Chapter 8 - Hand in hand

After they entered Starbucks, they saw a couple getting up and was about to leave the corner table.  Daniel quickly asked May what she wanted to drink and told her to grab the table.  Five minutes later, their hot drinks were ready.  Daniel placed two cups and a brown paper pastry bag down on the table and sat down across from her.
Looking at the two lids that had the exact same letters written on top, SCL, May asked.  "Which one is yours?  Are they both the same?"

Daniel quickly stood up again.  "Oh no! I asked for Soy Chai Latte cause that's what I normally order.  I didn't even think of the dairy option."  He was about to grab one of the cups.  "I can order another one for you with milk!"

"No, no! I actually forgot to tell you I wanted it with Soy."  She beamed.  "Glad to know we like the same drinks at Starbucks!"

He smiled his agreement and opened the lid of the cup in his hand to let the steam out.  "I find this very soothing whenever my peptic ulcer flares up.”

“You have ulcers?” May voiced her concern.

“I get them once in a while, usually when stressed."  Daniel let on as he took out a piece of pastry from the brown bag.

May gave a painstaking expression on her face.  "Those things are deadly!"

Daniel was a tad disappointed to see her expression.  "Your lost!”  He was hoping May wasn’t like his past girlfriends who nagged him for his sweet-tooth indulgence.  So he didn’t bother to offer the pastry to her and was about to take his first bite.

“Hey, aren’t you going to share it?”  May tried to snatch the pastry from him. 

“I thought you said these are deadly!” 

“I meant the ulcer pain is deadly!”  May interjected and took the pastry from his hands.  “I love these!”

Daniel smiled a relief and took in the delight from her face as she took a bite.  She then handed it back to him.  “I bought two!”  He took the second piece out of the bag.

After their initial sips of the drinks, May resumed with the conversation.  “Do you often get ulcer pain?”

“Often enough to drive me nuts!”  Daniel remained quiet for a moment.  "They started back in high school."

"High school?  I don’t recall you were in pain."  May took a sip of her drink.

Daniel noted she was waiting for him to continue.  He saw this as an opportunity to get something off his chest.  "That summer in grade 10 when I almost moved away, why didn't you come to my farewell party?"

May’s expression went from confused to shock.  "The party wasn't a prank?!"

“Prank?”  Daniel would have never thought May had taken the invitation as some sort of joke.  "No, I was supposed to move to LA with Ethan cos he got a job offer.  My parents moved back to Kelowna."

"But you didn’t leave ... I was so mad!"  May told him.

"Why?"  Daniel had always been curious why May turned cold towards him after that summer.

"I decided not to go when Anita didn't get an invitation."  May answered his first question. 

"Anita?"  He tried to recall a face to the name but couldn't.  "Anita who?"

May shook her head with a look of disbelief.  "She used to have such a huge crush on you."

Then he remembered and smiled impishly.  “Oh … That Anita!”

“Yes! That Anita!”  May also chuckled at the memories of the crazy things Anita did to get his attention, including being friends with her.  “Remember how loud she would cheer for you?”

“And all this time I thought she was doing it because of you!”  Daniel wanted the answer to his other question.  "You said you were mad at me, was it because of the gym incident when I fell on you and ... you know, my ... um."

"No!"  May interjected as she was sure he was going to mention his intimate buddy by the bashfulness on his face.  But she soon started to blush at the memory of her awareness as well.  She changed the subject.  "Why weren't any of your friends invited if it was your farewell party?  Tom said he was going to invite Anita.  I actually felt guilty for not showing up!"

“I don’t think she was on the list!”  Daniel tried to remember.

"When I saw you and Tom that first day back, I asked of your other friends, they didn't even know there was a party.  And because the call came from Tom, I figured it was a prank and I was glad I didn't show up!  But I was so mad at you for pulling such a prank."

Daniel kept his eyes on her and cleared his throat before speaking.  "The farewell party was Tom's idea when five of us guys were out one night.  Each of us was to invite one girl, like the one we wanted to ask out back in high school."
The realization of lost opportunity made her eyes misty.  She blinked away the tears before they formed in her eyes.  She gave him a smile of resignation.  "Was I the only one who didn't show up?"

