The Truth About Love

by Eudora Tan



I once knew a girl. Her motto in life was just to love and be loved in return. Not that she wasn’t loved at home but all she wanted was to find that fairytale in her life just as she read in novels. Her name was Ashley…

“I gotta go now. The plane won’t wait for me. I’ll be fine, Ma, don’t cry. It’s not as though I won’t return,” I said quietly. My heart was heavy. I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to but getting out of Singapore was a decision I made in my heart a long time ago. This place is filled with nothing but horrible memories. I needed to find myself once again and believe in this thing called, love.

“Remember to take care of yourself. The weather can be cold, eat well. Don’t catch a chill. Remember to call home, keep warm…” my mother, Alice, nagged as she always would. She thinks that I am still her baby girl, not independent enough to venture on my own 

Aren’t mothers always like that? Fathers too. In their eyes, their children never grow up. They are always young, ignorant and need to be taken care of by them. Parents. 

One final hug I gave to all who sent me off that eventful day, 13 March 2006. A sense of liberation overwhelmed me as I passed the gates and turned back to wave my goodbye before embarking on this wonderful journey that laid in front of my very eyes.

‘I wonder who I will be sitting next to… Could this journey in finding myself start right here, in the flight to England?’ I wondered to myself as I passed the gantries and boarded the plane.

My heart skipped a beat. Golly! The guy who is sitting next to me, Mr. A, he’s awfully familiar. Have I seen him before?

‘Hi, first time to England?’ Mr. A asked as I settled myself at my window seat. His face, why does it seem like I have met him before? His vibe, something so familiar. Could this be a déjà vu? Oh God, please don’t let him be anything for my past.

“Nah, it’s my second time already. So what’s your name?’ I asked coyly, wishing with all my might that my worst nightmare would never come true with this Mr. A.

“Oh. Hahaha. I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Brendon. Nice to meet you,” his hand stuck out waiting for me to shake as he introduced himself. So, definitely not one of the guys I’ve met before. Anyway, ‘nice to meet you’? Oh my gawd. That’s such a cheesy line! Who uses that line anymore? Ah but it’s okay, his nicely chiseled face makes up for that tiny little cheesy flaw.

“Hahahaha. Nice to meet you too. I’m Ashley,” taking his hand into mine as I introduced myself.

“Ladies and gentleman. Welcome to Flight 221 to London Heathrow. This is your captain, Albert speaking. We are expected to reach our destination at 1300hours and we hope you will enjoy this flight.” Ah bummer. The usual lines. I can already memorize what the captain will say. Why don’t they ever think of other lines? Too hard on them?

Finally the plane is moving! ‘England, make way for Ashley!’ whooped my lil mind all excited about leaving Singapore soil. Many would say that I am an escapist, running away from all that holds me back. But you know, I don’t really care. All I need is a brand new start. I’ll come home when my time is up. Just let me find myself.

Yes, back to Brendon. His features, so well defined. But no, I didn’t let my guard down. After all, this is only the beginning of the journey of finding myself. Why drag myself down by ‘falling in love’ with the guy who sits next to me on the plane?

Three hours into the flight, the silence between the both us were too much to bear and he tried to make small talk again.

“So what are you doing in England? Holidaying?” he inquired.

“Nothing much actually. Too much spare time on my hands. So I’m gonna travel around this nice country and find myself again. Too much pressure back in Singapore, kinda makes you lose track on who you really are,” not wanting to divulge more about my reason for wanting to leave.

Silence yet again.

It didn’t matter much that there was silence anyway. I had a good book to read up on, Persuasion by Jane Austen. Who ever had time for books in the hustle and bustle of life back home? If we aren’t doing the paper chase, we are trying to work our asses off for that once in a lifetime promotion that will entail us being the elite in the industry.

“Ashley, I have been thinking. Have we met before? You remind me of this girl that I met way back when I was 16.”

His question literally almost threw me off my seat! Could this really be happening? Meeting someone that I knew back when I was 16? Golly!

“I don’t believe so. What makes you think we have met before anyway?”

“For one, your appearance, it’s a striking resemblance. The way you talk, is just like her too. Her name was Jing Yi and I met her through a music exchange between our secondary school bands. Maybe it’s just too much of a coincidence. But you really remind me of her” the look on his face just as he said those words, seemed like they glimmer with hope of finding this one girl again.

His words, pierced through my heart. It screams with pain just as it questions, “ CAN THIS REALLY BE HAPPENING?!” Could this Brendon be that first love of mine whom I met through a music exchange when I was in secondary school too?

“Are you Yong Han? From Victoria School? Clarinetist?” I manage to inquire in this bewildered state.

