A birthday gift to my best friend, just in case her wish doesnt come true. I'm hoping that it will, this will otherwise be a poor second. 5 years after her true love disappearing, Camille must be b...
Non Capiva Che L'Amavo
By: Kristine Rae D. Ventura
10 years have passed since Camille met Jean-Sandoro and first their friendship and then their relationship grew.
5 years they had together, just being a part of each others lives.
5 years however were spent wondering why he left.
Now, though it's time to make good on a vow between friends and get the answers she needs to move on.
Qui seduto sul letto ripenso a noi
a quei giorni che il vento ha portato via
quante sere passate allo stesso bar
con gli amici che adesso non vedo piÃ¹
il suo sguardo era luce negli occhi miei
la sua voce era un suono dolcissimo
quante volte ho pensato di dirglielo
quante volte ho creduto di farcela.
Ore in macchina a parlare sotto casa sua
si rideva si scherzava e non capiva che
non capiva che l'amavo
e ogni volta che soffriva io soffrivo
quante notti ho pianto senza dire niente
perchÃ© perchÃ© perchÃ© perchÃ©.
Non capiva che l'amavo
e ogni volta che non c'era io morivo
quante notti ho pianto senza fare niente
e mi nascondevo all'ombra di un sorriso
non capiva che l'amavo.
Il ricordo Ã¨ una lama nell'anima
un dolore che brucia senza pietÃ
Il suo nome vivrÃ nell'eternitÃ
come un segno profondo e indelebile
ore e ore a soffocare tutto dentro me
mi parlava mi guardava e non capiva che.
Non capiva che l'amavo
e ogni volta che soffriva io soffrivo
quante notti ho pianto senza dire niente, fare niente
perchÃ© perchÃ© perchÃ©
non capiva che l'amavo
e ogni volta che non c'era io impazzivo
quante volte ho fatto finta inutilmente
e mi nascondevo all'ombra di un sorriso
non capiva che l'amavo.
..non capiva che... l'amavo.
Non capiva che l'amavo
CHAPTER ONE: Camille
'Will you marry me?'
Driving home from the hardest date yet, I groaned inwardly at the fact that Tommy, my boyfriend and proposer, was the second guy in three years to ask me for my hand in marriage, and walked away wondering where the hell he'd got the signals wrong. After all, things in the relationship were progressing good, there was mutual trust, respect and even love... but it wasn't enough.
Curse you Justin!
I parked my car in my parents driveway, at twenty-four, I still lived at home but it was no big feat since all my best friends still lived at home, 'I'm home,' I yelled out in general.
'How was your date?' my mother asked, her eyes bright and cheeky, I sighed, she had liked Tommy even more than she liked Robert-and she had been devastated about /that/.
'He proposed,' I said.
Something in the way I said it, possibly the lack of warmth and excitement made the warmth and excitement in my mother's eyes dullen, 'you said no again, didnt you?'
It wasn't a question.
I nodded dejectedly, and plopped down onto the sofa next to her, and allowed her to take my hand into her own in a comforting gesture. Though to an outsider it may look like I was a cold-hearted bitch who lead guys on, it wasn't true and my mother knew it.
'The same thing that always happens-I think that I'm happy in a relationship, that this time it's going to succeed... that I'm going to forget,' I paused, 'but then when the proposal comes up... I just can't say yes.'
My mother patted my hand.
'Maybe you should face your fear.'
'Yes mum, and how do you suppose I do that-fly off to Rome and confront that jerk and ask him why the hell he disappeared when I thought he was "the one"?'
'And why not?' she asked gently.
'Because,' I thought for a second, 'the guy would have me committed into a mental asylum. I just don't have the guts to do that.'
'Then take your partner in crime.'
Something in the way she said it made me look at her.
'My God mum, you really are serious about this aren't you?'
'Ola,' a disgruntled voice muttered into the phone.
'Kei are you up?'
'Why would I be /up/? It's two a.m. in the morning-where are you, Romania? That you can't tell that it's sleeping time?' my best friend demanded groggily.
'Sis, the time has come.'
'To go to sleep?'
'To go to Rome.'
That got her attention, or at least I think it did-the silence was either: her falling asleep or her being too stunned to react, 'what do you mean-you're going to Rome? What did you actually put Tommy out of his misery and decide to elope?'
'Of course not!'
'There's no of course about it,' she pointed out, I could hear her shifting in her bed, 'he has been your boyfriend for two years.'
'I broke up with him.'
There was a groan, 'so what, now you're going to Rome to lick your wounds? Rome of all places?'
'Kei-don't pretend you don't know. You promised me five years ago that you'd go with me to look for him.'
She groaned, 'Camille-do you realise that it's tax season?'
'I am an accountant.'
'So you're just going to bail on me? Good friend you are.'
'I'll get my passport,' she gave in.
CHAPTER TWO: Jean-Sandoro
'Can you tell me why you're down in the dumps again?' Marco a.k.a. Mark, my best friend demanded as he stuck his head through my office door.
'I'm not,' I said defensively.
At twenty-six, what could I possibly have to be down on the dumps about? I was a junior partner in a prestigious architectural firm where already I had a growing reputation and my work was in demand, I had great friends, and to top it all off I had a gorgeous fiancÃ©e in Catalina, whom I would marry in two short months.
'Yeah, try again,' Mark made a quiz show wrong answer sound as he stepped further into the room, 'is this the house you're building for Catalina?'
'I'm not building it for her,' I answered absently, my heart's desire had been carefully poured into the house miniature that Mark was now admiring.
Before he could ask 'who for' I spoke, 'the reason I'm a little bit put out is because the budget for the wedding keeps going up and up. It's like Catalina thinks I'm made of money or something.'
'You are made of money.'
'I always wanted a small wedding. Or if not small-at least a decent sized one, no fancy pop stars or-can you believe this, she wants eight white horses to pull her carriage along. She's not that heavy.'
'Seems to me as though you're getting cold feet, /amico/,' Mark said, 'what's brought this on? You've indulged Catalina willingly during the eight months before you proposed. What makes it so different now?'
I didn't want to answer.
I wanted to keep it a secret to myself and hope that I would get over it by the time that the wedding day came along, but I knew deep down I would die if I didn't tell anyone-and the only other person that I could tell was Carmen, who was Mark's wife and also Catalina's good friend-she wouldn't want to know.
Once upon a time there would have been someone else...
'I was looking through the old Alpha yesterday,' I said slowly, 'the royal blue one I had when we were still in college? Well I found a CD.'
'/The/ CD, Mark. The one with the song,' I said, waiting for it to click in his head.
His eyes widened as expected, 'you mean the one with only the song,' he couldn't help pointing out, 'Jean-don't go reading things into this, this is dangerous territory you're going on.'
'Too late, I checked out her MySpace.'
'You did what?' Mark groaned, 'no man, please tell me you're not thinking of doing something stupid two months before your wedding.'
I knew he was right-he was practical.
I sighed, 'It doesn't matter, she hasn't used the space in years-apparently I'm not the only one who outgrew the internet.'
'I heard her voice and I just thought-maybe it's a sign. You know? I always thought it would be her that I would end up marrying one day,' I smiled at the thought, we'd talk long into the afternoon (well it was night time for her) about what kind of wedding she wanted. It was all hypothetical and fanciful, but it had touched me that someone felt so much for me that they could imagine themselves with me so far into the future.
'I know,' Mark said solemnly, though he'd initially disapproved of Camille, the good friend that he was realised how happy she made me, 'but things changed. It was your decision to leave.'
There were days when I still regretted it, when I wanted to take back the day I cut off all connection to her.
And now it looked like I was going to have to live with it.
CHAPTER THREE: Camille
'They said that it takes about three to four days to process the information we gave them because they have to make sure that the information is such that they can disclose and so and so forth,' Kei said as soon as she walked back to me.
Because her Italian was better than mine-I'd let her deal with the American Counsel at the Embassy, who seemed more comfortable speaking in Italian than in English.
'Nice. So what should we do until then? You're not really planning on going boutique-scouring are you?' I asked doubtfully.
She attempted a smile but failed.
Immediately I knew something was wrong, after all, you didn't get to go be best friends for more than ten years and not sense when something is wrong with the other. But she was more than just my best friend, she was like the sister I never had-with similar black hair, dark eyes and caramel skin-she not only looked like me, but her personally was also somewhat like mine-except less outrageous and geekier.
We found a gelato shop and took out ice cream before finding a seat at the Spanish steps in which to enjoy it in.
'Matt and I are having problems.'
