"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..."
Everything fades into silence as she looks up at him. His eyes were beautiful but nothing in comparison to that of him, the sincerest emerald ones that she would never forget. He was the love of her life after all, still is, as she promised herself for as long as they both shall live. Funny how she managed to make that vow when she was here, standing in front of another man that will soon be her other half.
She told herself that she wouldn't cry because she shouldn't. It was her decision after all so she needed to be brave and suck it up. But how can she when her heart felt like it was being torn to pieces now that he wasn't here with her? Then she reminded herself why she was doing this in the first place. She closed her eyes and remembered him.
They were eleven when they first met. He was being picked on by bullies, an unwelcome routine that always had him go home with a bruise or a black eye and when he sometimes got lucky, both (that's probably why his dad had branded him with a nickname). She was having her casual stroll on the same playground, the one that her high-profiled parents would not happily approve of but with her persistence and a promise to not stray away from her bodyguards had them convinced to let her go even just for a little while. She was about to get her foil-wrapped popsicle when she noticed him, outnumbered but he managed, although barely. She rushed into his aid, her popsicle nearly forgotten when she threatened the bullies to leave him alone. She did nothing but a simple gesture to her bodyguards, letting them know what they would be facing if they would not disappear the moment she finished counting to five. He looked at her with wide eyes and a glimmer of amusement in his tone when he asked her why she did what she had just done. She just shrugged and told him that she just couldn't stand the idea of people taking advantage of others just because they want to or felt the need to. He was speechless for a while until she offered him her popsicle. He declined and told her that he was not a fan of sweets (or that he was just shy because he thinks he'd be taking too much from her if he were to accept the popsicle) and that he should probably just head home. She replied with a giggle and told him that it's okay and that she offered the popsicle for him to put on the already forming bruise on his cheek to somehow ease the pain. That's when he caved in, not because of her silly explanation but because of the way she's beaming at him and he knew he'd hate himself if he were to wipe that gleeful expression off of her angelic face. She carefully placed the frozen treat on his left cheek all the while examining the other cuts and bruises that had found a place on his face, a crease forming between her brows. He then decided that the worried look she wore suited her, it kinda made her look cute. He found himself staring, the cold sensation on his cheek was the only thing that kept him grounded.
"I'm Cait. What's your name?" When he didn't respond she tried again. And again. Until she finally brought him back to his senses by calling him a way-too-familiar nickname.
"Huh?! Wait, how did you know my-"
"No, no, no, no. Please don't say that it's your name. Because that'd be so-"
"No! It's not my name but it's what my dad calls me."
"Let me guess. It's because of this." She said while gesturing to the bruises on his face. "I didn't know getting into trouble was one of your hobbies." And she was giggling again and he decided that he couldn't get tired of hearing her laugh. It's like becoming music to his ears.
"Yeah." He sheepishly responded trying not to show the blush that's slowly creeping up his face.
"Well, I better go. I'd be dead if I don't get home soon. See you around, slugger!" She said while handing him back the now melting popsicle.
"Yeah. See you around, Cait." He dearly held the popsicle in his hand while watching her jog to the car waiting for her across the park. Then he decided to go after her and called out, "Hey, Cait! It's Barry, Barry Allen and I really hope to see you again soon." A small wave and a blinding smile was all her response before getting inside the lavish car of hers.
And no, he did not see her again soon after that though he kept on going back to the playground. The only reminder of their fateful encounter that day was the popsicle wrapper that he kept with him, meticulously placed between the pages of his favourite childhood book.
Years have passed and he was forced to grow up although not completely forgetting the pieces of his childhood (especially that one fateful day when he had met her). He still believed that they would still meet again, hopefully she has not forgotten him the way he was sure he had not. Because how can he? Even if wanted to he just can't. Yes, there were times that he wouldn't want to remember because he keeps telling himself that it was just a childhood crush, nothing more, nothing less. And it was silly of him to dwell on it too much because someday he would have to grow up and let go of the petty things that would not matter just as much as it did. He would have to pave way for the things that are yet to come, the things that would really matter. And who knows? Maybe he'll find someone like her, someone that is not a mere memory of the past, someone whom he can move forward with. It's what he always tell himself, what he always want to make himself believe but when the night comes and the ungodly hour was too cruel for him, he can't help but think about her and pray to the high heavens for yet another fateful encounter with her.
