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Janice Wu

She and I were listening to a mellifluous French Ballad performed by an orchestra in Le café François chic, the elegant and elaborate French restaurant. I adjusted the lapels of my suit and glimpsed at the jet-black night sprinkled with luminous stars. As I gazed into her tender blue-green eyes, she looked at me and said,

"Tell me the story again."

I took a slow sip of my exotic, milky cremàs. I've told her this story many times, and I never tire to reiterate. She's listened to this tale numerous times, yet she yearns to hear it periodically. Mind-blowing. What am I thinking, he chided myself, there is no way she is going to forgive me after all I did. Driving past the fifth gas station a bakery, he pondered how the pungent smell of gas caused the aroma of bread even more enticing. He sailed past a jewelry shop and his high school. Whatever happened to senior year being the best year of your high school occupation?

The beginning of his senior year was turning out to be a huge disappointment. Upon getting his license, he has already committed manslaughter, but it's not what you probably assumed. For some reason, his mom needed batteries in the middle of the night, and she compelled him to go to the store and pick some up for her. Little did he know that getting batteries would cause both emotional turmoil and gratifications. On his way coming back, Scott came out of nowhere, running on the streets. In hope that the car would stop, he slammed on the brakes frantically. Instead of moving, Scott just stared at him gawking and gaping. Immediately, he was dead.

Ever since that night, guilt hangs over me everyday. A month after that, I barely ate and hid in my room. My theory about life was that if I the world can't see me, then I couldn't do any damage. At that point in time, it seemed rational to me. In anticipation that all the pain and guiltiness would magically disappear, I went to physiatrists and attended psychological help sessions. I even talked to Scott's mother who assured me that it wasn't my fault. After starting to make mental progress, Scott's sister, Azia, reversed the small spark of hope and progress people were saying I was making.

As he looks at the perfectly picturesque house with intact, forest green paint and white trims, flawlessly trimmed bushes, and well-maintained flowers, he winced. Before the accident, the external appearance of the house has been unsightly, and he knew exactly why it was so spick and span. Azia and her brother, Scott, were very close. Prior to the accident, all her spare time was spent with him. Now that he was gone, she tried to busy herself so she wouldn't notice the absence of Scott. As a result, she picked up on gardening and outside house care. He sighed- at least she has a nice house now. The acute chirp of a bird slammed him back to reality, and he realized he was gawking through the windshield of his car.

At this point, my hands were all clammy and sweaty. I made a beeline for the door disregarding my wobbly knees. I needed to apologize, or at least attempt, because I knew I would never be at peace until our relationship was rectified. I rang the doorbell, and she answered in a matter of seconds.

"What do you want?" she said dryly.

His body temperature ascended ten degrees, and the scorching sun wasn't aiding. "I came to apologize, Azia." Raising her eyebrows, she folded her arms rigidly across her chest. Suddenly at a loss for words, everything he planned and rehearsed to say was flung out of the window.

"I-I-I'm sorry." He managed to eject. He found himself being stared down with piercing, intense eyes, and she snorted out a laugh.

"So that's it? You came here to say that? Well, it looks like you completed your mission, Torrance. Now goodbye." With her frosty eyes still glaring at him, she groped for the knob of the door and began to shut it.

"No-wait!" he implored, stopping the door with my foot. He took a deep breath and practiced yoga breathing, "Listen to me, please, I-"

She cut him off curtly. "No- you listen. You know what you did Torrance? You killed my brother. Do you fathom the significance in that? You murdered my brother. He was my best friend, my closest companion, and he was gone instantaneously. Do you know why? It was your reckless driving. You-"

"Azia, you knew it was an accident." he interrupted, throwing his hands up in the air.

She was unfazed. "He was a gem, a sizzling, passionate gem amid the dull rocks that compile this earth. You have no idea what loss means, do you? Have you ever lost somebody that you were so connected to, you could divulge your deepest secrets with him, knowing that he will help you no matter what? That he would do anything for you, even though it meant hefty self-sacrifice?" Knowing she had a point, he looked down at his shoes and was taken aback by her cold-heartedness. Her words were like bricks spewing into his gut.

"You just don't get it, do you? Go away, Torrance, and leave me alone." With that she slammed the door in his face.

Wishing this was just a dream and that he would wake up in the comfort of his bed, he shut his eyes. Heaving a sigh and stifling a curse, he sat down on the steps of the porch and buried his face in his hands. Why did this happen? What did I have to kill him? Why me? I thought you looked out for people, God. I've never done anything profoundly severe, so what I don't fathom is why you permit this to happen to me? Is there even a God?

"Torrance?" He whipped around and saw Mrs. Rez, Azia's mother, giving him a maternal look. He nodded his head slightly.

"I thought that was you. I'm sorry Azia's still holding a grudge against you. Detestation never gets anyone anywhere."

He shrugged as if he hadn't a care in the world. "I don't blame her. I probably would, too." She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him. For quite a while, they just sat there in silence. A smile started to play across her lips, and extended into a full grin. Who can find humor in a situation like this? Slapping her forehead she chuckled, "I should have thought of this a long time ago- stupid me! There is something you can do for Azia. You see there's a sapphire ring buried in the backyard that Scott gave Azia a while ago. She cherished it like it was the most valuable thing in the world, believing it held supernatural powers. Since she was terrified of loosing it, she and Scott buried it in the backyard. They agreed that it would only be used for important things, like a good grade on finals or wishing for the guy or girl they wanted to take them to the senior prom." Crestfallen, she fidgeted with the hem of her skirt uncomfortably. Nearly above a murmur she whispered, "I guess they never made it."

