Ebony banged her fists hard against the bars of her cage producing an echo that ricocheted loudly around the room. “OY! Space Cadet!” She screamed. “I’m getting really sick and tired of trying to talk to you and getting no response! Are you really just going to sit there for the whole of your shift and ignore me?”
Tai San said nothing as she sat on the floor, in full Lotus position with her eyes closed, facing both the lit candle and Ebony.
“Look sweetheart,” Ebony softened her voice slightly. “it’s my bet that you are a very intelligent and interesting person. Can I not persuade you to engage in a conversation with me, like any normal human being?”
“Now is not the time for talking.” Tai San replied without moving.
“What do you mean, ‘now is not the time for talking’?” Ebony shouted, aggressively striking her hand against a jagged piece of metal on the bar which tore into her palm. “Now is exactly the time for talking, you stupid ignoramus.”
Tai San remained still.
“Oh come on.” Ebony shouted in frustration throwing her arms up in the air, sending blood splatters across the floor. “Talk to me! Look I know you’ve been told not to speak to me, but every single person who has taken a turn at guarding me so far has. That guy who thinks he’s a great fighter, Lex, he couldn’t wait to mouth off at me. Then the girl who managed to take over as leader from Lex without him realising, Amber, she lectured me. Then only a few minutes before you arrived, I was chatting to Lex’s stupid lapdog, Ryan. Although to be honest, I sort of wished he hadn’t spoken to me. He was so ridiculously easy to wind up I almost died of boredom!”
As the flame flickered gently in front of her, Tai San continued to sit in silence.
“So.” Ebony continued “What, may I ask, ARE you doing in that hippy drippy, snowflake brain of yours, anyway?”
Tai San opened her eyes slowly, and looked up at Ebony’s dominant stance and hostility. It didn’t phase her in the slightest. “It’s called meditating Ebony.” She replied calmly, “You ought to try it sometime.”
“Whatever!” Ebony dismissed, abruptly turning and walking away from the bars of the cage.
Tai San closed her eyes again slowly. Remaining still and composed she listened as Ebony strode and stamped aggressively around the small cage like a trapped animal, occasionally banging on the bars and shouting at her in frustration. As Tai San was used to meditating in silence for hours she was willing and able to wait until the time was right. After a short while she sensed Ebony’s aura becoming quieter and calmer, her words and pacing began to lessen and soften. Eventually Ebony lazily slid her back down the bars, sat on the floor and gave a very faint sigh.
Pleasantly surprised that the process hadn’t taken as long as she had imagined it would, Tai San slowly opened her eyes, smiled at the young woman, and stated soothingly,
“Now is the time for talking Ebony.”
~ ~ ~
Ryan sat silently in the gloom and stench, bored to tears listening to the rats squeaking. It should have been Lex’s turn to guard the sewer cap entrance, but as usual his best friend had given an excellent and convincing argument as to why he was too busy defending other areas of the mall to take his turn. He knew this probably meant right now, the new ‘head of security’ was tucked up in his bed, fast asleep, lovely and warm. Ryan felt guarding the sewers was an extremely important task and even though he was cross with Lex for persuading him to swap rota duties, he was incredibly proud that his friend had entrusted him with the job. Jack and Dal’s early warning alarm system had proved it’s worth by alerting everyone to Ebony’s entrance into the Mall but, as Lex had so kindly pointed out, the fact that she had managed to somehow escape from the cage and slip out of the Mall without setting off the alarm, meant she now knew exactly how to avoid all the tripwires, and she was certain to return with the Locos. He hoped with all his might that the Mall Rats’ defences would hold against the inevitable attack, but he wasn’t convinced. He felt strongly that when Ebony and the rest of the tribe finally arrived, there would be very little he or the rest of the Mall Rats could realistically do to stop them, but he would give them as good a fight as he possibly could.
