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The Wedding Date

Summary

What do you look for in the perfect date?

Smart. Funny. Good-looking. Great job. Sociable.

From Monday to Thursday, Lucy is a successful real estate agent, selling million-dollar properties to those who can afford it. She's smart, funny, likable, and great at her job. And perhaps a little vain due to her good looks and dazzling smile.

Fridays and Saturdays are reversed for clients, and Sundays are Lazy Lucy Days. 

When her good friend, Ryan, asks her to accompany him to a wedding as his date, Lucy can hardly wait for the big day to come as weddings are the perfect places to meet your future spouse.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

What do you look for in a lover? 

Someone who is funny? Smart? Good-looking? Exceptional at sex and providing heavenly orgasms? A ripped-body with washboard abs or muscular arms that look like they can snap you into two? 

Or perhaps the perfect lover was a little bit of everything...

Lucy started every morning by getting up at four in the morning, tossing on her joggers and sneakers. She wasn't exactly a runner, but her schedule that kept her body in shape was running-jogging for twenty minutes before switching over to a ten minute walk, and after her walk, she'd start running again. After running, jogging, and walking for an hour and twenty minutes, Lucy would stretch first and then hop into the shower.

Her favorite part of the morning was the rush of warm, hard water droplets pounding onto her skin and the velvet, satin feel of soap lathering up as her sponge and fingers worked on kneading out those hard knots. After her shower, her other daily rituals were figuring out which bags, shoes, clothes, and what kind of make-up did she want to put on today? Was she feeling young, flirty, and pink? Or was it going to be a neutral, beige, sexy librarian look today?

Was her hair going to be curled, tied up, pinned up?

Eh, Lucy determined. Her eyes were going to be light, sparkly, lined with cat-eye liner and she was going to go bold with a deep red matte lipstick. Her cheeks were lightly padded with an orange blush, and while her foundation was a light layer - she really wanted her lashes to look good so she gave her short lashes three coats of mascara and then put on natural-looking fake lashes.

A sky blue blouse was pulled from the closet along with straight legged work pants and wedged heels. Lucy was looking for an accompanying bag and accessories and decided to trust old faithful - her first purchase with her first sale - a black Chanel bag that was discounted for 20% off.

Lucy was a romantic. Lucy was also a virgin at thirty-one years old. While she had had boyfriends before - her relationships never lasted. Lucy didn't believe in preserving her chastity for marriage, but she didn't feel that losing her V-Card was truly important either. And if her last two relationships had taught her anything, it was that she knew what she was looking for in her next romance.

After eating her avocado toast for breakfast, Lucy was ready to face the day. Today she wasn't meeting with clients, but she still needed to be at the office to finish the legal documents that she needed to push through in order to finalize the purchase of the Two Bedrooms, Two Bathroom, 750 square feet condo on San Pedro Street in San Jose. And after getting the purchase finalized, Lucy also needed to finish brokering the commission split between all of the agents involved.

There was never a dull day in the office. 

Diamond Real Estate Brokerage was located just outside Chinatown, San Francisco near the Ritz - and while her job was never stable because the economy was like fashion. One day, you're in - the next, you're out. Lucy loved selling homes to all the brilliant geniuses of Silicon Valley, and one day, she was going to snag herself an engineer and become a homemaker and just blog about her life.

Until then, Lucy was going to continue toiling and sowing good karma.

Bzzt! Bzzt!

Her phone vibrated twice before Lucy turned her attention to her personal phone - she rarely received calls on her own line. Seeing who it was, her fingers loosened its hold on her favorite blue ink pen and she looked up at her office door.

Good. It was closed shut tightly.

Sliding a manicured finger over the Samsung Android phone, Lucy placed the call on speaker and then tentatively said, "Hello?"

The voice on the other side was light, cheeky, and very feminine. Angie - Angela Rayes - was probably the closest thing Lucy had to a best friend. Angie was a Registered Nurse in the Pediatrics Unit at St. Lucas Hospital in Daly City - and only three years older than Lucy. Angie, like Lucy,  was single and not ready to commit to any one person after experiencing a terrible relationship that lasted over a decade long.

"Lucy!" shouted Angie.

Lucy couldn't help, but smile and she finally put down her pen as she leaned back into her comfy swivel chair.  "Yes?" she answered, giggling as she uttered the word. "What is it?"

There was a moment of silence before Angie finally spat out what was on her mind.

"Can you take me home?"

"Sure? At St. Lucas?"

"No..."

She wasn't a mind reader, and Angie wasn't a shy girl. "Where are you right now?" questioned Lucy, her tone a bit worried.

Angie giggled softly, and then said, "At the Ritz..."

A second passed and then it dawned on Lucy what had happened.

"I'll be there in 10 minutes."

After they exchanged goodbyes, Lucy went to the receptionist to let her know that she was going to be out of the office for the rest of the day. Her car was at the body shop right now, but the walk to the hotel was going to be ten minutes tops even in heels. It didn't take long for Lucy to reach the glitzy hotel, and outside the hotel lobby was a smiley Angie. 

Angie was someone who had a great smile. If people thought Lucy had a great smile, well, Angie had a billion-volt charged smile that was perfectly straight, white, and infectious. Lucy and Angie couldn't have looked more like polar opposites.

While Lucy was petite and very cute, Angie was a five foot ten inches Amazonian Goddess. Lucy's dark eyes met Angie's bright brown eyes, and they were happy, and perhaps, a little shy. The smaller woman waved over the nurse, and gave her a once over look - taking in her now slightly fuzzy hair that was caused by the moisture in the air, the pointy, strappy stilettos, and the modest looking dress. 

"No shift today?" asked Lucy as Angie walked on the other side by her. The tall woman struggled in her shoes as her feet took tiny, careful steps and she wobbled like a brand new baby lamb. Lucy offered her arm to the tall woman, and Angie gladly took the offer as her arm looped under Lucy's armpit. 

Angie shook her head, and then quickly asked, "Where's your car?"

"Oh, we're going to it right now. It's at Ryan's," Lucy answered smoothly. She then turned her attention once more to the nurse, peeking at her from the corner of her eye. "So," she began inquisitively. "Who was it?"

"Who was who?" a smooth, deep voice interrupted. 

Both women turned over, and there it was. The smell of used car oil, lubrication, tires, and the whirling buzzes of a billion tools at work. Ryan stood in front of Bobby - a 2008 Honda Civic - dressed in his dark navy, flame resistant overalls, taking off his gloves one by one as he approached his two friends. His signature K-pop songs were blasting in the background, and Lucy couldn't help, but tap her foot along with the addictive beat of the music.

"Hey Lucy and Angie!" shouted Miguel - one of Ryan's staff members. "Lookin' pretty like always!"

