“I see,” said Alan, “So, do you want to go out?”
“Right now?” asked Siana, “But isn’t it lunch time?”
“We can eat somewhere out,” said Alan, “We can also go look for our wedding outfits for the ceremony.”
Siana nodded. “Okay, let me get changed,” she said.
Siana chose a comfortable outfit while Alan waited for her. The two ate at a restaurant and headed to a clothing store. They started first with choosing outfits for Alan. He was much less fussy about his clothes.
Siana was served tea by the clerk while Alan changed. The clerk assumed that Siana might be bored so she made an effort on a conversation. She asked her how they met and complimented her. Siana gave an easy answer to her questions. She told her that they were childhood friends long before their marriage.
“Oh my!” said the clerk, “That is indeed romantic!”
Siana laughed awkwardly at that. She was finding it hard to keep the conversation going. Thankfully, Alan came out of the trying room. He usually looked good in whatever he wore but the suit he had chosen at that moment for their wedding too her breath away. Her heart raced and her mind went blank. He looked downright gorgeous.
I would have assumed that I was used to him by now…. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. Seeing him every day of her life, Siana thought she would be familiar with how he looked, and it wouldn’t affect her so much. She was delusional.
She stared at Alan, flustered and blushing red. Alan approached her and leaned down, his face inches from hers.
“Sia,” he said, “What’s wrong? You look flustered.”
“W-what?” stammered Siana, “Nothing! Nothing’s wrong. You look dashing in that.”
Alan chuckled. “Took your breath away?” he teased. She looked down. He was much too close to her and it was doing nothing to help with her racing heart.
Alan tried on several more outfits. Each one was better than the last. It was a very difficult feat to choose just one. In the end, they decided on the white suit that he had worn the very first time.
It was Siana’s turn now. She tried on a dress that she had been meaning to, since the time they came into this shop and her gaze had fallen onto the beautiful dress in the catalogue. With some help from the clerks, she put on a light pink dress and held a bouquet in her hand.
“I’m pulling back the curtain now,” declared Siana feeling queasy.
At the sight of Alan, standing beyond the curtains, her queasiness disappeared. It was replaced by a pleasant thrill. She walked to him. “How does it look Alan?” she asked. “Is it good enough?’
Alan was quiet and he was avoiding her eyes. “Alan?” she asked again.
“You look beautiful,” he said. But he still wasn’t looking her in the eye.
Siana was worried. He says I look beautiful, but he isn’t looking at me at all. Is he saying that just to make me happy when he thinks it’s not that good, but he can’t say it honestly? Siana went behind the curtains and changed into another dress. Her shoulder was slumped.
“I think he is just nervous because you look so pretty,” said the clerk, trying to reassure her. “That happens quite often. People get so shy and they can’t look their significant others in the eyes.”
“Really?” she asked the clerk, half-heartedly. Shyness wasn’t a feeling she got from Alan just then.
“Watch him carefully when you go out this time,” said the clerk, “He won’t be able to hide it.”
“Are you sure?” asked Siana, doubtfully.
“Of course.,” said the clerk. “I am opening the curtains now,” she announced.
The curtains opened and Siana stepped out of the trying room. Alan was the same. He tried to look everywhere else but her. While he showered her with praises, he avoided looking her in the eye. Siana looked at him closely this time and noticed that his ears were red, and he had a blush creeping onto his cheek.
Her eyes widened in surprise. His ears were red, his cheeks were flushed, and he was unable to hold her stare. Alan was feeling shy! She had never noticed. For Siana, who had never thought herself pretty, this was a very surprising discovery. Her face burned like Alan’s.
She hurried into the trying room to change into something else and to hide her embarrassment. After perhaps changing into four more, she decided on the very first one she had chosen.
It was close to dinnertime when they finally paid for the outfits and had them packed. They were too tired, so they decided to eat out for dinner as well. When they left the clothing store, a cold wind passed over them. The temperature had dropped so suddenly. It was much colder than they had anticipated. Siana shivered.
“Are you cold?” asked Alan.
“A little…” said Siana, trying to hide her shivering.
Alan began taking off his coat. “Alan, no,” said Siana, “I am alright really. You don’t need to…”
Alan wrapped the coat around her. Alan was very tall, so the coat that came to his thighs came up to her calves when she wore it. The wind froze the tip of her nose. Alan stood beside her.
