The next couple of weeks we linked up quite often. Ryo shocked me one day by confessing that he liked me. I was overwhelmed since I also liked him. We became official boyfriend and girlfriend.
Our life together started. We were always lovey-dovey. Even though, he had so many jobs and couldn't always see me, he’d make time just for me whenever he was free. Pi didn't mind that he didn't see him much since he was dating Christine now. As I said Ryo and I were lovey-dovey. We weren’t bad like those two! Those two were always kissing, at each other lap and inseparable that it made others around them gag.
Everything had seemed fine the first year of our dating. But once he moved in with me, things started to go difficult. He kept sneaking out once a week. The money he earns is always gone when he comes back. And when I confront him, he always denies it.
The whole sneaking around got me feeling insecure. When another year went by, I began feeling suffocating in our relationship where I couldn't trust him. He tried to show me how much he loved me and how he was still the same but I can never shake the insecurity from inside me.
One day I was out with Christine and Yamapi who invited me out with them because she was starting to worry about me. I wouldn't blame her. I have stopped eating regularly becoming thinner than before. I have bags under my eyes and my skin has gone so pale. I have tried to cover it all by wearing make-up, baggy clothes but as my best friend she was able to see through me.
By the way, Jess and Bam are not in Japan any longer. They had moved a year ago to China and Korea. Jaejoong had confessed that he liked her persistent to be able to stay with him for seven years even when he had been always cold towards her. He had taken her to Korea with him. Well, with Jess, Hengeng finally asked her to move to China and be with him as he had been missing her too much. He even surprised us all by proposing to her when she got there. Their wedding date still hasn’t been confirmed yet though.
“Ayu, why won’t you tell me what’s going on between Ryo-kun and you,” Christine said with concern. “I’m your best friend, aren’t I?”
We were in the cafe where it was quiet and deserted. My friend and her boyfriend were sitting opposite me at the table. I ran my finger around the tea cup focusing my attention on it more than them.
“There’s nothing wrong with us,” I insisted like usual.
“Don't lie!” Pi yelled in frustration. Pi had become like a brother to me ever since he started dating my friend. He was overprotective of me sometimes and I liked the idea of an older brother since I was an only child. “Ryo even says the same thing every time I ask him.”
“You’re not fooling anyone, Ayu,” Chris went on. “Our years of friendship aren’t just there for show. Tell me or I’ll end it.”
My eyes flew up to meet hers. I saw how serious she was and knew that I couldn't keep it from them any longer. Tears started welling up at the corner of my eyes and I began sobbing quietly. Chris was by my side suddenly and comforting me while Pi leaned forward and dabbed a napkin on my eyes, wiping away my tears.
“I think Ryo-kun is cheating on me!” I blurted out. “Ever since he moved in with me, I kept getting suspicious over him disappearing every Wednesday with the money he would earn. He wouldn't tell me where he goes. What should I do?”
Pi let out an exasperating breath. “I know Ryo, he wouldn't cheat on you. He loves you.”
“But why wouldn't he just tell me the truth!” I cried out.
My brother figure friend looked down in shame as he was unable to find an excuse for his best friend.
“I’m sure there is a rational explanation!” Chris protested desperately. “And why won’t that idiot just tell you!”
Pi grabbed the flailing hands of his girlfriend's and squeezed it calming her down. She was getting emotional over her friend’s problem just like always.
Taking deep breaths in and out, Chris looked at me with her serious look. “Did you follow him to see where he went?”
I shook my head. The thought never occurred to me before. “No.”
“Then next week on Wednesday, we’ll follow him,” she announced.
“We will?” Pi was startled at the suggestion.
“Yeah,” she went on. “If he won’t tell you, then we’ll just find out on our own.”
The idea seemed more appealing than crying all day without a clue for what reason. And I was a little comforted at the thought of having my best friend and my brother figure with me. That way if it was anything worse, I’d have them looking out for me.
“Thanks,” I managed to squeak out.
When Wednesday finally came and Ryo was getting ready to go, I was panicking because Christine and Pi hadn't turned up yet. Luckily Ryo didn't catch on with our plan. He kissed me on the cheek as he went out the door. I waited for a few seconds before I ran to the bedroom where my cell phone lay on the bed. I jumped on it and quickly dialled Christine’s phone.
“Where are you?” I shouted over the mouth piece.
“Sorry, we’re stuck in traffic!” she shouted back over Pi’s music.
“He’s already left,” I told her.
“Should we leave it until next week then?” Pi asked. I presumed that Chris had put me on loud speaker.
“But I don't want to wait that long,” Chris said out loud what I was thinking.
I took in a deep breath and let it go. “I’ll follow him,” I said in confident. “I’ll keep my phone with me. Use it as GPS to track me.”
There was a few seconds of silence. “Okay,” my friend finally agreed.