"Hey," Lucy and Angie said in unison, waving over to the others. Sneaking a look over to the dazed Angie, Lucy quickly broke away from the other woman and proceeded to spill everything she knew to Ryan. Her eyes were sparkling bright as she said, "I don't know who, but I want to find out."

"Nosy girl," Ryan said, shaking his head as he lightly laughed. Ryan was taller than the average man at six feet and two inches, and very lean. He wasn't overly bulky nor was he thin as a stick. His hair was short and fashionable. In short, Ryan was very well groomed and always aware of the latest trend. "Almost done with Bobby - he'll be done tomorrow afternoon. Let me wash my hands, and then we go to K-BBQ."

Lucy beamed, and then said, "Thank you."

Her fair hands reached into her Kate Spade bag and fingered around for a thick, white envelope filled with cash. Lucy was determined to make it not seem so obvious so she kept smiling while her hand played Twister inside of her bag as she blindly searched for the darn thing. 

Angie couldn't help, but raise her brow as she watched her dear friend, waiting to see what exactly was going to happen next.

When her thin fingers finally made contact with the thick envelope, Lucy slowly pulled it out.

"Don't," warned Ryan. He got rid of his mechanic's outfit and was dressed in fitted blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a nice jacket as he grabbed his keys. Lucy's hand slowly retreated back into her purse, but her grip never loosened. "Time for food, girls. C'mon."

They followed him to his slick, dark metallic blue, two-door Mercedes-Benz coupe. It was expensive - Lucy didn't know the exact price at the time, but Angie had made a big hoopla about it the first time they had ridden in Ryan's car. It was only after the ride that Angie had told her exactly how expensive the damn car was. 

Two. Hundred. And. Fifty. Thousand. Dollars.

Lucy's heart was ready to jump out and lie flat on the road so someone could run it over. That was how much she had left on her mortgage. Lucy's plan was simple:

1. She was going to finish paying off her mortgage within the next two years;

2. She was going to find someone to spend the rest of her life with;

3. Lucy was going to finish paying off her mortgage.

At the time, she hadn't imagined how much money a mechanic could make, but then again, his real estate portfolio was big for someone who wasn't in the tech industry, or super rich in general unless Ryan was super rich. This was what Lucy had found out the last time they had lunch together. He had three body shops. His main one where he worked at was in Chinatown. His other two were in South San Francisco and Daly City. 

"What's wrong?" asked Ryan - his eyes full of concern.

Snapping out it, Lucy hadn't realize that Angie had already gotten into the back seat and her smile was wide and somewhat dangerous as if she was ready to watch a good show. Shrugging it off, Lucy then said, "Angie, you don't want to sit in the front?"

"Nope," her smile was wide and very devious. "Please go ahead."

"Alright..."

The woman ducked her head and slightly folded her head as she entered the posh car - extremely aware of everything because she didn't want to break anything. It was going to take them about 35 minutes to get to the Korean barbecue place, and while Ryan was a very good driver - he was a fast driver. Placing her seat belt in place, Ryan turned on his mix of k-pop, anime, and American pop and began to drive.

"So I asked Miguel," began Lucy, testing the waters. "how much you guys would charge a regular customer for replacing the bearings, seals, engine..."

Lucy took out the white envelope, and opened the glove compartment and placed the money stack in before closing it gently. "There's five thousand three hundred dollars in the envelope. I don't know if you tax for labor - so I just did the normal six percent."

The battle was about to start - the battle of wills was going to begin, and Angie sat up a little bit straighter. The Asian Polite Fight was going to begin and she enjoyed watching every second.

"Lucy," he began a bit sternly. His eyes never left the road, and his right hand was always on the stick-shift. "You are my friend. Remember what I told you? I always treat my friends very well. Don't I, Angie?"

"Yup," Angie agreed, nodding her head.

"Exactly. That's why you don't need to do this. Please take back your money. Spend on shoes, or whatever you enjoy," he said with finality.

"Or," countered Lucy diplomatically. "You can take the money and pay your employees who worked on the car. As kind and charitable as you are Ryan, I don't want to take advantage of being your friend. The money is the glove compartment. Deposit it. Or spend it on whatever you enjoy. Don't you agree, Angie, that friends don't take advantage of one and another?"

Angie nodded her head once more.

Ryan laughed, but there was a smirk on his face. They were at a red light spot, and he briefly turned to Lucy. "You're making me uncomfortable, Lucy. Take back your money. None of my employees worked on the car. Only I did so I don't need to pay anyone."

Green-light, and the car revved to life as they made it to the next red stoplight. 

Lucy turned to Ryan and said, "Good. Spend it on tickets and merch to BP, RV, and Twice. World Tours, y'know."

"Or you can pay for dinner and we call it even. Does that sound good?" offered Ryan as he pulled into the tight parking lot. 

"Sure."

"Lucy," he groaned, backing up into the parking space. "Remove the money from my car please."

Narrowing her eyes, Lucy refused to budge her stare from the storefront. After a second and two, Angie knew who won the battle.

"Fine," huffed Lucy. She carefully removed the thick envelope, and tucked it carefully into her bag. "Dinner's on me."

Ryan then smiled at Lucy brilliantly, and said, "Thank you."

The trio exited the car, and proceeded into the All You Can Eat restaurant. After waiting for five minutes, the trio was shown to a corner booth and seated as the hostess took their drinks order before leaving them once more so they could have more time with the menu in order to determine which cuts of meat they wanted served.

"So," Lucy was the one who broke the silence. "Who was it? Were they hot?"

Ryan almost choked on his water, but he was hardly surprised because Lucy was brazen and nosy. Angie smiled shyly, and simply nodded. She didn't dare acknowledge Lucy's questions with words. 

"Was his penis big?" 

"Lucy!" giggled Angie. Ryan could only shake his head. "Yeah..." admitted Angie.

"Who is it?" Lucy asked excitedly. She thanked the waiter for the drinks. She was going to have a Soju Martini Slushie, and Angie was just having water  while Ryan ordered iced green tea. Ryan proceeded to order for all three and the waiter left. "Oh, I got to use the ladies' restroom. Don't say anything unless I'm back!"

Lucy winked at Angie before practically skipping in the direction of the restroom.

"Oh, MiniOilDriller is in town," Ryan said, looking at his Discord phone notification. The clanking of metal chopsticks made Ryan's head cock up from his phone, and Angie began to pale. 

"I-"

Ryan shook his head, and said, "No need to explain. What you do is up to you. As long as he didn't hurt you, I'm not particularly worried."

"Lucy can be kind of..."

