.”

“It is a destiny. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because what my Mom was about to say to my Dad was that she wanted a divorce.”

I’m silenced.

“She didn’t love him anymore.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be. My Dad was such an ass,” he chuckles.

“What?”

“Yeah, he treated my mom like she was his property. He was a control freak and a bully.”

“So what happened then?”

“They never got divorced.”

“What? Why?”

“See? Now you also want my Mom to divorce him, don’t you?” He smiles.

“It’s not that. I just… I never like a guy who thinks he is superior to woman. I’m not a feminist or anything but that’s just not cool. Isn’t marriage about teamwork? Your dad, sitting there, and then your mom brings him coffee? Every single day? Doesn’t it sound like middle age?”

“You can say that because you live in Paris, Ellie. You’re independent and free. My mom wasn’t. She didn’t get divorce because she too was taking advantages from him. He had been the only bread winner as long as I live.”

“So it’s about money?”

“No it’s not. It’s about habit. My mom had never worked her entire life. She was born to be a housewife.”

“That’s because your dad made her a housewife. I don’t think someone who was born to be a housewife would dare to ask for a divorce, Ben. She would have been enjoying her life as a housewife then.”

“Well, she did enjoy eventually, after my Dad died.”

“Oh… wow, sorry, Ben. I didn’t mean…”

“That’s okay, Ellie.”

“He didn’t survive the heart attack?”

“He did. My mom took care of him for the next two years and then he got better and he was back to office but then he died three years ago. Another heart attack.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“That’s fine. You would be happy to know that my mom has gained her freedom ever since.”

“Ben… That sounds sad.”

“No, really. It’s not. You will understand if you see the bigger picture and if you see my mom.”

I smile, “if I see your mom?”

“No, no, no, I didn’t mean it like that. It was just metaphorically—“

“Ben. I get it. Relax.” I laugh softly.

“Well, I must’ve sounded panic but I wasn’t. Just to be clear. You know… Because it’s weird… To ask you to see my mom, like to meet her. Well I didn’t—“

“You’re doing it again.” I stopped him before he embarrassed himself more.

“Yeah… Sorry about that.”

“Do you live with your mom?”

“No actually. I’m almost twenty nine years old, Ellie. What do you think?” He asks sarcastically.

“I just thought since you live in Indonesia, living with parents is okay. Singaporeans do that all the time… even until they turn thirty-something.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, maybe because unmarried person isn’t allowed to buy subsidized house in Singapore and non-subsidized apartments are just way too expensive. See they end up stuck with their parents until they get married. Most of them turned to be spoiled brats.”

“And you’re not one because… you’re rich enough to buy non-subsidized apartment?”

I laugh, “Of course not. I moved out.”

“To?”

“I rented a room by myself.”

“And leave your family? Isn’t that useless, since you live in the same city? I mean, paying the rent every month is useless, right?”

“Well, that’s the best for me anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing. I just think that’s the best thing. Like you, why did you move out from your mom?”

“Because I’m capable to buy my own house and I want to live independently.”

“Well, I’m not capable for the first one but I want the second one. Got it?”

“Make sense. You’re willing to pay the price for independence.”

“Yes.”

“I see. Then why did you move to Paris?”

“I told you. I was looking for inspirations.”

Ben squints, “what kind of inspirations?”

“Wait, Ben. I heard a little birdie wants to send you a message. What? Oh okay. Ben, little birdie said we had this conversation earlier.”

“Ha. Ha. Funny.” Ben shows his unamused face.

“I like Paris, so I came here and I don’t want to leave.”

“You like it so you decided to move here, just like that? So… you’re like a daughter of deceased millionaire or something… Intriguing…”

I burst out laughing. “Well, we can agree on that.”

“You have a dimple.” Ben touches my left cheek. “I like to see them when you laugh. And your eyebrows that always look like you’re angry,” he moves his fingers on my eyebrow. “And the sound of your laugh… is so contagious.” He stares deep into my eyes.

“You’re talking like you’ve known me forever.”

“Well I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

And then we’re silenced. I let him touch my eyes, my forehead and then his fingers gently stroke my hair. It feels good.

“You haven’t answered my question.” He takes back his hand.

“What question?”

“About destiny. Do you believe it?”

“Hmm… I guess I do.”

“And why is that?”

“I might not have a moment that made me believe it like you had with your dad but I do believe it. I just do. I believe that every moment in our lives is destiny. coming to Paris was a destiny. Meeting you was a destiny. Every moment has its own role in my life.”

“You’re right. Of all the cities you could visit with your deceased millionaire money, you chose Paris, and I happened to be in it.” Then we laugh.

“Sometimes I think I’m crazy, “I say in hesitation.

“Because you blew off your London trip and went off to eat Taquitos with a suspected serial killer?”

“Yes. This is a little crazy, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, but I’m glad you blew off that trip.”

“So you can murder me?”

Ben bursts into laughter.

“Especially after you know I have a deceased millionaire father.”

“Jackpot!” He continues laughing.

“But I like it when I do crazy things. I feel alive.”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve wasted too many years being sane; I think it’s time for me to be a little crazy. To really live my life. No regrets. I feel happy now, right now, this moment. I don’t know what would happen tomorrow or next month, I just want to be happy now. I know I deserve to be happy even though this is probably the most selfish thing I’ve done.”

Ben stares at me in silence.

“I sound like a lunatic, don’t I?”

“Nah! Not even close to lunatic. Remember we have Van Gogh as comparison.”

That brings a smile on my face. “You always have the words to make me laugh.”

“Always? It seems like you’ve known me forever.”

“Well, I do feel like have known you forever.”

“Good, that certifies that I’m not the only emo-hippies here.”

We have a good laugh and then Ben pays for our lunch. “No, no, no! Let me pay mine,” I insist.

“Hey, this is the least I can do by making you extremely starving.”

“Thank you,” I say nicely. “Tonight’s dinner is on me then.”

“Good. It means you’re gonna stay with me until dinner.” He grins happily at me.

Ben opens the door for me when we exit the restaurant and ask, “so, where are we going now?”

I grab his hand and say excitedly, “We’re going to visit your lunatic uncle Vincent.”

Ben looks at me in disbelief, “Van Gogh?”

“Yes.”

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Nine.

“Do you think Gauguin was really the one who chops off Van Gogh’s ear? I mean, isn’t it weird? If you’re angry with someone, are you going to cut off his ear? Come on, man! Ear! Why don’t you just chop his hand or foot? Ear is weird, right?” Ben can’t stop talking about Van Gogh’s controversial ear.

I try to find my keys from my backpack when he continues, “Hand would be great to chop off if you’re angry to a painter, right? So he can’t paint again,” then he smirks.

“Gauguin is not just a friend, He’s his boyfriend!” I say, “Got the key!” then I open the door to Jeremy’s apartment.

“Oh! Really?! It surprised me!” Ben says sarcastically.

“I mean, since Gauguin is his boyfriend, he doesn’t want to chop off his boyfriend’s hand because that would be bad to have a jobless boyfriend, right?” I add.

Ben laughs again, “you’re smart, Ellie!” Then I invite him inside the apartment.

“Wow, it’s a nice place.” He’s being polite.

“Thanks. I rent it with a very rich Korean kid.” Then I put my backpack in the living room and take out all the important things like wallet, metro card and my museum pass. “So I’m set. No more heavy backpack.”

Ben asked me to just put my backpack at my apartment so we can explore Paris more conveniently. I agreed since the apartment is only ten minutes away from Eiffel so I walked with him here.

“Since you’re really into painting, do you paint?” I ask Ben.

“Um, not anymore.”

“Why?”

“What else? I don’t have time since I’m working. But I love my job. I’m an architect anyway. What do you do, Ellie?”

“I designed cups.”

“You what? Is it some kind of Singaporean jargon of criminal job that I don’t get?” Ben looks confused.

“No, silly.” I chuckle, “it is literally like what I said. I designed cups. You know how Singaporeans obsessed with Bubble Milk Tea? Well, that turns out well for my company because we’re specialized in cups. We design them based on what the clients wanted, the material from plastic to styrofoam, the size, the convenience and even the security.”

“It seems more complicated than it looks.” He comments.

“Not really. I just love to make it sound complicated so people thought my job is hard.” I joke and we have another laugh together.

“Shall we?” I raise my apartment key.

“We shall.” Ben nods his head and walks pass me.

Ben accidentally thought that I’m a Singaporean just because I told him I’ve stayed there for more than half of my life. The bad thing was I didn’t correct him. I just don’t feel like telling him that I’m the Ellie he gave the chocolate to. I feel comfortable being the Ellie, a stranger he just met whom he said he’s known forever. And of course, not Ellie the sick girl.

We both reach the knob together and it happens. Ben’s hand touches mine. He doesn’t move for a while and I don’t either. We’re just frozen staring at our both hands intertwined. It’s not like I have butterflies in my stomach or suddenly there were unicorns flying around but it looks nice and it feels nice. The kind of nice when you want to leave the hands there forever.

Unfortunately I have to lock the door so I move my hand. Ben’s hand automatically lifted up from mine and I can’t see his face because he stands a little behind me. Oh how I wish I could see his face.

“About the inspiration, what did you mean by that?” Ben asks me while he walks down Rue Malar with me.

“Van Gogh’s kind of inspiration.” I answer.

He chuckles, he realizes that I don’t want to answer that question. “Well, Van Gogh didn’t come to Paris so it’s obviously not Van Gogh’s.”

“Yeah…” I just mumble without knowing what to say. I really can’t talk about why I came to Paris at the first place and by just thinking about it I shiver in a summer evening.

“Whatever it is, I hope you’ll find your starry night soon,” he adds.

“I won’t” I say.

“Why?”

“Like you said, it’s not in Paris.”

“What’s not in Paris? The inspiration?” He walks one step faster than me and turn back to see my face.

“The starry night is not in Paris.” I smile at him while he’s walking backwards now.

“Ow yeah right… It’s a small town in Provence, isn’t it? What was it… Um, Arles?” He guesses.

“Arles” I correct his pronunciation.

“Wow, that’s French rrr,” Ben makes a gurgle sound.

“Well that’s what you get for watching too much French TV. And you don’t say the s at the back.”

“No, I mean you said it like you were born French.”

“Try it!” I challenge him.

“Arrr-l” Ben is making a funny face when he pronounces that.

“Well, as much as I enjoy the idiotic face, I won’t let you do that again.”

