It was the second to the last day of their Thanksgiving break, and she and Wind were out on their third date. They had watched a movie earlier – aka another way for Wind to torture her – and now, they were having dinner at an Italian restaurant that was so fancy it made pasta sound utterly complicated.
Wind’s fingers touched the spot Aya had pointed at. “Here?”
“Umm, yeah, but just a little to the left…no, a little…”
“How about you do it for me instead, like a sweet, loving girlfriend would?”
Aya tentatively reached across the table to brush the offending crumb off him.
Once again, Wind had managed to take her completely by surprise, this time by capturing her wrist with a firm grip while he took a quick bite of her fingers. It didn’t hurt at all, and it happened so fast that by the time she realized what he had just done, Aya’s fingers were free of his lips and only her wrist remained captive in his hold.
“Y-you---” Shock made her incoherent, and in the end all Aya could do was glare at him as she tried to yank her hand out of his hold. But, as it had been in all their dates, Wind still managed to get his way by pressing a quick kiss to her knuckles before finally letting go.
Their first “date”, he had bent down to kiss her on the cheek, but with his lips so dangerously close to the corner of her lips it had almost given her a heart attack. Their second date, he had gifted her with a cute necklace and insisted that he be the one to put it on her. He had asked her to lift her hair up, and as soon as she had, Aya had ended up almost breaking her neck when Wind took the chance to slowly run his fingers down her nape.
And now this!
Aya could only shake her head at Wind, torn between dismay and exasperation. “Is this really how boyfriends are?”
Wind’s broad shoulders moved in a negligent shrug. “It’s the only kind I know how to be.”
“You make me feel more like a toy than a girlfriend,” she protested.
Wind raised a brow. “Funny you should say that, since a toy is exactly how I think a girlfriend should be.”
Her mouth opened and closed, but in the end, she said finally, “I think I’m starting to worry about the kind of visual novel I’ll end up designing.”
Wind threw his head back with a laugh. While he was not in love or even sexually attracted to Aya in any way, he almost wish he was, if only for the fact that she was the only girl he knew who could make him laugh so damn effortlessly.
He could always try seducing her, and he knew exactly which buttons he would need to push to get her to fall for him. Even though she had never said a word about it, Wind knew Aya had a thing for Minato Wyndham – just as he knew that the other guy had turned her down. That kind of heartbreak turned innocent girls like Aya into lambs for the slaughter – and it used to be, Wind wouldn’t have had any second thoughts about devouring her like the wolf he was.
But with Aya, he found himself having a conscience – and damn if he knew why that was so.
On their way out of the restaurant, Wind brought up the topic of their “scheduled” breakup, and when he saw how Aya start to fidget, visibly uneasy at the thought of having to dump him even though it was all pretend, Wind could only shake his head at how soft-hearted she was.
“You know you’ll always end up hurt if you’re too nice, right?”
Aya frowned. “Are you saying I should be less nice to be happy?”
“You know what I mean.” Wind’s tone was impatient.
“Actually, I---” Aya suddenly stopped speaking, her face turning pale.
He pulled his gaze away from her to follow her line of sight, and that was when he saw Minato together with an older woman. Wind’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. What the hell? That was the librarian, wasn’t it? The school librarian was Aya’s rival?
Aya fought to keep herself from crying. Did she really need anymore proof than this, she wondered almost hysterically. Even though he had already turned her down, a part of her had kept on foolishly hoping that he had done so for different reasons – any reason except this, which was the truth.
For one painful moment, she allowed herself to gaze at him, and her heart ached at the cold, hardened expression on Minato’s gorgeous face. It was almost as if he hated her, Aya thought numbly. What in the world had she done to make him hate her?
Wind’s arm suddenly went around her shoulders, and his sudden touch gave her the strength to finally look away from Minato. But when her gaze accidentally clashed with the librarian’s and she saw that the older woman was about to speak –
Terrified that she would end up bursting into tears if she heard the librarian speak a single word, she mustered a smile and a nod, and then she quickly looked up at Wind, saying in desperate cheer, “Let’s go?”