"Nosy?" finished Ryan. He began grilling the meat and the sizzling was welcoming sound to his stomach. His eyes flickered in the direction of the restroom, and he grew slightly worried about Lucy. Was she not feeling well? He used the metal tongs to flip the meat, and Angie grabbed the other pair to help grill the vegetables.

The click-clacking of Lucy's heels resounded and she appeared around the corner, beaming with joy. She then sat next to Angie on the cushioned bench and smiled brightly.

"You're always happy," Angie said, looking at her friend up and down. "But you're like super happy."

"What did you do?" Ryan asked, slightly skeptical of the girl in front of him. 

"So," Lucy changed the subject. "About that your mysterious beau-"

"Lucy," Ryan cut in somewhat deadpanned. "I got floor seats to the Twice World Tour in LA."

"No. Freaking. Way." 

Lucy uttered the words slowly in disbelief and her eyes were wide.  "D-did y-you get one for me too?" she stammered. 

"Of course," Ryan said simply, placing grilled meat onto Lucy's plate and then some onto Angie's place.

"Ryan Wong," Lucy said, looking at him with glassy eyes. "you are a God. God-sent."

"Just eat now, nosy girl," Ryan said, smiling with his eyes while he laughed. "Eat too, Angie."

When the check came, Ryan automatically gave his card over to the waiter, but Lucy was prepared this time. 

"Oh, sir," the waiter said somewhat awkwardly. "The bill has been paid for. This is just the receipt."

"Thank you," Lucy said, taking her receipt. "C'mon let's go."

"God, I am such a third wheel," Angie whispered to herself. 

"Hmm?" Lucy turned to Angie. "What was that?"

"Nothing," Angie said.

Give and Take

Dinner was filling and Lucy was able to give something back to Ryan. After dropping off Angie in Daly City, Ryan was doubling back to the area between Little Hollywood and Sunnyvale to drop off Lucy. 

"You really don't want money?" asked Lucy, starring at the handsome man next to her. 

"I really don't want money."

"Okay," she said, taking the money out of the envelope before rolling it into a tight roll, rubber-banding it with her pink hair tie. She tucked the money into her jacket pocket before finally dropping the subject.

"You know," she began, scrolling through her emails on her work phone. "It's great that you want to give a lot and be nice to your friends, but you also have to understand friendships are both about taking and giving."

"You bought dinner, didn't you," he said, taking a left turn on the one way street.

Lucy couldn't resist rolling her eyes at his comment. And she sighed as she swiped words into her email, saying to Ryan, "You whipped out your credit card like it was a quick draw between two cowboys..."

He grimaced, and then apologized. "It's a habit."

"You pay for everything? All the time?" asked Lucy curiously. 

"Only with female friends..." admitted Ryan. 

"You need new female friends," teased Lucy. "Ah, it's this one right here."

"Thank you," Lucy said, unbuckling her seat belt. With the gentleness of a butterfly, her manicured fingers pushed opened the door and she was extremely mindful of the distance between the curb and bottom of the door. She closed the door extra gently, and then waved him to roll down the window. "Drive safe!"

His full lips curved upwards and he said, "Sleep well."

"Wait."

He turned his pretty head around, and there was a shine in his eye as he looked at the girl on the curbside. "What?"

She smiled, and then randomly said, "When's the last time you had a hug?"

"What?"

"You heard me."

"You're definitely not drunk."

She smiled brightly and then said, "Gimme a hug." 

He shook his head, but his hand proceeded to park the car then he turned off the engine. 

Lucy stood on the curbside with her arms stretched wide open, and the young man was still shaking his head as he opened his car door and walked around his car. He stood inches away, and Lucy stepped forward, burying her head into his strong chest.

"Thank you." Her words were muffled against his chest and she had one arm wrapped around his back and her hand was lightly patting his back. 

Just as Ryan's arms made to reach around her small back, Lucy had broken off her hold on him and ran up the stairs that led up to her home. Her face looked a little guilty, pleased, and very happy as she waved him goodbye, and wished him a good, safe drive home to Vista del Mar. Ryan stood outside her home stunned momentarily as he took in her actions. Deciding that it was better for his mental health to not delve too deeply into the reasons behind her actions, the handsome man walked to his car and proceeded to the long drive home.

They lived on opposite sides, but he didn't mind the inconvenience. He enjoyed driving. It was therapeutic to drive away from the stress of the day. Ryan lived in a seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, three stories home. On the roof, third floor, and second floor, he had a panoramic view of the city and the Pacific. Perhaps his favorite part of his home was the three car door garage and that he had a front yard, a driveway, and a backyard. The house was made in 1962, and while Ryan upgraded the necessities of the home such as making sure it was in code for earthquakes, fires, and any sort of natural disaster.

He hadn't really renovated the place. Not yet anyways. This home was an investment for his future. He would like his future wife to help him renovate the place. The only real renovations Ryan had made was upgrading the doors so the doors were safe and the only way the doors would unlock was if they had the number lock combination. His garage doors were also swapped out with extra security, heavy duty doors. He switched out all the windows so they were still aesthetic, but thicker than usual. The windows would be able to withstand a smashing or two before it broke.

Other than for code or security reasons, Ryan left almost everything the same beside a brand new coat of paint on the walls. Ryan pulled up the driveway and then pressed the garage door opener. The door rolled up and then the engine revved as he parked inside. The engine was turned off and he made sure to leave nothing behind. Just as he got out of the car and was grabbed the keys, he noticed that there was something in left pocket that wasn't there before.

Locking the garage up, Ryan finally went inside and made his way up the stairs to the master bedroom. The other rooms were mostly vacant for now. He placed his keys on the mounted key rack inside of his room next to two other keys. Taking off his shoes, he removed his outer coat and it was only when he was taking off his coat that he remembered there was something in his pocket.

Curious as to what was inside, his large hand disappear behind the pocket and took out a wad of cash. Unsure on how to feel, Ryan gazed at the perfectly rolled wad of cash and his eyes couldn't help but focus on the pink hair tie. A myriad of emotions flushed through his body, and he couldn't help, but be amused, slightly entertained and perhaps a little happy. 

He already knew how the mysterious cash appeared.

His hand  dived into his front pant pocket and a number he knew by heart was rung. It only rang once before an energetic voice answered him. 

Hello?

"Nosy girl," he said into the receiver. His voice was deep, sweet, and lovely. Lying on his back against his soft bed, he stared at the night sky. You couldn't see the stars here, but the darkness was lovely all the same. His skylight window was clear and wide, and the moon was bright. "You are sneaky. Wicked."

She laughed lightly and then changed the subject.

Guess who Angie slept with.

"Should you really be telling me this?" he asked, raising a brow. There was a smile on his face regardless. 

You don't have anyone to tell. You won't tell anyone even if you did. And I only ever tell you! Lucy protested, and he could already imagine her pouting face and the little frown on her mouth.