And he laughs while looking deep into my eyes. “I really think I’ve seen you before Ellie…”

I knit my forehead, “in your previous life?”

“Yeah, maybe.” He settles for that.

“So where are we going?” I ask him.

“I have no idea!” He turns back again and walk beside me, “let’s just walk along the river until we’re hungry.”

“Okay.” I smile again. I feel like smiling all the time and can’t contain my excessive happiness. It’s like a girl has been writing to Santa Claus for a year asking for a doll and when the Christmas finally came and she got the doll she couldn’t stop smiling at all.

I turn right at Quai d’Orsay and keep following the path with Ben telling random stories about his job, his love for paintings, his college experiences and his boss whom he and his colleagues nicknamed Jean Valjean.

“He’s like this big powerful man who acts tough in front of us you know, but when it comes to his daughter he’s just so weak! One time the daughter came to office and asked him to blow off the fairy dusts in front of everyone and he did it!” Ben laughs. “This is a story that would be hundred times funnier if you were there, trust me.” He convinces me because I didn’t laugh as loud as him.

“Yeah I guess.” I smile, looking at how cheerful he is.

We see a woman dressing in a wedding dress when we pass by the bridge in Pont Alexandre taking pictures with a man who’s dressed in a tux, obviously the husband to be.

I see the two of them holding hand and Ben says, “I did that on purpose.”

“Did what?”

“Grabbing the knob as if I owned the house.” He grins at me. “Do you want to hold hand?”

I can feel hotness on my cheek and this time a butterfly inside my stomach. Geez, Ellie, you’re twenty eight years old and you’re blushing when a man wants to hold your hand? Grow the freaking up!

“Wow Ben, what a romantic gesture! Asking for holding hands!” I say sarcastically.

Ben contains his laughter, “I just didn’t know how you guys do it in Singapore, or in Paris…”

“I think it’s pretty general in every part of the world, you just take that hand!” I cry.

“If you insist…” He jokes and takes my hand. I let him hold my hand and I move closer to him, letting my chin presses his left shoulder. He then stops walking, lets my hand go and puts his left hand around me to drag me closer to him. I put my hand around his waist and then we just stand there in the middle of the path, holding tight to each other and this really feels so good.

Ben rests his chin on the top of my head and then moves it so his face is drowned in my hair while I just close my eyes, listening to his heartbeat. I can feel him breathing the scent of my hair in. I can feel his warm hand on the back of my head and I can feel myself relaxing.

I swear to god, if a doctor could test me right now, the cancer would be gone by now because I have never felt better!

I understand that I’m letting a guy holding me this tight because I’m admittedly lonely and I have been craving for this feeling for so long and the fact that this is Ben, the guy who had a crush on me when I was a kid really soothes me. But I don’t understand why Ben does this, like he’s been missing me for years, like he won’t ever let go again.

“Hmph… I can’t breathe…” I mumble.

Ben releases me slowly, as if he actually doesn’t want to, “I am so sorry Ellie…”

“For what?” I ask.

“For that…?” He answers but more like asking back.

“Well, I’m not.”

“Me too.” There it is again, the gorgeous grin on his face.

“You just hugged me too tight I couldn’t breathe.”

“Then I’m sorry for that part, but not the hug. It was nice.” Suddenly his eyes look sparkling.

I try to act as nonchalantly as possible even though I literally can hear the beating sounds of my heart that suddenly races probably hundred times faster. I have only felt like this once and that was when I almost fell down on the edge of the cliff when I went on hike with my mom and dad long time ago. I thought the heart beats fast only when we are scared. I don’t know this such feeling exists. But this one… is so addictive, I want more.

Ben takes my hand and walk slowly with me along the SeineRiver. For minutes we just walk and enjoy the silence. The sound of the birds flapping their wings far away and people’s laughter in the background completes the moment. I tilt my head to see him and he’s real. He looks happy and nervous at the same time.

Somehow seeing his nervous face brings me to a memory I thought long gone. I didn’t remember when it happened but I remember the moment. I was sitting alone on the Bench because Shannon wasn’t in school that day. She had been absent from school for over a week because of the chickenpox. I had never got chickenpox yet so Mom didn’t let me visit her. I didn’t have so many friends back then so I sat alone on a Bench and took out my lunchbox.

I ate alone that day and wished the day to finish soon. I was still upset about what happened earlier during English subject. Our teacher decided to test each of the students for poem reading. When it was my turn, some kids laughed on me because apparently I didn’t pronounce R perfectly.

I talked to my mom that night and she said not everybody could pronounce R perfectly, especially people with shorter tongue. However I tried and tried for months and I could finally pronounced R perfectly. But that wasn’t the memory I collected back today.

Looking back to that day, there was a boy who approached me on the bench and I might look like resenting him because I turned my back on him. However he still tried to comfort me by saying “I heard what happened in your class. I think they’re wrong. You have a cute R sound. It’s like you were born French.” And then he smiled. That gorgeous grinning smile, as if he tried to amuse me. I didn’t laugh, I was just quiet. The words from him, saying me cute, was actually making my day better.

It’s like you were born French.

It was Ben.

It was Ben all along.

“It’s Pont Des Arts,” Ben breaks the silence and my journey to the past. He then takes out his pocket camera and starts to take picture of the interesting padlocks while I’m secretly watching him do that.

Ben has a tall figure for an Asian man. His hair is wavy and dark, as dark as his eyes which sparkle when he talks to me. His great teeth compliment his gorgeous smile but that must be bias since I kinda have fallen in love with him.

Oh God… Am I in love? Isn’t it crazy?

I patiently stand by the lamp post when suddenly my stomach rumbles, asking to be fed. Ben hears the sound and laughs. “Yeah, I forgot it’s passed lunch time.”

I look at my watch and it says half passed two in the afternoon. “I only ate a slice of toast for breakfast because I thought I would eat on the train.”

“Sorry, my bad…” Ben walks closer to me. “I’m being totally inconsiderate. I ate like a pig for breakfast so my biological clock totally messed up.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Let’s go,” he took my hand and walk fast to find a restaurant. It’s funny how he looks very guilty for making me hungry. To be honest, I’m not that hungry. I can live only with this feeling I guess. But the girl’s gotta eat too.

We walk pass street vendors who sell souvenirs like T-Shirts and mugs but no restaurants nearby. We walk until we find another intersection and turn right to Rue Dauphine.

“My colleagues told me there are two good restaurants here. What would you like to eat? Italian or Mexican?”

“I could go for a hot sauce,” I say.

“That’s what I thought too!” Then he brings me to a small restaurant named Fajitas.

The burnt jalapeno smell greets us when we open the door. We are seated next to the window and the waitress greets us “Bonjour Madame et Monsieur!”

Bonjour!” I greet back. “Le menu, s’il vous plaît .

Vous parlez Français Madame?”

Je parle un peu Français.

Votre Français est bon !”

Merci! But that was pretty much all I can.” Then she laughs.

She asks Ben, who looks amazed and surprised hearing me sound so sophisticated which is totally my plan, “What do you want, Monsieur?”

Ben ordered Quesadillas for him and Nachos for us to share while I order Taquitos. It feels weird to order Mexican food from a girl who speaks perfect French but well, the whole day has been extraordinary itself.

I’m sipping my ice water when Ben suddenly, out of the blue, asks this shocking question. A question I don’t know the answer. But he looks so serious when he stares at my eyes and asks that.

“Do you believe in destiny?”

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Eight.

It was another sunny day in Paris and I can’t believe how stupid I am for spending the whole day under the sun for nothing. I cried walking down Rue Malar, feeling so stupid and helpless. I wanted to call Shannon but embarrassment and fear of judgment have stopped me to do so.

My burning cheeks sting a little when the tears pour out on them. I try to control my emotion but it doesn’t seem to work at all until I see my face on the mirror at Jeremy’s bathroom.

I look normal. That gives me a mood elevation all of sudden. I look perfectly normal with the burning cheeks. No more pale sickly white Asian girl, the girl I see in front of me look healthy with the blushing cheeks and tanned skin. The visual illusion created by the UV has turned my day upside down from the desperate embarrassment of an adult stupidity to a temporary ecstasy.

The irony can’t be funnier than this, that I have hoped for an easy way to die for the last five years and when I’m finally dying, I want to be healthy so bad. I want to meet this guy named Ben so bad that I have created hundreds of different scenarios in my mind of what to say to him when I finally met him. The longing of meeting this sincere twelve years old boy who gave me chocolate has given me passion to live. I wouldn’t think about any of these craps a month ago.

So I go to the bathroom, taking a nice cool shower and my feeling has become calmer. I give Shannon another call and she picks up on the second ring, “Ellie! Sorry I was busy the whole day. What’s going on?”

“I’m going to London tomorrow. Should I book the train ticket or I just go ahead to Nord?” I ask her.

“You haven’t bought the ticket?!” She shouts at me.

“Should I?”

“Yes! If you buy today, it will be freaking 300 Euros!”

“You did that, remember?”

“I have special pass because John’s brother works in Eurostar. I never purchase my tickets.”

“You come here then!”

“Can’t do, Ellie. John’s not free for babysitting Alison.”

“Then 300 Euros it is.” I say, then Shannon screams horray and promises me for a full treat of my meal. I borrow Jeremy’s sophisticated desktop computer and browse for the ticket.

“It’s 288 Euros, Shan. And I’ll be arriving on 12:30. Pick me up?”

“Of course!” She screams again. Shannon asks me again whether I have the visa to visit UK and I said yes. I did apply both UK visa and Schengen visa together when I was still in Singapore. Maybe the plan to visit Shannon has been in the back of my mind since then.

After confirming the time and place of meeting her, I hang up the phone. I didn’t tell Shannon what I did today, how I burned my cheek and why I felt miserable on the way home.

I come to the balcony and gaze through the skyline. The sun has just set and so is my expectation for seeing Ben. I tried everything I could in my capability to meet him but maybe this will forever be my non-sense dramatic hope, that somehow Ben holds the answer of the empty pages of my mom’s journal. It’s all just my stupid cancery hormone playing tricks on me because I am weak physically and mentally. I think back about what I did today and chuckle myself that the whole day was a plain stupid hormonal act.

