I braved the aisle of the unfamiliar grocery store. It wasn’t here when I left five years ago, and it’s all too strange for me. It is an understatement to say that this place is no longer the same. What used to be a small convenience store is now a bar, with people overflowing. I glanced from side to side, hoping to see and not to see some familiar faces. Coming back was a great challenge. There were things that I wanted to remember, and there were things and people I wanted to forget.
I shook the idea off my mind and decided to roam around the beverage section to find something I could enjoy, despite the number of people walking around. From beers to juices to smoothies—there was nothing that I fancied. In a sea of people, I stood there not knowing what to do. Confused. Anxious. Terrified. I decided to go for a bottle of flavoured beer to ease what I felt. Just as he was about to grab a bottle, a familiar voice caught I attention.
“Alastar?” The voice asked.
I turned around to see who it was, despite the fact that I already knew whose voice it was. And I was right. It was Reign.
“How have you been?” Reign asked, yet he sounded annoyed that excited.
I faked a smile, a half smile. “I am fine. Thanks for asking.” I turned around to leave, but Reign grabbed my arm to stop me.
“Oh, no, Star, not this time,” Reign said. “You owe me, at least this.”
My heart started to pump faster. I felt weak. This was the reason I did not want to be here. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Here for some groceries,” he answered.
“Groceries?” I echoed, “in a bar?”
“They have groceries on the basement.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Basement?”
“How long have you been gone? Five, six years?” He countered. “This place has changed a lot, Star. A lot.”
I nodded. I did not know what to say. “So, go ahead and grab your groceries,” I said, trying to escape.
“Star, no,” he said as trying to pull Star back again.
“Reign?” Someone called from behind them. “Who are you with?”
I turned to see who that might be. A lady. A beautiful lady carrying a kid. She seemed confused at first, but when she saw me, her face lit up. She smiled. I had no idea who she was, but I knew she knew who I was.
“Reign, is that Czak Alastar?” she asked.
“Yes,” Reign responded, letting go of my arm.
I was confused. I did not know what to say or what to do. I gave Reign an empty stare of confusion.
“Star, this is my wife, Helena,” Reign introduced her, taking the baby from her. “Helena, you know him already, but this Star.”
She raised her hand toward me, offering a handshake. “Hi, I am Helena,” she said.
I accepted her offer for a handshake. “I am Star, but I guess you already know who I am.” I smiled.
“Oh, yes,” she said, “I mean, who doesn’t?” She paused for a smile. It’s obvious she was trying to hide her excitement. “You are the new best-selling author, so of course I know you.”
I faked another smile. “Not everyone knows a best-selling author,” I said, trying to be modest, “but thanks for noticing me and my works.”
She laughed. “Reign also told me a lot about you. Everything, I tell you.”
I shot an angry stare at Reign, to which Reign only laughed at and said, “Not everything, don’t worry.”
“Oh, best friend things, I see,” Helena joked.
“Yes,” Reign replied.
“So . . . you have a kid,” I attempted to make the conversation less awkward. “What’s his name?”
Helena giggled. “Methushael,” she answered.
“Methushael?” I echoed. “You named your kid Methushael?” I turned to Reign, raising an eyebrow.
Reign simply smiled at me, a sincere smile, at least at that. “Yes,” he answered, “that’s your favourite name.”
“Oh,” Helena suddenly realized, “so, technically, you named our kid,” she laughed very comfortably.
“Kind of,” Reign responded, “I wanted to name our kid after him, but I know he wouldn’t want it, so I gave M Star’s favourite name.”
“M? You also gave him the nickname I made?” Star asked.
Reign just smiled.
“Honey, I am giving you and Star some time to catch up,” Helena told us, taking M from Reign. “I can take it from here. Should I ever need anything, I’ll call your cell, okay?”
“Okay, Honey.” Reign kissed her on the forehead, and she went her way to the basement.
Reign and I decided to just get a six-pack and drink inside Reign’s, which was car parked outside. That way, we would be more comfortable; we can talk about almost about anything without having to worry that people over hearing us.
“So,” Reign started, “I saw you at the bookstore yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” I echoed, “I just arrived today.”
Reign laughed heartily. “Not you literally. That was metonymy.”
“Right,” I smirked, “of course, it was. You were being poetic.”
“So how are the tours?” Reign asked, smiling.
“The readers are heavenly, but the travelling is hell.” I took another sip of my apple-flavoured beer. “You know me; I hate travelling to really far places.”
Reign nodded, taking a sip of my beer as well. “But then why do you travel?”
“I really can’t say no to a publicity tour, can I?”
Reign shrugged. “Fair point.” He took another sip of beer. “So how have you been?”
“Fine, I guess,” I responded, “the books are doing so well. Recently, I was asked to sign a movie contract, but I haven’t really made up my mind.”
Awkward silence ensued. We just exchanged stares as they took sips of beer. My mind was full of excuses to leave, and it seemed that Reign’s was full of questions. Yet none of us are willing to initiate the action. I gazed at the stars, thinking of random things. Reign stared at the cars parked alongside.
“How about you?” I broke the silence.
“What do you mean?”
“How have you been?”
“Well,” Reign began, “I have found myself a sweet, loving, caring wife. We’ve been married for three years, and our son’s already two years old. We’re doing well. She’s a teacher, by the way.”
“How d’you meet?”
“At a club. Introduced by common friends.”
“How long was the courtship?”
“Three months. We got engaged a year after. Got married six months after.”
“Pretty fast.” I took a sip of my beer, still looking at the sky.
Another round of silence followed. Only the cracking of leaves filled the air, and the clinking of bottles. I was hesitant to ask more questions. Reign was too afraid to ask as well, or so it seemed.