In a way, her relationship with Matt had the opposite life-span to mine with Justin. We'd both met them at roughly the same time, with Kei just getting a bit of a head start, in the middle of year 9 she'd been recruited as his 'pretend girlfriend' but in the end the relationship had become very, very real.
Nearing the end of year 9 I first met Justin, who became my friend and nothing else. It wasn't until Kei and Matt had broken up after a year-near the end of year 10 that Sandoro and I started our relationship. There was a time in year 11 when both Kei and I were single, but she quickly fixed that-getting involved and playing cupid, and the relationship was still on go.
Again however, Kei and I found ourselves single at the end of year 12, and both boys seemed to have left our lives for good. But it was in our last year of university three years later that Matt came back into Kei's life and I helped them realise they were meant for each other and they've been together for three years. And me on the other hand, I had Robert for the first year and a half, and then Tommy for the second year and a half.
Hope rose in my heart even though I knew that it was bad.
I wouldn't want Kei's happiness to be jeopardised even if it meant getting Justin back-no matter how much I wanted him back.
'He's not... happy,' she blinked.
'How can he not be happy-you've been together four years, sure you fight and stuff, but you always get over it,' I urged her to tell me the whole story.
'He's not happy about the baby.'
'The /baby/? Oh. My. God.'
Kei nodded, concentrating hard on her gelato.
A thought dawned on me, 'Should you be travelling? Should you be wearing yourself out walking around all day like this-and in this heat? And around all these people-God Kei! Why didn't you tell me? I wouldn't have demanded that you come with me.'
The smile that formed on her lips was genuine. I didn't see what was so funny though, this was serious-this, my best friend, was carrying a /baby/.
'Maybe I should check your blood pressure-,' I said, glad that I brought my nurse kit with me.
'You're so sweet sis, but I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I'm perfectly healthy, I am responsible enough to have gone to the doctor to get myself checked out before leaving. And I don't suppose I can control what goes on from here-if Matt decides he doesn't want any part of the baby's life... good luck to him.'
I stared at her, but she changed the subject and I graciously allowed her to do so.
It didn't stop me thinking however.
What would it be like to carry Justin's child? Would he demand teasingly that we call her Sandy if she were a girl? If it were a little boy would he have his daddy's gorgeous brown eyes and that smile that makes my heart beat a million beats...
'What's wrong?' Kei said, startled.
'Nothing, I think I'm close to the edge sis,' I admitted, 'I didn't think this plan through. Maybe we should go home? I don't even know what I'm supposed to say to him if we find him. And that's a very big if. Why oh why did I let my mum talk me into this?'
'Because you knew it was time,' Kei slipped in smoothly, 'try to calm down sis-we can't go home until we fully enjoy Rome. There are still all those sights to see, do you really think I want your future niece or nephew to know that I went to Rome and didn't see the Colosseum? Besides, in a few days-if the people at the embassy can't help us, we can take it as a sign. But if the name clears-after all, how common is the name /Justin Denilson/-then it definitely is a sign that you should go find him.'
'What if he's married Kei? What if he has kids?'
'You know, you are going to drive yourself crazy by thinking like that-maybe we should go get drunk?'
I wasn't fooled by her diverting tactic, 'You don't even drink, even if you were stupid enough to risk your child's life.'
Kei smiled her cheeky smile, 'then we better go shopping then-I would suggest a good old-fashioned perve, but that I think would defeat the purpose of us being here, don't you think?'
'What's wrong with a little male appreciation?'
'You mean, given the fact that in a few months I won't even be able to see my ankles?' she asked me wistfully, and saw in the corner of her eye an admiring Italian male looking her up and down.
'Exactly,' I laughed, and was conscious of other Italian males waiting to pounce.
If we'd been here in other circumstances, indeed it would have been exciting. But Kei summed it up in one truthful yet wistful sentence.
'Unfortunately, I have all the Italian male I want back home.'
And though mine wasn't back at home, I felt the same way, 'So what are we going to do now? You don't want to be a loser and go back to the hotel room and watch Italian telenovellas do you?'
She snorted, 'Emily would kill us.'
I laughed with her. It was funny because Emily, who'd gone to Spain to study archaeology in Toledo, had nabbed herself a gorgeous soap opera star for a husband.
Life was ironic.
CHAPTER FOUR: Catalina
'Jean, honey, what do you think of silver glitter thrown around the tables for the reception?' I touched his arm lightly.
The man in question, the man I would be spending the rest of my life with, looked up from where he was drawing in his book and frowned at me, 'Don't you think it might get into the food?'
My brother Cristiano snorted at Jean's remark and I glared at him, 'Can the two of you take this seriously-it is my wedding!'
'I thought it was our wedding?' Jean asked with little malice. That's what I adored about him; he was such an easy-going guy. But sometimes it was this same easy-going nature that frustrated the living daylights out of me.
'Forget that, what have you got planned for the bachelor party?' Cristiano's eyes came to life.
'Keep your lecherous mind away from such thoughts,' I warned him with another glare.
Jean laughed good-naturedly, although he had assured me that he wasn't planning on getting into any sort of trouble-probably just a couple of drinks-certainly no strippers. Another reason why Jean would make the perfect guy for me...
Don't get me wrong.
I don't love him.
So why am I marrying him?
I adore him because he is such a wonderful guy, but deep down I know that my heart belongs to Fede, one of his best friends. But Fede had never had the time of the day for me, not like Jean had-and this way I could get back at Fede.
But apparently, for that to happen-Fede actually had to care about me... which I know now he doesn't and would never. Just like everyone else, he'd handed over his gift at the engagement party, wished us both good luck and gave me the customary kiss on the cheek and Jean the friendly handshake.
Jean didn't know.
Did I feel bad for using him as a poor substitute?
'/Piccola sorella/, I think that you need to ease up a little bit-this is after all a wedding, it's not supposed to be painful to organise,' my brother spoke.
That hit too close.
I smiled charmingly at Jean who looked at me with affection, 'it wouldn't be a pain if my fiancÃ© helped out a little-glitter or not? Besides,' I turned to Cristiano, 'since when have you been such an expert on weddings?'
He exchanged a 'she's such a girl' look with Jean.
'Glitter honey, definitely glitter-just try and... keep it to the minimum, I really don't want it in my food,' Jean answered.
CHAPTER FIVE: Jean-Sandoro
'So you want to tell me what's going on?' Cristiano asked as we shuffled into the pub that we frequented after work, catching up with Federico and Mark.
'What's going on with what?' Mark asked as he caught the tail-end of the question, Fede wasn't there yet.
'Nothing,' I said at the same time that Cristiano answered with a, 'he's been acting so strange-he let my sister have glitter at the reception.'
'You hate glitter,' Mark's eyes widened.
'How can anyone hate glitter?' I made an impatient noise, 'it's so /shiny/.'
'Remember the time you were at Jen's party and it went all in your soup? You said it left a metallic taste in your mouth?'
'So that's what that was about...'
'So mystery solved,' I said quickly.
'No way-you're not getting away that easily. Something has to be distracting you, I know I'm just new in this brotherhood of yours but I like to believe I'm catching on fairly fast,' Cristiano raised an eyebrow.
Mark saw the way I shuffled in my seat and immediately groaned, 'Come on man, not Camille again?'
'What?' I demanded defensively, 'I didn't even say anything'
'You didn't have to,' Mark turned to Cristiano, 'you might as well hear it from us rather than from my loud-mouth wife-,'
'You told Carmen?' I groaned but was ruthlessly ignored.
'-about ten years ago Jean met this girl off the internet, except that he gave the name /Justin/-I mean what kind of a name is that anyhow? Anyway, he fell in love with her-blah, blah, blah... and then he changed his mind after three years, disappeared from her life and now two months before his wedding to your sister he finds a CD which he obsessively played in his car for five months straight-and he can't stop with the "what ifs". Have I covered everything?' he asked me.
I glared at him.
I felt an overwhelming urge to start yelling at my best friend for making it sound so insignificant, what I'd shared with Camille. Not only that, he made me sound like an absolute jerk.
'Are you planning on telling my sister?'
'Do you really think I should?'
He was stopped from answering by Fede's arrival. For some reason he wasn't hanging out with us much often and I hadn't seen him in three weeks, not since the engagement party in fact. He looked haggard and overworked.
'Fede man, good to see you,' he shook hands with all of us and dropped down to his seat.
'So what are we talking about?'
'The bachelor party,' Cristiano said decisively.
