Warning: Longest chapter of Confessions EVER. haha :)
Posted April 10
“What if you waited for your special someone your whole life and later on learn that no one is waiting for you? True love is worth taking chances for. Sometimes you don’t know why things work out, they just do.”
I never was a fan of happy endings because I thought they weren’t meant for me. All my life, all the “chapters” I thought that would have ended happily or have stayed happy—with little or no conflicts, if it was entirely possible—have ended up going horribly wrong at some point. There will be a point in our lives when all we believe is that happy endings are all just in fairy tales, that they are just false hopes and fake ideals for the things and stories that we can’t have. That sad endings are the realities of life. That heartbreak and pain are the daily bread and butter.
But one day, you’ll realize that we have to travel our own roads to our happy endings. Ariel—at least in Disney’s version—didn’t get to be with Eric if she didn’t sacrifice her voice in order for him to know her. Snow White had to die, for Pete’s sake, just so the Prince Charming could come and save her. Philip had to go through thorny vines clinging to hundred-foot walls of the castle and fight monsters just so he could wake Sleeping Beauty up with a kiss. Shrek—yes, I am going to include this here—had to fight through people who discriminate the way he looks and look down on his position in the society just so he could be with Fiona, who eventually had to give up her beautiful looks to be with Shrek. That is true love.
And courage—courage to take risks. Courage to fight for the love we all deserve… in the right time.
And courage—courage to give up when the love isn’t right.
My road to Joseph was long, twisted, thorny and filled with horrible haunted trees. I had to go through three tall mountains which were probably like Mt. Fuji in height and swim through South China Sea just to get to him. I had to hurt people important to me just so I could be with him. I’m not proud of that. Sometimes I wonder why he and I can’t have it easy. It’s either I’m with another man or he’s with another woman. Or he’s my sibling and then he’s not. Or I’d make stupid choices or he would make stupid choices.
But the long and twisted travel to Joseph is worth it.
He’s all worth it.
Listening to: All I Really Need is You by Neil Diamond
“So, dinner everyone?” Cynthia asked, smiling. Kiefer, Joseph, and Jeff had just joined their small group that included Joshua, Anya, Ryan, Carlie, Nate and Franz. Cynthia didn’t have to ask—it was tradition that their entire bunch would go for a team dinner.
“Rain check?” Carlie said, tugging at her father’s arm. “I haven’t given Dad a chance to settle in—he’s probably still jet-lagged. I have to take him home.” Ryan pulled Carlie close to him and half-embraced her. “Thank you,” he muttered under his breath. Joseph took a step towards Carlie but she shook her head, as if telling him not now. Carlie kissed Joshua on the head and took a step towards Kiefer.
“I’ll wait for you at home?” she said to Kiefer, and he gazed at her, his expression unreadable. He kissed her on the forehead. “Sure. We’ll talk,” he said, and Carlie nodded. “I’ll take the driver. You got your car, right?”
Kiefer smiled, touching Carlie’s cheek. “I do. I’ll see you later,” he whispered, and Carlie wrapped her arm around her father’s waist, heading to the parking lot.
“Guys, I have to take Anya home. Rain check too,” Joseph said, enthusiasm deflated at Carlie’s departure. Cynthia shook her head. “We only allow one raincheck here, come on,” Cynthia said, and Anya grinned. “Come on, Joseph. I can join this one. I can be late—Dad won’t mind,” she said to him, holding on to his arm. Joseph studied her face, wondering silently that if by the end of the day, their group would still see Anya—if she’d still be a part of their group.
“Fine,” Joseph relented.
“Good. Now let’s eat before the kids here go grumpy because of hunger,” Cynthia said, cocking her head towards the restaurants.
“Carlie, I know I offered you some sort of asylum abroad, but why are you taking it now? You are free—Kiefer has let you go and Joseph wants you. Why do you want to leave?”
Carlie took a deep breath and looked up at her father from the luggage that she was packing. They got home a couple of hours ago and she thought her dad was already asleep in the guest room. She didn’t speak until her father reached her. “Dad, there was one thing I left out when I told you the story about me, Kiefer, and Joseph,” she said, and Ryan stayed silent.
She sat down on the bed, sighing heavily. “I have a weak heart. It was… already weak before I gave birth to Alcide, but after I gave birth to him and after the first time my heart gave out, the doctor said it’s weaker than ever. So… I am dying. I could virtually die once I come to term,” she explained.
“Tell me where does the part of leaving come in,” Ryan said patiently.
“Dad, I am not so sure if Kiefer or Joseph had realized this. If they have, one of them would surely make me want to stop the pregnancy.”
“Why would they do that, Carlie? You’re about three months on the way. That is a life. It’s already a baby—”
“Dad, my doctor told me I would have to choose. It’s either me or the baby—it can’t be both,” she emphasized.
“So I surmise you’re choosing the baby,” Ryan said slowly.
Carlie nodded. “I don’t have to think about it, Dad. It’s going to be the baby. It had been the choice the first time around.”
Silence fell between the father and daughter tandem. Carlie continued to fold her clothes. “We don’t have to leave, Carlie. You tell Joseph what you told me. You guys enjoy the most of the time you have left—”
“Dad, what? Six more months?”
Ryan shook his head, sitting next to his daughter on the bed and pulling her into a hug. “Better six months than nothing, don’t you think, Carlie? I never got that chance with your mother. I have to make sure you have your time with Joseph—even if it’s just six months.”
Carlie cried hard in her father’s arms. “I always thought Joseph and I would grow old together, you know that, Dad? I imagined us before, old and gray, watching our grandkids play around the backyard. I’ll never get that chance, Dad. I probably won’t even see my baby and hold my baby. I’ll never get to see how great a father Joseph would be or how—” Carlie’s voice broke.
“Shh,” whispered Ryan. “We’ll stay here. I’ll take a sabbatical if I have to if you need me here the entire time. And Carlie—” Ryan stroked his daughter’s hair—“there is still hope. You can live. You’ve gone through it once already and survived, didn’t you? I don’t care how small that chance of living that you have—that is still a chance. If the doctor said you have 10% chance of living when you give birth—I’ll hold on to that It’s still a glimmer of hope. Nothing is ever certain, Carlie.”