And maybe he has prayed hard enough in those years because little did he know that the heavens are yet to grant his wish.
It was his second year in high school when his wish had come true. Their adviser introduced a transfer student who he would recognize in a heartbeat. The same brown curls that graces every movement she makes and her big hazelnut eyes that were oh so expressive as they had remembered them were suddenly materializing in front of him. It was so surreal that he was left staring (yet again) at her with unbelieving eyes and quite embarrassingly gaping mouth. He was too oblivious to his surroundings that he didn't notice her taking the seat right next to him. It seemed that she recognized him too (because she also longed for this to happen just as badly as he did though she would not admit it out loud) and just like déjà vu she called him by his nickname to bring him back to his senses yet again.
"Slugger? Is it really you?" The amusement in her tone and a beaming smile she had was something she couldn't hide from showing in her features.
"Yeah. It really is me." His smile is cheeky and he tries hard not to show his overwhelming excitement by teasing her back with a, "Though I could clearly remember that I told you what my name was that day."
"I do remember. It's just that 'slugger' is a cute nickname. Suits you." She replies with that wicked grin of hers.
"So you're telling me I'm cute? I've gotta say, it's very straightforward coming from you. It would seem that you're so eager to make the moves on me, don't you think? It's just the start of the school year after all." Where he got the confidence to say that, he didn't really know. And it's kind of unnerving what her reaction might be but when she bursts into a peal of giggles, his worries were quickly flushed down the drain.
"You're funny. Don't worry I won't make my 'moves' on you. Like I would want to be involved with your hobby of getting into trouble, slugger. My parents would literally kill me if that happens."
"Hey, hey, that was ages ago. Couldn't a decent young man like me change?" She smiled at his use of the word decent.
"Yeah, maybe you can." Then she inched closer to his ear and whispered, "Though I like you better bruised and battered. Makes you look more manly." At that she winked at him and turned her focus to the lecture that was supposed to be the center of their attention with a grin still plastered on her face.
He was a loss for words and all he could think of was how mesmerizing her wink was even though he knows she was just messing with him. He's afraid he'd melt if she does that again. It took a while before he composed himself and a little more to focus his attention to the lecture rather than the brunette sitting gorgeously beside him.
When the last bell rang, he walked up to her and asked if he can walk her home. She asked him why and he just shrugged and replied with a, "Nothing. Just thinking if we could do some catching up, you know." When she just stared at him, he continued explaining. "I mean, it's what friends do right? When they haven't seen each other in a long time? I know it was just one time at the playground and it's probably nothing to you but-"
"-to me it's something you know. I really felt we had a connection back then and I thought we can be good friends if given the chance and I just couldn't explain why I can't stop thinking about you-"
"Yes, you can walk me home."
"Oh yeah right. Shall we?"
"Let's go. But can we take the other exit?"
"Uhm yeah sure."
She told him the directions to her house and that it was a solid 30-minute walk from school much to his surprise. When he started apologizing and insisting that they should at least take a cab, she just laughed at him and told him that she thought they were going to catch up (all the while emphasizing the words using air quotes) as friends. So instead of wasting their time together arguing whether to continue walking or not, he just decided to make the most out of it by getting to know each other better.
"So, no bodyguards today huh? And fancy car?" He asked, remembering the day he last saw her.
"Hmm. Actually, we sort of skipped past them." She said casually.
"We did what?" He looked at her with wide unbelieving eyes.
"Don't look at me like that. It's not like we've committed a crime."
"Wait. Are you seriously telling me that there was an actual bodyguard in an actual car waiting for you to come home from school?"
"Yeah sort of."
"And you didn't even inform them that you're actually on your way home? And now I'm guessing they're literally having a search party for you back there and they'll know that you're with me which will eventually get me into trouble and haven't I told you that I'm a changed man? That I'm more decent now and-" Before he can finish off with his nervous rambling, Caitlin put her index finger on his lips to silence him.
"Okay Barry, if you don't stop talking right now I'll be the one to make sure that you'd be in so much trouble." He raised his two hands up in defense, her intense glare seemed to be passing right through him. Seeing him like that, so adorably defenseless under her stare, made her turn into a fit of giggles. Giggles that quickly turned into full blown laughter as his face turned from that of an utterly frightened into a straight face frown when he realized that she was just messing with him.