As he waited for his shift to end he absent-mindedly closed his eyes and wondered about Ebony’s escape. Ever since that night he had been dying to ask Lex how he had ended up being locked inside the cage, minus both Ebony and his clothes, but had decided against asking as it was obvious Lex wanted everyone to forget the whole incident. To alleviate the boredom he counted the seconds between the rat squeaks which gradually lulled him to sleep. Upon hearing the tiniest of scraping noise of the sewer cover being removed he awoke suddenly. After fumbling in his pocket for the torch, he shone the beam of light up the ladder in the direction of the noise, just in time to catch a glimpse of a left shoe disappearing into the darkness outside. He’d have recognised the style anywhere; it belonged to Tai San. What possible reason would she have for sneaking out of the mall in the middle of the night? As she hadn’t replaced the cover, he was able to climb the ladder quickly and watch as she ran across the grass and around the corner of the building. Deciding to follow her, he kept his distance and hid in the shadows as she skilfully made her way across the city. On route she stopped occasionally, to look around and listen, as though to check she wasn’t being followed, but he made sure to keep himself well concealed. Eventually she reached a hole in the fence that surrounded the rail yard. ‘Why had Tai San come here?’ He wondered. ‘The rail yard is the Locos base. It’s one of the least safe areas in the whole of the city!’ Worried for Tai San’s safety, he decided to let her know he was there and stop her from going any further. But before he had even fully processed his thought, Tai San had already stepped through the fence and was jogging swiftly across the small open yard towards a group of dilapidated carriages. From his hiding place in the shadow of an old burned out car, Ryan watched and listened. In the silence he heard a very muted cough from inside the red carriage that stood alone to the left of the others. Tai San turned towards the sound, walked over, climbed the steps, and went inside.
Ryan looked around and seeing only two Locos in the distance at the very far end of the yard, quickly and quietly stepped through the fence, ran towards the red carriage and positioned himself near the doorway. He could hear whispered, mumbled voices coming from inside but couldn’t make out who was talking or what was being said. In the darkness, several feet away, he noticed a tiny ray of torchlight shining through a hole in the floor and striking the ground. Crouching underneath the carriage he moved closer to the hole and from this position the conversation became much clearer. He was shocked to hear Tai San and Ebony pleasantly greet each other.
Realising that the two women had obviously arranged to meet, the thought suddenly struck Ryan that Tai San could in fact be a secret Loco. Had she been spying for them all along from the moment she joined the Mall Rats? After all, she had never given anyone a good reason for being in the woods that day she helped Cloe back to the mall. What if welcoming her into the Mall Rats and including her in all of the meetings, where Zoot’s death and burial had been discussed openly, had given Tai San lots of valuable information to tell Ebony. What if Tai San had been playing a long game and was now providing her tribe with all the information they needed regarding the layout of the building and was about to betray each and every member of the Mall Rats. The Locos would know exactly how to attack and defeat them. And actually, where were all the Loco guards right now? Had he been tricked? Had he been lured away from defending the mall by ‘Tai San, The Loco’ while the rest of the tribe attacked the mall knowing the sewer entrance was currently unguarded? Unsure of whether to stay and find out what was going on between the two women, or head back to check whether the Locos were raiding the mall, he decided that as he was in a good position to hear the conversation clearly, he would stay and listen.
~ ~ ~
“Let me check that wound you got on your hand from banging on the bars of the cage.” Tai San stated holding out her hand towards Ebony.
“Let me have a look.”
Ebony held out her right hand, Tai San examined her hand, wrist and fingers.
“I told you the ointment would work!” Tai San stated, “It is definitely starting to look better. Are you still rubbing it into the cut twice a day?”
“Yes” Ebony rolled her eyes indignantly. “Even though it smells vile.”
“Unfortunately,” Tai San replied, turning Ebony’s hand over to check the other side, “due to the Locos, Demon Dogs and other various tribes fighting for leadership of the city, it’s not safe at the moment for anyone else to walk around outside, so I haven’t had the opportunity to travel to the woods to find any sweeter scented herbs. But the ointment will still work, even if you think it smells vile. It contains all the active ingredients you need.”
“A proper antiseptic cream would have been better” Ebony replied pulling her hand away from Tai San’s inspection.
“A ‘proper antiseptic cream’ is exactly what you have in your possession Ebony. Just because it doesn’t have a big pharmaceutical company name on it, doesn’t mean that is doesn’t contain the same ingredients. I just make mine from natural products rather than them being in a synthesised form. Anyway, enough about that,” she stated firmly, sitting down on the floor in a Burmese Posture. “while meditating earlier today, in preparation for my visit tonight, I came to the belief that you need to improve your aura and I feel that the only way to do this is for you to talk to me again and unburden yourself. I feel that by removing all the negativity from within your system, your aura will be far healthier. Observing you in the cage the other day, you clearly revealed strong evidence of anxiety. Therefore I came to the decision that the best place for you to start, would be by telling me the reason you have such a tremendous fear of being locked in small confined spaces?”