Carlie nodded, burying her face in her father’s chest. “I have two requests, though,” he said, and Carlie looked up at him, eyes still brimming with tears. “What?” she asked, her voice quivering.
“One is that you have to stop crying. Too much emotional baggage can affect the baby, okay?” he said, and Carlie just shrugged in response. “And the second?” she asked.
“We’ll work on having your name changed from Chua to Sy.”
Carlie smiled through her tears. “Of course,” she said, kissing her dad on the cheek.
“Although you might just go back to Chua once Joseph asks for you hand in marriage—”
“Dad!” Carlie exclaimed. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself.”
Ryan laughed. “I’m serious, Carlie. All roads are clear for you and Joseph. All he has to do is ask your hand for marriage.”
“Nah,” Carlie said, standing up and continuing her packing. “You’re missing one thing, Dad.”
“What is that?”
“I have to say ‘yes.’”
Ryan let out a chuckle, walking over to Carlie and kissing her hair. “Oh, I’m pretty sure you won’t hesitate,” he said, and he whispered good night to Carlie before heading back to the guest room.
Carlie smiled slowly. Kiefer came home. He made good on his promise. She looked up and found him at the door, leaning against the jamb, arms across his chest. “Kiefer,” she said, walking over to him and hugging him. Kiefer inhaled her scent, hugging her back tightly.
“Dad and I will look for place to stay. He said he’d take a sabbatical to be here for a couple of months, so…”
“I’m happy that you and your dad are doing okay now,” he whispered, releasing her from the hug but still keeping her close by holding her around the waist.
Carlie thanked him, a gentle smile on her face. “We’d probably get a condo unit a couple of blocks down here, so Josh can still visit me—that is, if it’s okay with you?” she asked, and Kiefer gazed at her. “Carlie, come on. Of course, that’s okay. Joshua would love that too,” he whispered.
“We’re okay, right?” Carlie asked, her eyes expectant.
Kiefer smiled a sad smile. “We are,” he whispered, sounding sincere.
“Congratulations on your MVP win.”
Kiefer hugged her once more. “It was for you and Josh.”
“But due to the recent events—”
“I would have included your kick-ass part of the speech, but yeah, due to recent events,” Kiefer said, letting Carlie finish the sentence. She touched his cheek. “I’m sorry for hurting you,” she whispered, and Kiefer nodded. “Pain is necessary for growing up and moving on,” he said gently.
Carlie smiled a bit. “Wow, you’re really doing good with words, Kief,” she teased, and Kiefer rolled his eyes, grinning. And then he turned serious.
“I love you, Carlie.”
“I love you, Kiefer.”
He hugged her for a last time, and then let her continue to pack.
Carlie could swear she saw a tear fall from Kiefer’s face when he turned away.
Kiefer found himself at the balcony of the house. The dark sky was filled with clouds, and no star could be seen. The moon was hiding behind a couple of huge clouds shaped like bears. He breathed deeply.
His thoughts ran in all directions—from the first day he met Carlie to the day he lost her, to the time he first met Joseph and the time he had punched him upon knowing Carlie’s pregnant with Joseph’s child, to the day he had decided loving Carlie this much just consumes him and is not at all healthy.
He knows that it was almost a known truth—at least to Carlie, Jeff, Cynthia, and Joseph—that Carlie would be the last woman he’d ever love this much.
Maybe there is a love out there for him, but maybe it just isn’t Carlie’s. The problem with this scenario is that he isn’t sure if he’s willing to give all out for that next love—if there is another love.
Did anybody ever think that maybe one person is meant for two people, but maybe not just at the same time? Kiefer thought. I had Carlie, and at that time it felt like she was meant for me and I was meant for her. But she was meant for Joseph too. And he is meant for her too.
Kiefer turned to find his son, watching him as he gazed outside at the balcony of the house. “Hey,” he said, greeting him and walking towards him. He was holding a pillow, hugging it to his chest. “Carlie would sleep in my room. Can you join us?” he asked, and Kiefer nodded.
“Of course,” he answered, and they started to walk back to the rooms. Before they entered, Kiefer pulled Joshua aside. “Are you okay? You understand why Carlie is leaving, right?” he asked his son gently. Joshua nodded sleepily.
“Dad, I’m a big boy. I know Carlie would be happy with Uncle Joseph,” he said, and he tugged at Kiefer’s arm and led him inside his room. Carlie was already there, tucking under the covers, and she smiled when she saw the two Costellos.
“Come on, guys. Sleepy already,” Carlie mumbled, and Joshua bounced onto the bed and lay next to Carlie. Kiefer took the space on Joshua’s other side.
“Goodnight,” Carlie whispered.
“Goodnight Mama Carlie. Goodnight Dad,” Joshua whispered back.
“Goodnight,” Kiefer mumbled, reaching towards the bedside lamp to turn off the lights.
When Joshua and Kiefer woke up next morning, Carlie and Ryan were gone.
Kiefer went down the path to Carlie’s study. In her note that she left by Joshua’s bedside, she said she’d be back for her other things as all she took were her clothes. She had prepared breakfast too—one which he should be chomping on now with his son.
He smiled when he saw the room. Carlie’s usual chaos in the works—there were books stacked on the floor, some of which he knew she bought but haven’t read. The two corkboards on the walls were filled with post-its and other notes that Kiefer was sure Carlie needed to remind her of important dates and events. The desk was empty but he knew that was where her laptop was supposed to be. A quick inspection of the drawers revealed some files that Carlie has kept.
“Since when did you go CSI?”
Kiefer nearly jumped at the sound of Joseph’s voice. “Snooping around, aren’t you?” Joseph continued to tease, but there was a frown on his face.
Kiefer rolled his eyes. “No, I wasn’t,” he said, and then changed courses. “What are you doing here?”
“Carlie,” was all Joseph said, and Kiefer smirked. “Sorry, that I can’t produce. She left early this morning with her dad,” he answered.