“Sure, babe.” The words made Minato flinch, but only Wind saw this, and more interestingly, he noticed how the older woman’s gaze was filled with concern as she looked at Aya.
When they were inside his car, Wind asked levelly, “You okay?”
Aya smiled brightly. “Of course.”
After a moment, he said slowly, “If you want me to make it clear to him that there’s nothing going on---” He stopped speaking at the vehement way Aya started shaking her head.
“It’s not like that between us, and if it’s okay with you, I’d rather not speak about it.” Because if she did, Aya thought painfully, then she might start crying. And never be able to stop.
Classes resumed Monday the following week, and Minato once again headed straight to the library as soon as the school bell rang for the last time. The library felt empty without Aya in it, but he ruthlessly shoved the thought to the back of his mind. The library had always been his place and Karin’s. So why the fuck should Aya’s absence have any kind of impact on how he felt about the place?
“I have a message for you,” Karin said as soon as he came up to the counter.
“A message?”“Aya dropped by at lunch.”
“She asked me to thank you for helping her with her lessons, but that it’s no longer necessary to continue since she and her friends have decided to form a study group.”
Minato only nodded at this, but Karin wasn’t fooled at all.
“You’re hurting yourself unnecessarily with this, Minato. And more importantly, you’re being unfair to that lovely girl---”
“I’m doing this for her,” Minato interrupted in a low, furious hiss, “and you know it.”
“I do know that, which is why I’ve been telling you from the start it’s unnecessary.” She saw Minato struggle with his emotions in silence, and Karin’s heart ached for him. “Do you know, you’re doing exactly what your father did back when we first started dating – and look where we are now.”
Minato was stunned at what he was hearing. When Karin had made it clear she didn’t want any mention of his father – who was also her ex-husband – he had respected this, and yet now…
“We were so unbelievably in love, but in the end, he sent me away because he thought it was the right thing to do. He never gave me---” Karin had to stop speaking as bitterness threatened to make her choke, and she had to take a deep breath before she could speak again. “He never gave me the chance to fight for us. No matter how much I begged him to believe I could face any kind of hardship your grandmother would put in our way – he never believed me, and I…I can never forgive him for it.” And she meant every word. She could never forgive Minato’s dad, just as she could never stop loving him.
Her eyes stinging with unshed tears, she looked at her son, this beautiful young boy whom she had been forced to give up because of one woman’s narrow view of the world. No doubt he had been raised to hate her, and yet somehow he had still ended up loving her just as if he had grown up with a mother’s love.
Minato was perfect, Karin thought with a motherly rush of tenderness, and as he was the very best son any mom could ever hope for…
What kind of mother would she be if she were to allow him to repeat his father’s mistakes?
“I don’t think you’re pushing Aya away because you want to protect her, Minato. I think it’s the other way around, and you’re pushing her away to protect yourself. You don’t want to let her get too close because you’re afraid she might not love you enough to fight for you.”
Hi everyone. Sorry for being so quiet the past few weeks. The truth is, I've been struggling again. In my world, with the way I was raised (as someone who's Filipino-Chinese), things like 'anxiety' don't exist, and so it's taken me this long to finally start accepting that it's what's been holding me back and keeping me from writing and working.
I won't bother wasting your time trying to explain what 'social anxiety' is (there's nothing I can say that the results of a quick Google search won't say any better). It is what it is, and I just need to do what I can to make things work on my end.
For now, I can only apologize for the delayed release of Andreus 2. I hope to get it out this month.
Secondly, I just want you to know that I'm taking a step back from social media - if you need to reach me, I'm just an email away. But other than that, the only social media updates you'll be getting are some personal-life snapshots that I share on my IG stories and auto share posts on Twitter and my Facebook page (coming from my website).
I'm really sorry, and I hope that my social media detox experiment is the key to helping me get back on track and I can write again the way I used to.