‘Heaven?’ Ella wondered dizzily in the confines of her mind. She couldn’t understand why Chun was kissing her. She didn’t want to wonder why. Because that might pull her out of this fantasy. Chun’s warm, soft lips, pressed against her own. His hand cradling a cheek.
This was truly heaven once more.
His hand silently encouraged her mouth to fall open, but that first touch of his tongue against her own pulled her out of the dream and into reality.
She froze. Her eyes flew wide open and she pulled back in surprise.
There was a moment of complete silence. The two stared at each other, frozen, his face inches away from hers. His eyes continued to stare into hers, trying to comprehend what had just occurred.
“You … shouldn’t have done that,” Ella said breathlessly. “What would Angela say?”
“Shao Han?” he asked dazedly, staring at her in confusion.
“Isn’t she your girlfriend?” The question was hesitantly put, the answer she wanted was a resounding no.
“No … just a friend … like you,” he replied, straightening. He carefully avoided meeting her eyes.
“I’m just a friend, but you kissed me,” Ella replied. “Do you go around kissing all of your friends? Or are Angela and I just lucky to have been kissed by those lips?”
There was a moment of confused silence. He had no idea of what to say.
“By the way she prefers to be called Angela or Shan Shan, NOT Shao Han,” Ella supplied delicately after a pause.
“Have we … ever kissed before?” The question came out of the blue. Ella’s eyes widened in surprise and she pulled back, lying back against her pillows.
“Have we?” he asked insistently.
She flinched. “No.” It was a quick reply. She looked away, blushing. “Why do you ask? Don’t you think you would remember the momentous occasion of when you kissed the great Ella’s lips?”
He smirked at her tone and question.
“Seriously, the sensations I felt when I kissed you … it’s as if I remember them. But how can I remember a sensation … a taste, if I don’t ever remember kissing you?” His tone was frustrated as his fingers came up to brush against his own lips.
“We never kissed,” Ella repeated. “More importantly, why did you kiss me now? Let me ask again, was it because you kiss all of your friends like this?”
He lightly touched the bruise on her cheek, and stared into her eyes. He finally blinked and backed away. He stumbled over a chair as he retreated.
“I don’t know,” he finally murmured. “You’re just so …”
“Cute,” he said helplessly. “I can’t … I don’t … we’ll talk about this later.”
She grinned impishly at his confusion. Smiling, she blew a kiss at him. And he blushed! She watched in surprise, as the red appeared high on his cheeks.
“When are you getting discharged?” he quickly asked, trying to distract her.
“I’ll pick you up.”
“But Calvin said he’d do it,” she protested.
“No, I want to do it,” he insisted.
“It’s ok, you don’t have to,” Ella insisted. “Calvin already promised. He’s taken time off. We’re going to go out and eat.”
“I want to do it,” Chun said implacably. “Tell Calvin to cancel. I WILL pick you up tomorrow.”
She stared at him in confusion, silenced by his persistence.
He nodded and left. She stared at the door quietly.
“And Ella,” he said, sticking his head back in.
“I’ve never kissed Shao H—Angela.”
TWO YEARS, TWO MONTHS AGO …
Ella looked around feverishly for any sign of a guard. She was sneaking in, and the last thing she wanted was to get caught.
Chun said he wanted to be left alone, and the servants would only listen to him. They hadn’t let her in, even when she’d insisted that he would need her by his side. It seemed that their loyalty was completely with him, and not with the sister of the woman who had betrayed their master.
Hebe had already come back home. She’d immediately packed up and left the house after Chun left. Although she hadn’t protested when Ella had thrown Jiro out of the house, she hadn’t intended to stay around for when Chun returned.
“I can’t face him. I don’t want to face him,” Hebe insisted. “There’s nothing left to say. I love Jiro. If I can’t be with him …,” her voice had trailed off. And really, what else could be said? Chun would … could never forgive Hebe. And Hebe didn’t care.
“What about Cassie?”
“Cassie is with her grandmother. I don’t think I can handle her right now. Everything’s just too chaotic,” Hebe had said, justifying the abandonment.
Ella had argued and grown frustrated, but Hebe would not stay. She was severing all ties without a second thought.
And now, Chun was all alone in his apartment. She was still wincing over the pain she had seen in his eyes. Why did Hebe betray him? Why had she left such a beautiful man?
“There are things about my marriage that you don’t know. You’re an outsider, Ella,” Hebe had finally shouted in frustration. “There are things that go on between a husband and wife that no one knows about. He’s not the God you make him out to be!” Her voice had been strident, and her eyes had grown wild with emotions. “Stop worshipping him. He’ll only hurt you one day. He’s incapable of giving anyone his entire heart, my dear sister,” she’d murmured, her hand coming up to cup Ella’s cheek. “Protect yourself.”
‘Had Hebe suspected something?’ Ella wondered. But no, she’d always kept her feelings a secret. Only Selina knew the truth.
“Chun?” she called out softly into the dimly lighted room. There were no servants about, and she finally felt safe enough to call out. “Chun, where are you? We need to talk.”
She heard no sound. No response. “Chun?”
There was a soft groan.
“Chun!” She finally saw him, on the floor by the sofa. Taking a step forward, she heard the glass crunch under her feet. Her eyes took in the entire room in one glance.
There were broken frames everywhere. On the floor. The pictures had been torn out. She saw a defaced picture lying at her feet. Hebe. He’d torn Hebe out of his life.
“Oh my god, Chun!” She landed beside him on her knees. Her hands were shaking in horror. His hands were bleeding, a testament to his internal pain.
He stared off into space, not responding to any of her questions. She began to shake him vigorously, and he wouldn’t respond. Running over, she turned on the lights. He barely reacted. His skin was gray. The alcohol fumes rolled off of him. Her heart pounded as she tried to get a reaction from him.
“Get up,” Ella ordered. She put one of his arms over her shoulder. Then, wedging herself against his side, she levered him up. “Let’s go to the bathroom.” He quietly followed, his steps like that of a newborn babe.
Her heart hurt so much. ‘Why hadn’t Hebe loved him? Why had she given up on him?’
Standing over the sink, she gently washed his hands and bandaged them. His skin was cold to the touch. She was afraid that he’d gone into shock. But she knew that she couldn’t call anyone; he wouldn’t want anyone to see him like this.
“Time for bed,” she murmured, pulling him to the bedroom door. He pulled away suddenly.
“Chun!” she called insistently.
He pulled away once more, and than raced to the toilet bowl to expel the alcohol he had drunk over the past few hours. He slumped on the bathroom floor, his body limp. It was as if all of his energy had left him.
Ella grabbed a towel and wet it. Smoothing his hair back, she wiped the sweat gently from his face. Giving him a glass of water, she instructed him to rinse his mouth.
His hands came up to the buttons of his shirt, beginning to unbutton it. But then his fingers fell away listlessly, as if he no longer cared. The shirt fairly reeked, and she could understand his need to remove it. Her fingers quickly unbuttoned the shirt, divesting him of it and his undershirt together. Her eyes looked downward, as she tried to avoid looking at his bare chest a few inches away from her nose.
She took him to bed, and pulled the covers back. His mouth set in a stubborn line. He pulled away from her restraining hold and started to move toward a bottle of whiskey on the dresser. Ella pulled him back. She shoved him down onto the bed.
“Time to sleep,” she ordered, pulling the covers over him. He struggled for a moment and then gave in.
There was only silence in the bedroom. Her heart still ached for him, but at least now he would get a good night’s sleep.
“Why?” he murmured sleepily.
‘What did he want to ask?’ Ella wondered to herself silently. What did this taciturn man want to ask in his drunken state that he would never think to ask when sober?
‘Why wasn’t he enough?’
‘Why didn’t she love him anymore?’
‘Why couldn’t she talk to him?’
Her heart ached for him. She wanted to spend the rest of her life taking care of him, but it was time to go. She didn’t belong here. She was only an intruder … and maybe even the enemy. She was Hebe’s sister.
Would he blame her?
She turned to leave, and his hand grabbed hers, pulling her back down on the bed. She sat back down.
His eyes were closed, his dark lashes fanned out against his cheekbones. His cheeks were flushed. The sheets covered his chest, but she couldn’t forget the sight of his bare body. Her eyes focused on his lips.
She couldn’t control herself.
Bending down, she kissed him, softly … so softly. Tears began to fall from her eyes and onto his face and mingled with his tears as they seeped out from under his closed eyelids. It was enough. She might not have a place in his life anymore after today, but at least she’d had the chance to comfort him tonight.
She kissed him on the cheek, saying goodbye for now. She’d try talking to him tomorrow.
A hand fisted in her hair. Suddenly, his arms were around her and she was on the bed.
“Chun?” she murmured shakily.
His hands were everywhere. She couldn’t breathe.
“You’re back,” he murmured.
Before she knew it, her shirt was unbuttoned, her heart beating against his.
His lips on hers, his tongue smoothing over hers.
His hands on her … there. Holding her, squeezing. Playing with her aching peaks. ‘It was too much,’ she thought, arching her back.
She heard a sound in the silent room. A sound separate from her moans and his harsh breathing. It took her a moment to figure it out. Her pants were unzipped, and his hands were smoothing down over naked buttocks. Her naked buttocks!
She froze in shock.
His fingers began to delve into her secrets, smoothing between her legs. No matter how hard she tried to fight, she couldn’t. The sensations were overpowering. She moaned.
Her legs opened a smidgen, allowing him further access.
Her head fell back, allowing him access to her neck and then lower still.
She nipped at his ear. It was his turn to freeze.
“No!” he shouted, pushing her away roughly. “You,” he said hoarsely, glaring at her. It was as if he was seeing clearly for the first time. “I don’t want you. Not you. You disgust me. How dare you come in here? You sicken me. Get out.”
He turned away, rolling over in bed. His back was turned to her.
She began to tremble. It was so hard to get up and gather her clothes, but she did it. She silently crept out. She winced when she stepped on that first piece of glass, and realized that she’d forgotten her shoes inside. But she couldn’t … she couldn’t go back in. Not for anything.
