Table was set. Meals were served. Champagnes were popped.
The ‘birthday party’ was about to start.
“Clover!” Kyle shouted, craning his neck to look past the wall of her room. “It’s all doneee!”
Snapping awake, she shook her head, blinking a couple of times before she was confident enough with her appearance. Any hints of smears might just ruin her entire plan. Her fake 'birthday' plan. Brandon was walking towards the door. He stopped at his last step and glanced at her, waiting for her to join him.
“Put on a good act, Clover Hon,” she puffed out a silent air, patted both sides of her cheeks and got on her feet.
Kyle was hustling over the sauces on the table. Honey garlic, salad dressings, bbq sauce. He first flicked the cap of the salad dressings, wanting to pour it onto the fresh vegetables on Clover’s plate. However, his gesture hesitated. He closed it and took the honey garlic sauce. But he wavered once again. This time, the momentum of the sauce was too fast that he freaked out when it began dripping onto her plate without his consent. Putting down the bottle hurriedly, he dashed into the kitchen for tissues. Clover was peaking at the whole situation. She chuckled, looking at his innocence, his silliness. Maybe because of his overwhelming excitement and nervousness, he tripped and his pinky hit the leg of the table, turning him pale in pain instantly.
“Danise!Danise!” he urged. “Help me!” shoving the tissues to him in the kitchen while pointing to the mess on Clover’s plate.
Danise rolled his eyes.
“Hey!! Quick!” he repeated, blowing the sting on his unfortunate toe. “She’s coming already!”
“I’m busy,” he said with a solid tone.
“What the heck are you busying....--” he trailed off and hopped to him. "Paper rolls?" Kyle stuck his index into the hole of the circle and flung it around, "There's a table near the couch just for you to know."
"Shut up, Kyle," he waved him off, pushing him to the end of the mini kitchen. "I'll reveal later."
After hiding in the dark for a few minutes, Clover finally braved up and chose to step into their sights. Each step felt like lifting a heavy stone. She stared up at the clock and the sounds of the minute hand ticking were fearing her. It was taking away her happiness, her bonds.
“Cloverrr!!” Kyle got up immediately and welcomed her to the dining table. The pain on his toe faded like it never existed.
“Here---” His eyes almost popped out when he realized that the mess was still there. “I’m.. sorry.. Clover.. I didn’t know what sauce you like.. I. I.. I...” he panicked.
She laughed, “It’s okay, Kyle.” Pulling over her plate from Kyle’s hand, “I love all the sauces here,” she said.
His shoulders relaxed at her words. “I’m glad.”
And the feast began.
Clover was cutting her steak into smaller sizes when suddenly her plate slipped away from her view. She turned to her right- Kyle.
"Since you are the main character for tonight," he teetered his knife and fork in the air, showing off the bars of white teeth he owned, "I'll do my best to serve you."
"Oh, Kyle!" Clover stretched out her hand, trying to take back her plate. But Kyle pulled it further, and further, until- she realized that she was basically climbing on him. Rather than moving away, her gaze drifted from the plate to the celebrity. Overpouring with his charms.
Her breath stuck in her throat. She could feel her cheeks flushed and the beats of her heart were throbbing so fast that she was sure Kyle would have heard them. "Let me do it," he smiled, letting his voice to come out in a soft whisper.
Heat spiked up to her head, blurring her consciousness. Retreating, she nodded and straightened back to her seat. She could feel the stares from the two other people, as though waiting for her to explain the awkward situation. But she lowered her head, avoiding any gazes, to chill down her heavy breaths. Brandon and Danise exchanged glances, shrugged and continued filling up their growling stomachs.
“Let’s play a game,” Danise spoke, after chewing off the last bite of his second slice of Tiramisu cake.
“What game?” Brandon asked, pulling out the stalk of the cherry in his mouth.
“Bond game,” he said and flashed a look to Clover’s direction.
“I’m going to give out these papers randomly,” he continued, “Each of us would have to take a piece. The one with the same number would be a pair and have to get their hands tied together with this thin piece of tearable paper.”
“Tearable paper?” Kyle rose his eyebrow. "Was that why you shut up me just now?
He nodded. “That’s the fun part of this game. In order to win, that paper shall not be torn. The pair with the paper in perfect shape would be the winner of this game.”
