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Week #21
Prophecy - Part 3

Looking for Part 1 and Part 2

Can I tell you one more story about her?

 

How she’s fairing after breaking the prophecy?

 

Well, it’s not exactly a happily ever after but then you weren’t expecting that either, were you? Its still a lonely existence surrounded by people and responsibilities. A little like before, when she followed the prophecy but less disappointing. Or maybe it is more disappointing because the happiness she was chasing she thought she had found until it slipped through her fingers without any warning. Yes, it happened rather abruptly though it felt gradual but it was just that she took a long time to come to terms with it.

What happened you ask? Let me begin from where I left off then, the kiss that still makes her weak in her knees. Yes, the one under the stars.

 

She stayed out with him that entire night watching the meteor shower. It was a magical night. She did get to ask him almost all her 300 questions and he answered as many as he could before falling asleep wrapped in her arms. She watched him while he slept trying to commit to memory every line and shadow of his face, every tendril of hair and the slow rhythm of his breath. She never closed her eyes. Even though she didn’t realize it then, I think she had an inkling that what she had that night was something precious that she didn’t want to miss a moment of.

 

When the early morning sun rays were peeking through the leaves she watched him wake up. His eyes were molten gold, reflecting the sun. His lazy smile as he recognized her made her heart melt. She wanted to repeat this routine every morning for the rest of her days. She knew she will always remember his words that morning.

 

“You didn’t sleep, did you?”

 

She had shaken her head and said, “I was too happy to sleep. I didn’t want to miss a thing.”

 

“Are you really happy?” He had asked with earnest eyes searching her face.

 

She had leaned over and kissed him before answering.

 

“Indescribably, completely irrationally, more than I’ve ever dreamt of being… happy”

The brightness of the smile that lit up his face could’ve put the rising sun to shame. She was dying to trace his lips, his jawline, the little spot on his cheek… she wanted to touch him everywhere… yet, it felt too forward now that he was awake.

 

But they didn’t get much time to enjoy that morning. The running footsteps had made a racket giving them ample warning. He had got out of the sleeping bag and walked over to meet those coming while she slid in a little further into her sleeping bag to conceal herself. It was his bodyguards. They were in an uproar because of something in the news. They hurried him to go back and he had no way to come say goodbye without giving away that they had spent the night together.

 

That was the last time she ever saw him. They hadn’t thought to exchanged contact information. He didn’t even know her name properly. she had thought they’d have time.

 

Next day she had left Amaya Lake, driven straight to the airport and flew back home. Since then, for the last few months, she’d followed his many adventures on social media but never heard back from him.

 

A part of her accepted it was probably just a vacation romance for him. Given who he is, she had realized he had options that most of the world couldn’t even comprehend and she certainly had no inkling about. So, she accepted she was lucky to have had 48 hours with him. As she saw it, the fact that 48 hours had meant so much more to her was her problem.

 

She dealt with it the best she knew by focusing on balancing her daily life between work and family. She put up a brave front, buried all the hopes and memories in a far corner and looked at them only when the world was asleep. Only the moon and the stars ever witnessed how much she missed him.

The car horn outside snapped me out of my writing. I hadn’t realized it was time to leave already. I gave myself a once-over in the hallway mirror to make sure the long, dark-silver cocktail dress looked fine and my makeup was intact. I still wasn’t sure what had come over me to get a backless dress. Last time I dressed up like this had been a Christmas party a few years back when I was still married. If the gala had been for anything other than supporting Ryan’s gallery, I would’ve backed out of it and stayed home, happy to be in PJs one more Friday night. But Ryan has been a good friend for a long time, especially as I struggled to find myself and it was my turn to be there for him.

“Be ready to sit-in with the other old women during the slow dances today” I reminded my reflection. The smile in the mirror didn’t quite reach the eyes but there was no self-pity or regret in there either. Satisfied I at least had enough good sense to know my path, I picked up the clutch and phone and walked out the door.