The pain of rejection was too strong.
Her lips still throbbed from his possession. Her body thrummed with the sensations he’d awakened inside of her. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to understand what had happened. How could she face him ever again?
By the time she reached her car, the soles of her feet were shredded. But that pain was nothing compared to the pain in her heart.
Have we kissed before?
He could be such a jackass.
How was I supposed to answer that question? That not only had we kissed before but we’d almost had sex? Not made love, mind you, but had sex. And then he’d rejected me in the most painful way possible.
How would it help if I brought it up to him now?
He didn’t know so many things.
He didn’t know that his rejection was partly the reason that I never trusted my body to another man.
He didn’t know that he was the reason that I pretty much became a hermit.
He didn’t know that it was his fault that I was a virgin at 25.
And he didn’t know that he was going to pay for that.
While I’d forgiven him his drunken rejection, I certainly hadn’t forgotten.
“Chun! What are you doing here?” Selina asked in surprise. “I was just taking Ella home. You didn’t have to come all this way to see her.”
“I know,” he said with an ironic smile. His eyes stared into Ella’s. She blushed and quickly looked away. “I must’ve gotten our signals crossed. I thought I told Ella I’d take her home.”
“Oh, I guess it’s not a big deal,” Selina said with a flustered smile. “It’s a good thing you’re here. We’ve been waiting for a wheelchair for an hour now. It’s hospital policy that a patient doesn’t leave the grounds on their own two feet, but none of those bloody things are available. Could you …?”
“Carry Ella out? Sure,” Chun agreed with an easy smile.
“Oh, no, I didn’t mean that. My fat friend might tire you out,” Selina quickly argued, and then grunted when Ella elbowed her in the stomach. “But if you could hurry them up? Throw your weight around? That would help.”
“Why bother? I’m here. You don’t need anything or anyone else,” he promised softly, catching Ella’s eyes once more. “Where’s Calvin?”
“Actually I don’t know,” Selina said, looking around, as if she expected him to spring up at any moment. “He was supposed to be here, but he didn’t show and Ella had to call me to come help. I have to admit that I’m a bit peeved. How could he let Ella down like that? And I don’t even have my car today; we would’ve had to go home by taxi.”
“Selina, don’t be mad. Maybe he had an emergency.” Ella’s protests were loud but Chun could see that she carefully avoided his gaze.
“Well, take her stuff, and I’ll carry her,” Chun ordered.
“Where’s Calvin?” he whispered softly into Ella’s ear, his arms tight around her as he carried her outside.
“Ella? Did you ask him not to come?”
“Ella?” he repeated, pretending to drop her.
“Okay!” she squealed in surprise, her arms coming up to wrap tightly around his neck. “I asked him to go see Angela instead. Angela needed to talk to someone, and he is the best person for that. He has a way of easing people’s burdens. And I didn’t want him to waste his day off when you said you were taking me home.”
“Then why did you call Selina? Were you afraid to be alone with me?” he asked softly, practically breathing the words against her ear.
She shivered at the sensation, and instinctively cuddled close. She laid her head against his shoulder and silently breathed in his scent. It felt so good to be in his arms on this sunny afternoon. She wanted to remain there forever. And even if that wasn’t possible, she would allow herself to enjoy these moments.
“Were you afraid to be alone with me?” Chun whispered against her cheekbone, his lips forming butterfly kisses against her cheek.
She nodded. She whispered something.
“What?” He leaned in closer.
“Why did you kiss me?” Her voice was soft. When she finally got the courage to look up, her eyes showed her vulnerability.
“I needed to. That’s all I can give you for now.”
“Chun!” Selina shouted exasperatedly. Her tone indicated she’d been trying to get his attention for a while. “What have you two been talking about? It’s like I’m invisible,” she growled. “First Calvin flakes out on us, and then you two forget about me. Forget it. Where’s your car?” She muttered softly in the background, largely ignored by the two.
After getting Ella settled in, Chun left the parking lot, heading for home.
“When is Angela getting out?” Selina asked suddenly.
“In three days.”
“Well, you and she can come over for a little welcome home party for Ella. We’ll make it a welcome home for Angela, too. Bring Cassie.”
“I’ll be there,” he replied softly to the invitation, his gaze trained on the blushing Ella seated next to him.
“Welcome home!” There were cries from all corners of the room as Chun walked in with Angela and Cassie. Angela stiffened at the shouts and then relaxed when she saw all the smiling faces. Her eyes gazed about the room and saw the flowers, decorations, and “Welcome Home Ella and Angela” signs.
Her eyes filled with tears. This was the first time she actually felt welcomed by so many people. She’d spent her life relying only on two people: her mother and then Chun.
“Thank you,” she whispered softly, as Chun carried her to a chair. “I’m sorry to intrude on Ella’s party.”
“What? Intrude! You’re not intruding. This just means that we get to have two cakes!” Ella’s voice was exuberant as she shuffled over and leaned down to kiss Angela on the cheek in greeting. “I hope you’re doing okay. The hospital didn’t release you too early, did they?” She asked anxiously.
“No, I’m fine,” Angela quickly assured her, brushing her hair back with a flustered hand. “I just need to rest and not exert myself. I can do that at home too.”
“We’ve already discussed this,” Chun said quietly. “You’re not going home. You’ll stay at my house and my mom can look after you.” He stared into Angela’s eyes, brushing her hair back to rest behind the delicate shell of one hair.
“But Chun …,” she whispered, protesting at his words. “I don’t want to impose anymore. If I stay at your apartment you know my dad will keep on showing up and harassing everyone. It would be better if I went away … that’ll keep him away. And no one will get hurt.”
“And what about you?” he asked heatedly. “Why should you risk your health? You go back and he’ll have you on your feet doing chores the next day. It’ll only exacerbate your injuries. Anyway … I feel that you shouldn’t go back at all. Why should you keep on hurting yourself for that man … he only hurts you.”
“Chun … please, we’ll discuss this later.”
Ella blinked at his authoritative tone. There was such passion and conviction in his tone. He wanted Angela to stay … he needed to protect her.
She could understand that Angela shouldn’t go back to her abusive dad, but Chun was speaking as if he had a right to order Angela around. That belief revealed a level of intimacy in their relationship that honestly made Ella feel uncomfortable.
She stepped away. ‘At least he hasn’t kissed her,’ she comforted herself. ‘He told me that himself.’
Was that enough?
He felt free to order Angela around. He hadn’t even done that with her … at least not for a long time. She settled on the sofa, watching the interplay between the two. Chun had rushed to get Angela a drink and was sitting with her, talking to her, arguing with her. It was as if there was no one else there besides them.
She felt let down.
Yesterday had been so good … she’d felt on top of the world, and now … it was as if reality was slapping her in the face.
Ella’s heart clenched. Where did she belong in that relationship? Was she intruding where she had no reason to? She’d felt that Chun was destroying his and Cassie’s life with his promiscuous lifestyle. She’d acted because she felt that no one else could save him. But what if she was interfering where she didn’t belong? What if the one who should save him was Angela? What if Angela had been saving him in her own little way and Ella had interfered with her not-so-brilliant plan?
“Here, cake for you,” a voice said, interrupting her increasingly morose thoughts.
“Thanks Arron,” she said with a quick smile.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, sitting down beside her.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong,” she said insistently. “I’m fine. I’m getting better and I’m back with my friends and eating cake. What could be wrong?”
“Ella,” he said softly, glancing meaningfully at the couple in front of them. “You haven’t taken your eyes off of them since they walked in and that was half an hour ago. What are you worried about?”
“Ella?” His voice demanded an answer.
“He’s laughing with her,” she finally muttered. “His hands constantly touch her as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Look at that … he just ruffled her hair. And now she’s giving him a peck on the cheek.”
“Arron, they only see each other. They’ve been at this party for half an hour and he hasn’t even talked to me. And she said … she said that she loved him, too. It makes me feel like I don’t belong there … not between them.” Her fingers began to play nervously with her wristguards. “I’m overthinking this, aren’t I?” she asked with a rueful laugh.
“They’re friends,” Arron said confidingly, leaning in to pinch her cheek. Ignoring her pout, he put an arm around her shoulder. Nudging her insistently, he pushed her to rest against the back of the sofa. “Don’t get too stressed out. Who was it that kept me up all last night talking about the kiss some guy planted on her virgin lips?” he asked teasingly.
She blushed and looked away.
He deliberately turned her around to face him. He leaned over her slightly, looking deep into her eyes and then smiled confidently. “You can have his heart. But that can only happen if you don’t give up. You don’t know if he has those kinds of feelings for Angela.”
“Ella!!” Chun called out, walking over. His face wore a grim expression, a scowl marring the perfection of his lips.
“What is it?” she asked, looking up at him.
“How are you?” he asked, sitting down beside her, in the process dislodging Arron’s hand.
“I’m fine,” she said in a confused voice. “Just like I was yesterday. A bit sore, but nothing that’ll keep me in bed,” she replied. “Where are you going Arron?” she asked, looking up as she felt him leave.
“Uh … I think I’ll go talk to Cassie,” he said with a smile. He muttered something else.
“What?” Ella called out to him.
“Nothing,” he replied without turning around.
“What is it?” Chun asked.
“Nothing. I just thought I heard Arron say he didn’t want to be the third wheel … what did that mean? What third wheel? Forget it. So, did Angela agree to stay?”
“Yeah, I’ve finally convinced her to stay … at least until she’s healed.”
“You two are really close, huh?” Ella asked sadly.
“She was there for me in my darkest hours,” Chun said in agreement. “Did you know that her father was our gardener?”
Ella’s eyes widened in surprise.
“I’d never actually met his family, but I saw her on the day her mother died. She was crying as if her heart had broken and I comforted her. We became friends than. Her father changed … he began to drink, and we had to let him go. Angela insisted on going with him, even though we asked her to stay. Drink turned him abusive … and you can see the results. I can’t just ignore it. I can’t.”
