It's been a week in school and she never came across a text, e-mail, a smile or any sign that could possibly make her believe that he still thought of her. The whole week has been torture – a rip-out-her-heart-and-stab-an-open-wound kind of pain that cursed through her body. Because what's more painful than the scene she caught Tk and Karyl in, was the sight of the two coming to school together, and she's been seeing it with her own eyes in the past couple of days. It did her more emotional damage than reminiscing the memory of what used to be.
She hated how she felt. She hated how pathetic she was because deep down inside, he still affected her. Everything he does affects her. And as much as she hates to admit it, she was still in love with him and it made all the drama more painful because she can never ever get over him.
Her thoughts travelled far away as she sat there on the swing, gently rocking herself to and fro in lithe movements. The park was just three blocks away from her place and it was the best place to think. And since it was a Monday afternoon, the park was clear as day. At least it gave her a few amount of time to actually sort out all these emotional turmoil going on.
She heaved out a long and heavy sigh.
The voice alone made her heart stop. It was the voice she knew too well, the one that haunted her dreams, the only sound that soothed and at the same time stressed her to her limits. She didn't dare turn around to face him because if she did, all rationality would jump out the window.
"Can I sit?"
She didn't even say a word but he let himself sit down the swing beside her, but he faced the opposite direction. She couldn't bring herself to look at him because his mere presence alone made her heart swell in all corners.
"I know I'm the last person you ever want to see again but I need to explain. Please hear me out. I just want at least a minute of your time, Kari," he started softly with almost a tone of desperation.
When she didn't reply, he took it as a sign to continue everything he had to say. Truthfully, she was just exhausted. Really really exhausted of all the hurt, the drama, the feelings. She just wanted to breathe clear fresh air and leave all the stress, put it all behind her back and move on. But could she really?
"Kari…" he sighed heavily before starting. "I messed up really really bad. I know that, and I wish everyday I could just go back and undo all the stupidity I've done.. but I couldn't and everything's catching up to me now." He started to become ashamed of what he was about to say next. "I was dating Karyl before I met you. I thought I was in love with her. At first we really had a good time hanging out together – she'd teach me how to have fun and laugh, and well, yeah, she… she made me use her to let out steam." He now covered his face with his palms out of embarrassment.
"But later on, she became clingy and bitchy. She complained a lot, asked for things I couldn't give her. She hated that I'm always on training, she said I didn't give her enough time but in truth, I invested my attention on her when I wasn't dealing with basketball. And it came up to a point when I was really fed up with all the crap she gave me so I broke it off with her. She didn't take it too well but I moved on. And then I met you.." A smile lit on his face when he talked.
"I saw you up there in the bleachers in the gym, and I couldn't take my eyes off you. You were so concentrated that your eyebrows knit in the kind of way that made you look so cute and I couldn't help it. When I knew my brother was going over to your place to hang with Tai, I took that opportunity. I wanted to know you. I wanted to be your friend… I don't know why but there was something about you when I saw you there in the gym. After everything, all the time we spent together hanging out, it was like seeing you for the first time. You lit up my world. It made basketball more meaningful for me… there came a purpose to why I was playing. And everytime you're up there in the bleachers during a game, I couldn't help but feel like there's somebody who actually cared – who cared with what I do, who supported me with what I love. And everytime you wait for me after a game, there's no one else I wanted to go home to. You're my home Kari. Ever since I met you, I was just so… happy. Everything was at place, peaceful, fine. And when I looked at you in the passenger's seat of my car, all dripping wet from the time we messed around under the rain, you were sparkling… so beautiful and bright. At that moment, I realized.. it wasn't something about you. It was everything about you. For the first time, I felt something I never did before. I fell in love."
"Kari, you mean the world to me. And I couldn't forgive myself knowing that at some point, I hurt you. I'm the reason you're feeling all these kind of pain and I wish I could just take you away from it all. But it's my fault you're feeling this way. It's my stupidity that put you through this. Karyl's pregnant and it's all my fault. As much as I don't want to, I have to be there for her, for the baby. I messed this up and I have to face my responsibilities. I'm really really sorry Kari."