As the car sped to the Ivey hotel, my mind wandered to Oppa. It must be morning for him. wonder if he had a late night or an early morning today? Or is he sleeping in today? Wonder if he's working today. Wonder who he is hanging out with today…. He had gone silent on his social feeds over the last week and I didn’t have enough real world data to know how he was doing. But my imagination could render a hundred answers to each question. If I closed my eyes, I could see him waking up, the sun reflecting off his golden eyes as he opened them. I could see the side of his mouth lift up in a lop-sided smile, just happy to be alive. Invariably, I end up wondering, if he thinks of me at all… whether he might miss me or if I’m a long faded memory buried with all the other goodtime friends of the past. I quickly wipe the thoughts away before it can make me sad. I know it is better to get him out of my system now so I can maintain a cheerful face at the gala tonight.

The old Ivey hotel was perfect for the gala. The gallery had a silent auction of its season’s best art pieces set up in the Tryon room next to the grand ballroom where the music, food, drinks and the dance floor was set up. The black, white and gold decorations made it look like an old time movie set. The flower arrangements were white and gold, set in cut crystal vases on black clad tables. Most men were in tuxedos with the women in all the glitter and jewel tones one could imagine.

Ryan’s grin when he met me at the front of the ballroom said how happy he was with the turnout. Success of the gala will decide the success of the gallery in the coming years. This was the chance to develop a lasting patron list for him.

“Congrats Ryan. Looks like it’s off to a great start.” I beamed.

“Yes, yes… the turnout is like three times what I expected. There are a few big celebrities here too. I didn’t even know we had invited them but apparently April knows some hotshot in the publishing industry and word spread out. I’m so glad we hired April for the marketing campaign this year. If the auction goes well today, she’ll be worth every penny.” Ryan was almost incoherent in his nervousness.

“It’ll go fine Ryan. Take a deep breath. I'm here for moral support! Now where’s the coat check?”

“This way, let me walk you over and then I’ll show you the exhibition pieces. Most of them are for auction. I think you’ll like one set of paintings by Jana in particular, though they came from a private collector. Jana said he was very specific when he commissioned them. It’s not for sale but I really think you’ll love them.”

Ryan’s enthusiasm for the paintings were infectious but I still felt slightly self-conscious taking the coat off. Like I said, it’s been a long time since I wore a backless ball gown and went anywhere alone.

“Wow… you look amazing.” Ryan’s compliment helped.

“Thanks, that’s very kind of you. I kinda needed that.” I winked my appreciation.

 “Trust me, I’m not going to be the last to notice you in that dress tonight. Now before we get a line of men asking you for a dance, let me show you the art pieces.”

The Tryon room decorations were a muted version of the ballroom. Emphasis was on the paintings and sculptures artfully scattered around to create a meandering walking path. The behavioral economist in me observed the placement was better than grocery store impulse buying display set-ups.

“So, the path is kind of guided. If you follow the dots on the floor, you’ll find your way. The pieces Jana did is in S17 spot. If you want to make your way there, I’ll get you a drink and meet you in a few minutes. I’ve got to check on the music list and confirm a few loose ends.”

“No worries. I can find my way. You go ahead. I know you have a lot hanging on today.”

Tryon room only had a handful of people. Most everyone walked in twos whether they were a couple or just friends. But I had learned the art of being alone over the last year and once the exhibits grabbed my attention, it really didn’t matter what was happening around me. I was oblivious to all of it.

S17 space held three paintings. They were each of the night sky but clearly observed from three very different parts of the world because one had the aurora borealis glittering over a glacier, the second had the milky way over a desert and the third was a city skyline. The midnight blue background across all of them had a depth that made the mind want to dive deep but the jewel tones of the foreground beckoned you to dance and listen and wonder. It was simultaneously different and the same, like a single story with a thousand different meanings. But more than that, it felt familiar to me, like a faded memory just beyond your grasp. Memories of the night spent with Oppa came crashing in for a moment before I could tamp them down.

