On that fateful day when Ian asked me if he could marry me, I knew I had to go to someone just so I can take the weight off my chest.
And I chose Hannah.
I called Hannah in the middle of the night, apologetic but with the urgency that I needed to have the conversation right away. She relented, detecting immediately that something was wrong, and I went over to her place, leaving the sleeping Ian. And she faced me, hair in a haphazardly pulled up pony, bathrobe untied, sleep still in her eyes.
“What is wrong?” Hannah asked, placing a cup of hot choco in front of me that actually makes no sense because I don’t think I will be doing any drinking in the next thirty minutes.
And then I started to bawl.
“Ian asked me to marry him,” I said, and Hannah gasped. I think it was because she either swallowed the hot tea she was drinking or she was shocked at what I had just told her.
It was the latter.
“He did what?”
The tears didn’t stop. And I let out the things I couldn’t say to Ian earlier.
“We were… I know he’s of age. He’s not getting any younger. But Ian had always told me it didn’t matter that he and I had ten years between us. I barely notice it; he doesn’t care. But you see—he’s ready for these kinds of things, and I am not. Ian is my first real boyfriend—or whatever he had been in the past six months. He’s had what? Three or four serious girlfriends and I only have him to show for.” I stopped, sniffling.
“But it’s not that, Hannah. I… feel so many things with and because of Ian. I feel alive. I feel… innocent and experienced at the same time. I feel cared for. I feel needed. He isn’t scared to tell me he needs me. I feel… loved despite us never saying those three words. I feel that kilig. I feel bliss.
And Ian… he listens to me when I make sense and when I don’t. He cares and he wants to know me. He makes me happy, you see, but… he makes me feel suffocated at times. And I am scared, Hannah. I am so scared.”
I felt Hannah’s hand on my shoulder. “What are you so scared of, Lala? Ian is the best guy—apart from my husband, that is—to be with, you know? You said so yourself—he makes you feel so many things. Don’t you think it’s worth it?” she asked gently, and I shook my head.
“Hannah, I know. I am good with Ian in whatever this is he and I are having. Sure, he and I haven’t moved past this phase and maybe—just maybe—we should up it up a notch. But not marriage, Hannah. Not marriage. Nothing of that yet. I haven’t grown up to be that woman who wants to marry at this point in my life. I am enjoying Ian. I am enjoying what he and I have now. And he just scares me, Hannah. I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t want to be where he wants us to head either.”
Hannah stayed silent, and I plowed on, saying everything in between sobs. “I am scared, Hannah. I want to love him in the way he wants me to. I want to give him all that I have in me. I want to go all out with him. I want to be one with him, Hannah. I want Ian and I love Ian. But… I don’t know why I can’t. I don’t want him to hurt me. I don’t want him to leave me. I don’t want myself needing him and then he’s not there when I do. I don’t want him turning his back on me. I don’t want to lose myself in him despite my knowing I already have. And it kills, Hannah. I want to love Ian in the best way I could but I can’t and it kills.”
Hannah pulled me into a hug, patting my back to offer additional comfort. “Lala, I am sure Ian didn’t mean to make you feel pressured. And I think he’ll give you the time you need to be ready if that’s what you’ll ask him. And… look at me, Lala,” she said, whispered, and I did. Her big round black orbs were full of sincerity when she said, “Ian is worth it. He’s worth the pain. He’s worth the effort. He’s worth loving. You just have to trust him. You just have to put some more faith in him. I know he has tendencies to push you to the limit, but… Lala, he’s worth it. He’s worth every single emotion in this world.”
I tried to believe, Hannah, you see. I did. And I knew she was telling the truth, but I let the fear get the best of me.
I went to Ian’s place, packed up all my things in his closet and in his bathroom, and left the Torch on his nightstand. I got a yellow post it from his study and wrote down the words: I am sorry. I am not ready for this. I can’t do this yet. –Lala
I stuck the note on the phone, placed Ian’s house key on the note, and then left.
That was nearly a year ago.
After that night, Ian just tweeted: I will wait for you, @iamkeala. No matter how long it takes. I will wait for you.
That was his last tweet ever, and he hasn’t resumed tweeting again. I did, just a couple of days ago. I didn’t think that it was just because of the coupons that Ian came back—I guessed it had something to do with my first two tweets after the hiatus.