His confessions struck her more than she expected. She never thought he'd tell her all these things because in the first place, she never expected anything from him. She never expected him to fall in love with her as hard as she did for him. He never expected him to becoming his friend in the first place. He never expected him to kiss her in the parking lot for the first time… But everything just fell into place, and she just couldn't help but fall in it too.
"It was a blow to me when she said she was pregnant. I didn't want to believe it, I told her she was liar… but it all made sense. I didn't do anything with her then but screw her," he gave out a bitter laugh.
She didn't know what to say. She couldn't utter a word because he managed to freeze her again. Even before, he'd always have this ability to make her heart stop, to make her stand still, to forget what she was about to say or do.
"Please say something Kari. I know I hurt you and I don't deserve any of your time or concern but please tell me something.. anything," he pleaded and stared at the side of her face.
After a few moments of silence and anxiety, she asked softly. "Do you love her?"
She still didn't want to look at him.
"No, Kari, I don't. It's always been you. Will always be you."
"But you won't be with me?" she asked again.
The look on his face was a tragedy. It all came to choosing between facing up the responsibilities and consequences of his actions and being with her.
"I want to Kari. Believe me, it's only you that I want. But you have to understand, I have responsibilities.."
"So it's between me and Karyl with your baby. That's a lot to compete with," she let out a bitter laugh, but she couldn't contain the teardrop the fell down her cheek. "Or maybe there isn't any competition anymore. It sounds like you've made up your mind."
"Kari, please don't. I don't feel anything for her, you know that. I am in love with you," he sounded desperate.. desperate of her love. Of her.
"Do you even know what you want Tk? Because you sound so desperate of me not leaving you. It's really simple you know. Me or her and your baby. Or maybe it isn't that simple, maybe I'm just so selfish because… because I'm still in love with you. Because I love you and I want you all to myself. Because I don't want anybody else, any woman to have you. Because I don't want to share you. So forgive me for being so pathetically inlove with a person who can't make up his mind."
She wiped the tear that now streamed down her face and faced him with all the dignity that's left in her.
"Kari...," he tried to say something, all looks of tragedy etched on his face.
"What? You don't know what to say don't you? Because apparently, love isn't enough. Because if it were, then what the hell are we fighting about? If love really isn't enough, then what good is it? If it's not gonna solve this problem between us, or rather, your problem… then might as well admit that we're a disaster. Because I don't think there's anything in this damn world that's gonna fix us. So please Tk, stop prolonging the inevitable and make a goddamned decision. I'm not waiting forever.."
"You might as well cut through the crap and decide. Then at least if you don't pick me, I could cry a whole damn river before moving on with my life. Because if you give anything more to hold on to – a hope that maybe you'd one day go back to me – I'd just be more of a mess than I ever was. So please, give both ourselves a favor and decide."
She inhaled heavily from all the strength she was spending on letting out all the matter she wants concluded, on putting up her feelings and insides in display.
"But Tk, I really really want you to choose me. Pick me. I'm in love with you and you love me too. If life were this simple, I just want us to be together and be happy. But I know it isn't. And I know I'm up against something bigger than any kind of love can ever fight to. But here I am, pathetic and desperate, trying to win you back, to persuade you to love me and choose me."
For a brief moment, she just stopped talking and watched his ever torn face look back at her. And they looked at each other like it was the last time, like it was the last moment she could ever see his face. It was the ultimate ending to the story of how they bared their hearts and stripped naked their real feelings and vulnerability to each other.
He took her face and gently wiped the tear on her cheek with his finger. Carefully, he inched closer and she closed her eyes. That moment, she felt his lips pressed against her in a soft, chaste movement. The way he kissed felt like a goodbye. He didn't have to say it through words, but the motion of how he brushed his lips against hers told everything. He sucked her lower lips like it tasted as juicy as a fresh orange. She gave in to him, in that fleeting moment of intimacy, when he pushed his tongue inside her mouth. She did the same and their tongues danced in a slow and sad rhythm while she held him on the neck. They prolonged the kiss, lips lingered a little longer than they intended because the deepest part of her heart and rationality whispered that this could be her last. And as the realization sank in, her uncontrolled sob burst and she pulled away from the kiss. She cried against his neck, cried out all the tears that she's been keeping since their conversation began.