“I seee...So it’s a ‘bond’ game.” Brandon muttered as he flipped to see his number. “2! Who’s with me?”
“I’m 1,” Clover responded.
“Me too!!” Kyle high-fived.
“Damnnnnnn.. It’s me and...” Danise pulled a face. “..you..”
Brandon rolled his eyes. “Excuse me, I’m a king when it comes to games like this.”
Danise handed out the moderate length of colourful paper, made up of many papers folded into circular shapes, stapled onto one another, giving the length that he desired. ”This is all that I can do for you, Kyle. Whatever that happens tomorrow lies in your hands," he mumbled by his ears.
“Danise?” Kyle was confused. "What's wrong with you today?"
But Danise ignored him. Slating the scene with his hand, he officiated the beginning of this game. “So the game starts now! Come on Brandon!” he screamed, “Run!!”
“Hey! Wait!” Kyle said, still trying to figure out where was the mouth of the paper for them to insert their hands. “WAIITTT!!” he echoed. But Danise and Brandon were far too in front, way too far away from the house.
He chuckled. “Oh mann.. Sorry Clover. I’m not as good as Danise,” he said.
Heat was taking over her mind once again. The mint smell on him was driving her crazy. Their hands weren’t in contact exactly but the distance was enough for his warmth to radiate onto her hand.
The paper was very fragile. They had to move in sync. But to move as one, it was a must for their hands to be locked.“May I?” Kyle bent down like a gentleman, requesting for her hand to be in his, “so that this paper doesn’t break too fast.”
“Sure,” Clover gave a shy smile, and let her hand to be wrapped.
She laid it flat across his palm. That was already turning her insane. But when Kyle shifted the contact, “It’s better this way,” he said, interlocking their fingers. “More secure."
At that instance, her heart was no longer under her control. Her cheeks were blushing so hard that she had to look down the entire time. Rational thoughts were slipping away. She peaked at Kyle but his face was calm. Too calm. Suppressing those one-sided feelings, she sucked in a deep breath and focused fully (hopefully) on this game since it would be the final contact between both of them.
Hand in hand, outside they went. The Sun was down, glooming the streets. Scents of the flowers along the roadsides gotten more obvious to her nose she didn’t know why. Maybe because all this while she was too busy to stop and admire the beauty around. Now that she gotta leave, everything suddenly became so precious to Clover, including the roads that she passed by every single day.
A while ago, Brandon and Danise were still within their views. However, right now they had totally vanished.
“Wow they’re fast,” he said impressively, crooking his head in all directions. “It was barely a minute I thought?”
She laughed, “It was actually more than a minute. We messed with this...” lifting up their hands, “too long.”
“Reallyyyy? Oh mannn..Now what do we do? Wait till they show up?”
“I guess so?”
Sighing, “Let’s just enjoy this walk. And the game starts back when they are back,” he said.
“Yeah. It would be a total waste to not enjoy this walk,” she mumbled. Especially with you in my hand.
Strolling in the late evening was a way to remember how to breathe. The sight of the orange-blue sky was so spectacular. Layers of linty clouds moving along with the breeze, birds flying gracefully across them, enough to calm down the uneasiness of the souls. If and only if, things would be as simple as the sky changes colour from day to night, as simple as how the Sun rises each day, life would be so much better, isn’t it? No killings, no hurting, only to love and to care.
It would definitely be so much better.
Tomorrow at this time, where would I be? she thought, kicking the lonely stones blocking her path.
Fiction was making her palm soggy. Sweats staining the surface of her palm in contact with Kyle’s. It was dirty, and disgusting.
“... Hey..Kyle.. Erm.. ” she stammered. “Since they are MIA..why not..” her eyes dragged Kyle’s to their palms, signaling Kyle her message.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, failed to capture her body language.
Clover smiled and shook it off. Today was the last day. What was there to rush? Everything would end in less than 12 hours anyway. “Let’s wait for them in the house.”
Brandon and Danise were already back at home by the time they returned. Danise tucked his hand in his pocket, leaning against the sofa. Another hand was still stuck with Brandon. Annoyance was printed on his face. Well, he should be since the game failed to be played practically. Kyle replied him with -you-know-I-am-noob-in-games expression. Though the game barely started, Danise was drenched in sweats. Funny enough, it was only him in sweats and not Brandon who was with him all the while before appearing back in the house. He was by the door with his hair still combed neatly, shirt free of any stains, holding a big box of postage with pictures of Kyle pasted everywhere.