“You need to protect everyone, don’t you?” Ella said softly, her hand coming out to rest on his. She gave it a quick squeeze, trying to comfort him. “You can’t save everybody. You just can’t. People are responsible for their own decisions, Chun. Even if you know that it’s the wrong decision, you can’t interfere until she asks for help. All you can do is let her know that you’re there, ready to give her your support. All you can do is advise her. But the final decision must be hers. Don’t push her.”
He nodded reluctantly.
Her hand tentatively came out to rest on his shoulder, patting him lightly.
‘Look at me. Look at me like you did yesterday. Tease me. Laugh with me. Brush my hair back. Don’t ignore me. Don’t talk about another woman to me, please. Chun!’ Ella sighed, turning her gaze away. He couldn’t hear the cries welling up inside of her. He didn’t know what she needed. Maybe he didn’t want to know.
She followed his gaze, and saw that it rested on Angela once more. The young woman was pale and her eyes shadowed. She was sitting there talking with Calvin now, her gaze intent on him. Calvin’s hand came out to rest on Angela’s hand, giving it a quick squeeze and he nodded in understanding.
“Hopefully, Calvin can—,” she began, stopping when she saw Chun jump up. “Chun?” He didn’t hear. He quickly moved back to Angela’s side.
She sighed in resignation. Is this how it would always be? He’d walk away to other women without looking back?
She felt the sofa shift beside her.
Turning she caught the glare Selina was throwing at the group in the corner. Her lips formed a sulky pout.
“What is it?” Ella asked in surprise.
“Nothing, I’m just in a bad mood. I’m on my period,” Selina quickly replied, trying to excuse her behavior. “It’s just so hot, and I’ve spent the morning cooking. And now it seems that everyone is too busy talking to really eat anything. It’s irritating.”
“Are you angry that everyone’s too busy talking or too busy talking to Angela? And is it that it’s the ‘everyone’ you’re worried about or is it just Calvin, who’s sitting over there and holding Angela’s hand.”
“What?! NO!!!” Selina’s shout of denial drew everyone’s attention her way. She nervously laughed and said that everything was all right. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!” she hissed at an unrepentant Ella, after the conversations had resumed. “What does Calvin have to do with anything?”
“You like him, don’t you?” Ella said with a knowing smile. “I remembered when you visited me in America, you’d spend all night talking to him.”
“Yes, this is the guy you’ve talked about only to me. But you opened up to Calvin.”
“Calvin has that quality that makes you feel that you can talk to him about anything,” Selina argued.
“But I saw something there,” Ella said. “You spent all your free time with him. And even now, you light up when Calvin smiles at you. I’ve seen you try on three different dresses at a time when you know he’s coming over. And you always make his favorite foods when you know he’s coming over to eat. And you’re always sending food over.”
Selina blushed and looked away. But then her shoulders drooped.
“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? It’s too late. Look at how he’s smiling at Angela. And she’s into him. I can see it.”
“She’s not into Calvin! She’s into Chun. She told me she loves Chun,” Ella said.
“She loves Chun?” A smile began to grow on Selina’s lips and then froze, quickly replaced by a look of dawning horror. “Oh, Ella.”
“Hey! Don’t look like that,” Ella ordered. “Just because Angela loves him, doesn’t mean that Chun loves her. And I’m not giving up.”
“Good for you,” Selina encouraged, and turned to look at the threesome. “I have to go check on the food. Be right back.” Her smile fell away when she got to the kitchen. Ella was wonderful, trying to raise her spirits, but she had seen the look in Calvin’s eyes. He was totally engrossed in Angela. They’d been talking for half an hour, and not once had he looked away from her. He preferred staring into Angela’s eyes than eating. And Selina knew how much Calvin loved to eat. It was no good. She knew that she’d lost her chance with Calvin.
Ella watched Selina walk away, and then leaned back and rested her head back against the headrest. She closed her eyes. She wanted to hope. She wanted to dream. But the reality before her eyes was really hurting her ability to do that.
“Hey, shorty,” a cheerful voice said, standing over her head.
“Hey, Calvin,” she returned with a smile. “How’s it going?”
“Good. I think Angela’s ready to reconsider her decision to go back to her father. She’s seeing that this isn’t about her … this is her father’s problem. And that if she leaves him … he might agree to go to rehab.”
“Oh, thank you, Calvin. You’re always helping my friends.” Ella pulled him down and gave him a big hug. “I appreciate your help.”
“My pleasure,” Calvin said with a smile. “She’s a really sweet girl.”
“You like her?” Ella said, gently nudging him with an elbow.
“I do,” he admitted.
Ella rested her head on his shoulder and played with the buttons on his shirt.
“You mean … like like?” she asked doubtfully. “As a future girlfriend?”
He remained silent. His lips formed a mysterious smile.
“Calvin,” she whined, tugging at a button.
He didn’t answer.
And her insistent tugging caused the button to pop free.
She began to giggle helplessly, staring at the button in her hand. “Here,” she said, handing it back to him.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” he asked dryly.
“Don’t ask me, I don’t know how to sew,” she replied. She was still laughing.
He began to tickle her in retaliation. “Calvin! Stop! Please!” she shouted breathlessly, helpless with the laughter now. Tears had begun to fall from her crinkled eyes. “Calvin! Come on!” She tried to grab onto his arms, and when that failed she tried to wrap her arms around him to still those same arms.
“Ella! Calvin!” The angry voice was loud in the sudden silence of the living room.
“Chun?” Ella said hurriedly, righting herself. “Is something wrong?”
“Wrong? You just had a concussion,” Chun said angrily. “Do you think it’s a good idea for you to be rolling around like that?”
“I’m fine,” she said in a subdued voice. “We were just playing.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be playing here,” Chun suggested softly.
“I’ll go change my shirt,” Calvin said, getting up.
“Go into the kitchen,” Ella suggested. “Selina can sew that on in a minute.”
He nodded and moved to the kitchen.
Ella stared up at Chun. She could see sparks of … it looked like fury in his eyes. “What’s wrong? We were just playing.”
“Playing? That kind of fun should take place in a bedroom.”
“Bedroom? He was just trying to get my spirits up.”
“It looked like foreplay to me,” he growled back at her.
Ella’s eyes widened. “How can you say that?” she whispered angrily. “How can you say that to me? We were just playing and you … he’s my … you’re disgusting.” There was absolute fury in her voice. Her voice was shaking as she tried to move away from him at high speed, hindered by her injuries.
“Ella …,” he began, putting out a hand.
“Don’t touch me,” she said, utterly disgusted with him. She angrily brushed his hand away. “How can you suggest something like that … do you even know who Calvin is? Do you even know why I went to America when I could’ve gone anywhere in the world?”
Chun could only stare back at her in silence. He didn’t have the answers.
“You never cared to ask, did you? I was one of your best friends, Chun,” she whispered in a trembling voice. “But you just forgot me when Hebe came. I ceased to matter. And then with everything that happened after that … you rejected any offer of help. You kicked me out of your life … you erased me from your mind. So, I implore you, don’t make any assumptions now. Chances are you’ll be wrong.” With those words, she turned and hobbled away.
“Ella!” he tried calling out to her, but she ignored his calls.
Sitting back down on the sofa he wondered how everything had gone so wrong. Yesterday, she had seemed so receptive, but today all she’d done was flirt with Arron and Calvin and pout at him. What had he done that was so wrong? Was she angry about the kiss? She hadn’t seemed angry yesterday.
Or was she angry that he’d interrupted her interludes with the guys. He’d tried to stop himself. But his hands were still shaking from the urge to punch Calvin. He liked the guy. He considered him a close friend, but he didn’t want Ella to get too close to him. He wanted Ella to only listen to him.
His daughter’s small figure sat down beside him, and she heaved a sigh that fairly shook her little frame.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, putting an arm around her shoulders.
“Cinderella isn’t paying attention to me,” Cassie confided with a pout, leaning against him.
“Arron! That pretty guy!” Cassie said with a pout.
Chun turned to see Arron talking with Angela. The two had their heads together.
“He’s talking to Auntie Angela and when I went to talk to them, he told me to play with my games. I want to play with him.”
“Honey, they’re just becoming friends,” Chun explained, giving Cassie a quick hug.
“Well, Auntie Angela better not like Cinderella too much.”
“Because he’s mine.”
Chun choked on air, turning to stare at his little four-year-old daughter.
“What?” he fairly shouted the words.
“I’m going to marry him when I grow up. Auntie Angela can’t have him.”
Being in Chun’s arms that day, before we took that ride home from the hospital, felt like the start of something special. I just knew that our relationship would never be the same after that.
Chun had kissed me because he wanted to; he actually remembered it the next day. And this time I was sure he’d kissed me. The last time we’d kissed … I wanted to think that he thought he was kissing Hebe. Not because I wanted him to want to kiss Hebe … but because I wanted the rejection that broke my heart to be a rejection of Hebe. Not me.
It did my heart good to realize that the kiss had kindled a new awareness within him.
I wasn’t just Ella to him anymore.
I could see it in his eyes.
I was a woman. And that thought made my heart pound away whenever I was near him.
I dreamt about more kisses. Hugs. More intimacy. And then happily ever after.
I didn’t think about angels ruining parties. Or about green-eyed monsters. Or how my insecurities could so easily become an obstacle.
That is the root of the problem, isn’t it?
I didn’t think.
I don’t think.
And that leads to people getting hurt.
How did everything go so wrong?
Her Virgin’s Blood
“Ella!” he shouted angrily, following her into the bedroom. He didn’t wonder why he was so angry; all he knew was that she had no right to be wit—to act that way with Calvin. After all, Cassie had been in the room. And yet she had the nerve to be angry with him?
She sat on the bed, her back to the door. Her shoulders were slumped, as if heavy a burden rested on those fragile bones, pushing her down.
“Ella, look at me,” he demanded forcefully. His voice was harsh and unbending.
She refused to turn around, vigorously shaking her head in refusal.
Sighing, he sat on a chair next to the bed, all the anger beginning to drain away. She was so tiny … so fragile … he didn’t have the heart to remain angry with her for too long.
