While I was lost in my thoughts, the doorbell rang. Could it be Ming? I did wonder why he didn't contact Project 13 again since that day. Maybe he was busy or maybe he already had a girlfriend or maybe he wasn't sure what to do with the adult version of his childhood friend.
It wasn't Ming at the front door though. Instead, Daniel was standing there. “Good afternoon and how is Cinderella doing?” he asked, trying to look inside. I stepped out and shut the door behind me. “Hey, where are you taking me?” Daniel asked. I dragged him downstairs to the void deck.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“To come for my door repairs!” he said.
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Of course I'm kidding. I've come to pass you these,” he said, handing me a bunch of name cards.
“Am I supposed to thank you?”
“I'm not expecting you to. But since she didn't have her own name card, it may be a good idea for her to email back these contacts,” said Daniel.
“I don't need lessons from you on sucking up.”
“You're so testy. I really wasn't going to do anything to her, unless she wanted to,” he said with a grin. “But I have to commend you, Ethan. You really put in a lot of effort this time.”
I glanced at the name cards and found that besides Mr. Derca, Daniel had introduced her to other important folks like the Director of Arts and Culture, literature professors and owners of chain bookstores. “Thank you for these, but I still can't forgive you for making her drunk.”
Daniel walked over to a stone bench and sat down. “You should be thankful I didn't bring her to the dance floor. I was going to, but then she suddenly leaned against me, feeling drowsy. Now if any girl does that to me after one glass of champagne, I take it she wants me to bring her home and do stuff together.”
“She isn't like other girls,” I said.
“Well, you can say that but women are all the same.”
“I wonder Daniel, if you have ever fallen in love with any of your projects before?” I asked, sitting down next to him.
“Don't you know the first rule of a conman? Never fall in love with your victims. It's the only rule though.”
“Forget I asked,” I said.
“If you must know, there was one time. However, she is no longer around now.”
“What happened?” I asked, sitting next to him.
“She was falling deeper and deeper into a sea of darkness. I knew that my love would not be enough to save her. I wasn't strong enough to pull her out without getting sucked in either. So I left her, without taking any money.”
“She killed herself?”
I sighed. “No one recovers from a suicide. Not just the dead but also everyone alive connected with her. The people left behind suffer the most.”
Daniel look startled at my comment. “Ethan, you are deeper that you look.”
“Speak for yourself,” I said. He put his arm around my shoulder and asked, “Can't the two of us just get along?”
“Not if there is only one reward.”
“Why don't you try seducing me then?” he asked, turning to me. “I have an inheritance too, once that old fogey kicks the bucket.”
“No thanks,” I said, getting up. But I was surprised at Daniel. He always looked so frivolous yet he had his own scars. Like him, I also know how it feels to have a loved one kill herself.
I returned to the house to find Project 13 awake. She had washed off all her make-up and was now in her nightgown and wearing her glasses. She was sitting on the floor, typing on her laptop which was perched on the sofa. Somehow this feels more natural to me.
“Bunny, I'm so glad to see you! Last night felt like a dream. Maybe that is how Cinderella felt when she attended the ball.”
“Well, did you meet your prince?” I took my sketchbook and pencil and sat next to her. As promised, I was going to draw the faces of the people she met at the party. I would just google the names of those I was unfamiliar with.
“My prince? I already met him,” she said, patting my head with a smile. “I did find it hard to talk to people. All I did was smile.”
“But you don't find it hard to talk to me because I'm your bunny?” I asked.
“Exactly,” she said. “You know, last night when I didn't have my glasses on, the world seemed to have this hazy glow about it. All the people in the ballroom looked formless and harmless to me. But at some point, I realised you were not next to me and I started to panic a little.”
“You didn't have to,” I said, smiling at her. It felt comfortable sitting next to her. When I look back, will I realise that these were the best days of my life.
After about two hours, I had finished sketching all the faces. I wrote their names at the top of the drawing. “Who is this?” she asked, pointing at the only sketch that didn't have a name.
“That's Daniel, he was the one who brought you around, introducing you to people,” I replied. Initially I didn't want to draw his face, but I figured that I was a little grateful to him.
“Is he better looking that Ming?” I asked.
“You are the best looking one.”
“But I'm not in the options.”
“Well, that's how I feel,” she said, turning to her laptop. I was secretly happy. Maybe being around her was making me more childish.
“Bunny, can I ask you for a favour?”
“What is it?”
“Could you take me to the cemetery? I haven't visited my grandmother since my pet died and I feel like I should.”
The cemetery, I haven't visited my family for a long time either. The last time I was there, I could hear her voice clearly and it wasn't a good experience. I wondered if I would hear her voice there again. “Okay, you wait here, I'll buy some flowers.”