"Who?" Ryan humored her.

I can't tell you, Ryan. I'm not that terrible of a person.

Her teasing voice had Ryan smiling ear to ear, and he could careless about who was fucking who unless they were hurting Angela.

Anyways, are you going to the Bay Area Meet up for Destiny Souls?

"What's that?"

I think ChaCha and Ami are arranging a K-bbq and karaoke meet up for the people who live in the Bay Area. 

"I'm going to be out of the country most likely for the rest of the month."

Ohh, fun. 

"Are you going?"

Nope. I don't want to meet people outside the game unless its Angie and you. Well, maybe. Only if Angie goes then I might go for moral support. Dude, I didn't think a game would be the next Tinder, ya know? I heard IW and 420Blaze totallllly hooked up. There are pictures posted all over Discord with hickies on his neck! 

"Hmm, I think he made the wrong choice."

What? She's cute. Her make-up is a little thick for my taste, but overall, cute.

"Mmm," he said. "Well, love is love."

You know there are a lot of Bay Area players! ChaCha, Ami, Mellow, and Woodie are so pretty. Uh, what were we talking about the other days? Ah right! You know how Nayeon looks like a bunny. Rose, ChaCha, Ami, Mellow, and Woodie look like foxes! Cause they're foxes. 

"Lucy, I need a plus one. Wanna come with me?" he asked. His heart was beating nervously while the blood rushing to his ears pounded over and over again. He could only hear the thumping of his heart, or was that just the blood rushing to his head.

There was a pause. A rather long pause. Just as he was about to call out her name once more, the answer surprised him.

Sure. Deets?

Ring, ring, ring!

Another call was on the line. It was his mother.

"Lucy," he said.

You gotta go right? Thanks for today. Don't you dare think about giving me back that money!  Night. Tell me tomorrow about the wedding.

The click of her hanging up without waiting for a reply saddened him a bit, and yet, it was very much like Lucy. She was selfish, but Lucy was also very caring and giving at the same time. Nosy, nosy. He smiled, and then swiped his thumb right, answering his mother.

"Mother," he said.

No hello?

"Hello."

You are coming right?

"Yes," he said, turning to the side.

Come home soon. I miss you. Everyone does.

"I'm bringing a friend as my plus one."

A friend or a girlfriend?

"A friend," he said.

 

Wing Woman

Sundays were Lazy Lucy Days which meant her feet were given a break from the heels, she could sleep in, didn't exercise at all, her face was au naturale, and she didn't have to meet anyone if she didn't want to.

Ring, ring, ring!

"Lucy," her mother said, marching into her room without any regards for privacy. "Your phone has been ringing forever! Answer it."

Ring, ring, ring!

Her hand slammed down hard on the bedside as she clumsily searched for her ringing phone. After finally grasping the damn phone, she quickly answered, "Hello?"

It's me. A deep, soothing voice flooded her ears, and her brain immediately connected it to handsome Ryan.

"What?" she asked grumpily, burying her head under the covers. She waved her mother away, and her mother could only shake her head at her daughter, wondering how she got such a lazy daughter.

Almost noon. I'm assuming you haven't eaten yet. I'm coming over to talk to you about the details of my request. I'm bringing all of your guilty pleasures and something for Mrs. Lee too."

The woman perked up, and then she whined a little bit as a realization hit her. She then said into the receiver in an accusatory tone, "It must be bad... So bad that you prepared food from El Dragon."

He laughed softly and then said something that she didn't quite hear as she was about to doze off to sleep once more. 

"When are you coming over?" she asked sleepily, hitting the speaker button. After groaning a bit, she finally got up from her soft bed and padded over to the bathroom attached to her room. God, she looked so comfortable in her holey, baggy t-shirt and cloud covered jammies. Her hair was slightly crazy, but who wasn't kind of crazy on their day off? 

I'm about to park up your driveway.

"No!" screamed Lucy, rushing over to phone. "I don't even have moisturizer on yet."

About to ring your doorbell...

The woman quickly grabbed her thick-rimmed circular glasses and pushed it up her nose bridge as the legs settled wobbly behind her ears.  Lucy hung up without preamble, and rushed to the door as her feet padded lightly across the linoleum floor. 

Dingdong, dingdong!

Her hand unlocked the door, and she twisted the knob open as she pulled the door towards her. 

He stood there in a t-shirt with jeans and a cheeky smile, holding up the recycable El Dragon bag full of Chinese-Mexican fusion food. The salty, oily, spicy aroma tickled her nose and had her mouth salivating as the smell of mustard greens stirred fried with sweet barbecue pork hit her senses just right. 

"Come on in," Lucy said, scratching her head with her pinky. "Make yourself at home. Let me get changed."

"Where is Mrs. Lee?" Ryan nodded and stepped over the threshold of her home, closing and locking the door behind him. Ryan took off his shoes at the door, and started walking around in his socks. 

"She's gardening in the backyard."

Dark eyes trailed after Lucy's back until she disappeared down the hallway. The tall man walked into the neat living room and gently placed down the to-go orders on the coffee table, smiling a bit as he went into the kitchen and proceeded to make himself at home.

He checked the cupboard for three plates, a pair of chopsticks, two spoons and forks. And after grabbing the essentials tools needed for a meal, Ryan proceeded to set up lunch for himself and Lucy at the coffee table. After setting up the table, Ryan brought over three refrigerated water bottles, placing them before he began setting the water for three cups of floral tea. He finished preparing tea before Lucy came out.

"Mama," she called out to her mother outside. "Ryan's here. He brought lunch. Come say hi."

Lucy was no longer dressed in her sleepwear, trading them for a washed t-shirt and some jean shorts. Her wavy hair was now tamed in a loose bun and her glasses were perched on her nose bridge. Her eyes brightened up at the assortment of food and she gladly sat next to Ryan. She forced cash into his hands for lunch, threatening him with her eyes until he relented. Turning on her TV, she turned over to the handsome man and asked, "What do you wanna watch?"

"No preferences," he said, scooping all of her favorites into her plate. There was Chorizo Fried Rice, Pork carnitas pot stickers with a mango habanero dipping sauce, and there was the mustard greens with sweet barbecue park. 

"Sabrina it is," she announced before thanking him as she took the plate from him and began digging in. As the creepy intro music of the series began, Lucy swallowed her food and then said, "So tell me what you want. If it was something simple, you would have texted me."

"You know you don't have to come with me," replied Ryan, watching as Sabrina and Harvey kissed on screen. "There's going to be a lot of old Chinese people there. They are probably going to assume you're my girlfriend or something if you go with me."