Mark gave him a high-five, 'damn straight, where do you think we should go? And maybe we should do it before the wedding day-I mean, I don't want us to get all wasted the night before the big day... bad memories from mine.'
For the first time, I saw Fede laugh, 'do you remember how upset Catalina was when she opened the door having been sent to check on us and we all looked like we spent the night in jail?'
'We did spend the night in jail,' I said dryly.
'And whose fault was that?' Mark asked, his annoyance completely fake, although he'd been scared shitless in jail that night that he may not make it to the altar on time.
'Blame Cristiano, he was the one who thought it was an excellent idea to streak naked across that busy /strada./'
'Oh and I suppose I held a gun to your head to make you all do it-the way I remember it you were all pretty into it.'
It was only when I got back to my usually homey apartment that night that I realised it was the first time I had gone two hours without thinking about Camille since I found that stupid CD.
CHAPTER SIX; Camille
'Why must you make life so difficult?' Kei demanded as she continuously bonked me on the head with a pillow, she was lucky she was pregnant or I would have smacked her by now.
If I could be bothered getting up.
'Can you just go on your own? Please? My head feels like there is a marching band stomping through it-and very off-key too. There is no way that I can possibly make it out of this bed in time to get to the embassy by the time it opens.'
I heard a frustrated groan, 'I am pregnant, Camille. I cannot handle the rise in my blood pressure!'
She'd been playing the "I-am-pregnant-so-do-as-I-say" card ever since she'd revealed it to me and frankly I was getting sick and tired of her self-pity. If she'd cared so much about her being pregnant she would be talking to her boyfriend instead of being a stubborn cow about it. So for all I cared, she could suffer.
'Kei, you're the one that convinced me to get blind drunk last night.'
'It was a sarcastic suggestion because I'm pregnant and I can't drink. There was no need for my encouragement for you to get pissed-not to mention flirting with any guy with a relatively quick pulse in the greater Rome area,' she pointed out.
'So let me pay for my sins by suffering here,' I begged her, 'just go-I know you want to find out as much as I can so that when they reject our offer for more information, we can go back home where we belong and you can get married and live happily ever after.'
'I doubt it,' she said shortly, 'but since you're being such a pain in the ass I will go without you. But you have to meet me at Piazza Santorini at one o'clock okay? I don't fancy having to walk all the way back just to lunch without you. And I don't want to lunch on my own; I'll eat too much and won't be able to move. I don't want to get stuck in some weird country.'
I laughed despite my headache and she slipped out after dropping two aspirins on my bedside table next to a glass of water.
I thought she'd never leave.
'/Signorina/, you would like to buy pretty necklace,/ si/?'
I smiled at the street vendor but shook my head, I was only browsing. There was still twenty minutes until I was supposed to meet Kei and was just browsing in the near-by market stalls looking for the familiar dark head of hair.
'/Signorina,/ you are here again! Where is your lovely friend?' another street vendor asked, thankfully one which had a better grasp of English, as was needed with being in such a tourist attraction.
'/Buongiorno,/Â´ I said with a smile, pleased with being able to use my little Italian, 'I am meeting her later.'
'Do not bring her here-I think I lose the money when she come,' he made a movement where he pretended to be trying to loosen up his collar, my last visit with Kei here had been entertaining, Kei had pretended to be letting him win in the haggling and then she'd knocked him for six.
I think it surprised her too because she's rubbish at negotiations, but apparently age improves her.
'Let me guess, it is your first visit to Roma,' a voice from behind me asked.
I tell you what.
Since I've been here there have been many Roman guys, more than few who've shown interest in anyone who played tourist. But not a one of the gorgeous men with their dark glossy hair, strong nose and gorgeous olive skin had made my gut clench like the one who was standing in front of me now.
I had never been tempted to stray from the memory of Justin, up until this moment.
And stray was what I wanted to do.
'Uh yes,' I said self-consciously, tucking my hair behind my ear in attempt to stop in from whipping across my face.
'That is good, are you enjoying your time?' his voice was rich and smooth, his accent less pronounced than the average Roman but still it was there, a ghost following the end of each word that lilted out of his mouth.
And what a mouth it was.
I was close to combustion by the time I tore my gaze away from it and noticed that the street vendor had noticed the attraction and had discreetly walked away to try to make a living and demanding a group of American tourists haggle with him.
'Yes I am,' I replied.
'And are you alone?'
'You don't look like one of the opportunists that prey on tourists,' I shot back at his line of questioning. He was disconcerting me to say the least, and though I didn't /want to alienate him, a part of me did/ want to see him walk away so that I could shake my head, write it off to a once-off and concentrate on searching for Justin.
'I'm sorry, I am Jean-' it was an average name, not befitting of it owner so for some reason the way he said it made me wonder if it was spelt the conventional way, 'and you are?'
'I am Camille. Jean-is that spelt differently?'
That damn mouth quirked again and his eyes crinkled up with humour, 'It's J-E-A-N. A bit girly an American girl once had the guts to tell me... I was not amused.'
'Then I shall refrain from telling you so,' I assured him, his laughter and easy-going nature was so contagious that I found myself smiling at him and walking away from the stalls with him in a companionable way.
'I have distracted you from shopping,' he commented as we found ourselves closer to the restaurants than the stalls.
'Oh that's okay, I should probably get a table anyway-I'll be meeting my friend here soon enough,' I said.
His face seemed to solemn up, 'So you are here with someone-a boyfriend perhaps? A husband?'
'A pregnant best friend who will be cranky if I don't take the initiative to get us a table since I'm already here,' I put in smoothly.
'Then it shall be taken care of,' he clicked his fingers and a waiter caught his eye-immediately there was a table just in the middle of the outdoor tables, not too far in to make anyone claustrophobic, but still not too far out to be jostled by pedestrians.
She was surprised that he still remained standing even though she'd sat down, 'Why are you standing?'
'My mama always told me to wait for an invitation.'
My heart thumped at this show of good-manners that was rare in guys back home, 'Then consider this the invitation.'
He sat down with a charming smile and that was how Kei found us thirty minutes later.
'Sis! I'm sorry I'm late but trying to drag your ass out of bed caused me to miss my bus and then-' she stopped dead and her jaw dropped when she saw that I wasn't alone.
I gave her a look of pure joy over the top of Jean's head, already having been won over in the half-hour that we'd been talking.
'I-,' she paused and then seemed to collect herself, 'I'm sorry for being rude, I didn't see you there.'
'That is okay,' Jean rose as Kei went to take a seat, and her eyes could have popped out of her head by then, 'I was just keeping your friend company until you came.'
'Kei this is Jean. Jean this is Kei.'
'Nice to meet you Jean,' I looked worriedly at Kei, there was something in the way that she said it that made me wonder whether there was something about Jean that she didn't like, and for some reason I found myself caring as to what it was. Which was completely ridiculous considering I'd just met the guy-this wasn't like taking your boyfriend home to meet the parents.
'Nice to meet you too,' they shook hands and I felt that they were holding each other's hands for too long.
On the verge of yelling at Kei to remind her that she was pregnant to another man, they let go of the other's hands and just then my phone rang. Who the hell would be calling me?
CHAPTER SEVEN: Kei
The shock was almost as big as when I looked at that pregnancy kit to find the blue line staring me in the face.
'What do you think you're doing?' I said in calm Italian as Camille stood up to take the well-timed call.
Jean or Justin or Jean-Sandoro or whatever name he was going by today sat across from me as though seeing me for the first time in his life-which was ironically, literal and figurative all at the same time.
'So you know,' he replied, again in Italian.
'I can't believe she doesn't know,' I said, wondering how the hell my best friend, who professed to love the guy sitting in front of me, could have missed the picture altogether.
Granted, I did get a head start at the embassy when they revealed to me that there was one Jean-Sandoro Denilson listed as living in Rome who fitted the birth date we gave-but still. Although he hardly looked like the pictures he'd sent us five years ago-pictures which were vague at best-there was still the eyes, and the smile and he just looked like Justin.
'I didn't know it was Camille until she started talking. And then I recognised the voice...'
'The CD,' he said.
I must have looked blank because he began to sing in a low voice, '/what's it gonna be? Coz I can't pretend/,'
'You seem to be pretending quite well,' I pointed out to him, still at a loss as to what I was supposed to do. There was no way that I could go on without telling Camille the truth.
'Please Kei, don't tell her yet.'
'Why?' the question baffled me.
His eyes shuttered and he didn't look quite so fun anymore.
