It was not a crush. Two weeks had passed, but I still could not forget Destiny.
Within that period, something strange had happened. An anonymous person had settled my mother’s bills, without informing us directly. Through the nurse, I had sent a note to thank this secret benefactor. Initially, I cracked my brains over who it could be; but, finally, concluded that it must be some eccentric philanthropist. Whoever it was, I was just glad that the bill had been settled.
I found time to return the book to Pierre, who insisted on knowing my reason for reading it. I just brushed the topic aside.
It was two weeks later that I had a Saturday off. Since I did not have any lessons, I headed to my favourite spot where I had bumped into Destiny twice – the library in Boon Lay Square.
At exactly 6 p.m., while pacing through the shelves at the children’s section, I was rewarded with a familiar sight. Only one word came to my mind, one simple word that had brought so much significance to my life.
I went forward and saw her eyes lit up in recognition.
“What a coincidence.” I said. “Must be fate.”
Giggling, she said, “I thought you don’t believe in fate?”
“Now, I do.”
She winked at me, probably wondering what had brought about the sudden transformation in me. I should have said, “Because of you.”
Instead, I said, “Because of ‘Twist of Kismet’. Ever since I started reading it, I have begun to believe in fate.”
I wanted to please her that I had read her favourite book.
She smiled enigmatically and fell into silence immediately.
“So,” she finally said, “How long have you been here?”
“Just came,” I lied, although I had waited for her for over five hours.
All of a sudden, without any warning, she grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the library. The warmth of her hands flowed right through my heart.
We flew up the stairs, hitting two steps at a time. We just climbed on and on, heading to our secret meeting place. We were both panting away. The higher we went, the warmer her palms became.
At the top floor, she flung open the door with a bang. I hung my head low, huffing away to catch my breath.
“Roof…” I gasped; my breath still heavy.
I studied the area. It was just like a few weeks ago. Except, there was no girl standing on the ledge anymore. That girl was standing right beside me.
Destiny released my hands. I allowed a smile to form on my parched lips. She smiled back at me sweetly.
She slumped down to a spot near the exhaust pipe. I sat beside her, feeling high.
“It’s better here, Alan. No need to waste money on coffee, all the time.”
“Yes.” I agreed breathlessly. She could read me like a book.
She threw her hands up in mid-air, as if attempting to hug the skies. “Let’s stay here a bit longer, okay? It’s the weekend!”
I nodded my head enthusiastically.
“So…” I began hesitantly. “Are you ready to tell me… why you wanted to… jump off the building?”
She kept quiet.
This was my philosophy. First step in chasing a girl: Be helpful. Second step: Actually help.
She turned to face me, looking solemn.
“Allow me to lessen your pain.” I reassured her, impressed with my choice of words.
She beamed me a smile. Then, she pointed to the horizon where the sun was beginning to set.
I glanced at the giant orb, avoiding its direct rays. I noticed she did nothing to protect her widened eyes from the glare.
“You’ll spoil your eyes that way!” I cried.
“It’s okay. I’m not worried. I have no future.” she muttered, her voice a fusion of misery and pain.
Subconsciously, I rested my palms on her shoulders.
“Destiny, don’t say things like that…”
She did not resist. “Destiny has already written my future.”
I stood still, my palms still on her shoulders. What is preventing her from seeking happiness? I must be the one, then. I must be the one to unlock the secrets in her heart and help her find happiness.
“You’re very poor, aren’t you?” she said abruptly, changing the subject.
There was no reason for me to deny.
“Yes. Very. Sometimes, I even have to starve for an entire day just to buy a bottle of shampoo.”
“That’s why your hair is so healthy!” she laughed out loud.
I grinned faintly, wondering if I should drop the bomb then.
“Are you suffering from some fatal… disease?”
Reaching the last word, I regretted my bluntness. But then, I wanted to know… I needed to know.
“Not yet.” she said almost instantly, as if she had already predicted the question.
“Not yet.” – those two words again.
She turned to face me squarely.
Time passed us by in silence, as the night started to fall around us. We bathed under the naked moonlight, as there was no lighting on the roof.
“It’s beautiful.” she finally broke the silence, pointing to the flickering stars above.
I glanced up, desperately trying to count them.
“Yes, they are.” I confessed, clearing my throat.
Without warning, she sprung to her feet to do an impromptu jiggle. As I watched her flowery sundress fluttering in the winds, I suddenly noticed a disfiguring scar running across her left thigh. It was a long ugly scar that spread across her porcelain skin.
She caught my gaze and explained without my inquiring. “I had an accident when I was younger.”
I admired her ability to read minds.
My mind ransacked for other topics.
“‘Twist of Kismet’,” I said. “Your recommendation is great.”