"Yeah, but who cares? It's not like I'll ever see them again afterwards," she said offhandedly. "And I might find myself a rich engineer with a great real estate portfolio."

She laughed heartily, winking at the dead-eyed man who was looking at her as though she had just stolen his dog. He shook his head while Lucy promised she was just joking.

Ryan shook his head and protested softly, "Don't."

"Tell me more about this wedding of yours," Lucy changed the subject.

"Wedding?" her mother cut in. Her wrinkly eyes became extremely bright and energetic upon seeing Ryan. "Hallo Ryan. Long time no see, yah?"

He smiled widely, and gave her his greetings. "Hello, Mrs. Lee. What have you been working on lately?"

Lucy merely shook her head, and returned her attention back to the TV.

"My chickens and garden," she answered quickly before taking a seat next to him. "Wedding?"

"It's my brother's wedding."

"Oh..." Mrs. Lee's eyes dashed over to her daughter, and her daughter shrugged.

Standing up straight, Lucy then proceeded to say, "Ma, Ryan has asked me to go to the wedding. Do you think I should?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" her mother said, and it seemed as if she had misunderstood something and quickly excused herself with her cup of tea as she went outside.

Lucy put her plate down on the table and turned to face him seriously. She fixed her glasses and then questioned, "Are you really sure you want me to go as your plus one? I mean it is your brother's wedding."

"What about your mom?" Ryan asked, looking outside to see Mrs. Lee waving her hand enthusiastically back at him.

Lucy shrugged her shoulders, and said to him dismissively, "She knows better. It's just hopeful dreaming for her."

In that moment of space and time, it wasn't known if Lucy had caught Ryan's broken, hurt expression. His dark, beautiful eyes were wide and slightly panicked, haunted by her words more than he should have been. After all, what were they to one and another? He flexed his jaw around, making sure he was a bit more composed before continuing on.

"Well, I couldn't think of anyone else who'd I want to bring to suffer with me," he said honestly, turning to her in all seriousness as well. He no longer looked completely hurt and broken, only slightly.

"Oh, stop. You're making me blush." Lucy lightly hit his arm and her eyes became as large as saucers as her eyes rotated from his biceps to his confused face then she shrugged once more. "Since my mother said yes, I will go with you."

They continued eating and semi-watched Sabrina as Lucy asked more questions.

How many siblings did he have? Ryan had answered two. An older brother and a younger sister.

What were they like? Lucy was an only child and she used to want siblings growing up.

Perfect, he'd answered. 

And the questions about his family continued. She would be meeting all of the relatives - distant and close - at the ceremony. His brother, Henry, was getting married to a girl he'd met in Hong Kong. Her name was Angela Lei, and she was the middle daughter of a Singaporean family. And the wedding was going in Paris.

Lucy was listening silently until the last part registered in her mind. Flabbergasted, Lucy repeated the word like a broken recorder. "Paris?"

"Paris," he confirmed, taking her empty plate with his and he took the plates into the kitchen. 

"Wow," gasped Lucy dreamily. "I'd like to get married in Paris under the Eiffel Tower. Isn't it romantic?"

The kitchen sink's water was running, and she heard a laugh. It wasn't a mean laugh, but it wasn't a nice once either. His laugh was sounding kind of hollow. Lucy pouted and then said, "Okay. I'm sold. I don't need to hear anything else. I'll be your protector. Guard. Bodyguard. Wing Woman."

"We will be in Paris for three weeks."

"Three weeks! Imagine that," Lucy proclaimed, imagining croissants and baguettes. "Lucy, you're the luckiest girl alive."

Lucy then peeked her head around the corner wall, and into the kitchen. Ryan was now drying the dishes. "Hey," she began.

"What?"

"I just want to let you know," she paused. There was a slight hesitation in her. "You're the best. I love you, you know!"

His hands paused for just a bit before he began resuming wiping as if he hadn't heard her at all. 

Her laughter made his knees go weak.

Take Off

Lucy Lee was a bit of a control freak when it came to work and so it was very hard for Lucy to just let go. Her eyes were reading emails, her mouth and ears attached to her work cell phone, and her hands were busy folding clothes.

"Nia," Lucy said into the receiver as she folded her shirt into a neat triangle. "I'll be back in three weeks."

Enjoy your vacation. Please don't answer any emails on your time off. As CEO, I'm serious.

"I hope so," Lucy continued as she grabbed another pair of underwear and stuffed it into her suitcase. "Don't forget to grill Steve to schedule the meeting with the Landmark P.M."

Lucy, we are not having this conversation any longer. Enjoy your life. Bye.

"Bye," she hung up the call, letting out a big sigh. Her chest felt so very heavy while butterflies occupied her stomach. At the very back of her mind, there was an irrational fear plaguing her consciousness, but Lucy didn't want to, or refused to, dwell on what could be making her heart so heavy.

Work.

Lucy always had a hard time letting go things that mattered to her the most.

Out the corner of her eyes, she then looked at her half-full suitcase, and decided that this was good progress. 

The day before leaving

"Ma," Lucy said, holding three plastic cards. One was silver, gold, and black. "I've paid utilities, phone bills, mortgage, and trash and water. If you need to buy something expensive, go ahead and use the black one. The silver one is groceries okay? And the gold one you can use on anything."

"Okay," Mrs. Lee nodded. "Be safe."

"Of course."

"Come home soon."

"I'll be back before you even remember I was gone."

"Is Ryan coming to pick you up?"

"No," Lucy said. "We will be taking an Uber to the airport."

"I love you."

Lucy smiled, "I love you."

"Have you seen my backpack?" The woman said, going on her tippy-toes as she opened the closet door. 

The day of

"Check your bags in," Mrs. Lee said, pulling Lucy's small carry on luggage to the baggage counter. "Easier. Trust me. I know."

"Ma," Lucy explained. "I don't want to pay for a second checked bag. We're poor remember."

"I pay, I pay," pestered the plump woman. 

"No," Lucy said firmly, taking the handle of her small carry on from her mother. She then looped her arm around her mother and they walked towards security. "Free stuff is the best stuff, ma."

On the other side of Lucy was Ryan, and he just smiled a bit mysteriously. She wasn't too sure what was on his mind. When they reached the beginning of the security line, Lucy and her mother stood off to the side. Maybe it was allergies, the pollen in the recycled air, but Lucy found her eyes were itching and watering strangely.

It seemed the air had the same effect on her beloved mother. Heavy tears rolled down hers and then two droplets rolled down Lucy's as if it was following her mother's lead. She looped her arms around her mother and hiccuped, shushing and comforting her mother at the same time. "You know how to get home right?" asked Lucy. Maybe it was better to not go, thought Lucy. The ticket was refundable. 

