You Found Me
Chapter 1: Too Late
She sat in the dark room, staring out the window. Looking at the scene below, she thought back to the day she had decided to rent this apartment. The view. It was the view that had made the high rent worthwhile. Nothing … nothing could replace the feeling of being up so high, gazing down at the world below. Her nails bit into her palms. She hated this … she hated the lights … the sky … the feeling of being so far from him.
The phone rang behind her, pulling her out of her reverie.
“Hello,” she said unhappily into the phone.
There was silence on the other end.
“Let’s meet,” a voice on the other end said.
“Chun?” Her tone was hopeful. She couldn’t believe that he was calling. “Chun, is it really you?”
“Let’s meet,” he repeated.
“Yes, of course,” she gladly agree, her heart lifting for the first time in weeks.
“Do you know the fountain in front of the university’s psychology building?”
“Meet me there at 5:00 p.m.,” he brusquely said.
She nodded eagerly. “I’ll be there,” she promised.
“And Ella …”
“This is the last chance for us,” he grimly said. “If you don’t come … if you’re not there on time … then that’s it for us. I can’t … just be there.”
“I’ll be there,” she repeated. “Chun you have no id—“
There was a click on the other end.
There was no response. He had hung up the phone. Ella quickly put down the receiver and ran to get her sweater. It was 4:00 p.m. now. She had exactly one hour to get the university. Her heart was pumping with adrenaline. She had to be there.
Ella got on the bus, her fingers fiddling nervously with her earrings. The bus would take her to within ½ a mile of the university. She could run the rest of the way.
Chun had decided to give them a chance again. Her heart beat eagerly. She had known that he wouldn’t give up on them so easily … not with their history. They’d known each other for too long … they’d known each other so well. He wouldn’t just throw that away because he was angry.
Her thoughts drifted back to the day they had met.
Ella flinched as the next loud song began to play over the loudspeakers. She hated this! The noise, the bodies … the heat. Everything was pressing in on her. She just wanted to go home and sleep. She rubbed her forehead. She felt a headache growing.
“Do you come here often?” a voice said into her ear.
Ella jerked away and turned to glare at the man who had dared to invade her personal space. This was the 15th jerk of the night. She didn’t know how much more of this she could stand! Her eyes widened when she saw the gorgeous hunk standing before her. He flashed a smile at her. Her eyes narrowed when she realized that he expected her to fall at his feet. This was why she usually stayed away from these places.
“Go away,” she growled at him and turned back to her drink. “I’m not interested.”
There was a moment of shocked silence. And then the man cleared his throat.
“Can we start again?” he asked hesitantly.
She turned to glower at him. “Look, I’m pretty sure why you’re here … talking to me. You saw the woman I was with right? You want me to introduce you to her?”
“Woman? What woman?” He looked honestly bewildered.
“Okay. Do I look desperate? Is that it? You think I’ll be an easy lay?” She fairly barked that question at him, at the end of her patience.
He blushed fiery red at the words.
“No!” he protested. He took a deep breath. “Look,” he said, “I saw you sitting here. I was attracted by your chubby chipmunk cheeks, your sunny smile when you were putting male #14 into his place, and that fiery glow in your eyes.”
Ella’s eyes widened as she realized that this guy had had his eye on her for quite a while. “I …” she began, unsure of what to say.
“I thought that I could come over and introduce myself. If my luck was good, we could be friends. And if my luck was phenomenal … maybe this relationship could go somewhere. Besides, if I wanted an easy lay I’d have gone home with the umpteenth woman who hit on me or I would’ve gone after one of the drunk chicks on the dance floor. But you … you’re special, and I think you’re worth the effort.”
“I…” Ella stared at him. She opened her mouth to reject him, but something stopped her. Maybe it was the seriousness in his eyes … or the hint of stubbornness around his mouth … or maybe it was just how the hair fell over his eyes, making her want to brush it away … she didn’t know.
“My name is Ella,” she finally said.
“My name is Chun,” he replied.
“I’m a first year,” Ella said. “Studying English. I’ll probably go into law.”
“I’m in my third year,” he said with a smile. “Pre-med.”
He extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” she replied faintly.
Ella rubbed at the palm of her hand. She had felt the electricity spark between them that day. She could still feel the warmth of his hand.
She didn’t know why their relationship had stalled after that. For years they had danced around the issue of whether they would move beyond being just friends, but when they had … it had been worth the wait.
Ella got off the bus. Thanking the driver, she began to jog to the university. She knew she had to be there on time. She knew she wasn’t the best runner in the world … heck she wasn’t very athletic, but this was important. She had to get to the fountain.