After finished my laundry this morning, I went out to Eiffel tower and I was waiting there the whole time, under the sun, because I thought I could meet him there. I walked around the Eiffel tower, refreshing my eyes from the sun with the soft pretty pink trees around the tower, and hoping somehow I would bump into him. I remembered he mentioned that he’s dying to see Eiffel so bad and according to his facebook wall, he would fly back to Jakarta in three days, so maybe, just maybe he visited Eiffel by then.

I remembered I didn’t put any sun block on my skin expect my face when the redness started to appear all over my skin so I walked to the nearest brasserie called Ribe that had a safari animal theme inside and I sat down there for a cup of hot chocolate then went back to wander around the Eiffel tower again. That was when my face got the sunburn because apparently the commercial of my sunblock skin care told lies about the 12 hour protection.

When the reality of burning skin physically hurt me, I finally realized I was doing the stupid thing. So I stopped. I stopped being stupid, stopped giving my skin rashes, and stopped having expectations. Adding the pathetic fact of me living with no hopes and expectations, I cried on the way home.

A subtle smile appears on my face when I think back of what happened today. It’s really funny if I look back now. If there was a hidden camera following me around today, I would probably laugh seeing the reality show. Where did I get the energy and the hope for walking around the whole afternoon? I must had been possessed or something. But hey, they said people do stupid thing out of love.

What? Now I mention about love? I really must sleep now.

***

Eiffel tower seems different somehow now. It stands grand in front of me, like mocking me of how weak I am. I tilt my head, noticing of some rust below this amazing tower and feel like to mock her back. But I don’t. Because I know people will still loves Eiffel with rusts all over it. That’s the unconditional love, while I don’t even have one single person loving me, not even my own self. So I guess I don’t have the capacity to mock.

I am here to make peace anyway and to let go the expectation of meeting Ben. I will leave for London in two hours. I just need to see Eiffel one more time, saying goodbye. I feel embarrassed for the thing I did yesterday so I want to tell Eiffel that I am okay now. She’s probably worried about me.

I chuckle a little and turn my body, about to leave to Gare du Nord. That is when I see him.

Him, a guy who constantly fills my mind for the past week, is standing before me, looking directly into my eyes and smiles.

“Hey there! My friend, over there, in the stripped brownish red shirt, thinks you’re cute.” He points to the guy that waves his hand to me.

I am petrified instantly and Ben is still standing in front of me, showing off his pretty white teeth. For a second I feel the world around me freezes and the time stops. I command my mouth to say something but my tongue is like swollen; it is as frozen as my brain.

“Sorry to scare you. I’m just a messenger.” He then smiles again, wait for me to say something, but not even one word coming out from my mouth. He nods a little and leaves me hanging there, staring at his back.

Eloise, say something!

“Hey, I think you’re cute.” I shout. What the hell was that?

He laughs and shouts to his friend, “Sorry, Ray! She said I’m cute!” His friend whom he called Ray made a gun out of his fingers and pretends to shot his head.

Ben then walks closer to me; throws me that smile again, “for the record, I think you’re cute too.”

“Thank you.” I smile back at him.

“I’m Ben.” He offers me his hand, I shake it. I know your name.

“Ellie,” I reply.

“So, you’re visiting?” He asks.

“Visiting who? Oh! You mean Paris. Um, no. I live here. Just moved here actually.” I blabber and I don’t know why I say that.

“Wow, cool! Living in Paris?! It’s like a dream come true! Why did you move to Paris?”

“Um, looking for inspiration?” I answer, even though it sounds like another question being asked.

“Inspiration, huh? Jim Morrison’s kind of inspiration or Van Gogh’s kind of inspiration?”

I laugh, “well, doesn’t matter. They both died tragically.”

“Yeah, but they lived their lives, didn’t they?” Ben tilts his head so that his head covers the sun behind him. It creates a perfect ray of light around him.

“I don’t know so much about Jim Morrison, not a big fan of hard rock. I’m more of a pop rock kind of girl.” I answer.

“The Beatles?”

“Bee gees!”

“No way! Me too!” Ben shrieks.

“Now you’re trying to impress me by screaming like them.”

Ben laughs. He has great teeth, god, I can’t stop staring at his teeth.

“Favorite version of Barry’s falsetto scream?” He asks.

“Totally Staying alive! You?”

Saturday night fever has definitely more shrieking!”

“Ah, come on! Nothing can defeat Staying Alive!”

“I don’t know, everytime I hear Staying Alive, it feels like seeing Barry sliding onto the screen with nothing but his socks and shirt. No pants!”

Then we laugh while Ben is trying to show me his version of Staying Alive dancing. He looks right through my eyes and says, “you seem very familiar, Ellie. I was talking to you like I’ve known you forever.”

“Well—“

“BEN!” A group of people call him from a far. “Are you going?!”

Ben waves his hand and shows them a hold sign. “Um, listen, I have to go.”

“Okay.” I try my best not to look disappointed. “Nice to meet you, Ben.”

He’s just standing there, staring at me. His eyes look deep into mine as if going to eat me alive and I’m there, just waiting to be eaten alive, voluntarily.

“I have to catch a train to London anyway.” I’m breaking up the silence.

“You’re going to London?” He looks disappointed too. “When will you be coming back?”

“Um, I don’t know. Monday?”

“I went back to Indonesia on Monday morning…” Ben mumbles.

“BEN!” His friends shout his name again.

Ben suddenly grins, as if he just committed a crime; a good crime that’s worth any sentence. “Wait here.” He tells me and runs to his friends.

I don’t know what I’m feeling but I am so happy talking to him and I don’t want this to end. I just want to keep talking and talking and talking with him and seeing him laugh and showing off his great teeth.

He runs back to me again, bringing a camera and takes my picture. I’m shocked and probably looked terrible on the photo and he says, “Can you blow off your London trip?”

“What?!” I ask, more like surprised. I can’t believe he just asked me to blow off my 300 Euros ticket.

“Yeah, blow it off! Just like I blew off another meeting with my boss. I’d probably get fired but hey, what the hell. It’s Paris, right?”

I smile so wide, you know that kind of deep smile that literally hurts my cheeks’ muscles. “And do what?” I ask.

“I don’t know, anything! It’s Paris! Nothing could go wrong! Do something crazy perhaps?” Ben smiles the kind of smile that probably also hurts like mine but he, himself looks surprised and happy. I can’t describe what exactly his feelings are because the Eiffel Tower in the background really distracts me. Eiffel looks less rusty and friendlier to me as if saying that I was wrong. I was wrong for mocking her.

“Something crazy, huh? So you’re the one who’s into the Van Gogh’s kind of inspiration?!” I joke.

“There won’t be a cut-off-ear incident though. But I can’t promise there would be no falling.” He smiles at me, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. This is perfect.

“Let me just text a friend of mine.” I tell him while taking out my phone from my backpack. Shannon, I cancelled the ticket. I’ll call you later. Nothing bad happens, ok, even though some falling might be involved. Don’t worry. This is the opposite of bad!

Excuses why I haven’t updated my Eloise

This is just gonna be a short and full of excuses post, to encounter my friends who are demanding-ly pushing me to continue Eloise, threatened to sue me if Ellie didn’t meet Ben on the next chapter or will unfollow my blog. Okay, I just made up the last one… and probably the one before that. Yeah, I’m dramatic. It’s not a secret.

Anyway, let me tell you why I haven’t had the time to update my Eloise novel.

1. Christmas’ Dinner and New Year’s party

Hosting party is not easy! Not easy to plan, decorate, making guest list, checking the RSVP and stuffs. Shopping for Christmas dinner, looking for decorations, thinking of small details (you know I have OCD). Then cooking on the D day, cleaning up and stuff.

Christmas Dinner Set

Christmas Dinner Set

New Year’s Party wasn’t that hard to prepare though. It was more fun with the games and drinking, it was just tiring to confirm the guests but however it was fun. Will do again next year!

NYE party

2. (again) tired of marathon

Is this excuse still excusable?

3. Planning my Europe Trip

This really drains most of my free time now. Reading Rick Steves’, planning the perfect route (which got me and Bandi fight hundreds of times for dropping whether Switzerland or Czech Republic). We also did research for every little details of budget because we’re that cheap. (Oh come on, I’ll travel Europe for one month, of course I have to be cheap in order to survive!)

And yeah I know it’s not necessary, but I took some time to decorate a wall on my room.

 

Bandi and May's Big Adventure - Wall of Dream

Bandi and May’s Big Adventure – Wall of Dream

IMG_3318

Parma and Turin Two cities of history.

4. This game

Dance_Central_3_cover (1)

Enough said, this game is addictive!!!! Wait wait wait, the best part is… It burns calories! One time, Bandi and I played for 2 hours and we didn’t even realize that! We stopped because our feet hurts. This game is a must try!

 

So, am I forgiven for being a spoiled lazy bum girl?

I guess not, huh? However I must motivate myself to write again because I’m a natural couch potato and I should thanked my annoying demanding friends, shouldn’t I?

Better get going to load my brain for Eloise’s next chapter! =)

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Jeremy resumes his snoring in no time right after he finishes the sandwich, this time he falls asleep in the living room. I lock my bed room just for safety purpose since I keep thousands of Euros inside my suitcase. I’m thinking to open a bank, but the hassle of opening a bank in a foreign country won’t be worth it since I will be dead soon.

I take one piece of 100 Euros note for dinner and groceries and put it in my brown sling bag together with my iPhone and the metro pass card. Jeremy is surely somewhere between Hawaii and seventh heaven now so I lock the front door.

A mouth watering fragrance of Garlic and Wine from L’amie Jean greets me when I walk out from the five storeys flat. It’s always nice to be greeted by a delicious smell of food, kind of make me hungry again, which I am very rarely feeling hungry lately. Some scooters and cars are parked along the Rue Malar like usual so I have to walk in the middle of the road. It’s a ten minutes walk from Jeremy’s flat to La Tour-Maubourg metro station. It’s almost noon already and I probably will skip my lunch because I just had a very late breakfast. Jeremy was right, today is a very sunny day and I love the feel of sunshine on my skin. It will bring a little color to my now pale skin. I used to have a nice yellowish tan before the cancer and now I just look like a regular sick person while people see me as a very white Asian girl.

The metro ride is very short to LouvreMuseum, although I have to change train in Concorde intersection. It’s only four station away so I don’t have enough time to google all the possible hotels that Ben probably stays at, adding the facts that I’m not good at doing research online.

