The Story Of Us – Chapter 33

“Ex… girlfriend?” Rainie asked. Her facial expression changed.

Ken turned to look at Julia, before he looked at Rainie. “Yes,”

“I… see,” Rainie said, swallowing a lump in her throat.

Julia looked at Ken for introducing her as the ‘ex-girlfriend’ though a small part of her seems very uncomfortable at being labeled as that. But she knows that is the truth. She then smiled faintly at Rainie. “I…”

“Nice meeting you. We will get our seat. You guys go ahead,” Winnie was quick to interrupt, and she quickly gripped Rainie’s hand and gently pulled Rainie.

“See you,” Julia smiled.

Rainie turned as Winnie dragged her.

“Are you alright?” Winnie asked.

“Alright? Huh? What are you talking about?” Rainie asked, looking at Winnie. “Of course I am,”

“Because you don’t look alright to me,” Winnie said. “Do you want to change to other coffee house instead?”

“Change coffee house? No, why should we…? It is fine. This place is okay,” Rainie said. “You said Pace recommends this place… so it must be good… and since we are here, might as well,”

“Are you sure?” Winnie is skeptical, especially with her stammering statements.

“Yes,” Rainie replied.

“Alright. Since you say so,” Winnie said, stealing a glance at Julia and Ken, “I don’t understand why is he here anyway… of all places,”

“Of the same reason why are we here?” Rainie asked.

“Duh,” Winnie rolled her eyes. “Are you sure you want to be here or we should change…”

“There is no reason to change the place, right?”

Winnie takes a deep breath as she knows she is not going to win this. “Alright, alright,” she said, as they headed to a table slightly further inside the shop.

**

Julia turned as she was about to sit down and looked at Ken still standing there, having his sight fixed at Rainie walking away with Winnie.

“Ken?”

Ken turned and looked at Julia. “Oh,” he immediately takes his seat.

For a moment he forgot about Julia was there.

Julia bites her lips as she steals a glance at Rainie who is sitting down at a table inside the coffee house with Winnie.

“What is it that you called me and to meet me for?” Ken asked.

“Oh,” Julia said as she turned and looked at him. “Just… catching up with you. How’s life?”

“Life… still the same. And normal,” he said.

“Are you still working at the same place?”

“You mean the tender company? No. Not anymore. So I am free and easy… and have a lot of time for myself and for everything,”

She smiled. “I see… that is nice. I thought you love the job,”

“I lost the job,”

“You lost the job?”

“Yeah,” Ken said. “I was terminated. Company hasn’t been doing very well so they have to terminate staffs. A number of people in the company have been cut. Well, a part of me is glad that it happened,”

“Because you get to work for photo shoots?”

Ken smiled slightly. “I supposed you have seen the advertisement. Well, no. Losing the job and working in the advertisement are not related. The photo shoot just happened,”

Upon seeing his smile, she smiled. “I saw it in a magazine. Taiwan Women’s Lifestyle,”

“That is the first magazine to publish the advertisement. As of now, the advertisement has hit few more magazines, and soon will go everywhere, and in most magazines,” Ken said.

“Oh, that is good to hear,” she said.

Ken just smiled faintly. “It is okay,”

“I assume… you are now… modeling?”

“Not really,”

She smiled. “Actually, you look gorgeous in the photo shoot,” Julia said.

“Thank you,”

“I remember when I was reading Taiwan Women’s Lifestyle… and then I saw the advertisement. A part of me was surprised to see you there. I couldn’t believe you would be doing that,” Julia smiled. “And better than I thought you would,”

“You can trust your first instinct by telling yourself that it is not me,”

“I know it is you. I just knew,” she said.

He smirked.

“I’ve been with you for years, so… I know,” she said.

His smile fades upon hearing that. He swallowed a lump on his throat.

“I think you’ll be great if you venture into modeling. It is more flexible,”

“It is not something that I said ‘I want to do’ means I get it. This industry is different,” Ken said. “Anyhow, I will decide about that as it is my life,”

Julia bites her lower lip as she recognized the tone that he is giving her. “I guess that’s how you meet Rainie,” Julia turned to look for Rainie inside the shop. “She is a supermodel and you get to take the photo shoot with her,”

Ken smiled as he did not respond.

There is no need to tell her about how he actually met Rainie.

“She is pretty in person,”

“And nice,” Ken continued her statement.

Julia smiled. “So what do you work as now, since you are not with the tender company… and not modeling,”

“I am not working,”

“Ah? Really?”

“Yeah,” he said. “If I am working, I wouldn’t have free time to come and meet up with you right now, with a cup of coffee in front of me,”

“Oh…” she lowered her head down for a while, “Then how do you sustain your life?”

“I’m doing fine without a job. Thanks for your concern,”

“Oh,” she said. “You are… umm, welcome,” she looked at him.

He lowered his head down to look at his coffee, and then he takes it up for a sip.