“Yea! You’re Jing Yi right? From TKGS? Clarinetist. The section leader too.”

OH MY GAWD. I can’t believe this is really happening. Finding my first love on my journey of finding myself again. No WAY! How could this be even happening? God must be playing a tremendous joke on me. Not like he hasn’t done so in the last 10 years.

So this obviously sparked an endless conversation as the flight progressed on. Gone was Persuasion and all that were important was filling in on each other’s lives. How we had been in the last ten years. Not like mine was any more interesting than his. After all, all I heard after he left me was that he kept getting attached to a various number of girls and of course sentimental me, got tired of hearing his frivolous ways. He on the other hand, never forgot my existence but never ever tried to contact me again. Jerk.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for flying with Singapore Airlines. We hope that you’ve enjoyed the flight and will fly with us again. “ came on the overhead system. Obviously, we lost track of time just talking and talking.

“Where will you be staying? Any way of contacting you here in England? I’ll be here for a couple of months so if you have the time, we can always meet up and soak in the sights and sounds here,” asked Brendon, with that tinge of hope in his voice.

“Well, you can always contact me on my mobile. 94756694. Yea, sure we can always meet up when you are not that busy with meetings and stuff. After all, I am here on a long overdue holiday and will be here for as long as I can handle.”

Finally, London! In my wildest dream would I have met Yong Han aka Brendon again on the flight here. Was my past coming to haunt me again? I came here escaping from my past, looking for a brand new start before I go back and face the stress of life back home where my family is. 

Shaking my head and bracing myself, I walked out of the arrival gates, flagged a cab and traveled to downtown London, to my best friend’s apartment.  The gush of cold air that hit my face, felt even more refreshing than before when I came up four years ago. Excitement filled the air as I traveled. Could more exciting things be happening?

“Sue!” I yelped as my best friend, Sue Lin opened the door of her Zen styled furnished apartment. We hug for what seemed like the longest time at the door. Probably her neighbours would have thought that we were lesbian partners seeing us in that embrace.

“You’re finally here! In my apartment again! Waltz into my humble abode? Isn’t it just lovely? How about some tea, English style?” an exuberant Sue said.

Settling down into her never ending chocolate coloured sofa, she serves me what she calls, the ‘Traditional English Tea’ with you’ll never guess it, Lipton tea. You know those Lipton teabags that you get in Singapore? That to Sue is traditional English tea even when she is residing in England. That girl.

Feeling a little wozzy from the trip, she walks me to this bedroom, which surprisingly, has been nicely decorated to my liking. A white furnished room, with white furniture and crisps white sheets. I plonk myself into the bed and Sue, being that inquisitive her, climbs into bed with me and pesters me for the latest gossip back home and of course details of my ‘so-called’ exciting flight.

” Sue. It’s not like I’m going home tomorrow so let me catch up n some beauty sleep first. I’ll fill you in on all the details during supper. I need my sleep!” in my whinest voice as I chased Sue out of my bedroom.

“Hey! Time to wake up, supper.  Go change, bathe then we head to that classy restaurant that I’ve been gushing about for months and of course fill me in on all the juicy gossip!” pestered Sue as she tries to wake me up just barely after I’ve fallen asleep. So much for waiting patiently.

So yes, climbing out of bed, as I was about to open my luggage, my mobile rings. Horror of horrors! ‘Brendon calling’ reflects my screen. Hasn’t he got enough of me?

“Hey, Ash, want to head out for dinner tonight? I know of this really chic restaurant in downtown London.”

“Sorry Brendon, I promised Sue, your remember her right, my best friend? That I will be dining with her today, how about tomorrow evening instead? We can always grab dinner together?” I offered instead.

“Sure, I will pick you up say 7.30pm? Send me your address later ya?” a despondent Brendon replied.

I slapped myself awake. Did I just agree to meet him for dinner tomorrow?

“Eh Ash!!! Quick, I made reservations for 7pm! It’s already 6!!! FASTER!” screamed Sue. That girl, always a sucker for punctuality.

“Ok!! Give me another 20 minutes. I will be out” just as I climbed out of the shower and was getting dressed up to the nines. After all, it’s my first night in London and I will never know who I will meet.

“Woah. You are only going with me, not for some hot date. Why dress up to the nines? Now I gotta change to match up to you,” said Sue jokingly.

Finally we are out on the streets. Climbing into Sue’s car, I start to absorb the sights and the sounds that downtown London was offering.

Within 10 minutes we were at the entrance of the restaurant.

“Good evening misses. How about some white wine to compliment your orders? On the house,” offered this adorably cute waiter. 

“Sure, how about leaving your number too?” winked Sue, seductively.

