Novel No. 1 – Chapter 5: Avocado or Cherry?

When someone texts ‘Lunch?’, you’d think that someone would still be somewhere far away. It would take the next thirty minutes or so, till you both meet.

This usually happens on an average day, under normal circumstances with an average person.

But, Hugh knows otherwise.

This isn’t an average day after what happened a week ago. The circumstance is definitely not normal; and Aaron is not your average guy.

Hugh’s phone vibrated at 11am. He opened the text, sprung from his seat and shot out of his office to Priscilla’s. The plan was to push the unexpected visitor to Priscilla and escape.

But, his lame excuse crashed and burned against a lunch date with Tom. It’s like pre-serum Captain America versus the Incredible Hulk – even he couldn’t be convinced that the former would win.

And frankly, who would want to miss a lunch date with the hottest creature on earth? Hugh wouldn’t – not to mention Tom’s fiancé.

Hugh admitted defeated before Priscilla could say the next word, and rushed back to his office with a renewed goal – teleport the hell out of the building in the next minute.

11.03 am

Hugh grabbed his wallet and keys. He had no plans at all. But, it didn’t matter. Knowing Aaron, he is probably turning into the car park. Hugh needed to get out. Fast.

11.08 am.

The lift tinkled and the doors opened to two rows of car hoods and silence. Keeping his entire body, head to toe, hidden, except for his covered forehead and terrified eyes, he scanned the limited view like a mouse. Once his black mini is in radar, he took one final glance left and right, and took one large step…

And froze.

A familiar silhouette was leaning against the front door of the passenger seat. His eyes widened. He clasped his mouth and stooped for cover, hoping that his body is completely concealed by the car hoods.

Squeezing his eyes to cover a scream in his mind, he quietly U-turned and duck walked back to the lift. Lucky for him, the door hadn’t closed.

He tapped the button furiously and the lift door swished open again. He quickly thanked the Lord and waddled in. He flattened his body against the side metal wall and tapped lightly on the closing button. As the doors slid towards each other, his eyes watched hopefully…

BAM!

The sight of four human fingers shook his intestines. Another BAM! Four more fingers appeared. The doors were forced aside and he walked in. One look at the sickeningly handsome face and heat flooded Hugh’s cheeks again. He cursed silently. This is going to be hell.

“Hugh!” Aaron beamed at him. “I tried to call you!” He removed the phone from his ear.

“Oh?” A squeak. Hugh squeezed his eyes again. His insides are crumbling. This is truly hell. The last thing he wanted was to squeak like a mouse in front of this… this…

“Sashimi.”

What? He blinked at the green frog blocking his view. It disappeared and Aaron’s smiling face came crammed his view again. He forgot to breathe.

“You haven’t had lunch, right?” Aaron leaned close.

Hugh held his breath and wanted to slide away when Aaron reached out for the button to level five, and then he relaxed for a split second.

When Aaron turned around, his instincts skyrocketed again. But it was again unnecessary as Aaron only smiled. “Is Priscilla upstairs?”

Hugh blinked at the unexpectedly casual question. Priscilla? Before he could answer, a waving palm blocked his view. Hugh pushed it away, slightly annoyed, and replied. “She’s probably out soon.” He didn’t care how he sounded. He needed to get out of this lift. It is suffocating.

Aaron rounded his mouth and nodded. He moved to the centre of the lift, chuckling. “Well, then I’ll pass her share to Cherry.”

“Cherry?” Hugh asked before he could stop himself. Then mentally slapped himself left, right and center.

Aaron already turned to him, grinning as if he read Hugh’s thoughts. But he just explained, “Yeah. I have two sets here.”

“Then, what about you?” Aaron raised a brow, and Hugh winced again. He can’t seem to control his responses. While busy hiding his face from Aaron and mentally scolding his reflexes, he didn’t catch Aaron grinning softly at the top of his ash-grey head.

Aaron immediately kept his grin and returned to the lift door. “I had lunch with Leslie after my shift. The Jap place was really good so I thought to buy some as lunch for you both.” He yawned.

Hugh looked up at Aaron, then the numbers lighting up and then going out. Aunty Lim did complain about Aaron’s seventy-two hour shift days ago. He swept a glance at Aaron and then back to the lift door. There seemed to be a shade of grey under Aaron’s eyes.

The lift tinkle and the door opened. Aaron moved aside and waved a palm towards the exit. “After you.”

Hugh, with both arms hugging his bag tightly across his chest, cautiously stepped past him and into the cool breeze. His shoes sunk into the soft carpet once more, and he continued towards the receptionist.

The receptionist’s face lit up at the sight of them.  

“Hugh!” She purred, a hand to her mouth. “Oh my god, I thought what had happened to make you dashed out like that.”

Hugh cleared his throat lightly, “I did not – dash.” He murmured. “There’s nothing.” He thought he heard a familiar chuckle from behind and reached for his hair, raking it into place.

Aaron moved around him and placed a packet on the ledge. “Here you go, Cherry.”

The forty-year-old woman shrieked in an unnecessary extreme delight and grabbed Aaron’s hands, tugging him towards her. “You’re so sweeeeet!” Her chin almost touching her collarbone, she sang, “And soooooo handsome.” Hugh watched her thumbs rubbing Aaron’s wrist.