“And she went where?”
“Chua, after Carlie and I—well, after she and I broke up, I never ask anything anymore,” Kiefer said smugly, the animosity that he and Joseph had years ago now coming back.
“Look, I get it—you’re mad at me because Carlie had to leave you again—”
“I am not mad,” Kiefer cut in. “But it appears to me that she still hasn’t talked to you either. So we’re on the same boat, what you say?”
“Guess so,” said Joseph, the frown on his face deepening. He stopped to take in the room. “This room is just so Carlie. Chaos,” he commented, and Kiefer’s face softened. “Actually, that was my first thought,” he admitted.
“Organized chaos, Carlie is,” Joseph said absently.
“Too Yoda-ish for me, sorry, Chua,” Kiefer remarked, and Joseph looked up at him. He opened his mouth to say something but changed his mind. He thanked Kiefer and then headed out.
“Chua!” Kiefer called out, running after Joseph. “What do you plan to do?”
“Yesterday, my mom, dad and I were talking about Carlie. And then my mother brought up this interesting tidbit—Carlie nearly died when she first gave birth,” Joseph said, sounding really sullen. When he looked at Kiefer, his eyes were filled with pain. Kiefer closed his gaping mouth. Oh yeah, now he remembers.
“Now tell me, Costello—what should I do knowing this? She’s out there, carrying my baby and she could die in six months. And that’s on me. What should I do?” Joseph demanded, and Kiefer stared at his nemesis-turned-friend-turned-guy-who-stole-his-perfect-woman-away, and then sighed heavily.
“You should do what should make her happy. Treasure the six months—but I’m pretty sure Carlie will live longer than that. She’s a fighter, and you of all people should know that,” Kiefer said, patting Joseph on the shoulder.
“Why did you do it?” Joseph asked after Kiefer had taken about six steps.
Kiefer turned to look at Joseph, frowning. “Did what?”
“Let Carlie go. She chose you, didn’t she? She was willing to live the new life with you.”
Kiefer smirked. “Like I told her—she’d never be completely happy with me, Chua. You ever tried to look into someone’s eyes and know—just know that they don’t love you maybe just as much as you did love them?”
Joseph shook his head.
“Right, coz you’re always the one Carlie chooses, I remember,” Kiefer remarked, sarcasm evident in his voice, and Joseph let out a sarcastic laugh. “She chose Bryce over me, you have to remember that, Costello.”
“But her road—no matter how twisted that road is—always ends up with you,” Kiefer replied. And then he turned cold. “Now, I’m done feeding your ego, Chua. Get out of my house.”
Joseph paused, thanked Kiefer, and then—thinking long and hard for a plan—fishing his phone from his pocket and he called his mom first and then Carlie.
This is it.
He couldn’t find Carlie.
Joseph’s mind settled for that after looking for Carlie at her office, her last condo unit, and at Kiefer’s. He even looked at their usual places—the park, the playground, his father’s house (in the rare chance that Carlie would visit Ramon after meeting Ryan and having good times with her biological dad)—but she wasn’t there.
What added to his agitation is that Carlie isn’t picking up any of his calls.
Where is she?
“Do I only see you during basketball games now?”
Carlie turned and saw Joseph, handsome in his jersey, his hands on his waist, obviously angry. But deep inside, he was relieved.
Carlie didn’t skip town.
Carlie didn’t leave.
Carlie stayed. She didn’t run away.
It was Game 6 of the Finals, as the Kings managed to salvage Game 5 via a cliffhanger of a win in 90-89 (courtesy of a Jeff Saunders three-point play) to force Game 6 (and hopefully a Game 7). They are taking the longest route to get that elusive championship ring.
“I wasn’t here last Game 5, so I guess not,” Carlie answered, taking the donut and melon shake from the cashier from whom she ordered some snacks from when Joseph had spotted her. The game was in about an hour, but Joshua asked to meet her before the game so that she could help him with his math assignment. Carlie and Joshua still continued that relationship—their mother-daughter relationship—even after she left Kiefer’s home. Kiefer would religiously bring Joshua over to Carlie’s condo so that she could tutor the boy and bond with the boy.
Kiefer never stayed for the bonding and tutor sessions, coming back after three hours to pick up Joshua.
Joseph took the seat across Carlie and watched as she chomped on the donut—to Joseph it looked like it was honey-glazed, but he wasn’t quite sure—happily.
“Is that your current craving?” Joseph asked, amused, his anger fading seeing how cheerful Carlie is.
Carlie frowned, thinking hard, and then shook her head. “Actually, I’m craving for Icebreakers scrambles, but it’s far, so I can’t get it,” Carlie said, and Joseph grinned. “We can get it later, after the game,” he answered, reaching over and placing his hand over Carlie’s. She didn’t move her hand, even rubbing her thumb against his palm unconsciously.
“You’re willing to go the nearest SM branch just so we can get Icebreakers?” Carlie said, and Joseph nodded, smiling at her gently. “I think I am supposed to do that, right? I mean, give in to all your cravings because they say it’s bad if I don’t,” he replied, and Carlie stayed silent.
“Where were you the past days?” he asked after a while.
“Dad and I were processing my papers—”
Joseph’s internal alarm just went off at the sound of “papers,” and it must have shown on his face for Carlie grinned. “Dad wants me to be a Sy,” Carlie explained as an answer to his unspoken question. “And yes—although the thought of leaving the country got into my head, Dad convinced me not to,” she added as an afterthought.
“You never answered my calls.”
Carlie shrugged, sipping her shake noisily. “I wanted to give you time to think.”
“I have thought about things already. Have you?”
Carlie eyed him with interest. “What should I think about?”
“You. Me. The baby.”
She finished off her donut, and then said, “Give me something specific to think about.”
“Carlie, come on, I don’t have time for this—”
“Exactly,” Carlie cut in. “We’ll talk after your game, Joseph. You owe me that Icebreaker you promised.”
Joseph kissed Carlie’s hand. “See? All I need is something cold to win you over,” he teased, and Carlie rolled her eyes. Joseph stood up and motioned someone over, and she turned to find Joshua standing a few feet away from the table where Carlie and Joseph were seated.
