Episode 21: Haunted By The Past

Meanwhile, in the toilet, Lily was having a war with her own heart. The truth was that she was feeling horribly unhappy at the moment. Who would have known that Alex Beddington was Danial Miles’ best friend? And why, among all the other girls in the world, was she the one destined to deliver cupcakes to his house and have him run over her bicycle that day? Life seemed to be laughing in front of her face at that moment.

Lily stared towards her reflection in the mirror and felt sorry for her self. She did not feel like returning to the table to finish her food, but she did not know what else she should do. Out of frustration, Lily turned on the water tap and splashed a hands-full of water to her face, spreading them evenly all over as she did that. Although it made no difference to the situation that she was going through, but it helped calm her feelings for a bit.

Lily decided finally that she should take a walk around the beautiful garden in front of the house. It had been catching her attention since she first stepped in through the main gates earlier. The atmosphere was much peaceful and soothing. The sound of water flowing from a small fountain in the pond could be clearly heard from a distance. It was getting dark, but a few garden lamps scattered unevenly around the garden was sufficient enough to create a romantic ambience. Lily peered into the pond and saw a few fish swimming around happily among each other. She stood there watching, enjoying how the fishes seemed to be playing with themselves and having nothing to care about.

“What are you doing here?” a voice came from behind, which startled Lily. She quickly turned around and found out that she was staring towards Danial Miles.

“I… I, err… was just having some fresh air, hehe.” She said with a nervous giggle. Danial gazed towards her from top to bottom, not really believing her words. He stood there silent for a few seconds.

“Did you find the toilet? It’s inside, by the way.” He continued. Lily smiled sheepishly and nodded. “Oh, yes! Of course, the toilet should be inside, right? Silly me,” she uttered, trying to conceal her embarrassment. Still, Danial did not seem like he was buying them. He stood there eyeing her carefully.

“Alex is waiting for you back at the pool. Everyone thought you got lost or something. I think you should return to him.” He said directly. His tone was straight and very blunt. He’s still the same Danial like four years ago, she thought. His calm and undisturbed face, even though it kind of hurt her now, was the same one she had known since the last time she saw him. The one that had always soothed her worries and had once melted her heart. Lily was starting to wonder whether she was still melting by the sight of it.

“Okay.” She said finally and started to walk back to the pool. As she passed by him, she felt her heart race so fast she thought it would jump out from her chest any minute. She tried to fight the urge to look back at him, and wondered all the same whether he was watching her go. They were acting very alien towards each other. A lot of other questions played in her mind as well, and of course she was curious about what happened to his fiancée. Were they already married now? She secretly hoped not, because so far she still hasn’t seen her at the party. However, it was a very thin thread that she was hanging on.

Back at the pool, Alex was conversing with the others at the table. He gave her a questioning look as she approached them.

“What took you so long?”

Lily sat again on her seat with a nervous glance towards him, ignoring his question. Alex did not bother to question her further, so she started to indulge into her dinner that had been waiting on the table for some time. Danial did not return to the table for the next half an hour, not until he appeared to announce some important things and why he had the party.

Lily was half expecting to see him come out with his fiancée that she had met with four years ago. Maybe he was going to announce that they were getting married. But until Danial finished his announcement, and was walking back towards the table, there was no beautiful young lady with chic outfits and long wavy hair to be seen. Lily felt puzzled, but she tried hard not to make it too obvious. Deep inside, she knew she was half pleased as well.

“Let’s go inside and grab some drinks,” Danial said to Alex and gave a smile towards Lily. She nervously grinned back and quickly looked away.

“Nice, I feel a little tensed with all the people around here.” Alex replied, throwing a scornful look towards all the other guests eating and talking around the poolside. Danial simply chuckled and led their way inside.

He took them to a small bar in one part of his house. There was a huge glass window at one side of the room, overlooking the pool outside. It was much quieter inside than outside, with slow music playing on the stereo. Only a few other people were allowed here. Danial went behind the counter and started to make them drinks.

This was very awkward for Lily, because she had never been at any kind of bar before. She simply stared at the beautiful interiors of the room and towards the view outside.

“So you’re running the hospital now?” Alex asked as he watched Danial pour a bottle of drink behind the counter.

