Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The story of us.


Sienna had never believed in bad timing when it came to relationships. She believed all such people were just looking for an excuse to hide behind, instead of choosing to put in more time and effort. If its worth it, you'll just make the damn thing work.

She went through her life believing that a relationship would drop into her lap, as long as she continued to allow herself to meet new people. She believed that when that special someone came around, she would just know instinctively, and then everything else would fall into place. Because if he was the person that would complete her; would make her a stronger, braver, happier person.

Nothing would keep her apart from such a person. Whenever she fell in love, there was no silly toe-dipping, but she plunged headfirst into it. She was an old-time romantic, believing in the concept of The One. She had so much love to give, but she had to wait, because he wasn't coming around anytime soon.

But then again, she never factored in Leo, The One Who Got Away.

She was 17 then. Being a few years older than her, Leo seemed so much more mature than every other guy around her. He wasn't particularly handsome; he was far too goofy looking and was much shorter than she preferred, but he was without a doubt the kindest soul she'd ever met.

Leo was the type that said the good things and did good deeds and everyone loved him. However, he was never perceived as a boring boy scout, because he was just so boisterously full of energy and humour everytime you saw him. He had that perpetual magical quality of drawing everyone's attention, but with noone ever resenting him for it, because he was just so kind and generous and sugar and spice and everything nice.

Sienna found herself gravitating towards him every time she saw him. She hadn't realised this at all, until one day when she caught herself constantly glancing at the door, waiting for him to walk in. When he finally did, she let out a breath of anticipation she didn't even know she was holding, and felt her heart somersault in her chest.

At that moment, she had a giant "Oh shit" moment. Quickly followed by a "Guess I'm not that shallow afterall".

You see, Sienna at that point was highly image-conscious. She had always been, but never more so than that period in her life where she was bent on elevating her social status. Everything she owned, everyone she dated, everything she said, had to send a positive message out to the world that she was a force to be reckoned with. At that point of her life, she was sick of being a constant wallflower.

And how would dating Leo make her look? She worried that people would think she was settling for someone below her standard, and look down on her for not having a hot boyfriend by her side. She worried she might be labelled as desperate, or having bad taste.

But most of all, she worried he wouldn't even like her back. While Leo had never been anything less than pleasant towards her, he had never treated her any different from anyone else either.

Whenever they hung out, they could talk about anything and everything under the sun. Sienna felt completely comfortable with Leo, and she knew that he enjoyed her company too. All was well, but again, there was no indication that things were anything other than strictly platonic.

I mean, there were hints. Like he told her once she was his favourite person to see. When she had a sunburn, he called her a lobster, but the prettiest lobster he'd seen. Small little things like that which although on hindsight seems insignificant, to Sienna then made her the happiest person in the world.

She knew his thoughts on dating. He, like her, wanted to find The One and nothing less. He wanted to find the perfect girl, date her for years, and when it was baby-making time to pop the question and spend the rest of his life with her.

While Sienna had similar views on dating, she soon realised that she couldn't date him at all. It remained that she merely had a crush on him, and wasn't particularly sure he was her One. I mean, there was no doubt that they'd have fun together - they always did - she couldn't risk going after this guy knowing that she couldn't give him what he wanted in the end.

She didn't want to be with him because she didn't want to end up with someone she wasn't physically attracted to. She liked him for his thoughts, his humour, his kindness; but she didn't want to parade around town with someone who she didn't think was devastatingly handsome.

So Sienna let her feelings for Leo go. It was easy once she let her shallow side take over. She then went on to date someone else who was interested, that fit the bill looks-wise, but fell way shorter in all other respects compared to Leo. Don't get her wrong, she was never with anyone she didn't like, but at the same time, she wondered how things would have gone if she had decided to have a go of things with Leo.

But then they stopped being in touch after she started dating. And as always, Sienna was far too cowardly to ever make the first move for anything.

One year later, Sienna was single again. She sometimes saw Leo, but they hadn't had a heart-to-heart in a long, long time. All they had was placatory conversation about mundane things like the weather or their families.