“I’ll see you later,” Joseph said, leaning over and kissing Carlie on the forehead. Joshua bounced over into Carlie’s welcoming arms. “Now, where is your math assignment?” Carlie asked, and Joshua’s smile faded, bummed that they have to start with his homework right away.
“You picking up Joseph?”
Carlie turned to find Kiefer, his gym bag slung over his shoulder, looking freshly out of the shower. It was one of those days when it was their group’s consensus to not have dinner so as to give the guys rest—they scraped past the Express in another close game, winning by just only a three-pointer which Joseph made with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. The ball seemed to have made its decision after bouncing around the rim for about five times, finally going in.
Game 7 is in two days, and the boys need all the preparation that they could get.
“Yeah,” Carlie said, but at the moment Kiefer stepped within five steps of her, she caught a whiff of his soap. She closed her eyes, feeling nauseous all of a sudden. “Damn,” she cursed under her breath.
“Carls?” Kiefer said, worried, rushing to her. She appeared pale to Kiefer, and then she took deep breaths before looking up at him, color back on her face. “You know, I am developing a very weird aversion to your choice of soap, so try and stay back?” she said apologetically. Kiefer groaned, holding up his hands as if to surrender. He took three steps back and that was when Jeff saw them.
“Whoa, what’s up?” Jeff asked, amused by the scene. “You holding up Kiefer, Carlie?”
“She’s getting morning sickness in frigging evening, man,” Kiefer said, sounding amused himself. Carlie flashed Jeff and Kiefer glares. “Go ahead, make fun of me,” she seethed, leaning against the wall. Joseph emerged from the dugouts and saw their group, Kiefer and Jeff seeming standing far away from Carlie. Joseph walked over to her and Carlie took a step back, making Joseph frown.
“Please tell me you used a different soap,” she pleaded, and Joseph nodded, a smile on his face. “Irish Spring, remember?” he answered, and Carlie exhaled loudly. She opened her arms and Joseph stepped into them, feeling it as Carlie inhaled his menthol, hey-I-am-a-man scent.
Kiefer turned away, rolling his eyes. “You guys,” was all he muttered, and then Jeff patted him on the shoulder to offer comfort. Carlie released Joseph, said softly that she’s sorry, and then Kiefer looked back at them, shrugging. “Let’s all go? Joshua’s waiting outside with Cynth, and I think my son’s sleepy,” he quipped, and Jeff cocked his head towards the exit, following Kiefer, still silent.
Carlie groaned. “Is it my fault that you chose not to use the soap that makes me dizzy?” she asked Joseph, almost in a whine. Joseph placed an arm over her shoulder, laughing. “It’s not, Carl,” he whispered into her ear. He ushered her outside where the group was waiting, removing his arm around her as soon as they were in the group’s line of sight, so as to avoid Kiefer getting hurt again.
“You know, the Icebreaker is a bad idea. You have to go home and rest, Sef. You’re due for practice in eight hours. We can get the—”
Joseph reached out and placed his hand behind Carlie’s nape, massaging her tense muscles. She sighed. “Look, Carl,” Joseph said, “let me do this for you. Even if you asked for this around midnight, I would have still gone through with it. Let me experience this.”
Carlie stayed silent, thinking. And then she remembered what her dad told her—better six months than nothing. She looked at him and nodded. “Of course,” she said, smiling at him. Joseph reached out for her hand and kissed it. “Thanks,” he said quietly.
“So tell me—what have you thought about when I went M.I.A.?” Carlie asked after a while. Joseph looked at her—traffic was bad and he was silently thanking heavens for that—and then he realized that she is just… amazing. A blush was creeping up Carlie’s cheeks, just noticeable from the couple of strands of hair that were loose from her ponytail and ended up playing with her cheeks.
God, Carlie. You look beautiful, Joseph thought, and then Carlie rolled her eyes.
“What?” he asked her.
“You told me I’m beautiful,” she said plainly.
“And we’re holding up traffic, bozo.”
Joseph tried to catch himself and he revved up the car again. “I’ve thought about you and me. And the next six months,” he said after they passed the next stoplight. She gazed at him, reading his expression.
“You know,” she settled, and Joseph nodded, his jaw set.
“Forget the Icebreaker. Can we go to the park?” Carlie said, and Joseph hesitated.
“It’s what I want. And right now, you’re hell bent on giving that, aren’t you?”
Joseph nodded, and he made a U-turn to head to the park that has been momentous for them in more ways than one.
The park where Carlie and Joseph first laid under the stars and where Carlie told Joseph they weren’t siblings but that she wouldn’t choose him was nearly empty when they got there. It was about ten in the evening, after all, and the only ones who were there with them were the astrology enthusiasts and those who loved gazing at stars. It was a clear night, and there was about a hundred thousand stars lit up the sky, surrounding the full moon.
Joseph and Carlie chose their favorite spot at the park—the one next to the statue of St. Michael the Archangel. Joseph brought out one of the extra towels he was keeping in his car and placed it on the grass. He helped Carlie sit down on the towel and took the space next to her.
“You weren’t going to tell me, were you?” Joseph said after a few crickets made their presence known.
Carlie sighed. “It wouldn’t make any difference.”
Silence reigned between them for a few minutes before Joseph took her hand. Carlie felt something between his palm and hers, but he held tightly to her hand so she couldn’t turn it over to see what it was.
“After all these years, Carlie, six months—that’s all I probably could spend with you,” Joseph whispered, his voice breaking at the end. She held his face with her free hand and shook her head. “Sef, 10%,” she whispered back.
“What do you mean 10%?”
She made him look at her. When his eyes were trained on her and she was sure he was getting everything she is about to say, she told him, “I have a 10% chance to live through this childbirth. Let’s hang on to that, shall we?”
“So it’s really you and me now?” he asked her, keeping her hand on his face and cuddling to it. “Unless you have another option, you’re stuck with me now,” she teased, and Joseph grinned. He flipped their joined hands and revealed the thing he had in their palms—a two-karat princess cut diamond on silver ring—the same ring that Ramon had used to propose to Corrine.
