Niran picked me up and together we drove out to meet the entrepreneur. I chose my outfit delicately. Although, I don’t have much to choose from. I picked out a simple blue sundress. It was tight around the bust and flowed out at the waist. A sheer turquoise overlay over the bottom section of the skirt. I pulled my hair into a loose messy bun and clipped with a pearl hair clip.
I don’t dress up even for the dates that Niran takes me to. I never found the energy or effort to do so but today, I wanted to impress the guy. Niran’s eyes lit up when he saw me come out of my home dressed in this and high heels.
“You look beautiful.” He smiled at me.
“Thank you,” I replied while tugging on my skirt. I noticed his eyes traveled to my exposed thigh.
When we arrived, the hotel was elegant and very modern. It stood out in this small city and I knew right away that because of its cleanliness and service, the owner of this hotel has benefited from many businessmen. We were asked to meet him in a small office space that was provided by the hotel.
Niran helped me out of his car and we made our way to the front entrance. My heart seemed to be thumping harder against my chest with each step. My breath becoming shorter with each closing distance. I don’t know what it was. My hands were becoming clamming and I brushed it off to meeting a potential employer who would be hiring me. Nerves. That was it.
We were greeted by the desk clerk. She was a young woman dressed a maroon jacket. Underneath the jacket was a white dress shirt. When she stepped out from behind the desk to walk us to the office space, she was wearing a mid-length skirt. A warm smile touched her face as she talked amicably to Niran. They exchanged a few pleasantries and talked about the weather.
We passed the grand shiny lobby and entered a narrow hallway. After passing a few hotel rooms, she made a right turn and walked down a few more doors before she stopped.
“Mr. Yuanji is waiting for you inside. I’ll have refreshment sent to the room shortly.” She announced before gesturing for us to enter.
Niran took hold of my hand and gave me an assuring smile before pulling me inside.
It is said that love is an emotion, the strongest. When it spells, it penetrates all barriers--the mind, the heart, and the senses. Everything is flooded until you are drowning in its passion. With love, no matter the distance or the time apart, it will always recognize.
The emotion is strong like a purifying fire taking everything hostage inside of you and leaving you at its mercy. It can either leave you in happiness or in never ending pain.
The moment I stepped into the room, I knew something was off.
My eyes searched for the man we were meeting and found him standing by the window. My heart lodged into my throat. My body froze.
“Mr. Yuanji, thank you for this amazing opportunity.” Niran started and he turned around.
All colors left my face and I felt like my world was spinning. My knees were weak and my legs were feeling like jell-o. I ended up making a fool of myself by buckling in front of him. Niran grabbed onto my waist to help me up.
“Are you okay?” Niran asked.
I shook my head and my eyebrows scrunched up in confusion. The man looked at me with a masked expression. His eyes were unreadable. Those eyes weren’t my Raiden’s. They were brown but that was it. There was no gold. Tears welled up in my eyes and started spilling. But why did he look like my Raiden?
I shook my head again and pushed away from Niran.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I need to go use the bathroom.”
I took careful steps out of the room. Once I was out, I ran blindly down the hall. I made several unknown turns before I knew I was safe away from them. I fell against the wall and sobbed. Time did nothing to cure my broken heart. I clutched at my chest because that was the area where most pain was radiating from. It felt like someone was killing me repeatedly—stabbing me in the chest with a serrated knife. My heart was dying as images of Raiden flashed through my mind.
I was so busy sobbing like a baby that I didn’t hear someone coming until I felt a warm presence to my right.
“Go away, Niran. I just need time alone. Please.” I begged without looking at him.
“I’m not Niran.” A shiver ran down my spine.
I stopped my whimpers of pain and sobbing. My eyes opening to be met with a familiar face. Everything about him was Raiden. There was nothing that didn’t look like Raiden.
“Raiden.” I breathed through a whimper. The first time I breathed out his name in a year and it killed me. Tears blurred my vision and I wanted to curl up and die. Unimaginable pain.
I brushed past him but he grabbed onto my wrist forcing me to turn around to look at him.
“What’s wrong?” He asked. “You ran at the sight of me.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat before answering him.
“I’m sorry. It isn’t you,” I shook my head. “I mean it is you but it’s not you.”
His cocked an eyebrow and I chuckled painfully. He looks like my Raiden.
“I can’t. I have to go.”
His hands tightened around my wrist. “Wait.”
I wrenched my wrist free and ran.
I ran out of the hotel and out onto the busy street. I can’t be near Niran. I didn’t want to answer his questions. I continued down the sidewalk, wiping at my tears.
The moment I saw him, it was like the pain that I have been harboring intensified. Raiden has deep-set hazelnut eyes. Their height and build were the same. He might be wearing a suit this time but he was identical.
For a second when I saw him, I thought it was him. I really did. Happiness washed over me—just for that one second until I looked in his eyes and saw that he didn’t recognize me. That there were no emotions in those eyes and it made me miss Raiden even more.
