The automatic doors opened swiftly.
I walked out the doors along with other commuters while impatient embarking passengers pushed into the LRT compartment against our ways, making escape rather tedious. I managed to push through the unforeseen commotion and made my way up the escalator. It's the busy hour anyway, particularly due to the fact that it was the time when workers rushed their way back home after a long day at work. From the corner of my eyes I saw some female passengers getting trapped in between bigger, stronger males while making their way in and out from the light rail transit compartment. If only they have someone to protect them.
I flashed my Touch N' Go card on the reader and the automatic bars opened up to let me through, leading me to the tunnel way. People were rushing towards the underground station now, and I had to push my way close to the wall to avoid collisions with these raging bodies that could snap anytime following even the smallest mistake you didn't mean to cause. The condensed tunnel turned out to be pretty much empty at the end where two stairs that were built facing each other were located. I walked past the stairs and towards an open door at the end of the tunnel walkway where it led me into the twin tower's main shopping complex. The smell of fresh bread and pastries struck my nose like a hammer does to a nail. Right after I walked through the door, I saw something in vases located on the floor.
And I thought to myself, this is exactly what I was looking for.
* * *
"Here's your drink."
I looked at her face when she handed me the plastic cup filled up with my favorite drink. The face looked tired and out of spirit. Those cherry lips curved some weak smiles nevertheless. Her dark brown hair was tied neatly just like usual; a few strands hung out unnoticed. She was so close to me that I could feel the warmth came radiating from her body. When I was closely admiring her from this very close distance, she happened to notice this, and so she turned her head. Our eyes met for a while, and she seemed to be surprised, and so was myself. Those cheeks quickly turned notably pinkish, and she threw away another weak smile before turning around and walked back to the counter, hugging the round plastic tray against her chest with both hands.
As usual I stripped down the paper cover off the plastic straw and prepared to drink the caramel frap. My first sip didn't go quite convincingly, so I took another just to be sure about the taste, and I was caught by surprise. Not that I was criticizing but the drink was way out of taste. Something was wrong with the coffee-caramel ratio, and the cream wasn't foamed perfectly either. This had never happened before; the caramel fraps I had here were either way too sweet (like the one the other day) or way too good. But this one was very lucrative at all by the taste of it. I placed the cup back on the steel table and I took out a cigarette and lit it. As I blew the smoke out into the still air that evening, my eyes were on her, the girl at the counter.
I looked at my wristwatch. The time showed 5.50pm. Ten more minutes until she's off duty.
She wiped the counter off from any visible contaminants with her damped cloth. She wiped her forehead gently with her arm while the other hand was still wiping. She turned on the tap and let water ran on the cloth, scrubbing it in both hands and hung it at a towel rack next to the counter to dry it out afterward. She washed a few used glasses next and wiped each of them dry with a clean towel before arranging them neatly on top of the glass rack. She took the ice blender box out and cleaned that out too. Her hands danced in a such admirable fashion. She wiped her hand with another cloth and looked for me. She smiled excitingly, somewhat, and held up a hand signal, in which was interpreted to convey this message: 5 minutes.
I smiled back and nodded. I saw Min talking with two of her other colleagues while she undid her black apron. Then she disappeared into the kitchen section. I looked at the seat next to me to see if the package of something from the vases I saw just now was still there. It was. I decided to drink up the frap after all, never mind its taste. Well, probably Min was having one of those bad days where everything could just go so very wrong no matter just how good you wanted them to be. Or maybe she's just having that time of the month.
I managed to finish the drink just slightly before Min reappeared from the kitchen and walked towards me. Her attire was entirely different now but still nevertheless was very appealing. She was in a plain white dress and a pair of blue jeans as the main attire, while a pair of ladies sandals and a brown tote bag luxuriously accompanied her. Her hair was tied into a ponytail again, and on those lovely ears stood a pair of pearl earrings. I noticed that she applied a layer of pink lip gloss and some foundation powder on her face, and for the first time I realized just how beautiful she was even when covered with only the most basic makeup. Perhaps this was because she was already a beautiful lady in the first place, no doubt she was, all naturally.
