For the previous chapters
It was evening by the time we reached the cemetery. The sky was still bright, but not for long. We could feel the soft breeze while the trees rustled in the wind. Her grandmother had reserved a spot next to the graves of Project 13's parents. The three graves lay side by side. She squatted down to place the flowers at her grandmother's grave. “Grandma, I am doing well. Bunny has come into my life again and he takes great care of me. You don't have to worry about anything.”
She stood up and took a deep breath. “I always find this place to be so peaceful. Yet, it's like I cannot stay too long, if not I will feel suffocated by the stillness of the place and end up in a world that isn't mine.”
“I know what you mean.”
“What do you do when your heart hurts? Is there any pills that can numb the pain?” she asked, looking forlornly at the flowers.
“Medication can't cure it. The only thing that can, is time.”
“Can time really help?” she asked.
“I don't know, but it is the only thing we can believe in.”
Project 13 slipped her hand in mine and asked, “Is your family buried here too.”
“There are, over there.” I pointed to the opposite plot of land. We walked there and I was soon standing face to face with their three graves. They died on the same day, five years ago. Project 13 had kept some flowers for me to give them. It has really been years since I've been here. Fortunately, I did not hear her voice calling out to me this time. Was it because Project 3 was here with me?
“I don't know why, Bunny, but I can't shake off this feeling that you will leave me one day,” she said sadly.
“In the end, we are all alone. But if everyone thinks like that, we will never form bonds or love anyone. What matters is that right now, at this exact point of time, we are together and nothing can change that.”
“That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. Just like how humans were born to eventually die, bonds are made to be broken. But like you said, what matters is now.”
I sighed. “This may not be the best time to say this, but I do not want you to be alarmed.”
“What is it?”
“I'll be away for three days, sometime next month. Someone will come to deliver food in the evenings, make sure you eat,” I said. We were walking towards the motorcycle, hand-in-hand.
“It's okay, as long as you come back. If not I will search the entire world to bring you back.”
“Let's go home.”
I sat down in front of the canvas and started to draw. I had to finish it before meeting Annabelle tomorrow and I knew the painting part will take up a lot of time. Two rabbits were sitting on the beach, facing the sea, while looking at the sunrise. You could only see the backs of the rabbits and the sun was a mere orange ball. I was using acrylic paint for a more textured look. I painted the sky with different hues of dark blue. The sea was a lighter blue and I gave the sand a dark gold colour. The bunnies were white.
For 24 hours, I just sat there, painting. Project 13 was also engrossed in typing out her book and I had already started the food delivery service today. It has been a year since I met Annabelle. This could be my anniversary gift to her. We always had a good time together, but lately, something felt strange between us. Maybe she was just getting tired of me.
Whatever the case, I wanted to present to her a perfect art piece. The sand glittered while the sea looked calm and still. In the midst of the dark blue sky, an orange sun rose. I wanted to convey a sense of hope in this painting, although I did not have much myself. But I hope that Annabelle can see for herself, what a wonderful person she is.
Project 13 came to look at the painting after I finished it. She stood in front of it, without saying a word for a few minutes. “It's beautiful,” she finally said. “Who are you giving this too?”
“A distant relative. An aunt,” I lied.
“Is she the one whom you are meeting for three days? What is she like?” she asked, peering closely at the painting.
“She is someone who has everything in the world, yet doesn't have what she is looking for.”
“What is she looking for?”
“I don't know. She doesn't either.”
“Maybe this painting can help her find it.” She crossed her arms and nodded. I was not too sure about that. I was going to have someone deliver this painting to the hotel later as I did not want to lug this big canvas on my motorcycle and it could get damaged. I just hope Annabelle likes it.
She has booked a suite at one of the luxury hotels in Sentosa and our room was facing the sea. We had taken a bath together and were now lounging at the balcony with only our bath robes on. Even without make up, Annabelle was ravishing, no one can deny that, even though her eyes always looked sad. The sun was starting to set and had cast a pink and orange glow in the sky.
“Moments like these are so rare. Maybe that's why they are so precious,” said Annabelle, sighing softly.
The doorbell of the suite rang at this point and I went to the door. The delivery man had arrived with the canvas. The painting was wrapped with brown paper and I brought it into the suite.
“Who was it?” Annabelle asked, coming into the living room. “Oh,” she said, as she saw the brown package.
“This is for you. Would you like to open it?” I asked, resting it against a chair.
“Could you unwrap it for me?” she asked. She stood in front of the canvas, looking at it expectantly. I tore the brown wrapper apart and revealed the bunny and sunrise painting. Annabelle looked at it without a word, and then a tear drop fell down to her cheek. “I love it,” she whispered, hurriedly wiping the single tear away with her hand. During our time together, I had never seen her cry before. Yes, I have seen her eyes become watery but she had never teared in front of me. I wrapped my arms around her waist and held her tight. She seemed to hold so much hurt inside, it may be impossible for an imperfect being like me to help her.