Sue being the more attractive of us, always get the attention that girls strive for. But nah, not that I’m complaining, but hey, I would like to get noticed too.

“So, tell me more about what has been happening back home? How’s the resident bitch, Charlene doing? Still seducing other people’s boyfriends?”

“Why talk about her? I never wanted to hear about her after she snatched your boyfriend from you. Anyway you’ll never guess who I met on the plane here,” trying to change the subject.

“Who?! Some hot hunk?”

“Nope, remember Yong Han from VS? The one I went out with in secondary school? I met him on the plane and we are going on a date tomorrow evening. Cannot believe it right? I came to London to run away from all these heartaches that I have experienced in the last 10 years and God just has to let me run into him. By the way, he is now called Brendon.”

“HUH! You mean you actually agreed to go with him on a date? Are you like out of your mind? You took like what, two years to forget this jerk who started dating barely two weeks after you broke up and you are meeting him again?! All the sense that I knocked into you seems to have gone out the other ear right?”

“No, take it as I’m meeting a friend that I’ve not seen for a long time. I don’t think I am that stupid to fall for him again unless we are really that fated to be together. Anyway he is going to be stationed here in London for a couple of months and you know my plans of traveling around, so I where got time to be tied down by him? After all, I cannot let him foil my plan of meeting new people here. 

This bantering seems to last forever and by the time we left, the restaurant was already closing. Back in the car, Sue suddenly drops the bombshell.

” Ash, don’t freak out ok? But I am getting hitched soon!”

“WHAT DID U SAY AGAIN?”

“You heard me. I’m getting married. To this guy whom I met like two years ago but I didn’t tell anyone coz I wanted to be you know, still be listed on the market. His name is James and works as a broker. He’s hot!”

“You are not getting married because you are pregnant right? You know I will kill you especially now that I am staying in your apartment, that makes it even easier for me to kill you. So when will I get to meet this James?”

“Soon enough. Maybe this weekend. And no, I am not pregnant. I don’t believe in pre-marital sex remember? Anyway he respects this moral value so yea, I AM NOT PREGNANT.”

Okay, so my best friend is getting married to some guy whom she has never mentioned and I am happy for her. Of course there’s this tinge of jealousy because hey she still has this long line of guys who are dying to be in her arms and she’s getting married. But me? Still trying to find myself in this land that never shines.

But then again, this James must be really hot to tie this chilli padi down. Bummer, it’s already like  11pm and I can’t wait to get back into bed.

“Good morning London … “ the radio in my room blares.

What! It’s only like seven in the morning and I am woken up by this stupid radio. Bummer. I can’t get back to sleep. What a night. First I accept a date from my very first boyfriend, then my best friend tells me that she’s getting married. What more can I expect from today?

“Good morning! So today’s the big hot date with our first love eh? Excited? Wanna go to my stylist, grab new clothes and astonish our big boy, Brendon?” asks Sue in the most coy tone that I have yet to hear in the 14 years of our friendship.

“Shopping? No such need. I’m such a pretty girl already. No need to impress him again. It was his loss in the first place,” I laugh as I make my comments.

Deep inside, I was excited. I didn’t know what to expect. Was this the chance that I was hoping for when we first broke up? But, no I will put my foot down and not try to impress. After all, if he were to be interested in me again, it would not be because of how I look anyway. In addition, I am here to look for a brand new start in life and not be tied down with someone from my past. 

“Hey!!!!” snapped Sue as she tried to get my attention. “I’m talking here. Did you even hear what I said?”

“Eh what did you just say? Sorry, I’m still a little wozzy. Jet lag. “

“I was just saying, I took time off work today and can bring you around. Maybe do some shopping? You know, Soho, Jimmy Choos, GAP..” rambled Sue, the true blue shopoholic.

“Ok shopping. But can you ask James out for lunch? At least let your best friend have a look at this lucky guy.”

“I knew you were going to ask. I already asked him out for lunch. 12 noon at the Herolds Café. Quick finish up breakfast, we are going shopping!”

Finishing the last bit of Lipton tea and polishing up the butter scone, I brace myself for this long day. A sense of excitement fills the air as we prepare ourselves for the exciting day ahead.

“Are you ready to go out? How come you always take so long, one? Whined Sue.

“Done already! Let’s go!”

Just 4 hours of shopping with Sue is like going for an entire workout session at California Fitness minus the cute looking gym instructors. But hey, who’s complaining with all the purchases I made. I just love walking down the streets of London and settling down at Herolds Café waiting for this mysterious James.

“Hi ma’am. Table for two?” inquired the service staff. 

“Oh, my friend is in there already. Thanks,” replied Sue.