Knowing the truth, he felt as if a ton of weight had been lifted off his chest.  He smiled tenderly at her.  "No, I think there was another girl who didn't show up either.  She probably thought the same as you did."

"Well, I didn't think the party was a prank until school started.  I didn't show up because Anita wasn't invited!"  She flashed him a silly smile.  "I was still trying to set you two up."

"Hmm!"  Daniel acknowledged and wondered.  "Did you even like me back then?"

May looked at his anticipating eyes for a moment.  "I was trying to prove that girls are just as willing to let go of the guy they like for their best friend.  It's not just a guy thing!"

Daniel furrowed his forehead a little and gave her a questioning look.  "Do you still think that way?"

Surprised by his question at first, but then she smiled.  "No, I don't!"

As they came out of Starbucks, Daniel took hold of her hands.  "20 years ago today, we were holding hands as dancing partners!"

When he didn't continue but just smiled at her, she asked.  "And what are we holding hands as 20 years later?  Partners-in-crime so Alice would leave you alone?"

"I was hoping our partnership could venture off to something more like a relationship."  He grinned.  "I'm still under your mercy to be acquitted.  So what do you say, Shall-May-Ren?"

"Say what?"  May pretended to play dumb, but she was blushing already.  Though it was a cold December morning, she had a feeling it was going to be a beautiful sunny day in more than one aspect.

"Maybe introduce you as my girlfriend to Alice?"  Daniel asked as he tugged her arm and squeezed her hand.

“You will still be holding my hand when we see her, won’t you?”  May asked and Daniel nodded in response.  "Wouldn't she be able to figure that out on her own?"
When Alice came to the lobby, she ran up to Daniel and threw her arms around him and gave him two loud smacking kisses on his cheeks.  Well, she obviously didn't care that he was holding hands with the woman next to him.  Perhaps Alice was distracted because May was having a conversation with the concierge.

Though Alice’s embrace came on like a strong blow, Daniel never broke hold from May's hand.  In fact, he held on tighter as he took a big step backwards pulling May in between when Alice was about to hug him a second time.

"Wooh!"   May thought she was in the middle of an earthquake.  She held on tighter to Daniel's hand and quickly swung her other arm over Daniel’s shoulders for support.  When Daniel steadied her on her two feet, she gave him a quick peck on his lips.  Then she gave him a quick surprised grin before turning around to take a good look at the woman who was still trying to come between them.

In May's eyes, Alice was unexpectedly attractive with height and body figure like that of a blond super model.  She was wearing tights with a hip hugging knitted lap length dress.  She had on a waist length exterior jacket that also emphasized her full breast.  Totally unlike the kind of 'bitchy' image May had of her from Emily’s opinion and description of her character.  But May could tell looks were deceiving from the surface and wondered what she was really like without the double layers of make-up on her face.  Thus she put aside her judgement to give Alice a chance.  "Hi!  You must be Alice!" 

But Alice stared at her with an unfavorable expression; May turned to Daniel and said on purpose.  "She'd better be Alice or you're sleeping on the couch tonight!"

"I've only been back two nights! You’re going to kick me out of the bedroom?"  Daniel caught on and played along.  However, he naturally planted a kiss on her cheek.  “Of course she is Alice!”

As Daniel made the introduction, Alice's expression instantly went cold as if blood was being drained out from her face.  May was still sandwiched between her and Daniel but she managed to extend her hand to Alice for a greeting.  When Alice took it, her icy cold fingers sent shivers up May’s arm.  The fact that Alice only took her fingers limply instead of a firm hand shake made May decide on the spot that there would be no follow-up to this meeting.  May wasn’t even going to try and be nice to her.  But for Daniel's sake, she would suck it up and endure for just a little while. "Your hands are so cold, you must be starving!"

"I haven't eaten since last night's dinner."  Alice took her hand back and found her voice. 

May could smell her cigarette breath and was certain she had a few of those this morning with her peanuts.  Just by her first impression of Alice, May believed Daniel and her would not be compatible.  With the intention to cut like a knife for Alice’s benefit, she said on purpose. “Yes, I read your text to Daniel!”  Then she added.  “Heard you had only been munching on peanuts from the plane, hope you still have room for breakfast!  Are you ready to go?”