He held her then and rubbed her back in a soothing way. But as soon as she kept her tears at bay, she pulled back, heaved a sigh and looked up the sky to keep herself from breaking down again.
Then she spoke with all that's left of her confidence looking straight at him. "I'll be at the café until the end of the night. If you decide to choose me, meet me there."
Without a smile or goodbye, she stood up from the swing and walked away, with her heart impaired, emotions wrecked and self-worth battered.
The rest of the day was shitty. Monday morning was already an emotional sabotage for him and training the whole afternoon didn't get his mind off the matter. The whole time he did push-ups, sit-ups and jogs, he was thinking if he should show up. Dammit, he wanted her so badly, loved her irrevocably, no questions asked… but his responsibilities, his baby.
The baby Karyl was carrying is his and he has duties as a father to uphold. He didn't want the child to grow fatherless because he loved someone. He couldn't do that to someone so innocent. He can't take out his short comings to his own flesh of a child. He committed mistakes and he has to pay for them. But to pay for them for life… he didn't know if he can do it. Yes, he can be a father, but he knew he can never be the man for Karyl when right now, he's pretty damn sure where his heart lies to rest.
Can he do it? Leave his child behind for Kari? If he did, the guilt would eat him alive. To actually think of it everyday - that he chose to walk away from Karyl, from a child who needed its father – was worse than the feeling of self-condemnation.
But if he chooses to stay, will his child ever understand the kind of father he is when it comes to an understanding that he never loved his child's mother? If his child asks him if he or she was an accident.. How could he respond to that?
He really did screw up on this one, big time. And it cost him the love of his goddamned life.
The sound of a blowing whistle halted his train of thought when Coach yelled a five-minute break. He took out his water jug from his sports bag and replenished his thirst.
"You okay? You seem off today," Kouji spoke beside him while wiping his sweat with a clean towel.
Tk sighed. "I talked to Kari this morning."
"Oh?" Kouji said in surprise. "What did you talk about?"
"Things…" he sat down and twisted his head left and right. "Everything that's so messed up right now. Dude, he made me choose between her and the baby. I have until midnight."
"Shit," Kouji whispered. "Whatcha gonna do?"
"I don't know, man," he answered, completely lost in indecision.
"Look, if she loves you and you love her, things'll work out. Maybe not now, but in time it will," his friend tried to assure him.
"Dude… if I choose to support this baby, to be the man I should be, I'm gonna lose Kari. She told me she's not gonna wait for forever, and I don't expect her to. I made a really huge damage and she deserves none of that. I did this to myself, I should fix it. I don't have to drag her down with me."
"Maybe… Maybe if you let go of her now, she might come back to you in the future. Maybe after all this situation, if a chance comes, and if she still loves you, then maybe it'll all work out. Just do what you have to do today. Take it one step at a time man. If you need help I'm here. Just don't torture yourself," he slapped him in the back. "Besides, we've got semi-finals next week."
"Yeah, you're right. Gotta have my head up to the game."
After a while, Coach motioned them to continue their drills until they hit six o'clock. Soon, they were all heading out the gym, fresh from the locker rooms and off to eat dinner. Tk separated from the team and went home directly to find Karyl sitting by the doorstep.
"What are you doing here?" he asked spitefully.
"I wanted to check up on you," she said softly as she stood up and gave way for Tk to unlock the door.
"Well, I'm here, I'm alive so you can go now," he said, entering the room and dropping his sports bag on the carpeted floor of his living room.
"Tk, please… I'm trying," she followed him to the kitchen where he prepared his dinner.
"Congratulations then," he said sarcastically without even a glance to her direction. It was impossible for him to have any kind of emotion towards her aside from exasperation. He couldn't even be compassionate or considerate about her feelings. Anything about her, he didn't want anything to do with. But the fact that he carried his baby, it made her matter at some level.
"I know I made a mess out of everything, and I'm really sorry. I'm sorry for being a bitch about the littlest of things, I'm sorry that I got you involved in this complication… but it's your baby too! Why can't you make an effort in this relationship?" she argued, almost in the verge of crying with all the hormones kicking in.
"This relationship?" he snorted. "This," he whirled around and motioned his fingers to point the area between them, "this is barely a relationship. I don't know what else you want from me Karyl. I'm here aren't I?"
