I’ve always been too short, too fat, too dark or too pale, too busy or too inactive, too poor. But never too pretty.
I’ve always been too short, too fat, too dark or too pale, too busy or too inactive, too poor. But never too pretty.
“Later!” Charlie called as she watched her sister speed away in a silver sedan. It was one Friday during the summer break from the university and she was going through her weekday routine. Next on her to-do list was clean-up. Friday was her chosen clean-up day for two obvious reasons: the whole family—her brother, sister and herself since their parents were out on an Asian trip—stayed at home during the day and it felt good to relax in a clean house, and, one will never know when guests would pop out of nowhere and present themselves on their doorway. It just always pays to be ready for visitors. Besides, her parents might come home any minute and good daughters who clean up get nice rewards.
There wasn’t much to do in the house except pick up after the morning mess her working siblings left, make sure the kitchen was sparkling and tidy up the bedrooms. Yesterday, she’d already done half of the cleaning up she usually did because, again, summer was usually about staying home for her. She did miss her friends though, but a little alone time with her YA-themed books was definitely not unwelcome.
Charlie finished everything in a little over an hour and soon she was plopped down on the couch with her laptop resting on the arm rest. Donned in her usual tank top and shorts, she logged in on Twitter. She struggled to keep herself from smiling too broadly by biting her lower lip as she read feeds on her timeline. It was definitely happening tonight. She has been waiting for this for months now and it was really happening tonight.
Something about Charlie that a lot of people would notice immediately was that she has a fashion sense that totally rocks. A fashion sense that totally rocks equals being able to dress up according to her mood, and wear bold pieces that really showed her very interesting personality. This means, however, that even if she spent time tidying up, she couldn’t keep her clothes in the closet. Which, then again means, that the tidying up was just a front for being bored in the house when she didn’t have plans.
“Nope, not that,” she muttered to herself as she sifted through her clothes. Charlie was on the slight side on the size scale. Though she was petite, she had really nice girly curves too. She was as comfortable in her body as she was in her short cropped hair that framed her face. Her black hair gave her skin an even lighter glow, dark brown eyes always lighting up at the slightest amusement and darkening when annoyed. Charlie knew how to dress herself and she did this with flare. This flare came with attitude too. At nineteen, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Parker, was the kind of person every girl would want as a close friend.
A few more minutes of thinking, she decided on a black top with gray flowers printed on the sleeves and a white pair of shorts. She would have to leave in a few hours to meet one of her friends at the festival. She even bought a book for her favorite band member. It wasn’t everyday they would come to town and she did love their songs a lot, so why not give back a little to the men who kept her company for hours through their music?
She walked in feeling very excited and the music playing pumped her to bop a little to the beat. Charlie felt her friend Sophie’s hand close around her wrist, “Isn’t this awesome?” she yelled over the loud music. “Yeah,” Charlie answered with a laugh as they strode to the middle of the dance floor where fans like them cheered and sang with the band currently on stage.
A few minutes later, Charlie and Sophie were screaming their heads off as they saw Camden, vocalist of their favorite band, Always the Prototype. “Camden!” they screamed together and, as charming as he was, he winked at them and Sophie just about fainted on Charlie’s watch.
Charlie was on her way to the washroom, the book tucked under her arm as she looked into her bag for her mobile phone. She was groping inside, her head down when she slammed into a nice-smelling wall. Looking up, she stared into none other than Camden’s eyes.
Charlie bit her lip and felt her skin tingle before she uttered a breathless “Sorry.” Camden was all-smiles at her and nodded as he said, “It’s okay.” He moved away from her with another smile and just before he walked away, Charlie remembered the book. “Camden!” she called after him. He turned back to her, his brows raised in question. Before she could start stuttering, Charlie spoke fast, “Uh, I wanted to give you this. I learned you like reading this kind of books too. From your tweets, I mean.” By the time she finished speaking, Camden was already back in front of her, his face lighting up at the sight of the new book she was giving him. “Wow! Thank you!” he said in genuine amusement as he looked at the cover and the back. “You’re welcome,” Charlie replied, a little more relaxed now. “I’ll get to read this once we get back on the plane or something,” he said, his arms going around her to give her a hug.
She closed her eyes, thanking the music festival fairies for her luck. This was Camden, her favorite musician in this whole arena. And he was hugging her thanks. When he finally pulled away, he offered his hand, “Thanks again…?” She smiled broadly before helping him out, “Charlie. My name is Charlie.” Camden chuckled, “Right, thanks again Charlie! I hope you have fun tonight.”