"I so hate you right now. And I'm starting to think that being friends with you wasn't a good idea after all." He acted hurt and betrayed while crossing his arms over his chest in a very child-like manner.
"Oh do you now?" She quirked an eyebrow towards him.
"Yeah. And I think you'd be nothing but trouble for a decent young man like me." And he had this adorable pout plastered on his face and she couldn't do anything but laugh at his antics.
"Well, I'm so sorry to hear that. But just so you know, I already informed them of my departure, see? So you'll have nothing to worry about." She reached her phone out to him to let him see the text she just sent.
"Okay that's good. I didn't know you were such a badass, Ms. Snow." He winked at her wearing his proud smile.
"You have no idea, Mr. Allen." She smiled back at him.
"But you still owe me a proper apology." When she raised her eyebrow at him he continued. "For making fun of me and hurting my feelings." He dramatically said while pointing at his heart. She just rolled her eyes at him and said, "Okay, fine. I'm sorry Barry, will you forgive me?"
"Nope. Not like that. Not when you're about to laugh again."
"Fine. What do you want me to do?"
"Let me walk you home again tomorrow? But this time with the consent of your bodyguards or whoever is responsible." He had a hopeful smile on his face and it only widened when she agreed.
It had become their usual routine from then on, a strong bond of friendship was built with each passing day. And maybe, just maybe, it's something more than that.
It has been over a year of dancing around each other when he finally decided to confess his feelings for her. He thought that maybe asking her to be his date for prom and telling her his feelings on the same night would be cliché but he couldn't think of a better timing than that. So with a lot of fidgeting and nervous babbling together with her noticing how extremely weird he was acting that night (well, weirder than he normally is) he decided that it was now or never.
"Cait, there's something I want to tell you." He whispered into her ear while they closely held each other, swaying into the rhythm of the song.
"Yeah? There's something I need to tell you, too." She pulled her face away from his shoulder slowly so that she's meeting his gaze. Seeing the sparkle in her eyes with her words, he urged her to talk first.
"Since you look so excited to tell me, why don't you go first?" He said, giving her an encouraging smile.
"Okay, here goes. You remember the research paper that I've been working on? The one about cell mutation and stuff?"
"Yeah, the one that had you drowning in caffeine at night and turning you into a grumpy human being at day."
"Why, thank you for that very detailed description Mr. Allen." Her tone laced with much sarcasm as she can muster. "But that said paper has been highly recommended for consultation in a certain prestigious university. Now I want you to guess what university is that?"
He gave an exasperated sigh knowing full well what she's talking about but seeing her so excited and happy like this made him want to give in into her whims. "Hm, maybe it's the one that you've been eyeing since we reached our junior year?"
"Yes! The one and the same. Can you believe it? But that's not the best part." He swore that by this moment her smile had reached her ears literally, not that he minded though.
"Okay, what's the best part?" He asked, making her light up like a kid waiting to open her Christmas presents.
"Our research adviser talked to me the other day and he told me that if I decided to continue working on the paper until we graduate, I'll have a huge chance of getting a good recommendation for that university and if they were impressed with the outcome of the research, they might consider giving me a scholarship. Isn't that great?"
"Yeah, that's great." His voice didn't sound as cheerful as he had hoped. Of course he was happy for her but for the first time he felt like they weren't on the same page anymore. He wasn't the same young boy from before (whose hobby was getting into trouble according to her) and she wasn't either. A lot has changed in the past few years but still here he was, too absorbed in that memory, hoping that maybe the girl she met that one fateful day in the playground (whom he'd been crushing on ever since) would feel the same way about him too. It was silly of him to make love his priority in life when he can barely afford to go to school. He was too caught up with the idea that it was destiny that brought them back together and he'd be damned if he will ever let her go. Sensing that something is wrong with him she asked, "Barry, are you alright?"
"Yeah I'm fine. It's just that I'm really happy for you. But I seriously think that you won't be needing a scholarship, you're pretty well-off to begin with you know." He teased her to lighten the mood which she replied with a playful smack on the shoulder.
"You know I don't like it when you joke about that. Besides, I'm not wealthy, my parents are."