But then Sienna had changed now. She didn't care about what someone else thought about who she was dating. All that mattered was she thought that he was the most amazing person in the world and would make her feel like the luckiest girl on the planet.

And that person was Leo.

Sienna decided she had wasted enough time by dating around. If anything, she had to stick her neck out there and make him see that she wanted to be more than friends.

She was by nature not the aggressive type. But don't people always tell you to go after what you want, lest you regret it for your whole life? He was worth the potential embarrassment, and he was so nice there was no way he would be anything but really nice about rejecting her anyway.

After awhile, Sienna finally decided to carpe the diem and ask him out for a drink at the local coffeeshop. Nothing serious, but just to test the waters on whether they could still connect well after so long. She wanted to see if there was still a chance for them to work; if he still wanted to make her smile and laugh, or whether things were no longer salvageable.

But things went great. The conversation flowed smoothly and they talked and laughed for hours without even realising it. Sienna was ecstatic, and a little shy. She had decided that she would take the big leap and ask him out for a real date, and it would be the first time she'd ever asked anyone out.

Now she just needed to find the words to say so.

"Are you ok?" Leo leaned in towards her across the table, his eyebrows raised in genuine concern. "It's not like you to be quiet for so long."

She gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "Nah I'm good. Just thinking about stuff." It was now or never she thought, might as well get it over with.

"I have something to tell you-"
"I have something to ask you-"

They said at the same time, then chuckled. Leo waved himself off and invited Sienna to go first. "What did you wanna ask?"

"No it's ok. You go." The ever-romantic Sienna was daydreaming of a declaration of affection. To think she might not even need to make the first move! Oh happy days have come at last! Never again would she be so shallow to ever think looks could impede how she felt about-

"I'm leaving."

Her fantasy halted, then immediately fizzled out. Sienna glared at Leo, who was now looking down at his drink, and stirring his straw at the remains of his third iced tea. She had thought he might be kidding, but the sad look on his face told her otherwise.

"Why? When? Where?" Questions popped out of her mouth sooner than she could stop them. Perhaps, perhaps there was still a chance.

But alas, it didn't seem like there was. Leo was going abroad to study in two weeks, having just received an offer to study overseas. He was going to be there for a few years, and would likely not be coming back for summer breaks or any break at all.

Sienna didn't believe in long-distance relationships. And there was no point asking him out if all they were going to have was two weeks.

So she steeled herself, realising Leo was scared and excited at the same time about living away from home alone for so long, and it was still her duty as his friend to share his feelings and help him feel as pumped up as possible about heading out there. She wanted to be there for him, and right now this was the best way she could help him out. She knew the outside world would love him as much as everyone here did, as much as she did; there was just too much niceness exuding from him.

"I'll miss you, ya'know?" Leo said before they parted. His arms were outstretched, and Sienna willingly folded herself into them. She had never realised how nice he smelt before. Such a shame it had to be now.

Sienna managed to wait until his car disappeared around the bend, before her eyes filled with tears and clouded her vision. Then she felt her heart starting to break.

Another three years went by, and Sienna was still very much single. It wasn't that she wasn't over Leo - they hadn't spoken for ages - but it was just that no other guy had managed to connect with her emotionally. There was just nothing about the people she met nowadays that made her breathing shallow and her heart race.

But otherwise, life was good. She did well in her studies, she had great times with her friends, she pursued her interests in writing and dancing. Her love life sucked, but that was not reason enough to mope around miserable. She was a much more independent person than she had been some years ago, and had no intention of settling for any guy that was less than perfect.

Sienna had heard that Leo was back in town for the first time since leaving the country to study. But they weren't close anymore, so she didn't seek him out. She felt a little shy about hanging out with him after all this time, a sharp contrast from how comfortable she was with him previously.

But it turned out he didn't feel the same reservations towards asking her out for a catch up session. And she was secretly pleased that he did.

