“Thank you, Ae-Rin. I’m so happy now that it worked well with me and Jae Ha. So I guess… This is goodbye, right?”
Well, that was Yoora, one of my clients. She’s now happily united with her true love, and it was time for me to go. This is the cycle I had to go through everyday, every month, and every year after I got this job. And I must say, being a cupid is no playing matter. It is a real job.
Another client left happy, and here I am, walking again to a destination I do not know. I always had instincts to find the people who needed my help. But today, there was none. After walking for a very long distance, I rested my sore feet on a table in an outdoor café. I sat quietly and watched the people that passed in front of the café with no particular interest. Watching them passing me one by one, each either with friends, family, or even lover, I could not help myself from feeling lonely. It had been a while since my resurrection as a cupid. Since then, I had helped many clients to find true love, the love that I ended up dying for, the love that I never truly had.
Nobody here could see me, unless I was the one who approached them first. That literally added to the loneliness that I felt everyday, almost for every second of my second life… But, I wasn’t the one to complain as my boss; Mr. Han was the best boss one could ever have… He was the one who gave me the opportunity to see this world again even if not to live it. He also gave me the chance to meet my love again even if not to love him…
What was I thinking? I need to concentrate and find my next client. I closed my eyes and focused all my senses. Nothing. I opened them back and was shocked to see a very familiar face in front of me. A face that I had missed dearly, the face of my first and true love.
“What are you doing?” Asked the good looking young man with a rather puzzled face. I gasped. I turned my head to check if he was talking to a person behind me, but there was no one else there. How could he… I should have been invisible to him… Or at least, that was what Mr. Han stated in my ‘Cupid Contract’. I looked back at him and asked in return, “You can see me?”
“Of course I can see you. Who could miss seeing you in such a bright coloured dress?” He replied.
I looked at my yellow-coloured dress. Sure it was bright, but I like this dress. It’s my favourite.
“Oh, I’m sorry if my dress’s too bright for you. I’ll go and change it right away.” It was just an excuse. The real reason? I could not look into his eyes anymore without remembering the past. And my past hurt me the most. The capability of him seeing me was just out of this world too. I need to discuss this with Mr. Han.
Before I could walk away, he quickly grabbed me by the arm and apologized, “No, no… It’s not about the dress… I’m sorry if I offended you with that previous statement. Please, don’t go.”
I looked at him. How I wished this meeting would have happened before I died… I took a seat in front of him and waited for him to start.
“Hi, I’m Max. I’m sorry for startling you just now, but your behavior had caught my attention. I found it very inappropriate for a young lady like you to be sitting with both legs on the table, and in public too…”
Wow. He was just as straightforward as I had remembered him. I thought for a while before answering, “I’m sorry. I was just resting my feet… They got sore from the long walk I took…”
“Still, that doesn’t give you the green light to act like that. Be more like a lady.” His eyes looked very determined to make me understand and admit that what I did was wrong. My, he sure is something…
“Okay, I apologize for acting less like a lady. It will never happen again, I promise.” His eyes softened as I recognized my mistake.
“What is your name?”
I was stunned by that question. Looking back, I had just realized that he never knew my name… Well, that’s what you get from unrequited love…
“Well, Ae-Rin, Nice to meet you.” For the first time, I touched his large muscular hands. The handshake was brief, yet the feeling that came with the touch stayed with me for a longer time, it even lasted until our meeting the next day…
“Hi there, Ae-Rin. It’s nice to see you again.” Max greeted me with a huge grin and those uneven eyes. Surprisingly, my feet dragged me to this café again after I left it for a meeting with Mr. Han. The meeting wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. Even he, the founder of the company, couldn’t explain why Max was the only one who could see me without me approaching him first…
“It’s nice to see you too…”
“So, is this your favourite place to hang out?” Max wondered.
I looked around. “Nope. It is just a place where my feet dragged me to. How about you?”
“Well, what do you know? My feet dragged me here too. I had no control over them this morning. Haha… Maybe we’re both destined to meet here… by our feet.” He laughed at his joke, and I joined him with a light chuckle.
“You’re wearing blue today.”
“Yes, this is also one of my favourite colours, apart from yellow.”
“Hm… Yellow of the sun and blue of the sea… Do you like the beach, Ae-Rin?”
The beach? Why did he suddenly ask me that question? “Yes, the beach is my favourite place to visit, especially to watch the sunrise and the sunset.”
Max looked like he was thinking of something, and then he suggested, “Let’s go to the beach together! Come on, it will be fun! I hear there’s some carnival going on at the beach too. You do like carnivals, don’t you?”
I was surprised by his invitation. Me and him, going to the beach, having fun at the carnival… together? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t it sound like… a date? Could this be the date that I never had? No, I’m exaggerating things… This was just an outing, a friendly outing…
“Yes, that would be great. But how do you plan for us to get there?”
“The bus, silly.” He answered and quickly got to his feet.