Lost in the paintings, I automatically took the glass that was handed to me. It was filled with a bright red/orange cocktail with a green and red garnish, I didn’t pay attention to. A distant part of my brain assumed Ryan must’ve returned with the promised drink.

“This is gorgeous Ryan. I feel like I can walk into the picture and I’ll be in a different part of the world gazing at the night sky. You were right. I love them so much I wish I could buy them and gaze at them every night. The funny thing is, the paintings seem so familiar somehow. Like I know what they are trying to say, but I’ve somehow forgotten it…” I said before taking a sip of the drink.

The taste made me freeze. It was a phoenix, the cocktail. I didn’t recall ever telling Ryan about the drink before. It’s not really a widely known cocktail either. “Ryan, who made this…?” I didn’t get to quite finish the question as I turned around.

It wasn’t Ryan standing next to me.

“You know the paintings has another meaning, right? And yes, that is a Phoenix. I made sure the bartender used the exact amounts of each ingredient so it would come out just the way you described it.”

“Huh?” I didn’t know what else to say. How he could be standing here in front of me was impossible to comprehend for my muddled mind.

“Right, so this collection of paintings are named 'Talking to the Moon', like the song. See this little silhouette in each painting? The person in each is talking to the same night sky. If you pay attention you’ll notice the star pattern is the same in all of them, though the angle is based on the actual location and date. Do you still listen to it? You said it was one of your favorite songs last year… you said if you ever fell in love again you would be one of those people that are mad enough to talk to the moon hoping your love will talk back through it.”

“Huh…” Of course, I remembered the song. Of course, I thought of it every night the moon was out. Of course, I was the idiot that still told the moon to look after him.

But that deep baritone voice, that lopsided smile, those golden eyes… I had never expected to see them in real life again. I had reconciled myself to be happy to watch them on the screen. I wasn’t sure if I accepted he’s standing in front of me again, my knees won’t buckle and my sanity won’t desert me. Because in this lifetime, getting to meet him twice didn’t seem possible. Getting to meet him once was a dream in itself.

“It’s good to see you again. You look lovely in that dress.”

“Hmmm… thank you… you look very nice too, as always.” A part of me wanted to run away but the other part was holding on to the moment with all the life I had.

“How have you been in the last year?”

“Good… good… you?... well, actually I know you’ve been well. I’ve followed your work”

“Oh… yeah, it’s been fine.” But before he could finish, a young woman rushed over and interrupted in a breathless voice.

“Excuse me… can I please get an autograph?... And a photo if I can?” Her flushed cheeks and high pitched voice spoke more than her words.

“Certainly.” He signed the napkin she had and one of his bodyguards stepped forward to take the photo.

He spoke to the bodyguard softly once the fan left. The way a couple of others moved close to create a perimeter, I assumed no other fans would be interrupting us for a while.

“You must’ve thought I lived under a rock when I didn’t recognize you last time.” I couldn’t hide my smile watching the back of the retreating fan.

“I did wonder if you had a TV” his crooked smile tugged my heart just like before. “But it was nice to meet someone who didn’t have me in a box already and gave me a chance to be the real me for a little bit at least.”

“I suppose that’s why you never told me your name when we first met.”

“You figured it out in less than 48 hours though... But yes, that’s why I didn’t tell you and because of that I couldn’t ask for your name. Not knowing your name, I couldn’t find you last year.”

“You were looking?”

“Yes, but I didn’t have much to go by, did I?... why didn’t you reach out?”

“How? I joined your fan club, I followed you on all the social media platforms… but none of that gave me a way to reach you.”

“You could’ve contacted the agency.”

“And said what exactly?... Hello, this is the woman who got to spend a night stargazing with Oppa, can you please ask him to call me… given why you were whisked away that morning, I figured it wouldn’t have been the best of messages, you know…”

“Right, that morning… I’ve never wanted to redo a moment in my life more than that one. I’ve kicked myself for not coming back to say goodbye and explain why I had to leave. I’m sorry about the way it ended.”

“It’s ok. I was upset at first but then once I saw the news I kinda got that the normal rules of my life didn’t really work in your world. I left Amaya Lake and the country the next day anyway.”