She needn't have worried at all. Things went along great, as they always did with him. They talked about things they had done and people they had met, and Leo had plenty of tales to tell about life abroad. He loved it there, he told her, things were so much better and more laidback than their homeland.

He seemed more rugged than he had a few years ago, having backpacked through countries and seen scores of breathtaking sceneries. He had developed a slight accent and had beefed up a small bit. But his core remained the same. He was still Mr Nicest Guy In The World, and she liked that he hadn't been coerced into the ways of the world like so many other do once parental supervision ceases.

He seemed to have grown into himself. It was amazing to see how much he'd changed yet stayed the same. And Sienna realised that for the first time in a long time, she wanted to date the person sitting across from her.

It was as if her feelings for Leo had never dissipated. They were a dormant volcano, which became active again upon Leo's return which shifted the earthplates of her emotions. They spewed out red lava by making her blush whenever he made her laugh or if they held eye contact a moment too long.

And she decided to take the plunge for him. Again. He would still be the first guy she'd ever ask out, and he'd still be worth completely embarrassing herself for.

But first, she had to confirm something.

"So, are you back for good?" She cocked her head at him and asked.

Leo leant further back in his chair. He looked across at Sienna, who was waiting for his answer, her eyes rounded in curiosity.

She had always been like a sister to him, and he'd always felt hyperprotective about her. Sometimes he caught himself thinking about her unknowingly. Like when he heard a song or saw a sunset, and wondered how much she'd like it.

He knew he cared about her very much. And he knew that he had some feelings for her. But the timing was never right; she was either dating some guy or living halfway across the world from him.

He knew she had been single for a long time now, but he'd been single for much longer. He knew she blushed when he looked into her eyes for over two seconds. He knew that if he wanted to, he could ask her out right now and she wouldn't say no.

But again, the timing just wasn't right. And this time, the timing would never again be right.

"I've bought a place there. I'm permanently migrating there in a few weeks. I just came back home to organise my move." He said apologetically.

And Sienna, bless her heart, did exactly as he expected she would do. She started gushing about how exciting things were going to be and how much he was going to experience. She never once tried to drag him down, or try to draw attention to herself. He knew that all she ever wanted was the best for him, as he only wanted the same for her.

And he knew that try as he might, he would never find anyone else like her.

Sienna was all grown up now. She shivered a little as she wrapped her trench coat tighter around her body, in a vain attempt to protect herself from the cold winds. She was holding on to her bags and bouncing excitedly on the curb at the airport's pick up zone, taking in the sights and smells of a country so foreign to her.

She had done amazingly well in her career, and her company had decided to send her abroad for a yearlong stint at their head office. The opportunity was beyond amazing, as she was nothing but grateful. It was two days before she had to clock in, and she'd already enlisted the services of her favourite local to guide her all around the capital city.

A dark blue sedan pulled up in front of her, and Leo got out. He looked great, she thought, the years have only served to make him look better, while some people their age back home were already sporting beer bellies. 

She had to admit, when she ambushed him out of the blue a week ago telling him that she was going to be in town for a year, she didn't know what to expect as they had only contacted each other a few times over the past few years. Yet here they were. And she couldn't believe how excited she was.

"LEOOOOOOOOO!!" She screamed as she rushed to hug him. "I can't believe I'm finally here!!"

Leo laughed as he pulled away and carried her many bags to his car. "You haven't changed a bit."

"That's not true. I'm a lot prettier than I was last time, right?" Sienna challenged.

"That's debatable." Leo quipped before hurriedly ducking away before Sienna could punch his arm.

Just like old times, she thought, with a grin on her face and warmth in her heart.

After dumping her things at her rented apartment, with Leo promising to help set things up the next day, they had spent the whole day touring around the city. With Leo being as good a tour guide as any, Sienna managed to get in a huge amount of sightseeing before sunset. All the while, they were completely comfortable around each other, as if all those years of distance had never happened before. 