I walk straight to Rue de Rivoli once I exit the station, where all the hotels lined up nicely. It is a sunny day so I’m a little bit exhausted and I’m having cold sweats. I feel weird about my body and get uncomfortable easily. I walk along the road until I see the Joan of Arc statue roamed by people posing for photos. I just realize that I never take pictures at all since I arrived in Paris. I’m not sure why, maybe I just forget that when people visit a new place, they must or usually have the tendency to take photos or maybe I don’t need photos because they will become memories and I don’t need memories, do I?

All the hotels that I passed by are not grand enough for holding an architectural conference but how would I know, I didn’t even stop at any of them and going in. I’m not sure anymore what I am doing now. I’m just wandering around the LouvreMuseum which is super mega huge without a specific destination.

Now I’m standing in front of Starbucks, staring idiotically to all the buildings around Louvre that look the same. All the ivory buildings are the typical Parisian Stone buildings with balconies and curved arches, whether that is a hotel, a laundry place, a café or even a McDonald’s. Now I feel my plan is so not well-planned. I should remember how big Louvre is. Even coming here ten times won’t give me enough times to explore all the arts, how will I find one hotel that captivates Ben in it just by hours? I am plainly stupid and delusional. Why am I like this? I don’t usually rush into things. Like Shannon said, I always plan things properly, using my brain instead of heart. This makes me feel powerless and again, stupid.

A strong smell of coffee tickles me when a man coming out from Starbucks and let the door opened for a while, spreading the inviting coffee scent. I don’t have any choice but stepping inside and having a cup of coffee, letting my mind rests a bit.

After I ordered an ice vanilla latte, I wait the Barista to make my coffee and he calls my name when he finishes. Because my name is originated from France, it is spelled perfectly on my Latte cup, the first time ever. I never got my name spelled correctly in any Starbucks in Asia. They usually just wrote “Louise” or worse “Eeloys”.

There are three empty tables in the left corner and I choose the one nearest to the window. I sit on the wooden chair, sip my coffee and begin to call Shannon. She doesn’t seem available to answer my phone so I stop calling after the fifth times. I hear people talking in French, in language I don’t understand and somehow it’s bugging me. I don’t know what’s happening to me, back in Singapore I had always surrounded by people who was talking Chinese which I didn’t understand and it didn’t bother me, now, I’m surrounded by the most sophisticated language and I’m angry?

I don’t like the feeling I’m feeling now, uneasy, bothered, emotional and so tense. Sometimes I even feel like I can’t breathe and the non stop dizziness really suffocates me. Dr Boey said that if I stop the medication, I’d start becoming very pale and weaker and eventually will be dead. Well, at least I won’t lose my hair at all and will not be bald inside my coffin.

I spend 3 hours sitting in Starbucks, drinking coffee, eating a slice of cheesecake and do people watching. Sometimes I refresh Ben’s facebook wall but no new activity whatsoever. I get bored and leave to find a grocery store. I always love grocery shopping and this time, I’ll need my iPhone to translate most of the items. Potato chips are listed first in my mind and the ingredients of tonight’s possible American dinner.

***

My iPhone rings just when I open the front door of Jeremy’s flat. I answer the phone knowing who it is. There are only two persons whom I give my number to, Jeremy who is sitting in front of his PC desk as I enter the house and Shannon who is the one calling now.

“Sorry I was busy. What’s a matter?” She says.

I sigh, “Nothing. I just feel like talking to you.”

“Did you meet him?” She asked.

“No.” I answered while putting all my groceries on the kitchen counter.

“That is why you’re in the bad mood now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Is that stupid?”

Shannon doesn’t answer my question.

“It’s stupid, isn’t it?” I raise my voice.

“It is not if you tell him you’re meeting him, Ellie. It is if you’re wandering around Paris looking for him, expecting into bump him accidentally.” Shannon talks as if she could read my mind.

Almost everything inside the fridge is expired so I throw it all and replace with the groceries I bought.

“Ellie? You there?” Shannon continues.

“Yeah.”

“So, do you still want to meet him?”

“Honestly, yes.”

“Do you want me to talk to him?”

“No. I feel like a fool now. I mean, what are the odds of bumping into people you know in Paris, right? And even though I bumped into him, we probably didn’t recognize each other!”

“Well, you were just trying,” Shannon tried to be wise. “So what’s your plan for tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow is Friday, it’s my laundry day.”

“You’re gonna do laundry for the whole day?”

“No, I’m gonna do laundry for one hour and be sulky for the next 23 hours.”

Shannon laughs, “Just come here, to London.”

“Yeah, probably on Saturday.” I say as I prepare dinner for me and Jeremy.

“Are you cooking?” Again, Shannon is like a wizard.

“How do you know?” I shriek.

“Just guessing. I know you so well, Ellie. I could find out what you’re doing just from the sound of your breathing.”

“Gee! That’s weird, Shannon!”

Shannon laughs like crazy now, “I heard you chopping the board, you idiot!”

I laugh along with her and feeling a little idiotic, “I’ll talk to you later, ok, freak?”

She gives me a teasing kissy sound and hangs up the phone.

Jeremy suddenly appears beside me like a ghost and I jump a little realizing his existence. “Hey, watch out the knife, missy!” He says.

“You appeared soundless like a ghost!” I blame him.

“What are you cooking?” He doesn’t bother to apologize.

“Mac and Cheese. Are you okay with that? I thought you love American food.”

“And what is that you’re chopping?” He points to the board.

“Paprika.”

“You put paprika on Mac and Cheese?” He raises his voice.

I stop chopping at once, knowing this paprika will goes to trash anyway. “Ok, so you don’t like it…”

He grins and shows a guilty face, “I’ll treat you lunch tomorrow for wasting that paprika.”

“It’s okay, you don’t have to do that.” I smile at him. Suddenly Jeremy laughs so I look at him with my confused face.

“I was asking you out you know.” He says. “Why? Do you have a boyfriend or something?”

“Well, I don’t have a boyfriend. But I do have the or something.” I joke. The timer rings, signifies the macaronis have been cooked al dente. I turn off the stove and rinse the water and put them on butter.

Jeremy is still there watching me cooking the cheese paste. “How old are you, Eloise?” He asks.

“Well, Jeremy. Two things you must know not to ever ask from women are their age and their weight.” I smile at him, “but this time I give you exception. I’m twenty eight, why do you ask?”

He looks surprised, “Man! You don’t look like twenty eight. If we’re going out you’d be like cougar. Good thing you have that or something.” He chuckles and goes back to the living room, sitting on the sofa.

“Well, I take that as a compliment.” I mumble. This Jeremy, not only childish and spoiled, also could be a little annoying. I just need to remember how pretty my bedroom is. He says thank you three times for the dinner though and saying that it’s the most American meal he’s ever eaten for the last three months so his little annoyance for calling me old is paid off. However I’m still doing the dishes, so he’s back to annoying spoiled little brat in five minutes.

I like Jeremy though. He’s like Jerome, same age and same attitude. That makes me miss him, my only brother, whom I was very close to when we were both kids. Every time we ate Mom’s fried chicken, we played an imaginary fried chicken restaurant named Kenstupy, probably a pun of Kentucky. He was the restaurant manager and I was the chef. Come to think of it, fried chicken joint won’t need a chef but we were so into this imaginary restaurant so the details of the restaurant was being more and more real every time we ate the friend chicken. We even made the price list and measured different sizes of rice cups.

I never had problem with Jerome before and I didn’t remember why we drifted apart. We were suddenly separated into two teams when my Dad had a big fight with my Mom and he hit her. Jerome was in Dad’s team and I was in Mom’s team. Since then, we all were drifted apart. Everything was never fine anymore.

What is Jerome doing now? Does he still remember that Kenstupy thing?

A buzz from my phone awakes me from a daydream of my imaginary fried chicken joint, just when I need a distraction from this very sad memory. I get a text from Shannon, “Open Ben’s facebook. Now!”

I don’t waste any more seconds to do what she asked me to do. There’s an update status from him, “Oh Jean Valjean, please release me. I am no Javert, nor Thenardiers, why do you take revenge on me with this endless meeting. I need to see Eiffel Tower so badly!”

There’s a sting on my heart, not a painful sting but a ticklish exciting sting. He mentions names from Les Miserables. He reads the book my mom mentioned to me hundred times before.

My phone buzzes again “I know you read it like a thousand times, but there are a lot of people like that book too ok?”

Maybe Shannon’s right. I don’t need to be so dramatic about this. So what if Ben’s using preferences from Les Miserables?

Another text message from Shannon appears on the screen of my phone, “Ah, who am I kidding? Shit, Ellie! He’s your SOULMATE!”

P.S: I’ve edited the whole story from chapter one to chapter six. I changed the past tense writing to present tense because I consider present tense to be more suitable for the story. I also changed some things after doing some fact checking and I improved some of the storyline. If it’s not much to ask, you might re-read the whole chapters again. Or just wait until the whole novel to be finished and re-read the whole thing again. =) ENJOY!

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Six.

Chapter Six

Shannon holds my hand very tightly in the metro all the way to Gare Du Nord. We keep talking about things that seem never-ending. No matter how many hours we have been talking, it is never enough to catch up every single detail of her lives. About scrapbooking, about London, about diapers and about how Coldplay should never break up. I love being with Shannon and I love listening to her talking non sense. It just makes me feel alive and loved and healthy, as if the cancer would be cured by her magic blabbering words and her sparkling black eyes. And I hate that she has to leave to London again.

We finally arrive at Gare Du Nord Station and we hug goodbye when Shannon’s train was about to depart. “I’ll visit next weekend if anybody could babysit Alison,” Shannon promises.

“Or I’ll come by to London!” I say.

“You’ll do that? But you hate train trip!”

“I’ll figure it out, Shan.” I act wisely.

“Ok then. I’ll see you later, Ellie.” She hugs me for the last time and goes off to the gate. She shouts from a far though, “I love you Ellie!” which makes people glance at me and smile.

It is good to know people notice that you are loved.

Shannon let me have her facebook account’s password so I can stalk Ben whenever I want. I know it is very immature of me to do that but I do it anyway. Shannon kept asking why it is such a big deal for me to friend him and stalk him from my account instead but I didn’t know what to answer. I just don’t want to. Maybe I don’t want to add numbers for people who know me then there won’t be too many people who would be sad on my funeral. It is a stupid thinking, I know.

I just stare at Ben’s facebook profile during my trip back to Anvers station. There is no activity since the last time Shannon and I checked. He might be in Paris now or probably riding the same train with me, but who would’ve known.

