She watches him silently, his dyed spiky hair, tanned face and arms all so familiar, and yet so unfamiliar. He wasn't looking at her, and it didn't seem like he would any time soon. So near, and yet so far. It doesn't matter anymore but I will miss you. She turns her attention back to the ongoing class. Sha, bending towards him, whispering. Jeff, oblivious. She leans her chin on her hand, fingers curled gently, touching her cheek.
She sits watching him, and she knew he would not turn to look at her. His pride would not allow him to.
The lecture droned its way to an end, and people were leaving. All around her, people swarmed past until she is left alone, standing in the aisle, with him in front of her.
"Hello," she says softly.
Each eyes the other uncertainly.
"Are we still friends?" she asks.
Wordless silence. He drops his head and pushes by her. She turns to look. Shakes her head. Shrugs. So that's that.
She turns back to find Sha and Jeff before her. Wordless smiles.
"Is he okay?" she finds herself asking, wondering why she is so concerned. Disassociating would take time.
"He'll be fine," Jeff answers. "He just needs some time alone."
"Take care of him," she says and turns to leave.
"Are you joining us for lunch?" Sha asks.
"Am I?" A brief laugh. Bitterness? No, she wasn't bitter. At least she thinks not. "He needs time alone," she says.
They nod. It was best this way, wasn't it? She doesn't know. She would meet them, of course, but not with him around. She couldn't make the peace she wanted to, but it didn't really matter. She had expected it.
"I'll see you around." She walks, almost waltzes her way out of the room.
Her phone rings, and she smiles. It's that tone, the one she had set last night. The one she had assigned to people special to her. She knows without looking, that it is Mark.
"Hello," she says brightly.
"Hey, Denise. Dommie and I are having a barbeque tonight. Are you interested?" Mark's voice comes across slightly faint, slightly scratched. It's a poor line.
"Yeah, sure. Who else will be there?"
"I don't know. Us, Lex. Mei Fen, maybe? Just a small thing, really."
"Alright. I'll tell Sha," she answers, wondering.
"Cool. So we'll meet you at seven alright?"
They say goodbye, and Denise continues walking, onwards.
It isn't Mark, really, she mentally tells Casey, wishing that he could hear her. Wishing that she was somehow able to speak to him clearly. Wishing that he would understand. It isn't anything of that kind. It's just – I don't know what it is. It's the freedom of a burden lifted. It's the freedom from suspicious minds – the freedom to pursue what I want to pursue. We were bound too tightly and we couldn't let go. We thought we knew each other, when all we knew was what we thought and imagined the other would be like.
She reaches the little park by the Pre-U block, the one with big shady trees, lovely benches and couples, sitting together, hand-in-hand. They had done it before, and she had wondered, quietly to herself, whether it was worth it. What was the point of sitting hand-in-hand, gazing into each others' eyes, and yet not communicating what was on their hearts? What was the point of being close without really being close?
She finds an empty spot and looks up towards the blue skies, dotted by little white clouds. She smiles to herself, and giggles, wondering if anyone would think her crazy. It didn't really matter. Nothing really mattered.
There were footsteps, and a shadow fell over her.
She turns, knowing who she will find there. She can recognise his shadow, his smell, the way his footsteps fall.
"Well, I'm here."
She gestures for him to sit, and she turns so her body faces his. She realises that his face is still averted. Was it from shame? Pride? Hurt? Fear?
"I knew you would come."
"Jeff thinks I'm off sulking somewhere."
"Don't you always?"
"What do you want?"
"Nothing really. I didn't ask you to come, you know." She smiles wryly, a half-smile of sorts. She knew he would be difficult.
"You were here."
"And you knew because you were here too."
He shrugs, looks away into the distance.
"I'm sorry it didn't work out."
Silence on the other end.
"Maybe it's for the best."
She fiddles with her skirt.
"Will we still be friends?"
"Like we were before." The words stick in her throat. "Before… we… like when we first met."
He's looking down at the floor, inspecting his shoe laces.
"Like when we were carefree, spontaneous, and it didn't matter who we went out with, as long as we had fun."
"I don't know." He stands tucking his hands in his pockets.
She watches him leave again. She settles back comfortably, leaning back so her head tilts upwards, catching the rays of the sun.
She is alone.
She is single.
She is happy.