December 5, 2023




My whole body is still shaking the moment we step outside the house.

The image of Rory staring at me with satisfaction in her eyes and the gaze other people threw at me in the ballroom are still very much visible in my eyes.
I’m such a joke.

It’s when Max grabs my shoulder that I’m snapped out of my thought. I look up at him, only to find that his green eyes are filled with worry.

“Don’t think about it. They’re monsters. They’re FΕ―Γ§Ζ™ing monsters.” His voice is still laced with anger.

No sound leaves my mouth. This is still too much for me to take. I’ve been in misery for a long time, but to think that I was finally happy again because I’d got my best friend back, only to be crushed in front of everyone like this, is really something.

“I’ll take you somewhere else,” Max urges.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Anywhere,” I say, my voice weak.

“Anywhere but here.” It’s shaking, filled with pain I’m trying so hard to hold.

Max nods before grabbing my hand again, leading me to his car. Thank God he’s holding my hand as we walk, because I still feel like I can collapse at any second.
When we reach his black Audi, he opens the car door for me, and I get inside. Soon, he settles himself behind the wheel and starts the engine.

Silence fills the air as we pass the gate of Rory’s property, and there’s still no sound from either of us as the car continues the journey down the road.

After a few minutes, Max finally asks, “Do you want me to take you home?”

My mind immediately goes to the excitement on Mom’s face when she helped me get ready, as well as Dad and Aiden sending me off in hope that I would enjoy the party.

I shake my head. “No.” My voice cracks, and I swallow another lump in my throat as I think about my family, about how broken they will be if they see me like this. “I can’t go home.”

Max lets out a small sigh, and I feel sorry that I’ve dragged him into this. But I’m not in the right state of mind to think clearly — I seriously don’t know where I should be right now.

I have no place to go.

The next moment is spent mustering all the remaining strength in me to not cry here in front of Max, because I don’t want to make him even more worried.

I’ve already troubled him enough with the conflicts happening in the ballroom.
To my surprise, the car stops when we reach a sidewalk near the water overlooking Manhattan Bridge. Before I can ask Max any question, he throws his head back against the seat.

“Let’s get out, shall we? You’ll feel suffocated here. You need…” he pauses, “Fresh air.”

I watch as he gets out of his car and opens the door for me. Sighing, I step out, reaching for his hand that he offers to me, and breathe the night air.

Even though it doesn’t make the pain in my heart any less, but the night breeze indeed feels good on my skin.

Max takes off his coat and drapes it around me, knowing that it’s windier here near the river — I’m only wearing a bikini and skirt, anyway.

“Thanks.” I can’t help the blush creeping on my face from the embarrassment, from realizing how stupid I must look right now. I pull his coat tighter to hide my body, inhaling his masculine scent that lingers on it.

Strangely, it’s soothing and not overwhelming.

Shoving his hands into his P@Ε‹ts pockets, Max lays his back against his car as we stare at the view of the river and the bridge ahead of us. I lay my back against his car too, looking up at the moon.
It’s a half-moon tonight.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Max says without looking at me, and I know that he’s expecting me to talk to him, to let it out.

I feel tears starting to fill my eyes again. Why am I becoming so emotional? I used to be just fine holding it up all this time.
But after what happened tonight, maybe it’s okay to break?

I don’t know.

It’s not easy for me to pour my feelings into someone else. Even when I used to have pillow talks with Rory, I was more of a listener than a talker.


“We were best friends,” I blurt out.

Yes, we were . Now, it’s clear to me that she will never consider me as her best friend anymore.

Max is silent, and I guess that he expects me to continue.

“A drawing,” I say. “It started from a drawing. The first time she talked to me, she was complimenting my drawing. I don’t even remember what I drew that time, but I remember her smile that was so big on her face as she approached my desk.”

A soft smile touches my lips as I remember that moment. I take a deep breath of the cool night air.

“I’m never an outgoing person,” I say. “I’m more of an introvert. Rory, on the other hand, is the opposite. She can be a bit nosy, but she made me really happy. People who knew how close we were always said that I was like the water, while she was the fire. Oddly, we got along really well.”

I treasured the moments we’d spent together.

“I never thought that because of one guy, it all changed.” My voice starts to break.
I don’t want to be reminded of what happened again, but I realize that Max is right — piling up all these emotions will do no good either. I need to talk to at least one person in my life.

When I glance at Max, he’s staring at the moon, but I know that he’s listening intently, and it’s more than enough for me.