I realize my palm is sweating a lot when I open my hostel’s room as the handle is covered by my sweats. I have been feeling weird lately, sometimes light headed and tired. Since I stopped my medication a week ago, now I wonder how long I can survive without treating this cancer.

Being with Shannon was so fun, it almost convinced me to live forever but then I realize she won’t be able to live with me though I lived forever because she was married to someone who was also hoping to live with her forever. Sometimes I really hope that Shannon was a guy so I could marry her.

Suddenly notification comes from my email, which is a reply from this guy I met online who was looking for a roommate. His name is Jeremy, an American born Korean who is studying here, in Paris. He’s looking for anyone who could tidy up the apartment and willing to give cheap rent price. So I emailed him promoting myself of how I would be so quiet and tidy.

“Hi there Eloise, can you come to my place tomorrow? Any time after 2 pm is fine.” He wrote. He also gave his number so I call him that I‘ll be there.

 

***

 

Meeting Jeremy was pleasant. He seemed nice and decent. He has a very messy hair which I thought he does on purpose and a very thin eyebrow, almost none. He isn’t really tall as a guy and a little too chatty but I don’t mind to hear him talking words I don’t understand about his on-line game as long as I could stay in his amazing apartment paying only 400 Euros a month plus tidying up the place. It is located in an aisle called Rue Malar and it’s only minutes away from Eiffel Tower. The apartment itself is so Paris-like with white paint and white railing and flower pots next to the main door. It’s beautiful and exactly like what I expected in mind. The opposite of the house is a restaurant called L’ami Jean which always smells delicious. My guess that Jeremy’s parents are rich and he’s a spoiled brat could probably true because he doesn’t even want to do dishes. But again, I don’t mind to wash his dishes since I don’t have many things to do anyway.

The next thing I know, I have shifted to Jeremy’s apartment, unpacking my clothes to a classy white wooden wardrobe.

“Your Laundry days are Tuesday and Friday. Wi-fi is free to use but don’t download anything after 10 at night because I need full speed for my online gaming. Friends are not allowed to stay for more than 3 days, unless she’s a really hot chick. I love free snacks once in a while, mostly American junks like chips and…” he pauses for a while, “nope. Only chips.”

“Got it. Will stock up for chips.” I say.

He chuckles, “I prefer natural taste with sea salt.”

“Okie dokie, will add sea salt on the grocery list.”

“You seem like a cool girl, Eloise.” Jeremy compliments me.

“Thanks. So do you, Jeremy.” I reply.

“Okay then. Enough for the chit-chat. I’m off to my game. Please never talk to me while I’m playing unless there’s fire or Victoria’s Secret model came by.”

“Got it.”

Jeremy then is busy with his two gigantic monitor and screaming random things on his headset while I open Safari on my iPhone, googling ‘how long does a cancer patient survive without treatments.’

Apparently, collecting information from internet is not my strength at all. I get bored reading all the articles about breast cancer, what breast cancer is, survival stories, blah blah blah. I just glance through all of them and find out it would be 18 month maximum survival rate for a person with certain stage of breast cancer.

I fondle my left breast and realize that the size of the tumor is getting bigger. I get a goosebumps just by touching it. How did it get bigger so fast? Was eating too much soufflé considered as feeding it? Huh, my sense of humor is back. Just because some times with Shannon and Jeremy’s company, I feel like wanting my life back. My life without cancer.

Then I wonder to a conclusion that actually have been admitted by my conscious a long time ago, that I wanted to suicide not because I hated my life or my family, but simply because I felt lonely. What I, Eloise, the suicidal lady, actually need is a company. I hate being alone, it makes me think scary stuffs like suicidal. I realize I’m so self-destructive and weak, which probably a kind of mental problem. But hey, who doesn’t have mental problems nowadays?

A ding sound awakes me from my depressive daydream. It’s a message from Shannon, “Check Ben’s facebook. NOW!”

I don’t waste any seconds to open Shannon’s facebook account and stalk Ben. There is a new photo of him being tagged, uploaded by his friend. He was standing in front of Louvre wearing a grey sweater and dark blue jeans. He looked handsome with that gorgeous mysterious smile.

I open a message box and he’s online, all of sudden I feel my heart pounding. I click his name and stare on a blinking type cursor.

I inhale a long breath, swallow my pride and type “Hi Ben! How are you? I see you’re in Paris now. Any plan to London?”

Shit, what am I thinking?!

I feel like I have waited forever and he doesn’t reply my message. Well, technically it isn’t my message, it is Shannon’s but still I feel rejected. So after waiting for ten minutes, I decide to log out from Shannon’s account and let my stupid guts laughs at me. I feel embarrassed for no reason at all and start to cry. I don’t want Jeremy to see me crying so I go to my room and crying for the next five minutes. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m being too sensitive over that stupid non-replied chat but even though my brain knows it is nothing close to worth crying for, the tears won’t stop streaming down to my face. I’m being over emotional, so I just sleep on it that night and hope the next morning every thing will be fine.

 

***

 

I open my eyes as the sunshine peeks between the curtains. It creates such a great silhouette of the pretty railing from my balcony. I feel so much better just seeing the sunshine. I feel fine.

Last night was an emotional roller coaster for me and it was weird because there weren’t anything worth crying and being depressed for. That stupid non-replied chat? Was that worth my tears? What a stupid thing I felt last night.

I go out from my room and the living room is empty. There is a headset on the black couch and some empty Kronenbourg cans. I pick them up and toss them on the trash can while the headset is being put back near Jeremy’s PC. The door of Jeremy’s room is opened and I see him sleeping. He probably just started to sleep.

I hit the shower after having a glass of milk and toasted bread with strawberry jam. I examine my left breast again after finish with shower, this time in front of the bathroom mirror. The left breast looks saggy and weird. I fondle carefully and there again, the tumor as a size of marble, or even slightly bigger. I’m not sure because I stop touching it. Tears start streaming down on my face again, uncontrollably. I have no idea why I become so sensitive and emotional over everything. It is the fifth time I have been crying in one week. Last year, I didn’t even cry once!

I wrap my body with the towel and come back to my room, planning to call Shannon because I miss her already. I see my iPhone’s screen is on when I enter my room and find out there had been 4 missed-calls from Shannon. I call her back right away.

“Ellie! Where have you been? It’s ten thirty for God’s sake, you just woke up?” She nags like an old woman.

“Jeez, Shan. I was in the shower. And I am allowed to wake up as late as I want because I’m in holiday!”

“Yeah, go ahead rubbing your relaxed life on my nose! I’m wiping shits from a baby’s ass!”

I laugh, “Some said it reflects fortune, Shan. Breathe them in.”

Shannon laughs along with me, “Why don’t you try yours?”

“Well I—“

“Ellie! I call you because Ben messaged me, apparently he’s replying my message!” Shannon cuts my next joke.

“What? What message?”

“Don’t act stupid, Ellie! You used my facebook to message him! What are you, thirteen?”

“Sorry about that, Shannon… I was following my guts. What did he say?”

“Your guts stopped growing up on thirteen?”

“Shannon! What did he say?”

A cry explodes in the background, “I’ve got to call you back later, ok?” Shannon says.

“Alison?”

“Yes.”

“Alright. Call me back soon, or I’ll do something stupid!”

“Huh? Like what?” asked Shannon and suddenly the line is cut off. She probably drops the phone or Alison grabs it and throws it to the sink.

I can’t wait for Shannon to call me back. I do the stupid thing right away, which is opening Shannon’s facebook, again.

Ben’s reply to Shannon is brief and decent. Wow, he’s a decent man now… And something about the reply from him sinks my heart to my stomach.

Hi Shannon, sorry I missed your message yesterday night. I fell asleep without logging off the application. Anyway, I’m in Paris at the moment, only for a week, for this architecture conference my office is having with its corporate partner. So basically I just flew 20 hours to stay in the hotel and do meetings. Can you believe that I’ve been in Paris for 4 days and haven’t visited Eiffel Tower, which I was dying to see?! I only went to Louvre Museum out of convenience because it’s just outside of my hotel.

It’s a shame I won’t be able to extend my Europe trip even though I really want to visit London or Amsterdam where all my friends are staying because of a certain project’s deadline. Keep in touch, will ya, Shannon?”

My stomach feels funny when I read the message. It’s like this weird feeling as if my heart literally sinks to the stomach because I can really hear the beating sound from my stomach and it does feel like something is beating inside. I could meet him if I want to. He stays in some hotel near Louvre that has a meeting or conference room who holds a conference for some architecture firm.

The phone rings and it shocks me like hell as if I’m getting caught of planning some crime. I’m not planning anything bad, but I feel ashamed somehow, without no reason at all.

It’s Shannon again on the phone, “Ellie! I’m back.”

“He’s here, Shannon! Very near! And I know where he is!”

“Well, I guess you already read the message.”

“Yes.”

“So?”

“So?”

“What would you do now?” Shannon asks.

There’s a long pause. I’m not sure if I should tell Shannon my plan because I’m so scared for judgment.

“You want to meet him, don’t you, Ellie?” She asks again, softly this time.

“Um… Kinda.” I reply, acting cool.

“I know you want to, not kinda want to. Just be straight with me here.”

I hesitate for a while, but then I reply, “Yes. I do want to meet him. Is that weird?”

“Well… I don’t know. Kinda.”

“Shannon!” I snap at her.

“I was kidding, Ellie. It’s not weird to have developed certain feeling to a certain man.”

“What certain feeling? What do you mean? It’s not like I’m in love or something, Shannon! Please, I haven’t met him for million years! I didn’t even—“

“Jeez, Ellie! Did I say you’re in love with him? Relax, Ellie, I thought you’re in a holiday.” Then she laughs as if she just won something.

“Listen, Ellie…” Shannon talks seriously, “I don’t know why suddenly Ben came into the picture and why you’re really interested with him. But I hope you don’t have high expectation because this is not the Ben who gave you chocolate medal anymore. Like you said, it’s been million years since that happened. He might have already forgotten about it and…” Ellie pauses for a while, “He might have forgotten about you too.”

On that moment, I realize Shannon is right. I have been delusional these past three days, thinking about Ben and how he still finds me special when actually he might have forgotten about me. He might have so many girlfriends after that 6th grade confession to me and his memory of me then replaced by so many other girls.

“Ellie, are you still there?” Shannon talks softly.

