There was only one person who would call Ruth at this time of the night, and she answered her phone without checking the caller ID.
“Mitchie, what’s eating you?”
“Hey, Ruth,” Her friend said on the other side of the line. “And why do you ask that? Can’t I call you just because I want to call you?” There was annoyed tone in Mitchie’s voice that made Ruth chuckle.
“It’s almost midnight, you doofus,” Ruth said affectionately. She had just finished her nightly rituals when her mobile rang. She turned the lamp on and the room lights off and settled on her bed, fixing a pillow behind her back so she can lean on the headboard. “You only call us at midnight if something’s bothering you.”
“Oh. Right.” There was a long pause. “Well, okay fine.”
“So what’s up?”
There was a sigh at the other end of the line, and Ruth’s maternal instincts for her friend kicked in. Being the eldest among them gave her that feeling most of the time, like she had to take care of them just like how she does with her sister. She didn’t mind, and Ruth thinks her friends don’t mind her being all motherly to them. It was especially proven at times like this.
“It’s going to be a year tomorrow.”
“What is it?”
“The first time I met Noah.”
“Oh…has it been a year?” It honestly felt a lot longer already. Noah broke up with Mitchie about eight months ago, and it was a hard time for her and for everyone, especially since Noah just dropped off the face of the earth. Or Mitchie’s earth, rather, because Ruth saw him several times. But Noah had never been her friend — or anyone else’s in their group except for Mitchie, for that matter — so she never talked to him. And after what he did to Mitchie, Ruth had zero to negative desire to interact with him. He could completely fall out of existence and Ruth wouldn’t care.
“Yeah, it’s been a year,” Mitchie answered softly. “It was at that event, that product launch of that new make-up in Makati. Remember? We were both there.”
Ruth could barely remember, actually. It’s been a year, and a lot has happened from then and now, and she doesn’t really get into the habit of remembering these things. Unlike Mitchie, who has an uncannily good memory when it comes to these things, despite her very short short-term memory. Mitchie remembered dates and significant events, which was handy at times, but also a curse when it’s something like this.
“Make-up event, huh?” Ruth mused. “You met him at a make-up event? Did we ever consider the possibility that he’s gay?”
“Ruth,” Mitchie whined. “He was covering the event. He’s a photographer, remember?”
“I was just kidding,” Ruth said with a laugh. “Yeah, I think I remember him.” That was one of the two things she knew about Mitchie’s ex, anyway.
“I was with Chiara that time, when he stopped and asked if he could take a photo of us,” Mitchie continued, her voice soft once again, with a hint of fondness. “Then he started talking to us. He asked about the event, and then what we do. Then Chiara left because Ian found her and told her Phil was looking for her. I thought Noah would leave, but he stayed and talked some more.”
There was a tiny ache in Ruth’s heart as she listened to her friend reminisce. She wished that it wasn’t near midnight, and that she wasn’t talking to Mitchie on the phone but in person. “I think I remember that,” she said.
“You joined us shortly after that,” Mitchie continued. “And then he left. I told you I thought he was cute, but then I decided that he probably won’t go back anymore, because he’s busy and I’m about to leave anyway.”
“But he went back.”
“Yes, he did.” There was that fond note in her voice again. “He did. And he asked for my number. And then he decided to blow off work when he found out I was leaving and left with me.”
“That should have been a warning,” Ruth said absently. She realized a second later that it wasn’t a nice thing to say, and she really shouldn’t have said that to Mitchie, now that she was in that state. She winced, even if she knew her friend wouldn’t see it, and added, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”
To her surprise, Mitchie laughed. “No, it’s okay. You know what, you’re right. I should have seen it there.”
Silence. Ruth had some ideas of what to say, but nothing seemed right, so instead she waited for her friend to speak again. When all she got was a sigh, Ruth said, “I’m sorry.”
“I am, too,” Mitchie said after another sigh. “It’s been a year. I can’t believe it’s been a year. I thought…I thought so much. Of so many things. But…”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I know. It’s just…I wish I didn’t remember things like this. I wish I could just forget.”
“But then you wouldn’t be the Mitchie we know and love,” Ruth said gently. “It’s part of your package. Remembering things. Thinking about this, and calling me at this time to talk about it.”
“It is, isn’t it?” Ruth could hear a smile in her friend’s voice. “It’s just not easy.”
“Oh honey, I know it’s not,” Ruth said, wishing even more that she was with her friend. “But you’re stronger than you know, and I know you know we’re here.”
“And think about it this way,” she continued. “It’s a year. It’s been a long time. And look where you are now. You’re definitely better off now. You believe that, right?”
“I do.” Mitchie sighed again. “It’s just…well, sometimes I wish it didn’t end that way. I really thought he would be that one.”
“Oh, we all do,” Ruth said with a small smile. “But we’re not Carol or Pia.”
Mitchie laughed. “Or you. Just because you had to date several guys — in a span of a few months, mind you! — before you finally realized that Ian was perfect for you doesn’t mean you’re not in their league.”
“Oh, it’s not the same thing,” Ruth argued, but she laughed, too. They laughed for a while, and Ruth was happy to hear that Mitchie didn’t seem to be faking it. Sure, they were on the phone, but she knew her well enough to hear a fake laugh.
“And look, Mitchie. Tomorrow is just a day. Anything can happen. You don’t have to think of what happened then. Maybe something else will happen tomorrow. Or maybe nothing will. But it’s just another day. That’s it.”
Silence again, and Ruth heard the tiniest of sighs. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s just a day. Yes.”
“Good girl,” Ruth said with a yawn.
“I’m sorry I had to call at this time.”
“Don’t be. That’s why I’m here,” Ruth yawned again. “But I have to go to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? You’ll be fine. I’ll be here.”
“Thanks, Ruth.” There was a long pause, before Mitchie added, “But can we go have ice cream tomorrow? You know, for something?”
“Of course we can,” Ruth said with a smile. “I’ll even get Ian to treat us, if it would make you happier.”
“That could work.”
“Consider it done.”
“Good.” Ruth could hear Mitchie walking in her apartment, and she figured that she was about to go to bed, too. “Thanks again, Ruth. And I guess…happy anniversary?”
Ruth smiled. She was going to give Mitchie a big hug the moment she sees her tomorrow. “This is the only time I will let you say that. But yeah, happy anniversary. And may the next anniversary we celebrate be a happier one for you.”