“I know. I called the hotel soon as we were back home and settled the rumors. But the hotel had no record of where you were anymore.”

“Oh… you called the hotel?” A part of me was screaming to run to his arms and ask him to hold me one more time. The lost look in his eyes as he nodded was enough to melt my defenses once again. “But I thought you had moved on…”

“Hello” The loud, familiar voice from where the bodyguards stood snapped me out of my thoughts. It was Ryan trying to break through the perimeter the guards had set. He had two flutes of champagne in his hands.

“Oh… that’s Ryan. Can you ask them to let him through?”

“Ryan, the curator?” It was almost comical to hear a trace of uncertainty in Oppa’s normally confident voice as he waved at the guards. I stepped forward to do the introductions soon as Ryan was within hearing distance.

“This is Ryan. It’s his gallery hosting the gala and the silent auction today… Ryan, this is…” But I never got to finish the sentence.

“Oh I know who this is. Jana introduced us when we were coordinating the exhibits. Thank you for letting us show the Moon collection. They are really intriguing. Jana mentioned there’s a 4th one but that you don’t lend it out.”

“Yeah, there is a 4th one. It’s a little personal and I like to keep it where I am.”

“Well, I’m a big fan of all of Jana’s work so if you ever decide to show it, I’d love the opportunity to have it in our gallery. The three I’ve seen are some of the best work she’s done… they have this tiny bit of intrigue that just make you want to stare at them forever.”

“Of course. She’s a very talented artist.”

“I was bringing drinks but I see you have one already.” Ryan turned to me indicating the glass in the hand.

“Yes, I got a cocktail. I was actually about to walk back to the ballroom. Perhaps you two can catch up?” I was trying to run away again.

But before Ryan caught up to my plea Oppa spoke up.

“Actually, I was about to do the same. Perhaps I can walk you there?” Oppa offered his left arm. Iwondered if he remembered my preference.

As I wrapped my fingers around his forearm, I knew I was going to suffer when I have to let it go once again. But for the moment it felt like every single cell in my body was singing in happiness. Unbidden, I remembered how I dreamt of dancing in his arms and wondering if I could make him lose control. Today might be the day to find out.

I didn’t get to hold on very long though. One of the bodyguards stepped forward what felt like nano seconds after my fingers had gone around his arm. The bodyguards this time were different from those I recalled from the trip. They all seem to be westerners with crew cuts and immaculate black suits this time. Fitting the image of a bodyguard they were beefy, wall like fellows, though none were quite as tall as Oppa. Even while the alarm bells tolled, my mind still found it comical that they couldn’t find people tall enough to guard him.

“Sir, we have strict instructions about how you need to enter the ballroom. Mr. Kim mentioned Press is expected and you are to appear with your co-star for the upcoming movie.”

“How do you know she’s not my co-star?” Oppa asked indicating me with his head. I didn’t realize being an actor meant bluffing at a drop of a hat so easily.

“Mr. Kim emailed a complete dossier including photos, sir.” The apologetic smile the bodyguard offered me actually made me feel sorry for him.

“It’s alright. You go ahead.” I tried smiling as I slowly untangled my fingers. I was right. The few seconds I got to touch him only made letting go that much harder. Biting the inside of my cheek to stem the pain, I continued smiling as I turned away. I could feel the tiny pinpricks of tears forming at the edges of my eyes.

Ryan finally caught up. He quickly offered his arm before I stumbled as my vision blurred. Shielding me with his body he said a polite excuse and escorted me out. At the ladies room door I stopped and told him I’ll see him shortly. I needed a moment to pull myself together. The night was just beginning and I couldn’t run away without supporting the gallery. Last thing I saw before entering the ladies room was Oppa staring at me across the floor. Though surrounded by the bodyguards he still looked all alone. In that moment it took all the discipline I had practiced over the years to fight the desire to run back to him and instead enter the ladies room.