I didn't push him, it was still so surreal that finally, FINALLY we were meeting the guy that meant the world to my best friend, and she didn't even know it. I sat there drinking in his sight, and it felt right somehow. This was how I expected Justin to look like, and he didn't disappoint-no wonder Camille was so drawn to him, and it wasn't hard to see that she was. She kept flicking glances towards us even while on the phone, although I knew that part of those glances were worrying that we might be hitting it off.
My stomach seemed to overturn and for a moment it felt like I was going to be morning sick-except that all I did was drop my fork, 'You're going to be married?'
'In two months,' he nodded.
'If she finds out...' I paused, 'I didn't know.'
CHAPTER EIGHT: Jean-Sandoro
Kei looked just like her photos. It was Camille who had changed, she looked older, more sophisticated... more beautiful if you could imagine that happening considering she was pretty much perfect in my eyes to begin with.
'You're pregnant, congratulations' I said softly, remembering what Camille had said before the revelations came. It was hard to imagine Kei, who looked not a day older than eighteen carrying a child, 'who's the lucky guy?'
'Camille told you?' she snapped, 'Matt's the father.'
'Matthew? Not the boy that you broke up with when Camille first met me?' I asked with surprise.
'Exactly that boy,' she confirmed, and though I could see her struggling to remain angry with me, her feelings for her man was evident with the way her eyes became bright when she spoke of him.
'How long have you been married?' I asked as I watched Camille walk towards us, having finished her phone call. It was too late that I saw the way Kei's gaze shuttered.
'Kei are you alright?' Camille asked, concern filling her eyes and shooting me a betrayed look as though to ask 'what the hell did you say to her?'
'I'm okay. I'm just feeling hungry and Ju- uh-,' she struggled with my name, obviously confused trying to remember what name I'd given her best friend.
'Jean,' I put in smoothly.
'Yes, Jean told me that the food will be here soon because you ordered for me?' Kei looked decidedly cheered up.
Camille relaxed and sat back on the chair. Kei instigated the conversation but once it began to flow, she left Camille and me to do most of the talking while she took care of her food.
I was drinking up this time with Camille.
It had all been a distant dream of mine, imagining that one day we would be here in Rome talking to each other, getting to know each other. And here was that moment. It was amazing and already I could not think about having to walk away from either of them when the lunch was finished.
I was fascinated by her.
She seemed to be almost exactly like how I remembered her, except that with an added element. As though she were hiding pain behind her friendly gaze-I almost demanded to know what had happened in the years that we hadn't talked but of course I couldn't do so without giving the game away. And I couldn't have her knowing the truth... not yet.
It was wrong I knew, but I couldn't tell her.
CHAPTER NINE: Mark
'It's finally happened, Mark.'
'/Ciao/ to you too Jean,' I said lazily as I lifted the phone on my desk and immediately got a reply without a pretence of pleasantries from my best friend.
'Who's here, has Catalina come to visit you?'
I thought I heard wrong. Maybe he'd meant to say 'camel'-like Catalina wanted a camel for the wedding-but in my mind I knew what I heard. I drew a deep breath which was audible enough for Jean to hear at the other end.
'I know,' he agreed.
'Here in Rome? How did you find her? You didn't lie to me when you said that you didn't try and contact her did you?' I demanded. There was just no way I could be happy about this.
Though he didn't like to talk about it, it took Jean a year to get over his decision to leave all traces of his life involved with Camille. It had not been made willingly, it had been made because their relationship had become destructive and he had realised that maybe Camille's unhappiness stemmed from his inability to be there for her-and it would be best for them both to just let go.
It had hurt him deeply and up until Catalina, he had failed to commit himself to a relationship for any long period of time.
'I didn't. I was at lunch at the Piazza today and I randomly started talking to a girl who reminded me of her-I didn't know for sure that it was her until she started talking to me. But by then I couldn't tell her who I was.'
'You didn't tell her?' I yelled into the phone.
My secretary looked over the glass wall towards me with a look of concern; I waved her away impatiently and focused my attention to my idiot of a best friend.
'And say what?' he was angry, 'I'm engaged, Mark. So even though I would give anything to get to know her-who's to say that she's not some sort of stalker freak? I have to tread carefully.'
'Was she alone?'
'No, she was with Kei... you know, the best friend? The funny thing is that Kei recognised me, but we didn't get to talk much because Camille finished her call, she did promise however to leave it to me to tell Camille the truth.'
'You really think those two could keep secrets from each other?' I wondered, still reeling over the initial news.
'I'm hoping, anyway I need a favour-I want to spend more time with Camille, I need you to cover for me.'
I sighed, Carmen would kill me when she found out.
CHAPTER TEN: Camille
'So what do you think of him? I don't know Kei-I haven't been this happy since... well since Justin.'
'And you're just willing to let go of your dream of finding Justin?' she asked me. Ever since we'd gotten back from having lunch with Jean, she'd been in this weird mood that made her very little fun-I put it down to hormones.
'No... but like you said, maybe it's a sign that the Embassy said that they needed a few more days to get the information we needed,' I said optimistically, 'I'm not saying I've given up on him, but what's the harm of making new friends? Who knows, Jean may even help us find Justin.'
Kei was shuffling awkwardly once more.
'Are you alright?' I finally asked.
'I'm fine. All I'm saying is, you have to think very clearly sis-this isn't just a game anymore. If we do end up finding Justin, and you've already gotten attached to Jean-the decision will be harder for you. I don't think it's fair to hurt Jean.'
'Why are you speaking like that?'
'Like what?' she asked defensively.
'Pausing before you say their names?'
'Unless you haven't noticed, they both start with J-it's hard to keep up,' her face was turning red.
'Do you have a thing for Jean, is that it?' I asked her, narrowing my eyes at her, 'I did notice that you were talking intensely when I was on the phone. My God-you look guilty!'
'I am not!' she said hotly, 'And rest assured Camille, I am not interested in Jean. I have a baby growing inside of me and a man back home that needs to be dragged up the aisle.'
The last part was said with a laugh, I tried to relax but couldn't get it out of my head that maybe she was hiding her true feelings for Jean in an attempt to save me from any hurt.
She lay back on her bed and when the phone rang she didn't reach over the pick it up. She looked at me expectantly, rubbing her tummy and I glared at her and went to snatch it up.
'Jean?' my voice caught, dammit his voice sounded even sexier over the phone, 'how are you?'
'I'm good-I know you meant me to call another day, but I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me.'
'I-I'd love to but Kei...'
'Sorry I'm busy,' Kei said grumpily, and I knew she was still insulted from my accusation.
I shot her an annoyed glare and turned back to the phone, 'On second thought, I'd love to go.'
'Great, I shall pick you up in an hour and a half, is that okay?' he asked, and I could hear the pleasure in his voice.
'That's fine. I'll wait for you in the lobby,' I added before disconnecting the call and glaring at my best friend, 'what are you playing at?'
'I'm not playing at anything. I want to stay here and read my book,' she said with so much pleasantness that I was about to gag, I narrowed my eyes at her suspiciously but she gave me her most innocent look and went to grab the book.
It took me only a short while to get ready. The dress was a sun dress-and it went to just past my knees. I put on a white headband with strawberries on it to try and offset the yellowness of the dress. I didn't know where we were going but I hoped that it would be somewhere casual. I tried to make myself feel better that maybe Jean was just being nice and that this wasn't really a date-but already it was eating me up that in a way I was betraying Justin, just like all those years before-not directly, but still in a way.
I looked at Kei, 'are you sure you wont come?'
She saw right through me, 'Just because I'm there doesn't make it a non-date. You made your choice sisbo.'
Can anyone say nail and coffin?
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Mark
'I'm taking her out to dinner,' Jean said quietly as I cast a glance over to the living room to make sure that Carmen and Catalina couldn't hear what we were saying. He had dropped Catalina off because she and Carmen had preparations to do for the bridal shower.
'You're playing with fire Jean-Sandoro,' I said, using the name that always made him wince, 'what do you think Catalina is going to say when she finds out you're cheating on her?'
'I haven't been cheating on her-I just met Camille today,' he said exasperatedly, trying to defend himself.
I knew what he was trying to say but I also knew that it wasn't true, 'But have you ever stopped thinking about her?'
Have you ever stopped loving her?
It hit the spot and Jean immediately paled, 'I'm... I'm trying to sort things out Mark. I need to find out what I feel for Camille before I commit to anyone, can't you understand that?'
'And what happens when Camille falls for you as Jean-Sandoro, and then you realise that it's Catalina you want to marry? Is it fair for her to have come all the way to Rome to see you and then just get her heart broken? It's a bit unfair, isn't it?'
