“I am the luckiest man alive!”

Two days since he arrived back in the capital, all he accomplished was to make Stella the center of his universe. He gave her no chance to question their love for each other, expressing to her the superlatives of his undying devotion.

Allen embraced her so tightly she squealed, then she giggled afterward when he let her breathed.

“You are exaggerating,” she laughed, pinching him on his side, playfulness on every touch they exchanged.

“Am I?” Allen pretended to pinch her back. “I am with you!”

She could not deny that everything he spoke of always rang of truth. His enthusiasm was much like that of a small boy living in Neverland, filled only with joy and hope.

“I have told you everything about me. I have no secrets from you.”

“And me, too, warts and all.” Allen sounded more convincing that he almost believed his words himself.

“But you intrigue me, Allen,” she continued, her questioning eyes needed answers. “I know you explained to me why you wear glasses all the time. Don’t you want to show me why?”

“My eyes are so sensitive to daylight, that’s why.” Allen embraced her again, whispering to her ear. “In time, I have to see a doctor to have a look at them. But, right now, we will need the money for our wedding.”

“If you would just let me have a look,” she mumbled to his ear, “I know some herbal medicine that could help.”

Allen released her gently, slowly increasing their distance till he faced her.

“I am looking at you perfectly. You are the apple of my eyes.”

Stella smiled; he was being cute once more.

But deep inside him, Allen was getting edgy. His promise to his parents was becoming too difficult to comply with, especially when his fear of disappointing her demanded he went on skirting the issue, misleading her on purpose.

Good thing though, a secluded restaurant they passed by provided the distraction he badly needed. An in-house pianist was doing a cover of a popular song from the past.

“Shall we dance?” he asked, leading her on, captivating a small crowd who happened to admire their boldness.

“People are looking at us,” Stella objected at first, but relented later.

“I don’t care. As long as I have you, I will do anything.”

Stella felt his hands sweating, his chest pounding hard as her ear rested on it.

“Are you all right, Allen?”

He did not answer; his mind argued with his heart. As he listened to the song, he was so guilty that he felt he could not lie to her anymore: she needed to know.

“I think we should go home,” she suggested. “You’re feverish.”

“Stella, I love you so much. I don’t know what will happen to me if you leave me.”

“What are you talking about?” she suddenly felt nervous, her happiness hanged in a balance.

“I hope you will accept me as I am.”

“You’re confusing me, Allen.”

He held her closer, his indecision evident when he failed to explain further.

The ride home was observed in silence. Both of them waited with bated breath what each of them would do, how they would react afterward.

“I have something to tell you. I hope nothing will change between us.”

“Don’t tell me you are already married,” Stella sounded hurt. “I trusted you, Allen. Please tell me it is not so.”

At her door, before leaving her, Allen renewed his vow.

“I love you, Stella. Please understand why it took me this long to tell you the truth.”

“What then are you . . .?”

Allen took off his glasses.

“Now you know.”

Stella closed her eyes, tears fell down her cheeks.

(to be concluded)



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