No doubt- it was his fan gifts.
“Open it, Brandon,” he said. “Clover, have a look at what you like. I can give it to you.” Pointing to the tearable paper, "Can we take this off already?" he asked.
“No.” Danise snapped, shooting him a sharp glance.
Kyle winced by the seriousness in his tone, as if the one in front of him was no longer the Little D that he knew. “..W...Why not? Are we even still playing?”
“It’s a bond game, Kyle. Those who stayed till the end will win. So if you want to win, you gotta do everything with Clover.”
“Omg, what a silly game you thought offff!” he teased. Digging the gifts in the box on the table, “Clover,” he flapped the bear’ ears. “How about this one?”
She hopped a little bit closer to him and relaxed her fingers from the interlock. Single hand was very hard to do anything. With all those sticky sweats and heat, she wanted to release her hand in his grab. But he clasped it before she slipped away. “No! What are you doing?” Kyle asked, taken aback by her sudden action.
“It’s okay,” she said, still trying to free her hand. “Danise wouldn’t notice it.”
“Nah,” he strengthened the lock. “Just stay like this. Something’s off with Danise today. I don’t want to annoy him.”
It might seem still early but the night was calling. Half moon was up, surrounded by the galaxy of stars. Street lights ignited, lighting up the dims. It was quiet. The only noise on the outside was probably from the crows. And there they were, still toying with the gifts, reading the fan cards. Time passed so fast without them knowing. And the time for Clover to leave was just a few more hours to go.
Her eyelids were draggy, going against her will to stay awake. The long skinship with Kyle was making her uncomfortable. He was sitting on the ground near to the sofa. Engrossing in the fan letters, smiles were all that he had on his face. Brandon released a sigh of relieve but immediately exchanged with a sympathetic look in his eyes when he caught Clover staring at Kyle. Her sorrowful eyes hid a million words, desperate to be said. Biting her lips, the lump in her throat was moving. She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t say that she had to leave. She couldn’t say that she almost lost her life. She couldn’t say that.. she already fallen for him...
She couldn’t say them at all.
Their hands showed no signs of separating and she turned to look at Brandon’s. They were the same. None of them wanted to admit to losing. Soon after, darkness hit her sight.
Hours passed by and next day arrived. Buzzes of insects rang in her ears, pulling her consciousness to take over. Clover jerked her fingers. They cramped. Numbness in her fingers was forcing her back into the current situation. She lifted her eyes slightly, and through the tiny gap, she saw the three figures. Brandon and Danise were lying on the sofa with their legs on one another. Fan cards were scattered on the floor, and one hanging down in Kyle’s hand. She turned to the clock. 6.30a.m. Now. Quickly, not wanting to attract any of their attention, she got to her feet, ready to leave.
But something pulled her back.
Her hand. His hand. She gasped. The paper was still tying them together. She glimpsed at the other two. Their paper was torn and perfectly squashed underneath Brandon’s leg. Turning back to theirs, she didn’t hesitate to clip the paper. Carefully with her two fingers, she quietly broke them apart. We’ve won, Kyle, she meant.
And she tore.
The paper no longer joined them together.
She stood up. But her steps lingered at the same spot. She cocked her head and stared at his face. The face of a rising hot celebrity. Who was she trying to be to him?
“You’re a star, Kyle ” she stroked his hair, murmuring. “And I am just a wild grass. Maybe I should have listened to Brandon. I shouldn’t have stayed here. I should have left when my heart was still under my command... I should have--” Her voice was getting thick.
“... Sorry..” she cupped his hand, whispering through her pouring tears, “..that I had to leave..” Looking tenderly at him, “I like you.. Kyle..” she planted a kiss on his forehead, dripping her pearl-like liquids on him. "...So much that it hurts."
The sounds of the tickings reminded her of her reason to leave. Immediately, Clover released him from her touch and rushed into her room. Longings. She hated this feeling. Shaking them away as far as possible, in a move, she grabbed her luggage and sped towards the door. No more time to waste.
Just as she reached the exit of her room, “Danise was right,” a shadow then came right into her view, blocking her way. “You are really leaving.” He took a step closer, stumbling her to the back. “Yesterday wasn’t your birthday. You lied to me.”