Even after spending 15 mins in the ladies room I couldn’t quite muster up the courage to face Oppa again. Instead, I walked back to S17 and stared at the paintings. My rational mind wanted to grasp the meaning of the paintings and the irrational part of my mind wanted to hold on to him and his memories of us.

Jana found me there another 20 mins later. I didn’t realize Jana was going to make a personal appearance today. Ryan must be ecstatic.

“Aren’t they some of my best work?”

“They really are Jana. I was just telling someone it feels like I could just walk in and touch the sky.” I wholeheartedly agreed. “I love how you got the star patterns perfect. Did you realize you can tell the exact date from them?”

“Oh… I didn’t know that. The client gave me rather exact directions about the star patterns, angles and placement. He was very specific about all 4 paintings.” Jana spoke, lost in the paintings herself.

“Really? What do you mean exact?”

“Well, each of the 4 had to be from an exact place. Like this city scape long and lat is from Seoul. The shadows of the buildings are an exact match. Then I got a star map that specified where each star and the moon was to appear.”

“Oh… interesting. Did the client say why it needed to be that precise?”

“Not exactly… it was something to do with his bucket list, I think.”

“Ahhh… that makes sense.” I muttered.

“Does it?” Jana looked at me quizzically. “Do you know him then?”

“No… no, not very well.” I realized I had slipped. I hadn’t told anyone else about the bucket list we made that night under the stars. Could the paintings be from the places we put at the top of the list to visit? There was an easy way to confirm. “Is the Seoul location the North Seoul tower by chance?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Oh, just guessing. I’ve seen pictures of the city from there and they seem to match your painting. You did a fantastic job capturing the view, Jana.” The compliment distracted Jana from questioning me further. I quickly took photos of each painting and walked back to the ballroom with Jana.

I knew the message he had hidden in the paintings. They had the exact dates he will visit each of the places we had put at the top of our bucket list. The song was just the beginning. The ending was an invitation.

The ballroom was abuzz with activity. The black clad waiters weaving among the guests with food and drinks could’ve been a picture from almost any time in the last century. Not even the light fixtures gave away a clue to the time period. A gown here and there might have, but if I squint my eyes a little it all took a dreamy quality and I could imagine I was in a 1940s ballroom where everyone was trying to have one last dance before the war came home.

That lasted only until the Press caught my eye. There were at least a dozen cameramen surrounded by a couple of support staff each. They were all set up in one corner near the entrance with a bright spotlight flooding the area. A couple stood and posed for pictures there while a throng of people were milling around it.

I found my way to a table near the other end of the ballroom. It was dimly lit and facing the dance floor with a clear view of the photo stage on the other end. Once settled, I searched the room but still couldn’t see Oppa. But Ryan had been right. The number of major and minor celebrities was surprising, given we weren’t exactly in L.A. or NY. It was surreal to watch them because their glittery world was so far from my normal day to day. When the band started to play ‘Beautiful People’, I thought that was a bit too ironic, however. I suppose there might be a small contingency of folks among these beautiful people that wanted to be normal. But the vast majority just seemed to be counting their blessing to be part of the in-crowd.

Given the crowd inside, the commotion at the entrance took everyone by surprise. It was clearly the sound of high-pitched squealing of overly excited teenagers. No one prior to this had garnered that welcome, which meant whoever was coming had a special place even among this group of ‘beautiful people.’ Later on, I realized I should’ve expected it to be Oppa. In his arms was the beautiful Thalia, Hollywood’s latest sweetheart. I instantly recalled the recent gossip about them dating. It must’ve stemmed from them working together. It seemed no matter who worked with Oppa there was always enough chatter about him finally falling in love. As they stepped on to the photo stage the loud clicking of cameras only added to the screaming teenage voices.

I knew I should be jealous of Thalia. She was young, beautiful, talented and was in the arms of the one man I seem incapable of letting go. That didn’t make me jealous though. Mostly because he wasn’t looking at her the way he had looked at me earlier. He hadn’t left secret messages for her in paintings. At least none I knew of… But I was still sad. Because our worlds were so far apart. They were both part of that Beautiful People in-crowd. The world condoned them as a couple. His manager and his bodyguards would never question him hanging out with her… the ground where I couldn’t step, she had permission to dance… I still wasn’t jealous. Only sad.