“Yeah.” I answer nonchalantly.

A knock on my door distracts my focus from the phone to the door. “Jeremy?” I shout. A blurry yes replied me. Then I realize I’m still naked.

I tell Shannon that I gotta go and will call her later, put my worn out pajamas and open the door, “Hey, why are you awake so early?”

“It’s almost noon, I’m hungry.” He replies. I can see his eyes are still red.

“You want something to eat?” I ask.

“Would that trouble you?” He tries to be polite.

“Not at all. I can only make a sandwich for you because I gotta go somewhere.” Then I walk to the kitchen while Jeremy has already gotten comfortable on the couch.

“Hey Jeremy?” I ask him from the kitchen counter.

“Yeah?”

“Any hotel near LouvreMuseum that has a good conference room?”

“Um… There are tons of hotel around that area, you know. It would be a hitch just to find one hotel.”

Well, that helps a lot, I think sarcastically.

“Why do you need a conference room?” asked Jeremy.

I don’t answer that because it will be too complicated to answer so I just finish up his sandwich with extra mustard and put it on a plate, “there you go!” and I give it to him.

He thanks me for the sandwich and comments, “Well, it’s a sunny day for going out, Eloise. Just don’t forget to change because right now, I can easily see through your shirt.”

“Ew, Jeremy!” I thump his arm with a TV remote and leave him laughing while chomping his sandwich.

I go to my room to change and put on a bra, of course. I smile when I realize it has been so long, too long, since I get confused dressing up to meet a boy. And the warmth feeling filled the hole in my heart, once again, just because of thinking about this man named Ben whom I never met since 6th grade.

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Five.

Chapter Five

Life can’t get any better. I live in a city I have always wanted to live, I tried new food I have never tried before, I had visited Lourve and Musee d’Orsay, two museums I had been dying to visit. I finally saw Monalisa with my own eyes, explored so many Van Gogh’s painting and even bought a book about his paintings and read it in a coffee shop opposite of EiffelTower. This is a life I had always dreamt of.

Yes it is a dream life, so at some point I must wake up. It is when the loneliness starts crawling back to me, giving me flashes of Shannon and Mom from the past. I miss both of them so much. I feel I never love anybody truly except the two of them but unfortunately one of them is dead.

But Shannon is still alive and he’s just a few kilometers away.

Today is a bright Saturday morning and I sit quietly in a café near my hostel. I order another cup of latte and give a serious thought about the possibility of meeting Shannon. It has been three years since I saw her and I barely talked to her anymore. Am I still on track of my suicide plan? If I am, then why must I care about my ego?

I open the facebook app on my iPhone and write a message to Shannon, “Hey. I’m in Paris.”

I’m frozen waiting for her reply because I know she’s online. She’s always online because she updates her blog daily about scrapbooking and other art and craft stuffs.

“NO WAY! How did you get there?” Shannon replies, about one minute later. Suddenly there is this warmth feeling in my heart that really feels soothing. A feeling that’s very foreign for my life lately and yet succeeds to put a smile back on my face.

“By plane,” I reply.

“LOL. Of course. Give me your address; I’m coming there by train in about 3 hours.”

I type my address as fast as lightning strike, I actually shriek when I do this. I’m so happy imagining that I will finally meet Shannon again, I even spill my coffee a little bit because I am so rush looking for the name card of the hostel that Bernadette gave me.

The next thing I know, I hear a knock on my hostel room’s door and I open it at once. Shannon is standing in front of me, seeing me, jaw-dropping and screaming, “OH MY GOD ELLIE YOU’RE IN PARIS!!!”

“I AM!” I scream too and hug her then the two of us jumping like ten years old girls receiving tickets to a Justin Bieber concert.

Shannon looks pretty with the combination of her dark brown dyed curly hair and rosy cheeks. Her eyes are big and black and always sparkle, probably the reasons why so many guys were crazy about her.

“How did you get here, you…” Shannon loses for words, “…crazy idiotic lady!”

I chuckle, “I miss you too, Shannon.” And we hug again for another minute.

She throw her small backpack on my bed and off we go to the nearest café. It is still along the Boulevard de Rochechouart so we don’t need to take any public transportation or dragging longer time to finally update each other’s news.

“So?” she raises her eyebrow.

“So?” I give her confused look.

“How did you get here? It was a serious question, Ellie!”

“I took plane, Shan. It wasn’t a joke either.”

“I know, silly! I meant, how did you decide you’re going to Paris?”

“You know I always wanted to visit Paris, right?”

“Yeah… I guess.” She shrugs. “It’s just not so Eloise to go somewhere spontaneously.”

“Really? Not so me?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, then what’s so Eloise like?”

“I don’t know. Plan things?”

Like suicide.

“I have this plan to go to Paris all my life, Shannon.”

“Yeah I know…” Now Shannon looks confused. “Never mind then, it’s just this weird feeling I have.”

A waiter comes with our lattes and soufflé so we postpone the conversation for a while and dig the soufflé right away.

“Wow. It tastes great,” Shannon says.

“Yeah, I know. I ate here a couple of times,” I reply.

“Really? How long have you been in Paris, Ellie?”

“Two weeks.”

“Wow!” Shannon’s eyes widen. “What an adventure you’ve got there!”

“Guess so.”

“You’ve been here alone?”

“Of course. With whom you expect me to travel with?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t talked much lately. I thought there’s a guy in the picture.” She winks annoyingly.

“Hey, enough about me. What about you? How’s your kid?”

“Oh, Alison. I called her Allie. Sounds like you. She’s very cute and smart, you should meet her!”

“I will. Maybe I’ll drop by to London later.”

“Yeah you should!”

“Who’s taking care of her now that you’re with me?” Suddenly I realize that.

“That’s okay. I asked John to babysit now that I’m staying with you tonight.” She says. “I am staying tonight, right?”

“Of course!” I laugh.

I spend tonight strolling along the Seine river with Shannon, talking about her family, her daughter especially and her passionate scrapbooking hobby. She also tells me the story when she accidentally dropped little Alison while she was breastfeeding her. She was a new mom, she was so tired and it was an accident. Everyone was judging her but however she tells me the story while laughing so I guess she got over it. She seems to have everything she wants now and she seems very happy. Not the happy drinking in the bar Shannon, but more of the happy feeling content Shannon.

We stop for another soufflé and another latte in two different cafes, see a couple who are getting too comfortable in the corner so we decide to step away from the second café, realize that it has passed midnight then we finally head back to the hostel.

While Shannon applying a face cream in front of the walled mirror, I talk about all the good old times during our school, our trips and all the long distance phone calls that almost made us broke. We giggle over the stupid phone calls towards each other every time somebody was having a bad date or way too good date, then suddenly that name is brought up.

“Hey Shannon, do you remember Ben?” I try to sound as nonchalant as possible.

Shannon doesn’t answer my question as she is busy flossing her teeth now. I make bed for us to sleep and mention the name one more time, “I was just wondering how he’s doing. You know, Ben… I’m just curious.”

“Ben who? You mean Ruben Novenard? My Secondary friend?”

“Yes. The one that gave me a medal chocolate.”

“Oh my god!” Shannon shrieks and throw away her dirty floss straightaway. “I forgot about that! He had a major crush on you when you were kids!”

“Let’s not make it a big deal, okay?” I can feel my face flaming.

“Why all of the sudden, out of the blue, you ask about him? Did you meet him? Did you guys contact each other? Anything happened?” Shannon is grilling me.

I laugh seeing her acting like a kid, “you should see yourself right now. You’re acting like a kid.” I slip inside the blanket. “Do you have his facebook?”

“Ha! Facebook! So you have stalking to do?” Shannon does an a-ha fingers and acts like Sherlock Holmes finding a clue for his case. “Indeed I have his facebook, Mrs. Eloise. This is your lucky day.”

She grabs my iPhone from my hand and logs in to her facebook account. “Hmm, let’s see. He’s currently living in Jakarta, is an architect, wow, sexy picture there mister! And um…” she kept scrolling, “He is interested with building, yeah of course. Like F1 pages and some architecture nerds I don’t know. Inspirational quotes, uh-huh, uh-huh. Opening photo albums, scroll, scroll, still scrolling. No photos of lovey dovey with girl, guess he is single.”

“Give me that, Shannon!” I try to take my phone back but she’s blocking me with her back. “OH MY GOD.” Suddenly Shannon turns her body and face me the phone, just one inch from my eyes. “Read this one!”

I pull the phone from her hand and read one wall post that is written on Ben’s facebook wall, apparently from one of his friend, “Hey Ben, heard you’re going to France next week! Hopefully you had enough time to visit me in Amsterdam!”

“When was that post written?” cried Shannon.

“8 days ago!” I shriek.

Shannon and I are just staring each other quietly. She gives me that speechless look with her big brown eyes, “how did you do that, Ellie?”

“Do what?”

“You never ask about this guy. Ever! And now suddenly you guys are in the same city?”

“Wait. He is in France. Not particularly in Paris, ok?” I hear myself in denial.

“Ellie, come on. Should I explain to you how Paris is the most visited city and blah blah blah. You think it is possible for somebody visiting France without Paris?”

“Yes it is possible.”

“What happen? Are you scared?” Shannon talks softly.

“Scared of what?” I defend myself. “I don’t even know why I brought his name in the first place.”

“Yeah, I was about to ask… Why?”

I inhale a long breath. The flashes suddenly are coming back before my eyes. In front of me, Shannon, the only person I trust and I love who is still alive.

“This might sound silly, ok?”

She moved her hand along the lips as if she was zipping off her mouth, “no judgement.”

“I came to Paris because I read my mom’s journal. You know that journal, right?” Shannon nods. “All over the journal was about this guy named Remy, whom my mom was falling in love with. I know this guy is a jerk, because he left my mom, but somehow, I love to read the stories about him and Paris of course. So long story short, I decided to visit Paris finally.”

Shannon still sits on the bed in front of me, listening soundly.

“Every time I read about Remy, I pictured a faceless imaginary guy, until one day in the airplane from Singapore to Paris, I suddenly remembered Ben, and somehow when I re-read my mom’s journal about Remy’s stories, I pictured Ben. Not literally picturing him because I forgot how he looked, until technically I saw his photo on facebook. But I was just thinking about Ben, picturing that he was the one who brought my mom to Eiffel or Seine river, or did the serenading for her and stuff. I kept remembering him for no reason at all, as if I must meet him for some answer. Well, that sounds even more idiotic because what is the question anyway…” I stop talking when I feel my eyes filled with tears. Then Shannon hugs me.

