Four-letter Word: Weak – 2004

weak \wēk\ adj 1 : lacking strength or vigor : FEEBLE 2 : not able to sustain or resist much weight, pressure, or strain 3 : deficient in vigor of mind or character; also : resulting from or indicative of such deficiency <a ~ policy> <a ~ will> <weak-minded> 4 : not supported by truth or logic <a ~ argument> 5 : lacking skill or proficiency; also : indicative of a lack of skill or aptitude 6 : lacking vigor of expression or effect 7 : of less than usual strength <~ tea> 8 : not having or exerting authority <~ government>; also : INEFFECTIVE, IMPOTENT 9 : of, relating to, or constituting a verb or verb conjugation that forms the past tense and past participle by adding –ed or ­-d or –t weakly adv

Merriam-Webster and Garfield Dictionary (1999)

Richard. Dominic Richard Carreon Feliz.

Callie first met him at a photo shoot for a broadband internet stick six years ago. It was her first ever project, and she wanted it to be perfect. The minute she laid her eyes on him, she immediately hated his guts and his arrogance; he found her and the way she was mad at him for he was five minutes late for his call time adorable and too endearing.

How did they start? How did everything start?

Party.

For Richard and Callie, parties hold significant importance in their relationship, just as the park holds significance for some couples because that’s where they met.

It was the branch launch of the said broadband stick and Callie was finally able to breathe, to exhale. A couple of martinis in and she was already giddy, and then that phone call.

That life-changer of a phone call.

She had to step out because the party was already in full swing, the DJ spinning groovy and upbeat music that plainly epitome the brand’s equity: young, vibrant, loose, confident. She wouldn’t hear what Travis was saying.

I’m done, Callie. I’m sorry. That was Travis’ text message to her a couple of minutes ago. Travis, the love of her life. Travis, the guy she would give up nearly everything for (three years together and despite Travis’ pleas, she didn’t get into bed with him). Travis, her best friend. Her love. Her life.

“What’s wrong? What do you mean you’re done?” she asked as soon as she got to Gypsy’s veranda. Richard was there by the metal swing, finishing his cigarette, a habit he promised to kick out of his system. He was down to three sticks a day from a pack a day just a month from the day he started laying off it, and he personally thinks that is some sort of progress.

He turned towards the direction of the stressed voice, recognizing it as Callie’s. He watched her as she started to pace, panicking. “Trav—”

“We’re over, Callie. I can’t do this anymore with you,” Travis said, and Callie ran her hand over her still pixie cut hair.

“Travis, please don’t do this. My hell months are over. We can—”

“No, Callie,” Travis said, his voice firm and solid, as if saying there is no more backing out. “We can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry. I will drop off your things tonight.”

Before Callie could plead even more or ask for any explanation other than the shitty can’t-do-this-anymore, Travis ended the call. She tried to call again but Travis had turned off his phone, obviously not wanting to talk to her any further.

“Shit. Shit!” Callie shouted. She did this crazy thing that you only see in movies—throwing her cellphone into the unknown, and it sailed in the air, narrowly hitting Richard on the head. It landed with a clang on the metal swing, the back cover, battery, and the SIM card flying out of the apparatus. For a split second, Richard wondered if that would still function.

He ignored the phone, watching Callie as she slumped down on the veranda, her face in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks. She wasn’t just crying—she was bawling.

Darkness loomed around her. She felt the void in her heart, a black hole, growing bigger and bigger with each passing moment. She knew it was her fault—all those overnighters she pulled, all the dates she had to cancel, the phone calls that ended up in fights and pointless arguments, the stress she was taking out on him—and she wasn’t sure if she even deserves a second chance.

Was it worth it? De-prioritizing and sacrificing Travis and their relationship in lieu of a job that underpaid and enslaved her?

It wasn’t. Sure, she is successful—she was promoted, and some wanted to ‘pirate’ her and get her for their own company because she does a kickass job for someone who is just relatively new to the business—but now she is empty.

She is broken, boyfriend-less, best-friend-less, loveless. Travis is gone.

Richard started to walk towards her, almost tiptoeing, fearing he might scare Callie away. Hesitating, he placed a hand on her shoulder when he reached her. She looked up at him, eyes red and swollen, and his first thought was her eyes are gray. It disarmed him for a moment—it was the first time he saw her this close and this vulnerable.

“Go away,” Callie said, her voice throaty, pushing Richard off with all her might that he nearly stumbled. Her don’t-mess-with-me tone made his resolution to help her waver a tiny bit. He regained balance, steadying himself before looking at Callie bravely.

He shook his head. “No. I’m staying,” he said defiantly. Callie scoffed at him, pushing herself off the floor. She lost her balance, stepping on her foot instead and she landed into Richard’s ready arms. She clung to him, like he was her life force, like he was her strength.

“He broke up with me. It was my fault. It was my fault,” she wept, sobbing into Richard’s newly bought Lacoste shirt, and Richard held her. “Shh,” Richard whispered, touching her hair, offering comfort. He pulled her closer to him, hugging her while simultaneously helping her to stand.

“Travis is gone. He’s gone. He’s gone.”

Callie repeated this over and over until she couldn’t sob anymore, passing out in Richard’s arms.

 –

Callie.

Sandra Calliope Sy Romero.

When Richard first met her, he had already heard about her. According to Patty, Callie is a bright, cheerful person, friendly and approachable. Richard remembered smiling when he remembered Patty’s description, because Callie was anything but those words when they first saw each other. She was so consumed with her stress, her drive for perfection that she forgot how to be nice. She was a stickler for rules when working, and a stickler for time—counting hours down to the milliseconds.

She was strong, so strong that she intimidated some people.

But the Callie who is sleeping in his bed right now is far from that. Curled up in a fetal position, buried under his sheets, this is Callie.

When she passed out in his arms earlier, he didn’t know what to do with her, so he just took her home. He was watching her sleep for the past hour, noting how serene and problem-free she looked. She was beautiful, but it was the type of beautiful that told him she didn’t know that she was. He knew if she made efforts, she would be stunning, but he liked her simple.

He liked her either way.

Callie stirred, finally opening her eyes. She looked around her, baffled at the unknown surroundings. When she sat up, her eyes immediately fell on Richard who was leaning against the door, arms across his chest.

“Richard?”

His heart broke at the frailness of Callie’s voice when she called out for him. He gazed at her, giving her a small smile.

“Yep,” he said, walking towards her. He sat on the far side of the bed, his movement tentative. Tears started to well up in her eyes again, and when she smiled that bittersweet smile, he wanted to hug her. Sure, some guys liked girls weak because that would mean they would have to be strong for the girls, but not this way. Not when you see her crumbling. Not when you see her breaking down when you see how strong she could be.

“Thank you.” She breathed out the words, heartfelt and sincere. “I was horrible to you, yet you—”

“Callie, you were doing your job. Outside of that, I know you’re not that kind of person,” he cut her off, and then braved through it all, reaching out to hold her hand. “How are you feeling?” he asked her, and she shrugged, a tear streaming down her cheek.

“I’m… coming nearer to hug you. Don’t… snarl at me,” Richard tried to joke and Callie managed to smile. He slid near to her, gathering her smaller frame in his arms and she allowed him without any protests. She hugged him back, needing to fill the gaping hole inside her chest.

Richard was there to make her feel better.

And Callie never forgot that.

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