Author's Note: I have nothing to say. Just enjoy. ;)
Chapter 14: The End of a So-Called Friendship
It was the quite possibly one of the most tragic silences that Kuki has ever endured. As if isolated from the rest of the restaurant, the table that she and Walter sat in was quiet and gloomy.
"I'm really sorry…" She said softly.
"Don't be," He responded kindly, "I understand."
Her lips curled into a subtle smile as she stared at the innocence in his eyes. She placed her hand on his. "You really are a great guy. I'm crazy for doing this…"
"Don't feel guilty. We had a good ten weeks anyway. Besides, we can still be friends."
"Is there at least anything I can do to make it up?"
He smiled sweetly at her. "Say the name of the reason why you're breaking up with me."
Her eyes widened with shock. The question was so unexpected that she broke into laughter, which ended immediately after she realized that he was serious.
"Come on, I know you have an answer," Walter teased.
"Walter, that's ridiculous!" She said.
He laughed a bit. "Let me help you out. I'm guessing it starts with a W, and it's neither me nor Wallace."
She said nothing in response, but her silence was enough to confirm the truth in his statement.
"Don't worry. I've known that for a long time now. I can tell from the way you look at him. And I can tell he cares about you too."
Though the guilt possessed every fiber of her body, Kuki was able to pull off a smile. "You really are amazing…"
This time, they both laughed.
Ten minutes later, they were out of the restaurant. Before they parted, they shared a good hug. Unlike the ones they had before, this one wasn't intimate. It was friendly.
Kuki stood alone on the sidewalk, staring at the town park before her. She looked to her left and right, at the two different paths that led to two different neighborhoods: hers and Wally's. She remembered that moment from two weeks ago, when she stood on that very spot with Walter, Katie and Wally. Particularly, she remembered how they bid each other goodbye, and how painful the farewell she gave Wally felt.
That was the last straw, she knew from then on. She couldn't take it anymore. She could no longer endure seeing the smile on Wally's face every time Katie made him laugh. Even more, she could no longer endure her own smiling face when Walter does the same thing to her. Eventually, she resolved to ending things with Walter. She figured that it was indecent to lead on a relationship with him when her feelings for Wally continuously persisted within her. And although she knew that ending her own happiness wouldn't change her chances with Wally, she knew it was the best thing to do. After all, despite the beauty of it, her perfect relationship didn't feel right. She and Walter were two right things making a wrong.
She started walking home. Halfway through the journey, she stopped again and found herself at an intersection, left with two choices: turn right towards Nigel's house hence the clubhouse, or keep walking straight to her home. Ten minutes later, she was walking through the side of Nigel's house and towards the clubhouse.
"What are you doing here?"
Kuki stood quietly in the doorway, startled by the unexpected greeting she received. She could've sworn that the clubhouse was going to be empty that day, knowing that everyone had something else to do. But to her surprise, Wally was up ahead, sitting on the couch and head turned looking back at her.
"What are you doing here?" She asked.
"I asked you first."
"I just wanted to hang out."
"Yeah, what about you?"
He was silent for a second. "Same thing, I guess…"
He turned away from her and leaned back, so much that his head rested completely over the arch of the couch. For a long time, he stared quietly at the ceiling. Seeing that the TV was off, Kuki had a hunch that he had been doing this for a while even before she came.
She awkwardly stood on the same spot, contemplating on what to do next. A part of her wanted to turn around and walk away. She didn't want to spend another awkward moment with Wally, especially just after her break-up with Walter. But then another part of her knew that it wasn't even an option to leave. She had already established her presence. What would he think if she left? She closed the door behind her and decided to face the tension ahead of her.
She settled down on the couch, keeping a certain distance between him and her self. Just as she expected, the silence was awkward and intimidating. This stretched on for a long period of time, which she spent trying to figure out what to say. Nothing came up. In the meantime, Wally didn't move a muscle.
Eventually, she reached the point of desperation and reached for the remote control. Before she could get a hold of it, Wally's voice sliced through the cold silence.