By the time she got back to Sophie, she realized that some band members were down on the mosh pit with all of them. It was going to be one hell of an experience for Charlie and Sophie both.
They danced, sang along and took lots of pictures. Charlie was still hung over the fact that she was able to give Camden the book herself and that meant he’d get to read that letter she wrote for the band. They happen to be quite influential to her and she really wanted to thank them for the awesome music. She did hope that they’d get to read that letter even if they probably had a thousand others coming to their mailbox.
“Ouch,” she heard someone say from behind her as she was pushed back a bit by a trail of dancing girls. She quickly stepped forward and turned around to apologize. But as she turned too quickly, a hand held on her arm to steady her. “Sorry,” she said over the loud music. She looked up to see another one of Always the Prototype’s band members. Really, how silly could she be bumping into two guys from her favorite band all in one night?
Instead of accepting her apology, Brad flashed her a winning smile and didn’t remove his hand from her arm, “What’s your name?”
“Charlie,” she managed to answer even as she felt her heart beating wildly. Something about the warmth of his touch that affected her more than that hug Camden gave her. She thought she was crazy for thinking that way. It was probably just the crowd adding heat to their little encounter.
“Brad,” he replied, offering his hand. Charlie laughed at his introduction. Of course, she knew him. Nevertheless, she shook his hand, “Hello, Brad!” Probably realizing it, Brad chuckled and asked her, “So, you live around here?” Charlie nodded, “Yeah. But not exactly here, I live in another town but it’s just close enough. So…” Brad was looking at her funny. She didn’t know if it was the mixed-up explanation or if he was wondering why she was saying too much. She bit the inside of her lip, offering an apologetic smile.
“Still glad now I know where you’re from,” he winked at her. And before she knew it, he had an arm around her shoulders already and they were listening to the band currently performing looking like that. She refused to look so affected just in case he misunderstood it as being uncomfortable on her part. So, she just enjoyed that arm around her shoulders, making her feel as if they really were watching it together. Technically though, they really were.
Out of nowhere, Brad turned to look down at her and as she stared back at him, his hand came up to brush her hair aside and out of her face. “You know you’re the best, right?” he asked her. She looked up at him stunned, not knowing what to make of it. Before she could say something else, her friend Sophie came out of nowhere and snapped a picture of the two of them. They both barely had time to smile and get ready for the blinding flash.
Of course, Sophie had to get her picture with Brad too. Charlie reluctantly pulled away and took the camera from her. She smiled, “You look great,” as she returned the camera. From the corner of her eye, she saw Camden signaling for Brad to go over to the stage. She looked at Brad and smiled. She didn’t see it coming but soon he was less than a foot away from her.
“See you around, Charlie,” he said as he bent down and kissed her cheek. Charlie remained rooted at the spot, watching him as he waved goodbye to her. “Yeah, see you, Brad,” she called and she knew he heard her even with all the noise because his face gentled and he waved again before the crowd swallowed him up and he was nowhere in sight.
Liam looked at the stranger sitting on his passenger seat for what probably was the thirteenth time. She had dozed off a little after arguing with him again about keeping their destination a secret. She must have been really tired, he thought. After an hour of driving, mainly because he has almost forgotten the way to the place, he pulled over at a very quiet street.
He gazed at Christen again. She looked so peaceful, so young while she slept. Her soft snoring filling the car, it sounded even better than the music from the radio. This was the sound of peace and calm. No one would think that this girl, this sleeping angel in the rented car, was struggling to get a job and had just recently collapsed in a crowded street because of hunger. No one deserved that kind of fate but she faced her circumstances bravely. Christen was extraordinary.
“Hey sleepyhead,” he whispered, touching her arm gently. He couldn’t help it. Her skin was so soft. He ran his hand gently down to her hand lying limply on her lamp. Squeezing it lightly, he said a little louder, “Christen, we’re here.”
Slowly opening her eyes, pretending that she wasn’t awakened by the slow run of his hand along her arm, she asked him, “Where are we?” Christen rubbed her eyes convincingly and tipped the corner of her mouth for a slight smile. Liam shrugged with a lopsided smile, “Look around.”
Even from inside the car, Christen saw the beauty of the small town square. It had small-scale establishments whose buildings looked very clean and cozy in white and pastel colors. They were arranged around a gazebo with wild flowers growing all over it. The gazebo itself was empty, but the grassy area surrounding it was where the kids laid on their tummies, reading to each other and the others playing what looked like toy trucks.
