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When the Sun Rises in the West

Summary

Words are wind. One kept saying forever, and now he disappeared.
This one, like a medicine, healed my broken soul. But how could I trust this would mean forever?

 

Loire is a young woman who quit her job to follow her dream but that meant the instability of finance and career but she feels fortunate to have a man like Billie, her long-time boyfriend and the source of encouragement and inspiration, with her. However, one day, she found out that her world twists. Billie is not a man she knows anymore and her only source of energy ghosts from her life. At that time, she put all her effort to make the revolution and to survive. Luck departs like forever and it nearly cost her life when a Lamborghini crash the bridge where she stands, causing the collision and she fell into the cold river. Loire is almost dead but a hand rescued her. Gale, the rescuer, saved her life and kindly offered to send her home. Loire begins to perceive the strangeness of this world. In horror, someone like her already backs home. Gale asked if she was her twin. But Loire has no twin.

 

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Chapter 1

Both of my hands lingered above the keyboard; idea blocked again. It was impossible to write a story when the stress consumed all over my body. I could sense Ashley’s eyes, her worry; her insecurity about my future, all of them.

“Loire, we’re going.” My mother came towards me, gave a soft hug, and she got in the car and sat on the driver’s seat with my father sitting next to her. I watched the old silver Toyota aged ten disappeared from my view. Even I was there, far from them, I could hear what they were talking about me in the car.

I closed the door and stopped to ponder for a while. The cold wind of the first day of December did not bother me. Fortunately, we lived in the south where the sun shone brightly and just the cold wind took a visit in winter, not storms and snow. It was easier for me to take care of my babies…I mean the plants and had tended. Could you guess what was I thinking now? No, you could because my mind was empty. I only stared blankly at the plant nursery that I had built before quitting my job. It was that big, a size of a small studio apartment like a tiny fairly elf’ realm where my babies looked great, strong and beautiful. Those roses proudly presented its elegant red color. The sweet camellias were a little bit shy so they hid their intense pink behind the blue wisteria and white lily. They were for home garden decoration because I did not have enough space to grow them in a large number.

I protected them well like a mother.

It was a year that I worked at home, growing the plant and writing for sale. To be correct, I earned from the first one more than the second one. Ashley always worried about me. I was twenty-five now and still lived under their protection like a five-year-old child. I was one-hundred percent aware of my own financial instability. I meant I could hang out with friends and buy my own stuff but not too much. As the oldest child and the only one who could make good grades, Ashley put all her hope and dream on me. But it was not easy not to be myself so I quit my job as a chairman assistant to be a wanna-be writer and a garden plant seller. She was the best mother and I loved her so much. But like other parents, although she did not force me to do anything not even reshape my dream, she wanted to see me fly up high. Sadly, this girl was a penguin.

Looked back at the screen, I decided to delete all stupid sentences. Last week, a printing house rejected my manuscript with a comment that it could not be sold. Sometimes I wanted to know how to write the story that could be sold. Not everybody loved my fantasy. To make the dream come true sounded impossible to me which contradicted to what I had imagined myself when I was a little girl. Human has a limit lifetime and my time was running out every day.

The notification on my phone beeped. There only two senders, sales promotion or Billie, my boyfriend. And tada…Billie. He said he missed me and confirmed the date in this evening. Such a sweet guy. Seven years of relationship, he became my lover and best friend. While my parents had no faith in me, he had. Even though we had different tastes in movies, music, and some social ideals, we tried to find the balance. During the fourth year of our relationship, I had felt he was not the right man but I put all my effort to fix this thought and now I knew my effort granted me the best man of the world. Why had I thought like that?... I don’t know either. At that time, he did not do anything wrong, perhaps because of our difference or lack of chemistry but I made my mind that if I continued to think like this, any new relationship would not help. It was my though that tried to kill our love. ‘Believe in what we choose’ was my anthem so instead of letting the boredom consumed me; I revolved the way of my thinking. This was the secret Billie had never known. He was too good and I must change myself to be the best girl for him. You can’t be a good lover if you don’t know how to give. If we lacked sugar, I filled it. 

“I-love-you-see-you-to-night,” I mumbled while typing. He was the only water that freshened up my spirit. I wanted to meet him now and kissed him but the problem still existed. Even I felt lucky to have him as my lover but when we met and we kissed, I did not feel like going further.

Perhaps because ‘we’ needed longer times to spend with each other when these days, we still had a date like fourteen-year-old couples, it was a little embarrassing and my friends kept telling jokes about this issue.

And Adrien had not got up yet. What a sleeping prince! My younger brother enrolled in a graduate school because our mother hoped to see one of us obtaining a master degree. As I said she did not force us but she had the ability to convey that she was right.  Ashley was an Asian-American and she had been raised by very strict conservative parents who now became my grandparents. Even though she did not force us as same as the way she had been through, Ashley had secretly set our life goals.

The bell rang. I dashed towards the front gate that made of pine woods, slid the door, and saw the only one loyal customer, Mrs. Lodge. She revealed her bright smile once seeing my face.

“Good morning, my dear.”

“Good morning, madam.” I invited her inside. Mrs. Lodge was one and only loyal customer I had. She loved trees and every time she came she spent a lot. I crossed my fingers every day just to have more five customers that were exactly like her. Guiding this lady to my baby’s territory, no surprise, she was fascinated by many new blooming flowers. “I know who imprisons the spring now” complimented she. Of course, as I mentioned before, It was winter but my babies were fresh and strong as if I could cage spring and summer in my nursery. She talked about her son who would get married next month with a young smart lawyer.