"I don't feel like watching TV right now."
She didn't hesitate to back off from the remote control. In no time, she was back to the silence of the room. More minutes passed by, each feeling like an eternity, before she was desperate enough to start talking about wrestling. She was interrupted before she could even start.
"How was your day?"
She stared at Wally and blinked a few times. He hadn't moved since she sat down and yet the words came out of him so swiftly.
"Did you hear me?" He said. This time, he finally turned to her. He looked puzzled (and annoyed) by her silence.
"Er…what?" She mumbled, hardly recovered from his first statement.
He sighed and stared back at the ceiling again. "I said how was your day?"
He sounded irritated and it didn't help her handle her verbal clumsiness. Nonetheless, she responded immediately. "It was okay."
"What did you do?"
"I had lunch."
"How was it?"
She thought of Walter. "…It was okay."
"Where did you eat?"
"At that place called 'Tony's'."
"That place isn't good. You shouldn't have eaten there. Their pasta is the worst I've ever tasted – "
He went on and on and throughout the conversation, she just watched him. He hasn't taken his eyes away from the ceiling at all, and he said everything in a blank tone, yet he didn't seem bothered by the awkwardness between them. He spoke comfortably.
" – and I know you like salads but don't bother ordering one from there. It tastes like crap. Next time you wanna eat out, just go somewhere else."
When he finally finished talking, the silence was on again. But after seeing how unaffected he was by it, Kuki found no reason to be uncomfortable anymore. Therefore, she leaned back on the couch, just like he did, and took her turn to start a conversation this time.
"So, where's Katie?" She asked, not knowing what else to talk about.
"She's out camping with her family."
"Oh. Is that why you're here? You don't have anyone to hang out with?"
"No. I haven't seen with Katie for six days."
"She went camping that long?"
"Then what is it?"
He was silent for a while, and the awkwardness slowly crept back in. It went on full blast as soon as he spoke again, "We broke up a week ago."
The awkwardness gleefully danced around Kuki's head, making her incapable of comfort and not knowing what to say next except for, "WHAT?"
He moved his head around slightly until a comforting sound of a crack came from his neck. He seemed aggravated again. But as he spoke, he never once looked at her. "It was last Sunday, just the day after we saw you and Walter. We decided to go running at the park. After a few rounds, we stopped to rest and we got to talking."
"That's when you broke up?"
"Yeah. She said it was the best thing for us since our relationship wasn't going anywhere."
Kuki replayed his words in her head. She didn't know if she heard him right. "Wait, so…she broke up with you?"
"Well I brought it up, but she was the one who officially ended it so…yeah. She dumped me."
"Oh…I'm so sorry."
"It's alright. It ended well. At least she didn't make a scene. When I broke up with Kathy, we were at the park and she screamed so loud that kids ran and cried to their moms."
An image appeared in Kuki's head. It was that day from weeks ago when she saw Wally with Kathy at the park. She remembers crying about it because she thought he had kissed her. Apparently, she was wrong.
"But I'm glad Katie was reasonable about it," He went on, "In fact, I kind of knew the whole time that she was right."
"What do you mean?"
"She wasn't wrong when she said we were going nowhere. We had fun together but we felt more like friends that an actual couple. Come to think of it, I never even kissed her. It would've been weird."
"Wow… I still can't believe it though. You guys were so perfect for each other."
"That's the hard part. I actually liked her."
Although she had brought the statement out of him, Kuki's chest tightened upon hearing his words.
"I felt so bad about messing things up with her that I wouldn't let her go until she let me make up for it."
"How'd you do that?"
He turned to her and showed a faded black eye on his left eye. "I let her punch me. I figured it would somehow redeem for my incompetence to her."
"That's a strange thing to offer."
"She didn't think so. She didn't even hesitate about it because she thought it was funny."
The image of Katie laughing at Wally's swollen eyes appeared in Kuki's mind. It wasn't hard to imagine and she ended up giggling herself. "I guess it worked out for both of you.