"I.. I just want us to work okay?! Like it had before. We used to have fun together. I want that again Tk. I still love you and I don't want you to hate me," she explained in a pleading tone.
"I'm sorry babe, but I'm here for the baby, not for you," he said bitterly. He busied himself preparing the table and taking out the food from the microwave. "Have you eaten?"
The change in subject surprised her. "No," she replied quietly.
He took an extra plate and utensils and put it across the table. "Then eat. It's not healthy for the baby."
They both sat there across each other eating dinner quietly. No one spoke for the entire duration of the meal. He was too tired to deal with her and and her demand of the things he couldn't give. If it's always gonna be like this, he wanted out. He couldn't be the man Karyl needed. He couldn't be more than just the father of this child because he knew he could never be happy with her. Could he leave the baby? Could he run back to Kari and leave all his responsibilities?
The thought of meeting her in the café crossed his mind.. but then, he looked across the table and despite the displeasure he felt about this girl who carried his child and begged him of his love, he actually felt responsible and have the slightest form of pity. It's a shame, that this girl loved him and he couldn't bring himself to love her back. And here she is, begging for him to make this work.. but there isn't anything to work out with in the first place. Because for him, he was there to provide moral support and fatherly functions. Not a lover, and nothing beyond that.
How could Karyl for herself to try to be with this man who will never look at her in the way she does? There's never anything lonelier than being with a man who doesn't feel anything for you. Karyl knew the reality; but deep down inside, she hoped that by some miracle, he'd change his mind. And she'd take that chance. She'd go through anything and try to beat the odds even if the possibility that he'd change his mind is one in a million.
Because for her, even the slightest opportunity mattered. And she'd take whatever he would give. Even if it was a little less than enough.
She loved him that much. It hurts her because she knew that the father of her child was in love with another girl. But if that's the odds, she's gonna fight like hell to keep this family. He might not look at the situation in that way for now, but someday, she wanted to believe so.
Tk cleared his plate and put them in the sink. "Clear the table if you're done. I'll take care of the dishes," he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. By the time he got back the dining room, the table was clear and the dishes were washed.
"You didn't have to do that," he said as he watched Karyl dry her hands.
"It's fine. I already gave you a lot of reasons to hate me. Washing the dishes certainly won't be enough to make amends."
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. He couldn't possibly feel guilty with what he's doing with this woman? Rather, what he's not doing.
He went to the living room and plopped down the couch and turned on the tv. Karyl followed and sat on the couch beside him but not close enough to make him more agitated.
"I know you're trying Karyl. I know you really do," Tk started off softly. "But understand that this is the farthest I'm gonna get. I'm trying too. And this is me trying. I'm gonna be there for you and the baby as much as you need me to but that's it. I'm here because I have to, not because I want to. I'm sorry Karyl but I can't love you. I can't give you what you want."
She lowered her head and looked away. Tears at their edge.
"I understand that I can't be her, Tk. I can't be Kari but I can be me. Maybe not now, but I hope, even with the slightest chance that in time, you'll learn to love me back," she said with her wounded confidence.
He sighed again. There really wasn't anything he could feel about her but pity. He realized he'd hurt two females today. He made them cry. He didn't know what is it with him that made these girls love him. For all he knows, he's hurting both of them and he doesn't deserve the love they're throwing away for a chance to be with him.
He rubbed her back in comfort knowing he's the reason she's crying right now. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
She wiped away her tears and pulled herself together.
"C'mon," Tk took her hand and pulled her up from the couch. "I'll get you home. You shouldn't be tiring yourself." He led her out of the house and took his car to drive her home.
The ride was quiet. No one dared to start a conversation because they were both feeling exhausted. There was a lot of emotional and physical strain experienced in one day and it was probably more than what they could all handle. They all just needed time out from life, if that were ever possible.
After he parked outside her house, he took her to the front door.
"Good night," he was about to go when Karyl instantly gripped his wrist, forcing him to turn to face her. She was breathing hard, in difficulty, and her legs were quivering. She held on to Tk as her only support of standing as she clutched her belly, looking like she's in extreme pain.
"Tk…" she said before passing out in his arms.
"Shit," he whispered in shock and hurriedly put her in the car. He quickly started the engine and drove high-speed to the hospital.