“…I can’t wait for that day. Time flies so fast. My baby boy will become a groom and a husband to a girl I admire. They’re the happiness couples and rely on my taste. They want me to decorate their dream garden. And who said about stony sculptures? No! These children are the best decorations. Look how they grow! Oh, your roses…” She drew her hands around like a fairy god mother in Cinderella animation but I loved listening to her, especially when she complimented my flowers. “Thanks God, we both live in the place where winter can’t stop these children grow.”

“She loves the violet color, my dear Loire.”

“I had some blue wisteria that is almost purple and…” I guided her to the orchid areas. There were a few groups of beautiful orchids hanging. “Here all my Vanda. Some are blue and some are violet but I think it can give the perception of violet if they are together.”

Mrs. Lodge mumbled to herself, walking around, arranging her imaginative terrace while her hands were drawing in the air. She was the real tree lovers. All good plants that defined to good meanings she must have it. A few minutes, the old lady snapped her fingers and said, “I take them all,” bright beam. Mrs. Lodge had never failed me. “This is because your plants are stronger than the others. My husband always forgets to water it, and they’re still fine. None of your plant's withers. Don’t worry I will find another. I’ll be your customer forever.” She touched my chin and walked to see the white cattleya.

I always appreciated her sportsmanship in shopping but none of this could be compared to the compliment she gave. My babies are strong. This was counted as one of my life achievement. Mrs. Lodge had not bought only Wisteria and Vanda but also fertilizers and hormones. Just one day with my favorite customer, I earned double from the previous month.

A good month, isn’t it?

I said goodbye to Mrs. Lodge with the wide smile trapped on my face.

A sudden roar of vicious wind gave the warning that there would be a rainy storm. I looked upon the sky and saw dark thick clouds. Adrien! I stamped my feet on the ground, upset, of course. “Adrien!” shouted and shouted his name. A few minutes later, hard footsteps resounded from the upper floor, meaning the always-being-late prince woke up.

My brother went down, messy hair, unwashed face, brushing his teeth in the pajamas. He searched for something to eat in the fridge. I opened the cabinet and offered him bread and jam. He cried like an injured cat. “Cruel sister! Did mom leave me anything?”

I stretched my evil smile. “She cooked Khao Thom*, hot and tasty.” He groaned. “I’m kidding. They left the house early. Eat bread, big boy.”

Adrien groaned again. He was twenty-three but still acted like a little boy. As aforementioned, Ashley or our mother was half-Asian. She learnt Thai cooking from my grandma and she loved to cook it. Ashley was a talented chef without the need to go to the cooking school. Sometimes she created her own menu and it was heaven to us.

When I thought about food, it seemed like my stress was calmed. Food therapy is always the best choice. Therefore, I grabbed some chocolate bar and eliminated that ugly thought out of my mind.

“I know you have school today. Don’t be late.”

“Yep,” Adrien said, focusing on the toaster. “At least, she should leave me some food.”

“And hurry, I think it’s going to rain soon,” I looked outside, hearing the storm. 

“I know,” he responded roughly. Adrien hated when I and Ashley were bossy. On the contrary, he always made himself need a bossy sister or a mother. He moved as fast as a snail. How could a boy take a shower longer than a girl? Even though he said he knew, but I watched all of his motion and it was like I watch a slow-motion scene. Whatever…it’s your life! I concentrated on my old laptop as the tips of my fingers touched the keyboard; the letters had not shown up on the screen. “Hey!” I scowled at it. “Don’t do this to me!”

“Don’t yell!” Adrien yelled. “I just wake up.” He massaged his ears.

Who’s care? “Shit!” I had to use the desktop keyboard. I am broke, remember? This laptop served me for five years. I needed a new one but my bank account did not say so. It was like my head was full of questionmarks about how to earn more money and I might end up selling one of my kidneys.

“Do you think about going out to work?” Adrien’s instant question surprised me and also pained me. Did he intend to jab my inner wound?

“Well…I’m working.” I bared both of my hands like, Can’t you see?

Adrien gave me an annoyed shrug. “You know why I continue studying when I hate it. I don’t like sitting in the class, do thesis, researching, because you quit the job. And mom turns to me, hoped I will make her a proud mom.”

I was stunned. Why was he abruptly upset? “You know if you don’t know what you really want to do, try to search for it. She did not force you at all. I told you if you’re not ready, don’t. And you didn’t listen. So don’t blame me. Don’t blame mom. Yes, she has that hope but she never forces us.

“But your dream is cheap.” He looked at my plants. “No customers…Okay…few.” Then his eyes turned to my laptop. “And your stories…no one buys it.”

“What do you want?” The heat rose from feet to head. My brother shrugged again and went upstairs to change his clothes. The question was if he really doubted it or he just wanted to change my decision? One definite truth, it was painful to hear, his words. I was about to cry but I resisted my tears. What the hell with him?

 

That evening, Billie took me to the dining near my home. I had never demanded luxury dinner. As I decided to love him, I wanted him longer and longer. But the question Adrien had asked me this morning was stuck in my head. So instead of giving an order, I stared blankly at the menu.

“What happened?” asked he.

“Sorry,” I replied and made a quick order. “Fish and chips. Thank you.”

The waitress repeated our order and went away. I glanced at my boyfriend and sighed. “Adrien questioned what I am doing.”

He smiled like a saint. I loved those brown behind the square glasses; they gave my heart warm. “I think he was upset.”

“Actually, I did nothing. Just woke him up…” Bit my lips. “…And he found that mom left him nothing to eat.”

He shook his head chuckling. “So he was really upset.” Our dishes were served. I could smell the delicious aroma of the food. It was an ordinary diner but a rare gem. “Don’t pay attention to it. You’re working…at home, follow your dream. That’s the spirit.”

I laughed.

“What?” He turned to his dish and cut the sausage. “Why you’re laughing at me?”

“No…” I swallowed the chips. “I know you would say that.”

“But it’s true.” He ate the chips.