At the sound of awe that Christen made, Liam put on his sunglasses and went around opening her car door. Christen was speechless as she stepped out of the car. She took a few more steps to the glass window of the first shop. It was an antique shop and its door had a beautiful chime attached to it. It rattled as an elderly woman walked out with a small bag and a very happy smile. Christen’s eyes moved from the different ornaments from the other side of the window to the woman who smiled at her too before walking away. Christen continued to walk around, looking inside the cozy little shops through the clear, wide windows and gasping at the understated beauty of each place. There weren’t many people in the establishments but the atmosphere of the whole square was quiet and happy.
“Where are we, Liam?” she asked him, her eyes lit up from all the wonders the place provided. Liam held her by the shoulders and turned her to look at the gazebo. There, with the flowers swirling around the elegant sign, Liam read the name aloud, “Lubossa.”
She looked at him with confusion in her eyes, “Lubossa?” He nodded and explained, “Lubossa is said to be the prophetess who founded the city of Prague. According to mythology, the man she saw in her vision who eventually became her husband was a farmer wearing a broken sandal.” He paused and looked at her, chuckling softly at the troubled look on Christen’s face. “This place was named after her because this is no ordinary town square, Christen. Lubossa was created long, long ago for the less fortunate people from what used to be the slum. Like the prophetess’ choice, the past mayor chose to give this land to the poor so they could help themselves. They did not disappoint the town, and as you can see, they’re still doing a great job. Instead of giving the land to the rich businessmen, the poor were given the chance to rise.”
Christen blinked a few times and then started to laugh. “Liam,” she started, not finding it in her to stop laughing in amusement. “Liam, how do you know all these?” She finally blurted out. It was amazing really how Liam could know all of this history. “I read it from the back of the gazebo,” he said with a shrug, looking down at his shoes in embarrassment. At this, Christen laughed even louder and casually grabbed his hand to a nearby sweets place.
When they reached the door, she dropped his hand as her cheeks colored and smiled bashfully at him. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “For a second there I actually thought you’re personally related to the founders of the square,” she said with a grin. But she noticed how Liam was just looking at the ground while she looked at the different cakes and donuts displayed by the counter painted in pink. She felt bad for laughing at him when he just wanted to impart really useful information.
With a sigh, she squeezed his forearm, “Hey, I’m sorry for laughing at you.” She tilted her head to catch his eyes and urged him to look back at her. “I’m really sorry. I was just amused, okay? I’m… I’m beyond amused actually. I’m ecstatic, I’m so happy and I think this place has some magic in it.” At her sudden cheerful outburst, Liam grinned at her and put his arm around her shoulders while pushing her to the counter so she could place her order.
“Go ahead,” he said softly. Christen looked up at him, quite disturbed that the person on the other side wasn’t freaking out or hyperventilating. “Go on, Christen, pick a flavor and we’ll eat over there,” he said, as if talking to a child, pointing at a corner booth. Christen nodded and smiled at the middle-aged woman, “Cinnamon-glazed donut, please.” Liam said he’ll have the same and the woman smiled at them before preparing their orders. They walked to the booth and as soon as they sat down, Christen asked him why they were all so normal around him.
“Isn’t that how people are supposed to be?” he asked with a chuckle. Christen rolled her eyes at him and he just smirked, “They’re normal because I come here all the time. And I made a promise that I won’t promote this place to just anyone. What keeps them thriving is the anonymity of their town square. If Lubossa becomes too popular with just about anyone, it will lose its essence.”
“What is the essence of Lubossa?”
“The essence of Lubossa is the presence of hope and opportunity. If anybody could just come here, it will become commercialized like everything else. I brought you here because you need to see—” Liam’s little speech was cut off as Christen’s eyes lit up and watered.
“I need to see that there’s hope and opportunity in unexpected places,” she said with a smile.
Liam nodded, feeling proud of finally converting Christen from almost-hopeless to hopeful. He knew Lubossa would do the trick. It always did, even for him. Although, it has been a long time since he has been here. It does feel good to be here again, seeing the smiling faces and the neat shops. But, surprisingly, he found himself so much happier than the last time he was here, and he had this lingering feeling that it was because of his companion. The way her eyes would light up when she suddenly understood something or found something amusing, or the way she scrunched up her face a little bit when she got confused or nervous—all of these touched him wonderfully. He found all of her expressions genuine.