Ebony strode angrily across the carriage, turning and hissing her whispered reply back at Tai San. “Firstly, what on earth gave you the idea I was in any way scared of being in the cage? Because I can assure you I wasn’t! Secondly, what makes you think I want to get rid of any of the negative feelings out of my system? I’m extremely happy as I am. Love and hate! power and chaos! They are all one and the same wonderful experience. And thirdly, what the hell is a bloody Aura? and why would I want an improved one anyway?”.
“You and I both know how much better you felt after the last time we talked,” Tai San smiled calmly “so why don’t you just trust me and try talking again.”
“If I’d have known you were coming here to counsel me, rather than to just treat my hand, I’d have made sure my Loco’s guards captured and killed you, before you had the chance to annoy me to death!”
Tai San slowly closed her eyes and didn’t reply.
Ebony paced up and down the carriage for a while before eventually asking “How long are you going to sit there in silence?”
Tai San patiently waited.
“Tai San!” Ebony snapped. “Is this what you do all the time? All this sitting in silence stuff? Stop it! Right now! You did exactly the same thing at the mall, and it drives me up the wall!
The young woman gave no answer.
Listening carefully as Ebony stomped around back and forth inside the carriage, hissing “Bloody aura’s!” under her breath every now and then, Tai San focused her energy on picturing Ebony in a locked cage in her mind.
At that same moment Ebony shuddered as she remembered the feelings of terror she experienced that night in the mall. The memory caused panic to rise in her body. She thought she had done a great job of hiding her fear by converting it into anger, aggression, and hate. But obviously Tai San was no fool and had seen straight through her. Suddenly a flashback to a previous event abruptly snatched her breath away. She instinctively turned to examine Tai San’s face. If the young woman had heard her anxiety, she certainly hadn’t shown any reaction. Ebony took some slow deep breaths and as the panic slowly subsided, she wondered why on earth she hadn’t killed Tai San by now for irritating her. After pacing around angrily for a while and wishing that Tai San would stop with all this ridiculous hocus pocus nonsense, she began to feel calmer. She stood in the darkness of the far corner and sighed as she realised for the first time in her life, how much she did actually need someone to listen to her.
“Okay Tai San you win!” She said quietly.
“Ebony, this is not about me winning.” She replied “It’s about me trying to help you.”
Again the young woman sat silently, waiting.
“Its okay Ebony, You’re safe” Tai San stated softly without opening her eyes.
“There erm…was this thing that err… happened to me about six months ago…” Ebony took a deep breath. “Something that really scared me…”
“Well… erm… Zoot prepared this initiation test for me. It was to prove to him that I was worthy to become his woman and help him lead the Locos. It involved being locked in a shipping container. He told me I was to be kept inside until I begged him to let me out. It was a no win situation really, sort of like a modern day witch trial. If I begged, I knew after telling me how unworthy I was to be his woman, he would just kill me. If I didn’t beg, he would keep me locked inside, until I died!”
“And how long were you locked inside for?”
“I have no idea. About a month and a half? I guess his visits were roughly about every three days; they were never regular of course. He kept me in fear of him never showing up and leaving me to die. He always timed the intervals to be just long enough to keep me constantly at death’s door, due to lack of water, but just in time to allow me drink the bare minimum I needed to stay alive. He owned and controlled me and did whatever he wanted to do with me. There was this one point near the end when I weakened and became terrified that he would forget about me and never come back. I didn’t want to die in the container without him. That’s when I made the huge mistake of begging him to release me. Not because I was afraid of death you understand, but because I was scared that I would never see him again. He attacked me, yelling that I wasn’t worthy of being near him, that I disgusted him for begging and that he was leaving me and never coming back. But even after he left, as I lay close to death in that container, I knew he was wrong. I knew I was still good enough to be his woman and I was determined to prove it to him. For me to succeed I knew I had to stay alive and be ready for him if he ever returned. Thankfully, a few days later he reappeared and ordered me to beg again. This time I told him to go to hell, which he approved of and finally released me. It was Zoot who taught me to feel love and hate as exactly the same emotion.”
“It must have been awful for you Ebony.”
“And this is why I hate all that counselling sympathy shit Tai San. I’m not some sad, pathetic girl that had a bit of a crush on the bad boy. I knew what I was getting involved in from the beginning. He showed me the full force of power and chaos and taught me how to truly live and experience life – in all its excitement. I thought he was the most charismatic man I had ever met and genuinely loved him. I was ready and willing to die for him, but I was never willing to die without him. I just needed to be worthy of his love, hate and affection.”