 I smiled to myself before eating the fish. “How is your work?”

Billie shrugged. He was an engineer who encountered super workload like hell. Unlike me, he loved his job but sometimes the incapability of having free time pressured people around him and that pressure force reversed to him. His mother wanted him to build his own business (or she built it and gave it to him) rather than serving the others. However, Billie insisted to work in the company with the reason that he needed to learn first.

“I’m thinking about quitting.”

What? I threw the fork and the knife on the dish. “Why? I usually try to change your mind and then you…change.”

He stretched the corner of his mouth. Billie scratched his dark hair and sighed. “I need to rest and I know I need to change. I don’t have the problem with the job but I think it’s too much and consume my energy. Sometimes we need balance. And I want to go somewhere with you…somewhere far from here.”

The reason why my friends joked about our relationship was here. Seven years and we rarely spent private time. The farthest we went was traveling to the sea, the southern town beneath mine. That trip cost three days and two nights and it was the only trip we had been alone. Those words, like an elixir, vitalized my boring love life.

“Really?”

He nodded.

“Not kidding?”

“Certainly not” He pondered for a second. “Going aboard, what do you thing?”

I laughed merrily. “Wonderful. I mean this is the greatest news, Billie!” His eyes smiled when looking at me like a man deeply in love. “Before your new job?”

“Absolutely.”

It seemed like the texture of fish and chips became more crisp and moist and the flavor of freshness and fine cooking glowed in my mouth. He told me the best news ever!

In place of driving me home, Billie stopped the car in the private lane where darkness and trees covered us from the view. I knew what he wanted to do and my heart beat like mad. I had been ready before meeting him but here, where we were now, I did not think it was the right time. The first time we did it was a year ago and the second was when we went to the sea. Two times but I still felt awkward about it and… “Billie, we’re still in public.”

“No.” He bit his own lips. “No one’s here. I really miss you.” And he attacked me with the kiss. I always felt like jumped on him but still, I could not fix this problem. The kiss almost went well. I slid my hands on his neck and back and kissed him back. The heat out of his hands and breath started to warm me.  But when my hands went under his shirt, suddenly, he shoved them out of it and pushed me to the seat then moved the seat down. “Bille?”

“No one will see us.”

Yes, it was so dark and he turned off the light in the car. I tried to reach him but he wanted me to stay still.  So I leaned down like a corpse hearing he tore the protection package. When he was on me, I felt the weight like a big stone and I could not move. His tongue swirled and he breathed harder. The excitement rapidly calmed down and I felt uncomfortable more and more. “Billie.” I reminded him that I was there but he enjoyed my body until the end.

I was in his embrace and I loved being there. However, the previous activity left me only a question rather than pleasure. “I love you.” I felt the kiss on my cheek. Deep down, I wondered if the other couples felt like me. I thought it would be exiting, energetic, sexy, and…I was not sure. We just began to do it and we did not do it frequently so I thought it was not hard to fix. “We need to talk,” said I.

He kissed my forehead and just hugged me. 

I changed my mind and clung to his arms. It was like home but…I wanted to feel more. Anyway, “I love you too,” replied I.

Chapter 2

“Okay. Alright. I’m okay. I know you’re working. I understand but you must promise me we’ll spend all day together next Saturday and I mean All DAY. Alright? Thank you. Bye.”

I gently threw my three-year-old smartphone on my bed and then myself. My eyes stared upon the ceiling thinking of Billie. The more he insisted that he would quit, the more he worked overload. Perhaps, it required him to clear everything before he was gone. Stop messing with people’s business. I told myself, jumped out of the bed, leaped to the chair. “Come on Loire. Write the words you can sell!” Then, the corner of my eyes spotted our photo on the right hand side of my desk and it recalled the last intimacy which made me feel…awkward. Right, even he was not here. The guilt started to whine in my head again. Next time it would be better, I kept repeating. 

“I’m twenty-five!” The confidence battled with that guilt. Ashley always thought I was fifteen and now I was the worst kisser ever, which did not relate at all but I had to blame someone.

How would I feel good about it? The last time which was our third time did not make me feel better. I felt like a doll and Billie just enjoyed my body without sharing his with me. I loved his embrace but…

Picking up my smartphone again, he still sent me a love emoji when running out of sweet words. Sometimes I wondered if he thought about us in the future. I meant apart from I was going to be his wife and the mother of his children, did he think of me as a lover? Yeah, we were. He loved me—no doubt. But other things, our future adventure, travel, exploration, and better sensual intimacy, I wondered about that.

But he promised to travel with me next year. Snapping those bad ideas out of my head, it was the computer that needed my concentration.

A few days ago, I joined in a short-story-writers group. The members were nice and kind. Most of them were women, aged around thirty and forty. Every member had to submit a short story in every quarter of the year and if our stories had been selected, they would be published, another way to put my name on the writing path. Usually, I avoided writing the topic that people commanded me to do but sometimes we needed to try a new thing. Every word I wrote would be my experiences and I needed it so bad. A printing house told me I needed the experience and the skill to make the story went on naturally—it required gift and learning. Since childhood, I never found my own gift unless my effort. So if I wanted to accomplish my dream, the greater effort was needed.

A few second ago, this empty cup had been plenty of tick hot chocolate and now it was abandoned on the sink. The water flew through my fingers but I did nothing as same as my brain. The topic was ‘Love, Time, and Space’ and I did not know what I wanted to write.

And it must be a short story indeed!

How about a time traveler? I noted my idea but it might be cliché…but cliché can be sold. Damn it. I hated my inner conflict.