“How about to you, Star?”
“What how about me?”
“Are you seeing someone?”
“No, not at the moment.”
“Five, six years ago?”
“Never ever since . . . ”
Two hours passed and Reign and I were still drinking. I, having low alcohol tolerance, was already a bit tipsy. Reign, not so much. We talked about our good old days, our joyous frivolities, and foolish escapades back when we were younger. Laughter filled the car. The sound and scent of reminiscence filled the gap that the years created.
“Remember that time when we were in a club and you got lost amidst the people?” Reign asked, tears flowing down my cheeks from laughing too much.
“Shut up,” I answered, quite embarrassed. “Don’t ever remind me of that, ever again,” I continued as we both laughed.
Reign’s laughter slowly faded. “Why did you leave though?”
That question halted my laughter as well. My expression became blank.
“You left all of a sudden. No texts, no calls, no e-mails,” Reign began to complain, his voice shaking. His tears still flowing, but this time, not from laughter. “You left me hanging. I kept calling you, but you did not answer. I sent you several e-mails, but you did not respond. I constantly checked you blog, you were active, but you never took notice of my comments. Why?”
I let out a heavy audible breath and stared at the stars. “I’m sorry, Reign.”
“I’m sorry my ass, Star,” Reign countered. “You, at least, owe me this—to let me know why.”
“You wanted me to be strong, Reign. You wanted me to move on.”
“Bull shit! Did you really have to leave me?”
I shot an angry look at Reign. “It was you who ended the relationship, Reign. It was you who wanted for us to be friends. It was you who made the decision. I merely did what was best for me, just like what you wanted me to do!”
“But you could have at least told me!”
“If I had told you, would you have allowed me to leave?”
Silence. That was Reign’s only answer.
“You wouldn’t have. I know you, Reign.”
“Then why did you return?”
“You think it was my idea? You think I like it? It took my publicist three months to convince me to visit since they believe it was high time I came here for a book tour. I never asked to be here, Reign. I am still trying to move on. I am still trying to move on from you. To forget you and all the things we used to do. But shit happens, and here I am drinking beer with you inside your car as your wife is on her way home with your son and your in-laws.
“Do you really believe that I wanted to see you again? Yes, I miss you all the damn time, but that does not mean I want to be with you again. That does not mean I fancy being your other half again. You lost me the night you broke up with me.”
“Star,” Reign began, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry my ass.”
Reign managed to smirk between my sobs. “You knew why I broke up with you, not because I had someone else, but because I wanted us to be independent from one another. To focus on our families.”
“I know, at the same time, I only did what was best for me—the way you thought breaking up with me was the best for both of us.”
“But I wanted us to remain friends.”
“We are friends, aren’t we?”
“Are we, Star? Are we? Five, six years of silence. I had no idea where you were, what you were doing, who you’re with. I was worried all the damn time about you. What if you were sick and no one was there to take care of you? What if, all of a sudden, you had an asthma attack and you are alone?”
“I am fine, Reign, am I not? Besides, I have had a lot of those while you were out drinking with your friends before, and look at me, still alive and okay. I appreciate your kindness and concern for me, Reign, at the same time, that is not what I need right now.”
“Then what do you need?”
“To move on.”
“Star, I did not mean to leave you back then.”
“Neither did I.”
We were both in tears.
“Can we not talk about it?” I requested. “We were doing well earlier before you asked me that. If you want is to remain friends, let me move on.”
“Closure, Star,” he said, “that is all I need.”
“You have it,” I replied, “besides, Helena and M are waiting for you at home. You have two beautiful people to go home to.”
“Don’t say it like that,” he said, “you make it sound like I have a better life than you do.”
“You’ve moved on from me,” I replied. “If they aren’t proof enough, then, I do not know what is.”
Reign stared at me blankly, unable to say anything. He sighed. “What if I say I haven’t?”
“Don’t say that,” I muttered, not looking at him, “please, don’t you ever say that.”
“Why?” He asked, looking at me intently.
“Because you have a family, and I haven’t moved on from you yet. Don’t build me up again.”
“Star, please,” he started.
“It is best that I leave. You have your closure now, I told you why I left, and that is enough.” I stepped out of his car, and tried not to look at him.
“No, Reign. Enough.”
“I have read a lot of your works,” he said. “You have changed a lot. When did you start writing love stories?”
“The moment my love story ended.”
He scoffed at me. “You wrote about people fighting for the love they lost, about people looking for the love they wanted, about people trying to make their imperfect love work. When are you going to stop writing stories and start living them, Star?”
“I won’t,” I answered, looking him straight in the eyes, mustering all the confidence I had, “because that would mean me ruining people’s lives and relationships, so no.”
At that point, I knew we were on a road of no return. I looked at him, blankly yet sincerely. And Reign knew what I wanted.
“Star,” he said, “please, don’t.”
I shook my head, wiped my tears, and opened the door of his car. “I’m sorry, Reign, you knew this is best for us. We shouldn’t have met again. This was never a good idea.”
He sighed. “No, it was good I saw you again. You do not know how much I missed you.”
“And you have no idea how much I miss you, even until now.”
“Will I ever see you again?” His voice was shaking; his eyes were filled with tears.
“Yes,” I smirked, “probably in bookstores where you saw me yesterday.”
I did not give him the chance to respond. I turned my back against his car and walked away. He called me, yes he did, but I was obstinate enough to look back. The distance and the time that separated us helped me master obstinacy. I finally knew how to say no to something that I would die for. For something that I want, but I know I cannot have. I picked up my pace, not looking back, as the snow started to fall and as my tears turned into rain.