The hours passed with them just sitting together in that cozy booth. Christen nibbled on her oversized donut, as if afraid that she’ll finish it all too quickly and this whole place would vanish. Liam would pause from time to time, glancing at her and following the direction of her gaze to the kids on the grass. Sometimes, he would catch her staring at the gazebo. All the while, they talked about how beautiful it was and Liam even told her of the other stories he’s heard from the regulars of Lubossa.
“Would you like to go to the gazebo?” he asked her when she fell silent.
She nodded with a small smile. After Liam dropped a few notes on the table, which Christen almost violently refused to let him do, they walked to the gazebo. Up close, it was even more beautiful and it was evident by the loud musings of Christen. “This is so incredible,” she murmured, touching the flowers gently. “I’ve never come this close to wild flowers. They’re so beautiful.”
Liam liked it when a person was appreciative. By far, Christen has been the most appreciative person he has ever been with. He ushered her inside and the mixed scent of the flowers enveloped them, even Liam had to sigh at the wonderful feeling. It was both relaxing and mind blowing. How could a bunch of flowers create such a wonderful scent? He thought to himself. It was even better than any perfume he has come across.
“It’s actually my first time here inside the gazebo,” he said, startling Christen a little.
“Really? How many times have you been here anyway?” she asked him curiously. There it was again, the lovely scrunched face. He almost reached out to touch her cheek but controlled himself just a split second before he raised his hand.
He cleared his throat, effectively clearing his mind too. “Four,” he said, trying to remember more clearly. “My first time was when a good friend drove me to this place after a whole day of being driven close to the edge with the endless demands and requests,” he paused and saw her nodding, encouraging him to continue. “I realized how little acts of kindness could brighten up others’ day. Staying here for a while, I understood that some people hold on to the littlest things just to keep the hope in them. I wanted to be one of those little things. I wanted to make those who need me, feel fulfilled even if it’s just through a picture, a smile, or an autograph.”
As he looked at Christen, his heart made a funny hop in his chest. She was sitting on the stone bench, surrounded by so many flowers and tinges of green leaves twirling around each other’s vines. The combination of colors made her look like she was sitting in paradise instead of a small gazebo. She had crossed her legs and her elbow was resting atop her knee, her chin propped on her palm.
“You know, after today, I think I’ve just become a little fonder of you,” she said quietly. Slowly, she smiled at him and then turned to gaze at the patterns on the ground. “It’s amazing how a person I’ve just met can tell me things I’ve always wanted to hear yet I never thought I would be able to,” Christen added in a whisper. “Thank you, Liam. Thanks for bringing me here. And don’t worry, this secret is safe with me.”
Liam suddenly had the urge to pick her up and embrace her and tell her that all her troubles would go away. But that would be awfully fast even for a guy like him. So he just shrugged, his smile turning from bashful to very bright. He didn’t want this to end awkwardly. He wanted her to feel comfortable with him, to continue expressing her feelings. Hugging her after spending just one day would not help him at all. So, Liam just looked at her, keeping his cool and resisting all his urges to touch her.
“You’re welcome, Christen. It’s been my pleasure,” he smiled even brighter when she looked up at him.
“I guess we should get going now,” she said though her voice sounded as if she never wanted to leave Lubossa. “More job hunting for me, yay,” Christen mumbled.
“I thought we just talked about hope and opportunity?” Liam asked her, nudging her shoulder with his as she stood up. Christen let out a loud sigh, “I just wish I could stay.” He lost his battle with himself and finally put an arm around her shoulders, “Don’t worry, okay? I’ll drive you back here when we have the time. We’ll get you hired and then we’ll get back to celebrate.”
Christen looked up at him with a hopeful look on her face. “Promise,” he said even if she didn’t ask for it. He knew deep inside that he would do anything to fulfill that promise. He had a feeling that he needed the break from the real world as much as Christen does.
They slowly made their way back to the car, Christen looking back at the square every five seconds that Liam had to hold her by the shoulders, almost at the points connecting them to her neck and pushing her gently towards the car. “Let’s go Christen. We’ll be back, just like I promised.”
How can I be so unlucky to have fallen for somebody who would never look at me twice?
How can a girl like me, so imperfect in all aspects of the word, even dare dream of having a fairy tale ending?
How can I, so human and so common, be so hurt by losing something I never really had?
It will be a mystery as to why some human beings like myself can be so full of the crap that is fairy tale endings and ideals mixed together.
Perhaps, it will remain a mystery forever.
If I had a thousand Christmas wishes to be granted by the 25th of December, I’d give each one of you a strip of paper to write your own wishes in. That’s all I can give this Christmas, some love and some hope that all our Christmas wishes come true.