“What was that out there? Why were you so angry?” he finally asked quietly, trying to calm himself down.
“Why were you angry?” she replied obstinately. “I don’t think that it’s any of your business what I do with Calvin, Arron or anyone else. Why do you always overreact? You’re my friend, and not a very close one from all you know about me now. You’re not my brother … not my father … not my husband or boyfriend. So why do you care so much?”
“You said it yourself,” he replied, roughly pulling her around to face him. All of the emotions that had brought him in to confront Ella had returned with a vengeance at her firm refusal to recognize his rights. Of course he had the right to look out for her. “I’m your friend, and I don’t want you to be hurt.”
She winced at the sudden movements that wrenched briefly at her bruises.
“I’m a grown woman,” Ella replied softly, staring up at him, her chin tilted at a stubborn angle. “I’ve been hurt before and chances are that I’ll be hurt again. You can’t protect me from that. No one can. I make my own decisions, and no one, not even you, has the right to stop me from making them. Do you understand?” Her lips were set in a line, her eyes narrowed. “Why do you insist on trying?”
His finger reached out to trace her mouth, and watched as it trembled under his touch. She shuddered and pulled away.
“Don’t touch me,” she desperately ordered, backing away on the bed. Her eyes stared at him, wide with surprise.
His eyes narrowed at the rejection. He slowly climbed onto the bed, getting angrier by the minute.
“You allow Arron to hug you. You allow Calvin to do a lot more, but me … you stay away from me and run from my touch, as if I’m infected. What is so wrong with me? You’ve known me longer,” he grimly asserted, his eyes beginning to shoot sparks at her. She could see the seething anger in his eyes.
He grabbed at a retreating ankle and began to pull her back towards his crouching body.
She blinked in shock and then began to struggle against his hold. “Let go. You have Angela. You don’t need me too.”
“No.” His grip held firm, pulling her until she was beneath him. They weren’t touching, but the heat between them was almost combustible. Ella found it hard to meet his gaze, choosing instead to stare at the buttons on his shirt. She found it hard to relax, her body tightened with tension.
She found it hard to breathe.
“Chun, move,” she ordered helplessly, pushing at the hard body hovering so close above hers. “I don’t know why you’re so angry, but I promise I won’t do it again. Just tell me what you want.” Her eyes finally met his, the promise in them sincere. His expression softened as he encountered her wide-eyed innocence. Her tongue ran along the line of her luscious lips, freezing when his gaze zeroed in on the movement.
“I want …,” he began. He swallowed and tugged at his collar.
“What?” Her words were almost a whisper, her breath brushing against his lips in a kiss.
“I want you,” he murmured, almost against his will. He leaned down, slowly allowing his body to rest against hers. Her body absorbed his weight, his warmth, his hardness against her own soft body.
There were a few beats of silence and then both moaned at the sensations that had begun to course through them. Ella’s arms hesitantly came up to wrap around his neck.
~*~*~ RATED R~*~*~
“I want you,” he desperately muttered into her ear. He inhaled the scent of her hair, her skin, then held her tighter, before turning his face to kiss her on the lips.
And then there was only that contact. Nothing else could intrude between them.
His lips against hers. His warmth invading hers. His leg pushing between hers, leaving her vulnerable to the feeling of his manhood settling against the heart of her. It was as if he belonged there.
She moaned and instinctively rubbed herself against him. All conscious thought had fled. Her lips eagerly opened to the thrust of his tongue. Her body arched to allow him easier access. Her hips cradled him eagerly … mindlessly … reveling in his glorious touch. His heat reached the deepest corners of her heart, warming her from within.
“Ella … Ella,” Chun groaned, as his hands reached out to grab at her hips, stilling her eager motions. For a moment his hips ground themselves desperately against her warmth. His hand reached down to rest against her mound, and he groaned at the moist warmth he found there. His other hand came up to cradle a small breast before continuing on its mission to unbutton her shirt.
Her lashes lowered, but not enough to blind her to his movements. She watched surreptitiously as his hands began to unbutton her shirt. She began to breathe faster, the act pushing her breasts more deeply against his chest. She shivered as the air touched her overheated skin.
~*~*~END of RATED R Section~*~*~
‘Now … now was the time. They would finally be together,’ she though incoherently.
And then harsh reality intruded.
“Auntie Ella!” Cassie shouted, banging on the door. “Auntie Ella, we’re ready to open your presents. Come out! Everyone said we had to wait for you.”
The movement on the bed halted, the harsh breaths the only noise in the silent room. His forehead came to rest against her own, as each sought to find their equilibrium after the sexual chaos that had erupted between them, engulfing both of them in its flames.
“Auntie Ella, can I come in?”
The two hurriedly jumped up from the bed and began to straighten their clothes, taking deep breaths to calm themselves. Ella stared in agony at Chun. He refused to meet her gaze, turning away instead.
“I’m coming, Cassie,” Ella called out in a husky voice. “Wait a moment.”
“Auntie Ella, do you know where my daddy is?”
Ella put down the telephone and then took a deep breath. The ten bucks she’d slipped the doorman had finally done the trick. He’d given her the warning she needed.
Chun was finally home. It had been two weeks since that incident in her bedroom and it was as if Chun was avoiding her. He avoided her calls, wouldn’t come to visit, and whenever she met him, he tried to escape as fast as he could. He’d even taken to spending nights at his office.
She had begun to feel like a pariah. And it was making her feel restless … sad … angry. What had she done to make him react this way?
Tonight … she’d decided that tonight was the night they would discuss what had happened and move on with their relationship. She refused to think of this as another rejection.
Turning back, she closed the door behind her and ran to get a cup. She needed an excuse to bother him at this time of the night, and the clichéd ‘cup of sugar’ for a needy neighbor would have to do. She was too wrung out to think of anything more creative.
Moving out into the hallway, she hesitantly took the elevator up to Chun’s floor. Angela had returned home, promising to call the moment any trouble started. Arron and Calvin were out with Selina for the night. Cassie would be in bed by now. They’d be all alone. And this time no one would interrupt.
She reached his doorway and pulled out the key Chun had given her when she’d begun to bring Cassie home from school. Opening the door, she sneaked inside and quickly closed the door behind her, hoping that she wouldn’t be discovered too soon.
“You have a lovely daughter,” a woman’s voice commented huskily from the living room. “She looks just like you.”
The cup fell unnoticed from her hand, landing on the carpeted floor. Ella’s eyes narrowed in confusion. She gasped when she realized what she’d walked into.
Another one night stand. Chun was reverting to his destructive habits. Why? He wanted to be with her. She knew he did. No one would doubt it after what happened two weeks ago, but still he went to another woman to assuage his lust.
She was here.
She was willing. All he had to do was tell her she was important to him. All he had to do was love her a little bit. All he had to do was say the words … she knew she wouldn’t look too deeply.
But he still chose another woman over her.
Her lips began to tremble. This was like the Hebe situation all over again. She’d loved him so much, but he’d never even given her another thought when Hebe came. He’d fallen in love with Hebe. He’d chosen her. And Ella had been left behind in the dust … eating her heart out.
Her shoulders slumped. She’d been defeated before the battle had even begun.
“I’d love to get to know her,” the woman said hopefully, moving around the living room.
“Why don’t you come here and get to know me first?” His voice was slurred. His words were lazily offered, as if he didn’t care one way or the other.
Ella quickly turned around at the tone she’d heard in his voice. Moving stealthily, she sneaked over to the doorway, wanting just one peek. All the while she ranted at herself for her stupidity. This would only hurt her, but she needed to see him once before she gave hope altogether.
Her gaze zeroed in on him, sitting on the sofa. He watched the woman move sexily over to seat herself beside him. There was a sneer on those sexy lips, a look of disgust on his face. The other woman appeared not to notice. And the look in his eyes confirmed what Ella had heard in his voice.
He was bored.
He didn’t want to do this. He wasn’t excited. He wasn’t turned on. She’d seen how he looked when he was in that state. He’d been like that with her.
It was almost as if … almost as if he was pushing himself. His hands remained clenched at his side as the beauty began to kiss him.
His body stiffened when she moaned softly, rubbing herself against him. Her hands tugged at his tie, pulling it over his head. She unbuttoned his shirt, swiftly taking it off. Her hands began to caress his smooth, golden skin.
Ella’s hands clenched in fury. He was her Chun now, and no hussy was going to take him away.
And, without a second thought, Ella jumped into the moment, wanting to destroy it completely.
“What do you think you’re doing with my husband?” Her voice was fierce, coldly disruptive, breaking the heated atmosphere between the two.
They jerked apart, turning to stare at her in surprise.
“Chun! How could you do this to me … again?! Especially when the last time that hooker gave you a sexually transmitted disease?!” She practically wailed the words, happy to squeeze out the tears. In fact that had been the easy part, watching him cold-bloodedly making love to another woman had brought them to the surface.
His eyes bugged out at her words and the woman quickly pulled away.
“Your daughter is sleeping inside. I just came home from the job that supports all of us; you know you wouldn’t even have this roof over your head without me, and you betray me like this?! I’m pregnant with your child,” she said in a harsh whisper, not wanting to disturb Cassie.
The woman quickly got up and grabbed her purse. Chun wasn’t too far behind, his gaze narrowing in anger at her. As the woman sidled past her, not knowing what to say, Ella lunged at her, wanting to tear her hair out.
Chun’s arms came out to grab her in mid-flight, trapping her close to his body.
Ella fell into them, pretending to faint with all the drama.
“I … I didn’t know you were married,” the woman angrily said.
“I think you should go.” Chun’s voice was calm. His words were quiet. But his hands were tight as they gripped Ella’s body close to his. “You’re going to pay for this,” he whispered close to her ear.
Ella ignored them, coming out of her faint only after she heard the door shut. Quickly pulling away, she attempted to race to the door, not wanting to confront a drunk and angry Chun.
“No!” Chun shouted, as he gave chase. “You’re not getting away that easily.” His hand came out to slam shut the door that Ella had almost succeeded in opening. He turned her around, and pinned her against the same door.