I’m astonished! He’s actually a Chinese! My fantasy of this James has been crushed! To think that I thought he was the cool Brit with that heavy, yet sexy English accent. I sure hope his accent makes up for it.

“Hi darling,” greets James with a kiss for Sue.

God, they look so blissful together. You know how the Chinese like to believe that if couples are meant to be, they would have this ‘husband and wife’ face? They certainly look like a happy married couple!

“Hey. I’m Ashley, Sue’s best friend from Singapore. So you’re that lucky guy that snogged the hot babe. Good on ya!” introducing myself as Sue takes her seat beside him 

“Ah I’ve heard a lot about you. You’re that famous journalist from Singapore. No one hounding you to write about them?” asked James, jokingly.

“Nope, I’m here as a reclusive journalist. No one knows that I exist. Anyway, where do you hail from?

“Ah. I grew up here. Notice the accent? Lovely eh? So did Sue tell you all about our wedding plans?”

“I have plenty of time to fill Ash in. After all, she will be here for a couple of months and she can help pick out my wedding dress!” gushed a super excited Sue, on the topic of her wedding.

Hours seem to pass at the café and I gently excuse myself to head back home to prepare for that dinner date. I wonder, should I wear something casual or dress up to the nines? I don’t know where we were heading too anyway.

Back home, standing in front of my closet, as I racked my brains for the perfect outfit for the evening, my phone suddenly rings. “Home” it reflects.

“Hi Ma, sorry I didn’t call. Been busy trying to catch up on my beauty sleep and with Sue. By the way, she’s getting married to this British, James. No Ma, he is not Caucasian but a Chinese. Grew up here. Handsome man. Anyway cannot talk already. I’m preparing to go out. Met my friend on the plane on my way here. Going to meet him for dinner. Don’t worry. You take care and say hi to Pa for me too.” Sighing a sigh of relief as I hang up the phone.

The undue worries of a mother.

I lost track of time as I continued preparing for this date and the doorbell rings. Oh my God! It’s only 6.45! I sure hope that it’s not him.

My heart seems like it’s thumping faster and faster as I made my way to the door. One could never expect the surprise I received when I opened the door. A huge bouquet of my favorite flowers, pink roses, greeted me. He still remembers my favorite flowers.

“Hey, come on in. Thanks for the flowers. They are really beautiful. Give me another 10 minutes and we can head out.” I said in a rather embarrassed tone.

Nothing could prepare me for this date. Not even the calmest of thoughts could soothe my thumping heart. As I finally slap on the last of my make up, I tell myself, “ it’s only a simple dinner. Don’t get your hopes too high. You’re here to have a new slate of life not fall back to it.”

“All ready.” Waltzing out of my bedroom.

“Wow, you’re really beautiful. Come, my car is downstairs. Oh grab your jacket. It might get a little chilly at where we are going,” said Brendon thoughtfully.

It seems like ages since I have been in such close proximity to Brendon again even though we sat next to each other on the plane just two days before. The seriousness on his face when he drives, the way his hands wrap round the steering wheel, somehow gives me the sense of security I’ve always been looking for.

“So where are we going for dinner, Mr. Brendon? Somewhere so reclusive that you won’t even tell me our destination?” I asked jokingly.

“You’ll love what I have planned. Now just enjoy the music and I promise we’ll be there in 20 minutes,” in his ‘oh-so-secretive’ tone as he turns on my favorite, Chris Botti.

Boy, he has certainly done his homework. I affix my eyes on the scenery outside the car even though it was getting dark. Before I knew it, we were approaching this really beautiful cottage, by the sea, one that I have been dreaming about.

Stepping out of the car, I absorbed the sight of that magnificent cottage that was before my very eyes. Gently, Brendon puts his arm around my waist and leads me to the door that was left open.

“Wow, this is magnificent. You certainly had planned this dinner well eh?”

“This is nothing. Wait till you see the view out at the deck where we will be having our dinner.”

Just as he finished his sentence, the breathtaking view before my very eyes left me dumbfounded. I didn’t know how to respond to him anymore. My heart was in a whirl. What was he trying to do?

“I really don’t know what to say, Brendon. This is totally awesome. How did you even manage to find this place?”

“Hahaha. This is where I am staying. Nice, eh? I just bought it a few months back when I received notification about my posting. Well, dinner will be served shortly and it’s your favorite, black pepper steak. Of course, with your favourite 1988 Chardonnay wine.”

Before long, dinner was served. Maybe it was the doing of the red wine but our vocal gates opened and we started talking endlessly. This feeling that I felt, was indescribable. Could this be love again? Could this be the miracle?

“It’s late, I think I should go back to Sue’s before she gets all worried.”

“Oh my. Yea, it is indeed late. Let me send you home.”