Carlie drew her breath.
Joseph switched positions so that he was kneeling on one knee in front of her. “Let’s be stuck together for the rest of our lives then, Carlie, shall we?” Joseph said, an unsure smile on his face. Carlie still hasn’t breathed. “Carlie Andrea Sy—will you marry me?”
Carlie smiled when he used her new surname—which is yet to be approved of the courts, if she may say so. “What about everyone else?” Carlie whispered.
“We never got together before because we were thinking about what everyone else would say. We were too concerned about how they would feel, or how they would get hurt and by how much. We ended up hurting them—even much more than what we may have done if we have just been together in the first place. At the very least, we have six months between the two of us, and the baby that we have. Marry me, Carlie. Please,” he whispered, hovering the ring over Carlie’s right ring finger, waiting for her answer. He could feel his heart racing in his chest, pounding at each second that Carlie spent on thinking about the answer.
“Carlie, marry me,” he repeated when Carlie didn’t speak. Tears were in her eyes, and Joseph’s face was equally wet as well. “I love you. Give me a chance, please. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And I don’t care if it’s just six months, a year, ten years, twenty years, or fifty years with you, Carlie. Please say you’d marry me. Please say you’d be stuck with me forever.”
Carlie blinked her tears and then took a deep breath. “Yes, Joseph Miko Chua, I’ll marry you,” she said softly, the light breeze carrying her voice to Joseph’s ears. “I’ll marry you,” she whispered again, and Joseph slipped the ring onto her finger, leaned over and hugged Carlie.
“Thank you,” he whispered to her ear. He drew back and kissed her, long and soft, and Carlie smiled at the end of it.
“What?” Joseph asked, and Carlie shrugged. She patted the space next to her, but Joseph moved behind her, sitting so that he was behind her and was hugging her from the back. “Dad said changing my name to Sy is negligible, coz you’re bound to propose to me, and then I’d have to stick to Chua again,” Carlie said, and Joseph laughed.
“You, Carl, have gone through so many surname changes than anyone else I personally know,” he teased her. “Chua, Costello, Sy, and then Chua.”
“I wonder if I had married Bryce, if that marriage would have lasted,” Carlie said thoughtfully, cuddling closer to Joseph.
“Well, I guess it would have—if you were patient enough to wait out until all the Bryce Craig hype had gone down. From the looks of it, he still has three movies lined up, so he’s still a Hollywood fave.”
“How do you know these things again?” Carlie asked, frowning.
“Bryce—he and I have been in contact ever since December. He still cares about you, you know.”
“Well, yeah. Can we invite him to our wedding?”
Joseph chuckled. “Sure. If he can fit us in his sched.”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure he would,” Carlie said, smiling. Joseph kissed her hair and hugged her, whispering his silent gratitude to the heaven that finally he and his love are together.
After the toss coin last night at Carlie’s place, Joseph won the daunting task of telling Jeff, Cynthia, and—drumroll please—Kiefer the news that he and Carlie are getting married. And Joseph started with the one person he knows wouldn’t judge him—Jeff.
“Hey man,” Joseph said, approaching Jeff as he stretched. They were tasked to do suicides in a few minutes. He stood next to Jeff and started stretching with his arms as well. “Hey,” Jeff said, looking up as he emerged from touching his toes. “What’s up?”
“Carlie and I are getting married,” Joseph said without any further ado.
Jeff stopped stretching his bicep, turning to Joseph, his face unreadable. “Not that it’s my business, but did you tell Kiefer already?” he said, and as if on cue, Kiefer popped from behind them, carrying a basketball.
“Tell me what?” he asked, eyeing Joseph with a dark look. Joseph swallowed the lump in his throat. “I…” Joseph began to say, but his voice trailed. He couldn’t do it. He’d earn another punch—that he’s sure of.
“You, what?” Kiefer demanded, and he looked at Jeff who didn’t say anything. “Look, if you’re going to tell me that you and Carlie are moving in together or something to that effect, it’s fine with me. It wouldn’t actually matter what I think, you know that,” Kiefer said, and Joseph breathed deeply.
“Actually, I proposed last night, and she accepted.”
“You guys are getting married,” Kiefer said, without a hint of surprise in his voice. “‘Bout time, if you ask me.”
Joseph looked at Kiefer, amused. “Really, man?”
“Come on, you guys are what? Thirty-something adults who finally found their purpose in life. I’d fast-track everything if I were you, especially given Carlie’s condition.”
“What condition?” Jeff asked, but Joseph and Kiefer ignored him.
Joseph took another stab at Kiefer. “Would you be mad at me if I ask you to be the best man?” he said, almost shyly, and Kiefer gave him a smug smile. “You and Carlie are all sorts of weird, you know that?” Kiefer said, meaning it to be an insult. Joseph shrugged.
“Fine,” Kiefer said, turning to head to the other side of the court.
“Hey Costello!” Joseph shouted.
“What, Chua?” Kiefer barked.
“You’re weird too!” Joseph said, and Kiefer just grinned, shaking his head as he started with his suicides.
Everything was set in motion.
That same night, Carlie called Rona and Bernard in Oklahoma to tell them the news. Joseph went straight to home after practice to tell his mother and father that Carlie had accepted his proposal. His other phone call went to Bryce, inviting him to come to their wedding, which was set in two weeks—September 10, while PBA is on break.
Rona and Bernard, together with their son AJ, promised to fly in the next few days so that they can help Corrine, Ramon and Ryan in planning the (rush) fifty-people very private wedding. When Corrine asked Carlie what she’s planning for her wedding, all Carlie replied was that “it wouldn’t matter how the wedding is. If I had a choice, I’d do it in my nightgown. I just need for me and Joseph to be married.”
Joseph was the one who wanted a beach wedding, reminiscent of the first out-of-town vacation that he and Carlie had in Coron, Palawan. They found a perfect resort in Batangas in place of Palawan, and Ryan and Ramon—joined also by Joseph—pitched in for the reservation of the place for the entire 24 hours for the wedding. The three men are willing to go all-out for the wedding ceremony, even though Carlie said that even getting married in front of a judge would have been enough for her.