“I’m okay,” I giggle, “I don’t even know why I cry. Maybe I miss you.”

“I miss you too!” Shannon’s eyes start to get watery. “Are you okay, Ellie?”

“Yeah. Hormones.” We laugh and we continue hugging each other to sleep. I keep mumbling about how stress my work was and I was glad I quitted my job, about how depressed I was after my mom’s death, about Dad changing to become someone I didn’t know anymore, or maybe I changed so he didn’t know me anymore, I wasn’t sure. Shannon is just being there, brushing my hair with her fingers and let me complain until I’m exhausted and finally fall asleep. Shannon is just being Shannon, a very sweet lovable friend that everyone’s dying to have.

But I don’t tell her about my cancer. I don’t tell her about my suicide plan. I’m so comfortable and my body feels so light I almost forget I have cancer. The same feeling goes to my suicide plan. If only I could feel like this every single day for the rest of my life, then I don’t need to plan my suicide.

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Four.

Chapter Four

I step my foot on Charles De Gaulle Airport and feel the goose bumps all over my arms and the nape of my neck. It feels deliberating and exciting yet so overwhelming at the same time. I just flew thousand miles from the city I was stuck on to a city I never thought I would visit. The city when my mom had the best times of her life.

I stroll over the terminal 1 building as long as I got out from immigration check. A small lady with a very red lipstick approaches me and talks something in French which I can only catch “merci” of all the sentences she spoke to me.

“I’m sorry. I don’t speak French. Do you speak English?” I ask her. She looks at me with confused face and leave. That is when I realized, French people don’t speak English very well and I can’t even speak one sentence French. I’m so screwed! I might have at least taken a level 1 French course before coming here, or bought a simple French phrase book perhaps? So I make a move to look for a book store.

Having ChangiAirport as a home airport for the last 16 years, I thought I would never have a wow feeling from other airports. But it is Paris. Charles De Gaulle is different! Even though architecturally it is just like a smaller version of ShuvarnabumiAirport at Bangkok, but the atmosphere is surely magical. I still hear so many English speaking people in the airport, but it feels so French here since all the directions were written in French as well. However it is Paris, it is special, period.

I’ve found a book store and decide to buy the thickest pocket book of French Phrase I can find. It will definitely come handy later when I finally get lost in Paris, voluntarily.

It costs me about 12 Euros for a small book but quite informative. The book also shows a map of Parisian metro. I turn on my iPhone and read the address of a hostel that I already booked 2 days ago. The hostel’s name is Le Regent Hostel and the address looks so unfamiliar for me, so I have emailed the hostel to give me directions of how to go there from airport, and the replied email was only: Take metro to the Anvers Station. The hostel is just 200 meters from Anvers.

So when I see the Metro map attached with the pocket book, I shriek. The map is not even close to Singapore’s train map! This metro map is closer to a five years kid doodle drawing. There are about 15 different train lines with so many colors and station name. How will I ever find Anvers?

I wait for a shuttle to terminal 2 as it was what the internet told me, to always start the metro journey from terminal 2. So there I am, taking shuttle train to terminal 2.

When I arrive in terminal 2, I follow the crowd to what I figure is the metro station. There are cute blue machines that probably produce the coin or card for one time journey. But the most important thing is, whether I can or can’t find the Anvers station.

I look at the bigger metro map that is on the wall. I almost want to give up and take cab instead when I mumble, “Anvers… Anvers…” and a nice lady pointed her finger on the “Anvers” Station.

“Anvers!” she says it with an obvious French accent.

“Thank you!” I reply, “Merci!”

She smiles at me, “Want—buy—tickets?” She asks me using her body language and her broken English.

“Oui! Yes Yes!” I answer. “How do I do that?”

She grabs my right hand while my left hand holding to my luggage. She brings me to a ticket window and speaks French to the ticket vendor. The ticket vendor asks me, “Un jours? Trois jours?

I just assume from the information written above the ticket windows that he’s talking about how many days pass, so I reply, “One day please. Oon Joors. Merci.

The lady laughs a little listening of my poor spoken French. She corrects me, “Uh—n—zhoor

I follow her, “Un jours.”

She claps her hands out of excitement. Then she shows a sad face to me, “I must go. You, enjoy Paris!”

Merci! Merci!” I keep saying it as it is the only word I said perfectly.

De rien.” She replies. “Au revoir!

So then the first French lady I meet leaves a very good impression of Paris for me. I feel a little less lonely talking to a stranger without understanding her language at all.

“Nine Euros and thirty cents,” said the ticket vendors with French accent. “Passe Navigo, for all RER, metro, trams.”

I just nod and pay him with Ten Euros note and keep the change in my jeans’ pocket. I hear an announcement while I’m waiting for my train to Anvers. I try to understand the English version of the announcement but I don’t really catch the meaning. I glance to a middle aged man standing beside me, giving a question look on my eyes but he just shrugs.

I enter the train and read some information about Paris in my French Phrase book and figure out that the train I’m riding is the RER, a faster train than metro that has only five main lines with greater distance between stations than metro stations. However RER and metro are interconnected in some stations. Apparently I have to alight at Gare Du Nord in order to continue to metro.

Gare Du Nord station is so big; more of like a bus interchange or even an airport than just a metro train station. It has so many levels and I get lost within a minute. I approach a man in a uniform straightaway and ask him how to go to Anvers station.

Une seule station,” then he points to a circled letter m sign with colored blue number two beside it. “One stop,” he continues with English when he realizes that I’m a tourist.

Merci,” I reply.

It turns out to be very easy once I understand the whole metro concept. I just need to find what number my metro line is and follow the colored number. The Anvers station itself is just one station away from Gare Du Nord.

I take off from metro once it stops at Anvers. I follow the sortie sign, which means exit and take stairs up to the city road, Boulevard de Rochechouart.

I breathe in the air of Paris onto my lounge, wishing it could chase the cancer away with its magic, breathe in the freedom from my everyday routines, the liberating feeling from all the horrifying past I leave back in Singapore which I don’t want to ever going back. I glance around and see a busy morning of Paris. A young man riding a bicycle, a couple kissing on the curb beside the bus stop, a yellowish leaves falling from the tree of a month of July. A soft wind breezes through my long black hair. Oh what a wonderful feeling. For a second I believe my cancer is gone and I’m truly happy, just standing there, doing nothing but breathe. I am so ecstatic, can’t wait to see, hear, touch and smell Paris. I am on cloud nine, a kind of feeling I never thought existed in this life.

I stretch my luggage handle and stroll it with me across the road to the other side of  Boulevard de Rochechouart. I take a left turn and see an electronic store named Jacquet with the lost “T” letter, follow by the hostels lining up along the road. I easily find Le Regent Hostel.

I step in and greet the pretty red haired girl chewing bubble gum, “Good morning! I believe I’ve made reservation.”

She acts cool and types something on the laptop in front of her. “You must be Miss Eloise,” she spoke English very well.

“Indeed I am,” I answer.

“You’ve paid for 1 week stay, let me know if you want to extend. Room number 203; take stairs up.” She handles me the key.

“Is that it?” I ask.

“Yes. Do you need anything?” She asks back.

“Wi-fi password?”

She smiles without any reason and comments, “can’t stand being offline for so long?”

I chuckle, “just want to keep in touch with friends.”

She hands me a small piece of paper with the wi-fi password written on it. “The internet is a little slow. If you need fast internet and video chat, go to internet kiosk just beside this place.”

“Yeah I saw that. Thanks.” I reply.

“Anything else?” She becomes friendlier.

“Maybe later,” I smile at her and bring my luggage upstairs to the Room 203.

I scan the 3 times 3 meters room consisted of one double bed with a clean white sheet, thank god for that, a small wooden bed-side table with a storybook style lamp on it, an empty table attached to the wall and one wooden wardrobe. I will spend the next two weeks sleeping on it, not bad for 75 Euros a night. However I should find cheaper way to stay long term in Paris. But first thing first, I open my luggage and unpack some of my clothes to the wardrobe. I bring my toiletries to the shared bathroom just outside my rented room and take a shower.

When my iPhone finally connects to the internet, I receive so many notifications, but none of them from a real person. All the notifications are just probably promotion offers, scam emails, facebook games invitations or unnecessary whatsapp messages. Then I remember Ben, so I search his facebook from Shannon’s friend list.

I see a picture of him holding a very big beer glass. I probably won’t recognize him if I met him on the streets. He is definitely an unfamiliar face to me. Should I add his facebook?

I’m stunned for a while, just looking at his picture. Why all of sudden, I remembered him on the plane, of all everyone else? He was nobody. I never knew him personally. He was just a boy who gave me a chocolate medal when I was 12 years old. He probably didn’t even remember that.

Then I click the back button to Shannon’s facebook page. It has been so long since I talked to her. She doesn’t update her facebook often. I know that because I check her facebook regularly, to find out what is going on in her life. I know I’m pathetic.

I press the home button of my iPhone and open google map, trying to record the information I could gather on how to go to my next journey, while I’m connected to the internet.

I put on my worn out green jeans jacket and my canvass shoes, ready to explore. I swallow the three pills Dr. Boey gave me and realize that the pills will only last for like four more days. After that, I will be facing cancer defenseless.

I hush away the negative thoughts as soon as possible from my mind because I don’t want the cancer thing ruins my Parisian mood in the first day here. So I step down to first storey and see the red haired girl again.

“Going out?” She asks.

“Yes,” I reply. “Anyway, I’m Eloise,” offering my hand to her.

She shakes it warmly, “Bernadette.”

“Nice to meet you, Bernadette,” I say.

“Nice to meet you too, Eloise. Have a nice time in Paris.”

“I will.” I grin and wave a small goodbye gesture to her.

I quickly walk to Anvers station, took the metro towards Porte Dauphine, alight at Charles de Gaulle Etoile to transfer to metro line number 6 and finally arrive at Bir-Hakeim station. I get out from the station to Boulevard de Grenelle, just like I memorize from the google map, stroll along the road and take the right turn to Quai Branly.

There it is the great and the amazing Eiffel tower standing tall from afar. I march my steps faster and closer to the Eiffel tower, crossing the roads without even looking for the green man. The closer I get to the tower, the faster my heartbeat is, like a pirate finally have found the treasure.

