The Ex-Guardian of The Isolated Castle had never expected to see him again. Alas, there he was that Saturday night. It was a strange night of that weekend, indeed. The Ex-Guardian’s original plan was to enjoy poetry.
Then walked in The Charming Warlock. He wasn’t alone, though. Another woman was with him. Great, The Ex-Guardian groaned silently. Just what she needed. Carefully eyeing the other woman from a distance, she was reminded of herself some years ago.
Such a freaking deja vu.
Of course, she tried to keep her cool at first. Besides, it had been nothing but more of a fling.
Unfortunately, her effort was futile. The moment the host that night did a roll-call on her, she had no choice but to approach the stage, carrying her poem with her. There. The Charming Warlock could see her at least. No backing out.
The Ex-Guardian didn’t think much of her poetry-reciting performance on stage that night. In fact, she’d been rather distracted. Shue hurried to finish it.
As she went back to her seat, she heard that familiar voice with a heavy, distinctive East European accent:
“Hey, long time no see.”
“Hi.” The Ex-Guardian smiled tightly at the scrawny, bearded-face with spectacles. He was clearly grinning back at her.
“Why do you keep a distance from me?” he asked, almost an accusation. She felt an unpleasant cringe form on her face.
“No, I don’t,” she shot back defensively. “I just didn’t see you there earlier.” It was a lie, but she didn’t care. Besides, why did she have to explain it to him anyway?
“Then come,” he invited, more authoritative and like an order this time. “Sit with us.”
The Ex-Guardian followed reluctantly. What is this? she wondered silently, feeling both curious and a bit rattled. The Charming Warlock was obviously trying to get lucky with this other woman. The Ex-Guardian had been way too familiar with his usual ‘strategy’. She sneered at the thought.
“So,” he started, after introducing The Ex-Guardian to the other woman. She decided to dub her The Scholarly Lady . “You never told me about interesting gigs like this.”
“Excuse me?” The Ex-Guardian was miffed. Who the hell did he think he was?
“You should’ve told me.”
“Well, you come and go as you please.” The Ex-Guardian sneered. She was not about to lose this to his conceited self.
“You could still tell me.”
“Well, you come and go as you please,” The Ex-Guardian repeated, this time more defiantly. The Scholarly Lady was watching them both with curiousity now. “Besides, how would I know?”
“True, but – “
“Besides, I haven’t heard from you in like, ages.” Damn it. Why did she sound so angry now, like a little girl being abandoned? “You have the number of every girl you’ve known here, right?”
“Uh, which girl?” Now The Charming Warlock looked rather perplexed. The Scholarly Lady was grinning slyly now.
“I don’t know.” The Ex-Guardian shrugged. “Take your pick. You’ve got so many.”
“Ouch,” The Ex-Guardian finally said and giggled. Then the two women exchanged meaningful looks.
“Alright, alright, my bad,” The Charming Warlock finally gave in. “I was late. I should’ve known this sooner.”
The Ex-Guardian smiled with satisfaction. She knew that not every day she could win an argument with him, thanks to his bloated ego.
As if it should ever matter.
After that, the rest of that Saturday night was turning even weirder. Some friends looked at her with worry, especially knowing her ‘odd history’ with The Charming Warlock.
Somehow, somebody had distributed red wine for free that night. How come? The Ex-Guardian had no idea. Everything always happens so fast at scenes like that night.
The next thing she knew, most people around her had gotten drunk. She found herself helping a friend who couldn’t hold it back anymore. (He’d probably had more than a few shots or glasses.) There was a jackpot at the parking lot.
Some people were too cheery, more playful than they normally would be. That was to be expected.
As usual, The Ex-Guardian could pretty much guess The Charming Warlock’s next move. Of course, three years had been enough for her to figure him out.
Still, The Ex-Guardian was rather shocked when he tried to kiss her instead, even with The Scholarly Lady still sitting next to him. She was looking away at other people, but that was still no excuse.
The Ex-Guardian pushed him away. “Whoa, dude!”