Tai San sat quietly for a few seconds before replying, “I believe you did the right thing. You followed your heart and never denied it.” She breathed in slowly and deeply, holding it for a few seconds, before calmly breathing out. “Ebony?” She questioned softly, “when we last talked you told me that you’d had a disagreement with Zoot?”
“It was slightly more than a ‘disagreement’.” She sighed as she sat down on the floor facing Tai San. “It all started the day before he disappeared. In the afternoon I saw someone pass him a note. As he read it, his whole demeanour changed. His face became softer and he had such a tender smile on his face. I hadn’t seen him smile like that at all since he was ‘Martin’ and he was in love with Trudy. Even though I loved his power and chaos, as his woman, it would have been lovely to have occasionally enjoyed his tenderness. Don’t get me wrong Tai San. When I say that I would have enjoyed his tenderness occasionally, I do mean VERY occasionally. Constant tenderness is exceedingly dull! Annoyingly, he still had that smile on his face when we returned home. I was so angry and jealous, I accused him of seeing someone else, of planning to sneak off to be with her. He denied it of course, but his denial just filled me with hatred and disgust, I really wanted to hurt him. I’m a trained fighter, but so was Zoot and between us we could both give as good as we got. Our ‘disagreement’ escalated to the point where he dragged me across the floor by my hair and tried to strangle me. I only managed stop him by grabbing a heavy clay statue of Venus and smashing it across his shoulder. We both seriously damaged each other that night and as love and hate became one emotion, we enjoyed some extremely wild and passionate, violent, fun sex together. But when the sun rose, he just silently dressed and left me.” Ebony sighed softly before continuing “I do want to thank you for your honesty at the mall the other day, Tai San. I really did appreciate it. No one else would tell me that Zoot had died. Well Lex did eventually, but only after I’d goaded him. He thought he was hurting me by boasting to my face about killing Zoot. Little did he know that I’d already found out. But thanks to you I know that Zoot didn’t leave me because I wasn’t worthy enough to be his woman or because I disgusted him for not being hateful enough. I know had he been able to return, he would have come back to me eventually.”
Tai San raised her head and arms slowly towards the heavens.
“I feel a strong energy Ebony.”
Ebony rolled her eyes. “Here we go again!”
“Tomorrow you will receive a visitor. Someone from your past who you must trust to be honest with you. They will bring with them the final evidence. The evidence to close the door to your past and open the door to your future.”
“I’d trust you a lot more if you were to just came out with what you mean rather than speaking in spooky sounding riddles”
In an almost inaudible whisper Ryan nearly missed from his position outside, Ebony imparted,
“I do miss him a lot you know. I feel lost without him.”
Tai San lowered her arms and opened her eyes. “Often when people say they are lost it is because they have just stopped listening.”
“Oh gawd!” Ebony replied with sarcasm, “Please do tell me Tai San. What exactly have I stopped listening to?”
“Your heart. It was written that you should follow your path. Now is the time to find yours again. There are many different paths to choose from, but only you can choose which one to follow. You just need to listen very closely and you will remember your way.”
They sat silently together for a few minutes while Tai San gave Ebony time to consider and process the information she had just revealed to her.
“Now it is time for me to leave, otherwise my presence will be missed at the mall.” Tai San said, slowly rising to her feet and walking over to the door of the carriage. Turning back to Ebony she smiled and added, “Now don’t forget to continue rubbing the ointment I gave you into that cut twice a day, until it heals!”
Ebony replied with dominance, “You do realise, don’t you Tai San, that if I wanted you to stay here, I would only need to click my fingers and my guards would come running to capture you. I could keep you here as my slave forever.”
Tai San laughed confidently and stepped down onto the first rung of the ladder. “I do realise you could Ebony, but I also know that you won’t.”
~ ~ ~
From his hiding place, Ryan silently watched Tai San jump down from the lowest step and jog swiftly towards the hole in the fence. Once she was through, he crept out from under the carriage and proceeded to follow her at a distance.
As Tai San made her way back through the city towards the mall, she listened for the comforting sound of footsteps that followed. Ryan was by no means the most subtle of trackers and having heard him on her outward journey she had allowed him to follow her to the rail yard, making sure all the while to keep them both safe. She knew how to fight and protect herself but had felt safer having him around as her back up, just in case Ebony had made the move to keep her as a slave.
Without stopping or turning around she said in a friendly tone to the general night air around her, “Hi Ryan!”