“What did I do?” Ella asked, trying to shrug.
His eyes narrowed, and his lips opened on a shout.
“Cassie’s sleeping,” she quickly warned, her eyes twinkling up at him. There wasn’t really anything he could do with his daughter and mother in the next room. At least not what he wanted to do with her right now.
“You’re right,” he said, taking a deep breath. Pulling her away, he opened the door and led her outside.
“Where are you taking me?” she demanded angrily.
Ella froze at the words, but couldn’t hold out against the pressure. She was pulled into an empty apartment, and she knew that rescue would not be coming anytime soon.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Chun said at Ella’s back. His words were harsh and she flinched as they burst from him.
She swung around to glare at him. “Is that so? I’m supposed to turn away when one minute you’re seducing me, and the next you’re bringing home strange women to seduce? I don’t think so.”
“If they want to be seduced, and I want to seduce them, it’s none of your bloody business, is it?”
She noted the slight slur in his words and his naked state with increasing worry. He couldn’t seem to stand there without weaving a bit.
“You look disgraceful,” she said scathingly. “Cassie was only a few feet away, and you would’ve done that?”
“It’s not your business. What were you doing there anyways?”
“I needed to talk to you. You’ve been avoiding me,” she said angrily. “Is it my fault that I just happened to come in when you were bent on another one-night stand? I’m not the guilty party here who was cavorting with the wrong woman.”
It must have been the contempt in her tone that set him off, because suddenly he was quite furious. “The wrong woman? Let me assure you that I have reached such a state of need, thanks to you, that any woman will do!”
“You’re blaming me for your behavior?” she asked incredulously.
“You’re damned right I am.”
Having said it, or more to the point, snarled it, he surprised Ella by turning away. But he must have moved too quickly because he swayed again, and it was no straight line that he walked to the door.
He’s still drunk, Ella thought in amusement, her gaze following him. Her eyes widened when she saw that he was locking the apartment door, deadbolt and chain included.
Amusement fled, replaced by wariness as she remembered how quickly his anger had turned into lust the last time they’d been in her apartment. And the man wasn’t himself right now. He’d been drinking a good part of the evening, if she could rely on his usual methods of picking up women. He couldn’t be thinking clearly.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, backing up as he started in her direction.
“You should have turned about and gone back to your house without interfering. Should have stayed away from me altogether. But I suppose I should thank you, since I really didn’t want her, and now that you’ve sent her away, you can take her place.”
Ella backed into the sofa, losing her balance against it. She was only lying on her back at a slight angle, but that allowed Chun to lean over her, one hand placed on either side of her shoulders. She shook her head wordlessly. He smiled down at her.
“What, you no longer want to be with me?” he asked lazily. “Or did I dream your moving beneath me when we were in your bedroom together two weeks ago? Your body wanted me badly.”
She flinched at his words.
“Why do I want you so much?” he wondered out loud, his finger coming out to trace her trembling lips. “You don’t even know how to kiss properly. What I wouldn’t give for a few hours to teach that luscious mouth a few lessons.”
Her eyes widened in indignation.
“I’m a good kisser,” she retorted.
He snorted and turned away. She threw out a hand and pulled him down beside her.
“What don’t I know?” she growled at him.
“So much, my innocent Ella,” he whispered teasingly, his heavy eyes meeting hers. “Although, you would think with your experience …,” his voice trailed off.
“Nothing,” he quickly replied.
“Then teach me,” she ordered, moving closer.
There was a pause, as both digested the comment that had been made.
“If you tell me why you want to learn.”
“I don’t want my future husband to be disappointed in me,” she said in excuse. How could she tell him she didn’t want her kisses to disappoint Chun? She wanted to ace the lesson, so much so that he would never be satisfied kissing another woman. He would beg for her kisses than. On his knees.
She thought for a moment he was going to laugh. Instead he leaned closer until his lips were just a hairsbreadth away from hers. She could smell brandy mixed with his own unique scent, it wasn’t unpleasant.
“Open your mouth, brat.” She didn’t mind the title because he said it tenderly, giving it almost the sound of an endearment. And she really couldn’t think about that now, when his lips were so close touching hers.
His kisses pushed her into the deep end when, without warning, his tongue invaded her mouth.
Ella would have gasped if her breath weren’t locked in her throat, not from shock, but from a deluge of unanticipated sensations converging on her all at once. It felt like her blood was soaring, her legs were melting, her insides were coming apart. This was that pleasant feeling she’d felt before, only now it was magnified a hundred times.
His body pressed slowly into hers and liquid heat spread into her loins. He groaned deep in his throat and her breasts responded by tightening. His hand came up to assuage the feeling there and her heart slammed against her chest.
“Don’t hide you tongue from me,” he said against her lips. “Give it to me, Ella. Taste me.”
It seemed like she no longer had a will of her own, she obeyed him with such eagerness. But then she wanted to taste him. She simply hadn’t known that she could until he ordered it. But if she could copy him in the kissing, then why not the touching as well?
When her hand slipped between them as his had done, he moved slightly to the side to give her access, which gave him more access as well, which he took swift advantage of. Suddenly there was no cloth between his hand and her breasts. He’d somehow unbuttoned her shirt, and she discovered fire. Good God, his hand couldn’t be that warm, but it was. His chest under her own palm couldn’t be that hot either, but it was. Distant memories of that first encounter raced through the recesses of her mind. This was much, much better, because he still had control of himself.
He reluctantly pulled away. Staring into her eyes he asked, “Do you want to learn more?”
“There’s more?” she replied in wonder. More kissing? More fun? She could definitely go for that.
“Most definitely,” he replied, resting his forehead against hers, his heart pounding away in rhythm with hers.
He bent toward her, but then he stopped and shook his head, as if to clear it, and suddenly he was frowning. “No, I—good God, I must be mad. Get away from me, Ella, and do it now. This lesson is over. I shouldn’t be touching you like this.”
Her disappointment was almost too keen to bear. “Why?” she whispered.
“Because I lost myself in that last kiss. I forgot for a moment that you’re Ella … my friend. I can’t take advantage of you no matter how much I … why do you think I brought that wom—forget it. You’re just too curious for your own good.”
“Are you saying you would have made love to me?” she ventured.
“Yes, damn it.”
She hoped that was all that was bothering him. “But I wouldn’t have let you if I didn’t want it. I would’ve stopped you. You would stop if I told you, wouldn’t you?”
“Then I don’t see the problem.”
“Don’t you? I’m not exactly sober, you know,” he said, as if she hadn’t noticed.
“I don’t mind.” She leaned toward him imploringly. “Show me,” she pleaded.
He groaned and gathered her close. “Give me your tongue again.” She did, but this time he didn’t let her explore with it, but gently sucked on it instead for a while. He moved to draw her earlobe between his lips for the same tantalizing treatment. She shivered deliciously.
She tried to concentrate on the path his mouth was taking so she could anticipate his destination, but she was enjoying the sensations that he was evoking on the way too much. And then she sucked in her breath as one nipple was drawn deeply into the heat of his mouth. This was part of kissing? Long ago memories floated to the surface. Of remembered sensations. Even if this wasn’t just kissing anymore … no, she wasn’t about to stop him—not yet.
When she later felt a coolness on her legs, it didn’t register that her skirt was being raised. When she felt a tugging at her thong, she didn’t question it. He kissed her again, so that she barely noticed the thong being slipped off completely. But she couldn’t miss warm fingers slipping between her legs. She stiffened in surprise, and then she was moaning, gripping him to her and reveling in the most startling sensations. Her legs parted of their own accord. Her body and its responses were taking over, and she didn’t care.
“Is this all a part of kissing?” she gasped out, pulling away from the magic of his lips.
“Yes,” he lied without the least qualm. He couldn’t pull back now. Not now.
She thought she was going to die, especially when he moved on top of her, placing his hips between hers, and that hard part of his body was pressing into her heated core, giving her the same pleasure.
But then a sharp pain swiftly pierced her and there was nothing pleasurable in that. Her eyes flew open in shock. How? No, maybe not. Maybe that pain and fullness inside her now wasn’t him, but still his fingers. Yet she could feel his hands, both hands, beneath her back, holding her tightly to him. She felt shock again. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They’d only been kissing.
“Tell me you aren’t making love to me,” she demanded.
He became very still, suffering from shock of his own. “I’m afraid it’s too late to tell you that.”
“But you can’t be!”
“I’m sorry, Ella, but …,” his voice trailed off. He was still trying to comprehend how she was still a virgin based on what she’d told him. “You were a virgin?!!” His words were accusatory, as if she’d laid a trap for him. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” he shouted at her as the alcoholic haze began to clear from his mind.
Her shock turned rapidly to resentment as all the repercussions bombarded her. “Don’t worry, I won’t marry you.”
That wasn’t the wisest thing to say to a man who’d just broken every scruple he possessed. “I wasn’t going to ask you to—.”
“—but now I have to.”
“Well, aren’t you fortunate that you already have my answer,” she retorted acidly. “Now get off me.”
His face dropped into curve of her neck with a groan. “I can’t, Ella.”
She wasn’t interested in his problem, still seething over the accusations his eyes had thrown at her. It was his fault that she was still a virgin, and he blamed her? “Of course you can. You said you would.”
“That was when I could. Now—oh, God.” He thrust once, twice, then was still again.
That hadn’t hurt, but she was too furious to notice. “I’m getting angry, Chun. If you don’t want me scratching every inch of you and bursting your eardrums with my screams—.”
“In all fairness, I owe you a climax. You’ve come this far, you might as well—“
~*~*~End of Rated R Section~*~*~
“I didn’t mean to come this far and you know it,” she hissed at him.
He rose until he was leaning over her and she was able to see at last his own upset. Guilt was tearing into him now, and that hurt much more sharply than her verbal abuse. He’d wanted to protect her, but he was the one who had ended up hurting her. In his present state, he couldn’t handle either too well.
“Then you shouldn’t have interrupted my tryst with that woman in the first place.”
“That’s right,” she bit out, “Absolve yourself of guilt, why don’t you?”