“Not until I finish my medical studies first, no. But my grandfather has already given me a little sneak peek into stuff. He’s quite persistent for an old man.”

“Huh, if I were you, I would’ve saved all the hard work. Your dad’s gonna lend you down his business anyway even if you didn’t take grandpa’s offer.”

Danial smiled and placed three glasses of drinks onto the counter. He took a glass himself and took a sip into it.

“I like it the hard way,” he said simply. Alex took one of the remaining glasses and took it all down in a gulp. He put the glass back onto the counter and turned his head towards the timid-looking Lily staring towards him a few steps away from the counter. Her eyes widened when she realized that he might have the wrong idea about it.

“What are you doing standing over there? Come sit here and have a drink.” He uttered bluntly. “What an invitation!” she thought with displease. She obeyed anyway, because she noticed that Danial was staring towards her from behind the counter. Timidly bringing the glass towards her mouth, Lily took a small sip from the glass.

“So what happened to Laura? I heard she moved to New York.” Alex continued. Lily noticed that he was asking this to Danial, but it took him a while before he actually answered.

“Hmm, she never liked the idea of me running the hospital here. She wanted to pursue her careers. So we decided it was the best for both of us. It was our decision.”

“And your parents - weren’t they angry?”

“They were never happier,”

Alex laughed out loud to Danial’s answer, while Danial flashed a playful smile which made him look so charming and attractive.

Their conversation, though Lily was not part of it, answered most of the puzzle playing inside her mind since a while ago. She concluded that Laura must be that beautiful fiancée - or ex-fiancée now that she heard they were living separate ways now. Lily felt sorry for the news, but she couldn’t help feeling a little relieved as well.

“Enough about me, how about you?” Danial changed the direction of their conversation towards Alex, eyeing meaningfully towards Lily.

“Me? I’m always awesome.” He replied with a confident smile. Lily saw that he actually meant it, and thought he sounded so conceited. She scowled and took another gulp from her drink.

“And you’ve found yourself a fine young lady. I’m glad you’re finally thinking of settling down.” Danial added, throwing a glance towards Lily. She shuddered upon the word settling down. It was not a good thing to be settling down with someone like Alex. And that coming from her first love, it made her feel terrible. She didn’t want Danial to misunderstand the situation even further, so she decided to butt in.

“I guess that’s pretty vague. We just met and haven’t been thinking towards such things.” She said firmly, though there was a hint of nervousness in her voice as she spoke back to Danial. Danial raised his eyebrows to her answer.

“Yeah, she’s not used to my awesome way of life. I’m giving her a little time for that because I know she’s head over heels for me.” Alex said suddenly, sounding very straight-forward and blunt. Lily turned her head his way, her mouth wide open with disbelief. He did not appear to be smiling or laughing as he said those words, as if he was utterly serious. However, Lily knew that he was purposely trying to provoke her.

“Yes, in your dreams you moron!” She replied, half whispering and through gritted teeth. Now Alex chuckled. Danial raised his eyebrows, not quite understanding the actual story behind those two. As they went on bickering among each other, Danial made him self busy behind the counter, drying glasses and putting them away.

“What’s so funny? You’re not getting away for this!” Lily continued, scowling irritably towards Alex’s smirk face.

“What? I was just saying. Don’t you like it?”

Alex laughed.

“I hate it! I hate you, and I want to go home!”

Lily left the room, ignoring the surprised look on Alex’s face. Perhaps he did not expect that she would walk out of the room like that. But Lily did not like the feeling of being down-graded in front of Danial. She did not like the way Alex was talking to her in front of Danial. As she walked down the hall towards the main entrance of the house, Lily realized that she actually still had feelings for Danial. She walked away from that room because she did not want Danial to misunderstand the complicated situation she was going through with Alex. Lily sighed deeply.


To Be Continued...


Episode 20: The Best Friend

Alex kept on walking across the room, completely ignoring all the heads turned towards him. Lily followed him closely behind, trying very hard to contain herself. She felt quite devastated that they were actually the centre of attention now, and Alex did not feel anything about it. Earlier before, she had hoped to walk in quietly behind him and avoid making eye contact with anyone. She was sure she could pretend to not exist. But alas, she forgot to put Alex into the scenario. With him around, it’s like walking with a gigantic ‘Look, I’m here!’ sign.