Carlie and Joseph left the wedding planning to the adults after they had selected the entourage and made the guest list. The media had picked up on their story just before Game 7, and she guessed it was because she and Joseph had (a) selected Kristine (yes, as in the Queen of Media Kristine who got cheated on by her basketball player hubby a decade ago) and Patricia (courtside reporter, anchor and sportswriter) as two of their primary sponsors and (b) invited Bryce who Tweeted Congrats to my good friends Carlie Sy and Joseph Chua for their engagement. I’ll see you guys in 2 weeks! Patricia had actually come over the day before Game 7 to ask if she could do an interview with them for the halftime feature on Game 7.
It was out in the open—that Joseph and Carlie are going to get married and that Kiefer, Carlie’s ex-husband, is the best man, and Bryce Craig, Carlie’s ex-fiancée, is flying in to witness the ceremony. This was the usual focus of news reports written about them locally and internationally (as Hollywood had picked up on this interesting story as well), aside from the fact that for years, everyone knew Carlie and Joseph as siblings.
In two weeks, they are going to be known as husband and wife.
“Tune them out.”
Joseph looked over at Carlie who was happily eating Icebreakers, which he got for her on his way to her office after a last-minute practice. “What do you mean?” he asked, putting down the magazine that he was reading on her already cluttered desk. Apparently, getting pregnant and getting married does not excuse anyone from a pile of workload.
“Everything. We’re on the sports news, Kristine is doing a feature on us on her showbiz talkshow, and practically everyone in the basketball world is buzzing about how bizarre our relationship with Kiefer is. They would probably wonder how you and Kiefer could work together on the same team. These are all distractions, Joseph. Tune them out.” She reached out towards him and he took her cold hand—cold from the Icebreakers that she was holding.
“You seriously are considering not buying a wedding gown, Carlie?” he asked instead, and Carlie rolled her eyes. “I know you want to make this wedding grand for us, but Sef, I’m already showing, and nobody can do wedding gowns in two weeks to fit this tummy,” she said, pointing to her womb, which seemed to have grown bigger after two days. “Bryce gave me the perfect dress eons ago, and I think that would do. A little bleach and starching and that dress is good to go.”
“You really can’t come, Carlie?”
Carlie sighed, walking over to Joseph’s side of the desk and sitting on his lap. She didn’t see that he nearly groaned at the weight of her—she isn’t this heavy before she was pregnant. Joseph hugged her around the waist. “You do understand that I have a deadline, right? And that it is tonight?” she said softly, and Joseph nodded.
“I am still holding onto your promise that once you come to six months, you’ll already leave this job.”
Carlie nodded in agreement. She and Joseph had already argued about this last night when he visited her and she was in front of her computer, drafting a questionnaire for one new project.
It was eleven in the evening when he got to her place. And he was just mad at her for being so irresponsible and not thinking of the baby.
Carlie just had to promise to him that this will all be over soon—and that soon meant in two months.
“They are asking me if I wanted to be part of the National Team again.”
Carlie stood up and went back to her Icebreaker. “You with Jeff and Kiefer?” Joseph asked. It was a yearly thing for the trio to do stints for the RP Team as they compete in the Jones Cup and other Asian tournaments as a service to the country. Playing for the country, as Joseph told her once before, had given him so much pride.
Joseph nodded, eyeing Carlie’s reaction with curiosity. Her face was thoughtful. Joseph could only imagine what’s running through her mind. For all he knows, she probably isn’t even thinking about what he just told her.
“Then do it. Service to the country. Playing for the country pride.”
He hesitated. “That would mean I’ll be away from you and that I’ll be spending less time with you in the next three months.”
Carlie grinned. “Was that what you were thinking?” she asked. “Joseph, I won’t drop dead any moment. We have six months—not three. I’ll be prouder of you if you accept their offer to play for the RP Team, instead of having you watching me in the next three months.”
Joseph looked a bit unconvinced. “If that’s what you want—”
“Yes, Joseph. It’s what I want. I want you to play for the RP Team.”
Joseph stood up and walked over to Carlie. He tilted her chin and gave her a kiss, and then told her that she has to be the first person he sees the minute their team wins the championship. Carlie smiled slowly, whispering to his ear that she’s making sure she’d be out of the office by halftime.
“I love you,” she whispered, and Joseph smiled back, kissing her once more.
“And I love you too.”
Carlie’s heart felt like it would be out of her chest any moment. The Brooke Gin Kings were just up by two precarious points, and the game is down to the last fifteen seconds.
The ball is in the hands of the Express.
Carlie reached out and held her dad’s hand tightly. She saw Cynthia and her kids praying at the corner of her eye, and Anya was equally nervous and was just standing still at her spot.
The buzzer sounded, signaling the resumption of game play.
Carlie called to her angel—St. Michael Archangel—and prayed. She closed her right eye but kept watch using her left, and she saw as Urban, the other team’s star player, inbounded the ball to Aquino, the rookie shooting guard of Express who was guarded by Lorenzo, the Kings’ star defender.
With the time dwindling down to seven and then to five and then to three, Lorenzo hounding him and giving him no person to pass to, Aquino took a stepback three-point shot.
And Carlie wasn’t sure if she heard it because of the drum squad that the Express brought but there was a whistle.
Referees say that Lorenzo had fouled Aquino, making him land hard on the floor on his butt.
Carlie was one with the Kings’ crowd as they booed, cursed, cussed, and yelled at the referee’s call. Upon review which they could view at the overhead screens at Araneta, Aquino fell down on his own—Lorenzo barely made contact and wasn’t even at Aquino’s landing space.
Carlie cursed. She could hear the comments of the people behind her, ranging from “Ref, magkano bayad sayo?” to “Tangina, luto” to “Leche ‘tong ref nato.” Carlie could only smirk. She tried not to utter any more curse words in front of her dad and in front of Nate and Franz.