“There is no absolution. I asked you to marry me.”
“You know very well that I won’t … that I can’t marry you.”
“Hebe … Cassie … your mother … my past. Everything is an obstacle. And I definitely will NOT marry a man who only asked because he took my virginity,” she shouted at him, finally succeeding in pushing him off. “Nothing happened here. Pretend like it was all a bad dream.”
“Ella, you can’t pretend—.”
“I can do anything I want, and if I want to go on with my life pretending that this didn’t happen, I damn well will.” She stormed into her room, her body still aching from his possession. How dare he? She was still wearing her shirt and skirt! He hadn’t even bothered to take them off. How dare he do this to her? Tears began to fall silently down her cheeks.
“Fine! You do that!” His words were loud in the silent living room. He rolled off the sofa, and zipped his pants. He stomped to her door, banging on it angrily. “When you come to your senses, Ella,” he said through the door, “you know where I’ll be.”
“You’ll be in hell before I come to you again,” was her final retort.
Chun turned with a scowl and then stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door shut behind him.
The night I stole Chun from that woman … was the night I became a woman in his arms.
We hadn’t meant for it to happen. It was an accident.
I was furious at his reaction. I was furious at his anger. I was furious at the experience. It was nothing like I had imagined it to be.
Chun didn’t even say he loved me.
But a part of me found a secret, perverse satisfaction in the fact that the woman Chun had brought back with him that night … that woman he’d expected to sate his lust … looked like … me.
We could’ve worked it out. At least I thought so.
But then everything went wrong. So wrong. I still can’t understand what really happened.
Why did he react the way he did? Why was he so angry the next day?
And when I found out … why wasn’t he happy? I was happy. Why couldn’t he just pretend to be happy? For me? Why?
And why …
Why did he marry me …
Why did he marry me and then go to Angela that very same night?
Ella groaned and turned over to stare at the ceiling. She’d spent the night obsessing over what had happened. At times, she just wanted to wake up and realize that it was all a bad dream.
But then reality intruded.
Her body ached. She was sore all over. There was a new awareness of her body that hadn’t been there before. Chun had taken her virginity and she couldn’t forget that ever.
But it hadn’t been romantic. He hadn’t said the most important words.
He’d been drunk. And even then, he’d immediately regretted his actions afterwards. There had been no intimacy in the act. It had quickly become a farce. He’d worried about her possible chances of pregnancy … he hadn’t even been aware of when he made her his … he’d rejected the most precious gift a woman could ever give a man she loved … and he’d accused her of trapping him with it!
And then he’d added insult to injury by throwing the most insane proposal at her … thinking that she’d accept it. Marry him? Marry him just on the off chance that she might be pregnant? God couldn’t be that cruel. It was just one mistake. Just one incident. And she hadn’t even enjoyed it.
He hadn’t taken off his clothes. She’d still been wearing all of hers; every article except for that thong. It had been so easy for him to zip up and leave. There had been no cuddling. No reassurances. None of the words she needed to hear. He’d said everything wrong. Every word out of that mouth had made her want to scratch his eyes out.
She got up and punched the pillow into shape before lying back down. It wasn’t any better. Pulling the pillow out from under her, she covered her face with it and screamed into it.
Kissing! They were supposed to be kissing. Only kissing!
It wasn’t her idea of romance to sleep with a man when he was half drunk and hadn’t even said ‘I love you.’ She’d been a cheap date. He’d gone out and romanced another woman. Probably ate dinner with her. Danced with her. Drank with her. And then he’d come home to sleep with her.
Only, Ella had willingly taken her place.
When would she learn that being around Chun wasn’t good for her mental health? She became an idiot. She acted like a total ditz. And she only hurt herself.
Giving up on sleep, she crawled out of bed and stumbled into the living room. Rubbing at her aching eyes, she went to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, needing the hit to clear her mind.
“Ella!” Selina’s voice yelped in her ear. Her hands came out to take her by the shoulders.
“Oh my God!” Ella shouted, whirling around to glare at her friend. “You almost gave me a heart attack! What are you doing sneaking around?”
“I … we wanted to ask you some questions,” Selina stated archly, pulling Ella into the living room.
“Arron, Calvin and I,” Selina replied, pushing Ella onto the sofa. “I called them over when I heard you moving around in your room. They hurried over.”
“What do you want to ask me?”
“About these,” Arron said, holding up a pair of shoes.
Ella stared at the shoes, trying to place them. Her eyes widened in realization.
“I take it Chun was here last night?” Calvin asked calmly.
Ella’s fingers tightened around the mug, trying to think up excuses.
“Don’t try to lie, Ella,” Selina said softly. “There can only be one reason for a man to take off his shoes in a woman’s apartment. Obviously something happened here last night. How far did it go?”
“What business is it of yours?” Ella retorted angrily. “Whatever reason Chun might have had to take them off, it really has nothing to do with you, right? I’m 25 and I can make my own decisions.”
“Oh, Ella, how could you?” Arron asked mournfully. “It wasn’t supposed to go this far.”
“What wasn’t supposed to go this far?” Ella sat back, glaring at all of them mutinously.
“Look, Ella,” Calvin began, coming to sit beside her, “we know you care deeply for Chun. You fell in love with him when you were sixteen and loved him even when he was married to Hebe.”
“You’re right, I did love him,” Ella agreed. “But I don’t love him anymore.” Her protest was loud and cranky. “I assure you I killed that love quickly enough when he fell in love with my sister. I wouldn’t love someone who was another’s. I don’t still love him.” Her words were fervent and loudly sincere.
“We’re not saying you do,” Arron interjected. “We know you don’t, and that’s the worrying thing.”
“Why is it worrying?”
“It’s worrying that you might have slept with him, but NOT because you love him. We’re afraid you might have slept with him for all the wrong reasons. We all know that it broke your heart when you saw the condition he was in when you came back,” Arron continued. “That’s why you concocted this whole plan. To save him. To save Cassie. You felt you owed them.”
“Ella, we know you pitied the two of them and felt at fault for what Hebe had done to them, but it wasn’t your fault,” Selina quickly jumped in, reaching out to squeeze Ella’s hand. “Leave everything that has happened in the past. You weren’t to blame for it.”
“I don’t blame myself,” Ella shouted, her face white. “I don’t blame myself. I don’t.” She began to shake her head violently. “What happened last night just happened. It wasn’t planned.”
“Are you sure you didn’t let him use you in this apartment just so he wouldn’t hurt himself and Cassie once more by having another one-night stand?” Calvin asked clinically. “We know you’d do anything to make up for what Hebe did. To make up for what Hebe made you …”
“You’re right,” Ella interrupted. “I do pity Chun and I can’t stand to see what he had become when we came back. And even though I didn’t love him, I was willing to ‘seduce’ him away from that lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean I would ever have gone as far as sacrificing my virginity. What happened last night … it was a mistake. It was meaningless. And it didn’t go too far, so you don’t have to worry. I stopped it.”
There was a quick sigh of relief from everyone.
“Boy, am I glad to hear that,” Selina said with a sigh. “I know you wanted to help Chun … but I don’t think anyone should go that far.”
“I would never do something foolish like that,” Ella said smilingly. “Chun isn’t worth the cost of my virginity.”
The others nodded in understanding.
“After all,” Ella said with a laugh, “how could I love a man that I pity? I can’t respect him for what he’s become. One-night stands. A drunk. Closed off emotionally. Someone who hurts his daughter continuously. And if I can’t respect a man … I know I could never love him.”
TWO MONTHS LATER …
She stared at the evidence in her hand. It was irrefutable. She couldn’t ignore it anymore. The papers said it in plain English.
She blinked back the tears.
“You have to tell him, Ella,” Selina said, reaching out to hug her.
“How can I … he hasn’t even come to see me since it happened.” There were tears in her eyes. She’d missed him so much, but he acted as if nothing happened. The friendship that had once existed … the friendship that had sprung up between them once again … it was as if none of that had ever existed between them. He acted as if they were strangers with no past. Nothing. Two months of silence. Two months of cold avoidance.
He acted like she didn’t exist. In fact, he acted like she was Hebe.
How could she then tell him that they would be connected for the rest of their lives?
“You have to, Ella,” Selina repeated. “Your conscience won’t let you do otherwise.”
Ella’s shoulders slumped in agreement.
She raised her hand to knock on his door. Tap. Tap.
There was no answer. She knocked again. Again no answer. She banged on the solid door.
‘Where was he at this time of night?’
The door violently opened, slamming against the wall, and she found herself staring up into his cold eyes.
“What?!” he barked at her.
“Chun, we need to talk,” Ella began hesitantly.
“We have nothing to say to each other.” He began to close the door in her face.
“No!” Ella burst out, pushing at the door with her slight body. She didn’t know where the strength came from, but she pushed against his hold and succeeded in keeping the door open.
“What is it?” he asked, pulling away and walking into the living room. It was as if he couldn’t bear to look at her.
Ella followed him into the room and took a seat.
“You said … you said that we should get married after that …” Her voice trailed off.
“I was drunk. I wasn’t in my right mind.”
Ella’s body folded in on itself, as if the blow had been too much.
“Do you really think I’d have wanted to be with you if I had been in my right mind? I was drunk. I was horny. And you were there. Pretending to be innocent. You had the parts I needed to satisfy myself. It meant nothing more.”
She flinched and tears began to fill her eyes.
“Don’t get all emotional now.” Chun jeered at her. “Those crocodile tears won’t fool me.”
“I … I wasn’t pretending,” she protested. “You have to understand …”
“It was a mistake.” His voice was abrupt. His movements final. “Let’s forget it ever happened. A meaningless night of sex without love on either side. Let’s just chalk it up as another drunken, one-night stand.”
“Is there anything more left to say?” He quietly walked to the door and held it open for her. “Now, why don’t you leave and let m—.”
“I’m pregnant.” The words were a plea, a cry for him to understand … to soften and become the Chun she’d known and loved.
He froze, his back to her. His hand tightened on the doorknob.
“I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a father.”