"Whatever you say, Cait. So going back with this research thingy, does it mean that you would be a slave to caffeine for one more year? My, I don't even want to imagine what kind of monster you will turn into everyday."
"You just had to remind me of that don't you? Now I'm starting to doubt if this is good after all. I wouldn't have a life anymore and I sure can't have any distractions along the way." She let out a heavy sigh and the cheerful expression she had moments ago is slowly disappearing.
"Yeah, that may be true. But Cait, you don't even have a life to begin with you know. So that's one thing you don't have to worry about."
"Hey, I do have a life. I study, I cook, I eat, I hang out with you and lots of other stuff."
"You just spelled out to me that you clearly don't have a life. Well, except for the part where you hang out with me because that's totally awesome." He said with that confident smile of his.
"Yeah right." She replied, giving him her famous eye roll. "Speaking of which, what were you gonna say to me?"
Deciding that maybe this isn't the perfect timing for confessing his feelings after all (which was clearly the opposite of what he was thinking a few moments ago) he just thought of saying the first thing that came into his mind. "It's nothing, really. I just wanted to remind you about..."
"About...the..the upcoming track and field competition next week. You're going to be there, right?"
"Of course, I'll be there. Didn't want to miss seeing you trip over your own feet now, do we?" She teased.
"Yeah right. Like that ever happened. So you'd be cheering for me then?" He asked with a hopeful smile.
"Being there is one thing but cheering for you? We'll that's another." She replied with a smirk.
"Aww. Come on, Caity. It would really mean a lot to me you know."
"Yeah? And why is that?"
'Because you really mean a lot to me and you being there would be my source of inspiration.' That's what he wanted to say but deciding against it he just shrugged and said, "Because it's the last one for this school year so it's really important for me. And I couldn't give my best if I don't see my personal mascot cheering for me up there, right beside the stairs in the third row, like she always did in each of my competitions. Wouldn't want to risk losing my scholarship for the last year, right?" He said trying his best to convince her with his puppy-dog eyes.
"Okay fine. But I'm only doing this for your scholarship. And for the record I'm so not your personal mascot."
"Oh but you are, Ms. Snow." His smile was too sincere she couldn't do anything but groan in acceptance.
"You're the best there is." He added which only made her tingly on the inside.
"I know." She smiled at him then buried her face on his neck trying to hide her crimson cheeks.
As they spent the night away dancing and talking about everything and nothing, he decided that this is where he wanted to be. He somehow knew, even before, that he's already hers, irretrievably under her spell. Although he believed that this wasn't the right time for them, he still hopes (and was so sure of it) that someday they'll find their way to be together. But for now, he'll just admire her from a distance, sneaking love letters into her locker while waiting for their inevitable someday.
It was the middle of their senior year and everything went as smoothly as he had hoped. Between sneaking his handwritten love letters and trying his best not to get caught by her together with him teasing her about this "secret admirer" of hers (which was totally him by the way and he only did the teasing part just so he knows what she thinks about his letters), everything seemed pretty much the same until one day when he encountered a problem in a form of a "he".
The last bell has just rung and he was waiting for her at the end of the hall, knowing that she's already done putting her things away in her locker as she usually did.
"So did your secret admirer left another one of his poetic love letters today? Or did he finally realize that your eyes were only set on-what did you call it the other day? Oh right, your baby, your baby thesis." He seemed confident on the outside but on the inside, he's dying to know what she thought of his latest masterpiece.
"Actually he did send me one today. It's pretty long but I think it's nice."
"Just nice? That's the best you can do? You could've said it was beautiful it almost made you cry."
"What's wrong with that? Nice is a good word to describe it. Why were you so nosy about what I think of his letters by the way? If I hadn't known better I would've thought it was from you." She said while narrowing her eyes at him.
"What?! Why would I even do that?" He quickly replied trying to play it cool. "Unlike him, I already accepted the fact that you were pretty smitten with your research paper and that your focus is with your future career and you clearly don't have time for love-"
"Okay, I get it. You don't need to be that defensive you know."
"I am not. I just thought that maybe you could've given him more credit with all his effort and stuff."
"I would've given him more if I hadn't set my eyes on somebody else." She replied with a playful wink.