“But… but, I don’t have… any money…” Well, that’s the truth. My job doesn’t pay me money, but it pays in giving me a happy afterlife in heaven. Well, before that, I had to help at least a thousand clients before enjoying myself in heaven. And now, the numbers had only reached one hundred something… Still a long way to go… I sighed softly.
“Don’t worry about that. Just have fun with me, that’s all.” He said while urging me to stand up and follow him to the bus stop. Obediently, I followed him and waited for our bus to arrive.
It took us almost an hour to reach our destination as we took the seats at the back of the bus. I felt very tired from lack of sleep as I had stayed up all night trying to figure out why the person that was seating beside me was able to see me. I dozed off a few times and eventually fell asleep right after the bus took its fifth turning. While I was asleep, I dreamt. I dreamt that someone caressed my face lovingly and pulled the misplaced hair back into its place slowly. I dreamt that someone was kissing my forehead, and it went down, down… But before those tender lips could be in touch with mine, the bus hit the brakes and I was forced to end that wonderful dream. As I opened my heavy eyes, I saw Max turning his face away from me rather quickly. What’s up with him?
We were greeted by many colourful balloons that seemed to be flooding the carnival. There were so many booths that we had a hard time to choose which one to stop by first. My gaze fell onto a booth offering its visitors a chance to do a song dedication. Actually, it wasn’t the booth that caught my eye, but one of the posters hanging at one of its walls did. It was the picture of Max, along with his friends: Micky, U-Know, Hero, and Xiah.
“Don’t you have to go to work today?” I turned to face Max who was just about to head for the cotton candy booth. He stopped in his steps and looked at me before he answered, “No, I got the day off. Could you just stop worrying about anything and start having fun with me?” He looked like a cute little boy who wanted to ask me to play with him. My lips curled into a smile and replied, “Sure. As you wish, master.”
He took my hand and made me run all the way to a booth that sold us drinks. After getting two cups of cold punch, we headed to a playground near the entrance of the carnival and sipped our drinks quietly on the swings.
“Want me to push you?” Asked Max with a grin that he tried very hard to hide. What’s he up to now, I wondered.
“Okay…” I put my empty cup on the ground before taking a firm grip on the ropes of the swing.
“1… 2… 3!” He pushed me gently, up to reach for the sky. I can feel the wind blowing on my face each time the swing went higher and higher after each push. I never had a chance on a swing since when I was 10 years old, which seemed such a long time ago.
I turned to look at Max but he wasn’t there. Instead, he was already on the swing with me, putting his feet where my little figure did not touch the swing. He laughed loudly and crazily before suddenly jumping off the swing, unfortunately, taking me along with him to touch the ground with a loud thud. Actually, he was the only one who touched the ground in his attempt to protect me from the impact. I was so shocked by his previous action that not a single muscle in me moved away from the position that we were both in now.
He looked at me, and I looked at him. There was silence, a very comfortable silence. We just stared into each other’s eyes, until my ears suddenly caught light giggles from the children that were playing around in the playground. My senses came back to me as I had just realized that I was on top of him for a whole of ten minutes! Oh my, I never thought a cupid like me could blush like this. My face became hot, and the warmth was much like what I was feeling in my heart. I loved this man, I truly did.
After dusting off all the sand off his back, he pulled me to another stall. This time, it was a stall where you could win yourself a big fluffy teddy bear or just a cute keychain of mismatched slippers. Max looked at me and whispered, “I’ll get you that teddy for sure.” I was about to say “You don’t have to,” when he took the ball from the vendor and started to play the game. I watched silently as he tried for the second round and at last was able to win me that teddy bear. That fluffy and cuddly teddy bear. I hugged it through the carnival as we continued to stroll around, playing games and enjoying ourselves.
When it was about the time for us to leave, Max grabbed my hand and led me to the beach. “Not yet, we still got plenty of time…” He said while ushering me to a spot on the beach to sit on the soft and warm sands. He made sure that I was comfortable before landing down beside me to enjoy the view.
Oh my God. My eyes went teary as I watched the sun set at the far horizon. My wish had just come true. But that was not even close to the best part of it. Just as the last of the sun had vanished from sight, Max leaned closer and gave me a kiss. His lips softly embraced mine, as a longest, softest and sweetest kiss in the history of first kisses was being made. As a cupid, I should tell you that it was true.
Pulling himself away rather reluctantly, he whispered his love to me.
“I love you, Ae-Rin. And I want to be together with you, forever.”
I must be dreaming again, continuing the dream that I had on the bus. Though I find it very wonderful, I couldn’t help but feeling that something was wrong. That I should not be here. That I should not have kissed him in return. Oh my, what have I done? I quickly got up, and without looking at him, I replied, “It’s late. Let’s head back.”
