“Would this be all, Miss?”, the cashier asked looking curiously at the woman standing in front of the counter line wearing thick dark sunglasses with her long side-swept bangs covering almost half her face.
“Y-yes.” Elizabeth said in a low distraught voice. Her head subconsciously turned to the right where she had felt like someone was staring but saw no one. Feeling somewhat relieved she handed the credit card that she had ready on-hand to the female cashier and felt like screaming at her to hurry. She bit her lower lip in frustration as she watched the brown-haired, freckled young lady be as slow as ever in wrapping up their transaction. If she hadn’t run out of her favorite strawberry-filled butter-cake rolls, she wouldn’t have had to get out of the house to buy some. If only her brother bought it for her like he promised, then she wouldn’t have risked exposing herself in public like that. She could have asked her fiancé Paul, but she knows that he was always busy and she didn’t want to disturb him during his work.
She grabbed the pen the girl handed her and hurriedly signed the receipt before merely placing her credit card in a pocket on her shoulder bag and picking up her bag of sweets. She barely heard the cashier say her “Thank you, please come again” line as she strode out of the store. She really needs to hurry home before someone recognizes her. She didn’t think that wearing dark sunglasses and covering her face with her hair disguised her enough, if anything it made her more conspicuous, but she really wasn’t able to fight the craving she had for her favorite cake. She wondered why, usually she was able to wait until her younger brother Carl could come over to bring her stock of sweets, but this morning she just felt like she needed to eat it right away. Lately she has had unusual cravings for food and everything else.
She was almost at her car when she suddenly stopped and thought about what day it was.
“No way…” she muttered to herself, her eyes widening in realization beneath her huge dark glasses, her hand tightening in a clench around the shopping bag’s plastic hand-hole. She turned back around to get back into the mall, this time heading towards the drugstore. She was already at the entrance of the store when she felt a strong hand wrap around her arm. She turned in shock, swinging the shopping bag she was holding, heard it make a rustling sound as it hit the person holding her arm and was face to face with a guy who looked just as surprised and worried as she was.
“Elizabeth? What are you doing here?” the guy asked, slightly pulling her away from the door of the drugstore.
“C-Carl?...” she clutched her free hand on her chest and let out a breath of relief as she smiled at her younger brother who has virtually grown taller than her over the years. “You startled me.” She said, pulling her arm away from his grasp.
“Ditto.” Carl said in a worried tone, his expression still showed disbelief about seeing his sister there. “What are you doing here?” he asked again, placing both his hands in his side pockets as he surveyed his sister.
“I bought strawberry cake. You said you’ll bring some for me today, but I just couldn’t wait.” Elizabeth gave her brother her innocent sweet expression and he finally smiled.
“I’m sorry. I was going to bring you some later after I’m done with my classes. Did you need anything from the drugstore?” Carl said pulling one hand out of his pocket and putting his arm over Elizabeth’s shoulders subtly pulling her towards the exit of the mall.
“I--- um---“ Elizabeth thought that it wouldn’t be such a good idea to tell her brother that she was intending to buy a pregnancy test kit. Even though he’s already in college, she still saw him as a baby. “No. Not really.” She said, following her brother’s steps.
“I see. Then you should probably go home now. You know it’s not safe for you to be out like this.” His voice was low and he spoke as if every word weighed tons. Elizabeth just nodded. Her brother always worried about her. She really can’t blame him, though. For someone like her, it was truly unsafe to just walk around in public. She did, after all, stop being an ordinary lady ever since she started dating Paul. Paul has gained fame through his career as a defense lawyer, he’s good with what he does, but it also caused him to gain a lot of enemies which by extension also affected her in some way.
Carl walked her to her car and waited until she got in and fastened her belt before leaning over the window and giving her a soft kiss on her cheek.
“I’ll swing by later after my classes. If you need anything, just call me or you can always tell Gary, right?” he said as Elizabeth turned the ignition.
“You know I don’t trust that person. I really don’t understand why I need to have him in my house. I know you said he’s there to protect me, but I just don’t like him. He’s creepy.” Elizabeth said in a disdained tone as she remembered the times when she caught that “bodyguard” sneaking around her when he thinks she’s unaware of his presence, how she sometimes catches him peaking in her bedroom when he thinks she’s already asleep, how he looks at her with such unfathomable expressions and how he never speaks to her.