“I met Tyler,” I say. “We became close friends, and I did realize his feelings for me.”

That horrible feeling stirs inside me again. I suddenly feel nauseous, so I take a deep breath before resuming talking again.

“I liked him,” I say.

Liked . Or like ? I don’t know. My heart has become numb since that incident last year.

“But I didn’t realize that Rory had the same feeling,” I whisper, my voice starting to shake. “Since she was my best friend, and Tyler spent a lot of time with me, the three of us used to spent time together too. I guess that she didn’t know about my feelings, or about Tyler’s — she always thought that we were just close friends.

I…” I falter, feeling uneasy. “I don’t know why I’m telling you about this, Max. You might think that this is annoying or ridiculous–”

“Don’t stop,” Max deadpans.

I take another deep breath. I can’t help but feel embarrassed, so embarrassed. Why am I telling him about my personal love life?

I realize it too that maybe I just want to escape the next words that will come out of my mouth, because it reminds me of how stupid and idiotic I was.

“The day before Tyler confessed his feelings for me–” I suddenly choke, finding it hard to speak. “Rory told me how much she liked him. And I was beyond shocked. I didn’t expect it from her. She…” I falter, and when I glance at Max, I’m surprised that he has already shifted his eyes on me, a serious expression on his face.

“She asked me to help her confess her feelings toward Tyler.”

Max still doesn’t say a thing, and I tear my gaze away from him, staring at the river, the bridge, the city lights, anything in hope that it would calm me down.

“What was I supposed to do, Max?” I whisper brokenly. “I couldn’t break her heart. I couldn’t disappoint my best friend.” A lone tear finally drops onto my cheek, surprising me as I quickly wipe it off with my hand.

I remember how my heart broke that time because I sacrificed my feelings for Tyler.

“Tyler asked me to be his girlfriend in front of the whole school, and I said to him that I couldn’t do it,” I rasp, feeling my own salty tear as it reaches my mouth.
I rejected Tyler even though I liked him. Even though I liked him so much.

“But Rory was there, and it broke her heart. It was too late.” I sniffle. “In the end, I hurt both of them, so badly.”

More tears roll down my cheeks, and I wipe them one by one. God, why do they keep coming? Can’t they just stop?

“I didn’t want to humiliate him in front of everyone, so I told him that I couldn’t answer him, but he kept pushing me to give him an answer right away,” I say, my voice becoming weaker the more words coming out. “He must have not expected me to reject him in front of everyone. Deep in my heart, I think he knew my feelings toward him.”

I look back up at the sky, hoping that the tears will stop falling if I do this. How silly of me. How stupid of me.

“Tyler is an amazing guy, and every other girl adores him. I think that’s why a lot of them hate me.” I attempt to chuckle lightly, but what comes out is a lame choke instead.

“You know, being a celebrity’s child sometimes has its downfall. People assume things about me, gossiping about me — they say that I’m arrogant.”

My lips tremble as I blow another sigh, letting another tear fall.

“Some say that I played with his feelings,” I whisper. “Some say that I was only using him to have good academic grades, because he did tutor me some lessons.”

I wipe under my eyes. “When in doubt, they would ask my best friend whether it was true or not — I don’t know what Rory said to them.”

Now, this shatters my heart even more, because I know that Rory said all those horrible things about me — I didn’t want to believe it at first. I’ve refused to believe that she set the fire even wilder with her lies, provoking those people who already hated me and those clueless people who knew nothing about me.

While I sacrificed my feelings for her, she–

I can’t even finish my sentence.

“Are you feeling better now?” Max asks, and I turn my head to him, only to find him staring at me with such an intense gaze. He’s not smiling — he looks deadly.
I stare back at him, not understanding his question.

“Does this crying make you feel any better?” he whispers.

I shake my head in disagreement, and before I know it, my sobs break. It’s an ugly sob, because his question has just broken every wall I’ve built so high.

Just for tonight, I want to be vulnerable. I want to cry my eyes out, screaming in my heart about how Rory betrayed me, stomping my heart under her feet like it’s trash.

Max’s jaw tightens before he pulls me into a tight hug, wrapping his arms around me, and the moment I crush his chest, I break down.

I cry, I cry and I cry.

My fingers grip his back as I keep sobbing against his chest.

I feel like falling into nothingness, but strangely, I’m not afraid, because he’s holding me, as if he’s not allowing me to fall even deeper into the dark pit.


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