"Yeah, it did. She had fun with it while it made me realize that I really wouldn't be comfortable being with a girl who could punch as hard as I can. It all worked out."
"You two really are strange…"
"Well it doesn't matter," He said leaning back again, "It's over now."
And there was silence again. Just when Kuki thought that another eternity of awkwardness was to start, Wally saved her from it.
"How are you and Walter doing?" He asked.
She hesitated in answering. She didn't know if she was ready to tell anyone. Then again, he played his card. Now it was her turn. "We broke up."
He reacted the same way she did to his news, jolting up and looking at her. This time, it was her who didn't make eye contact. "When did that happen?" He asked.
"I was with him at 'Tony's', that's how we got to talking. But it was like you and Katie. It ended well too. He was pretty understanding about it."
"Why'd you break up with him?"
She sighed as she tried find a good alternative to telling him that he was the reason. "I guess it didn't feel right… I like him a lot, but he just wasn't for me."
"That's weird. I seriously thought you two were gonna make it. You get along so well. He's like you, except without boobs."
"I guess…" She giggled.
Silence followed their conversation again but it didn't feel awkward anymore. She smiled quietly as she was rather impressed by how well Wally conversed with her. The subtle jokes, the confidence, the charisma…they helped a lot. Therefore the newfound togetherness she felt with him helped her survive the next period of silence without difficulty.
It was a while before the silence was broken again.
"…Will you go out with me?"
She froze. They both did. The words he spoke lingered in the air and in their ears yet it couldn't seem to register.
"Wha…what…?" She asked, looking at him incredulously.
He gave out a deep sigh and finally sat up. He ran a hand through his hair, rubbed the back of his neck and fiddled with the torn whole in his pants; all gestures which Kuki recognized as signs of subliminal discomfort.
"I know it's probably too soon and too sudden," He said quietly, "But I've been thinking about it for a while now…probably longer than you think."
Kuki allowed herself some time to breathe before she was able to speak, "This is so…unexpected!"
"I know," He said, "But I just wanted to let you know before you end up dating someone else again."
He finally looked at her. Upon seeing his eyes, Kuki noticed something. His eyes were proud and masculine, just as she had always known. What she never realized until now is everything else that she had overlooked. They were fierce and intense, just like Wallace's, but also charming and innocent, just like Walter's. Most of all, they were sincere and caring, in a way that Kuki would say was unique only to him and his own way.
"I guess you don't have to answer now…" He said looking away. Though his voice was steady, he still sounded disappointed.
She continued to stare at him. Though she only the side of his head, she saw something very familiar about his expression. He was pouting, very much in the same way that little boy did so, in that photo next to her bed. But this time, he hid behind a teenager's face. Her heart melted at the sight of it, because only then did she realize that she had been sitting next to her best friend this whole time, not a stranger. And now he was offering to be more than that. There was only one answer in her mind and it made her smile.
"Wally," she said.
He looked at her with that same disappointed face, neither anticipating nor grieving.
"You were right about the food at 'Tony's'. It was terrible…"
He looked confused and didn't say anything.
She smiled even more. "Do you wanna go somewhere later? I don't wanna have dinner alone and I'm probably gonna need someone to finish my food if I can't do it on my own."
The disappointment on his face faded away, but it wasn't replaced by any sign of rejoice. Kuki didn't mind because she knew how he felt, judging from how his typically tough eyes softened. As if he noticed it, he looked away before he could expose more of himself.
"I'd like that…" He said quietly.
Kuki smiled to herself. She didn't mind his being reserved. It was typical of him. But then to her surprise, she felt something touch her hand. She looked down only to find his fingers laced around hers. She looked at him and saw that he was looking at her again. They smiled at each other. This time he didn't have his devilish grin. It was a sincere, thoughtful smile.
No longer feeling even a single ounce of tension, she scooted closer to him and welcomed his arm around her shoulders. Although they still felt as opposite as they can be, the awkwardness was gone. They were no longer in a so-called friendship. They've become something that they've wanted from the beginning. They were lovers.