Jean ran a hand through his dark hair, which was in badly in need of a haircut-it had been beyond uncharacteristic when his usually short and trim hair had grown overlong, as though he was beyond distraction with Catalina and the wedding.
'It's one dinner.'
We eyed each other for a little while, in attempt to size up the other's true feelings, to concede each other's points.
'Are you really telling me that after tonight you're going to make a decision? I know you Jean-you're going to be torn between your promise to Catalina and your heart. Because we both know that they're in two very different places and belong to two very different people,' I said when he didn't answer.
'Please Mark, just trust me. Will you do that?'
'Jean, I have trusted you from the moment you told me you had a cute cousin that you think I'd like.'
He smiled and I smiled.
'I better get going, I said I'd pick her up in a little while.'
I nodded and watched as he said good-bye to his cousin and fiancÃ©e, mulling over the fact that the two kiss were the same.
'Is everything okay?' Carmen asked as she left Catalina to slide past me in order to get something.
'Yes, I was just thinking of inviting Fede to come over so that we could do some planning for the Bachelor party. Do you mind?' 'Why just Fede?' Carmen asked suspiciously, she knew me too well to know I was up to something, 'why not Cristiano?'
'You mean aside from the fact that the playboy is with his latest lady-love?' I smirked, 'Fede and I will do well without Cristiano's outrageous ideas.'
It was just as I had suspected.
'Where the hell is Jean?' Fede demanded.
'He had to go out tonight.'
'Without Catalina? And it's not business either-I checked the schedule, we're not written up for anything tonight.'
'Since when have you cared so much about Jean's daily whereabouts?' As if I didn't know.
It was clear that Fede was torn between his mistake about letting Catalina slip through his fingers and wanting her to be happy-even if it was with his best friend. It was also clear that he would gladly crawl on his knees to the Vatican for a reason, any reason to give him hope that maybe Catalina still loved him.
He needn't have looked at Jean-all he needed was to see all the hope in Catalina's eyes.
CHAPTER TWELVE: Jean-Sandoro
She looked gorgeous.
There must have been hundreds of people walking around us, but my gaze was held by the woman standing next to me, a woman whom I had hoped to one day meet but had given up all hope on before today. And here she was, at least for tonight, right here with me.
'Is there something on my face?' she asked, self-consciously rubbing her cheek.
I laughed softly, 'Ah Camille, there's nothing wrong with your face-I was just telling myself how lucky I am that I get to spend more time with you.'
She turned red, it was adorable.
I lead her to the restaurant that we'd be dining at; I purposefully chose it so that it wouldn't intimidate her with its expensiveness, though appearances could be deceptive-though the homely feel was very present at the quiet Italian restaurant, its quietness came not from unpopularity, but from the choice to limit the patrons at any one time.
'Do you like it?' I asked, like a little boy willing to please, as her gaze flew around the place.
'I love it,' she assured me with a smile.
Just like in my dreams she was easy to talk to, could take my little jokes-although it took a lot of will power to prevent the "inside jokes" from coming out. I feared that one murmuring of '/panget/' would give the entire game away and she would hate me for not telling her truth... what's more, I'd have to tell her the whole truth. Although really, by now I would have done so even if I didn't have to-she was Camille.
'You're staring again,' she said lightly.
'I-I know,' I said, not stopping the staring.
She ducked her head in attempt to stop being stared at and I laughed at her, she stuck her tongue out at me childishly, but it was endearing and I wanted to kiss her.
I felt like a total heel that was going to hell-Camille was never going to forgive me no matter how she found out and Catalina-I hated having to disappoint her and let her down. Both of them deserved better than the imminent treatment that I was about to give them.
I backed down and brought our conversation back to normal things. I asked her things about her life, and if she figured out that I was only asking about the last five or so years instead of her entire history, she didn't say so. I was impressed that she'd achieved her dream of becoming a nurse, and that aside from that she'd started a bakery businesses with her cousin, one which was doing well.
I told her about myself, and it was a relief to be honest with her-I told her things about me that I hadn't been able to tell her all those years ago while were just names on the internet. My childhood, my achievements, my time with my best friends-ironically, while lying to her about my identity, I was being the most honest with her as I'd ever been.
'How are you enjoying Roma?'
'I love it. I always wanted to visit when I was younger and finally I'm here I can't figure out what took me so long to come-but I'm sure now that it won't be the last time I come here.'
'Oh?' I asked, loving the way she valued the place I called home, 'put a coin in the Trevi Fountain did you?'
She grinned like a mischievous little kid, 'Is it that obvious?'
Nothing about her was obvious. She had depths in her that I would only be lucky enough to divulge, and I got the feeling once in awhile that she felt awkward being there with me. I told myself I was just projecting my own awkwardness and guilt to her-but the feeling began to grow.
'Are you okay, Camille?'
'I'm fine, but... I'm just-,' she paused, 'I have to be honest with you Jean... about something.'
I stared at her, 'Uh... okay?'
'I came to Rome to look for a friend. A male friend, a male friend whom I thought was the love of my life up until the moment that he disappeared on me six years ago.'
It was all said in one quick breath that I struggled to keep up with her. It knocked me for six how honest she was-and how that honesty suddenly made my lies to her more serious.
'Do you?' she looked at me, 'I really like you Jean, and you don't know how happy I am to be here with you, to get to spend time with you-but I thought you should know,' she finished lamely.
'Thank you being honest with me,' I said to her truthfully, and felt the guilt swell as the urge to kiss her and finally-/finally/-feel her against me as I'd long to do all those years ago came up again to the front part of my mind until I could think of nothing else. I reached across from the table and cradled her hand in mine running my thumb along the smooth skin of the back of her hand, 'you truly are one of a kind /carrisima/.'
She tried to speak but couldn't.
I felt the same way.
One tug-like movement and she began to drift forward to me, I closed the gap and I felt it-it felt like coming home.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Camille
The kiss blew my mind.
I'd been kissed before, and they'd been pleasant enough with Robert and Tommy-contrary to what it may seem like, I did feel deeply for them up until the point when I realised that they couldn't be Justin.
But kissing Jean- I had trouble trying to remember what Justin looked like in my head. While Justin had been an vague figure, Jean was a red-blooded Italian man and the way his lips throbbed against mine as blood pounded through them was so real-so hot-that I was yearning for more.
He pulled back so quickly that I nearly fell forward onto our food, his eyes were deep and his face looked drowsy, as though he'd just woken up from a deep sleep-coincidentally what I felt like.
'Wow,' was what I said.
He gave a reluctant smile and agreed, '/Si,/ I too think that it was definitely a 'wow' kiss.'
But he didn't kiss me again for the rest of the night. At least not until he walked me back to the hotel and chose not to go upstairs, instead bidding me a good night, pressing a hard but fast kiss against my lips before telling me that he will be in touch as soon as he can.
Kei was in the bedroom, lying in bed with a hand on her stomach and a book in her hand. She looked up from reading and one glance saw her eyes widening, 'Oh my God, he kissed you!'
'How could you possibly know that?' I asked, becoming very shy in ridiculous circumstances.
'Put it down to a talent,' she said dismissively, unwilling to be deterred, 'so what happened? I want all the gossip-I am very hormonal as you can see.'
'We had dinner, we talked and talked, and then I told him about Justin and then he kissed me,' I recalled nonchalantly.
'You did what?'
'I told him about Justin-wasn't it you who said that I had to tell him?' I asked impatiently, I was waiting for her to ask for the kiss so that I could relive it in my thoughts again.
'I...' she looked confused, 'when did I say that?'
'You said it would be unfair to lead Jean on-so I told him about Justin,' I said, impatiently jogging her memory, 'gee sis, pregnancy has made you forgetful.'
'So what did he say?'
'He-,' I thought back, 'he said he was thankful for being honest.'
'That's it?' now she looked angry.
I hoped that when I became pregnant my moods wouldn't swing like hers were swinging.
'What's wrong with that?' I demanded, 'you thought that he would be angry with me or something? Are you sure you don't have a thing for him?'
She snorted, 'Yeah sis, as if. And there's nothing wrong with it-I think you're imagining things.'
'You mean like the fact you seem disappointed that he didn't immediately get up and leave?' I shot back, feeling at edge. I knew that Kei had a loyalty to Justin, but I didn't understand why she couldn't be happy for me, 'look sis-just because things between you and Matt worked out after so many years apart doesn't mean that the same thing is going to happen between me and Justin-the story is very different.'