“You wanted to leave me behind. With a lie. ” his voice cracked as he blinked his tears away.
“I..I need to leave, Kyle.” she gritted her teeth, backing up her wall from cracking. “I must leave,” she repeated, brushing past him, into the exit.
Holding onto her hand, he held his gaze in hers, searching for a space that he could steal and make her change her mind, “... Can you don’t?” he pleaded. “Please?”
“It’s for you, Kyle. I don’t want you to lose your fame because of me. I don’t want you to be harmed because of me. I don’t want you to give up on your dream because of me. I.. ” she paused, drawing in her eyebrows. ”I just want you to be happy."
“Then stay,” he hissed, pulling her into his longing embrace.
The honking from the newspaper vendor snapped Brandon awake from his sleep. Lazily, he slid into the slippers that got in his way and stepped into the porch to get their portion of newspapers. And as he saw the headline, he froze. Instantly.
“F***!!” Brandon cursed, scanning them. They were crumbling under his shivering grasp. The pen drive wasn’t the only copy they had.
KYLE LEE CAUGHT IN A SCANDAL!!THE “PERSONAL ASSISTANT” REVEALED!!!, reflected in his just-woken up eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Danise muttered sleepily, pushing his feet into the gaps between the seats of the sofa to decrease the early morning chill on him.
“OH F****!!!!!” Brandon repeated, slamming the stack onto the ground and dashed to look for the main character.
His toes danced in place, avoiding to touch the icy ground for too long. Kyle wasn’t in his room. The door of the toilet was wide open: he wasn’t there either. No shadows of him wandering outside. Where did he go?
Sh*t! Something struck his mind.
Immediately, he ran to her room. He could almost hear the sounds of the pieces of his heart falling the moment he saw what that wasn’t meant to be seen.
Kyle hanging on to her.
Clover failed to leave.
Sucking in a deep breath, he forced himself to come into their views and separated the embrace. A dreadful glance was then shot to Kyle who was still leaking his stream. Guiltiness all over his stained face. He knew more than Brandon that things like this shouldn’t have happened. But. It. Happened.
He pushed out a sigh. “You’re dead,” he spat the words, “Kyle. So dead.”
Crushing down to his feet, Clover's hand slipped out of him as he stared into the blank space. Drops of tears showed no signs of stopping. She retreated slowly away from his sight and stepped quietly towards the door, hoping that she could still leave while Brandon hanging on him.
“Don’t... Clover.” he cleared his throat, not giving up on his attempts to stop her from leaving his side. “Don’t go..”
“KYLE!” Brandon exclaimed, sending vibrations across the rooms. “There’s no time for you to love! No time for you to stop Clover! No time for you to waste! They are all over the media!!!!”
Kyle gave him a blur look. And so did Clover.
“Check it yourself,” Brandon said hopelessly, tapped something on his phone and tossed it to him with a loud thud.
Rubbing the ache on his chest, he grabbed the phone and tension accumulated on his face as he scrolled. Those pictures basically showed everything. It was so clear to the point that the number of hidden pimples, blackheads Kyle had under the layers of makeup could be seen. As clear as the magazine covers of him. And most importantly, Clover wasn’t even blurred! True nor lies, nobody knew other than the victim. She tipped a little to look at the phone. Close enough. But, Kyle quickly locked the screen before she had the chance to know what it was all about.
However, it was too obvious for her to act not to know.
“I did it again..” she bit her lips, forcing her tears to be gulped, “didn’t.. I?”
Moving his fearful gaze to Brandon, “she can’t leave now, Brandon...” he said tremblingly. “You don’t want her to die..”
Suddenly, a loud ringing noise pierced through their conversations.
“Hello?” Brandon answered.
Fierce, thunder-like voice could be heard over his phone. The expression on Brandon’s face changed instantly, taking in all the scoldings, the blames. Sorry, was what he said the most the moment he picked up the call. He bowed his body along, as if the one speaking on the other line was right in front of him.
“Kyle...” he sighed, staring at his line being cut.” Your CEO said to have a press conference.”
“What about her?” he asked, fixing his glance on Clover.
“You aren’t in any position to speak about her,” Brandon snapped. “Quick. Get ready. We are gonna have a press conference in another two hours time.”