Taken aback, from his hiding place behind a metal door, he stuttered.“Oh! er… hi Tai San!”
Turning around to face him she smiled.
Stepping out from the shadows and trying to act as if he just happened to be walking in the same area, at the same time he nervously added, “Fancy bumping into you around here!”
“Well fancy indeed,” she laughed. “Look, why don’t we walk back to the mall together. I’m sure it would be much nicer for you to walk with me rather than behind me?”
“Erm…I wasn’t following you as you went to the rail yard or anything Tai San,” he stammered and muttered as he walked towards her.
“It’s okay Ryan, I know you were just worried about me leaving the Mall at night and walking across the city on my own. You only wanted to protect me as I went to visit Ebony.”
Well I erm… I mean…”
“And I would like to thank you for your concern and for accompanying me and protecting me this evening. It was very kind of you, but I can assure you that I was never in any danger. I do know how to look after myself.”
“Oh…Yeah… that’s what I was doing… accompanying you and protecting you…Honestly Tai San it never crossed my mind that you might be a Loco spy or that you were giving away Mall Rat secrets to Ebony.”
Tai San replied gently. “I know it didn’t Ryan. But talking of both Ebony and secrets can I have your word that you’ll not share the conversation you’ve just overheard with anyone… including Lex.”
“Oh definitely Tai San.”
She stood on tiptoe and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. He gently touched the spot with his fingers.
“Thank you Ryan.”
She reached for his hand, held it in her own, squeezed it lightly and said “Come on, we ought to get back to the Mall before anyone misses us.”
~ ~ ~
Tai San noticed the change in Ryan’s behaviour towards her the very next morning. It began with him offering to make her breakfast. That same evening it was a gift of an extra bottle of clean drinking water from his ration. The next afternoon it was a bar of chocolate.
Over the next four or five days, Ryan’s feelings for Tai San became glaringly obvious to every single member of the Mall Rats. Lex teased and tormented his friend. Putting him down and telling him that no-one would fancy him, especially not someone as pretty as Tai San, and Zandra became jealous and upset due to her loss of attention from Ryan.
Meanwhile Salene advised Tai San to be straight and honest with Ryan if she wasn’t interested. Tai San informed Salene that she was quite capable of being honest about her own feelings and in return advised Selene that maybe she ought to be a bit more honest about her own feelings for Bray.
On the evening of the seventh day she discovered a small box, roughly gift-wrapped in red tissue paper and held together with a matching red silk ribbon. It was sitting on the top of the dressing table in her room. Inside the box she found a beautiful necklace containing rose quartz crystals and moonstones. She knew the necklace must have spoken very deeply to Ryan’s soul, even though he had probably thought no further than it being a pretty gift she might like. The fact that the necklace signified a message of ‘new beginnings of love’ was not lost on her. She smiled as she looked in the mirror and fastened it around her neck.
~ ~ ~
A few moments later, exactly one week to the hour after he had followed Tai San on her journey to visit Ebony, Ryan noticed Tai San silently slipping away from the group and heading towards the sewer door again.
He quickly excused himself from his conversation with Patsy and followed. As Tai San took her first step onto the ladder, he grabbed the sleeve of her coat. “You mustn’t go outside, It really isn’t safe.” he advised, “Not since Ebony become the new Locos leader a few days ago. She is even more powerful and dangerous now.”
“I have nothing to fear from Ebony.” She replied, gentle placing her hand on top of his.
“But Tai San,” He pleaded, “The fact that the only evidence she needed to persuade the Locos that Zoot had declared her the new leader, was to show them his Talisman, makes me nervous. To be honest I’m scared of what she is planning next.”
“As I said, I have nothing to fear from Ebony.” She stated calmly, “I trust that the talisman, which Bray returned to her, has told her which path she needs to follow.”
“Please Tai San,” he urged, “don’t go outside.”
“Ryan, please don’t worry about me. I’m not visiting Ebony tonight. But it is important that I go and pick some wild vegetables in the woods. I noticed today that both Patsy and Cloe have a few bruises which I believe is due to the lack of vitamin K in their diets.” She smiled at him. “Look, if you are so concerned for my safety, why don’t you come with me?”
Instinctively Ryan knew from the determined tone of her voice that with, or without him, there was absolutely nothing that would stop Tai San from going outside tonight. Realising he had no other choice but to go along with her to protect and look after her, he tutted, shook his head and with resignation waved his hand towards the top of the ladder for her to lead the way out into the night.