Her eyes softened, 'I-it's not that Camille.'
'Then what is it?' I wanted to know, I wanted for us to be close again and not at odds and not understanding each other.
'I--,' she was going to say something but almost immediately she changed her mind before starting again, 'I'm glad you've found happiness with Jean, I really am. I'm just feeling hormonal and over-protective and all that stuff that comes with pregnancy-just promise me you'll be careful.'
'I will,' I said confidently.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Jean-Sandoro
Things didn't go to plan when I went to Catalina to come clean with her about my recent whereabouts.
'Catalina, what's the matter?' I demanded as while looking for my fiancÃ©e in her house, she ran headlong into me, tears streaming down her face.
'Jean,' she buried her head against my chest and clutched onto me as though she was drowning and I was a buoy.
'Come on /cara/, tell me what's wrong,' I pleaded with her.
Just because she was not the love of my life did not mean that I didn't care about her and her happiness.
'I just-it's all wrong Jean, it's all wrong-I don't know why either... I'm not a bad person,' she was sobbing and her words were hardly making sense.
I just held onto her and let her cry until she drained herself of tears, but I could tell it may take awhile so I eased her onto the marble floor of her corridor and we sat there, with my back against the wall and her face crumpled against my shirt as her body shuddered with tears.
It gave me time to think of what I was doing-was it right to break off the engagement for Camille?
Finally however, Catalina found it in her to raise her head and wipe the remnants of tears from her cheeks, 'I'm sorry, Jean.'
I knew what she meant, never had we argued or fought or cried in each others presence since I started seeing her- and realised for the first time that the relationship had lacked passion that any relationship two Italians should have had.
'It's okay Catalina, but will you tell me what happened?'
Her eyes looked braver and brighter. I'd never seen her look more determined in my life and immediately wanted to applaud her for it. 'Did you know that I've loved Fede for the last three years?'
I blinked, what did she say?
'I-no I didn't,' I said, in shock.
'About a year and a half ago he found out and told me in no uncertain terms that things would never work out between us because his heart still belonged with his ex.'
I nodded; it had hit Fede hard when his ex-girlfriend Monica left him for another man, 'you were a good friend to him at that time, I remember.'
'All I wanted was to be there for him,' she recalled, 'I didn't want anything more, but...'
'But your heart didn't listen to your head?'
She nodded, 'when he told me he'd never want me I accepted that-I moved on and tried to leave your group of friends, but Carmen wouldn't hear of it. And then you were there. So nice to me, always trying to include me and taking care of me-you were a great friend and I thought that we could have something more.'
I nodded. It was the truth-neither of us had initially looked at each other as though we were the only ones in each other's world.
'But the feelings didn't leave did they, Catalina?'
'No, which I never felt guilty about because Carmen once confided in me that your heart was already taken,' she confessed, 'so in some twisted logic I thought we could yearn for people we'd never have-together.'
'What changed?' I asked curiously.
'Fede... he suddenly wants to be with me. I feel so angry Jean-that's why I was crying. He never wanted me before, when he could have had me and I don't think I can believe him now. I'm just so angry that he could try to do this-to me and you, his best friend!'
I understood her emotions, even though she loved him she knew that it wasn't right, 'Catalina, when you say my heart was already taken?'
'Well the girl is back,' I said and could tell she understood what this meant.
'I'm so scared to believe that this could happen,' she confided after trying to open her mouth to talk again and again.
'So am I,' I admitted to her as I continued to sit there next to her, 'but do you think you can find it in yourself to give Fede a chance-I know I'm being selfish because I have my own selfish reasons but...'
She stopped me, 'you're not selfish Jean. It's only right that you find happiness too-and I'm willing to break the wedding off regardless of what happens with Fede.'
'But,' I caught on to what she was trying to say, 'Catalina-you do know that if you need me I am here for you.'
'I know, and I'll always be thankful that I had you for a few months-it may not have been a romance but in a way you became one of my closest friends, and you're not a bad kisser either,' she said with a smile.
'Hey,' it suddenly dawned on me, 'were you trying to repel me into breaking our engagement when you kept suggesting all those ridiculous things for our wedding?' I demanded suspiciously.
She grinned as though she'd been caught red handed and was damned proud of it, 'I was inwardly dying of laughter whenever you just went along with it.'
'You're a devil.'
'And you're an angel, Jean-Sandoro Denilson,' she said seriously, as she leant forward and pressed a kiss on my cheek.
I thought 'angel' was going too far.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Mark
'Okay, what is it that you know that I don't?'
I groaned, there was no way I could handle Carmen when she was in the "I-am-going-to-get-it-out-of-you-even-if-I-have-to-smack-you-around" mood. I always ended up giving in, and Jean had decided that he was going to take Camille out again tonight and tell her the truth, having already cleared things with Catalina.
It was two days after he'd gone out with Camille for that first time, and two nights since he and Catalina had finally discovered the truth-the fools. How it took them so long he'd never know! Jean owed him big time for making Fede see what he was missing out on by moping over that self-centred bitch Flavia.
'What do you mean, /cara mia/?'
'Don't you '/cara mia'/ me, Mark Rinnuci-you can't sweet talk yourself out of this, I just heard that Catalina has left for Milan this morning-what did my stupid cousin do this time?'
'What do you mean, this time?' I asked cautiously.
My wife was certainly on a warpath and wasn't going to back down I saw with a dejected sigh.
'/Tesoro, if you don't tell me what is going on, it will be a /very cold night in the spare room for you,' she threatened.
Trust a girl to hit you where it hurts.
But I couldn't betray either Catalina or Jean. Catalina had asked Jean to keep the farce of the wedding going for a little while longer until she could get her life in order-she was planning to move to Milan and leave Fede behind even though she still loved him. Jean had been a gentleman and agreed, so while the engagement was off, the pretend engagement was still alive.
'Fine! Catalina wanted to get away for a couple of days,' I said begrudgingly, 'Jean on the other hand is also getting some time on his own, he's gone... out.'
'Where has he gone, Rinnuci?' Carmen could now smell blood and was closing in.
'He went to /Santiago/,' I finished.
It was the truth, he was planning to take Camille to the Santiago Botanical Gardens where he would hopefully be brave enough to tell her the truth-about everything-and the place was so large that even if Carmen should chose to go after him, it was going to take her a while to find him.
'By himself?' Carmen breathed out.
Damn I thought, of course everyone knew that only couples and families and tourists went to Santiago, and that Jean going there on his own was going to be weird.
'Get the car out,/ caro-/it's time to visit my cousin.'
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Camille
'What is this place?'
I stared around me where all I could see was lush parkland, an amazing feat considering it was almost at the heart of Rome. When there were buildings all around formed thousands of years ago, it seemed impossible that such green beauty could be found anywhere in La CittÃ Eterna.
'This is Santiago,' Jean said simply.
He looked gorgeous, while he'd said that everything was going to be casual today I didn't believe him and put on a peasant shirt and skirt and was glad to see that I'd guessed right. He was wearing khaki pants and a nice red Polo shirt, bronzed arms dug casually into his pockets. His smile was gorgeous, and it's familiarity was making my heart skip every other beat.
'Camille... I need to tell you something.'
'Yes?' I took a deep breath.
No, I wasn't hoping that it was a proposal, it was crazy! I've known the guy for five days! But by God, I wanted it to be something special, something that would assure me that this would last longer than the two weeks I had in Rome.
'You're everything I ever hoped for.'
I nearly melted there and then.
But how do you respond to that? I ducked my head in embarrassment after shooting him a dazzling smile, hoping for him to keep walking.
I'd wanted this with Justin but Kei was getting more and more vague about her visit to the American Embassy insisting that she would check on it by herself but would come back saying that she was out of luck-her attitude about Jean had steadily improved however, with her practically pushing me out the door to spend time with him. We had gone to lunch together yesterday and I'd left them to talk to each other and by the time I got back both looked visibly relaxed and happier.
'Camille...' he stopped me with a light hand on my elbow.
I found myself standing perilously close to him-perilous because I didn't know how I lasted being next to a guy whom I'd only ever dreamt of finding and not falling into a dead faint-and he took my hand and brought it up to his chest to where I could feel his heart thudding.
'What is it Jean?'
'When I say you're everything I ever hoped for-I meant that in more than the way it sounded.'
'How?' I asked, confused at his cryptic words.
'I mean I was scared to believe that the girl I called / panget/, who was my best friend all those years ago, would be perfect.'