Chun might have given her another chance, but she didn’t want to test his patience.
Chun was … Chun was her heart. And she couldn’t lose her heart. It would be hard to live without her heart.
Ella stared at the flowers strewn on the floor of the hallway.
“Chun?” she called hesitantly, moving down the hall. “Chun I got your message. I’m glad you called,” she said. “I’m sorry about the fight we had, although I still don’t know what it was about.” She was still puzzled about why they had been fighting. One minute she’d been out on a blind date her mother had arranged, and the next minute she’d seen Chun walking up to their table.
Before she’d had a chance to say hi or ask him what he was doing here, he’d tried dragging her away. When she’d protested, her date had stepped in and tried to intervene. Ella cringed, thinking back to what had happened next. Instead of calming down or backing down, Chun had poured her drink over her date’s head. Calvin had gone home angry. She’d gone home bewildered.
And Chun had ended up being angry at her!
“Am I interrupting something?” she asked nervously, when she stepped into the room. She saw the bouquets of flowers placed around the room. The scented candles. The dim lighting. “Where are you? You know I have night blindness. I can’t see you. What kind of game are you playing?” she demanded, frustrated now.
“How long have we known each other, Ella?” Chun asked from the shadows.
“Two years,” she replied. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
“Why have you never looked at me?” he demanded.
“I look at you all the time!” she exclaimed.
“I mean why haven’t you looked at me as someone you could love?”
“Because you’re a womanizer,” she promptly replied. “You look like a God. You’re not ready to settle down. You don’t have those kinds of feelings for me. And we’re just friends.”
“My reputation is exaggerated. I don’t date as many women as you and the rest of the world believe.” He blew out one of the candles.
“If I look like a God, then you’re a goddess.” He blew out another candle.
She blushed red at the compliment.
“I was ready to settle down two years ago,” he continued, blowing out a third candle.
“Two years ago …”
“When I met the woman of my dreams. The only woman I could ever see as my wife.” The fourth candle winked out.
“Wife…?” Her voice trailed off.
“I want to be more than friends.” The final flame blinked out of existence.
It was really, really dark. She hated the dark. She jumped slightly when she felt a soft touch upon her lips. “I love you,” he whispered softly into her ear.
There was a moment of tense silence. She could feel him holding his breath. She raised a hand and placed it gently against his cheek. He leaned into the caress.
“I love you, too.”
Ella huffed heavily, as she continued to jog toward the university. Her hand briefly came up to touch her lips. That first kiss … the memory of that barely felt kiss … had gone all the way to her heart and lodged there.
He had been the sweetest, most romantic man she had ever known.
When had it all changed?
It was another kiss that had changed it all.
It was getting harder and harder to breathe. She didn’t know how much farther she could go. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to close out the sun, and tripped over a rock she hadn’t seen on the ground.
Her ankle wrenched. She gasped as she fell to the harsh, unforgiving ground. Her elbow scraped against the asphalt. She gasped once more when she moved her ankle. Staring at the appendage, she felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. She knew … she just knew … it was sprained.
“Why were you with her?” she asked angrily.
“How many times do you I have to tell you, Ella?” he asked tiredly. “She’s my lab partner. I had to stay late and work on a lab report.”
“In her apartment? Why not the library?”
“She had left all her notes at home. Why can’t you trust me?”
“Because you lied! You said that you would be at the library. You said that you would be a group of people. You said that you would meet me at the club and you didn’t show up. And … I saw you that night, Chun,” she said painfully.”You were so intimate … sitting so closely together.”
“We’re just lab partners. There’s nothing between us,” he said tiredly, rubbing his eyes. “Nothing. Trust me, Ella.”
She looked away, her hands clenching. “Why, Chun?”
“Why did you kiss her?”
He stared at her.
“She kissed me. She made a mistake.”
“But you didn’t pull away, Chun. Why?”
“It was a mistake, Ella,” Chun repeated. “I set her straight. It happened so long ago. Why can’t you let it go? I know you have a problem with me seeing her,” he said. “I don’t want to get in a fight with you. She’s my lab partner now. There’s nothing going on between us. Why won’t you believe that?”
“If … if I asked you to stay away from her … if I asked you to stop being her lab partner, would you do that for me?” she asked hesitantly, tears trickling down her cheeks. “Maybe … maybe what I’m feeling is just due to my own feelings of insecurity … but I’m asking you to please … stay away from her.”
There was a beat of silence.
She flinched at the harsh refusal. She pulled the ring off her finger.
“Then … maybe we should break up. We should end this engagement,” she finally said. He whirled around to stare at her. “This isn’t working, is it? How many fights like this have we had in the past year? Ever since … if you hadn’t … why did you break my trust? Everything … everything has been tainted by that one incident.”