She totally understands with his response. He is actually replying her questions with short and firm answers. He didn’t sound very happy to answer her… or probably it was the questions.

Maybe he is not in the mood to tell her about his condition.

“Umm… still staying at the same place?” she asked.

“No, bought my own apartment,”

“Nice…” she said.

“Yeah, better too,” he said. “The apartment is located in a quiet neighborhood with good views and security,”

“Sounds expensive,”

“It is not a luxurious apartment. Just slightly above average. So the price is okay,”

“Oh, environment must have been good…”

“You can say so,” he said.

Her eyes strayed a bit and looked at his hand on the table.

“I presume you are not married,”

Ken looked at her for posing that question.

“Because you are not wearing any ring on your ring finger,” she continued.

Ken looked down to his hand, only with a ring on the tiny finger. He smiled lightly. “No, I am not,”

She smiled as she then lifted her eyes up to look at him. “I see… single?”

“Yes,” Ken replied with no feelings.

He is getting fed up with one question after another and the eerie silence around him and her when they are not talking. He is waiting for her to start. He knew. He already knew something is not so right the moment she called him and asked to meet up with him.

“How’s your life?” he asked.

Julia smiled faintly. “It’s okay,” she sipped her coffee.

“Married?”

“Yes,”

“Great. Congratulations,” he said.

She smiled awkwardly, “Umm… thanks,”

“Same guy?” he stared at her, and he believes she knew what it meant by ‘same guy’ – the same person she cheated on Ken with.

Julia lowered her head down and looked onto her clasped hands. “Yes… and I’m actually in midst of my divorce,”

His stare softens up slightly. He didn’t expect to hear that from her. “Oh,”

She took a deep breath. “Yeah… bumpy relationship,”

“Every relationship has its ups and downs. It is just how you compromised with each other,” Ken said. “This is not your first relationship. You should already know how to handle it, without needing me to give my word,”

“Some relationship just couldn’t be salvaged,” she said.

“Yes, I know,” he took a deep breath.

She just bites her lips.

“So, any kids?” Ken asked.

“Yes. One,”

“How old?”

“2,”

“Son?”

“Daughter,”

“It is good that you have a place to divert your attention and stress from your divorce,”

She looked at him. “You mean?”

“Your daughter,” he said. “You know when things get tough, you have her around with you,”

“Oh,” she lowered her head.

For a while, she thought Ken is going to offer himself as the ‘place’ to divert her attention and stress.

Both of them sat there quietly, while Ken sips his coffee again.

“You’ve been really quiet,” Julia said. “You didn’t talk or ask me much,”

“I have nothing to speak, generally,” Ken said.

“You used not to be like this…” Julia said. “The Ken I know… will ask, talk… and won’t be just sitting there sipping coffee quietly,”

“Basically I have nothing much to ask. I am not some busybody freak to know what is happening in and out of your life,” Ken said. “And,” he looked straight at her. “People changed. You cannot expect the Ken you know stays the same,”

She smiled faintly, “The Ken I know…”

“Seriously, Julia,”

She stopped for he had interrupted her; her smile faded, and she looked at Ken.

“Just spill. Why are you looking for me?” Ken said.

“Is it wrong for me to even contact you?” she asked.

“Oh, really? It’s been more than 3 years since you and I broke up. You have never contacted me within this period. So, why right now?”

“I don’t think I am at fault for catching up with you,”

“All of a sudden you just felt like you need to catch up with me?”

“I have always wanted to contact you to catch up but…”

“You don’t need any catching up with me. You know I am doing fine and I am definitely alive. You don’t need to call me and ask me out to this place just to drink coffee and catching up with what kind of life I had; regardless it is good or bad. If you want to know, I am doing really, really well. Happy?”

“Ken, are you holding grudge against me?”

Ken looked at Julia and he took a deep breath. “I am not holding any grudge against you. In fact, why should I still do that? I know you called me after you saw the advertisement. It must have triggered you to do that,” he said. “The reason I agree to come out for this coffee is to see what you want from me. If you want to know things about my life, then I can tell you; my life is of no interest to you, Julia. You don’t need to know how well or how bad my life is. And I am not interested with your life,”

“I’m sorry, Ken,”

“For?”

“All the things I have put you thru,”

“So?” Ken asked. “After so many years, is there a need for you to still apologize?”

“I still love you,”

*****

Winnie and Rainie’s table is located right behind a fence made of fake greens that acted as a design in the shop to split the areas. Both Winnie and Rainie are able to look thru the small holes in between the fake greens to Ken’s window seat, but Ken and Julia cannot see Rainie and Winnie as the angle of the fence actually blocks them.

“Which one do you want?” Winnie asked, looking at the menu.

Rainie had her sight fixed at Ken talking to Julia.

Winnie lifted up her head when Rainie is not responding. “Rainie?”

