The outdoor shopping center was a grandiose place, where everyone shopped to their heart’s content—stores upon stores present as far as the eye could reach—a place where friends gathered. The outdoor mall: An open space.
The center of this particular outdoor mall had a cascading fountain surrounded by a couple of benches on the grassy area. A few trees, ready to bloom, were spread around the mall’s courtyard, giving it a garden feel. The birds would chirp and the butterflies fluttered around. Spring was here. The season when the sun would begin to shine once more, signaling warm days to come.
But today… such brightness and tranquility were not present. The sun had been covered by dark clouds and the blue sky had turned gray. Today it was raining.
A young lady in her mid-twenties was striding along at a slow pace; the wind gracing her porcelain-like face as it tousled her silky black hair in a disarray. The only sound came from her black boots splashing in the puddles. She wore a black trench coat that protected her outfit: a green short-sleeved shirt and blue skinny jeans.
She had no particular direction. Her mind was deep in thought.
She approached the fountain and turned slightly to glance at it. The trickle of the splashing water meshed with the rain and the only sound that did stand out were the footsteps of the ones trying to get away from the downpour. But not her; she continued on her way.
She finally came to a stop in front of a jewelry store. The window display consisted of necklaces, rings, bracelets, and watches. However tempting the inside of the store looked, dry and comfortable, she didn’t want to go in nor did she have any desire to shield herself from the rain. Gently, she closed her eyes as she placed her hand on the window—covering the 14kt white gold diamond ring beyond the glass—the memories emerged:
“Michael!” she screamed in excitement as she sprinted towards him.
Michael turned around as he heard her voice, a smile gracing his handsome face. He quickened his pace to meet her halfway and embraced her. “God Chloe! I missed you!”
She giggled as she was twirled around. “I’m sorry it took longer than expected,” Michael added.
Many other couples around them were being reunited. His platoon had just returned home from their mission after almost a year.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter anymore. You’re here now,” Chloe reassured Michael as she tightened her hold on him.
He placed his hands on her now flushed cheeks and leaned forward for a kiss. “Chloe,” he whispered as he closed the gap between them.
Tears started to roll down Chloe’s cheeks and she wiped them away with her sleeve. She opened her eyes to see the ring glistening. It looked so much like hers:
“Marry me…” Michael asked. He had taken Chloe to a French restaurant. Musicians had come to their table to serenade them. The one singing in French, the language of love, handed Chloe a red rose. She was going to face Michael when she saw him down on one knee.
“Oh my God, Michael…” she gasped in disbelief, her tears trying to let loose.
He chuckled. “Well…am I going to receive an answer?”
“Of course! Of course, I’ll marry you!” Chloe smiled as Michael gently placed the engagement ring on her trembling ring finger.
Everyone around them cheered and the two enjoyed their first fervent kiss as an engaged couple.
Chloe looked down on her now bare ring finger and gently, with her other hand, traced over it. She suppressed a sob as a smile tried to appear, bits and pieces of her wedding day coming back:
Chloe was anxious. The wedding planner came in and out of her room while her mother mumbled about fixing her posture, having something blue, something new, and something borrowed. Chloe’s three friends: Tesa, Riley and Lexi were in a corner chuckling at the antics before them.
Tesa made her way to Chloe and embraced her. “You’ll be fine,” Tesa said.
Chloe nodded, “I know. It’s just that y—”
“You’re nervous. But c’mon! Today is your day!” Lexi said as she and Riley walked towards Chloe and Tesa.
“That! And let’s face it. Michael is lucky to have you as his wife,” Riley mentioned.
“Luck has nothing to do with it. Chloe just gave him the opportunity that many others will weep for,” Lexi remarked bluntly.
Chloe laughed at hearing her friends. “You girls are the best,” she said as she embraced them.
“Tell us something we don’t know,” Tesa said and they all laughed.
Chloe, emerged from her memories, hearing a faint noise. The sound became louder by the second, snapping her back to reality. It was her phone. Chloe pulled it from her pocket and answered as it rang one more time. “Hello…”
“Where are you?” Tesa asked.
Chloe shrugged. “I needed some time alone.”
Tesa sounded worried. “Chloe that’s not like you…”
Chloe didn’t respond.
“Chloe? Say something. I’m worried. We’re worried…”
“Tesa…why did it happen? Why did things happen the way they did? I did nothing wrong…” Chloe choked out in a whisper.
Tesa sighed. “Love, listen to me… life at times is not fair, especially to those who’ve done nothing wrong… I don’t know why Michael did what he did. All I know is that he’s a jerk! He doesn’t deserve you.”
Chloe began to cry. “But I love him. How can I hate the man I have always loved?” Chloe turned her back to the window display and slid to the floor.
“I know… I know…” Tesa whispered, currently frustrated.
Chloe shook her head. “No… you don’t…” she stated matter-of-factly, hiccupping. Everything had happened in a blink of an eye. Her life had become uncertain. “What am I gonna do now?”
Tesa sighed. “You’re right, I don’t know, but I’m here for you. We’re here for you. Maybe we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but you’re strong. It’ll be okay. You’ll see,” Tesa reassured her.
“I just don’t feel strong…” Chloe blurted out as she wiped her tears with her sleeve once more today.
“Tesa I’m going to hang up. I just need to figure this out on my own right now… but I promise I’ll call you back. Okay?” Chloe suddenly said.
“Alright… but you better call me, okay?” Tesa affirmed.
“Sure…” Chloe agreed as she hung up, turning the phone off.
Chloe began to pour her heart out. She was feeling weak…lost… How was she going to be okay? She knew Tesa was right. She knew she was strong but at this moment, just when she needed the courage; it seemed that her strength had forsaken her—leaving her feeble instead.