“I have to go,” she said quietly. “I’ll … I’ll see you around.”
Her foot throbbed as she walked up the hill. Her breath came in short bursts. It was only a little further. Just a little further.
They would talk this out.
He would explain.
And she would understand.
And then … they could be together again.
The light had turned red. Chun was only a few yards away. But the light had turned red. She stared up and down the street.
She turned to look behind her. There were pedestrians … but no one near enough to stop her. No one to report her.
She then checked the street once more.
Darting out onto the street, she swiftly began to make her way across the intersection. Just a few more yards.
She heard the screech of tires behind her … a dull thud. And then the sound of a car revving away.
Ella glanced back. Her eyes widened when she saw the body on the road. She started to go back, but then shot a quick glance at her watch.
Chun was waiting. Ella stared at the body. It lay unmoving. Resolutely, she turned away.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured to the person lying behind her. “I need to go. I’m sorry.”
Turning, she raced toward the fountain.
Ella raced as fast as her sprained ankle would allow. She smiled happily when she saw that Chun was still waiting. She came and flopped down beside him on the bench.
“I’m so glad that you’re still here,” she said with a smile. “I was so happy when you called. Oh, Chun, I don’t want to break up. I love you. I do. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard for me to forget what happened with that girl.”
She waited for him to speak. There was only silence.
“I understand now that it wasn’t your fault. She actually explained everything to me, but at the time, you have to admit that it didn’t look good. She’s actually very nice.”
There was no response.
“I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”
He ignored her.
He turned to look at her irritably. He then mumbled something, but Ella heard the word ‘late’ clearly.
“I know that I was five minutes late,” she said breathlessly, “but it was because I tripped over a rock. Look at my ankle,” she urged him. He ignored her swollen ankle.
“Chun? I’m sorry …” she began hesitantly.
He began to dial a number on his phone.
“Where are you?” he barked into the phone. “What? … I’ll be right there.” He got up, ignoring her.
“Chun? Where are you going?” Ella couldn’t understand what was happening. Chun was walking away. He was walking away!
“Chun, please,” she began hopelessly. “Please. I was only five minutes late.” He began to move away.
The sun had begun to set. As twilight slipped slowly into night, the last view Ella had, before her night blindness obscured everything, was the view of his figure moving rapidly away from her.
All was silent … save for the soft sobs of the lone figure sitting on the bench.
“Chun.” It was a soft cry, straight from the heart, heard by no one.
Chapter 2 : What Hurts the Most
Chun sat on the bench waiting. It seemed that he had spent half his life waiting for Ella, but that was a personal choice he had made. And even now he didn’t regret one minute of that time. Because he knew that at the end he’d find Ella waiting for him.
He slipped a hand into his pocket and brought out her picture. She was smiling her special smile … the one she reserved only for him. Her eyes twinkled … not only was she happy, but her eyes said she was in love and she wasn’t afraid to show it to the world. His fingers traced her features, yearning to feel her soft skin once more.
Chun closed his eyes, closing out the outside world. The act left him alone with his inner thoughts of the past …
Of when he had first met her. His Ella.
“Who’s that sitting over there?” Chun asked a buddy, staring at the short pixie sitting at the other end of the bar.
“Who?” Bobby asked, staring blearily.
“That woman sitting at the end of the bar,” Chun replied impatiently, pointing.
“Oh, that’s Miranda. She’s the belle of the campus. It’s every guy’s hope and dream to go out with her, but she turns most of them down.”
“I can see that,” Chun replied, wincing when he saw the 13th guy get turned down by the beauty.
“I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on that,” Bobby muttered. “But I’ve already been shot down twice. Even when I used her friend the second time and got an introduction that way, Miranda still turned me down. I thought I had her … I was already dreaming of running my hands through her long chestnut locks,” he murmured dreamily. “My arms were aching to wrap themselves around her … but she turned me down flat.” His tone was mournful.
“Long chestnut locks? Who are you talking about?” Chun turned to stare at Bobby.
“The girl you’re interested in,” Bobby retorted, nodding to the end of the bar.
“I’m not talking about the wanna-be model,” Chun said impatiently. “I’m talking about the girl next to her. The one with the beautiful smile.”
“The short chipmunk?” Bobby asked.
“Ye-no! She doesn’t look like a chipmunk,” Chun insisted. “But yeah, her,” he confirmed after a pause.
“Oh that! That’s Ella.” Bobby said, nodding sagely. “That’s the friend that all the guys approach when they want an in with Miranda.”