She saw Joseph glance at her, and she saw him shrug. His team was now devising some quick plan—without a timeout as they have exhausted all that was given to them—just in case Aquino makes all three freethrows and they have to cross the court and make a play in just 2.4 seconds.
The Kings’ side waited, not breathing or moving, as Aquino prepared for his first freethrow.
He made it.
The Kings are only up by one.
Carlie saw the small huddle of Jeff, Kiefer, and Joseph break up and she watched as Kiefer walked over to Lorenzo to relay to him the instructions. The tallest man on the court, Santino, would be the one who would inbound the ball just in case Aquino makes all three freethrows, or would rebound in case he missed the last freethrow. Carlie saw Joseph jog over to the halfcourt line. She knew—as well as the rest of the Kings and their coaching staff—of Joseph’s uncanny abilities of hitting halfcourt shots, whether he was defended, coming from a fastbreak, or just by his lonesome. Carlie used to tease Joseph at why he had developed this skill, but he just said it was challenging.
His percentage from beyond the halfcourt line? A staggering 48%.
Kiefer, on the other hand, was positioned near their team’s basket, just in case they needed an option for a quick basket after a baseball pass from the other side of the court.
Aquino missed the second freethrow.
Rookie jitters, perhaps?
Carlie closed her eyes fully as Aquino dribbled the ball in preparation for his third freethrow. She thought she heard the ball swish through the net, but when she opened her eyes, she saw the three Kings left on the Express side of the floor and the entire Express five on the floor jumping up and trying to get the ball.
Apparently Aquino missed again.
Lorenzo managed to slap the ball and it landed in Jeff’s hands, and by the time Jeff had a good grip on it, the buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the game.
The Brooke Gin Kings are champions again.
The celebration that followed was a raucous one—the entire Kings fan base on their side of the Coliseum were jumping up and down, and then rest of the team on the benches ran towards their teammates at centercourt, hugging and jumping up and down like they won the lottery. Carlie couldn’t find Joseph in the crowd, but when she was hugged by a pair of huge arms that belong to a body that smell faintly of Irish Spring, she knew Joseph made good on his promise that Carlie would be the first person he sees when they win the championship.
He kissed her full on the lips and Carlie pushed him back to the court to celebrate with his teammates. It took a while for the first celebration of the Kings to die down before the crew managed to slip in the makeshift stage and had the crowd quiet down. Most of the Express fans were heading to the exit, with some of them sticking around just to see their Express team claim the first runner-up trophy.
The next scenes just blurred past Carlie, but one image that was stuck in her head was Kiefer and Joseph at the centercourt, hugging each other like they were best buddies. She saw Kiefer whisper something into Joseph’s ear, Joseph smiling in response, and then they pulled Jeff into their mighty bromance of a hug.
The announcement of the Finals MVP was up next.
Carlie already sat down as her heart couldn’t really take all of this excitement and adrenaline rush happening. Ryan offered her a drink but she refused, giving Ryan a faint smile.
“And the Finals MVP is… Joseph Chua of the Brooke Gin Kings!”
Carlie actually felt tears spring in her eyes as she watched at the overhead screen as Joseph received the award, surprised himself at the accolade. The microphone was passed to him and he was still unable to say anything.
“This year,” he began to say, choking out the words, “is looking to be a very momentous year for me. And this award makes it even better.” He swallowed, and then he smiled through his tears. “To my teammates especially to Jeff and Kiefer, thank you for welcoming me into this team and accepting me. To our coaches, for believing in me. To my parents, for always being supportive of me. And to Carlie—I’m hanging on to the 10%. I love you.”
Carlie stood up, saw Joseph looking for her, and she mouthed the words, “I am proud of you” before sitting back down.
Main goal: calm erratic heart.
Carlie woke up fairly early on her wedding day, aiming to have a walk along the shores of the beach where in a little bit later, she will become Mrs. Joseph Chua. Before she could even get out of the room, however, she was surprised by a newly awake Bryce (he arrived last night from Japan where he was promoting Secrets of a Vampire) who was standing outside her door, aiming to knock.
“Bryce!” Carlie said in glee, hugging him. He hugged her back, laughing at Carlie’s enthusiastic greeting. When he released her, Carlie actually had tears in her eyes.
“Is this you being emotional because it’s your wedding day or is it because of hormones?” Bryce teased, and Carlie rolled her eyes. “Walk with me to the shore?” she said, and Bryce accompanied her there. The rest of her and Joseph’s guests for the wedding are still probably asleep, as the wedding isn’t scheduled until this afternoon at twilight. When Bryce and Carlie got to the shore, the workers are starting to put up the chairs that will be used for the ceremony.
Carlie found the row of divans about a few meters away from the shore and she invited Bryce to sit next to her.
“Finally, you guys!” Bryce said as soon as they sat down.
Bryce shrugged. “You and Joseph took the long road to each other, huh.”
Carlie gave him a small smile. “You’re the nth person to tell me that.”
“Well, practically everyone knows how you guys feel about each other. It was just all a matter of when either of you would actually make a move. Took you guys long enough.”
Carlie merely sighed. “How’s Cat?” she asked, knowing that after she and Bryce broke up, Bryce and Cat hit it up.
Bryce blushed. “She’s good. She actually helped me with my ‘gift’—” he made quotation marks with his fingers—“for you and Joseph.”
“Gift?” Carlie asked, surprised. “You shouldn’t have. Come on, we asked you to come down here on a short notice. That should have been enough.”
Bryce shook his head, not accepting Carlie declining his gift. “I got you a singer,” he said.
“A wedding singer. Hey, turns out you and Joseph don’t have a singer—much more a song—just yet.”
Carlie didn’t like the sly smile on Bryce’s face. She waited, and then Bryce said, “Remember when we were out one awards night—I think that was Grammy’s where I presented—we went to an afterparty and you told me about this favorite singer you love and how he sang a cover that you really liked—”
Bryce never finished his statement as Carlie hugged him tightly.
“NO SHIT, BRYCE,” she said, squealing. Bryce laughed, accepting Carlie’s hug. “Yes shit,” he said when Carlie released her. “David Cook’s here, and he’ll sing All I Really Need is You for you and Joseph,” he finished.