“What am I supposed to do about that?”
“You said …”
“Fine. Let’s get married … after we get some tests done.”
I was carrying a life inside of me. I was carrying Chun’s child.
And even though the news didn’t make him happy … it was the happiest moment in my life.
That child became the most precious being in my love. It became the center of my universe. Nothing else seemed to matter.
Not even Chun’s bewildering hatred.
Here’s the next chapter. Enjoy!
Now I will tell you what I’ve done for you,
50 thousand tears I’ve cried.
Screaming, deceiving and bleeding for you,
And you still won’t hear me. (going under)
“What kind of flowers do you want?” Selina asked softly, tapping Ella on the shoulder to catch her attention.
“I don’t care,” Ella groaned and turned back to stare out the window. “Why are we going through all the motions? We’re just doing this to give this little one a name. I don’t want him to be called a bastard. Why couldn’t we just get married in front of a judge? Why pretend that it’s anything more?”
“Chun insisted,” Selina reminded her. There was no response from the inert figure sitting on the sofa. “Ella.”
“Hmm?” her friend finally murmured.
“Happy birthday,” Selina murmured, putting down a gaily-wrapped gift.
“Yeah, you’re 26 today. Didn’t you remember?”
Ella shook her head and then looked down at the present.
“I’ll open it later,” she promised before turning away.
Selina’s smile disappeared and her shoulders slumped. She wanted to shout at Chun and ask him why he was being such a bastard but Ella had forbidden all such attacks. Her heart ached to see Ella depressed like this. She missed her bubbly and easily-excitable friend.
“I’ll leave you alone,” Selina said. “I’ll tell them daisies, okay? They are your favorite flower.”
“No!” It was the first hint of emotion they’d gotten out of her after her last conversation with Chun. “Anything but daisies.”
“Okay … I’ll tell them roses,” Selina said agreeably, understanding Ella’s emotions. “Just call me if you need anything.”
Ella nodded and continued to stare out the window.
It had been two weeks since she’d told him about the pregnancy and everything had moved at lightening speed. The dress. The church. The guests. Food. Flowers. Everything. But even then …
While the wedding was being planned, he’d taken her to the lab for a DNA test. Apparently her word hadn’t been good enough. He had to ensure that he was the father of the baby.
Her lips firmed in a bitter line. What had she done to make him distrust her so much? What had she done to deserve this? That was when she’d stopped caring. She didn’t care if they got married. In fact, she was this close to … who was she kidding?
The test results had come back positive. And he hadn’t looked any too happy about being the father. What right did he have to be angry? He’d been the experienced one, and even so he’d expected her to take care of the birth control? Sometimes she felt this rage building up inside of her and she didn’t know how to control it. It made her want to fight back … to hurt him the way he was hurting her. But she had to control herself.
At least her mom were happy. Her mother had been ecstatic to see her tomboy daughter finally getting married. She’d been hesitant about the fact that it was Chun and their family history, but no problems had cropped up. Mrs. Wu had always loved Ella, and the news of another grandchild had only made her happier.
Mrs. Wu was happy.
Mom was happy.
Cassandra was happy.
It was Chun …
Her hands clenched.
She couldn’t understand, no matter how hard she tried. She couldn’t understand his actions. His behavior. His anger.
Why was he being such a bastard?
Don’t want your hand this time – I’ll save myself.
Maybe I’ll wake up for once (wake up for once)
Not tormented daily defeated by you
Just when I thought I’d reached the bottom
I’m dying again
“What about the dress?” Selina prodded softly, coming into Ella’s room once more.
“What about it? I picked it out didn’t I? What’s wrong?”
“Don’t you think the color might be … a bit too much?” Selina asked hesitantly.
“It’s how I feel.”
“But it’s your wedding day, Ella. Do you really want to tell the world how you feel about this wedding? If you wear that dress, it won’t leave much doubt about your feelings. It’s not the best way to start a wedding.”
“It’s not a normal wedding,” Ella coolly replied. “You know we’re only getting married because of the child. The birth of this child will most likely by accompanied by a divorce decree, so it doesn’t really matter what I wear.”
“Chun is insisting on a real wedding. Do you think he’ll want you to wear black?”
“He’s made it known to everyone that we’re getting married because I trapped him by getting pregnant,” Ella retorted bitterly.
“Ella …,” Selina broke off with a sigh.
“Did you see the newspaper article? Did you? You all read it. My family has read it. My colleagues have read that article! And I’m supposed to play along with his wishes? There’s no reason to pretend anymore.”
Ella began to cry, her shoulders shaking. “Why is he being such a bastard? It’s as if he thinks I did this on purpose. I didn’t. You all know I didn’t. Why can’t he see that? Leave me alone, Selina. I can’t handle this right now.”
“Okay,” Selina said softly. “I’ll figure it out.” She left, closing the door behind her.
“Selina, pick up the phone!”
“Where’d you go?”
“Oh god, shut up!”
“Why isn’t the damn machine on?” she grumbled to herself before shuffling over to the phone.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”
“What?” she barked into the phone.
“Who is this?”
“It’s me, Angela. I wondered if I could see you today.”
“No, not today.”
“Ella, I’ve been trying to see you for a while now. Isn’t there any way you could make some time? I know that you’re busy with the wedding, but this is really important.”
“Not today, Angela. I … have a terrible headache and tons of appointments. I’m sorry.”
“Ella! Don’t hang up, please. This is really important. It’s about Chun. I need to talk to you about Chun.”
“I don’t want to talk about him,” Ella replied stubbornly. “He can go rot in hell for all I care.”
“Ella, please. If not for him … do it for yourself. I want to talk to you about the article.”
“Fine, if you come over now.”
“I’ll be there in two minutes,” Angela said quickly and hung up.
Ella’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. How could Angela get here when she lived so far away? She shrugged. There was no way Angela would get here that fast and she could pretend to be busy when she finally did show up.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Ella’s eyes widened in surprise. Walking over, she quickly pulled open the door and wasn’t surprised to see Angela standing there.
“How’d you get here so fast?” she asked abruptly, moving back to allow Angela in.
“I was in …,” Angela began with a blush.
“At Chun’s?” Ella’s question was grim. She didn’t even care enough to be jealous.
“No! I was at … Arron’s apartment,” Angela admitted.
Ella nodded with disinterest, but then froze, her movements arrested when she caught the fiery blush staining Angela’s cheeks.
“Am I missing something?” she asked with a small, very small smile.
“Nothing,” Angela murmured quickly, ducking her head forward, hiding her expression with her hair.
“Angela? Don’t lie to me,” Ella instructed.
“It’s just … over the past few months …,” Angela began hesitantly.
“Arron and I have gotten closer,” Angela admitted, her hands twisting in her lap, her fingers pleating her skirt. “More than anyone, he knows what it’s like to be in the situation that I was in. He understands how it is to live with an abusive parent and still not be able to let go. He made me understand … that it’s not my duty to be my dad’s punching bag.”
“Oh, Angela, we’ve all been telling you that,” Ella said with a sigh. “But I realize that none of us can understand your dilemma. In order to protect yourself, it does mean total abandonment of your only parent.”
“He made me realize that staying will not only hurt me but also my dad. He told me how his mother couldn’t stand to see him because of his arm after the accident. And that hurt him more than losing the use of his arm. He encouraged me to move out and to get my own place.”
“And …?” Ella asked.
“He asked me out on our first date three weeks ago and we’ve had three dates since than,” Angela confessed with a blush.
“I’m happy for you,” Ella said with sincerity. “But what about …Chun? I thought you said you loved him.”
Angela looked down at her hands, her brow wrinkled in thought.
“Being with Arron … being around him … made me realize that Chun has always taken care of me. And I tried to take care of him. But there’s more of a sibling love between us,” Angela finally blurted out. “I don’t feel that essential part of romance when I’m with Chun.”
“You know … I don’t want to kiss him or hug him. I don’t want to physically express my love … in fact the thought of that is almost incestuous when it’s linked to Chun.”
“Arron makes you want to do all of that?” Ella asked teasingly.
“Yes.” The answer was short and sweet. Angela met Ella’s eyes squarely, revealing her feelings to the other woman, her face covered once more by a dark-red blush.
“Why are you here?” Ella asked, changing the subject. The smile disappeared from her lips once more.
“I don’t understand what’s wrong,” Angela said. “You love Chun, and he was changing back to the Chun I remembered … but now it’s all different.”
“You tell me. I don’t know why he’s become like this. I don’t know why he wants to deliberately hurt me. With his words. His behavior. That article.” Ella turned away to stare out the window.
“That article wasn’t his fault,” Angela said quickly.
“How do you know?”
“One of the lab technicians leaked that story,” Angela explained. “Where you both went to get tested. He sold the story. Chun is very popular with the media.”
“He didn’t do anything to stop the story.”
“By the time he found out, it was too late. His lawyers are all over it right now … they’re demanding a retraction. But he didn’t do that to deliberately hurt you. He would never do that.”
“Are you sure?” Ella asked bitterly. “The way he’s been acting, I don’t think it’s too unbelievable.”
“Ella, don’t distrust him so much,” Angela entreated. “Something must have happened, but he would never be that cruel. He’s the father of this baby, and he wouldn’t want him to come into a world where his mother is being attacked for trapping his father. Don’t think so badly of Chun. He does have some principles. Even when he was so angry at Hebe, he didn’t do all he could to hurt her and her lover.”
Ella nodded reluctantly.
“I’ll try to find out what’s happening, give me time,” Angela said.
Ella shrugged with indifference.
“I’ll see you at the engagement party tonight,” Ella said after a beat of silence.
“Fine, I’ll see you,” Angela said with a nod.
“Have you ever been to Chun’s Italian villa?” Ella asked as Angela got up to go.
“No … wait, yes I have. I was there with Chun when Hebe left him. I felt that I had to come just to make sure that he was eating and sleeping and to fend off all the crazy callers. She really hurt him; he was out of it most of the time,” Angela answered. “Why?”
“No reason. I’ll talk to you later,” Ella said softly.