What did he just say? I looked up, and immediately the tears started to form in my eyes. It was impossible for this to happen, but slowly the scales began to fall from my eyes. I had such an image of Justin in my head that I didn't even once associate him with the man standing in front of me-yet there it was-the same melting smile, the crinkling of laughing eyes and deeper than that... the humour, the understanding of each other.
'Justin?' I didn't want to say it out loud just in case that I'd made a mistake, that it was all a dream.
My heart was hurting and all I felt like doing was falling down to the ground and sobbing. Not because I was sad, not because I was angry or hurt-but because I was so happy-the emotion so intense-that laughter was too little an emotion to describe what I was feeling.
'It is me, Camille-don't cry, please,' before I knew it he was squatting down in front of me, it seemed like my body had followed my thoughts and my body was sobbing out the emotion.
Years I had dreamed of this. Years I had dreamed and every time my will to believe was broken by dreams not coming true and for it to come true so unexpectedly, when I was so very close to giving up on it-I continued to cry.
'What the hell have you done, Jean-Sandoro?'
The voice was so female, so very angry and so very authoritarian that I knew right away that the stunning Italian female looking down angrily at us was his cousin Carmen.
'Carmen-/please,/' the male voice came as a surprise but a part of me supposed that the man would be Mark, though there was a chance that it was him. But one glance of our eyes meeting and I knew it was him-and one glance by Carmen into my tear-stained face and she knew it was me.
'/Dio mio/ Jean! What the hell is going on here?' and then she turned to me, 'you're Camille aren't you?'
I nodded and I felt Jean's-Justin's-arms (it was still surreal to me and everything was moving so fast) tightened around me as though telling me that he was right there to take care of me.
'Yes, and you must be Carmen and Mark.'
We didn't shake hands.
There was something in Carmen's eyes that was decidedly hostile, something that I'd never sought to see from her. Out of the couple it had always been Mark who had trouble accepting me, and Carmen had seemed to approve of me. I was confused until I found that the hostility wasn't directed at me but at Jean.
'You didn't tell her did you,' she spoke over my head, 'you didn't tell her that you were getting married!'
I froze and then jerked away from Jean the moment that my body could function once again. I spun around to face him, propelling myself to a distance separate from the couple and separate from Jean.
'You're getting married?'
'His wedding is in less than two months--,' it was Carmen who spoke first because it seemed like either guy was still battling with something within them.
It was too late anyhow for any of their lies to make an impact, I didn't even say good-bye, I didn't say anything at all-all I did was bolt into a run. I felt Jean running after me, calling my name and making ground, but I managed to get myself lost in the crowd. I sat waiting and just thinking how such an excellent surprise could then become a blow-
Jean was Justin.
But Justin was getting married.
To another girl-
There was always that little niggling feeling in my head that maybe Justin was married, had kids and the lot-but Jean. Jean who I could have left Justin behind for, the real man who had taken away my hang-up over Justin, I had believed in him. I had put all my faith in him that maybe he was the one that was going to be the one to put together the pieces of the heart that Justin had broken.
I travelled back to the hotel almost in a daze. I knew there was a chance that Jean would be waiting there-/if he wasn't going to go to wherever he lived and explained himself to his fiancÃ©e first-/and I was going to have to face him.
I wasn't scared. I was numb. Why did things like these always happen to me? I wanted to ask God if I wasn't a good enough person and went to a small chapel to just sit in the pew and pray, pray as I had all those years ago-praying that maybe one day God would reward me with love. It was late into the evening when I made it back to the room hoping that Kei was there so that I could just collapse into her arms and sob my frustrations out.
She was there but so was Justin/Jean-but they didn't hear me come in because they were standing on the balcony talking.
'I told you that you should have told her you had a fiancÃ©e...'
'How could I, Kei?'
She had known?
My own best friend had known? For how long-I thought in disbelief, how long had she just sat back and watched me make a fool out of myself in front of the man I thought I loved?
'So you were in on it too,' I said flatly.
Both faces turned around with such comical disbelief on their face that it would have been funny otherwise.
'No Kei, you were my best friend. Your loyalty should have lied with me-but no, you chose to protect him. And for what-you thought that because I cheated on him when I was younger that maybe I deserved a taste of my own medicine?'
'No!' her face had gone pale, 'Sis I-,'
'Don't call me that! Don't you ever call me that! You people make me sick!' the tears were starting to well up again.
'Camille please,' Kei pleaded and tried to come to me, 'we didn't mean any harm.'
'Well you did harm. Maybe you should think about things before you do them-you,' I turned to Jean, 'you're a stranger to me, I don't know you so I don't know what to expect from you, but /you/,' I faced the girl I'd thought was my best friend, 'I didn't know you had it in you to be so cold-hearted and bitchy.'
We were both crying now but I couldn't feel sorry for her.
I turned around and began to walk out the door--- I'd made it to the elevator before Jean caught up with me and immediately hit the stop button on the elevator.
'You had no right to say that to Kei, she's been nothing but a good friend to you,' he was angry, standing in front of the button.
I was so hurt by his anger, 'you would defend her wouldn't you--seeing as though you've been in this together!'
'She wanted me to tell you.'
'She should have told me when you didn't.'
'She couldn't-she wanted you to make the decision on me based on me-she didn't want you to be blinded by what you thought was me in the past-you had to see me for who I was now,' he said harshly as though he was trying to beat it into my hard head.
'Okay so that explains why she didn't tell me your identity-but she should have told me that you were going to be married.'
'She knew that I wasn't going to be married.'
'Come on Camille, you know Kei,' he said impatiently, 'you know that she wouldn't do that you on purpose-she believed in us-she knew it was only a matter of time before I broke my engagement.'
He didn't answer.
'Why, Jean? You say that Kei knew-but you didn't know did you?' his silence egged me on, 'you didn't know /at all/. You were willing to get to know me but you didn't cut off your ties to your fiancÃ©e because you weren't sure about me.'
'Can you blame me?' he demanded.
'Yes, yes I can. You come here thinking that I should be glad that you're willing to throw away your engagement to another woman for me-but it's just insulting.'
'Insulting? I love you, dammit!' he said, slamming his fist against the metal wall of the elevator causing me to jerk into action.
'Love?' I scoffed, 'you don't know what love is John Sandy Denilson-oh wait, what did Carmen call you? Jean-Sandoro? But then again neither do I,' I said self-derisively, 'I was so caught up in the past, I was convinced that you could do no wrong. I rejected marriage proposals because I thought that no guy could measure up to you... but I was /wrong/. You painted me a picture years ago, and that was why I couldn't recognise you now. You're not that person that I fell in love with.'
It was the truth.
But a lie too, because he IS the person I AM in love with. This new him, the new him that had managed to break my heart within 5 days much more horribly than Justin had managed to do in 5 years-it was ironic, but most things in life were.
'I'll thank you though,' I said, reaching behind him to press the GO button, once I saw that he'd lost all fight in him.
'At least I've got my closure now.'
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Kei
The door was left flung open from where Camille and Justin had disappeared and I collapsed onto the floor with my back against the bed and began sobbing in earnest. I knew that I shouldn't have made the promise to Justin-but I had and now I had lost my best friend because of it.
I tried to calm down because the baby was making a fuss, it was too early for it to be kicking but my stomach was churning. I tried to get up off the floor but the extra distributed weight I wasn't used to was making it difficult and in another bout of sheer frustration I burst into another set of tears.
'Kristine what the hell happened?' before I knew it I was in arms so warm that I never wanted to let go, and I clung to the strong solid body gratefully-so grateful I was that I didn't even develop the shock until a few minutes later.
'Matt? What are you doing here?'
'You think you can just run away and not expect me to follow you?' he demanded indignantly as he pulled back to wipe the rest of the tears from my face and push back my hair as well.
'I didn't run away, I left you a note,' I said.
'You shouldn't have left anything at all-do you know how crazy I've been going trying to file for emergency leave?'
'Is that what took you so long?' I sniffled.
He lifted me up and sat next to me on the bed, hugging me hard to him, 'Smart ass, I got here as fast as I could-I've been to Portugal did you know? The flight past by there...'
'Aww, you're so lucky,' I rubbed my cheek against the stubble growing on his jaw-testament to his hurry to get here.
'That's okay, we can go there for our honeymoon.'
'Okay let's... our /what?/!?!?' I pulled back so abruptly that I nearly fell onto the floor, he caught me by the waist and hauled me against him once more.
'Careful! You're carrying precious cargo-,'
'I am not marrying you with a rubbish proposal, Matthew Antonello! And I am also not marrying you just because you think that our baby shouldn't be born out of wedlock.'
