Strangers. Acquaintances. Colleagues.
For months, that’s all we were. I had first noticed him because he reminded me of a friend from university. He would offer me the occasional smile whenever he passed by. I would nod my head in acknowledgment. Strange, how we had never had a decent conversation in the first few months we spent working together. However, all that changed. To think that all it took was one horribly written essay - about squishy.
As I ruffled Max’s hair and soaked in the warm glow of his laughter, I could not believe how lucky and blessed I was. Within 5 years, all my hopes and dreams had taken flight and became reality. Every morning when I woke up, I was thankful for my two special boys.
I smiled as I remembered the day everything changed.
My eyes flitted across the script as I scanned through the contents of the essay. Without warning, a laugh escaped through my lips.
"What is it?" he mumbled softly.
I tilted my head, curious. We had been sitting awkwardly beside each other for the past 30 minutes. Each absorbed in our own work. Amusement sparkled in his eyes, the edges of his mouth lifted in a slight smile. Without saying anything, I handed over the essay that I was reading.
In silence, he bent his head and started to read. For a moment, I allowed my gaze to drift. I noticed his gentle grace, the slight smile playing across his lips as his eyes read line after line. The way his fringe flopped over, falling perfectly.
"What’s squishy?" he questioned.
"I… have no idea," I stated.
Moments later, he gave me a clueless smile that mirrored my own. That essay was beyond hope. We however, had unknowingly found our own glimmer of hope.
"I’m Zack. And… you are?"
From that moment on, it seemed as though all previous traces of awkwardness had disappeared and ceased to exist. We fell into a comfortable companionship, talking about everything under the sun. It was just the two of us, tucked away in our little corner of the office. ‘War’ stories and tales about mischievous students swirled together.
Before we knew it, it was 4pm and I had to head for my last class of the day. With a reluctant smile, I picked up my stack of worksheets and left. Lost in the maelstrom of teachers coming in and out, we didn’t have time to say goodbye.
Later, as I was perched on my chair, in the front of the classroom, he gave me a little smile as he made his way out. With a little grin of my own, I said my silent goodbye.
That night, as I wearily turned on my laptop and logged into Facebook, I glimpsed a friend request. Without prior thought, I clicked on it, and my heart gave a little skip. With a shiver of excitement, I clicked on “accept”.
Minutes later, I had a chat message.
"What are you up to?"
"Nothing much. Just watching some funny videos."
It seemed that awkward starts were always going to be our thing. We spent the next few hours having a slow and halting conversation. By the end of the night, we had exchanged phone numbers. Over the next few days, we had the occasional, random chat about work, the recent news and even the weather.
Suddenly, it seemed as though I had a new friend. Someone whom I was spending a great deal of time ‘talking’ to everyday. As the days passed, we shared more and more about ourselves. I was beginning to understand what made Zack click. We even decided to catch a movie or two together after work.
As the weeks dragged on, our friendship grew. I found myself confiding in him, and in turn, I lent him a listening ear. In the space of 2 and a half months, it felt as though I had known Zack for my whole life. Unknown to me at that time, he was slowly chipping away at the walls I had feverishly build around me.
Our friendship changed on my last day of work. I had tendered 3 months ago. As I waited for the clock to strike 7, nervousness and excitement coursed through me. I was officially unemployed. I did not know what the future held for me, but I was determined to meet my fate head on. Unbeknownst to me, fate came knocking, in the form of Zack. At exactly 7pm, my phone let out a beep. Eager to get out of the office, I keyed in my password, and my heart leapt.
"I hope you had a lovely last day. Head down to the pick up point now."
Grabbing my bag, I tried to made my way out of the office. I was swamped with friends hugging me and promises of outings that may or may not materialise. By the time I left, it was 7.20pm. Quickening my pace, I navigated through the peak hour crowd, desperate to get to the pick up point. When I stepped out of the building, I was greeted by a sight that I somehow knew I would never forget. There, standing in front of me, was Zack. He was dressed in his usual work outfit, minus the tie, and in his hand, were a bouquet of tulips.
For a moment, everything came to a standstill. The crowd around me ceased to exit. I felt my breath hitch. With a reassuring smile on his face, Zack took the first step forward. Stunned and speechless, I stood numb. 10 sure and steady steps later, he was by my side. I was inhaling the now familiar scent of his aftershave. Later, upon reflection, did I realise that that was the first step forward in our future together.
Without saying anything, he grabbed my hand, and gently tugged me forward. Still trying to wrap my mind around what was going on, I blankly followed him. He led me through the crowd, into a nearby lift, to where his car was parked. All the while, a silly grin painted my face. I was hyper-aware of his presence, of the warmth of his hand spreading into mine, of how I never wanted to let go. Unfortunately, I had to. How else was I to get into the car?
Once seated snugly in the cool leather seats of Zack’s car, I turned to face him, questions written all over my face. As I opened my mouth to speak, he swiftly placed a silencing finger on them.
"Sssh. There’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for the past few months."He whispered, his dark eyes hooded and mysterious.
Then, without any warning, he leaned over, and tenderly kissed me on the lips. The moment our lips met, fireworks exploded. I was giddy with excitement, and yet, I felt a strange sense of peace. As though I had finally found my home. With my eyes shut, I reached up to thread my fingers throw his hair. He gently caressed my check, deepening the kiss. It was a kiss you’d read about in fairy tales. A kiss you’d secretly dream of and yearn for. It was pure magic.
As he reluctantly broke the kiss, he gathered me into his embrace. I sighed. Utterly content to lay my head against the steady beating of his heart. Deep inside, I knew with clarity that it was beating with love for me. Pressing a kiss against my forehead, he spoke the words that would forever change our lives.
"Getting to know you over the past 3 months has been nothing short of amazing. Sometimes your understanding of my mood and emotions scare me. I know that you’ve been hurt before, but I promise to heal all those wounds, and take care of the scars. Celine, will you be my girlfriend?"
"Yes, yes, yes." I squealed, overwhelmed and unable to stop the tears that were gathering in my eyes.
Words were beyond me. Later, I would tell Zack how he had slowly chipped away at my walls, brought hope and sparkle into my life. How he made me feel appreciated by simply being there. How his sincere actions and stability taught me to trust and love again.
3 shorts months later, with certainty ringing true in his voice, Zack dropped down on one knee and proposed.
3 years later, as I lay in a hospital bed, cursing and swearing, with sweat beating down my brows, we welcomed little Max into our already perfect lives.
"What are you thinking about" Zack’s husky voice broke through my reverie.
"Nothing much. I’m just thinking about squishy. We never did figure out what it meant."
With laughter ringing out, he grabbed my hand, just like he did 5 years ago. And held on tight, just like how he would for the rest of our lives.