Sienna caught herself checking Leo out all over again, as if she was still a teenager. He was smart, he was successful, he was still the nicest person she'd ever met, and he seemed somehow much better looking now than some other guys that hadn't managed to remain good looking after college. They had either gotten weird piercings or bodies covered in tattoos and while Sienna didn't judge them for it, it was still a major turnoff.

So here they were having dinner at a beautiful restaurant, which Leo promised had the best dessert she would ever taste. After having spent the whole day talking themselves hoarse, they enjoyed their dinner in comfortable silence. Until the topic came up, which Sienna knew it would.

"So how're you doing after Ben?" Leo quietly asked.

Sienna paused from scraping her plate of pie clean; it really was the best damn maple pecan pie she'd ever had in her life, but suddenly she lost her sugar high. It was six months ago that Sienna caught her boyfriend of one and a half years cheating on her, and while her friends had really put their backs into making her feel better, it had taken her awhile before she started feeling like the world wasn't such a horrible place.

"Well it sucks, it really does. But life goes on. You really helped though, and I don't think I'll ever thank you enough." Sienna said, pointing her fork in his direction.

The exact moment when she started feeling better was when she received a care package from Leo. It contained cookies, hot chocolate sachets, and a few other comforting bits and bobs, but best of all a coupon for a session at a shooting range. She was still a pacifist at heart, but damn did it feel good to shoot a gun and hit your target.

"You made that abundantly clear when you said you'd shoot any skank who cheated on me." 

"And I meant it." She also knew that he had just broken off with Candice after seeing her for a year, but he assured her it was more irreconcilable differences than a cheating scandal.

Sienna was sure that no guy would've done what Leo did for her those months ago, especially to the extent of sending that box over. Even though he later told her he had just told his sister here what to get and had her deliver it, he had still been the think tank behind the whole thing, and his level of concern far surpassed that of some other friends she saw more often.

Sienna had always wanted a storybook romance where the knight in shining armour would rescue the damsel in distress and they would live happily ever after. But she had grown to realise that fairytales don't always happen in the dramatic ways storybooks tell us. Sometimes a succession of small, thoughtful gestures can have just a strong impact as one dramatic rescue.

And things were great now, right? Here they were in a big city away from home together. They got along perfectly as they had so many years ago. All signs pointed to them finally, finally being together. In the spirit of third time's the charm, Sienna decided to once again muster the courage to ask him out on a real date.

"You're right, this place does have the best dessert. Any other secret place you've been hiding away?" 

Sienna could've kicked herself. Here she was, with a guy she'd known for so long, but yet she was still playing clich├ęd mind games with him. But she supposed it was pre-programmed into her female mind, and she was powerless over such overwhelming genetics.

As always, the male remained clueless that he was being manipulated into asking the female out, thinking that it was his own idea to do so in the first place. "Well there's a place a few blocks down from here that has amazing sushi. We could go there one of these days." Leo mused.

But before Sienna could respond with her prepared "Great! It's a date!", Leo continued to say, "And about this place, you have to thank my wife for discovering it."

You could hear a pin drop in the seconds that followed.

"I might have forgotten to tell you that Candice and I got back together two months ago, and I decided to make an honest woman out of her. I didn't want to tell you while you were dealing with the whole Ben thing, and then decided it would be best to tell you in person."

Shocked to death had always seemed such a melodramatic description, but Sienna felt that no other term fit her better at that time. She had thought that Leo still had feelings for her after doing what he did with the care package thing, I mean doesn't it smack bang of a typical grand romantic gesture the male lead in a romantic comedy does right before he wins the girl of his dreams in the end? And although she didn't think they'd get together right away, she certainly had expected that they'd finally give it a shot this time.

I mean, the world had to be fair right? After taking so many chances away from them, shouldn't they at least have an opportunity to be together after so many years? Could he possibly just be messing with her like he always did?

And then she clocked that he didn't have a wedding ring. Her hopes of a happy ending that had taken a nosedive from the clouds to the bottom of the sea, now hovered a little on the shallow end of the horizon.

"You're kidding, right?"

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