Chun watched the 14th guy being rejected and wondered if he even stood a chance. But then his jaw squared in determination and he began the march over to her … he would never know if he didn’t try. And he had never been a quitter.
Chun started as he felt water drops falling on him. His eyes flew open and he saw the fountain had been turned on and the wind had caused droplets to fall on innocent bystanders. He wiped the drops away.
He ran his fingers through his hair and he lightly slapped his cheeks. Now wasn’t the time to fall asleep.
They’d had their first conversation after that. And while she’d been prickly at first, they’d soon become friends. He laughed softly when he remembered how clueless Ella had been. Whenever he tried to make the moves on her, she’d misunderstand. She always thought that he was making a gesture of friendship. It had taken her a long time to realize that he was in love with her. In fact, she hadn’t realized it … not until he’d strewn flowers in her path and kissed her.
He loved her so much. But she’d always been insecure about herself.
They sat in the lab room, writing out their final report. He gently corrected Julia when she made another mistake in the calculations, pointing out to her that she had switched the values once again.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, staring at his partner. Julia was a genius and he was lucky to be her lab partner, but today she was making mistakes like a first year.
“Nothing’s wrong,” Julia nervously replied. She quickly got up and began to move around.
“What’s the matter?” Chun asked, alarmed at her behavior. “Tell me if there’s anything I can do,” he instructed, reaching out to grab her hand.
Julia stared down at his hand on hers, and then looked into his eyes. Her gaze implored him silently.
“What is it?” he repeated gently, silently urging her to unburden herself.
“I love you,” she whispered suddenly.
He reared back in shock, his eyes widening as he saw the hidden pain in her eyes.
“I love you, Chun,” she repeated insistently. “Why do you have to be so nice … so intelligent … so compassionate … so handsome,” she asked hopelessly. “Why do you have to be so perfect?”
“Julia, I don’t know what to say,” he finally murmured. For the first time he became aware of how alone they were in the lab room. Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea.
“Why do you have to be taken? What’s so special about Ella? She’s short … of average beauty … average intelligence,” Julia demanded petulantly, her lips curving into a pout. Suddenly, she stepped forward and placed her lips against his, desperately seeking some sort of response from him.
Chun stiffened, unable to believe what was happening. How had the situation gotten so out of hand? He frantically tried to think of a way to gracefully out of this situation. Reaching up, he began to push her away.
“Chun!” The cry came from the open doorway. The voice was filled with pain. “How could you do this to us? And with Julia? You told me …”
Chun froze. The one person he wouldn’t have hurt for the entire world … the only person who could have been hurt by this … and she was standing at the doorway, a witness to this travesty.
“Ella,” he murmured, roughly pushing Julia away.
“Don’t go!” Julia cried out frantically, clutching at him. Her grip was strong with desperation. “Don’t go, please. If you go … I don’t know what I’ll do. Please, Chun,” she begged.
Chun helplessly watched Ella run away, tears streaming down her face. Turning, he glared at Julia. His eyes softened when he saw the pain in her eyes. He sighed softly. Ella would understand, he silently consoled himself. Right now, he needed to make Julia understand that there could never be a future for them. He needed to let her down gently.
Chun stared at the engagement ring in his hand. He’d gone to the jewelry store with Miranda, her best friend, just so he could get the perfect ring. This ring would symbolize their love for eternity and he needed it to be perfect. He’d had it inscribed with a simple inscription … “Chun Ella Forever.” Nothing more needed to be said.
Ella had tried to understand. She’d tried to forgive him for the kiss, but his decision to remain behind and confront Julia’s feelings instead of going after Ella had seriously hurt their relationship. He could see the doubt in Ella’s eyes whenever he glanced into them. When Julia kissed him, things changed. The incident happened two months into his engagement with Ella. They’d loved each other. He knew that. She knew that he loved her. He’d gotten far too complacent with his emotions.
He hadn’t realized that their love hadn’t really been tested until that kiss.
His fingers clenched around the ring, forming a fist. He’d never realized that Ella was so insecure. Ella could never understand why Chun could love someone like her. He still wondered to this day why she doubted her own attractions.
More than anything he’d wanted her to understand … he’d wanted her to see … she was his heart.
Living without her …
“Why does she always have to be so late?” Chun muttered to himself, staring irritably in the direction of the school entrance. Even when you tell her not to be late, she can’t get here on time, he thought to himself. This was their fourth fight … and the fourth time they’d broken up.
He was tired of this cycle.
Ella refused to believe him, no matter how much he explained that it hadn’t been his fault. It wasn’t his fault that Julia loved him … but Ella had tried and convicted him and now he was being punished. How could he stop being Julia’s partner … she had asked him for time … she had begged him to continue being her lab partner and Chun didn’t want to hurt her anymore. It made him feel guilty.