“Alan,” she said, “Take it back. You will get cold.”
“I am fine,” he said.
“No, you are not,” she said and took his coat off. She handed it back to him. “Take it, please.”
“But you are cold,” he said.
“It’s alright,” she insisted, “Just a little further and we will be in the restaurant. I can bear it until then.”
“So can I,” said Alan, “It is not that far.”
So, he wasn’t going to back down. But I can’t steal his coat while he freezes over, thought Siana, miserably. She looked up at him. His cheeks and nose were flushed in the streetlight. His breath was coming out in smoky puffs. And he says he is fine.
“Alan, take my hand,” she said. “It will be warmer. And take your coat back, now.”
Alan hesitated before taking his coat back. Then he gingerly extended his hand, took the coat and draped it around him. He knew Siana was stubborn to her boots. She wouldn’t budge from here until he listened to her. He thought it would be better to get to the restaurant faster than stand here and squabble.
Alan took her outstretched hand, puller her close and slid it into his coat pocket. It felt warm and they were very close to each other.
“Feel better?” he asked.
Siana nodded. “It’s warm.”
Feeling better, they both walked to the restaurant, which wasn’t much far.
* * *
After returning home, Siana went straight to the bathroom to wash up. She got into the warm water filling the tb. The water felt very warm and soothing. A few drops of essential oil made the whole bathroom fragrant. She never wanted to get out of here. If only, she could just fall asleep like this.
She scrubbed herself and stayed in the warm water for a while till it warmed the tips of her toes. She reluctantly got out of the tun and work her pajamas. She opened the bathroom door and walked into the bedroom, drying her hair with a towel in hand.
“Alan, I’m done—”
Siana was stunned. The drawer was wide open, and Alan was standing in front of it flipping through a familiar book in his hands. She knew that book, she had hidden it herself. It was An Abstinent but Passionate Knight and Me.
The content of the book played out in her mind and she was mortified. She stood there, speechless. She didn’t know what she could say to make the situation seem other than what it was.
Alan, on the other hand, stood there, with his back to her, flipping so nonchalantly through the pages of the book. After a while, he turned around and looked at her. Siana nibbled at her lower lip anxiously.
“Is this yours?” he asked with a smirk.
“I, uh… yes,” she said, defeated. I am so screwed, she thought.
Alan lifted the book, so the cover faced her. “And here I was wondering what was happening to you for the past few days,” he said, “So, it’s all because of this?”
‘I, uh…,” Siana struggled to find a reply. But she was unable to sound coherent.
Alan turned around and put the book back in the drawer and closed it. “You don’t have to hide something like this, Sia,” he said.
“I can explain—,” said Siana, “What?”
“You don’t have to hide your hobbies or anything that you like to do,” he said, “At least not from me. If you want to read it, it’s alright. Go ahead. I am not going to judge you for it.”
“It’s not exactly a hobby,” said Siana.
“Oh?” said Alan with an eyebrow raised.
“I bought it to do some study,” she said.
“Hm,” he said, “Study?”
Siana hesitated. “I am always exhausted after we do it and fall asleep first,” she stammered and took the plunge.
“That is true,” he said.
“I find it hard to keep up,” she continued, “It’s difficult for me so I thought maybe I could make you a little tired and…”
She trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. She couldn’t tell him when she was even ashamed to think of it. She tried to scrape the dredges of her mind to come up with something that would sound a little less vulgar.
“I am sorry, Sia,” he said.
“What? Why?” she asked.
“I didn’t know you were having a hard time,” he said, “I got greedy. I should have been more considerate of you. I am sorry.”
“No!” she said, “It’s not your fault. Stop apologizing. I didn’t say anything too so how would you know anything about it? I like being with you, I enjoy it.”
Alan pulled her close to him. She buried her face onto his chest. Alan’s head sank over her shoulders.
“Alan?” she said when he was quiet for a long time.
His breath on her neck tickled her. “I really…,” he said, “I don’t know how to make you feel better.”
Her cheeks burned. Her heart raced. She could feel his heartbeat through his shirt. It beat as fast as hers. “Do whatever you want,” she said.
“What?” he asked.
“I mean it, do whatever you want to do. But let’s take it slow, so it is a little less tiring,” she said, burying her face deeper onto his chest because she couldn’t bear to look up at him. But Alan released her and placed his hands on her shoulders, holding her at a distance and making her face him.