I have been wandering aimlessly around without care until a car honked at me and I jumped and realized I have gone deeper into the city. Feeling utterly defeated and broken, I brushed off the angry taxi man and stopped by a local street vendor. She situated her stall at a street corner. I ordered a plate of rice porridge and sat down in a table she had set up for her customers.
I sat solemnly quiet while she prepped my plate. When she placed it in front of me, I picked up the spoon. I scooped a spoonful of the porridge and brought it my mouth but was immediately scalded by the heat. I pulled back immediately with a grimace.
My eyes began to water when I remember Raiden taking my bowl and cooling down my porridge for me. Crying, I blew slowly on the porridge on my spoon to cool it down before eating it. Tears were blurring my vision. The vendor lady walked up to me in a panic.
“Are you okay, child? Is the food not to your liking?” She asked, concerned.
I gave her a sad smile, “It tastes amazing.”
“Then why are you crying?” She looked confused, wiping her hands on a clean towel.
“This porridge reminded me of someone special,” I replied.
She gave me a smile before nodding and returning to her stall. I wiped away my tears. By tonight, my eyes will be swollen from all the crying. I would need to put some tea packets on my eyes to relieve some swelling.
It doesn’t matter. The man might look like Raiden but he isn’t Raiden because if he was, he would recognize me, right? He wouldn’t forget who I was. It has only been a year and he remembered me for ten years. You can’t forget someone that easily. So, this man can’t be my Raiden. They might look alike but that was all that they shared. So, my heart should not be affected by him.
I took another spoonful and blew lightly on it to cool it down, sniffling while doing it. I was about to eat it when someone sat down in the chair next to me. I turned my attention to the unknown person, only to find that it wasn’t someone. It was him.
He looked up as if he just saw me sitting there. A smile appearing on his face.
“You like eating here too?” He asked.
I narrowed my eyes on him carefully. Certainly, this world wasn’t this small that we would end up eating at the same vendor stall. There were a hundred more in this city.
He waved his hand in front of my face, another smirk on his face. I blinked before throwing him an annoying glance and turning back to my food. I slipped the spoon inside my mouth before pulling it out and placing it back on the bowl. I allowed my eyes to travel anywhere but him because if I looked at him long enough I might just retract what I tried convincing myself earlier on.
“You left abruptly. We didn’t have a chance to introduce ourselves.” He thanked the vendor lady who brought over a bowl for him.
“My name is Kane.” He said.
I glanced his way then. Kane, not Raiden.
“Anna May,” I whispered before scooping up another spoonful and blowing lightly on it.
“Your fiancé tells me you majored in architectural design.” He started eating. I looked at him oddly while he blew on the porridge and eating it. He looked at me expectantly.
“Yes,” I replied.
He smiled with a nod, “Do you have any experience?”
“I’ve done internships but that is about it,” I answered him.
He slowly nodded as if he was thinking. After a long silence, he spoke up again.
“That’s okay. I’ll hire a consultant to work with you.” He tells me.
I blinked several times to see if I was imagining things.
“Are you saying you will be building a school and hospital in our village?” I asked, my lips twitching into a smile.
He smirked, “Your fiancé is pretty convincing. Your village is small but it looks like a comfortable place to live in. It is less polluted and operates well on its own. If I am unable to bring business to your village, I am fine as long as I am able to help your village further their dreams.”
“Is that the only reason why?” I asked. Brushing off the fact that Niran was telling everyone I am his fiancée. It was still something that I was not comfortable voicing out loud. Not to mention, the glaring factor that I haven’t yet agreed to this marriage yet.
He frowned, “Should there be another?”
The smile slipped from my face and I looked down at my bowl a little disheartened. With a sad smile on my face, I shook my head.
“No. Thank you for helping us out.” I answered.
We ate in silence before he spoke up again.
“Your fiancé seems- ”
“Can you not call him my fiancé,” I mumbled.
His frown deepened and I sighed before turning away from him.
“Why not? He seemed pretty worried when he couldn’t find you.” He replied.
I shook my head, “I just—just don’t call him that. His name is Niran.”
Then I remembered what he said. Niran was worried. I glanced back at Kane.
“Is he still at the hotel?” I asked.
Kane nodded, “He is going a little mad trying to find you.”
I sighed and played with my bowl. Niran was sweet and I should find this adorable but why was it that when it came to Niran it felt...a little...overbearing? I set my spoon down and waved the vendor lady over. I paid her quickly and told her to keep the change before standing up.
“Wait.” Kane interrupted. I turned around to look at him. “Let me take you back. It is getting dark and the streets will start getting busy. It’s dangerous out for a woman to be alone right now.”
I glanced around and noticed that it was getting darker. I nodded and waited for him to finish up. When he was done, he walked me to his shiny black rental car. He opened the door for me to slip into the passenger seat before he walked to the driver side.
For the rest of the drive back to the hotel, we didn’t talk. I avoided looking at him by looking out the window. Being this close to him...my heart it won’t sit still.