I’m not so sure about the excitement I feel because it is all new for me. The pumping of my heart, the infinite grin of my mouth and the nauseated feeling in my stomach, all mixed up together creating this joyous fear like a complete paradox.

The words from my mom’s journal are flying in front of my eyes. Eiffel tower, midnight, the smell of the grass after the rain, lights, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, beauty, Seine River, the sparkle of Remy’s eyes… Remy’s eyes.

Remy’s eyes.

Then I stop running when I feel my shoe stepped on a grass. I’m standing there in front of the Eiffel tower, and suddenly everything that my mom wrote makes sense.

P.S. Sorry it’s been a long time since Chapter three. I have been hooked up with novels that has setting in Paris, did some research about Paris as well. =)

Eloise, The Story. Chapter Three.

Chapter Three

It was my last Independence Day celebration in Indonesia when a boy named Ben confessed that he had a crush on me. I didn’t even know he existed until he told me that confession with a pair of blushing cheeks. I didn’t really remember his physical appearance but I thought he was cute.

Ben, whose complete name I forgot, was my team mate in the game called “Balap Bakiak” (Wooden Sandal Race) when two persons shared the same wooden sandal and managing their balance to walk or even run to the finish line. Ben and I won the race, and we received small package consisted water bottle and lunch box plus a medal made from chocolate.

I ate the chocolate right away because I liked it. That was when Ben gave the chocolate to me and confessed that he had a crush on me.

“Can I accept the chocolate without saying yes to be your girlfriend?” I asked.

Ben didn’t find it funny, which I did. He just put the chocolate on my hand and ran away. I was confused why he didn’t find it funny because I was seriously just joking. He was cute, maybe I would like to be his girlfriend if I didn’t have to move to Singapore the next day.

Actually I had finished my 6th grade on June, but I insisted my mom to wait until Independence Day celebration on August before moving out to Singapore, so I could take part of the fun games at my school. I always loved Independence Day celebration. Mom agreed so she decided to stay with me in Indonesia for two months more while Dad moved to Singapore first because he needed to start his new job.

Shannon showed me her medal which she got from some games I didn’t remember. The shape was different from mine but I knew the chocolate would taste just as delicious as mine. “Here.” Shannon gave her medal to me too. “I know you like chocolate.”

I didn’t hesitate to take it. Smiling, I told her, “Somebody gave me a medal too just now.”

“Who?” Shannon briskly sat on a bench and patted the space beside her.

I sat and told her, “Ben.”

“Who’s Ben?” She raised her eyebrow. She was so cute when she did that.

“I also didn’t know him until we were paired up as a team mate. I think he was in 6D class.”

“He likes you!!!” Shannon shrieked.

“Guess so.” I acted nonchalantly.

“Don’t bullshit me! You knew he liked you!!!” She became more and more excited.

“Sshh!” I put my hand on her mouth. “Shut up!”

Shannon laughed and some of her saliva squirted between her lips to my hand.

“Eww!!” I wiped my hand on her skirt.

“Did he say anything to you, Elly?” Shannon widened her eyes and batted her eyelashes to me. “Tell me please…” she begged.

“Okay. But this is just because I will move away from you and I don’t want any secrets between us. He told me he had a crush on me.”

Shannon was about to shrieked again but I managed to shut her up. I threatened her not to give the details if she kept shrieking.

“I want exact words from his mouth.”

“He said, Eloise, I know you’re going to leave so I need to tell you I have a crush on you. That’s it. And I told him the joke and he didn’t find it funny so he left.”

“You idiot! Of course it’s not funny for him! I think you owe him an apology!”

“No. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ll leave tomorrow.” I said.

Shannon shrugged, “Up to you then.”

“Miss, are you okay?” The flight attendant waves his hand in front of my face, which turns my attention from his nametag “Ben” to his face.

“Yeah, sorry… What did you say?”

“The man asked whether you would like to drink.” An old Caucasian man, about on his sixties who sat beside me explains to me.

“Glass of fresh milk will do. Thanks.” I say. So he leaves me again, with a memory which I thought long lost.

“Thanks,” I say to the old man. He just smile. There’s quite a big space between us, however it is a business class, so he asks, “Mind if I put these here?” showing two oranges and five magazines about flowers.

I nod, “Sure. No problem.”

He thanks me and continues to read one of his magazines while Ben the flight attendant gives me a glass of milk. “Anything Miss?”

I shook my head, “Not for now. Thanks.”
I never see my Ben anymore but Shannon was in the same class with him on 9th Grade. I saw his photo when Shannon showed me her reunion photo about 5 years ago. Shannon didn’t know him very well to know where he was and what he was doing then. But she said he was on facebook. I never had intention to check his facebook, until now, ironically on the airplane where I can’t connect to the internet.

My Ben, I chuckle. What am I thinking?

I don’t know why suddenly I can remember the detail of that Independence Day. I met a lot of Bens in my life and it never occurred to me to think about this Ben whose face I don’t even remember just because I read that name “Ben” on some flight attendant’s nametag.

I finished the milk even before he goes out of sight so I call his name again, “Excuse me, Ben!” then give the empty plastic glass to him. He smiles to me, maybe because I calls him by his name.

I don’t really like being on the plane, especially alone because I don’t know what to do and it’s just so boring. The personal entertainment device makes me sick somehow. I don’t know if it is because of my cancer or it has been always like that. You see, I have never been in a long haul plane before so I never tried a personal entertainment device before. Even though I went on a plane which had a personal entertainment device, I never use them because I usually went traveling with Shannon and we had our own plane game such as word game, what if game, or we just talked non stop.

I tried the personal entertainment device just now and it made me sick. I was okay to wear earphone until recently. Maybe it is the cancer after all.

The cancer… I sigh. What would I do with it? What would it feel to be dead? Am I ready? Does anyone in this plane worry about being dead? With excitement about Paris, I feel scared of dying and I feel sad. Should I start having treatments?

Then it hits me. The reason why I wanted to commit suicide at the first place is because I felt lonely. And I still am. A tear drops on my cheeks as I turn off my reading light. I have to stop being so melodramatic. I lost my mom and my only friend, Shannon; I don’t have any reason to stay alive.

I look out through the plane window beside my face, staring at darkness and my mind starts to wander about my mom. What did she think when she was about to die? Did she know Dad was the one who killed her? If heaven did really exist, could she look down to us and find out that her husband was the one who put thyme on her tacos? Would she be broken hearted?

My mother died on the kitchen floor because of her allergy. Her throat and lungs were swollen so badly, she couldn’t breathe. She died in front of me before the ambulance even came. Her injections were always on her wardrobe but there were none to be found on that day. We also never stocked thyme in our house but two days after the accident, I found the rest of the thymes in the trash.

I moved out from the house after my mom’s cremation and never talked to my dad or my brother anymore. They also never seemed to find me because I always sent money for them every month. I could just leave them without any trace but I was living by myself and my salary as a designer was more than enough to feed me. My Dad was just a construction worker and my brother was still in his never ending university so I figured they could use a little help. I was afraid that my Dad would use the money for gambling, so I registered his name to be on the exemption list of every Casino island-wide.

My Dad had always been a happy old man until he started to have gambling problem which caused all the family saving except my college funds which Mom kept in a secret saving account. When my Dad found out I had the money to go to college, he was mad at hell. He beat my Mom for lying to him and asked my mom to just kill herself so he could take all of her CPF money. I was so scared and so angry in the same time. I promised myself to get Mom out of this house once I had my own job.

That never happened because my Mom died 8 months after the incident. She died because of eating tacos that contained thymes, which were very deadly to her.

The saddest thing is that my dad was the one who made the tacos.

I can’t stop the burning sensation in my heart. I feel the anger again and it is eating me alive as the tears can’t stop streaming down from my eyes. I never believe in love because of them. I always blame my parents for the person I turned out to be; gloomy, negative, cynical and suicidal. It is dark on the plane and I assume everybody is asleep. So I do the thing I’m best at, crying to sleep.

 

***

I open my eyes because my neck is in an uncomfortable position and it hurts like hell. The plane is still so dark and everyone is still asleep. I lift up my window and it is dark as well. My watch shows it had been 7 hours since I fell asleep but it hasn’t been morning yet. I guess it’s the time difference because I’m scheduled to arrive at Paris on seven in the morning so I have a longer night on the plane.

I step out to the aisle carefully so I don’t wake the old man up. I think he fell asleep while reading his magazine because the magazine is still on his lap and the eyeglass is still hanging on his nose. I need to take the magazine and put it on the space between us so I can walk by him easily. I stretch out my spine and my hands once I stand free on the aisle. A short little sting hit my left breast so I groan a little.

I usually never notice any pain in my body, more of like I never care but since the cancer thing appeared on my conscious; I have felt even the littlest pain that occurred in my body which Dr. Boey said it’s normal. So, having cancer apparently is a normal excuse for being paranoid.

The glow-in-the-dark line guides me to the lavatory where I wash my face and brush my teeth. I’m staring at my face for about two minutes, with a blank mind. There’s nothing different from my face after the cancer hit me. I don’t look pale and my hair is still attached on my head. I still look normal. But how long does it take until Dr. Boey’s medication runs out and I start to look different? How long does it take until I start to look cancer-y?

Somebody knocks my lavatory door, “Are you okay inside?”

“Yeah.” I reply, “Will be out in a minute.”

The old man is still sleeping when I come back to my seat. Again I carefully walk pass him, trying not to wake him up and sit soundly on my seat. I open my handbag and took out the blue journal that belonged to my mother. I just flip back and forth without knowing what I’m doing, just trying to kill time. That is when I realize, there’s something weird in this journal.

I touch the pages of the journal, I feel it with the tips of my fingers, and I try to find the answer to the oddness I feel. The thread on some pages feels a little loose as if it isn’t sewn properly and the hard back cover seems too thick for this type of journal. Why does it feel so odd for me? It’s just a journal for god’s sake! Stop thinking too much!

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are preparing for landing. Please fasten your seatbelt, make sure your window shades are open and place your seat up right…” as the flight attendant continues to inform us about the preparation for landing, I open the window shade and realize I’m watching a sunrise from an airplane. It is a breathtaking view I’m looking at now, the most amazing sunrise I have ever seen in my life.

Somehow, this sunrise gives me a good feeling, a feeling that my life won’t end in Paris. In fact, it is probably just about to start.