The pair quickly and carefully made their way to the edge of the city, trying to remain unseen and not attract the attention of any of the other tribes. The journey was uneventful. Everywhere was silent and everyone appeared to be asleep. Upon reaching the woods, Tai San led the way along a footpath until they came to a wrought iron bridge that spanned across the river. Once on the other side, instead of continuing on the worn track, she took the dry path of an old river bed that climbed steeply in rocky steps up the hillside. Nearing the top, Ryan saw the hill flattened into a plateau of dense woodland. In the darkness his attention was immediately drawn to some faint flickering lights through the trees to the left of them in the distance. Quickly grabbing Tai San’s coat sleeve he swiftly pulled her down to hide behind the last large rock at the top of the hill and placed a finger in front of his mouth to tell her to be silent. Slowly he looked over the top of the rock. Through the darkness couldn’t see or hear anyone but he was concerned that a tribe could be gathered for a secret meeting.
Confidently Tai San stood, looked over the rock at the lights, stepped onto the plateau, and instead of continuing along the stoney riverbed she took hold of Ryan’s hand and gently led him towards the lights. Getting nearer, the trees opened out into a small round coppice. Here, with no tree canopy to block out the full moon, it shone it’s white light softly on the ground. Around the outside edge of the clearing, on the ground lay a ring of different coloured glass candle holders. The flames from the tee-lights within them flickering and twisting in the warm night breeze.
As Tai San guided Ryan towards the centre of the circle, he noticed a woven picnic basket sat on top of a large chequered woollen rug. Tai San sat down on the rug, smiled, and patted a place next to her to encourage Ryan to join her. When he didn’t, she proceeded to open the basket in silence. Confused he nervously scanned around the area in case it was a trap but in his sweeping gaze he couldn’t avoid looking into the basket and at its wonderful contents.
“Oh my god there’s all sorts of food and drink in there.” Ryan whispered. “Come on Tai San, I think we should leave it alone, go and pick those vegetables you needed and get back to the safety of the Mall as quickly as possible. I really do think this is someone’s idea of a trap.”
“Calm down Ryan. Honestly it’s fine."
“But just look around you Tai San. Doesn’t it appear to you as if someone has planned for this place to look and feel romantic? I mean, someone is obviously planning on coming back and I don’t think we should hang around here waiting to find out who.”
“Ryan,” she says softly. “Come and sit down here with me and eat some of this food. I swear to you that we are safe. This is not a trap or an attack.”
As she unfastened the top button of her coat, he noticed the calm, soft, golden glitter sparkles of the moonstones around her neck before there were sudden bursts of light as the moonlight reflected off the crystals and sent rainbow colours scattering as they darted and danced everywhere on the ground and amongst the trees.
“Thank you for my necklace, Ryan, it’s very beautiful and it has a wonderful story to tell my heart of two people who are about to embark on a new journey of love together.” She smiled at him “And my heart is telling me that right now, the only two people that matter in the whole world, are us.”
“You… and… Me.” she clarified slowly to help him understand.
“Oh!” he replied as the look of realisation finally swept across his face. “You mean… Oh!… so… did you actually plan all of this Tai San? Coming into the wood to pick vegetables? Knowing I’d be worried about you and asking me to come with you? And this picnic?"
“Of course I planned it,” She laughed.
“Oh! Wow! Okay!”
“And Ebony has kindly provided everything we need to spend a few lovely hours together.” She answered. “As I said, I have nothing to fear from her.”
“Well erm…” he puffed out a large breath and finally sat down on the rug next to her. “it all looks really beautiful and very romantic. You did a great job!”
“I’m glad you like it Ryan.”
“Like it!” He said, his face relaxing and turning to examine the contents of the basket. “I love it! I mean… just look at all this food: cheese, eggs, cake, chocolate. There’s even a bottle of wine.” He grabbed a chunk of cheese in one hand and a slice of cake in the other and tasted each one in turn. Relishing the food he sighed, “Oh Tai San thank you. All this is really brilliant. You’re brilliant. I right love you.”
Suddenly realising that his declaration had come out before he’d had a chance to prevent it, he stopped eating, stared at her in silence with his mouth still slightly ajar and slowly placed his food down on the rug in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“There’s no need for you to be sorry. Love is good and natural. No-one should be ashamed of being in love with someone. I’m definitely not ashamed.”
She leaned over and gently kissed him on the lips.
“I love you too Ryan.”
~ ~ ~