“So how’s your apartment? Have you settled in?” She asks as she stirs her peppermint-mocha frappuccino with its straw.
“It’s sparse. No furniture.” He replies concernedly.
She raises a brow in inquisition. “You mean it wasn’t furnished?”
“A fridge, washing machine, and dryer.”
“Well, at least, there’s a fridge,” she notes.
He takes the lid off his cup as he says, “Right.”
“What’s it like in Brisbane?”
“The pace is slow. Shops close at five in the afternoon on weekdays.”
“What?!? For real?”
“Yeah!” He grins back at her astounded expression.
“Hmmmm.” She couldn’t make sense of how a city can have all its shops closed at 5 in the afternoon.
He affirms, “I’m in bed by 8:30pm,” before finally taking a sip from his latte.
“Well, at least, you get decent sleep,” she encourages.
“Work’s quite easygoing, too – less stressful.”
“Isn’t that good?”
“I’m afraid I might get bored.”
“You’ll have time for other things, like your photography. How’s that going?”
“Perhaps next year I’ll get back to that. More seriously, this time,” he says.
“What do you mean?”
“More landscape photography. I’m thinking of driving out somewhere random, setting up my tripod and then just shooting…and maybe even sell my shots.”
She looks up at him as she sips from her cup. “You’ll still give me pictures for free, right?”
“It’s business.” He says without losing momentum.
“Ugh! You’re mean!” She protests.
She pauses, then adds, “Why don’t you just give me that wide-angle lens of yours? Then we’re even.”
She chuckles at the answer she’d known he’d give.
The whir of Mastrenas envelope their common expanse of space and silence. A comfortable silence – one that can only be shared with years of friendship. Friendship that they didn’t always have. Or at least not in the conventional sense.
He had tried to pursue her in high school as she was beginning to trust his companionship. She had turned away; hated him for even trying. He’d been hurt; he didn’t treat her in the same way since.
Everything had been a haze of awkward exchanges until they graduated from high school. Three days before commencement, they’d finally made amends; putting what had happened in their sophomore year behind.
He glances briefly at the man balancing his tray behind her before breaking the wordless lull, “Out of curiosity, Meg, if we were both located in one country, or one city at this point in time and I courted you, what would that be like?”
She looks at him, her eyes sending the message tacitly, “No.” She says before pausing, thinking of the most tactful thing to say next. “We’re such great friends, aren’t we?”
Cliché as her response may have sounded, he replies, “Good.” His voice devoid of pain. She sensed relief.
“Why are you asking me this, Matt?”
“Because I’m getting married.”
The air remains unmarred by the revelation even as the cafe bustles with conversational crossfire.
Her mind races as she quickly retraces all their talks over the past couple of months for any indications. “To whom?” Surprise emanating from her tone.
He smiles, almost laughing. “Remember some time ago I asked you if you’ve ever considered settling down?”
“Yeah. And I told you I still wanted to travel and to study. That I’ve settled with the possibility of being eternally single.”
“It was around that time that I was contemplating on ‘what ifs’.”
“What if it had been us?” She inquires softly.
“I don’t think I’ll ever see you like that, Matt. Remember what happened in college when you asked me again?”
“I remember clearly.” He pauses, gathering his thoughts, “I was once asked if there was a girl I’d drop everything for. Well, that girl, the one I’d give up everything for – would be you.”
She smiles and looks down at her feet, almost subconsciously. “Thank you. I’m glad you told me.”
He just smiles back.
Looking him in the eye, “I’m glad you told me because it clears the air between us.”
He smiles some more. Hands now folded in front of his chest as he leans back on the wooden chair.
Running her fingers along the moist exteriors of her frap’s plastic tumbler, “Honestly, I was hoping you’d never try again. I was afraid that you would because then I wouldn’t wanna talk to you anymore. I don’t want to lead you on.”
“I understand and I get how you feel. And like you said…we’re such great friends.”
“Absolutely. It’s comforting to know that I can talk to you without pretenses, because I really do appreciate your friendship.”
Some seconds of ambient rhythm absorb the information that had just been exchanged.
“You’re an awesome girl, Meg. And I want you to be with someone who is equally as awesome. Someone who will appreciate you for all that you are.”
“Someone who won’t be fazed by the fact that I like moving around a lot?”
“Someone who’ll be there when you get back.” He gently asserts.
She quips slightly tilting her head to the side, “I’ll let you know when I find him, okay?”
He laughs, fully aware of how picky and how driven she was. He cared about her deeply and simply wanted her to be happy.
“So that explains why you’re so particular about furniture. Is she moving to your city?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Nice… I’m happy for you, Matt. Wait. I’m such an idiot. I should say ‘Congratulations!‘” She giggles excitedly, “You are inviting me to your wedding, right?”
They laugh. “How can she think that wasn’t a given?” He wonders.
“Hey, I’m just making sure ‘coz you promised me you’d invite me to your wedding.”
All the dots in her head have now connected. All that he’s wanted to say, now exposed.
“So, when will I meet her?”