'Well I do think our first-born should be legitimate, sets an example for their brothers and sisters to come-but you're right about the rubbish proposal. Here,' he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper.
I opened it and saw that it was a receipt for Nando's.
'What, are you trying to make me jealous?' I demanded grumpily as my stomach turned again.
'Look at the amount, my love,' he said patiently.
'Whoa, what did you eat? The entire restaurant? $900.'
'Try harder Ace,' he said encouragingly.
'It's a booking fee-what were you booking?'
'I booked the restaurant-I was going to propose-and if you'll notice the date it was paid six days before you told me you were pregnant.'
I think that I may have broken his neck trying to hug him close to me nice and tight, 'So will you say yes now?' he asked in gasps of breath.
'Sim obrigada! Si gracias, si grazie-Yes thank you!!!'
'Am I still going to be maid of honour?' a voice from the door said, and I looked up in surprise to see my sister, my best friend standing there looking like the world was on her shoulders, I got up and walked over to her and threw my arms around her tightly.
'I'm so sorry sis.'
'Me too, I know you tried your best in your own way.'
'Let's never fight again.'
'Fat chance,' she replied, but she didn't let go.
Matt wanted to leave us to get checked in but she said that she was planning to head home so he could have her bed.
'But sis... you can't just give up.'
'Thanks for trying Kei, thanks for coming with me but I think I'll be fine now--,' we both know she was lying.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Jean-Sandoro
'I'm sorry that this had to happen, Jean,' Catalina said, a week later at her and Fede's engagement party.
It seemed that Fede had managed to prove that he loved her since they had last spoken and I was happy for them. I had also spoken to Kei and heard that she had finally managed to get her man-but they were doing the honeymoon first before Kei got too big to do some travelling.
He wished that he and Camille could have had that.
But she'd made her opinion of him clear, and there was no way that he could blame her for it. Everything she had said was true-he had had second thoughts about her, and wasn't entirely sure on her from the start. He'd wanted to conceal his identity in fear that maybe she wasn't the one for him-and it was this same selfishness that had hurt her almost as much as his deception of his engagement.
He wanted to take it back, to fix it-but he didn't know how.
'It's okay Catalina, it wasn't your fault-she wasn't going to be angry with me regardless of whether or not we were or weren't engaged anymore.'
But how about you, Jean- you just going to let this go, just accept that your dream girl has walked out of your life?'
'Catalina, I have no idea what to say to her to make her believe that I love her-it's just there. I can't even figure out how she manages to do it. If I can't explain it to myself, how am I supposed to explain it to her?'
I sighed. It was the logical answer and the simplest one too. But its logic and its simplicity annoyed the hell out of me. It was always well and good to preach, but putting words into actions was the difficult part. Because of the younger Camille I didn't get much chance to fall in love in the past years-aside from Catalina, I had dated no one seriously-and I didn't feel the passion and emotion for Catalina in the year we were almost together as opposed to the 5 days I'd known Camille.
'Sometimes, I just wish that,' I broke off, 'I wish that maybe we could have started over again. Without the past-because then I could convince myself that she wanted me for me and not the past me-that was the reason I was so afraid. And she has the right to hate me for it, but I'm only human-I'm not blessed with that 100% self-confidence. I am not perfect.'
'Then tell her that.'
'But what if she doesn't want me like that? What if I don't live up to her expectations of me?'
'I have a feeling you will.'
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Camille
The male head snapped up but the female head who had been expecting me just smiled and nodded and walked away.
It had been 27 hours to get back to Melbourne only to learn that my family had been receiving hourly calls from Italy, and finally I heard from Catalina-a.k.a. the ex-fiancÃ©e. She had demanded that I went back to Rome and continued to break down all my defences. I said I didn't have money-she said she had plenty of it, I said that I didn't have time-she said that I better find some, I said that I was scared-she told me that so was Jean, I told her that I didn't think that I could handle another disappointment... she left me alone for five days.
Five horrible days when I went to work but virtually got nothing done, five days when my patients constantly wondered why I was feeling under the weather, five very long days when all I could think of was that maybe it was the time in my life to be brave.
The fifth day she called again.
'Have you come to your senses yet?' was the first thing she said, no ciao or /buongiorno/-just cut to the chase. Though Camille had never met Catalina before, she knew that she would like her when they eventually met.
And now 29 hours and two stopovers later, I was in Catalina's family mansion listening as the love of my life-both the love of my past and my present-poured his soul out.
I had been selfish in my life.
I had thought that sometimes life was unfair to me, but listening to Jean-life had been unfair to him too. And he had just as many demons to face that I did... the question was weather we could face it together or we would have to back away and forget about it all.
Catalina drifted away back to her party, I knew I had her cheering me on and that she would be there later to congratulate or console me.
I felt brave.
'Hi, I'm Camille Carpio-and you must be Catalina's friend Jean-Sandoro?' I put my hand out, hoping he wouldn't reject me.
'Yes I am,' he put his hand in mine but he didn't let go as I half expected him to-certainly when I'd rehearsed this conversation a billion times on the flight over, he had let go.
'It's good to finally meet you.'
'It's good to meet you to.'
'I need to tell you something straight off the bat-Jean-Sandoro. My heart is already taken.'
'It was taken by this guy named Justin about ten years ago-and it's taken me so long to get over him. When I finally did get over him it was because of this gorgeous Italian guy named Jean. I was willing to forget all about my childhood with Justin for this guy, even though he was a virtual stranger. But something about him made me fall harder in five days than I had with Justin over ten years. It seems impossible but it's true.'
His hand finally let go of mine as he cupped my cheeks and kissed me, it was soft kiss-an honest kiss-it was as though he couldn't get enough of me, and I felt the same. I'd been semi-partial to kisses before, but now I was very much on its side.
'Now it's my turn,' he said, and the fire of determination glowed brightly in his eyes, 'I fell for a girl almost ten years ago. She was just what I needed then and I felt that we were destined for each other. Unfortunately reality got in the way and I knew then that I had to let go-we weren't meant to be together, at least not that time. I tried to move on but I couldn't, my friend Catalina heard that my hard was already taken so while hers was also broken, she thought we could console each other. So that's what we did, and we would have gotten married if this wonderful girl-the girl of my dreams-hadn't showed up and showed me where my heart was.'
'You shouldn't make me cry like that,' I warned him, trying to hold back my tears by taking deep breaths, 'I've cried so much that I don't want to cry anymore.'
'I'm afraid you're going to have to /mi Camille/, I'm not perfect-we will fight and I will make you cry, do you think you can handle that?'
I nodded, gripping his wrists which where still near my face, our foreheads pressed against each others as we breathed in each other and relished our closeness.
'But I promise to make you cry happy tears too-for example, when we find out that we're going to have a baby.'
'And when you walk up the aisle on our wedding day...'
'And right now when I hope that you'll accept me when I ask you to marry me...' the hesitation in his voice was so adorable, so real that though a part of me was reluctant to believe it, my heart knew that it was time-it was time for me to be happy.
'Is that all you're going to say?'
'I love you Justin Denilson. John Sandy Denilson. / Jean-Sandoro Denilson, ti amo!/'
'I love you too.'
CHAPTER TWENTY: Kei
Nothing in life is perfect, and nothing in life will go to plan.
But that one Spring day, the third of the three weddings of Jean and Camille-sometimes I still get confused at what to call him-everything was perfect.
The bride and the groom stood tall and proud and more relaxed than ever, this the Rome wedding was the last one-and the second most extravagant one. There had been a wedding first in the Philippines, a small ceremony in the parish of St. Andrews, Werribee and now back to Rome where they were going to set up home.
Catalina and Fede married in between the first two weddings and ended up moving to Milan anyway as Catalina wanted, although the three C's-Carmen, Catalina and Camille had become fast friends. Carmen was set to have her first child-or children, as they were set to be twins-and Camille was now a proud aunty to the very delicious Nicolas Antonello.
Justin was a thing of the past, someone who could be remembered fondly but had no room in the relationship of the newlywed Denilsons, although he had served his purpose well-to keep the love burning through the years of separation.
Jean and Camille would always be grateful to him.
But now real life was waiting for them.
Author's Note:Happy 19th birthday sisbo! I hope you liked the story. I know that I had fun writing it, except for the dark parts when I cried a bit. This is of course the unedited version as I just finihsed writing it a couple of hours ago, the printed version will be more grammatically correct. That will reach you once I've had the chance to go to school. To everyone else I lhope you enjoyed my short story! Love Kei