"Do my ears deceive me or did you just say that you were eyeing someone else? My, my, who would've thought that the great Caitlin Snow would be into something as petty as love." By this time, he's practically screaming with excitement inside (though he tries his best not to show it) and the determination he had on the night of their prom is slowly coming back.
"For your information Barry Allen, I may be into everything that is geeky and nerdy most of the time but it doesn't mean that I don't do romance you know."
"Yeah? If that's so, can you tell me about this guy you've been crushing on?" He couldn't help the curiosity welling up inside him, silently praying that maybe, just maybe, it's his name that would tumble out of her mouth.
"Well, he's someone I've known-"
"Caitlin!" A dark-haired man leaning on his black Bentley called out to her as they were walking towards the school's exit.
"Ronnie? What are you doing here?" She said, slightly taken aback by his presence.
"I was wondering if I can drive you home. Your father told me that you refused to be escorted by your bodyguards and I don't think it's safe for you to go home alone."
"She's not alone alright." Barry who was just as surprised as Caitlin was (if not, maybe even a little more) decided that he couldn't take this anymore. Who is this guy by the way? He doesn't like the way he acts like he knew Cait better than he did.
"I didn't notice you're with someone, Caitlin." Ronnie told her while examining Barry from head to toe.
"Right, how silly of me. Ronnie this is Barry, he's a friend and Barry this is Ronnie, he's the son of my dad's business partner."
"It's nice to meet you Barry." Ronnie said extending his hand for Barry to shake.
"Yeah, you too." Barry replied returning the gesture. "But if you'll excuse us, Cait and I are going. Right, Cait?" He said grabbing Caitlin by the arm.
"Not so fast. Mr. Snow has entrusted me to take Caitlin home. So it's only wise that I'll be the one to drive her home. Trust me when I say that you wouldn't want to be in the receiving end of his wrath." Ronnie said taking hold of Caitlin's other arm.
"Aww, don't tell me you're afraid of a little scolding. I bet Cait's gonna be the one to protect you when the bad guys come." Barry teased earning a glare from Caitlin which he just shrugged with a seemingly innocent, "What?"
"Ronnie, can you excuse us for a second? I'm just gonna talk to Barry here." She smiled at him then dragged Barry to a safe distance.
"Okay, what's that about?" She asked waiting for a reasonable explanation from him.
"What? Nothing, I'm just trying to be friendly that's all." He sheepishly replied.
"We both know that's far from being friendly. Come on, spill it." She said giving him an all too familiar glare.
He groaned in response. Sometimes he doesn't like the fact that she knows him all too well.
"Fine. I don't like him, okay? Who does he think he is, barging in here and acting like he knows you better than I do."
"Barry he's just being nice. Besides, it's my dad who told him to come and take me home. It's not like he wanted to in the first place."
"Yeah like I would believe that." He mumbled to himself.
"What was that?"
"Nothing. I just said that your father can really be intimidating when he wants to."
"Yeah. I remember that one time you met him, you almost peed your pants." She laughed at the memory.
"I did not. I just don't think he likes me that much or anything for that matter. Plus, he's a total control freak."
"I know. Just imagine putting yourself in my shoes. Come on, you still have some apologizing to do." She said and was about to drag Barry back to Ronnie when he halted to a stop and asked, "What? Why would I even do that?"
"You were rude to him Barry and you know it."
"Haven't you seen the way he looked at me from head to toe? If that wasn't rude then I don't know what is."
"Barry, please, can you just-"
"No. I couldn't believe you're taking his side, Cait."
"I'm not taking anyone's side here, okay? I'm just asking you, for once, to humble yourself down and apologize so we can get this over with and go our separate ways in peace."
"You're actually letting him take you home, Cait?" He almost screamed at her with utmost disbelief.
"I have to, okay? I thought we've established the fact that my dad isn't a fan of disobedience. And do you think letting down his partner's son would please him?"
"Right. Use the dad card for all I care. You know what? You should've just told me that you like his company better than mine. Or better, you should've just said that he's the guy you've been crushing on instead of using your dad as an excuse again. To be honest, I'm getting pretty sick of that one." He knew all too well that he'll be regretting all these words that had just come out of his mouth. But when his emotions run high and all rationality has left him for good, he just couldn't stop pouring his feelings out.