"I actually told him to choose me, to pick me. How pathetic is that?" Kari ranted in shame to Zoe while she shared her misery and uncontainable feelings. "Do you think he'll choose me?" she asked, looking for assurance with sadness in her eyes.
"I hope so, K," Zoe answered. "He better."
She glanced at the wall clock over the barista of the café and noticed it was a little past 10 at night. "Well, I have at most two hours. I can't believe I made myself do this. Am I even ready to move on if he doesn't choose me?"
"Kari, whatever happens, you'll get through it. I'm always here to look out for you. Do you think I'd just let you go on with your life sulking and being miserable? God, you have a whole life ahead of you. Don't let anything or anyone get in the way of it."
"Z.. it just hurts. Really, really hurts. I don't know if I'll be able to keep a happy face and walk around like I don't take crap from anyone."
"It's gonna work out, whatever happens. Don't be too hard on yourself."
Maybe this wasn't the best way to get things done, but at least by the end of the day, she was gonna get an answer. And that's all she needs – closure. It's better to have known the decision than to go on with your life wondering. At least by then, there's a peace of mind and the anxiety and confusion is laid to rest. Some people might say it's better not knowing because the truth hurts, but really, would you have rather known it beforehand than live the rest of your life thinking all the possible outcomes of a certain decision?
It's better to conclude, to give things finality and label to avoid uncertainty. A certain answer defines limits, entitles boundaries that would put relationships in place and people in their own roles.
If this ends favorably, then they could go on to whatever they would consider themselves as.
If not, then at least, they would know where they stand.
She looked past Zoe directly to the front doors of the café. And everytime it opened, she wished it was him. Because it was so damn humiliating to have her heart bared and have him witness the immensity of her feelings for him. And to have it unrequited, it was the saddest outcome that she could possibly prepare herself for.
An hour has passed and he still didn't show up. In almost thirty minutes, by 12 midnight, it was either her or Karyl.
It took forever before the doctor was able to talk to him in the waiting lounge.
"Mr. Takaishi?" a dark haired man in scrubs and white lab coat approached him. "Your friend just suffered a considerable amount of stress. During pregnancy, the body produces a substantial amount of hormones and the emotional, physical and psychological stress she experienced today have caused her to pass out. I understand that you're young and she might have been undergoing problems teens today are going through – relationships, school, family, especially this pregnancy. But we assure that nothing serious happened. We injected sedatives to keep her calm. She'll be discharged in about fifteen minutes." The doctor smiled and left Tk to wait.
A few moments later, Karyl came out conscious and looking a little better than before. He helped her to the car and drove her home. The ride was silent again as he concentrated on the road and she looked out to the window. By the time they arrived at her place, he walked her towards the door and took her to her bedroom, just so she safely reaches her room.
She stopped by the open bedroom door. "Thank you for today Tk. I'm sorry if I kept you."
"It's okay Karyl. Just go to bed and rest," he said in the most casual way. If there was any trace of concern he showed, it was concern for a human being. Not for a beloved, not even for a friend.
She reached for his arms for support, stood in her tiptoes and kissed the corners of his lips. "Thank you," she whispered.
He moved his head to his side after he felt her lips on the corners of his, and waited for her to step back. When she did, he sighed in distress and looked at her. "Good night Karyl," he took the doorknob and said, "I'll lock the front door on my way out," before he finally shut her bedroom door.
When he sat inside the driver's seat, he rubbed his face with his palms and then his chin and jawline. Today was a very trying day… and he just wanted peace of mind. If there anything he felt right now, it was pure exhaustion.
He wanted to see Kari. Her face always lifted his spirits up, calmed his nerves and made him see that there's something beautiful in this world. And that was it.
He decided to go to the café.
No one came through the door, and the same wall clock she'd been staring at the whole night by the bar struck 12 midnight. Her heart swelled, the pain in her chest took its toll again. She already prepared herself for the worst the whole night, but the realization of the truth stabbed her in all possible places that could hurt.
"He's not coming, isn't he?" the sorrow was upsettingly obvious by the way she spoke.
"I'm sorry," Zoe comforted and held her hand.