In the car, there was this silence that seemed to last forever. But I was grateful for it. It gave me time to think about what had happened at his home. Finally, the lights of downtown London. I was home.

“Thanks for the lovely evening,” I said as I was getting out of the car before anything more could happen.

“It was my pleasure. Ash, if anything, I would like to this again. Can I call you?” 

“Sure. I’ll give you a call some time soon. I’m heading down to Wales tomorrow to visit some friends. I’ll call you when I get back. Thanks again. Drive safely.” Trying to end the conversation as quickly as I could before a mistake could happen.

As I stood at the walkway seeing him drive down the streets, a sense of relief, happiness, anxiousness overwhelmed me. What was I feeling? Maybe it was good that I was heading down to Wales.

My heart was still pumping hard from the night before. First, it was in my wildest dreams to meet my first boyfriend on the plane. If ever I did probability, the probability of this chance meeting would be less than a million. Never mind just meeting Brendon, but going for dinner with him? I must have been out of my mind.

“Sue, I’m off to the train station already!” I hollered as I was leaving the apartment. I couldn’t believe what had happened the night before. Brendon was unbelievable, preparing dinner, presenting me with my favorite flowers, being so sweet. What am I feeling? What am I to do now? Maybe it is a good thing going to Wales for a week, get my head cleared of all these thoughts and start life as I had planned.

Deep in thought, I walked through the gates, gripping the train ticket on my right hand. Suddenly, my phone started ringing, that startled me. Who could be calling me at this point in time? Don’t tell me it’s Mum or worst, Brendon?! I searched for my mobile frantically in my Fendi overnight bag.

“Where is it?” venting my frustrations on my belongings before finding it.

‘Brendon calling’ reflected my screen. Just great.

“Hi, what’s up?” I asked, hoping to hear him not say that he was at the platform waiting for me.

“I was just wondering when you will be back from Wales?”

“Some time next week. Going to visit some friends and relatives.”

“”Oh, text me when you’ll be back alright? I’ll come pick you up from the train station.”

“Okay. I gotta run, last call for boarding the train.”

Hopping onto the train at the very last minute was not fun at all, thinking what an unfit person I am. Walking through the cabins, I finally found my seat and slumped gratefully into it. Before I could even rest my aching feet, thoughts about the phone call ran through my mind.

Why was Brendon being so nice? I couldn’t fathom why someone who seemed so distant felt so close with unspoken words between the both of us. Was there something he wanted to say to me just as I left? My heart was in a whirl again. I did not want to commit the same mistake of letting my heart rule my head especially that I’m more mature. It is just like the English phase ‘once bitten, twice shy’. I want to learn from my mistakes and not commit them again.

As I pondered so long and hard that I failed to realize that the train was coming to a stop. I looked out of my window, heart heavy that  I had missed beautiful scenery as I traveled. Something caught my attention. Oh my Gawd! Am I seeing things? What is he doing at the train platform?

I grabbed my overnight bag from the overhead compartment immediately. Pushing throw the crowd, I ran toward Brendon, amazed that he had appeared at the platform.

 “Weren’t we on the phone just before I left?” I asked, while trying to catch my breath.

“I wanted to surprise you! Relax, you silly girl. It’s only me!” Brendon said in a tone that seemed all so familiar – the tenderness and love.

“But, why? I mean why come all the way here to meet me? And how did you reach here before I did?”

“My dear Ash, have you not forgotten that there’s such a thing as the plane? I flew here early this morning after calling Sue last night to see what time you were leaving today. I couldn’t bear to wait a week just to see you again, not after last night.”

I stood there frozen at my spot. The renowned journalist was at a lost for words. I couldn’t string a proper sentence together. What was I expected to say? I couldn’t wait to see him too? Oh confused heart, search for the right words to say.

“Oh, that’s really sweet of you. Did you drive? I need to get to my aunt’s place,” I said rather softly.

“Yup, I did. Let me send you there.”

That moment was nothing but awkwardness. I was glad that we were walking toward the car, somehow finding solace that we were getting out of the train station. The physical distance between us seemed too close for comfort yet again, even though we were just walking side by side, in silence.

“So what’s the address that you’re going to?” he asked just as we got into the car.

“Oh, it’s along the Swansea bay. She’s meeting me at Waitrose. You can drop me off there,”

Starting the ignition, Brendon tried making small talk again.

“Ash, can I ask you something?”

“Brendon, before you say anything more, I want to get this off my chest. It’s really surprising how we met each other on the plane and it’s been so amazing how sweet you’ve been. I’m grateful for that but what happened in the past keeps hindering the present. Maybe we should take things slow before we make progress again. Let’s handle this maturely, okay?”