"Where the hell did that come from Barry?! He was just driving me home, nothing more, nothing less." Now she's the one who's screaming at him. How it came down to this, she didn't even know. All she's certain of is that something's going on with Barry and whatever it was, it felt like it's been bottled up for quite sometime now.
"You know what, Cait? You're right. I'm sorry. It was stupid of me to think that maybe we had something going on here. I thought going home together was our thing. But the fact that you can easily replace me by someone else is a clear sign that you don't think the same way." He doesn't want to sound this childish but he couldn't prevent the strong sense of jealousy from talking.
"Barry, it's not like that-"
He held his palm up to her, letting her know that he wasn't quite finished yet.
"No, Caitlin. I get it. I'm sorry for being so caught up with the idea that we have this...thing, this special connection from way before we first met. I guess, deep down, I'm still that boy, the boy who would go to that playground everyday just to see if you had come back. The boy who would not let a day go by without thinking of you all those years ago. Then I saw you again and I can't help but believe that maybe we were meant to be together. But now I guess, I'm living in a fantasy, huh?"
"Barry..." She was a lost for words. Everything happened way too fast and it's just too much for her to take in.
"It's okay. You don't need to say anything. It's just a stupid childhood crush anyway." He gave her a sad smile and with one final look at her, he turned around and walked away. Maybe it's time for him to grow up, for real this time.
It's been weeks since her last conversation with Barry but the weight of his words still lingered like it was just yesterday. Could it possibly be true that he had developed feelings for her? Would it be crazy for her to assume that he's the one giving her those love letters? It would, only if her secret admirer hadn't stop giving her those letters the same time Barry had decided to give her the silent treatment. Even if he didn't talk to her after that, she decided she would give him time. There was a certain awkwardness floating around them whenever they were forced to be in the same room together and it didn't help that they were almost always seatmates. It's a good thing that semestral break had come and gone, it helped her sort out her feelings and thoughts for a while.
After days of debating whether she had given him much time or not, she decided to talk to him and get this over with once and for all. The cold shoulder he'd been giving her is just too much to bear (and the fact that she misses him didn't help either). So when she spotted him alone in their usual spot (or what used to be), she quickly approached him.
"Hey, Barry." She watched him tense up with her sudden approach.
"Hey, Caitlin. I was just leaving. You can stay here if you want-"
"No, Barry. I'm sorry but I can't let you leave. We need to talk."
"If this is about school stuff then-"
"It wasn't about that. I know you've been giving me the cold shoulder for weeks now and I tried to understand you by giving you some time but don't you think it's about time we settle this?"
"There's nothing to settle. We're fine where we are now Caitlin."
"Fine? You can't even look me in the eye, Barry. Can we just please talk about this?" Her eyes pleaded with him and she could only see the war going on inside him.
"What do you want me to say Caitlin? I thought I've said enough before and you seemed fine to not say anything in response back then." He spatted, making her wince as if she was physically hurt.
"I know and I'm so sorry for that Barry. It's just that it happened so fast and it's a lot to take in all at once. I've been thinking about it since then and I realized that you were wrong."
"You came all the way here just to tell me I'm wrong? You're really good at hurting my feelings, Cait."
"Just hear me out, okay? You're wrong when you said that it was just a childhood crush. Because if it was, then why couldn't I get you out of my head since then? Why would I never miss a single day without thinking about you just like you did? Why, after many years, I still hope to see you again? You didn't know what it felt like when I saw you again, I couldn't understand it either. All I know is that I'm happy. But with everything that's happening I know we weren't the same kids we were back then. We've changed and although we somehow found a place next to each other, I'm still in disbelief of how it really came to this. It's just too good to be true. You're too good to be true, Barry. Being with you is what completes me and it sometimes scary to think that maybe someday you wouldn't be there anymore. I'll be left broken and I-" She didn't realize he has closed the space between them, wiping away the tears that have escaped from her eyes.
"Shh, it's okay Cait. I'm right here. I'm sorry I haven't found the courage to tell you this sooner." He said as he held her in his arms, one hand cupping her cheek.
"I am hopelessly in love with you, Caitlin Snow." He said with as much sincerity as he can muster.
"I love you too, Barry Allen, with all my heart." She said drawing her face close to him inhaling his scent.
This was the moment they've been waiting for. So to make it more special, he leaned down to her capturing her lips with his for the first time.
END OF PART ONE