When May turned towards the entrance way, Alice looked at Daniel with a pair of questioning eyes.  

"Are you okay to walk?  The restaurant is not too far, just a 10-minute walk."  Daniel asked Alice.  May wanted to choke him for taking pity on her so quickly.  And when Alice didn’t move towards the entrance way, May could tell Daniel was about to give him to her preference of being driven.  "But we can drive if you ..."

"Don't be silly!"  May rebutted.  "By the time you drive there, find a parking, I would have ordered and be half way done with my meal!"  May grabbed his arm and led him out the entrance.  When she knew Alice was following behind, May gave him a knowing look.

He then realized he should never ever think he was treating any girl like a sister when he never had one.  He truly had no idea how he would treat his sister if he had one.  But now he was certain he would have made her walk to the restaurant.
Breakfast was uneventful for Alice as she sat brooding quietly over her food while putting minimum effort into the conversations.  And whenever she did speak, she tried to stir the conversation away from May so she could just talk to Daniel.  May had noticed her condescending attitude towards her from the moment she told Daniel not to drive.  But May didn't let that ruin her appetite.  When they got to the cafe by the water, she told Daniel to order the 'Couple Hearty Breakfast' with all the extras after Alice placed her order for a Vegan Breakfast Wrap.  When May found it exhausting to try to make conversations with her, she just continued enjoying her food as if Alice was transparent. 

As she observed Alice’s limited participation, May realized it wasn’t resentment she felt for the thin blond girl but compassion.  She understood the feeling of heartbreak, especially one concerning Daniel.  But she also understood love had to be both ways.  She just hoped Alice would soon realize that Daniel's heart wasn't where hers was.  Besides, she promised herself that she would never again give up someone she liked just because someone else was also in love with the same person. 

When they were done with breakfast which surprisingly took less than an hour, they were surprised Alice wanted to return to her suite to wait for her parents.  Daniel had the look of concern when the elevator doors closed after bidding farewell to Alice at the lobby.  May noticed his worried expression.  So she leaned into his side and whispered alluringly behind his ear.  "Did you want to reconsider your decision and ask her to be your date for the wedding?"

He turned to face her and poked her playfully in the chest.  "Never!" 

"You’re sure?  She's very pretty and has a body that turned every guy's head when we were walking back here!"  May continued her luring.  "She’s definitely into you!"

They walked out of the building and came to a quiet corner in the courtyard.  "Did you smell her breath when we first met up this morning?"  Daniel asked with an expression telling her that her enticing would never be possible.  “I don’t think I can date a person who smokes.”

However, his words reminded her of his high school fiancée who had not surfaced in any of their conversation so far.  May knew Pam was a smoker in high school.  Then she realized she didn't even know if they ever got married.  "But you married one before, right?"

Daniel knew who she was referring to.  "No, Pam and I never got married.”  But he didn’t want to elaborate.  “Well, I’ve been telling myself not to get involved again with women who smoke!"

May was contented with his answer and so she turned chirpy.  "Me too!"

Daniel pretended to be alarmed.  "You were involved with women who smoked?"

May realized what she just said.  "Yes, I was!  You got a problem with that?!"

After giving him a sassy grunt, May turned to get away.  But Daniel was quick to pull her back. Picking her up and swinging her over his shoulders, he went down a set of stairs to the fountain in the courtyard and threatened to drop her into the icy cold water unless she confessed she was very straight. 

After her confession, they kissed each other with deep passion until a group of young people walked by the fountain chatting aloud to one another about some party they attended last night.  When they broke apart from the kiss, they came and stood in front of Daniel’s building. He pointed to the windowpanes of the building.  "Hmmm...from the outside, no one can tell that’s where the gym is!"
“I told you she wouldn’t be able to see you!”  May reminded him.  “She would have walked right over if she saw you in the gym!”
 
Daniel gave a smile of relief.
 
"Speaking of gym, we need to burn off this food before lunch!"  May told him.
 
"What do you suggest, Little B?"  His Little Beauty gave him a puckish look before making a move towards the main street.

Maybe This Time