He too got to his feet and he wrapped his hands around me. “No, not before you give me an answer. I had dreams, Ae-Rin… Wonderful dreams about you. I fell in love, though we only met in dreams… Who are you, Ae-Rin? I feel so attracted to you… What spell had you put me into?”
I bit my lower lip as a tear fell down my check, burning it with guilt. “I’m sorry, Max… I’m so sorry… But… I can’t return your feelings…”
Max turned me to face him. I didn’t dare to look into his eyes, but Max slowly pulled my chin up so that our eyes could meet. At that point, I could not hold back my tears any longer. One by one it fell, as I tried to explain everything to him.
“I’m a cupid, Max. No, I’m not joking. Yes, I did once live this life like you, but now, there is no place for me anymore in this world. We cannot be together. I only existed to assist, not to live. I’m not real anymore; I’m just a mere memory… I died, Max.”
“No… That’s not true… Here.” He gave me another loving kiss. “If you are not real, then why could I do that?”
Yeah, why was it that he was able to touch, feel, and even kiss me? “I… don’t know… You shouldn’t have seen me in the first place, but yesterday…” I looked away from him, unable to answer.
“Then you must be real! You are real!”
“No, I’m not, Max.”
Max looked at me with questioning eyes. Those eyes… They always told me the truth about you… And I guess it’s time for me to tell you the truth in return.
“Do you remember middle high?”
“I went to the same school as you.”
“Really? I didn’t see you anywhere around the school at that time…”
“Well, who would notice a four-eyed girl who wore the same sweater to school almost everyday during winter?” I let myself loose from his embrace and walked nearer to the edge of the water.
“Everyday, I saw you and your friends. Everyday, I gathered up my strength and bravery just to try and walk up to you to confess.” I turned to my side where he stood, listening to my every word trying to understand everything. “I loved you, Max, but we were never destined to be together…”
I watched as the wave splashed on my feet, making it wet. My body trembled at the memory of that evening. The evening when all of ‘that’ happened. The evening of my death… The wave splashed again as if it was trying to say: ‘It’s okay. You are strong now. Tell him…’
I wiped my tears before answering, “I was about to run after you one evening, to give you the chocolate that I made myself, when… when…”
“He was drunk, Max! He shouldn’t be! Not when I had finally gathered enough courage to go after you!” I continued to tell the rest of the story between sobs. Max pulled me for a warm hug, as I told him the tale of my life. “The lorry driver hit me… in his attempt to brake at the red light… I was drenched in blood, as you continued to walk away… You were already too far away to notice the accident… You left me, together… with my last breath…”
The front of his shirt became wet with my tears. But he didn’t mind. He continued to hug me, and giving me comforting words. His sweet words…
“It’s okay. You can cry all you want… So, you really did… die?”
He gulped and exclaimed, “I don’t care. You alive or not, I still want you! Even if our meeting was a bit too late, I love you, Ae-Rin.”
I pulled myself away from him. “No, you shouldn’t be. This is all wrong. I don’t want to hurt you any further. We cannot be together, Max.” I started to head for the road. It’s time for us to be apart again, my dear…
“Why, Ae-Rin,? Why?”
“We just… can’t…” Tears accompanied me with every step that I took. As I was crossing the road, a lorry passed by and quickly hit the brakes.
I looked behind me and there was Max, chasing after me and was in the lorry’s way. I jumped myself at him and pushed him to the roadside. I watched as the lights from the lorry came nearer and nearer to me and the beeping horns deafening my ears. I looked at Max’s terrified face. At that time, I wondered… Could I die again, for the second time?
“Hey, Max. Wake up! You had been sleeping for 24 hours already.” Xiah’s voice could be heard from the living room, apart from the noise from his video game.
Max slowly opened his eyes and rubbed them, still feeling sleepy. Suddenly, a pillow was thrown to him at hit his head.
“Wake up, sleepy head. Even I had woken up before you.” This time it was Micky, on his way to the living room to join Xiah.
“Are you okay? You don’t have a fever, do you?” Asked U-Know with a concerned look.
“No, hyung. I’m fine.”
“Good. Don’t fall sick again or we have to cancel our photo shoot tomorrow.” U-Know grabbed a newspaper and sat himself on the sofa to read the latest news.
“Oh, if you’re hungry, there are some leftovers on the table. I’ve heated them up for you.” Jae told Max before disappearing into his own room.
Max looked around him. There were no more beaches, no more beeping horns, and no more Ae-Rin… He was in his own room, and that led him to a conclusion: “What a dream…”
As Max was sitting comfortably on his bed reading his favourite book later that day, there was someone out his bedroom window looking, observing him… She cuddled the fluffy and cuddly teddy bear and kissed it goodbye. When Max went out of his room to have dinner, she slipped inside and left it there, to lie on his bed together with the chocolates that she made. She looked around; inhaling his scent with every breath she took. “Goodbye, Max. I love you.”
Before she left, the calendar caught her attention. Today was the 14th of February… The day she almost had her true love.
“And Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my love.”