The Ex-Guardian of The Isolated Castle had had a second thought about attending a party in town that Sunday evening. Not only she was penniless (which had been her financial state lately), but she was also tired.
She had a lot of work to catch up with (including her freelance stuff, slightly lagging behind.)
However, when her friend Lady Love notified her by an electronic message that she’d pick her up at seven, The Ex-Guardian agreed and thought: This will be interesting.
Apparently, it had been very interesting.
So, Lady Love and Lord Baker picked her up at seven. The three of them went to this tavern uptown. There’d be fun and games served on the table.
There he was, standing by the bar with his friend. Lady Love warmly greeted them both. The Ex-Guardian tried to keep her cool composure.
He was tall, athletic, and very good-looking. He was definitely her type, with his well-trimmed beard and very nice smile. He was dressed in jeans and plaid shirt.
The Ex-Guardian couldn’t believe her luck. Of all the available seats and among some friends (and other strangers), he was sitting right next to her. She could feel the wild, phantom butterflies dancing in her stomach.
Be still my heart, she silently calmed herself down.
Most of her teenage life and young adulthood, men like him hardly talked to her that long. She knew where she stood. She was never a supermodel, just a regular chubbette who enjoyed books and writing.
“Come on, you’re beautiful too!” everyone who loved her and mattered to her would always say that, every time she second guessed herself. However, that didn’t matter. He still wanted to talk to her. She decided to silently dub him “The Handsome Scholar”.
He said he was starting school anytime soon. English major, if she hadn’t misheard him. Years of working in his family business – a restaurant back home – saved him enough money to pay for his own college tuition.
He was also returning home in a couple of days. That was why The Ex-Guardian wasn’t expecting anything at all from him. To her, it was just another rare chicklit / chickflick moment.
Still, they both exchanged numbers. The Handsome Scholar had offered his first and she gladly gave him hers. Despite the noise and the slightly rowdy crowd among them, they could still talk. The Handsome Scholar told her about his sisters, his family restaurant, and that he promised he’d show her around if she ever visited his hometown.
Once again, she didn’t hope nor expect too much.
“If you ever see me outside this party,” she suddenly said, “you’ll probably find me boring. I’m just a typical girl-next-door.”
“That’s actually very good.” The Handsome Scholar beamed at her. The Ex-Guardian couldn’t help but wondering:
Does that mean I could be your type too like you’re definitely mine?
That thought didn’t last long, though. Another girl at the party suddenly waltzed by and stopped next to him. They seemed to know each other, because he also smiled politely at her. She did more than that, though. The Ex-Guardian could see her hands practically all over him. He didn’t seem to mind.
The Ex-Guardian’s smile fell. She couldn’t fool herself now. For a while, the once insecure teen version of her resurfaced. She secretly eyed the other girl before her.
That Girl was taller, slimmer, and obviously more confident – downward to being openly flirtatious. With a skintight, black halter top, skinny jeans, and black stilettos, she could make any heterosexual guy turn their gaze on her, especially whenever she flipped her long, black, silky hair.
Suddenly, The Ex Guardian felt self-conscious. She was wearing her favourite long-sleeved, red tee and dark trousers. Her dark, long, wavy hair was loose and rather unkempt. She was wearing no make-up that night. That was her typical, daily appearance she felt most comfortable with.
No, The Ex-Guardian refused to change her looks just to attract some guys, not even those like The Handsome Scholar before her. She’d stood by her basic principle for years already, even if it meant being alone most of the time.
Then what’s your problem, huh? taunted a voice inside her head. She shook her head and quickly thought, nothing. Just a faint memory of my teenage years.
The Ex-Guardian decided to shake that uneasiness off, no matter how familiar or painful. It didn’t matter. The Handsome Scholar was leaving soon anyway. If they were meant to be friends (and not more), she’d know. Whether he was also into her or not, she’d also find out – sooner or later. No rush. No need to be ridiculously ambitious.
Hours later, most of them were at the tavern’s parking lot. Some had already returned home. Others were still around. The Ex-Guardian, Lord Baker, and The Handsome Scholar were also there. Lady Love was somewhere else amongst the crowd.
Lord Baker, who knew how she felt about The Handsome Scholar, had been quietly – and rather mercilessly – teasing her from afar. He always grinned every time The Ex-Guardian secretly shot a warning glare at him.
“I’ll see you again when I see you, okay?” The Handsome Scholar hugged her before he left. Then he turned to Lord Baker, smiled, and said: “You take care of her. She’s a good girl.”
“He’s my best friend,” The Ex-Guardian quickly clarified, gesturing at Lord Baker. Somehow, she was worried that The Handsome Scholar might have assumed that they were an ‘item’.
“Friendship is the best relationship in the world,” said The Handsome Scholar cheerfully. Then, completely out of the blue, he gave her another light embrace. “You take care, alright?”
“Okay. You too.”
Since that night, they had texted for a while. The Ex-Guardian decided to remain realistic. She wasn’t pursuing him any further. He was far away now…
…and she still had to sort out some stuff in her real world.
Still, The Ex-Guardian couldn’t help but feeling a slight bliss when both Lady Love and Lord Baker told her what they’d witnessed that night but she’d somehow clearly missed:
Lady Love: (grins) “You looked like you were on top of the world that night.”
Lord Baker: (also grins) “He is definitely your type.”
The Ex-Guardian wanted to giggle. She remembered the scene at the parking lot that night, before The Handsome Scholar decided to part ways with her. They were playing ‘age-guessing’. She’d been so happy when he guessed her to be a decade younger than she actually was.
“My turn now,” he said, pointing at his bearded, handsome face. “How old do you think I am?”
“Uh…twenty-eight?” She cringed, hoping she hadn’t just offended him. But he was still grinning at her.
“I’m 26,” he corrected. Then, pointing at his beard, he went on, “But if I shave this beard – “
“I don’t mind your beard,” The Ex-Guardian blurted out…and immediately cursed herself silently. Very smooth. Too honest.
“You don’t mind my beard?” The Handsome Scholar’s grin widened. Lord Baker, who’d been standing nearby and listening to them both, could not resist teasing her:
“What’s ‘suka’?” asked The Handsome Scholar, looking confused.
“Likes,” The Ex-Guardian blurted out again…and then blushed. She looked down to avoid his gaze, while Lord Baker cracked up laughing. Even without looking, she knew that The Handsome Scholar’s grin grew even wider.
Great, she silently complained, now he knows how you feel about him.
The Ex-Guardian also remembered what Lady Love had said about The Handsome Scholar that night:
Lady Love: “You know, you shouldn’t have worried about That Other Girl. She may have been rather grabby with him, but his body language was still facing you the whole time.”
Really? The Ex-Guardian smiled. Despite the slim chances between her and The Handsome Scholar, that was still a nice thought anyway.