"You come home soon," her mother said instead, wiping her eyes with the bottom of her palm. And then she saw how Lucy's tears wouldn't stop despite her mother's rough thumbs wiping them away. "My baby."

Lucy sniffled, and laughed. "I love you," she said.

"I love you."

Lucy took one step, and then two - the rolling wheels were so loud in her ears - before looking back at her mother. She waved her arm wildly, and then said, "You go first."

"Okay," Mrs. Lee said. "I'll be waiting."

Ten minutes before boarding

"Are you okay?" 

"Yeah," she sniffled, looking at her phone. "My mom made it back home."

"That's good."

"Yeah."

"I'll take care of you."

First-Class Seat​​​​​​​

Sitting in First-Class was a strange experience for Lucy and she couldn't relax, but Ryan looked so at home on board. Her seat was so comfortable, and it became a mattress foam bed. The food was good. Entertainment was good. 

Lucy didn't want to get used to this.

Seeing his friend fidgeting, Ryan couldn't help, but ask what was wrong. Was she getting sick?

"Oh, I'm not sick," Lucy admitted as the flight attendant turned her seat into a mattress. She then whispered into Ryan's ear. "How much was this?"

"Don't worry about it," he said, laying on his side, watching Lucy. "It's a gift."

"If you don't tell me, I'm just going to use the Wi-Fi to research."

He then crept closer to her and whispered something into her ears. Her eyes went wide, and her mouth was slack.

Twenty. Thousand. She mouthed as she laid down on the mattress, staring into Ryan's eyes.

Bitter. Insecure. Touchy. Combative.  Hateful.

The morning of landing in Paris was somewhat startling to say the least. When her brown eyes blinked away the sleep, she couldn't help but inhale sharply upon seeing an angular jaw, nice nose, chisel cheeks, and plucked brows. The recycled air buzzed throughout the airline, and the shuffling of feet waiting to use the bathroom were all background noise for the barely awake woman. Although she had seen them almost everyday for the last five years - she had never seen them relaxed and asleep like this. The smiling eyes that always looked at her with warmth were closed and twitching slightly. He was handsome - Lucy had always known as she laid on her side, staring at the man before her. And yet he seemed impossible like a dream that she could never have.

She understood the heated looks he would often give her when she was looking and not looking. The subtle words he would often say to her, but Lucy was cruel by nature. After all, she wasn't rich like him, and only the rich could love one and another. The staring woman supposed that they were fascinated by one and another. He was sweet. She was not a princess. 

And as Lucy looked inside of herself, and looked at the sleeping man beside her. Lucy turned onto her back to stare at the airplane ceiling. After staring at the ceiling, Lucy turned to her side, but she was no longer facing him. Did she love him?

Yes, determined Lucy. She did love him, but did she love him romantically? Perhaps not. Perhaps she did, but Lucy had already given up. Feelings were bound to fade away, and would he really love her and her mother when she was no longer pretty and able?

No, determined Lucy. No one like Ryan, with an established family and background, would love an unknown girl with a single mother and dead father. Ah, mused Lucy. What had the people in Fresno said? She squeezed her eyes to try to remember the words. What were the words?

Orphan. 

That's right - she was considered an orphan even though her mother was alive, but her father's side of the family did not want anything to do with them. Her mother's side of the family also did not want anything to do with them.

It's okay, Lucy thought. Thinking back on her mirthless youth misted her eyes and they were becoming glassy. She wouldn't cry anymore because she did more than those people. 

Lucy sniffled uglily and hid her face under the airplane provided blanket. She needed more sleep.

 

The woman had woken up refreshed after a twenty minute nap. Slightly happier with herself, she turned to the side where Ryan was and noticed that he was up and dressed. He looked at her with warm eyes and bid her a good morning. 

"We are landing soon," he said.

Lucy nodded and then looked down at herself. She was in a t-shirt and some sweat pants. Should she change? 

Lucy rolled out of the airplane bed and reached up above her and looked through her carry-on. Grabbing a day dress and her toothbrush and make-up bag, Lucy placed her make-up bag on her bed-chair and then made a beeline to the empty bathroom stall in first class.

In many ways, the trip was just another day for Lucy. She had slept more comfortably than she would have in a non-converted seat – Lucy knew she would have been awake the entire twelve hour flight. Lucy, like many people, did not like sleep deprivation. In fact, the woman often described herself as B.I.T.C.H. when she did not get enough rest. The thought alone sent her shivering.

Bitter. Insecure. Touchy. Combative.  Hateful.

Not a single soul deserved to see that side of Lucy. And now she knew why majority of rich people would often travel in First-Class. It was a simple fact, and Lucy enjoyed every second of her luxury. A gift was a gift, and although Lucy thought of herself as someone selfish perhaps she needed to be more selfless.

Lucy closed and locked the bathroom door behind her, and she lifted her shirt over her head. Her thumb hooked under the elastic part of the pants and then she dragged them down her legs as she proceeded to step out of her sweat pants with her sneakers on. Dressed in her bra and panties, Lucy slipped the day dress on easily and took a good look at herself as she put tooth paste onto the bristles of her toothbrush.

As she brushed her teeth, Lucy came to the conclusion that she needed to set everything straight with Ryan. She needed to stop leading him on and be honest with him and her. She needed to tell him how she really felt. She needed to stop being such a bad bitch. She needed to look him in the eye and say, "Ryan, thank you for you feelings. But I can never love you that way."

She rinsed her mouth as words of encouragement flooded her head. Unlocking the stall, Lucy made her way to her seat and then sat on the chair stiffly as she opened her compact mirror. Ryan looked her way curiously as if saying, "What's wrong?"

Squeezing out the expensive lotion out of the bottle, Lucy began moisturizing. She then said, "Ryan..."

"Yes?" he answered, looking at his phone while sipping the tea he had requested from the flight attendant.

"I think," began Lucy. Her heart began racing and her stomach was fluttering with butterflies and doing somersaults. Was the airplane getting hot, or was it her? She put down her foundation cream and looked at him. 

Lucy's dark brown eyes stared deep into Ryan's eyes and she saw herself reflected in them. Her heart began beating faster and faster as she said, "I.. I.."

"What's wrong?"

Why was this so awkward? Oh yes, Lucy thought. This was going to become so awkward if she rejected him right now on the airplane! Yes, she would set things straight when they got to their hotel.

She smiled at him professionally and said, "I think Paris is going to be so fun! Beautiful! Thank you so much for inviting me!"

What was she saying?!

Why was she such a terrible person?

He blinked once, twice, and then smiled brightly at her and said, "I couldn't have imagined another person with me."

If there was a hell, Lucy was definitely a good candidate for going. 