Love is what is left over when being in love has burned away. – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
We were in love. But I threw it away. But I love you. I am ready. For you. For me. For us.
And I am ready. I am more emotionally prepared this time around. I know what I want. And I know who I need.
So here we are. Ian and me.
At his place. On his bed.
(Clothes still very much on, even the shoes, if that’s what you’re wondering.)
We came back from dinner, catching up on things—he is still a manager at Moire Creatives, and apparently he was moved to another account so there was no more of the double-booking, Julian client, that a friend of his who is also notoriously single, Arthur, got married, and that Luis and Lorena, Hannah’s kids, are constantly looking for me whenever he goes to visit them, while I tell him that I am a senior research executive now (that sounds so good, don’t you think?) and I was brought back to the Julian client because she requested for me—while skirting around the original issue. It was nice to talk to Ian again—no qualms, no holding back.
Just open—not hiding anything.
And when he asked if I wanted to go back to his place, I never thought for a second it was to fulfill some sort of “benefit” that he and I used to have. I knew it was where he and I would do the talk that was a year delayed.
Ian laid beside me on the bed, inspecting that faint mark at the right side of his nose, one that I saw before during our first night together. And then my eyes traveled to his dimple, his thin lips, his chin, his facial hair. I touched the bridge of his nose, and Ian closed his eyes, his breathing even. I leaned closer, rubbing my nose against his like we were a couple of Eskimos.
“I love you,” I whispered. “And I’m sorry I had to take that long break away from you. I was scared. I needed to find myself that I somehow lost when I went into your world. I needed to settle my issues before I would be ever so ready for you and—”
“Shh,” Ian hushed, pulling me closer, his hands around my waist and his legs entangled with mine. I wrapped my arms around him, wanting to feel him, missing his familiar warmth and touch. “Kea, I know. And I understand. And I am just glad you’re back,” Ian whispered, his lips grazing my cheeks, my ear, my nose, my eyes, my chin. His moustache tickles a bit.
“Ian,” I said, urging him to open his eyes, and when he did, I saw tears in his eyes. “You have to know I love you. So much.”
“I know that, Kea. And I love you. I love you,” he whispered back, and I could feel some tears falling down my face too. He brushed those tears away with his thumb, and I smiled, cupping his face with my tiny hands.
“Does your offer still stand?” I asked, and he was momentarily confused.
I kissed him on the nose. I waited for his moment of clarity, and when it happened, Ian jolted away from me.
“Are you serious?” he asked, and I gaped, taking it as a fact that he’s the one who isn’t ready. He sat up and I followed his suit, and then he went down the bed and walked over his closet. He rummaged through one of the drawers, and then he walked back to me.
Ian knelt on one knee at the edge of the bed, and he pulled me towards him. He took a deep breath. “I actually have with me this a year ago, when I asked you at that moment at Sunken,” he said, his voice shaking a bit. He had my right hand in his left, and when he turned his palm, he produced what looked like a silver ring that was lined with tiny diamonds flanking a five-karat turquoise stone.
“So let’s do this again?” Ian said, a small smile on his face. I nodded, the tears now unstoppable, my breath caught in my throat. “Will you marry me, Keala?”
I nodded over and over, words failing me. Ian shook his head. “I need to hear it, Kea,” he teased, and I let out a sob before saying, “Of course. I will marry you, Ian Perez. I will marry you,” I said, and he slid the ring in my finger and I pulled him into a very tight hug.
Ian pulled back, placing his lips on mine, and I was briefly reminded of our first kiss—the magic, the bliss, and the swelling feeling in my heart.
“I love you,” I whispered in between kisses, and I felt him smile.
“I love you,” he whispered back.
I am pretty sure neither of us are scared anymore.
And this time—I’m ready. We’re ready.
This story actually started and ended differently. I had the story figured out when I wrote the prologue, and then come Chapter 5, everything changed. So I had to rewrite the prologue. I hope that the risk I took in changing the story was worth it—like the risks Ian took for Keala :)
And yes, if you downloaded the PDF copy: I sure as hell dedicated this story for Richard Herrera. Fan girl like that :)