V-day short story: White milk and red dress

“I love soya bean milk. Especially when they’re warm,” she exclaimed upon taking the first sip of the beverage she just bought. The white liquid – held in a transparent plastic container with a logo emblazoned outside – contrasted with the red flower dress she was wearing. A dimple flashed on her cheeks as the milk negotiated its way up the straw.

He thought it was a sweet and innocent moment, no matter how mundane it seemed to the people walking briskly to and from the interchange. The fact that they’ll look all touristy and that it would bring attention on her – something she didn’t like – stopped him from whipping out his camera phone.

“Do you want some?” she held out her drink toward him. There was the impish smile on her face again, with a faint hint of the white milk on her lips. Obviously she didn’t mind if they shared a drink.

He flashed the widest grin possible in response. He pulled the container towards him, positioned his head and sipped just enough to convince her that he was glad to have shared in her pleasure. The sweetness of the drink lingered in his mouth as it was flushed down. Yet, nothing was sweeter than being with her.

Glorious day, he thought.

She took the drink back and started to sip again. Unexpectedly he felt something brushed against his right hand. It was skin-on-skin. It caught him off-guard. It left his heart pounding faster than he would have liked.

Gamely, he returned the gesture with a firm grip, after catching her hand. She responded with a tellingly look on her face – still smiling – and her grip tightened.

Spring in his step when he would drag his feet.

A moment to savour.

A dream start.

***

He sat on the stone seat near the shop which sold her favourite drink. He observed the queue there. A woman wearing a tudung handed the casher coins from her purse before handing the drink to a little girl who clapped in delight. A man with a turban stood behind them – his arms folded – and facial hair barely concealing the smile on his face. Behind him, a lady decked in sharp suit and tight skirt – all black – rummaged through her bag, presumably looking for loose change to pay for her drink later. An old couple walked past the shop. It was a rare sight to have the both of them holding hands, especially in this part of the world. The lady said something and pointed to the board, which gave information on the prices and types of soya-based beverage on sale. The old man looked up, adjusted his thick-spectacles and examined the board for a few minutes. A shake of his head and a terse reply meant that he wasn’t in the mood for soya bean milk. They then walked away – he using his walking stick, she holding onto his arm for support.

Gently, he sipped the drink in his hands. The milk seeped into his mouth with its promise of warmth and sweetness. Yet, drinking it on his own was now a stark contrast from enjoying it with someone else. Somehow, it wasn’t as sweet. It wasn’t as memorable.

For the umpteenth time, he wished she was here, somewhere. Around. With that scene flashing over and over in his head – that impish smile, those dimples, the thinly disguised accidental brush of her hand against his, and the red dress, it was hard to forget. Something burned in him. The regret he held for being less self-conscious. He raged against himself.

He could and should have taken the photo. It would encapsulate everything about them – him and her – and the blossoming of a year of sweetness, of love, of smiles, of sunsets, of hugs, of kisses, of hopes, of dreams in his life. It could have been something he could remember her by, a memory he could keep forever of their short relationship…

A couple just joined the queue at the shop. He was wearing a royal blue polo-T-shirt with a logo of a man riding a horse and holding his mallet high. His hand was clasped around hers. She was decked in a flowing dress, red with white polka dots. Sitting smugly in her left arm was a bouquet of red roses. While they wait, the couple sneaked a kiss – a gentle peck on their lips.

The resulting scene was that of a curiously familiar impish smile on her face, complete with dimples; a sheepish grin on the guy’s face; and him turning his gaze away from the shop.

He didn’t need that. It was just too much to bear.

14 February. It might have been the worst of dates to conjure up memories and scars of her. Yet, he had to do it. If only it wasn’t the day when it all begin with that sip of milk and the brush from her hand…

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