Fancy

"So what you're telling me is that my luggage got mixed up on the wrong plane, and it will be here tomorrow..." sighed Lucy as the service woman at the luggage terminal stared at her unapologetically.  Lucy took the luggage slip and began filling out all of the required entries as they asked for her name, where she was staying in Paris, and much more. After handing the slip back to the woman, Lucy sluggishly dragged her feet to where Ryan was sitting, and he had a loopsided smile on his face while his eyes were mischievously twinkling.

"She said they will deliver the luggage to the hotel when it arrives," Lucy said, blowing a piece of loose hair from her face. Her small carry-on luggage was with him while her cute backpack was worn and secured in front of her chest. A frown was apparent on her face as she sat down next to him. She turned to him, and her eyes became misty as she pouted. "What do I do? I don't want to buy a new dress, but I'm going to have to... What time do we meet your family?"

Ryan looked at his phone, and then said, "We have five hours."

"Do you think they have like a Macy's or a Nordstrom?" she said seriously as she contemplated her options. She didn't want to spend too much on clothes. There was so much to do that was not shopping.

"A department store? Sure, I can look," he said as he typed the words 'department stores in paris france' into the mobile search bar. Immediately he clicked on the first one that popped up, and it gave him four options. "Galeries Lafayette, and a couple of other ones. Did you wanna take a look around?"

"Nah, we'll just head to that," Lucy said easily as she took her carry-on luggage handle from him. "Let's go?"

He took her her carry-on from her and then asked, "Do you have all of your essentials with you?"

She nodded, looking at him questioningly.

"Then I'm going to have our bags brought to the hotel first."

"Why?"

"Because I love driving in Paris."

"Okay..?"

"The car doesn't have enough trunk space," explained Ryan patiently as he handed a man their luggage. He then said something in French and it was all gibberish to Lucy.

She looked at him like he grew another head, and she said, "I didn't know you spoke French."

He chuckled and held out his hand for her. "I don't think we know very much about one and another."

"I guess not."

He held out his hand, and Lucy stared at it for three counts of her heartbeat before placing her cold hand in his warm one.

He nodded, and then said, "Let's go pick up our rental."

When he had said rental, she was not expecting another expensive car - an Audi R-something something. It was a number and a bug? And the car was zooming past other cars fast as the roads of Paris were winding and curving. It was still morning time - there wasn't traffic yet. Lucy's heart was traveling from her chest to the bottom of her soles to her throat as she closed her eyes. Ryan was so calm and in his zone as changed lanes. She didn't know that the French drove on the same side as Americans did. Then again Lucy probably didn't know a lot about anything...

"Enjoying yourself, huh," Lucy said, watching the suburbs pass her by.

"I am," he said. "We will be here for three weeks. Did you have a list of things you wanna do?"

She began listing things off her head, using her fingers to keep track of what she wanted to see and experience. "Mont Saint-Michel, Notre-Dame, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, umm I think that's about it for now?"

"Did you want to go across the channel? Or south of France for wine?"

"Nah, I wanna keep things simple," Lucy said, looking at Ryan. "Don't wanna complicate things, y'know."

The GPS had taken them to a castle - or something that Lucy thought should have been a castle. The Galeries Lafayette was huge with glass-stained window dome ceilings. Immediately Lucy took out her phone and began taking pictures of herself and the building before handing her phone quickly to Ryan so he could take pictures of her being a tourist. He gently complied with her wishes. And then by surprise, she jerked him down a quick picture or three. One surprising him with a quick peck on the cheek, one with both of them laughing, and one where he just looked at her with a look that she didn't want to analyze.

Galeries Lafayette was definitely a tourist trap - there was nothing but luxury, branded items in the department store. Everywhere she turned there were big designer names, and she frowned. She should have listened to Ryan more about options, but she didn't want to make him drive once more. The roads were too crazy for her taste! And she thought California drivers were crazy...

It wasn't as if she couldn't afford the clothing or bags - she was just a big cheapo with a goal. And so in order to not be distracted, Lucy went straight into a store that sold dresses, accessories, and shoes in one place. 

Her phone beeped, notifying her about a new video on YouTube. She opened the link and smiled brightly as one of her favorite girl groups had just released a new song.

"Hey," the woman said behind the changing room's door. "They just released a new song!"

"I know I just saw the notification," Ryan said, sitting on the fancy, leather ottoman. His tan chino-covered legs were crossed over one and another as he put on his airbuds and played the song. It's different... He thought, listening to the pop song that was manufactured to be a hit. His eyes stayed focused on the technicolor dance video. His favorite out of the girl group was a girl who looked like a bunny, and she was looking cute like always.

"Are you watching the video?" she gasped from the other side. "No fair. I wanna watch too."

The door opened wide, revealing Lucy in a pastel, pink floral dress. His dark eyes looked up. Lucy was always pretty, cute, and beautiful, but there was a whole another level of femininity with the dress on. Maybe it was the atmosphere of the Parisian city, but Lucy was getting a lot more pretty the more time he spent with her. 

The dress she wore was a dreamy watercolor floral chiffon high-low midi dress with ruffles and a rippling hem.

He couldn't help repeating the lyrics to the song in his head as she eagerly made her way over to him, "I fancy you, I fancy you, fancy you."

"You look pretty," he said seriously. His eyes were no longer watching the video.

"Thank you," she replied, keeping her eyes on the video. After watching it briefly, she got up from the bench and made her way barefoot to a salesperson. She spoke in English, asking for block heels in a size that was comparable to what she normally wore. She began mussing with her hair and tried to see which earrings went best with her outfit. She then looked at belts and bracelets. 

His eyes never left her figure, following her every step as she made faces in the mirror. He hadn't meant to love her as much as he did. He knew she knew, and he knew what she felt. 

So why were they tittering on the edge of becoming something more while staying close, very close friends? He thought himself a smart man, but why was dating so complicated?

Or were they just complicated people?

Did he have to say something in order to validate what both she and he knew? Did she have to say something in order to take that one step forward into a boundary he wanted to cross into?

"I think this is it," she said to herself, looking at her appearance in the gilded mirror. Twirling once, twice, she then took a look good look at herself before firmly deciding on purchasing the shoes, clothes, and accessories. 

Lucy didn't believe in buying things she only used once - that was not worth her hard-earned monies.

"I feel so fancy," joked Lucy. She shuffled back into the changing room, but she didn't miss the weight of his stare. He wasn't even paying attention to the song anymore. She took off the clothes and smiled at herself in the changing room's mirror. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, but it was because the store was too hot even though the air conditioning was on.

Paris was warmer than she had expected it to be.