Lily noticed that they were walking towards a group of men discussing by the corner of the room. There were three of them, all finely suited. They conversed casually among each other with lowered tones, separating themselves from the crowd. Two of them were facing their way, while the other one had his backs towards them. Lily could see that they were fine looking young men. Those must be his friends, she thought.

As they approached the group, the two men who had noticed Alex gave him a great big smile. One of them called out his name. Alex smiled back and greeted them, advancing to shake their hands. Lily stood a few steps back. Her eyes fixed on his friends, and stopped at the last one who had been having his back towards them a while ago. He had turned towards them just as soon as the other one called out Alex’s name. She looked at him as he took Alex’s hands and exchanged a few words. He smiled towards Alex as they began to pick up where they left off. Lily felt her heart stop - completely.

Everything around her suddenly felt like a blur. Alex came back to her and took her by the waist. He grinned towards his friend, and said “This is my girlfriend, Lily Stephans. Lily, meet my best friend and the host for tonight, Danial Miles. He just came back from Australia a few days ago.” Lily felt a knot tied in her throat. She looked towards Danial, and he looked towards her. She was sure that they had the same thing in mind. Four years couldn’t have been too long to take away a memory about someone. Lily desperately tried to think of something to say, but she couldn’t make out any. Her emotions were starting to fall apart, but she couldn’t let that happen in front of Alex.

“Oh, so this is the girlfriend you’ve been talking about? Hello, it’s nice to meet you, Lily.”

Fortunately, Danial managed to say out something before Lily could decide to turn around and run for her sorry self. He gave her a warm and welcoming smile, looking straight into her eyes. Lily had no choice but to force out a smile as well, and replied his greeting. Danial immediately shifted his glance to Alex again, acting as if he had never met Lily. She tried hard to do the same, but something inside her was breaking. After four years, this should be the right time to be reunited with your first love that never happened? Lily felt like hating herself so much.

“Hey, what’s wrong with you?” Alex’s voice nudged her back into reality. She had not realized that the group had started parting into another room. Alex stared towards her with a frown; referring to the blank stare she gave the floor just now. Lily quickly fumbled for words.

“I err, nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.” She only managed to say. Alex did not question further.

They walked out of the room and out of the house into the backyard of the bungalow. At the middle was a big swimming pool surrounded by off-white tiling, while at the far left side was a green view connecting to the garden from the front of the house. Tables were arranged around the pool for the party, and a buffet table with all the food Lily had ever seen was set just on her right near the porch of the house. A lot of people were already digging their way into the food. Everything looked splendid.

“Is this a pool party?” Lily innocently asked out of her amazement. Hearing those, Alex gave out a chuckle.

“Of course not, silly. They don’t make pool parties this grand. It’s a welcoming party for my friend, of course.”

Lily looked towards Danial walking not really far ahead of them. He seemed very calm - very undisturbed. He might not have remembered her at all, now that she came to think of it. But the way he looked at her when Alex introduced her to him just now, she knew it too well to assume that he did not remember her.

After a while, they were seated around a table at one side of the pool. Lily dreaded this moment, because she knew they would be sitting facing each other on one table, and Danial chose the seat directly opposite of her on that round table for six. The next hour was spent indulging into food and chatting about each other’s account. Lily did not feel like she belonged in the group. It was already very awkward coming to the party in the first place with someone she utterly hated and acting as his girlfriend, and now she was sitting right in front of someone she had never thought of seeing again. Despite the tempting appearance of the dinner in front of her, she just could not bring herself to swallow even a bite.

“Excuse me, I think I need to go to the toilet.” She said as she abruptly stood up to go back inside. However, before she could advance a step, Alex quickly grabbed onto her wrist. She turned her head and looked at him as he stared towards her face.

“Do you even know where the toilet is?” he asked. Lily did not immediately answer because the answer was obvious. She didn’t.

“Err, I’ll show you if you’d…” Danial started but Lily quickly cut him off. “No, I can find my way around.” She assured them and quickly walked away. Alex watched her with complete puzzlement, but then decided that she really had to go do her business. He continued chatting where they last dropped off, not noticing the queer look on Danial’s face as he watched Lily walk into the house. However, when Alex threw him a question, the expression quickly disappeared and he wore his usual calm and undisturbed face once again.

To Be Continued...