For the next half hour I sat in my corner and watched the fanfare Oppa and Thalia received. After the photos they sat at a table filled with celebrities and even danced to a few slow songs. I remember how he had told me that dancing didn’t come easy to him. I had promised him that one day I’ll show him the secret to having a good time when dancing, how it had nothing to do with skill. People watching him dance today wouldn’t easily guess he was uncomfortable. He is a good actor, after all.

The night was coming to a close and my heart had had enough. When Ryan came over I decided I could perhaps bow out gracefully.

“Ryan, the gala is a great hit. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about patrons ever again.”

“It is, isn’t it? You should see what the silent auction brought. I think we are good for operating costs for the next 5 years at least. Maybe more if we are a little strict.”

“Well, I’m very glad. I know how long you’ve dreamt of leaving your own mark in the art world. Now you are set to go. Congrats!! It’s good to see all the hard work paying off…”

“Thanks… yeah, I’m glad it all turned out well… but, are you ok?”

“Yes… yes, I’m fine. I just needed a moment. That’s all.”

“I had no idea you knew Oppa. You know I wouldn’t have accepted his paintings if I knew they would upset you?”

“Don’t be silly. They were Jana’s best work I’ve seen. I’m so glad I got to see them… Please don’t apologize for any of it and I barely know Oppa anyway. I just got a little carried away. That’s all.”

“Really? You got carried away? I don’t think I’ve ever known you to get carried away before. You were the most rational person even when you were married. That was one of the reasons you stayed in that marriage as long as you did… after all that, you are saying you got carried away?”

“Yes, even the boring, rational me got carried away Ryan. Have you seen the guy? Do you not see how even Thalia is making moon eyes at him? You think I’m immune to that?”

“Right… I have to agree. He’s something else. Might even turn me gay at this point.” Ryan was always good for a laugh. “Since neither of us can have him, how about you give me one dance? We have to show off that dress, you know!”

I didn’t know how to decline the offered hand without hurting Ryan’s feelings. Plus, I knew he was just trying to get me to have a little fun before calling it quits. The band was setting up for a waltz when we stepped on to the dance floor. From the periphery I could see Thalia asking Oppa to dance as well. The next moment they were standing next to us. Since the band was still prepping it seemed only courteous to speak. Oppa was the first to do so.

“Thalia, have you met Ryan? He’s the Curator and owner of the Gallery that’s doing the gala.”

“Oh.. I haven’t. It’s very nice to meet you Ryan. It’s a wonderful event. Thank you for inviting us.”

“Of course. I’m glad you could make it. We’ll be front page news thanks to you two.”

“Did you know that Ryan is particularly good at the Waltz Thalia? He’d be a much better partner for you if his dance partner doesn’t mind having me for this dance?” Oppa’s eyes were pleading when he looked at me. I would’ve given him the world if he had asked then.

“Absolutely… I get to dance with Ryan all the time… of course…”

Just like that Ryan and Oppa swapped places as the band started playing the first lines of the waltz. His left hand took mine while his right went around my waist, making me shiver. The backless dress one less barrier. Involuntarily I stepped a little closer to him as I reached to put my left hand on his shoulder. Standing inside the circle of his arms it felt like I had finally come home again.

“So, do you know the steps for the waltz? Last time you said you didn’t”

“I know the steps. I learned them as you requested but I still have two left feet…” His lopsided smirk still made my heart skip like a kid. “I do recall you said you know a secret to make dancing fun though.”

“Did I? I don’t really remember that… but if you know the steps then let your feet do their thing and I’ll follow you… in the meantime, I do have something to tell you…”

“Hmm?... what?” He was still distracted and it was obvious he was trying to watch where he stepped.

“I figured out the messages in the paintings.”