“I’m always sweet to you.” Aaron laughed. Turning slightly, he noticed Hugh stoning and followed his gaze. He saw two thumbs caressing him in circles and instantly flashed a wider grin. He looked up again but Hugh had already looked away.  

“I know you always have the heart for me.” Cherry pulled Aaron closer.

“Ah-hem.”

Cherry straightened slightly and turned to the tiny voice behind the young doctor. “Oh! Hugh! Don’t worry, my heart is always with you.” She released Aaron’s hands and blew a kiss over. “Your red face is soooooo cute!” Her hands snapped close into beg and tucked under her chin.

Ignoring his hip-swaying receptionist, Hugh cleared his throat again. “Enjoy your lunch then, Cherry.” He turned towards the entrance, his eyes fixed on the ground. “I’ll be at my office.” He took a step forward and felt someone grabbed his wrist. He looked down at the long fingers circling his wrist and halted.

“Hey, wait.” Upon Aaron’s voice, Hugh lifted his chin to a white plastic bag almost kissing his lips. “Your lunch.”

After a few more blinks, Hugh carefully reached out a hand. Aaron quickly dropped it on his fair slender fingers and chirped. “Enjoy! I’m going home to catch some Zs.” Then came the familiar pat on his back but Hugh almost flinched at it.

“You’re going so soon?” Cherry’s at it again.

The lift tinkled one last time from behind and the doors swished open once more. He heard Aaron’s voice but still didn’t move. “Yeah. I’m beat. Seventy-two hours is no joke. Bye!”

Hugh ignored Cherry’s goodbye and finally turned around, just in time to see Aaron waving at him with a knowing grin before the door shuts out his face.

He dropped his gaze at the plastic bag as Cherry chatted in the background. “Such a sweet man.” A pause and then, “Oh! Sushi!”

Hugh smiled weakly. He didn’t have to open to see what is inside.

*************

Aaron smiled as he turned the steering wheel. The car swerved out of the shade into the bright daylight. He is still grinning.

In a span of ten minutes, Hugh showed him so many expressions. He hugged the steering wheel tight and squeezed his eyes. “Argh!” Hugh is going to be the death of him. He missed him already.

He had arrived in the car park ten minutes to eleven and saw Hugh’s black mini parked in the usual spot. Celebrating, he fished out his phone and dropped a quick text, thinking he would suavely walked into the office later after Hugh replies.

He decided not to call. Hugh would ‘be in the middle of a meeting’ or ‘on the way to meet a client’. So, sending a text is the best option.

But, Hugh didn’t reply even after he parked his car. So, he decided to wait by the black mini. He lifted the plastic bag of sushi to his eyes and grinned at it.

Having lunch with Hugh would be out of the question. Leslie is right – forcing his way through would be disastrous. He needs to take things slow. He needs to take his time and convince Hugh that he is the one for him.

He checked his phone once more. Still nothing. He exhaled strongly. Should he just go up? Hugh wouldn’t appreciate the surprise. He raised the plastic bag and frowned. But, he has no choice.

Then, from behind the plastic bag, he saw the crop of ash grey hair crouching low, moving towards the lift. His eyes widened first in surprise, then curved downwards in relief as he moved away from the black mini.

******************

Hugh stared at the neat roll of avocado wrapped rice, topped with shiny orange beads. He turned to its right and frowned at the sashimi resting invitingly at him. On the left is another box of maguro, carefully sliced and presented like a fan.

An inch of him was obviously delighted. Everything here is his favourite. He was actually craving for Japanese food this morning. He inhaled sharply, then released slowly. His stomach yearned for the taste and he hated its betrayal. He reached for the chopsticks when his phone vibrated again.

He picked it up and immediately caught the name of the sender. He remembered the unanswered text earlier and suddenly felt guilty. After a soft sigh and a smile, he opened it.

Eat well!

Sorry. Didn’t mean to surprise you like that.

Promise this is the last time.

Won’t do anything silly again.

He looked at the rows of ‘praying hands’ at the end and smiled again. This time showing his neat white teeth. Somehow he could picture Aaron pouting apologetically with both palms pressed together. His shoulders shook slightly. He shook his head, the corners of his mouth still lifted. He sighed again. It’s really hard to stay angry at this man.

He read the last sentence once more, then shifted the phone away to observe the avocado. As the smile weakened, he put down the phone. After inhaling and exhaling again, he reached for the chopsticks.

He popped one avocado wrap into his mouth and instantly felt inspired, and picked up his phone again.

As usual, you know my craving.

Thanks! See you back at home.

He paused. His eyes slowly widened at the two lines he had just written. He dropped the chopsticks and held the phone with both hands while chewing and thinking furiously. Then, he deleted everything and started again.

Thanks! I was craving for Jap food.

Will eat up all. See you later!

He knocked his forehead with the phone, squeezing his eyes, scolding his stupidity. Third time today! After inhaling and exhaling again, he straightened up with a renewed seriousness and focused all his energy on the screen. He removed the first sentence and paused again. Then he pursed his lips at the sashimi and returned to the screen and typed: Thanks.

Finally satisfied, he placed the phone on the table and reached for the chopsticks again.

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