“Oh, I suppose I can stomach that. You’re right, I’m probably trying to too hard but there’s this vibe that you cannot deny. Give me another chance?” The look in Brendon’s eyes were one that filled with hope, yearning to be given that long overdue second chance.

“Give me time to think about this. I never expected all these to happen but believe me, I will think about it. Maybe it is the second chance that God has given us. 3 days, you can call me after 3 days. Let’s think about it rationally as the adults we are, neither of us wants to get hurt again.”

Silence filled the car again. I knew that I had hurt Brendon with my words but I didn’t want any of us to be burt again, especially me. Call me selfish but it was for the best. The silence was deafening and I couldn’t wait to get out of the car. I needed to be rationale, not to give in at this point in time to my heart.

Finally Waitrose was in sight, seeing my aunt standing at the entrance brought me great comfort.

“Thanks for the ride. I’ll call you, I promise,” I said as I left the car. I couldn’t bear to turn back once I walked away. What if he had that pained expression on his face? What if he was on the verge of crying? I knew whatever it was, I couldn’t bear the sight.

“Hi Aunt Geraldine! It’s so good to see again,” locking my aunt in an embrace, seeking comfort in her warmth for my aching heart.

“My beautiful niece, was that your boyfriend? Why didn’t you introduce us?” she inquired.

I didn’t know what to say but walked silently beside her to the car. Was three days simply too long to bear? Thoughts filled my heart and mind as my aunt rambled on and on about the party that she had planned. I was certainly in no mood to party but yet thankful to be in the company of loved ones.

Driving up the driveway, the image of a cottage adorned with party decorations welcomed me. A smile drew across my face.

“That’s simply awesome! Thanks so much!” I exclaimed in gratitude.

“My pleasure, afterall it’s not everyday that my favorite niece comes to visit me! Ashley, I know that there is something troubling you, if you need someone to talk to, I am here.”

“Thanks Aunt. We’ll talk about it afterwards. Don’t want to dampen the party mood.”

Everyone I knew residing in Wales was there, friends and family. The warmth of home was overwhelming and definitely drew me away from all my troubles.

“Jing Yi!” my childhood friend came toward me beaming.

“OH MY GAWD! You’re pregnant? Wait, you’re even married?”

“Have you forgotten? I got married like two years ago to Jonathan and you didn’t attend my wedding because you were covering some conference in New York?”

“Oh yes! Now I remember. When are you due?”

“My birthday! This is so exciting. 

The banter continued from Kate to Kelly to everyone else in the room yet deep in my heart, I knew that I was in pain, I was lonely, I was thinking of Brendon.  Waiting for the night to creep to an end.

Waking up to the smell of fragrant coffee was enticing, especially after the long day previously with the emotional roller coaster. It was day two already and I knew I had to give Brendon an answer tomorrow. I climbed out of bed, walking down the stairs being welcomed by a sumptuous breakfast that was prepared by my aunt.

“Good morning! Hope you had a good night’s rest last night,” chirped my aunt. Who could be this energetic so early in the morning, after clearing up the mess from last night’s party and still have the energy to prepare a table full of treats?

“Morning. Thanks for breakfast. Erm, would you like to take a walk with me by the sea later after breakfast?”

“Sure, when you’re ready to go, tell me.”

With that, my aunt walked back into the kitchen and got on with her chores. How was I going to broach the subject? I knew I needed her advice because I couldn’t share it with my mum, she simply wouldn’t understand. After all, aunt Geraldine was the one whom I confided in since I was young.

Twenty minutes later, dressed in slacks and a t-shirt, I got myself ready to go to the beach. Calling out to my aunt, we walked out of the house

“So I suppose we’re taking this walk because you wanted to talk to me about something, something close to your heart. Guy trouble again?” My aunt seemed to read me like a book. I didn’t have to start the conversation because she already knew what was weighing heavily on my mind.

“Do you remember that guy I met when I was in secondary school, Yong Han? I met him on the plane while I was coming up to London. He’s been asking me out again and just yesterday he surprised me by meeting me at the train platform in Wales. He asked me for a second chance and I told him that I would think about it and would tell him my decision by tomorrow,”

“And you don’t know what to do because you still love him but yet, do not want to be hurt again. Ashley, you must understand that there must be a purpose for the two of you to meet again especially during this time when you are trying to find the meaning of life again. Remember how crestfallen you were when he left? Those years even though you tried to put it behind you, it still haunts you and always hindered your future relationships. Maybe your heart is really still with Yong Han.”

We walked on quietly, deep in thought with what was said. My aunt was right, maybe I really still had something for him that’s why I never had a successful relationship after Brendon and I broke up. I always felt that no one could match up to him.