“Yes.” she faced me again, her lips with a ready smile. “So, can you refresh me with the plot?”
“Well, it’s about the two leads – Kolbee and Kismet. Kolbee, as with any characters in such romance paperbacks, fell in love with Kismet at first sight. They met at the ICU department of the hospital, where they were both working as nurses. After dating for a year, he proposed to her. Kismet accepted right away. I thought it was so predictable. But, something tragic happened.”
I could see Destiny getting uneasy at the mention of the word “tragic”.
“Kismet came down with SARS,” I continued. “She wanted to call off their wedding. She said something like “Find a girl to love, for now. In the next life-‘”
“Stop!” Destiny shouted suddenly, her loud screams piercing through the night.
I was totally stunned at her outburst. For no apparent reason, she started sobbing again.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered in shock. I did not have the slightest idea what had I done to provoke such a strong reaction from her.
“Sorry.” I apologised again, realizing I had unwittingly hurt her.
She smiled through her tears. “I’m sorry, too.”
With that, she wiped her face dry and added loudly, “It’s just that I can’t stand sad endings.”
I nodded again and watch her sob quietly.
“So… what is your dream?” she asked, changing the topic.
“Er… I want to make a differ-…”
“Difference?” she cut in.
“Yes. Most people just live their lives meaninglessly. So, I want to be different. I want to help people; save as many lives as I can, perhaps. I don’t want to be just a normal man.”
“So, you want to be Superman?” Destiny was teasing now.
“No, Batman.” I added flippantly.
She laughed along with me, and then added, “Alan, ask me what is my dream.”
“What is your dream?” I did, as instructed.
“I just wish that someday, I can experience true love. Not those tv kind of melodrama love, of course!”
She laughed hysterically and then became very serious.
“True love is when a man is willing to die for me.”
Die for her? I balked at that thought.
“That man must be willing to do anything for me,” she went on. “Then, I am willing to die. With the memory of true love.”
“That’s every woman’s dream.” I said under my breath.
“No!” she countered. “Every woman’s dream is to get married. Mine is just to achieve true love. Marry or not, that isn’t important. Marriage is just a vow. True love is real, even if it lasts only for a while. But, its memories will last forever.”
“Do you think my dream will come true? Do you think our dreams will come true, Alan?”
Her eyes were fixed on me, obviously waiting for an answer she wanted to hear.
But, damned me! I had to be a wet blanket.
“I don’t know.”
I saw the frown on her face. I knew I had hurt her again.
She had turned her face away from me.
“So, Destiny,” I asked, “Do you know about the stars theory?”
Wait… I did not know about the stars theory, either. What the hell is the stars theory?
She turned to eye me suspiciously, as she shook her head.
With a deep breath, I tried to formulate as much rubbish as I could. “Do you know what the stars in the sky are?”
My mind raced ahead, trying to make out a star theory. “They’re the… souls of the dead.”
It might have sounded familiar. I seemed to have heard it from a movie before. I could adopt and adapt on the spot.
“When a person dies, the soul rises to be a star in the sky.”
She opened her eyes in wonderment.
I was on a roll.
“Has a loved one passed away before? You told me… your mother…” I probed on, thinking and talking at the same time.
She hesitated before answering, “I never really knew her…”
By then, the entire story of the stars theory had already taken form.
“Let’s say, when your mother was leaving, maybe her mind was spinning with one name… Destiny, Destiny, Destiny…
“One day, when Destiny decides to send a prayer to the stars, her mum will find that prayer. When Destiny’s mum holds on to that prayer, she will make it come true. Then, she will turn into a shooting star and rise upwards into the heavens.
“That’s why you see so many stars above, appearing and then disappearing all across the wide expanse. They’re the departed souls searching for their loved ones. When they find them, they turn into shooting stars and find their happiness.”
“Wow!” Destiny clapped her hands. “That’s really cool!”
“It is?” I was amazed at my own ingenuity.
She turned to face me wistfully.
“So, who came out with this theory?”
I shrugged, a wicked smile on my face.
“A very famous guy.”
She clapped her hands gleefully again, and then boxed my right arm.
“You’re very cool, then! Yes, and very sweet, too!”
First, she said I was a nice guy, then she said I was a good friend; now, she said I was cool and sweet… what’s next?
She smiled sweetly, melting my heart straightaway.
How I wished I could kiss her, and be the man she wanted me to be…
But, I was just a boy at that time.
“Alan, you don’t look 18. You sound so mature.”
My spirit shot to the moon.
“Thanks…” I said softly, as I inched closer to her.
I could hear her deep breathing.
I would never ever forget this moment in my life.
For that mere second, I dare to say I was willing to die for her.
And, I was never one to make empty promises.
I hugged her.