I put on the headphone and selected M83 playlists. Their songs gave me eargasm and sometimes good ideas. Suddenly, a roar of thunder invaded through the metal device. I heard Ashley’s short scream from the other room. She feared thunder but father loved it because he could show her a manly side. Approaching the window, several giant drops of rain water violently attacked the glass giving the impression of the-end-of-the-world. The storm was here…in winter. I did not know which one to prefer—storm or snow.

 

On Saturday, I selected heat-tech jeans, t-shirt, and cold-resistant jacket without forgetting the ankle boots. What was good in the cold weather was my make-up can stay on my face longer. Too unfortunate for a woman like me who had oily skin, I checked my appearance then stepped out of my little palace.

It was four in the evening and I waiting for him at the same diner. There was a small festival nearby and we would spend the evening date there. I ordered a small set of chips to prepare my stomach during waiting. Yeah…he promised to visit me in the morning but he could not.

“Hi, Loire!”

“Hi, Ella. Nice day?”

“Boring day,” replied she. “Where’s Billie?” Ella was the waitress here but I counted her as a friend. I and Billie were their loyal customers and we talked with her a lot.

“On the road.” I looked out of the window; the smoke of campfire began to float in the sky. “I heard there are some good bands. Do you know them?”

She fanned her head from side to side. “Donno. I have the night shift today so I try to keep my focus on my job.” She made a crying face.

“Nah, you can hear they sing.” I comforted her. “And it’s not that huge. Remember last year? Everyone complained.”

Ella smiled a large smile, “So what you want today?”

“A small size of chips. Thanks.”

“Five minutes,” said she before going back to the kitchen.

I checked my watch. Even I tried not to be upset with my boyfriend, it was a difficult job. Do you understand me? He broke the promise but his excuse was absolutely reasonable. It was about the job and how could I be mad about that?

The chips were served before five minutes due. I consumed most of it. Four-thirty…four-forty…five…five-fifteen…five-thirty…then. “Hey!”

Billie rushed to the seat before wiping his glasses with the sleeves of his shirt under the coat. When he saw the empty basket of chips, “I thought we will eat something at the fest.”

“Yeah…just…snack.”

His eyes observed me and those thick brows ducked in question. “You gain weight?”

I glared at him. “Excuse me?”

He grabbed my butts. “See?”

“Billie!” I cried. “We’re in the diner.” I wanted to say I hated he did this. “Don’t do it again!” 

He shrugged. “I’m sorry and we’re sitting.” He said then stole my water. “I like the butts but you really gain weight.”

I touched my waist. “Do I look fat? You always say this since we studied in the college.”

He thought for a while. “No…not at all. I mean you can do some exercise. You know, healthy and firm.”

“Stop it. She’s so skinny.” Ella returned with a glass of tap water for Billie. My boyfriend laughed and touched my cheeks. “Yeah I know but look at these full cheeks.”

“She’s pretty,” Ella ordered before she left.

“You always win a fan.”

“Because I am loved!”  

We said goodbye to Ella before going inside the fest. The winter festival was arranged during the beginning of December every year and this was the second and the last week. The ached entrance was built of glass to imitate ice. As I said, it was extremely cold in winter but we lived in the south, not far and not close to the equator. It was impossible to demonstrate the ice architecture when the temperature was not low enough. What I loved here were food, games, music, and lightings. At least I might have a new profile picture.

 We both headed to the Ferris wheel because the line was still short and we did not want to queue up for an hour. I normally feared of height but not phobia so if the machine was secured enough, that was fine for me.

I leant on his shoulder while we were in the line. His messy dark hair showed me that the owner rarely brushed it. He smelled like a clean soap and that was a good trait for a man. However, his eyes seemed to look out for somewhere. As we went inside the cabin and remained nearly at the top; he seemed to have zero interest in the view. We sat facing each other and I did the talk while he listened but I was not sure if he was really listening.

“Are you okay? Did anything happen?”

Billie shook his head immediately. “No…why?”

“Your body here but your mind is somewhere.” He arched his brow thinking my observation was funny. “It’s true. I can feel it.”

So he gestured me if he could move the seat. I shook my head. “Make it balance. Please.”

“The other couples sit together.” So he moved so the cabin weighted on my side making it unbalanced. I grabbed him tightly in fear of height and falling. He hugged me. “Don’t worry. It won’t” I felt his hand patting my head and brushing my blonde hair.

The soap and his sweat went through my nose when he covered me with his coat. The warmth of his skin usually made me feel at home. I was about to say something sweet because he loved that but his phone rang. I waited until we had to move out of the cabin; he was still on the phone.

And then I got a glimpse of the idea for the short story ‘Love, Time, Space’ which would demonstrate the mysterious bitterness of the relationship that I perceived now but had no idea what it truly was.

There was something in Billie that I felt he was my home but not the right one at the same time. However, my love for him was real. It was impossible to see myself without him.

Love,

Time,

And Space,

I looked at the dark night sky. Thankfully, the weather was clear enough so the stars shone visibly. I let my boyfriend dealing with his phone while I spent the time survey the stalls—most were foods and bakery. Up to the time of my nose catching up the pleasant aroma of fine coffee, my feet followed my heart and stopped me before a small lovely stall decorated simply but earthly modern. The dark-hair girl behind the coffee machine and the blender messed with something and she did not perceive my presence. I read the menu and decided to order a hot chocolate with hazelnut. I knew it was funny. The smell of coffee attracted me every time but I did not drink coffee.

“Excuse me?”

The girl aged around eighteen I thought, raised her head and smiled the most sincere one I have ever seen. “Hi! I—I am sorry. The bartender is…ah.” She pointed her finger to where the toilet was located. I laughed softly because her gesture represented her innocence and clumsy nature.

“That’s alright. How long?”

“Ah…” She seemed not to be able to predict it.

And Billie interrupted us, collecting his smartphone inside his pocket. “Hey! We should find some food.”

“Just a drink.”

