Wednesday 19th August 2009by Tina
The frustrated groan was familiar, and it made me stop in my tracks the moment I heard it. I felt someone bump into my shoe and then some muttered curses but I was hardly paying attention. The guy behind me gave me a nasty look before leaving, and I gave him a hasty apology and immediately started making my way to the source of the groan. I don’t know why I heard it over the pouring rain and the voices of the waiting crowd around me, but I did, and if I was right, the groan came from a person I knew quite well.
True enough, it was. I reached a small clearing from the bodies around me and there stood Ruth, eyes focused on her phone with a panicked and annoyed expression.
“Ugh. I cannot believe this. What a timing.” She muttered loud enough for me to hear. She clicked her phone shut and surveyed crowd and the rains as she slipped the phone in her bag. I noticed that she carried two more bags other than the laptop bag and purse that she brings to work. She glanced at the taxi queue further on her right and I saw her face fall when she saw the length of the lines. As she turned her head to the other side — where I stood — she finally saw me.
“Hey,” I said, when our eyes met.
“Hey Ian,” Ruth replied, her panicked expression softening slightly as she smiled. “What brings you here? Isn’t this a bit far from where you usually hang out?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it is. But I had to…do some things here. You, why are you here?” I wasn’t expecting her here at all. I figured this mall was too far for Ruth, which was one of the reasons why I went here in the first place, so there would be zero chance of seeing her. But here she is, in all her frazzled yet attractive glory, almost as if taunting me.
Ruth sighed. “I was supposed to spend the day with my best friend. You know, Pia? We decided to go somewhere we haven’t been to before and this was what we picked.”
“Well, you sure picked a far mall,” I said with a chuckle. She laughed softly but I could see that it didn’t reach her eyes. Concern gripped my heart. “Why, what’s wrong?” I asked.
She sighed again. “It’s just that…we were supposed to hang out. When I dropped by her place this morning, she told me she just has to do some work at the restaurant, some client catering meeting or something. She told me to go ahead, and she’ll meet me here as soon as she’s done. My car is color coding today so I commuted here after lunch, since I needed to buy a birthday present for my dad anyhow. And then…” Ruth trailed off and I could see her take a breath, as if trying to get the courage to say the next things she has to say.
“She never showed!” Ruth exclaimed. “I called her, and she told me she just has to do something for her mom, so I strolled around the mall a bit more. I called her again around dinner time and she told me Angelo dropped by with dinner, so they’ll just have dinner and then they’ll drive by and pick me up here so we can still hang out. But Angelo’s car broke down again, so they can’t pick me up, and now it’s raining and there’s no way for me to get home at least until later! Ugh!” She gave another frustrated groan and actually stomped her feet.
I raised an eyebrow. This was new. Ruth has always been calm and collected at work, and although she gets panicked, she never gets this panicked to the point of…tears. I watched in alarm as her eyes filled with tears. She let out a sniffle, and then looked away, eyes blinking rapidly.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for ranting. It’s just…it’s been a long day.” Ruth sighed for the third time. She motioned to the rain. “And this rain is depressing me.”
I was so tempted to hug her then, but I kept my arms to myself. “It’s okay,” I said gently. “Things like these happen.”
“I know,” Ruth replied. “It’s just…it always happens to me and Pia. Always. Ever since she got together with Angelo…it’s always Angelo first, second, third. Is it so bad to want some time with my best friend? Is it?”
I was speechless. This was something I didn’t really experience. My guy friends never complained like this, even if they never stopped kidding me about all the girls I went on a date with. Not even my close girl friends complain whenever I turn down their invites to hang out because I had other plans. I didn’t know what to say about Ruth’s situation, and it made me feel terrible for not being able to comfort her.
“I’m sorry.” It was all I could say.
Ruth managed a small smile. “It’s not your fault. Pia and I have been best friends forever, and this is the first time a guy is coming between us. Even if Angelo is a good friend, you know?” She laughed weakly at what she said. How glad I was to hear that laugh.
“It will be okay,” I said, giving her a smile. “I’m sure Pia misses you too. And I’m sure she’ll make up for this.”
“I hope so,” Ruth said, smiling back. She adjusted the bag on her shoulder and then looked back at the taxi queue. “Anyway. I guess I better make my way there and line up. Thanks for listening Ian.” She waved with her free hand and started to walk away.
“I can give you a ride home.” I blurted out. It was out of my mouth before I can stop it.
Ruth stopped, and turned back to look at me. Her eyes were so hopeful, but I could see that she was trying very hard to contain her smile. “Are you sure? I’m out of your way home, right?”
I nodded. “It’s okay, promise. It will take forever for you to wait for a cab. Come on.” I reached for one of her bags, careful not to brush her fingers with my hands. I entered the mall again, looking over my shoulder to make sure she was following me. She was. I felt a swell of happiness in my chest.
“Thanks, Ian,” Ruth said as we waited for the elevator to the parking lot. “You’re a lifesaver tonight. That, and you listened to my rant without even flinching. I couldn’t rant about this to other people. It makes me feel like I’m a bad person. A bad and bitter person.”
I shook my head. “You’re not bad. Or bitter. Just disappointed,” I glanced at her again and she was looking happier than she did earlier. We stepped inside the elevator, and was silent for a while as it descended.
“I guess I just have really bad friendship issues. Or abandonment issues. Whatever,” Ruth shrugged. “I’ll be okay.”
“Yes you will,” I affirmed her. “And even if other people leave you behind, I would never do.”
Silence in the elevator again. When I realized what I had said, I suppressed a gasp, and looked at Ruth quickly. There was a blush on her cheeks and she was looking at everything except me. Did I overstep it?
The elevator doors slid open. Then just as when I thought I’d be dying of embarrassment from what I just said, Ruth spoke.
“Thanks, Ian. I’m glad you wouldn’t do that to me too.”
Author’s note: Argh, I’m so rusty! And this is so cheesy! Errrgh.