She pulled a chair and sat next to me. The smell of some fancy mix of amber, citrus and flowers struck my nose. I slowly took a long breath in, enjoying every moment of it.
"I'm sorry. Did you wait a long time?"
"Oh no," I replied. "No. Definitely not." Even if I did, I'd still wait nevertheless, Min. It was worth every damn second. "Are you alright?" I asked her.
"I am, thank you." She leaned back and let out a long sigh. "It's just that we have a lot of customers today and we were short of hands."
"I see." I took a look at those two guys at the counter. You lazy bastards, I thought, this woman worked twice the works you both did, combined.
I let Min took her short rest for a while. Her eyes fell on the empty frap plastic cup.
"How was the drink?" she asked.
"It was great. Just like always." Another lie. Getting better at this, eh Jack?
She just smiled. I stared at her for some time, admiring her beauty. Embarrassed, she turned away and laughed.
"Don't look at me like that!"
I laughed a little after seeing her reactions. I turned to the package on the other seat just now - a long, brown paper bag - and handed it to Min.
"Here," I told her as I offered her the bag. "I brought you something."
She looked confused but overall surprised. "What is it?"
"Well, take it and find out."
She placed her tote bag on a seat next to her before reaching for the paper bag. She unwrapped the plastic top cover of the bag and took a peek into it. And then those lips smiled the widest. Her white row of teeth came shining along with the surprised look on her face.
"Oh my, you shouldn't have."
What do you mean I shouldn't have? I would buy the whole farm of it if I could just so that I could see that smile on your face everyday.
"Do you like it?" I asked.
She didn't reply. Instead she pulled the sides of the paper bag apart, in which after that a fully-bloomed blood red rose of the finest kind carefully wrapped in a thin plastic sheet came out to view. She took a smell of the flower and admired its petals. She stared at it for some time, in which my brain could easily tell that this was one of those best moments in life every men could possibly wish to see - the moment when a lady appreciated so much what you did for her gallantly. I was fully relieved and in a way, I felt like winning. What exactly I won I did not know.
"I do," she said in her softest voice before she lifted her head and looked at me directly in the eyes. "Thank you."
Now, dear readers, at that moment, upon hearing what she said last, I went totally out of my mind. I felt something in my heart right away. That rose right there in her hands wasn't the first rose I gave to anyone; in fact there were so many roses and other flowers that I have handed to so many girls that by then I had already lost count. But the reaction she gave was by far the most genuine, and this of course caused me to experience the biggest dumbstruck in my whole entire life. I wasn't able to speak a single word out, let alone give an entire speech. I was made speechless by such a simple gesture of mandible sincerity. I suddenly felt so warm inside. Like a damn volcano just erupted in my stomach. At that time I could have just hugged her and expressed just how thankful I was to her for making my entire life so far worth living. I could have just proposed to her as well. I pictured me and her walking down the aisle with our members in the family and friends applauding at each side; petals of blood red roses got thrown in the air. And soon after that I pictured us in our new home, taking care of our newborn baby son, in which the son later grew into a fine young man and went to college, and...
"Hey, you alright?"
All imaginations disappeared and I came back to my senses. Oh my. How very embarrassing. Did she just see me annoyingly smiling from all the projected scenes in my head? I felt my cheeks suddenly thickening. Another speechless moment there, of course, no doubt at all.
She ignored me and smelled the rose again. Smiling, she wrapped the rose carefully back into its paper case and placed it gently in her tote bag. Then she stood up before me while facing the sunset, and she glowed like those angels they showed in the movies. She looked at me, who at the time was still dumbstruck, and in the gentlest gesture possible she offered me her hand.
Cupid, you bastard.
...to be continued.