He sighed. “Hot chocolate? You drink hot chocolate with food?” Then wrapping his arms around my neck, “Go see the Chinese noodles over there,” he commanded.

I groaned. “They have a very good scent and it’s winter! Hot chocolate is tastier in the cold weather.”

He smiled at the girl and dragged me away from that stall. “Come on. I know where the fat comes from.” He squeezed my cheeks. “And here…” Then gently slapped on my stomach.

“Are you crazy? Do I look fat? Really?”

“No, my duckling.” He failed to defect my bad mood. I brushed his hands away. “Come on.”

“You make me nervous. Am I fat?”

“No!” And kissed on my lips. I stood still. After he withdrew from me, Billie showed the triumphant smile on his lips. “Only way to shut you up. Come. Let’s find some food.”

I did not say anything. Yeah, the kiss shut me up but it did not stop my worry. Tears brimmed at my eyes and I tried to resist it. Honestly, I had no idea why I felt like crying. And because of my mood, Billie kept silence too. He started to be aware of my feeling but did not know how to fix it so he preferred silence.

All night, we sank in the sea of discomfort, uneasiness, silence, I caused it.

I never saw myself more than a too skinny woman. Not tall, not slender, no perfect boobs, no perfect butts, I had a shape of number one. My worry towards my body existed all the time and now Billie added one more worry which was fat. It was hard to accept the body I owned.

And we forgot to celebrate the winter festival.

In the next day, Billie still sent lovely messages and love emoji but I replied indifferently. Until the night, I still sat on my desk in front of the empty page for my short story and when the message notification popped up on the right bottom of the display, I pretended to ignore. As I started writing the first sentence, my curiosity won me so I opened the message box and my world was destroyed by just one question.

 

Can we be friend?

 

I turned numbed for minutes.

 

Why? Then pressed send.

 

We grow apart. We’re different. It’s better to stop here before going further. We should have the chance to meet someone’s new.

“Before going further?” I laughed to myself like crazy when thinking of our intercourse. “Not at all…”

So I typed: my false? Because I acted cold to you?

No, my false. It’s my own false. Billie told me that.

I tried to recall what happened the previous day. Yes, we did have a strange speechless fight but…breaking-up? Really? Apart from that, everything seemed to be fine…between me and him.

What happens? Tell me the truth.

He was online so it did not take a long time to wait for the answer.

I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same.

That was the key! I got up and walked back and forth then grabbed my phone and threw away then picked it up and made a call. As soon as he received it, I said, “Do you want to break-up with me? Why? You don’t love me anymore?”

He kept silent but I heard the sobbing and this action lit me the hope. “Yes. I still love you but not the same.”

“Why? Not the same?” It seemed like I could control my voice well but no. I was still shocked and felt nothing. Emptiness might be the right word to describe what was inside my head.

“Not the same.”

“Do you love someone else?”

He paused for a while. “Hmm…I mean no. I don’t open to anyone. Loire, we’re different and I think it’s better…for us to stop and give us a chance…a new one.”

But you said you don’t open to anyone. I could catch the conflict in his words. “Do you really want to break-up?”

“Yes.”

Teas came finally. “I mean really? We won’t see each other again. We won’t talk again? This is what you want?”

“You will disappear?”

I was speechless. How could we keep talking when we were not lovers? “I can’t be friend with you, Billie.”

Silence again.

“Do you still want to go?”

“Hmm…Yes.”  

I hanged up.

Chapter 3

“He owns you a big apology. Not nice at all. What a disappointment! I’d never thought he’s such a coward.” Finishing her sentence, Molly sipped her cup of hot latte. Her fine brows arched elegantly even in her anger mood. “His way to say goodbye for the woman he declared love for seven years is for a coward.” And wrinkled her nose in disgust.

I survived the night of flash shock thanks to Adrien. Billie’s decision thundered me instantly and I became deafly insane. I had never known my brother was a very good listener. We fought a lot but we cared for each other. This is how siblings are. He let me speak everything and that was better.

“Does he really meet someone else?” Jayda still half believed which was not surprising at all because the Billie we had known could never do that. He was against cheating in any all kinds due to his father left him and his mother since childhood for the other woman.

I nodded in confirmation. It was on the third day of our break-up. I called him just to ask for a chance and he confessed that he wanted to give this chance to the other one. And that was enough for me. Actually, he should split it out earlier. The truth surely hurt me but at least I had the closure to move on instead of clumsily trying reaching him. I wasted three days calling him, for waiting for his answer, for thinking…nonsense, for being mad, blaming myself. Totally waste of my time.

“Asshole.” Jayda cursed. She was the one in our group that never had a relationship with anyone and would never. She was a kind of woman who had never dreamed of love. “It’s unbelievable. You know…I thought Billie was the right one…the most right one. And you were lucky to find this man.”

“I know,” said I. “Like a dream.”

Only Elise did not say anything. Might be because, previously, she spoke a lot. She was the first friend I called for advice and as she had encountered this kind of situation before, Elise pointed out that he must have another woman and it must be for a while. Of course, I defended Billie but when he insisted as though we had never loved to each other, I asked him. The answer was no different from Elise’s prediction; I was totally a fool.

Sometimes I blamed myself for the reason that I quitted my job. Because I had no bright future, because I continued to search for treasure on my dream, my world was in my house and Billie and I became a wretched girlfriend who he found no charms and far from his dream (Thought he used to say that he loved the way I was.) Meanwhile, Billie made new friends; he had a stable job, his world was bigger and he saw the new opportunity for his life, also a new woman. Perhaps it was not the main reason but still took major parts of it.

“Do I look fat?”

This question silenced all of them. Molly stared at me in disbelief and then roared her laughter. “What?”

I shrugged. “Seriously.”