“Can I request something from you?” she asked. She placed her hands on my shoulder.
“Can you pretend that I am your first love?”
“I never had one,” I admitted.
“So pretend,” she said, bringing me closer to her. Annabelle's expression was hard to read. But I smiled softly and stroked her cheek. “Alright.” I whispered and planted a gentle kiss on her lips. Frankly I thought this was a weird request from someone who liked it rough and wild. She hasn't been behaving like herself lately.
My hand caressed her back while slowly making my way down. My lips travelled to her ears and I gently nibbled on her earlobe. I lifted Annabelle up and with her legs wrapped around my waist, I carried her to the bedroom.
Afterwards, we were both in bed, naked and staring at the ceiling. I had made love to her as earnestly as I could and it was a refreshing change. Annabelle rolled in bed and looked at me. “Ethan, the more I think about it, the more I think people are not meant to live together for long periods of time. Eventually, you get so sick of each other, you end up destroying each other.”
My fingers gently traced her jawline and down to her neck. “You are talking about your husband, aren't you?” I said.
“I never loved him and I don't know if he had ever loved me, or did he just loved my looks, like how I loved his money. I do admit that I got the better part of the bargain though. Money tends to last longer than looks or love. You think so to, right?”
“I don't know. I don't intend to live very long.”
She looked surprised at my answer. “Then why are you living like this? Why are you working so hard for money when you don't intend to live long?”
I twirled her hair around my finger and looked at her sadly, “There's a debt I have to pay, and she was someone I loved.”
“I see, maybe you are living for love too. You just didn't know it.” She climbed on top of me and kissed me deeply. This time, she wanted something rougher.
Our two nights together went by in a flash. We stayed in the suite mostly, ordering room service if we were hungry and going for walks by the beach if we felt like it. I thought that this would be what a honeymoon felt like. But I couldn't help but worry about Project 13. I hope she was eating and that her book was progressing well.
It was the morning of the final day of our staycation. Annabelle and I were rolling around in bed, when she suddenly turned serious and said she needed to talk to me about something. “What is it?” I asked, stroking her hair.
“I can't talk about this while we are both naked in bed. Get dressed and I'll see you in the living room.”
I couldn't help but feel apprehensive and didn't know if I can handle a serious Annabelle. But than, what is the worse that can happen? We started this relationship knowing that it could end anytime. It was by accident that we have been going on for so long.
I went to the living room and sat down on the sofa. The painting was no longer there. She had asked one of her workers to bring the painting back to her gallery the night before. Annabelle wore a long silver slip dress and sat next to me. “What is it?” I asked, putting my hand over her shoulder.
Annabelle took a deep breath and replied, “He wants to start a family.”
“Your husband?” I asked. She nodded.
“And how do you feel about that?” I said.
“I don't know. It is inevitable. We have been married for five years and he has given me everything. I should give him something back. Also having a kid helps to tighten my hold over his wealth.”
“I see,” I said, looking on the floor. I had been stalling for time, but I guess it's time for us to part.
“But, I don't know if I can give you up,” said Annabelle. “Will this change things between us?”
“I don't think I can see you again.”
“What?” She moved away from me.
“You see, this future child of yours needs you. This child needs a future without me.”
“Are you breaking up with me?” She stood up and glared at me.
“We were never together to begin with.”
“Don't pretend you are leaving me because of this future child. The truth is, you are getting too involved with your current project! I hate it when men lie to me!” Tears started to stream down her cheeks. She grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the door. She cried, “It's so easy for you. Bonds are made and broken all the time. I guess I was the stupid one who thought we had something different.” She pushed me out and slammed the door.
“Goodbye Annabelle,” I said. I was face-to-face with a closed door and it left a bitter aftertaste my mouth as I walked away. Maybe I should have explained things better to her. Like how she should not be a mother if she wasn't going to commit to the child a hundred percent. Maybe I should have confided in her about my own mother who did not want me at all, and right now still wanted me dead. But I guess, it didn't matter now. I got on my motorcycle and rode off.
She had said, “It's so easy for you. Bonds are made and broken all the time...” And she was right. I hated myself for that. But then it was never easy for me to leave my projects. Even though I pretended like it was nothing, every time I leave someone, my heart hurts inside. Especially when you start caring. I cared about Annabelle, which was why I had to leave. We were just going to tear each other apart if we stayed together. And I did not want her child to grow up with me in the picture.
As I was speeding along the highway, I noticed a black car following me behind. It has been stalking me for some time now and was tailing me closely. I quickened my speed, hoping to lose it, but the car still stayed behind me. I made a sharp turn to the right but then another car suddenly appeared in front me. There was a loud crash and I felt myself being flung into the air. I knew it. Everyone dies alone and I always knew I was going to die young. Everything around me went black.