“I know, I know.” He winked at her instead, before hugging her close against her will. “You never want anyone to kiss you in public.”
Not long after that, The Ex-Guardian had to deal with another drunk. Some guy, grinning from ear to ear, told her that he’d actually enjoyed her poem.
“But can you read something more cheerful and not so depressing next time?” he requested kindly, almost like a little boy. “Pleeaase?”
The Ex-Guardian couldn’t help smiling at him. “I’ll try” was all she said before waltzing off to another friend. Before that, the drunk sort of prophecised:
“We’re going to be great friends next time we meet!”
We’ll see. The Ex-Guardian smiled again, this time to herself. She had to admit, sometimes something like that felt good – having people reach out to you, even in the strangest of ways.
Oh, dear. Had she really been that lonely lately?
It turned out that The Scholarly Lady was so drunk that she left early. A nice girl, The Ex-Guardian mused when the poetry gig was finally over. She was sitting on one of the long benches they had, somehow feeling exhausted. One of her best friends was at another table, finishing his midnight dinner.
Cinderella would’ve hidden her remaining glass shoe the moment she was home.
The Charming Warlock returned and approached her. The Ex-Guardian was startled (and instantly wanted to curse but held her tongue back in time). She tried to keep her cool. He was smiling down at her, his skinny frame almost towering.
“What’s the matter?” Despite trying to sound as civil as possible, she couldn’t help raising an eyebrow at him. “I thought you’d gone home with her.”
“Nah.” He came sitting down next to her. Before she managed to escape or at least flinch away, his long, skinny arm had already enveloped her shoulder, pulling her close to him. She could feel the side of her head pressed against his bony shoulder. Ouch.
The Ex-Guardian was still amazed at how strong he was for someone so thin. She also hated herself for slowly being drawn back into his familiar warmth again.
Just like old times…
“You’re still so cute,” he murmured into her dark curls, his fingers caressing her shoulder. “Still fit in my hand.”
Arm, she corrected silently. Oh, well. Bother not. They’re both ESL people anyway.
Some people who think like him may still hold the same, old false belief. That she’d finally go home with him like he’d always wanted.
Then they would…
At critical times like that, she was glad that her mind was still sharp. She looked up at him and smiled her best cheeky smile.
The Charming Warlock took it as a sign he chose to believe in. He grinned and looked down to kiss her. She let him.
She even kissed him back, even just a little. No feelings. No shame, no regrets whatsoever.
Hmm, this feels like old times – with a difference…
The Ex-Guardian realised what she was doing. She was playing him the way he was hers. The way he always does to other women. Men like him always piss her off. They think they can get any women in any way they like, then discard them like old toys once they’re bored.
When the women tell them off about what they really are, they gaslight them with: “You’re just playing the victim.” The Ex-Guardian always wishes they’d choke themselves to death with their own bloated ego.
So, after a very long time, The Charming Warlock still hadn’t learned his lesson like she had hers. He still considered her a catch, a challenge to conquer. How could they be equal if he was always like that, either to her or other women?
“I can never figure you out,” he murmured, gazing deeply and intensely into her dark brown eyes. “I might need half of my lifetime just trying to get to know you.”
“Good.” She smirked at him. “I’d like to keep it that way.”
And thanks, she added silently, almost triumphantly. I’ll take that as a compliment.
“So, does this mean you’re not coming home with me tonight?”
As predicted. Same old, same old. The Ex-Guardian grinned at him with vicious emphasis.
“Come on,” she said coolly. “You know the answer already.”
Besides, it has been years, The Ex-Guardian added silently again. Don’t be a sad case.
The Charming Warlock gave up. Just like years ago, he looked disappointed. He went home first, leaving without her. The Ex-Guardian shrugged. Who cared? Definitely not her, not even when he said he’d be back again in October.
No promises. He’d leave her again anyway as usual. Why bother? What for?
“You okay?” Her best friend had finally finished his midnight dinner. He looked at her curiously. She nodded.
Can feeling nothing but cold inside be classified as ‘okay’?