“Are you crazy?” It was Jayda who answered me. “Yeah, you’re fat if comparing to a skeleton. Don’t say that you think he left you because he thinks you’re less skinny.”

“No…I mean yes. I’m not that pretty, not prettier enough to stop him to look for someone else.”

All my three friends rolled their eyes, “Please, even beautiful actresses got cheated. Time changes, people changes. There are many reasons, Loire. And don’t blame yourself.”

Elise nodded. “Molly’s right, Loire. When his love for you is not that strong, there are many excuses for him to go. Ask yourself. Have you tried your best?”

I pondered for minutes. The old memories reminded me that my relationship with Billie was good but when I thought of how he cut the line with me, the pain consumed. I tried not to cry again. “I think I’m not that perfect girlfriend, you know. But I think I tried my best. I change many attitudes just to blend with him. I don’t deserve this shit.”

“Yes,” Molly snapped her fingers. “You don’t deserve it. It’s him but we can’t do anything. It’s you who can. It’s your heart. I know it takes time, right?” She turned to Elise. The dark-hair girl nodded in agreement. “But you’ll be stronger. We know you’ll be.”

I smiled at them. You know? Friend therapy is the best remedy for a broken heart. Sometimes you think the world ends when our love one left; friends slap your face and shakes silliness out of your head. True friends always are with you, hug you, embrace you, and heal you. You are loved than you can imagine.

My eyes observed my three friends. Jayda and Elise were my besties since nursery. We both went to the same school and parted when we enrolled in college. Jayda had short pixie hair and worked in as a graphic designer in an advertisement company. Elise was a doctoral student studying science. For Molly, we met at college. Now she was married to a good man from Canada and she opened her own restaurant there. Molly did not live here but she visited her home. And as Christmas was coming, she returned home to celebrate.

Then, Elise asked, “And what are you gonna do next?”

I shook my head, losing of thought. “Do the same. No, I will be more diligent.” I chuckled but no one with me. “What? Don’t do girls agree?”

Molly tightened her brows, “You should find a job. I mean a stable job. You can.”

“But she loved what she’s doing.” Jayda protested. “Don’t end up like me. I hate every single minute in that office. But blame my passion, I am not strong enough to walk out.”

“No.” Molly insisted. “I don’t mean she quits her dream but I want her to find a new environment. Meet new people….new man.” Then ducked one of her brows like don’t-you-see-my-point?

Elise suggested, “How about travel?”

She saved me from the others’ stare. “I’m not ready but I consider this option.” I smiled at them. Travel was in my blood. I longed for it every day and since Billie did not want to be with me, I had to travel alone again.

“Do you need more chocolate?” I turned to Molly and showed her my cup of hot chocolate. We were in a café in the center of the town.

“Eat more. You’ll feel better. Lupin said.”

We all laughed.

“Do you feel better?” Elise asked for certainty.

“Of course,” I insisted. “But I did not call you girls out just to listen to my problem.”

Their eyes sparkled when hearing this. It sounded fun. I knew. “I want to dye my hair and buy new stuff.”

“Cut your hair like me?” Jayda made a cool pose.

“I think it’s too short for me but yeah I need it shorter. This is nothing about Billie. Trust me. I want to do it all the time but because he seemed not to like short hair…I mean he loved the very long hair and natural blonde color. And thanks to him, I lost some weight and now I am single. I can wear and do what I want. Just focus on me and me.”

Molly demanded, “No stripper.”

“Of course not, I trust your sense of fashion, Molly.” I grabbed her knee. She smiled proudly. “And because I threw away a lot of old stuff.”

He bought me a dress and some eye palette set and now they were in the junk. I also burned his cards, the flowers he gave, movie tickets, and anything I could think of. Oh, I also tore the cards before burning them.

“You should spoil yourself sometimes.” Jayda approved of my plan. “You know how to spend money and this is the right time to fulfill yourself.”

“Yeah,” I reassured her. “No more budget for dating.” We looked at each other with the knowing smile on our faces. “So…shall we begin?”

“Let’s shopping!” All shouted.

 

Ashley and Mathew slowly watched me from head to toes. On the top of my hair, it was platinum blonde and I dyed the trim of it pink. The length of it stopped at my shoulder. The hairdresser gave the compliment that I appeared younger and cooler (perhaps, punker). My friends helped me select dresses and tops. We did not forget new cosmetics. Do not get me and him wrong. I loved dress myself beautiful. I loved this stuff, beauty products, skin cares products, fashion clothes but due to the fact that I was a good financial planner, maybe too good, who focused on collecting money, I rarely spent the time to spoil myself because of the saving for our dates, travel, and life-saving. And Billie had never forced me to remain long hair. I just chose to please him. As a boyfriend without regarding the last encounter, he was good to me and treated me well. But because when my life changed, I wanted to change most of everything. Love colorized my boring life and when I lost it I needed to paint it myself.

“You look great.” My mother told me but her tone declared the disapproval. “Adrien told us everything.”

I kept my mouth shut and gave them a shrug. “Don’t worry. I cried enough and no more.” Sometimes with my parents, I felt like a teenager.

Ashley smiled a comfort smiled. “We all know you’ll be alright. Our girl is a strong woman.” Her hand squeezed my hair. I hugged her and turned to father’s embrace too.

“I know you two never approve of my decision to chase my dream. But I promise; I won’t let you down. I will show you my decision give me a happy life and not struggle too.”

They nodded. Anyway, the way their stare at me still demonstrated the hesitation. So I added, “Tomorrow, there will be a truck come to our house and they will carry half of my plants.”

Ashley widened her eyes and repeated my sentence, “Half of them?”