“I figure that you’re right, Aunt. No one could make me feel like how I felt for him even though we were still young then. But I am really afraid of having to go through the pain that I felt when he left.”

“Why be so focused on the unknown when we should be looking toward the future? You’re older now, you would know how to handle the pain and whatever problems that would come your way should anything happen. Ashley, deep inside you is this strength that you’ve yet to realize. When it’s time for you to realize it, you’ll know that ultimately, life is not just about being so smooth sailing especially about love.”

“Thank you for your advice. I believe I know what I should tell him. Wish me luck. “

“It’s always my pleasure to lend you this listening ear. Remember, whatever happens, your family here is willing to lift the sky when you feel that it’s crashing down on you. Use the strength you use for your work in this relationship.”

I can never thank God enough for having this aunt that I can confide in. Sometimes I wonder why my mother cannot be as understand as her. I mean I remember once when I tried to tell her about Brendon she said,” Girl, you still young, why are you committing so soon? So many guys out there and in any case, I don’t like him. He is not good enough for you and you better not have been cheated by him.”

So much for giving good advice to the daughter who just had her heart broken. Aunt Geraldine and I strolled along the beach, taking in the sea breeze and occasionally letting the freezing seawater touch our feet. It was a refreshing feeling, now that the knot in my heart was undone and knowing what to do with Brendon.

It was soon approaching lunch and we decided to walk home. My heart was skipping with each step we took as we approached the cottage, knowing that I was a step closer to calling Brendon to tell him of our life changing decision.

In the comforts of my room, I plucked up the chicken courage that I had to dial Brendon’s number. It seemed like eternity before he picked up the call.

“Hi Brendon. I hope that you’re sitting on a chair because I’ve finally come to a decision about the both of us.”

“Go on, I’m listening.” A tinge of apprehension in his voice.

“I thought about it over the night and I think that we as mature adults would know how to handle affairs of the heart much more know how to cherish a second chance. So I suppose, you would want to think of how to make this second chance that I am giving to this relationship and make this work.”

At that precise moment, I was pretty sure that I heard yelp and an “I’m coming over to pick you up now to celebrate”. I was abounding with joy too. I ran to the loo, freshen up, changed to a new set of clothes before he could even reach the house.

It felt as though I was sixteen again when I saw him pull up the driveway. My heart was leaping for joy, my limbs unable to keep still. It was like our first date all over again. I opened the door and stood there giggling like a little girl as Brendon walked up to the door.

“Hello. Let’s go grab a cuppa. Just like we did on our first date. I’m sure the coffee here would taste much better than the one we had back when we were sixteen.” Brendon said laughing. This happiness in his voice seemed all so familiar, the voice that has been playing in my head for the past few years.

It was evident that the both of us felt the intense joy yet there was this unspoken silence that we knew we couldn’t afford to break each other’s hearts again. It was as though each step in the relationship were to be treaded carefully but it was in my resolve that I decided to let go of all doubts and inhabitations to savor every moment that Brendon and I were going to share. It is only then would we know the true meaning of love.

Climbing into the car, Brendon was full of chatter, talking non-stop, a sign when he is ecstatic. We arrived at this chic looking café that was located at the sea front. It was a beautiful moment, with us being reunited again, enjoying the sea breeze and each other’s company.

Over the course of the next few days, Brendon and I spent many wonderful days together just visiting friends, spending time at the park, enjoying each other’s company. It seemed like it was a dream – sitting at the park, under the clear blue skies, having a picnic and sipping magnificent tasting red wine. What more could a girl like me ask for?

By the time we were suppose to head back to London, it felt as though we were both brand new people, experiencing the love that was once lost and now found, savoring every moment of it. Even during the train ride back to London, being seated next to each other, not saying a word, was enough for the both of us.

As the train pulled into the stop at London,

“Ash, it was the greatest time of my life for the past few days. I want this to last forever and ever. Will you want to spend the rest of your life with me?” asked Brendon as he went on one knee and took out this red velvet box from his pocket.

I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know how to react after all, we had only known each other again for two weeks. It was too soon! Yet, I wanted to badly to accept his proposal.

“Oh Brendon! Get up first! We’ll talk about this,” I didn’t know what to say but only to tell him to stand on his two feet to buy me time as I thought about the decision that would change my life forever.

“I need time to think about this. I mean we’ve only been together for a week or so and it’s all to soon. Brendon, I too want to spend this magnificent time we’ve had forever, but I think we do really need to think about it.”

I knew once again that I put Brendon in a spot just like the time when we were in Wales. Seeing his crestfallen face was heartbreaking but yet I knew that we couldn’t jump the gun and skip the whole lot of knowing each other better before getting married.