Rainie turned and looked at Winnie. “Huh?”

Winnie took a deep breath. “What do you want to drink or eat?”

“Anything will be fine. You can decide for me since you know what’s good here,”

“Why not you just go over and join them,”

Rainie looked at Winnie. “Huh?”

“If you want to know what they are talking about, you can go over and sit in and just listen,”

Rainie glared at Winnie.

“You are sitting here, but your eyes and your heart is sitting at that table. And you wish your ears are there too,” Winnie said. “Right?”

Rainie took a deep breath, and lowered her head slightly as she gritted her teeth beneath the closed lips.

Winnie turned to the waiter, “Two cappuccinos,”

“Sure, ma’am,” the waiter said and walked off after retrieving the menu from the table.

“I am sorry. I think you are annoyed…” Rainie blurted out.

Winnie then looked at Rainie. “Yes I am. Not going to deny that,” she said. “But I won’t stay annoyed with you because you are my best friend,”

Rainie just smirked.

“I supposed Ken didn’t tell you he’s out with ex?” Winnie asked.

“No, he only said… out for a coffee,”

“Well he is definitely having coffee,” Winnie said. “Knowing Ken, he will tell you later at home about this meeting. Besides, we met him and Julia face to face. He will definitely explain to you,”

“Seriously, what is there to explain… it is not like I am someone special or important…”

Winnie looked at Rainie, and then she gazed over to the other table. “I didn’t say it is because of you, I said it is because of the type of person Ken is,”

Rainie looked at Winnie, and then she turned her head over to look at Ken and Julia too.

“She is pretty, isn’t she?” Rainie asked.

“Ken’s ex?” Winnie returned her gaze to Rainie.

“Yeah,”

“Looks OK to me,” Winnie glances over for a while before she looked at Rainie again.

“Why, you think she’s not pretty?” Rainie asked, looking at Rainie.

“Even if it is a yes, or no, it won’t make much difference,”

“Why?” Rainie asked.

“To say yes, it will make you unhappy; to say no, you will tell me that I am lying, so?” Winnie asked. “Your face will remain like this whatever the answer is,” Winnie pointed at her face. “So, do you want me to say yes, or to say no? Whichever that will make you happy will be my answer,”

“Winnie…”

“Your facial expression changed the moment you saw Ken with Julia,”

“No… I didn’t,” Rainie said.

“I saw everything and how it changed,” Winnie said. “You can’t deny that. I saw it with my eyes. You are definitely not looking like this when I met you at Modeling Academy and also the few steps before you step into that door,” Winnie pointed at the door of the coffee house.

Rainie lowered her head.

“And you have been looking at them from here for numerous times. I know, Rainie. So don’t try to hide from me,” Winnie said. “And being your best friend for so many years, what makes you think that I won’t know or decipher the facial expression?”

Rainie took a deep breath.

“A part of me feels that Ken did the right thing for not telling you he is meeting with Julia. And instead just tell you he is going for coffee, which he did,”

Rainie turned to look at Winnie and blinked a few times.

“Look at you. If he tells you he is meeting her, what will you feel? It is going to ruin your day altogether before you saw them,” Winnie said. “I was thinking earlier, why he didn’t tell you about meeting his ex because the Ken I know will most likely tell you where he goes. But of course, meeting his ex or a friend is his personal matter, it is not that he must tell you about it,”

Rainie took a deep breath and she looked disappointed. “I’m sorry,”

“Just spill. Whatever you are not happy with,” Winnie said. “Just tell me,”

Rainie bites her lower lip, and then she took a deep breath again. “Seeing him with ex… it bugs me,”

“Why does it bug you?”

“I don’t know,” Rainie said. “I am feeling… uncomfortable,”

“To be honest, if I had made a choice to change to another coffee house… it won’t make any difference and your face will still bear the same facial expression,” Winnie said. “To stay here… is for you to say ‘I don’t care and I am fine’ and shows it to Ken. And look at you sitting here. You have been looking at them and you thought I didn’t know. If we changed place just now, you will be sitting there wondering what is going on between them,” she sighed. “I should have headed to another coffee house since the beginning and not this,”

“I’m sorry, Winnie,” Rainie said.

“There is nothing to be sorry about,” Winnie said. “I think he is the one that should apologize to me,”

“Why?”

“For being here and ruined my supposedly ladies talk with you,” Winnie said.

“We can still talk…”

“Not with him here with an ex,” Winnie said.

“But…”

“Rainie,” Winnie said, looking at Rainie.

Rainie looked at Winnie.

Winnie bites her lips as she then slowly extends her hand and gripped on Rainie’s hand on the table. “You like Ken, don’t you?”

Rainie stared intently at Winnie.

“Because if you don’t, you will not be like this. If both of you are just friends, the sight of him with an ex should not bother you at all. And you will not follow what he had said about avoiding Scott,” Winnie said.


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