Hanging up , I climbed off the bed and rushed out the apartment building. I ran down to the ground floor using the stairs. I knew that he would still be taking out his car from the garage. I hailed for a cab and waited until his car rolled onto the street then asked the cab to follow him. All the while my heart beat was drumming inside in a fast speed.
I was nervous. I was scared.
I was on the cab for at least a good twenty minutes until it stopped. I looked through the wind shield and saw Ryo’s car parking at a deserted street. He didn't seem to be aware of me following and I think it never crossed his mind that he would be followed behind. He got out and headed straight into an alley.
“Miss, are you planning to get off?” the driver questioned with concern.
“Yeah,” I replied. Then she muttered to herself than at the cab driver, “I just want the lies to end today.”
The cab driver was a little hesitant to leave even when I had paid. He then made me promise to be careful then left reluctantly when I told him my friends will be joining me soon.
I jogged across the street and to the alley where Ryo had disappeared through. I didn't care that the place looked dangerous. I wanted to know the truth after coming this far.
I found him at the end of the alley. He wasn't alone. To my utmost shock, he wasn't with a girl but a guy. At first I thought he was actually having an affair with a guy but when I managed to get a glimpse at the guy from my hiding place behind a dumpster. The guy didn't look pleasant. In fact, with the scar on his face, the bleached hair and that awfully mean eyes, I got the feeling he was a thug.
What was Ryo doing with a guy like him?
I watched as Ryo took out a brown envelope from his pocket and handed it over to the thug looking guy. I guessed his money was inside that envelope.
“Thanks,” the man sneered. He opened up the envelope and peered inside. “With this lot, you now have four more years to clear your dept.”
A gasp escaped from my mouth. He was a loan shark. Ryo was working so much because he was trying to pay off his dept. I suddenly felt the guilt weighing me down. I had been worrying about the wrong reason.
The ringtone to my phone snapped me out of my thoughts and got me panicking. I desperately searched for my phone that had to fall at the bottom of my bag today of all days. As I shut it off, I had no idea that I have startled Ryo and the other guy because the guy had now taken out a knife and was aiming at Ryo. Ryo had his hands up in defence, his eyes not leaving the knife.
“You got someone with you!” I heard the guy accuse.
“No, I didn't!” my boyfriend denied.
“Don’t lie to me!” the guy yelled. “Whoever you are, if you don't want this guy to get hurt, you better show yourself!”
I stilled. What should I do? I looked at my phone and sent it a murderous glare. Slowly and cautiously, I got to my feet and stepped out in the open.
I heard the gasp escape my boyfriend’s mouth and saw how his eyes widened then he looked at me questioningly. I averted my eyes away in shame.
“Who the hell are you?” the guy demanded angrily.
“That’s my girlfriend,” he replied. “She was just worried where I go.”
“Come here!” the thug ordered me. I gulped audibly. At first I didn't move until he kept poking his knife towards Ryo. I quickly went to Ryo’s side.
“I’m sorry,” I squeaked out. “Please don't hurt him.”
“Don't make him anymore angry,” Ryo whispered into my ear as he wrapped an arm around my waist.
I still refused to meet his eyes. Instead I focused my attention on the guy who held the knife. Things went from bad to worse when my phone rang again alarming the guy. Everything went at slow motion. As I tried to stop it from ringing again knowing well it was Christine who was getting worried because I didn't answer the phone before. I had no idea that the guy had launched forward with the knife pointing at me until Ryo came in the way. My eyes widened as I watched the knife pierce into Ryo’s chest causing him to cry out in pain. The guy holding the knife realised his mistake and let go.
When the guy ran off, everything seemed to go back into normal pace. Ryo backed away onto the wall. He was staring at me with pain showing in his eyes. I tried to cry out for help but no words came out. I looked at the knife that was hurting him. I raised my hand and grabbed it. Without realising the consequence, I took the knife out. It was too late. his blood was oozing out now. I dropped the knife and tried to hold his wound hoping to stop the bleeding.
“No,” I whispered, my voice returning to me. “No!” I screamed.
My attempt to stop the bleeding was futile. I heard his breath getting haggard. He was having a hard time breathing. He was trying his best not to scream in pain. I held it tighter but it wasn't stopping. Suddenly he dropped to the floor with a thud. His head hung low.
I stared down at him. He couldn't have. He couldn't have died like that!
My knees buckled and I fell on the floor. He was dead because of me. I killed him...
It seemed that was all the flashback. Soon I felt all my energy draining. And as I took my last breath, I wrapped my arms around his neck and buried my head in the arc of his neck taking in a swift of his scent before I passed out.
Even in the darkness I was able to hear a faint noise of footsteps and then a scream. It sounded like it was so far away. I couldn't open my eyes. I was in darkness. I could only see black. But I could hear the concern voices.
“Oh my God! Ayu! Ayu! What have you done...?”
“I’m calling an ambulance!”
I finally lost all conscious.