Sue who was supposed to pick me up from the train station saw the whole proposal and was dumbfounded.

“Ashley! Why didn’t you say yes? I know you wanted this all your life since the day you knew Brendon back in secondary school. Don’t think about it anymore. I believe you are old enough to know what your heart and mind is telling you to do. “ Sue who knew me all so well advised me when we were walking back to the car.

I could only accept Sue’s words and walked beside her silently. What was I to say to have the best of both worlds?

“In addition, if you accept his proposal, we could have our wedding together! It’ll be so perfect! Moreover it can be held in the most romantic season, autumn! Go on, call Brendon, I know you want to,” enticed Sue.

It was true. I always wanted to have my wedding during autumn. Maybe I should really accept Brendon’s proposal.

“Sue, but don’t you think it’s all too soon? I mean we’ve only gotten back together last week and now he’s asking me to marry him. I feel like we’ve skipped the part of knowing each other better and you know, dating.”

“Why think so much? Both of you love each other deeply and God even gave you the second chance to be together. Don’t you think that’s a good enough reason for you to get married?”

That was true too. My heart was confused. I just wanted to sink into bed and not think anymore. I was grateful that Sue’s apartment was in sight. All I could do now was just to rest and be rationale before calling Brendon again.

It was a night of unrest. I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about was the times that Brendon and I spent together in the past week and praying that it was a good enough reason for me to accept his proposal other than because we love each other and having been given the second chance at this relationship.

Thinking about what Sue said also made sense. The reason why two people get married is because they truly love each other and it doesn’t matter how long they know each other. We can never know a person well enough before getting married because getting to know each other better is a lifelong process. That probably suffices as a reason good enough for me to accept his proposal.

As though I had a brainwave, I picked up my mobile and called Brendon, not caring if it was only six in the morning. The phone seemed to be ringing forever. Why wasn’t he picking up?

“Hello.” Finally!

“Hey it’s me. Did I wake you up from your sleep? I called because I wanted to tell you something.”

“Are you okay? You didn’t sleep at all last night? Did something happen?” it was as though anxiety rose in Brendon that I could imagine him sitting erect on his bed.

“I’m fine, dear. I just called because I had to tell you of my decision again. Can you meet me for breakfast at Starbucks?”

“Sure. Be there in an hour.”

Immediately I sprung into action, running the bathroom, changing and even telling Sue that I was borrowing her car. I was excited. I’ve never felt this relief about making this decision and I knew that my life would be changed forever.

Walking into Starbucks was Brendon, dressed casually in slacks and a t-shirt. He looked worried, not knowing the least what to expect from me.

“Hey. Bought your favorite coffee and sandwiches already,” laying my purchases on the table in front of him.

“Did you manage to sleep last night?” he asked while unwrapping the sandwiches.

“Nope but I thought about what has been happening. Dear, Sue heard everything last night and she told me what she thought. It had set me thinking about us. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve known each other for. We love each other and that’s more important. Brendon, I’m willing to take this life time to know you more and fall in love with you every single day."

At that moment, it seemed like time had stopped. Brendon had sprung up from his seat and was jumping around in the café soliciting congratulations from the others in the café.  I couldn’t help but laugh at his crazy antics but yes, I was elated too.

Running back to our table, he scooped me up from my seat and locked me in an embrace that still lingers today. I’ve never felt so protected or so loved. I knew finally, all doubt has been cleared and I had made the right choice.

Before we knew it, we were calling our parents respectively not bothering about the time difference, just to share our joy.

“Ma!! I’m getting married! Nononono. He’s not a Caucasian. Remember that guy I met while I was in secondary school? Yea, the one that dumped me before. But no, he won’t do it again. We’re more mature now. Yes, Ma I will be back soon to introduce him to you and dad.”

Even I got my mum psyched. It was truly a liberating experience. I think I found myself earlier than I expected. This journey hadn’t stopped. There was much more to experience in this life but the only difference this time was that I had Brendon with me.

Ashley and Brendon did have their dream autumn wedding in England with all their close family and friends. Ashley got to don that Vera Wang wedding dress that she had been eyeing on for what seemed to be the longest time and what was better was that they got married the same day as Sue and James. No parents could have been happier on that day seeing the best friends getting married.

Having their dream wedding - a simple affair in the park with all the golden leaves cascading down each time the wind blows, having every opportunity to dance the romantic slow dance on the dance floor and simply enjoying the moment, was what every girl could ask for.

Both Brendon and Ashley embarked on their life journey together, living in the beautiful cottage that they had their first date of course, that after going on their honeymoon to Austria. And I as their friend, wish them happiness together forever