He frowned. Why didn’t Ella understand that he was only doing this out of pity? He had no feelings for Julia.
If Ella didn’t make the effort this time … his fingers clenched around the ring … then maybe it was time to end it completely.
He picked up his cellphone and began to dial her number.
“Where are you?” he barked into the phone.
“I’m sorry, who’s calling?” a strange voice replied from the other end. “I’m afraid sir that the carrier of this cellphone has been in an accident. A hit and run.”
“What? … “ Chun rasped out.
“We are taking the young lady to the university hospital,” the voice continued.
“I’ll be right there.”
Chun quickly got up, his heart racing. Ella. Ella had been in an accident. He began to run, his thoughts only on reaching her. He hadn’t even thought to ask what her condition was.
The sky slowly darkened around him … the sun was setting. He only hoped … he prayed that Ella was okay. She had to be okay. She was his heart … his light. Without her … all would be perpetual darkness.
The sky turned dark … the moon came out. The only sound … his harsh breaths and the slap of his shoes against the unforgiving asphalt.
Ella would be okay, he comforted himself.
She had to be okay. She had to be. Had to be.
Because … how could he live without his heart?
Chun’s hand trembled as he pocketed the engagement ring once more. His placed his old, wrinkled hands on his knees. Tears filled his eyes as he allowed the memories to flow through his mind once more. The memories he allowed himself to remember only once a year … on the day that Ella had died.
He looked at the fountain, at the university building behind him, and then stared in the direction of the school entrance. If he hadn’t told Ella to meet him here … if he hadn’t insisted that she be on time … if he hadn’t threatened her with the end of their relationship … she’d be alive today.
Yes, he had regrets. Many regrets.
It had been 40 years since that day … the day he had arrived at the hospital … sick with fear … only to find that Ella had died at the scene of the accident. He hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye. No final words … no chance to say ‘I love you.’
Chun’s hands clenched. The driver had mercilessly left Ella lying there in the middle of the street … alone and in pain. He wiped the tears from his eyes. Old age had made him more prone to getting emotional.
Yes, he had regrets. But he never regretted loving Ella … he never regretted in choosing to live with his memories rather than settling for a lesser love … he never regretted that Ella had entered his life.
Someone sat down beside him, bringing him out of his reverie. He tried to ignore the person, wanting to be left alone with his gloomy thoughts.
“I’m so glad that you’re still here,” a voice happily said.
Chun froze at that tone … that cadence … that rhythm. It was similar … too similar to hers.
“I was so happy when you called.”
Chun slowly turned to gaze at the figure sitting next to him, his heart beginning to beat rapidly in his chest.
“Oh, Chun, I don’t want to break up. I love you. I do.”
Chun gasped silently, his eyes widening at the vision in front of him.
Ella, he whispered silently.
“It’s just that sometimes it’s hard for me to forget what happened with that girl.”
“Ella,” he murmured, reaching out to touch her. She was so achingly beautiful. She glowed with happiness. She smiled her special smile, leaning in to give him a quick kiss.
“Chun,” she said happily, bringing up a hand to cup his cheek. “Thank you for giving us another chance. I promise,” she whispered, “You won’t regret it.”
He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly to him. “You came.” His words were a litany. “You came. You came.” His voice broke. Burying his face in her neck, he tried to catch his breath.
“Of course I came,” Ella gasped out, her words leaving her in a rush as he increased the pressure of his arms. “You called, I came. How could I not? After all, that is what love is, right?”
The sun began to set slowly in the sky, the world darkening around them.
“You look so wonderful today,” Ella muttered shyly, blushing. “It’s like I haven’t seen you for a long time.”
“You can see me? Even with your night blindness?” Chun said, nodding at the darkened sky.
“Yeah,” Ella said bemusedly. “For some reason that’s not a problem anymore. Let’s go.”
Chun got up unquestioningly. She had come to meet him. She’d kept her promise. And he would go with her. Wherever she lead.
Grabbing his hand, she began to pull him away. “You know I almost thought I wouldn’t make it … I sprained my ankle on the way. But it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
“Really?” Chun asked with interest, tugging her close, so that her body rested against his.
Their voices gradually faded in the night as they moved farther and farther away.
All was dark. There were no sounds, except for the sounds of crickets playing their music in the night air.
No one remained.
Except for the lone figure of the old male on the bench, seemingly in slumber … a peaceful smile on his lips … his cold hands wrapped around an engagement ring and a picture of a young, smiling girl.