Carl just sighed as he took a step back from Elizabeth’s car. “Please don’t be that way, Elizabeth. Gary is---“ he paused and gave his sister an assuring smile. “---he’s a professional.”
“Fine, if you say so. I’ll see you later, Carl.” Elizabeth said, raising a brow before closing her window and pulling out of the parking space. She honked once before completely driving off and saw her brother wave at her car through the rearview mirror.
When she arrived home, she walked straight to the kitchen after simply throwing her shoulder bag on the couch in her living room. Her mouth watered in anticipation as she pulled out the strawberry cake roll from her shopping bag. She took out a fork from the counter drawer and dug in, straight from the cake’s package, smiling in satisfaction as she tasted the sweet, tangy, buttery, berry-flavored cake-bite in her mouth. She was almost half-way through the package when she heard someone walk in through the back door. She turned her head quickly and met the deep grey eyes of the person she finds creepy but is someone she has to live with as per her brother’s request. Before the man could walk in any further, she took her cake and her fork with her and walked up to her bedroom. She really can’t stand being in the same room with that guy. There’s something in the way he was always so timid and the way he stalked around the house quietly and the way he looked at her with those eyes. Creepy was the only adjective she could think of to describe his effect.
Her brother stayed true to his word and dropped by that afternoon to stock up her pantry with her favorite sweets. They sat together in the garden, watching the neighbor kids play on the street as they shared cups of tea and slices of cake. Seeing the children play happily brought back the suspicion she had in her mind earlier that morning. She thinks that she might be pregnant with Paul’s child. It would be such a happy event if it’s true, and she wanted Paul to be the first person she tells it to, but the idea squirmed inside her forcing to be let out. She needs to tell someone and she doesn’t think she could wait for the opportunity to speak to Paul. He’s busy working on an important case right now and she doesn’t know when he’d call or if she could wait until then. Surely her brother would understand, wouldn’t he? Paul and she aren’t married yet but they soon will be, so it doesn’t really make a difference if the baby arrived first.
“Carl, I need to tell you something.” Elizabeth said softly, reaching for her brother’s hand across the table. He looked at her confused and again with a hint of worry in his eyes at her sudden serious mood. She smiled. “I think I’m pregnant.” She stated clearly. She waited for her brother’s reaction but he just remained frozen, staring at her with the very same expression of confusion and worry. “It should be fine, though. Paul and I will be married in a few months, so---“, she was stopped when Carl suddenly pulled his hand away. Her smile completely vanished when she saw the frown form on his face. There was a look of disbelief, shock and anxiety in his eyes. Is he angry?
“Carl?” she called to him and reached for his hand again. This time he was the one to hold her hand in his in a tight clench. “Are you angry at your sister?” she asked and he lowered his head before shaking it from left to right. “It’s going to be alright, Carl. Paul would never break his promise. We’re going to be married and he will give his child a name. So, don’t worry, ok?” she just saw Carl nod, but still didn’t lift his head to look at her. Was he really that worried about her? She figured that her brother’s over-protectiveness could only stem from the fact that they’re the only family they have left. All they had to depend on ever since their parents died was each other.
“I better go.” Carl said almost in a whisper. When he lifted his head to look at her he was wearing an obviously forced smile. “I have classes in the morning. I’ll come see you again tomorrow, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth smiled back at him and nodded. Carl kissed her hand which he was holding before standing up and walking back inside the house, probably to talk to that bodyguard person again. She has no idea why his brother trusts that guy so much, but she believes that her brother would never let any dangerous person near her so she just needs to bear with the creepy feeling. Besides, when she and Paul get married, he’ll definitely get rid of that guy for her.
“Is there a reason why she would think she’s pregnant?” Carl asked Gary in a worried tone. He was no longer in front of Elizabeth so there was no longer any need to hide his emotions.
“She might be.” Gary answered calmly before taking a sip out of the mug of coffee that he was holding in his hand. He understood Carl’s worries, but he didn’t think it was the little brother’s business to pry so much about that matter. He was the one taking care of Elizabeth. She’s his responsibility now, no one else’s.