Soiree

The daytime soiree was held in the gardens of the grand Shangri-La Hotel Paris. There were Parisian stone columns, well-groomed shrubbery, and a manicured green lawn. It wasn’t the most glamorous garden Lucy had seen, but it was definitely a pricey one. The guests were dressed to the nines, either speaking Chinese, French, English, or Singlish and Malay. Some of the Singaporean guests were talking in Tamil and Hindi too, but they were the minority in a sea of mostly Chinese faces. Lucy was sitting at the edge of the party while Ryan made the rounds like a good younger brother and son, greeting guests, making small talk before moving on and thanking and greeting in an endless cycle. He would occasionally look for her, finding her eventually in the sea of people, and then he would send a smile her way, his eyes crinkling in the process. She’d wave back, but every time, he would just turn away too fast and quickly, dealing with another guest.

“What a party,” a soft, bored voice said. Lucy turned to the feminine voice and stared for a bit. The woman had a very pretty face. Her eyes were dark, wide, and expressive while her bottom lip was full and plump with a mole near her lips. Her long hair was perfectly made into symmetrical waves.  She was wearing a dark wine colored body-hugging dress, showing off her killer curves and long legs. “Are you Ryan’s guest?”

Lucy felt slightly intimidated by the pretty woman’s presence, and she meekly nodded. Her eyes never left the woman’s gaze though as she sat down at the table next to her, rubbing the heels of her feet.

“God, my feet hurts,” she said gruffly. She then turned over to Lucy and gave her an easy smile. She held out her hand, and said, “I’m Nina. One of Ryan’s cousins.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Lucy. “I’m Lucy.”

She was unable to hide her surprise, and her meekness disappeared upon realizing that this was a family member, and not an ex-girlfriend. “I love your dress.”

“Thanks,” Nina said, winking at the other woman as she took a graceful sip of her cocktail. “I wanted to show off my WIP.”

“WIP?” asked Lucy, looking at the confident woman curiously.

“My body is a work in progress,” explained Nina, showing Lucy a picture of herself a year ago. She laughed upon hearing Lucy’s loud gasp.

“Wow, you look really good! Nice work, girl!”

“Haha, thanks,” she said. “I’ve always been the ‘Big Girl’ of the family so my aunts and cousins have always made fun of me for being bigger. Societal norms, I suppose.”

“I’m sorry.”

Nina raised her brow, and replied, “Why are you sorry? It’s not you, it’s my family. Well, I suppose you’ll be one of us soon.”

“I don’t think so.”

“We’ll see,” Nina said. “I’m usually not wrong.”

“What’s your work out like?” Lucy changed the subject.

“I hired myself an Accountability Coach so I just do whatever he recommends.”

“What’s an Accountability Coach?”

“Well,” Nina explained. “I made that job specifically for me. I posted an ad for a live-in Personal Trainer-House Keeper. I basically pay him $150,000 a year to keep me healthy, motivated, and to clean my house, cook for me, and do chores I don’t have time to do.”

The woman then began pointing at a cluster of people who was who, how they were related, and where they’re from. She pointed to Ryan, and the people standing next to him. “I don’t know if Ryan has introduced you yet to the family with all of this craziness, but the one on the right is his older brother, Eddy Wong. He’s the groom. His parents are to his left – Theresa and Andrew Wong. The one to the right of Eddy is Jasmine. She’s the baby of the family. The Wongs are the nice cousins. I like them.”

“That’s the bride,” Nina continued, shifting her attention to a woman with bright grey eyes, a tall bridge, and dusky, smooth skin. She was wearing a bright pink sari and next to her were her parents. “Julia Koh. They’re the Singaporean side of this event. Her father – apparently at the time – had made a huge scandal for marrying her mother. She’s an heiress and an only child.”

“Over there in the middle are the Li’s, Fong’s, Chen’s and Zhao’s – they’re the ones from Hong Kong. And then the Liu’s and Wu’s are from Mainland. They say that they’re different, but to me, they’re just the same bunch of mean people. They think I’m still too fat at five foot nine, and a hundred and forty-five.” Nina rolled her eyes, but Lucy could tell that what they thought really affected her.

“So where are you from?” asked Lucy.

“Ah, I’m ABC. SoCal,” explained Nina. “Are you also from Cali?”

“Yes,” she replied. “San Francisco. Originally from Central Valley though.”

“Cool, cool,” Nina said, turning in her chair to get a better look at Lucy. “I take a monthly trip to SF for business. I’ll stop by next time I’m there.”

“You definitely should!” Lucy earnestly said. “Did you and the Wongs grow up together?”

“Oh, Ryan’s not ABC,” Nina said, picking at her plain garden salad. “He’s CBC.”

“What’s CBC?”

“Canadian-born Chinese.”

In that moment, it dawned on Lucy that it was true. She didn’t know Ryan very well at all despite their five-years of friendship. 

He probably didn't know her well either then.

Lucy shifted in her seat and took a sip from her champagne glass. She was gonna need another glass of bubbly soon at the rate that she was going. A familiar figure was sauntering over, and he brought his entourage with him. The mother was dressed in pink and white, the father was in a nice navy suit, the older brother looked nice in his grey suit, and the younger sister was very pretty. Ryan, of course, was handsome as always in his own tan suit with the nice blue shirt underneath. She was staring, but Lucy didn't care one bit as she chugged the rest of the chilled liquid down.

There was that smile again. Lucy frowned, feeling her heart twist and race faster than what should have been allowed. The drumming in her ears poisoned her. It was so scary, so so scary to know that just a smile could blur everything else. That her traitorous heart yearned for the impossible - after all , fairy tales were just stories for a reason. Her eyes watered at the sight of the glamorous clothes, decadence, luxury, and his family. 

"Hey are you okay?" Nina said, looking concerned as tears rolled down her cheeks.

And it was all coming back - her backwater origins in a town known for drugs and homelessness and dead ends. People talking and ridiculing her. Her nonexistent family. 

She sniffled, choking a bit as she wiped away her tears. Out the corner of her eye, she saw Ryan rushing over. Just as he was about to speak, Lucy turned her head downward to the side, facing away him as her hands held him at bay. 

"Sorry," she said, wiping away the tears as covertly as possible without raising his alarm.  "Something got into my eye."

She knew that he'd accept whatever she'd say. That he wouldn't press her here or ever. Taking a deep breath, Lucy calmed herself. She practiced her smile a bit before finally turning to him with the most professional smile she could muster.

"See?" she said, smiling so wide that it hurt. "I'm okay. Just something in my eye."

Nina looked at her with wide eyes, but she didn't say anything.

Lucy then got up from her seat, and turned to Ryan's family. 

"I'm Lucy. Thank you so much for having me. I'm Ryan's friend," Lucy said, holding out her hand.

"Ryan is always talking about you," his mother said. "We need to get to know each other. You're so much prettier than he described."