“Oh my god, it’s so awesome that you told me this beforehand, because if I didn’t know about this, I would have ran to him instead of heading to the altar to marry Joseph!” Carlie gushed, and Bryce laughed.
“You really are crazy, Carlie,” he said, his tone serious. Carlie kissed him on the cheek.
“I’ll take that as a complement.”
Carlie turned to the ocean as silence fell between her and Bryce. She wasn’t aware how long they have been silent, until…
“So are you now having the ex talk? Can I be next in line?”
Carlie looked up and saw Kiefer, bring what seemed like a bottle of juice and a sandwich. “Doing my best man duties. Joseph panicked when you weren’t in your room. He thought you had a serious case of cold feet,” he explained, handing the food to Carlie. She rolled her eyes.
“I might have left that guy far too many times for him to think that,” she quipped, as Bryce stood up. “I’ll leave you guys to talk,” he said, patting Kiefer on the shoulder as he passed him by.
Carlie unwrapped the sandwich as Kiefer decided to sit on the sand at her feet instead of next to her on the divan. “I’m sorry if I have to let you go through this,” Carlie said to Kiefer after biting the sandwich.
“Go through what?”
“Watching me get married to someone else.”
“Joseph has been a good friend. I don’t mind,” Kiefer said, shrugging. He was making sand castles where he is evidently failing as he doesn’t have any water with him to hold the sand together. When he had finally given up, he turned to Carlie. “Joseph loves you, and I know he’d take care of you. I am happy as you are happy. It’s time I give up on holding on and start moving on,” he said with a small smile.
Carlie leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “I’m so lucky to have you in my life, Kief. I won’t forget you—ever.”
“Carlie, you’re getting married, not dying, so please don’t make it sound like you’re about to, okay?” Kiefer whispered, and when he looked up he saw tears in Carlie’s eyes. He reached out to wipe them with his hands. “I won’t forget you either,” he said, and then he smiled. “Now let’s get you back to the cottages so that you can prepare for your big day?”
Carlie took the sandwich and the juice and started to walk with Kiefer back to the cottages.
After all these years / After all these tears between us / Still I couldn’t find / Someone half as right as you / And each time I stop to think / What it is I really need / Here’s what I conclude / All I really need is you…
This is it.
Carlie took a deep breath and stepped forward. Her dad was on her right and her mother on her left. The white haltered maxidress that she was wearing was a gift from Bryce when she was in the States during one of their few beach trips (she didn’t let Joseph know this tidbit). She accentuated the dress with a long, white train that Lara had commissioned from one of her designer friends, a pair of pearl earrings that she bought the day before, and the red tulips that were part of her bouquet.
The crowd was silent, all eyes were on the three-month pregnant, still-blushing Carlie Andrea Lim Sy, who would be a Chua again in an hour.
Joseph looked up, stared deeply into Carlie’s eyes, and just got lost in the moment—he couldn’t hear David Cook as he crooned, nor could he hear the violins that served as the singer’s accompaniment. All he could hear was the sound of his heart, beating in his chest, as he stared at Carlie, the woman he loves, finally walking down the altar to be married to him.
Just say what you want to say / You don’t have a chance in the world / Can I, knowing how I’ve tried / Still come close to losing you, girl / When you are my world / Have I spent so many years / Trying but in vain to tell you / Don’t you know it’s true? / All I really need is you…
He didn’t know it, but tears sprang into his eyes. All he could feel was the love he knows he can still give to Carlie, the love he is still capable of letting her feel.
How was I to know? / We’d have ended here / Where we finally did / You tied your life to mine / Once upon a starry night / And when someone asks of me / What it is that I believe? / Say, I believe it’s true / All I really need is you…
As soon as Carlie reached Joseph, she reached up and wiped his tears, shaking her head with a smile on her face. “Tears are for later,” she whispered, and Joseph just smiled, thanking Ryan and Rona and ushering Carlie to the altar, where the pastor is waiting for them.
Just say what you want to say / You don’t have a chance in the world / Can I, knowing how I’ve tried / Still come close you, girl / When you are my world
It is time.
Carlie took a breath, stared into Joseph’s eyes and spoke, trying to keep her voice steady.
“Joseph—we’ve come such a long way, and I am glad that my road led to and ended with you. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had six months more, ten years, fifty years, I’m just so lucky that I’d be spending it with a man who had seen me through it all and with a man who had loved painstakingly through the years regardless of whatever the Fates had thrown to us.
Joseph—I don’t promise breakfasts in bed or other nicely cooked meals, coz you know all I know how to cook is pasta and chicken—and bacon and cheese omelets. I don’t promise less stress-filled days as you know I still have work and we do know what’s coming in six months for both of us. All I can promise are days filled with love meant only for you and our baby. I can promise that I’ll love you and that I’ll here for you here and beyond.”
Have I spent so many years / Tryin’ but in vain to tell you / Feelings come and go / Me, I’m never gonna let you go / Promise you, I’m gonna always love you so / Coz all I really need is you…
Joseph smiled at Carlie after she delivered her vow. It’s his turn now, but he was so overwhelmed with emotions that he couldn’t speak at first. Carlie tugged at his hand and winked at him.
“Carlie,” he began, his voice hoarse. He had to clear his throat once, twice, thrice—and a murmur started to go through the crowd as some of them smiled and the others laughed. “During the nights we spent stargazing, you’d always ask me what I wish for from the gazillion stars that were above us. I’d always just smile, tell you my wish is a secret. But I’ll let you in this one—I’ve always wished that it’ll be the two of us in the end.
My promise to you has no illusion of grandeur—I promise to love you unconditionally. I promise to be your man, your best friend and your prince. In this life, all I know, Carlie—and I’ve proven this—all I really need is just you.”
Carlie reached out and wiped Joseph’s tears as he did wipe hers, and they smiled, holding hands which now bore the rings they slipped into each other’s fingers as a sign of their union.
LAST TWO CHAPTERS NALAAAAAAAAAANG! :)