“She can’t. I thought you understood her situation?” Carl asked in frustration. How can Gary be so calm? Elizabeth was in no way fit to be having a child in her current state. Gary, of all people, should know that.
“What do you expect me to do? Do you want me to kill my baby?” Gary asked looking at Carl dead- straight in the eyes. Carl could only stare back in shock, clenching his fists to his sides to control himself from falling into hysteria. He did not approve of his sister having a child due to her condition, but since Gary seems to be fine with it, then he should just let him deal with it the way he always had through all the other situations concerning Elizabeth’s circumstance. After all, Gary journeyed with Elizabeth all throughout. He took care of her and stayed by her side waiting patiently for her to see him--- to look at him--- to know him…
No one could ever be that patient…
No one could ever be that persistent…
No one could ever be as sincere as the man who truly loves…
It’s been over three years since Elizabeth suddenly changed. No one expected it; no one ever saw it coming and it took everyone completely by surprise. She was a happy person, decorous, and smart. She carried herself with pride and barely complained about anything. She didn’t seem to be the vulnerable type, but then again, everyone is never really what they seem. No one could ever truly know someone and be able to tell exactly how things go inside one’s head.
Sometimes, it just happens and no one could ever explain how or why it has to.
At first they were just minor ticks like being unable to tell made-up fantasy from actual memories. Until gradually, Elizabeth began to live as a different person, winding her own life with a popular TV show, falling in love with a fictional TV character and creating a dimension of her own that crossed both worlds. She was already in that state when she met Gary two years ago.
When he was still…
“Paul? You’re home?” Elizabeth whispered as she reached up
her hand to caress Paul’s cheek. She thought that she was only dreaming when
she felt someone sit beside her on her bed and kiss her cheek, but there he
was. His warmth radiated through her sheets as he leaned over her, gently
pulling her in his arms, cradling her sleepy, heavy head on his chest.
“Yes, Elizabeth, I’m right here.” he said in the softest, lulling tone as he gently ran his fingers through her hair.
“I wanted to talk to you about something.” She said in a bleary voice.
“I know.” He said, leaning his head down to plant a sweet loving kiss on Elizabeth’s half-parted lips. “We can talk about everything tomorrow. I promise you I’d still be here when you wake up in the morning.”
Elizabeth smiled and slowly closed her eyes to resume her peaceful slumber.
Gary watched as Elizabeth slept with a sweet smile on her
face. She looked so serene and happy even while she dreamed. People said that
it was crazy for him to leave his career all for the sake of a mere fan. They
said Elizabeth was crazy for not being able to tell that Paul was just a
fictional character that Gary portrayed. They said it was crazy to have to keep
play-acting for the sake of someone who’s clinically delusional. But if they
only see what he sees… if they could only look at Elizabeth the way he does…
they’d understand why he’s willing to leave reality to be with Elizabeth in
She lives in a peaceful place. She lives a happy life. She’s satisfied just to be with the person she loves. Hers is a world that not most people would ever dream to have. Power, judgment, wealth, beauty, fame, ambition and other worldly things have no space in her little dimension. She had created a world where getting over the pains of rejection, betrayal, heartache and grief were as simple as calling it cut and retaking the whole scene. She may not live in the same reality, but who actually has the right to call that crazy?
“It’s a wonderful world, my love.” Gary whispered as he closed
his eyes and walked into the dreamland with Elizabeth. Looking forward to the
future that people around them could only see as manifestly insane.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of places, events and persons living or dead, is purely coincidental (unless stated otherwise). The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. All rights reserved. Amaranth Levana 2012
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A/N: I know it took so long for SLC to be updated, and I haven't posted any new short stories either. I have no excuse, but that I was going through some kind of phase which made it difficult for me to come up with something to write about--- no, wait, that's not it. I was having trouble organizing ideas. At one point I thought I was going to go insane. Luckily, I was able to force myself to come up with a story. It wasn't writer's block, per se, I was just--- I really don't know how to put this--- Demotivated? Uninspired? Yeah, I know. It sucks.