Suddenly, the doors opened and they both turned to see who it was. Apparently, there was only so much disappointments she can handle today and this is probably the last one. It was Kouji who walked through those doors, and he made his way towards the girls' table.
"Hi Kari. Are you okay?" he patted her back like a big brother, trying to console his baby sister who held a broken toy.
"I'm fine Kouji. Thanks for asking." She heaved a hard sigh. "I know you guys are tired. It's okay, you can go. I just want to be alone for tonight."
"Are you sure K? You know I'll stay if you ask me too," Zoe said.
"I'm okay. I just want to be with myself. Besides, it's just a block from my house. I'll call you when I'm home safe," Kari reassured.
"Okay. Don't forget to call me," she squeezed her best friend's hand and smiled before Kouji pulled her from her seat.
"Oh, Kouji. Do you know where he is?" she asked in curiosity.
Kouji looked at her, hesitated before he answered her question. "The last time he texted, he was in the hospital. Karyl passed out and he had to admit her."
Kari's face fell. He chose her. Why wouldn't he anyway? She was the one with his child. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine, Kari."
It was obvious how torn she was by this information. As if the thought of him and her didn't already torture her mercilessly. "Okay."
"See you Kari. Be safe. You're a strong girl," Kouji squeezed her shoulder before leaving the café with Zoe.
She looked at the clock again. 12:10. Who was she kidding? She already gave him time. He didn't come. He made a decision. What's there to hope for? At least she tried didn't she? At least she told him how much she wanted him to be with her. That it hurt her to see them both together.
But if he decided that, then she'd have to respect that decision.
Her thoughts were interrupted when a guy stood beside her table. "Is this seat taken?"
She looked up and saw Ryo, smiling down at her.
"Hi," he greeted.
She put all her effort to put up a smile. "Hi."
"Unfortunately, this seat isn't taken," she tried not to sound depressed, which she managed to do. At least, for once today, there was a reason to smile.
He looked from outside the café through the glass walls and instantly saw her glowing laughing face. He was too late. And she was there, laughing, smiling, as if the drama and heartache she felt this morning happened ages ago. He couldn't go inside. He couldn't do this to her. He can't show up when he saw how happy she was in the company of some other guy who never even pulled a strand of her hair to hurt her. She deserved the kind of guy who wouldn't cause her all the drama, the pain, the insufficiency. She deserved nothing less than the best.
He realized, if he chose to be with her, he wouldn't be able to give him the whole of himself. He'd always be a mile away to help Karyl, to take care of her, to check up on his responsibilities.. and if he's doing that, he couldn't give Kari the complete attention, care and love she deserves and expects from him. He knew it would just hurt her to think that every Saturday, he'd be somewhere else with this other girl – probably to accompany her to the doctor or whatever damn thing that comes with pregnancy.
Kari deserved the whole-hearted love and commitment a man can give, not just some free-time or a fraction of the whole.
And if he couldn't give her what she deserves, then he's less than the man he thought he could be.
So why not just let her go? Like what she said, if one thing's not enough, then what good is it?
He stayed there for a little while, consuming the sight of her radiant laughter and beautiful face. He was seeing what he was letting go, and it was so damn priceless. He knows he's more stupid than a fool for letting her go but how happy would she be with him if he can't give her even the whole of his being?
She was so beautiful, so damn beautiful and she lit up his life.
But now, he felt the distance between them, even if she was a glass of a wall and a couple of feet away, he already knew she was slipping away.
So he turned around and walked away.
He reached his car, which was parked by the concrete wall. With all the anger and torment built up in his chest, he released it all with a punch on the wall. "Damn it!" he yelled to himself. He kicked the side of his car in frustration and muttered an awful lot of profanities while he continued to let out all the steam.
When he tired himself from lashing out, he leaned against his car and put his palms on his face. He slid down and sat on the concrete pavement feeling all the ugliest things he could ever feel about himself.
Because the most hideous thing he ever did was walk away from the one person who mattered the most.
It's been two years! Wow. It took two years for me to have another update and I am tremendously sorry for taking that long. But it still means so much to me that there are still readers who push me to continue this story and I greatly appreciate your support. Thank you very much! I hope you like this chapter and I'm hoping that I'd be able to continue updating in a shorter amount of time. See you in the next chapter!