Ella walked into the decorated mansion. This was the mansion where Chun and Hebe had lived as a married couple. Where they’d brought Cassandra home. Where Chun’s heart had broken.
There were roses everywhere. It seemed that Selina had gone overboard. She shrugged. What did it matter? Staring down at her black dress, she reflected on how aptly it matched her mood.
Her gaze moved over the room and landed on her erstwhile groom. There he stood, with his bevy of beauties. Her eyes narrowed. Ever since that night, he’d gone out of his way to be surrounded by at least four beautiful women when they were out in public. Even if he hadn’t been the reason for that article, his behavior certainly hadn’t helped.
Moving over to sit next to her friends, she watched clinically as they grew angry over Chun’s behavior. She’d tried to make them understand that it didn’t matter, but Selina, Calvin and Arron wouldn’t … couldn’t forgive or excuse Chun’s behavior. They couldn’t understand why this man was hurting their friend so much. Ella leaned back and took a swig of her champagne.
She stared as one blonde beauty leaned into kiss one lean cheek.
She threw back her head and finished her glass.
She saw another slut put her lips next to his ear, and then saw her perfect little teeth nibble away like a little mouse.
Ella leaned over and grabbed Selina’s glass, drinking down the … brandy in that one.
She saw a third woman put her hand inside his jacket, smoothing over his perfect body.
Ella’s hands unconsciously clenched around Arron’s whiskey. How dare he put her through this? She didn’t care, but she didn’t deserve this. It didn’t help that all of Taiwan was probably siding with Chun and saying she deserved to be cheated on, even before the wedding because of her despicable behavior. She thirstily drank down the whiskey.
Her eyes narrowed when Chun glanced over her way and then leaned down to kiss red-tinted lips hovering invitingly beneath his. Calvin’s vodka stood conveniently nearby, and looked surprisingly inviting. She gulped it down, taking a deep breath as the fiery liquid made its way to her stomach.
Who cared if she couldn’t hold her liquor? It was her engagement party. She could do whatever she wanted.
The rest of the evening passed in a mind-numbing blur. The rings were exchanged. The cake cut. And then she left his side, not wanting to be close to him for longer than she had to be. She ignored his voice calling out from behind her, wondering which one of his sluts he was calling for.
She could finally leave. She stumbled to the door, sure that no one would miss the bride now that the evening was winding down. And even if they did … she didn’t care.
She heard soft moans coming from the guest room.
Wondering if someone was in pain, she inched forward, peeking in the door.
Her eyes widened.
And then that same rage that had been building up inside of her exploded.
Her hands shook as she backed away silently, her eyes trained on the couple desperately making out against the wall.
The blonde slut.
And her erstwhile groom.
She didn’t need this.
Turning, she walked away.
I’m going under (going under)
Drowning in you (drowning in you)
I’m falling forever (falling forever)
I’ve got to break through
I’m going under
I can’t get married to Chun. He might be the father of my child, but I think that it would be better for all concerned if we don’t get married. He’s not happy, and from what I’ve seen, he’ll only make me miserable.
I’m going off for a while. Cancel all the wedding plans and I’ll come back when I come back. Don’t look for me.
P.S. Chun, if you’re reading this, fuck you!
His hands crumpled the paper, and he glared out at the cottage and the small figure sitting on the steps outside. She looked so small, so lost. His face twisted before he resolutely wiped all emotions away. She didn’t deserve his sympathy. She deserved nothing.
“Did you really think that you could run away from me?” he asked harshly, standing over her still figure.
“I hoped,” she replied in a dead voice. “Why can’t you leave me alone? Just pretend that nothing happened between us.” She pleaded softly, not holding out much hope.
“I was pretending just fine until you showed up and told me you were pregnant. You can’t get away that easily.”
“This is what you wanted! I did exactly what you wanted. You’re not happy. You don’t want to be married. Then why are we going through this charade?”
“You tell me. Isn’t this all your fault? I didn’t want to be with you, but now we’re stuck. We can’t change anything, so how would running off help?”
Ella blearily rubbed her eyes, not feeling up to this. The alcohol had given her the courage to run away, but it still hadn’t worn off. She didn’t feel clear-headed enough to confront him right now. Why was it that he always caught her when she was at her weakest?
“Leave me alone,” she pleaded, hunching her shoulders.
“Why didn’t you leave me alone?”
“It was both of us on that couch!” the alcohol gave her one last burst of energy. She jumped up and pushed at him, causing him to stumble down the stairs. “We had sex! Not just me. Why do you keep on blaming me?!”
“Why don’t you tell me about how it’s my fault too?” Chun jeered at her, grabbing her roughly by the shoulders. “How it’s my fault that I was ruining my life and Cassandra’s life by living the way I was. How I was so pathetic that you had to save me when you came back to Taiwan? Why don’t you tell me how it was my fault?”
“Chun, I …,” she pulled away, confused at the words spewing from his mouth.
“What? Why don’t you tell me how you pitied me! And how you would never love someone you couldn’t respect and you certainly didn’t respect me!”
“Chun, please … you heard that? The morning after?”
“I heard everything,” he said through gritted teeth. “You think you can pity me?” he growled the words at her. “You think you can feel sorry for me. You think I disgust you? You haven’t seen anything yet. I haven’t begun to show you how repellant I can be. And to think that I pitied you. I would never have been caught in your web if I hadn’t felt sorry for your pathetic life.”
“Chun, please, I was just saying that.”
“Then tell me … tell me why you slept with me.”
“Because I lo—because I lo—,” her face crumpled in the face of his disgust.
“YOU can’t even say the words. This is all your fault that we’re caught in this situation,” Chun said. “And you’re going to marry me, so that I can make sure you don’t go off half-cocked when you’re taking care of my child. I HAVE to marry you to make sure you don’t hurt my child.”
“Why? Why can’t you trust that I’ll take care of our baby? You don’t have to marry me to get access to the child. You can visit as much as you want. For a while there I thought that I did need your name for my baby … but now … now I know that it’s better if we stay apart. You said it … I did this out of … pity and so did you. So, why bother? Why bother getting married. Let’s just pretend that you didn’t find me. Let’s just cancel the wedding. Let everything go back to the way it was.”
“No.” The reply was short and sweet.
“Why not?” the words came from deep inside of her soul.
“I don’t trust you to not hurt my baby. I don’t trust you.” His hand latched around her arm, tight enough to bruise.
Ella froze, her breath catching in her throat. Her eyes flew up to meet his bleak gaze. The blood left her face, and the fight left her body. She stopped struggling.
He slowly began to drag her to his car.
Blurring and stirring – the truth and the lies.
So I don’t know what’s real and what’s not
Always confusing the thoughts in my head
So I can’t trust myself anymore
I’m dying again
I’m going under (going under)
Drowning in you (drowning in you)
I’m falling forever (falling forever)
I’ve got to break through
“I do,” his words were soft but firm in the church and the congregation sighed in relief. The story of her escape had made it into the papers and for a full week all eyes had been on the bride to see if she would do another runner.
Ella didn’t have the energy or the willpower to fight any more. Staring down at the white dress, she grimaced. Even in this Chun had gotten his way. She’d awakened this morning to find the black dress gone from the closet, only to be replaced by this atrocity.
It was white.
And it almost drowned her with its extravagance.
She had cringed when she saw herself in the mirror.
They were married. Turning to look at everyone, she knew that she was irrevocably tied to this man until he decided to let her go. What had she done that was so bad? So what if she’d wanted to help a friend, that didn’t mean she deserved his hatred. But even so, he’d decided she needed to be punished. And this was her punishment.
What had once been her dream was now a horrible nightmare.
All thanks to the man standing beside her.
The reception passed by in a blur. The families … the friends … all the acquaintances slavering over any hint of new gossip … everything passed by in a blur.
He wouldn’t let her touch a drop of alcohol, wanting her to be clear-headed for the night ahead. She winced whenever she thought about what new tortures he had in mind.
The food was hardly tasted.
The flowers … ribbons and other decorations barely appreciated.
Everything was a pain-filled blur. How could she enjoy anything when her heart was breaking?
The departure … the cans and decorations on the limo … were all witnessed from a distance, as if she was standing somewhere really far away and watching everything through a telescope. Every so often he would lean down to order her to smile and she’d make an effort. But everyone knew that it was all pretend.
He quickly entered the hotel room, his hands loosening his tie.
“Hello. Angela, what is it? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Okay. I’ll be right there.”
Hanging up, he abruptly moved to the door.
“Where are you going?” she asked, shocked at his actions.
“Angela needs me.”
“Don’t go,” Ella whispered. Her heart rebelled at the thought of him leaving. Even if this was a marriage that had begun in hell, it needn’t continue to be so. If they could make the effort … if they could start over tonight … she knew deep down that they could make it work.
“Don’t go. It’s our … wedding night,” she got out.
“She needs me.”
“I … what if I say I need you?”
“It wouldn’t matter.”
“She … she has Arron. Chun, please, if there is any hope for us … don’t go.” She stared down at her clenched hands, waiting for his response.
She heard the door click behind her. Whirling around, she saw that she was alone in the room.
He’d left. Their marriage meant nothing. She meant nothing. Their baby meant nothing.
There was nothing else to do.
Grabbing her suitcase, she moved toward the door.
Giving the empty room one last glance, she quietly closed the door behind her.
So go on and scream
Scream at me I’m so far away (so far away)
I won’t be broken again (again)
I’ve got to breathe – I can’t keep going under
I’m dying again
So, we got married and separated on the same day. That has got to be the shortest marriage in history. I don’t know why I expected anything more from Chun. But at least my baby had his father’s name.
And, I now know where I remember Angela from. The first time I met her, I felt like I’d known her from somewhere. And I finally realized over the past the few weeks where I’d met her.
It was over a telephone.
When I made that last desperate call to Chun’s Italian villa.
She was the woman who wouldn’t let me talk to him.
She was the reason why I …
I’m going under (going under)
Drowning in you (drowning in you)
I’m falling forever (falling forever)
I’ve got to break through.