“Yes,” I stretched my mouth wider and wider. “Half of them. They come from an organization for kids. They arrange a small festival in their area…and they need colorful decorations. It’s Elise who told me and gave me the contact so I called them and offered a good discount. At first, they politely refused but I knew the theme of their festival is saving-the-world, so I recommended them to save the world—grow my plants after using it. They bought my ideas saying it was amazing.” 

My father clapped. “Smart girl.”

Ashley hesitated, “they haven’t planned it before. You must offer a very shock discount.”

She worked in the financial division and her knowledge did not fail her. “Yes,” I admitted. “Still earn a slight profit. Not big but better than waiting.”

“Okay, I approve.”

“Mom! I don’t need it.!” I sighed and tried to calm down. “I should do this for a long time.” Looked out of the window to the plant nursery house as if I could communicate with them, everything was going to be fine. “I waited for them to come. I should know before that it’s me who must reach them.”

Ashley resumed her position on the table. They were eating snacks and watched TV program but their attention was still with me. “This is what I didn’t see for such a long time. My girl, the Loire I know is the one in front of me. She is full of energy and ideas. You know? We did not see this side of yours since you quit the job.”

I swallowed my saliva. She was right again. I was using to stay in my comfort zone.

“We respect your choice but what we always a concern is the fire in you.”

I looked back through time and hated to admit the fact. After working at home, I became a slow and inactive person. My work offered me a lot of free times for living leisurely and even I complained about money, I was still not alert. How much time did I lose for waiting? No more. And Billie might see me like this: mentally depending to him, to his encouragement.

My focus returned to my parents. To reassure them, I said, “Don’t worry. It’s already lit up.”

I looked at the sky again. The thick dark clouds remained there. The storm was coming. I kept my fingers crossed to have faith in myself.

Chapter 4 (new)

The plant nursery widened and I needed more baby plants to fill the empty space. I checked the temperature and relocated the pots of daffodils to the proper area. I decided to delay the plan to grow more of them because the winter trend was on demand more than the spring. It was winter and no snow here, so a lot of artificial ices and snows were made. But the main reason was I was to reconsider the choice I had made. The fact was I was ready to continue the writing career which still remained abstract but it was the path I would regret all of my life if I abandoned it. For these plants, I loved them with all of my heart but it required costs so I had to plan a new strategy.

While thinking of my own future, I cleaned the floor and checked the temperature again to make sure the other plants would be fine. It was five in the evening but the sky was completely dark already and I had to go out to buy meat to prepare the dinner. “Stay strong children.” I locked the door.

Adrien just returned home. His eyes fixed at my bike and then my outfits. “Hey…you’re going out?” I readjusted the scarf on my neck. The weather was colder every day even though there were no snow and never be as same as my life would never find a love that means forever…Oh please, stop the lamentation.

“Yeah, I’m going to cook katsu curry but no meat in the fridge.” It was a Japanese recipe that I and Adrien were very fancy of it. For this kind of weather, the hot curry was the best choice. No intention of boasting, I did inherit the cooking talent from my mother.

My brother ducked his brow. “Pork or chicken?” He asked because I loved eating chicken and fish; I avoided red meat.

“Chicken and pork.”

He smiled broadly. “Great! And…” He showed me two boxes of chocolate donuts. “Buy one get one. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Our favorite shops will close so let’s celebrate today.”

“Let’s celebrate every day. Start from today,” I added. “Hey. Are they for me? Oh, you’re the loveliest brother.” I squeezed his hair to tease him. My brother brushed my hands out of his head.

“Noooo. Because of the promotion.”

“Okay. I try to buy it.” I laughed knowing well he bought it to comfort me, the sister with a broken heart. Yesterday, he also bought a chocolate cake. I would gain weight faster because of his generosity.

I pulled the bike and opened the door. “I’ll go now. Help me clean the dish, okay?”

Adrien nodded with a groan.

 

The supermarket was located near the train station. I bought chicken’s breast and tenderloin. Ashley and Mathew would return home a little bit late and I would have time to prepare the dinner. I collected the meat inside the bag and walked pulling my bike beside me. Red, white, and green colors were popular these days. And those snowman and Papa Christmas dolls were everywhere. I loved the Christmas’s decoration and loved to visit the city where the snow flex fell. Despite that Molly always complained that the snow was not as magical as we saw in the movies or the animations, I died to experience the moment anyway. I passed the restaurant where I and Billie had visited last month. Sighed. The air filled the empty space in my chest and I felt lonelier than ever.

Be strong! I told myself million times.

It seemed like he ghosted to the world. No more call, no more chat, no more message, he even disappeared from his peers. Elise checked his Facebook and Instagram and she found no clue of his new girl but he rarely updated photo and posts anyway. Even though I tried to ignore, I still wanted to see the face of the new one. Blamed it on woman’s curious nature. Sometimes I wondered that if he really meant he still loved me but not the same, how could he distance me so easily? We always talked and he seemed not to care at all.

Who cares about the one who left? I need a disk of katsu curry. Encouraging myself with food, I accelerated my pace. Suddenly, the thunder sound of heavy machine crashing vibrated the ground. I yelled, shocking.

Turning back to see what happened I saw a white Lamborghini crashed the bridge’s wall. The car gradually slid through the gab it made and people around gasped in shock. Some tried to reach the driver. Unfortunately, the car did fall and dragged more victims into the water. A cracking noise gave the warning but not fast enough. Before I could manage myself out of the way, the whole concrete shook violently and a few second, the bridge collided. People screamed including me. My body and my bike sank down into the cold water. The weight of clothes would drown me so I took the scarf and my coat off. My legs kicked the water to go up. I could swim and since nothing knocked my head, my eyes focused on the surface. However, someone grabbed my shoulders and weighed on me so they could swim upward. I tried to shove those hands off. No luck for today and might be forever, an electric current shocked me. All parts of my body turned numb as well as my brain. Before the darkness, the last thing I saw was my family.