“You did?” He was no longer distracted by the steps. His feet, left to their own devices, was following what it had obviously practiced flawlessly as long as his mind wasn’t trying to actively control them.

“Yes… they are our top 3 bucket list places we planned to visit, aren’t they? One is Namsan tower in Seoul, which Jana confirmed by the way. Second is Vik harbor in Iceland and third is Cerro Paranal in Chile... Aren’t they?”

“Hmmm…” His eyes had locked into mine. I wondered if the couples next to us might also hear my heart beating. It was louder than a war drum in my ears.

“I know there’s more…”

“Yeah?...” I remembered how much I loved the way his eyes twinkled when he was enjoying himself.

“The paintings have the dates you plan to visit each place… written with stars…”

“I knew if there was anyone who would figure it out, it would be you.”

“Yeah… I’m nerdy like that…”

“Yes, the nerdiest I’ve ever met.”

“I shall take that as a high compliment… thank you.”

“It is a compliment… I wouldn’t have really fallen for anything less”

“You’ve fallen?” I felt light headed and the heart beat I had thought loud earlier was a roar in my ears. It felt like all the blood in my body was rushing to my head, trying to help the brain decipher what Oppa had just said. I could physically feel the pressure build up. For a moment it felt like every atom in my body might be pulling in a different direction.

“Is that a surprise to you?” His tone was impatient.

“Do you know what quantum disequilibrium means?”

“What?... we’ve already established you are the nerdiest I know.”

“Yes, but I wanted you to understand my state of mind… see… I’m having trouble getting my mind back into a steady state. It’s kind of chaos in there and I can’t get myself focused to think straight. I need a moment... or ten.”

“O…K… Not quite what I thought you would say but then you never respond the way every other woman does to anything I say.”

Thankfully the music came to an end. I felt slightly dizzy and Oppa held on when he realized I was physically unstable. We were near my table but it still felt one step too far.

“You might have to help me to my seat. I don’t know I can quite make it on my own.”

Draping my arm around his forearm he walked me to the chair. Once I sat down, he took the chair next to me and poured a glass of water, which he then brought to my lips to sip.

“I have the last painting in my room. I’ve been carrying it around for the last few months hoping I’d find you. Can I bring it over tonight after the gala?” He asked softly.

“You have it here?”

“Yes, it has the first destination I’ll be at. I’m hoping you’ll meet me there.”

“But our top three places are the ones in the other paintings…”

“You’ll understand when you see it.”

“OK… Where do you want to show it to me? Is it in your room?”

“It is. But my entire entourage will be there. I was wondering if I can maybe drive you home tonight and give it to you then.”

“You want to drive here?... Do you have a car here?... Do you really know how to drive?... I mean, don’t people drive you around all the time?”

“You are hilarious… yes, I do know how to drive and yes, I have a rental here.”

“Ok. You can drive me home.” For a moment it felt like I was in high school again. I couldn’t help giggling.

“What?... what are you laughing about?”

“Nothing… I’ll tell you later. Look, Thalia is coming over. She doesn’t look happy. Where do I meet you?”

“I’m going to call it a night and leave shortly. Give me 10 mins after I leave and I’ll meet you near the valet desk outside. It’s a black GT.”

“Seriously? You can have any car and you chose a GT?”

“You know what they say… when in Rome…” With that he rose as Thalia and Ryan reached us.

“I thought you said you don’t know the Waltz. So, how come you danced perfectly?” Thalia was in a foul mood. She obviously felt cheated.

“I didn’t say I don’t know the Waltz. I said I’m not very good at it.” Oppa spoke patiently.

“Well, it looked like you were more than very good. You two looked perfect, gliding around the floor. You two had that look of a couple that’s grown old together. You know, like the ones in the movies that know each other so well you compensate for the others missteps and it all looks flawless… You and I should’ve projected that image Oppa. It would’ve been good for the movie, you know.”

“I’m sure the movie will be just fine Thalia. Stop stressing over little things. I need to head out now too. I leave tomorrow, so have a lot to get done tonight.”

