Taeng stews in unease and confusion after Kiki says an awkward goodbye and exits the restaurant. The chemistry between Sunny and him has dissipated, leaving him with unpleasant residue in the form of Sunny’s frown and significant lack of chatter.
After swallowing a mouthful of the red liquid courage, Taeng asks, “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, something is definitely not right. And it has something to do with Kiki.”
“Would you like to talk about it? Because I’m confused right now.”
Sunny pushes her wine glass away and looks up at him. “You were quite the jerk with Kiki and I’m trying to reconcile that with the impression I have of you.”
“Jerk?” Taeng is more confused than before. “Why am I labelled as the jerk? What did I do to earn that insult?”
“Kiki said you threatened her several times when she wanted to break up with you.”
“Threatened her?” Taeng snorts. “I know I was angry but I didn’t threaten her. It is a totally false accusation.”
“She said you yelled at her. Threatened to throw her things out. Threatened to tell all her friends she’s a slut. And she said you were not a good boyfriend either.”
Taeng runs his fingers through his hair in disbelief. The lies! “I don’t know what Kiki has told all her friends but if you know her best friend, you can ask her. Isabelle will tell you the truth.”
Sunny shakes her head. “I don’t know her best friend. To be honest, I’m not close to Kiki either. But we meet up with other college mates every now and then and she was telling us about her horrible ex during our last gathering.”
“Why is she telling lies about me?” Taeng is beginning to be upset. He had treated Kiki so well. Why did she have to do this to him?”
“I don’t think she was out to slander you. She didn’t actually tell us your name or anything. She only referred to you as her nightmare ex.”
“Nightmare ex?” Taeng laughs through his nose. “She’s the nightmare ex. Well, I didn’t think she was one but now I do. Why was she even talking about me? Is it a thing to talk about the bad ex at your college reunions?”
“I don’t remember. Our gathering was months ago.”
“Months ago?” Taeng thinks fast. “When was it exactly?”
“Let me check my scheduler.” Sunny taps on her phone and a moment later she says, “We met back in February. That’s . . . five months ago . . .” Sunny looks up and their eyes meet as their minds click. “Shit. Your breakup happened just before you did our project.” Sunny’s eyes widen as the full picture dawns on her. “That’s . . . that’s four months ago.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise to Taeng. His relationship with Kiki had already soured during that time and he had known then, that she had her eyes on somebody else. Still, it hurts to know what she had done, months later.
“I’m so sorry, Taeng.”
“Why are you apologizing? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Sunny reaches across the table to hold his hand. “I’m sorry for doubting your character.”
Taeng shrugs. “You had reason to doubt me. But you didn’t jump to conclusions and believe Kiki right away.” He manages to smile. “You’ve just proven yourself to be a keeper.”
Sunny smiles and shakes her head. “All my life, I’ve been taught not to jump to conclusions. To always look both ways before crossing the road. It’s part of preparing me for my future as the CEO. I can’t take credit for that.”
“Humble and level-headed. You’re the woman of my dreams.”
“Taeng, stop it.” Sunny giggles, then grows solemn. “I know this isn’t the most ideal thing to talk about while on a date in a nice place like this, but would you like to tell me about Kiki?”
“Do you really want to know?” Taeng doesn’t revel in talking about the ugly side of people.
“It’s part of your past and your past is part of who you are. I want to know more about you and what you’ve gone through.”
“Alright. If you insist.” Taeng takes another sip of the vintage wine and inhales deeply before starting. “Kiki is a friend of a friend of a friend. We met at a party. I must have been charming that time because she was the one who came on to me. She . . . er . . .” Taeng clears his throat. “She was forward, if you know what I mean. And I was a happy guy. We got together very quickly. Everything happened pretty quickly, come to think of it. It’s Kiki’s style. I was at her beck and call, pretty much. But of course, I was happy to be there to pick her up. I was happy to take care of her. I mean, I was a guy in love, right? She loved parties too. So we went to party after party and I saw that she’s the kind who enjoys attracting attention to herself. She’s the kind who likes to be admired by men. I didn’t mind it too much. She didn’t really cross any lines after all. But slowly, over time, I noticed a change. She became grumpier. She would complain more. Ask for more. Demand for this and that. I mean, there’s only so much a guy can do. I did my best but she didn’t think it was enough. Her best friend must have felt sorry for me or something, because she told me Kiki had gotten to know a rich dude and was talking about him a lot more.”
Sunny holds both of his hands and rubs them.
“Anyway, to cut a long story short, it got to a point where I told her to choose and she chose to dump me. I hid at home for a week, buried myself deep in the project and only came out of my hole because Yoona talked me into going to her party where I got drunk and crashed into your car.”
“And I know what happened after that.”
Taeng smiles. “Something awesome.”
“You’re darn right about that.” Their smiles grow as they stare into each other’s eyes. Then, Sunny adds, “You know, Kiki is probably sweating over this right now.”
“Over the truth?”
Sunny nods. “She must be wondering if her lies will be exposed.”
Taeng shrugs. “I don’t really want to talk or think about her. She’s the undesirable past. Why talk about her when we can talk about you.”
“Me?” Sunny giggles. “What do you want to talk about?”
“I wanna talk about who you will be spending the night with.”
“Mmm . . . I will be spending the night with a charming man.”
“And who is this lucky man?”
“He’s not the tallest man but he stands tall nonetheless. And he’s not the most muscular guy out there but he makes me feel safe and warm when I’m in his arms.”
“Mmm, intriguing. Does such a wonderful guy exist? Tell me more.”
“Okay . . . mmm, he’s not the funniest person in the world but he’s knows exactly how to make me laugh.” Sunny’s eyes gleam and Taeng knows she’s up to something. “And he doesn’t have the biggest—” Sunny winks, “—you-know-what, but it’s more than enough to make me happy.”
“Oh really? Are you the expert on happy sizes? I had no idea that you’ve already tried this lucky man on for size.”
“I’m the expert so I can tell just by looking at it but if this lucky man were to play his cards right, I will be trying him on for size sometime tonight.”
Taeng’s grin is wider than ever when she says that. “I would like to meet this lucky guy to congratulate him and wish him luck.”
“I think this lucky man has already planned it all out. A romantic dinner at the place that brought them together. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has already reserved a room upstairs for the two of us.”
“Sunny the CEO. Ever so astute. This man is more than lucky to have you. But this man will also have to work much harder if he wants to give you surprises in future.”
“Yes, he does,” says Sunny and bursts into laughter.
Taeng joins her in laughing and his heart has never been fuller than in this moment. Truly, he had meant what he said when he told Sunny she’s a keeper. Sunny is the woman he wants to make his for the rest of their lives. Sunny is the woman for him. He just hopes that he will be the man for her too.
“Are you ready to head upstairs then?” he asks after they’ve both calmed down and wiped their tears of laughter.
Sunny beams at him and squeezes his hands. “I’ve been waiting patiently from the beginning. If you don’t take me to the room soon, I’ll just have to ravish you on this table.”
“Oh no, we can’t have you do that.” Taeng stands with a grin and pulls Sunny up with him. “Let’s go, no gentleman ever lets his woman wait for too long.”