 

“She hasn’t come back home…it’s too long, Matt.” Ashley wandered around the living room. Adrien sat on the sofa uneasily and Mathew made a phone call.

“No, the line was busy.”

“I will go out. She might linger along the way.” Adrien stood up.

I’m here! I called them. But no one seemed to see me. Am I dead?

 

“Miss! Hey!”

I coughed heavily. A vast of air went through my throat and I coughed and coughed again and again. My mouth shuddered. No, it was my whole body that was shaking. The coldness absorbed through the bones and I felt like I could not move.

“You’re alright. You’re alright.” Someone embraced me. Though his clothes were wet, the warm of his arms calmed me a little bit. “Come on.” I looked around. People helped each other. The police and the ambulances arrived at the scene. This man, my rescuer, walked me to one of the ambulances. He kept saying, “You’re alright now.”

“Thanks.” My voice cracked but he heard as his hand patted on my shoulder softly.

“My bike…”

“Forget it now. Come on. We need to warm up ourselves.”

I looked at him. He was a young man around my age. The dark hair and the brown eyes reminded me of Billie but the fact was his facial appearance had no similarity with my ex. The beautiful almond shape hid under the thick dark brows. His nose and jawlines made a good composition and those lips had the perfect shape, not too thin, not to thick, not to wide but they were purple. He smiled a little when I stared at him. “I—tha—thank you.”

He grabbed my shoulders firmly to reassure me that he already heard. 

He was tall, taller than Billie. More than six feet, I guessed. His body was firm and well-built. When we reached the paramedic team, he also facilitated me by handing me a towel and a cup of hot water.

“No one hurt?” I asked him. “I mean I hope.”

His eyes gazed at the river in the sad look. “I hope too.”

There were approximately fifty people who fell for the reason that the bridge collapsed. Half were fine, and I was lucky enough to survive without any serious wounds. I touched my pocket and remembered that everything remained in the water including my purse. “Damn it.” My hands picked inside every pocket I had but I had not left any bank or coins in there.

“Where’s your house? I’ll call the cab.” The kind man might saw what I was doing and offer a generous hand.

I smiled gently. “Thank you so much but it’s alright. I can walk home.”

He shook his head in disapproval, the gesture that made me feel like a little girl. “No, I can’t let a young girl walk home like this and this officer too.” He ducked his head to call for agreement. The paramedic rescuer nodded affirming, “Girl, you’re still shaking. You should call a cab unless you want to get a cold.”

Girl…I hid my annoying face. They thought I was a teenager. “But I don’t…”

“I’ll send you home.” The kind man offered. “No protest,” he insisted and I nodded obediently without knowing why. We both warmed ourselves with the large dry towel. The hot water soothed my numbed parts. He called the taxi and acted gentleman-like letting me get on first. I told the driver my address and then the number on the LED display surprised me because they were backwards.

I swiftly glanced at the kind man who just came inside but he seemed not to notice the strange of those numbers. My eyes observed the registration number and the profile of the driver and all letters were printed backwards.

“I’m Gale.” He showed me a hand. I just realized that we had never known each other’s names. “Sorry. I forgot. I’m Loire. Nice to meet you…Gale.” Our hands shook and separated. His wallet remained with him, a lucky man. At least, I did not have a lot of cash but tomorrow would be a crazy day because I had to deal with those lost cards. “And I’m twenty-five.”

He stared at me for a few seconds and released a short laugh. “Sorry, I thought you…”

“Never mind. It means I look young.”

He gave me soft smile again. If the pain Billie had no effect in me, I might fall for this charming man for sure.

I erased that silly thought out of my head and watched the view outside the window. Again, the buildings were familiar but weird too. I felt like everything showed the contradictory to what I had believed. Like the bank over there, it should be located on the left side but now it was on the right. And the letters too, all were written backwards.

“Is it a joke? Or a new theme for Christmas?” I turned to my companion. His brows tied together implying he did not understand what I said so I pointed to those strange letters. “They’re backwards.”

“Really?” He did not interest in those letters at all but his eyes kept staring at me skeptically. “I…don’t think so.”

“Really?” I almost cried but did not. I moved up and stamped my fingers on the announcement behind the driver seat. “Here…they’re backwards. Don’t you see it?”

“No.” He moved closer. “Are you alright?”

I nodded but deep down, I was not sure. Is it because of the water? The cold? I don’t feel any strange with myself except the cold that kept affecting me. Gale still watched me as if I might go mad any second. In consequence, I leaned on the seat and eyed at the window to avoid more questions. We both sat quietly until the car arrived at my house. Gale asked the driver to wait for him.

“It’s okay. Don’t waste your money. This is too much. I feel really thankful…” He got out of the car before I could finish the sentence. I thanked the driver too and stepped out of the car. Weird, my house was on the right side now was on the left. I started to fear something wrong with my brain.

“Wow, your twin is exactly like you.” He said staring at the window of my living room. My eyes followed his sight and I immediately covered my mouth to prevent myself from screaming in horror.

“No…No.”

“What?”

Gale noticed my nervousness. “This is your home.”

“No.” I stared at the woman inside the house. Ashley hugged her. She wore the same dress as I but the watch was on her left hand. Her hairs got wet like me. And her physical appearance was exactly like me. One idea popped up and it was unpleasant. I began to realize what the situation I encountered now.

“You two always wear the same dress?” Gale still questioned. I stopped him to touch the bell. “Why don’t you go inside?” Ashley and that woman left the window. We both heard them speaking but could not catch the words. My heart beat like crazy. I fanned my head to him and said, “It’s not my house.”

He sniggered through his nose. “Your family is there. You’re alright now.”

I shook my head. “No…I don’t have a twin..never have one.”