With that Oppa nodded a thank you to Ryan and gently guided Thalia back to their table. I watched him excuse himself and walk out of the ballroom in the next few minutes. His wall of bodyguards followed him. For a moment, I wondered if the bodyguards might be coming over that night too. But the GT was a two-seater. So, maybe not…

“What are you smiling about?” Ryan’s words brought me back to earth.

“Nothing… Nothing really. I was just thinking its time for me to call it a night too.”

“Are you sure you are ready to step off cloud 9 just yet?”

“Oh… very funny…”

“I’m just looking out to make sure you don’t go splat on your face at my gala. I thought when the music stopped you’d let him go, but noooo… he had to practically carry you to your seat.”

“What are you going on an on about? He just gave me his arm.”

“You should’ve heard Thalia bitching and moaning about it.”

“Oh… how was she to dance with?”

“Terrible. She wanted to lead the whole time so we kept tripping over each other’s feet… and you know the Waltz is my thing. But honestly, she’s just got the hots for Oppa. So, nothing I did was going to make any difference anyway.”

“I’m sorry. He was kinda nervous about the waltz. I think that’s why he swapped.”

“Sure… that was obviously the reason.” Ryan’s eye roll was so classic I could stop laughing either.

“All right, I still gotta go. Thank you for inviting me to the gala Ryan. I’m so glad things went well and I’m really proud of you.” I stood up and gave a quick one arm hug to Ryan.

“Thanks for always being there for me. I’m glad you had a good time today too.” Ryan walked to the coat check with me and helped me into my coat. “I knew that dress had a purpose.” His mumbling made me smile. Maybe there’s still a purpose for it left. The night was still young. But I wasn’t about to share that thought with Ryan. “Shall I call a cab or have you already?”

“I’m all set Ryan. You go back to your guests. You still have a good number of them left.” I gave a peck on his cheek before waving goodnight.

The black GT was parked a few feet in front of the valet stand. I opened the door and looked inside to make sure its Oppa. He was in a black hoodie and black pants. His face was barely visible in the moonlight.

“Going incognito today?”

 

“Yes, it’s a secret rendezvous madam. Please get in so we can get away unnoticed.”

The roaring engine was a bit on the nose however. “Next time, maybe choose an electric vehicle as your get away car. American muscle cars are not really that inconspicuous.”

“Sure, I’ll get a Model S next time. No one will notice that.”

“Actually, these days there are more Model S here in the city than pretty much any other car. So, you’ll be fine.”

“Are you going to give me directions or keep on criticizing my vehicle choices?”

“You are doing fine. You have two more lights and then turn left on to Morehead. Then we go straight to Park and 4 miles later take a right. I’ll tell you when we are there.”

Rest of the drive went without incident. Until we were getting down in front of my place it hadn’t occurred to me to be nervous. Oppa reached into the back and took out a wrapped package, which I assumed was the last painting, while I walked over to the door and unlocked it.

“Would you like to come in?”

“If that’s ok with you?” His eyes searched mine.

I reached out and took his left hand. I remember telling him once his left was mine. He might not remember it anymore. But I’ve always favored his left side. It was my side.

Once inside the house I turned to lock the door without letting his hand go. I could hear him put the painting down before I turned around.

“Do you have enough time for a coffee before your bodyguards miss you?” I asked as I turned to face him again.

“No one’s expecting me till tomorrow morning. I told them I found a dark sky spot I plan to camp out tonight.”

 

He closed the gap between us, slowly pinning me to the door. He took both my hands and interlaced his fingers with mine. But he stopped with his head centimeters away from mine.

 

I could feel his breath and almost hear his racing heart. I wanted him to close that tiny gap but he had stopped with a question in his eyes.

 

“May I?”

 

He was asking for permission to kiss. I recalled that I never asked permission before kissing him last time.

 

This time wasn’t going to be much different. I simply moved my head to close the gap and kiss him.

It finally felt like I was safely home.

Read Part 4 of the Prophecy now

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