A new surge of onus coursed through his veins, and he felt like they were going to explode. "I'm sorry. I know it was because of me." A new thought unbolted in his brain, "What if I find it for her?" At that moment I knew precisely what I had to do. Though Mrs. Rez was incredulous at first, I persuaded her to allow me to try to find the gem for Azia. She was talking about how exquisite and precious the sapphire was, but I wasn't listening. All I could think about was coming back tomorrow morning, fresh and rested to find that ring.

The next morning was full of strenuous, grueling labor that exhausted my body unduly. Only about two hours in, I was so earnestly fatigued, I thought I could shrivel and die. Mrs. Rez offered me a several glasses of her homemade lemonade, which I guzzled most of the cups by the afternoon.

In the corner of his eye, Torrance saw a girl walk by, looking at him bewilderingly as if he was a lunatic. She saw him practically shred the Rez' backyard. He didn't pay heed to her until he realized that she was right beside him, helping him tunnel through the ground to find that ring. Somehow she knew what she was looking for, although no words were exchanged. They dug a good deal, and he thought their nails were permanently tainted with dirty soil. He was beginning to think that this was some kind of sick hoax. Nonetheless they diligently worked until dark, the ring was never found. With their shovels put away, they started to take separate routes home. They turned away, and he rebuked himself for not thanking the girl.

At least she tried to help the attempt for the long lost ring. Who would stay out with an unfamiliar person until night and dig up somebody's yard? He turned around and quickly uttered, "Thanks." Taken aback, she twisted around and lifted her hanging head. What dazzling jewel-like eyes and lovely features she possessed! Her hair was pulled in a messy bun, and her clothes were saturated in dirt, but she looked beautiful. For a moment, they just ogled at each other. Her lips curved upward into a genuine smile and gazed at him, "You're welcome."

A week later, he decided to go to the bookstore and try his luck at self-help books written by supposedly professional physiatrists. Trying to catch an appealing title, he thumbed hastily though the books. "How To Get Over Your Sorrow By Tomorrow" and "The Onus Extinguisher" certainly attracted his eye, but it wasn't anything he would be caught dead buying. This is totally lame, he thought. Okay, it's official- I surrender. What a pinhead I am to believe that a book would liberate me from all the guilt that has been accumulating within me. Suddenly he felt an urge to scurry about of that dumb bookstore, and just accept the fact that he was going to be miserable forever. Rounding the corner on his way home, he inadvertently collided with a pedestrian and knocked all the papers out of her hand.

"I'm sorry, Miss." Torrance said, crouching to pick up her papers. Her arm grazed over his, and he glanced up. Still looking down she stated a polite,

"That's fine."

Realizing that it was the girl who helped him dig, his heart dropped along with his mouth. She was even more striking in the broad daylight. This time she was clad in a jade- green top with a frilly, pearl-white skirt. Her pat-shoulder length brown hair was as smooth and shiny as silk. He noticed that he was gaping and forced himself to snap out of his stupor. Thankfully, she was too busy picking up her documents to notice he was gawking.

In a low undertone, she heard him say, "Hey." She looked up and nearly gasped. Even in tattered jeans and a gray T-shirt that accentuated his eyes, he looked seriously handsome. She took a peek at his short, blondish hair before realizing how his slightly disheveled yet totally captivating look spiked up her heartbeat. With neither one of them averting his eyes, they stood. She took a while to admire his drop-dead gorgeous profile. There was a glint in his mesmerizing eyes that intrigued her.

"So what are you doing here?" she asked breaking the silence. She saw a cloud of uncertainty pass through his eyes before they were averted. He shifted his weight to the other foot. Before he could verbalize anything, she lightly seized his arm and guided him back to the bookstore. "I think I know why you're here."

She dove straight into the back of the bookstore and released his arm. He missed the warmth of her hand. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but you were in that section." She pointed to the line of self-help books, and he nodded obviously embarrassed.

"Well," she said pushing a tress behind her hair,

"You were in the wrong part of the bookstore. Your answer is here." His eyes widened as they traveled around Bible division of the bookstore shelves lined with various translations of the Bible in every language possible. There were also inspirational stories and endless books of volumes of Bible stories or parables and miracles. She reached with an NIV version of the Bible.

"This is just what you need. This NIV version of the Bible is much easier to understand than the King James Version. It even has a daily devotion system for a year. See, it has references that you can look up each day, and then it has a summary. It even has lines for you to write your thoughts on what you read. At the very end, there are pages for prayer requests. Here's the column for the date of the request, the request, and the date it is answered. You can actually see God's hand actively working in your life! It's a good book."

"What does NIV stand for?"

"New International Version"

"Um, so this will help me?"

"Yes of course. As a matter of fact, I use this book everyday.

I got it a couple months ago, and I have learned more about the Bible than I ever had.

"Well, what if I still don't understand?"

"You can call me anytime you want, and you can even come to Church with me."

"Oh, but…" She could tell that he was stalling and not fully convinced that a book could change his life. After all, she hadn't explained the difference between the Bible and self-help books.

"How much do you have? You're getting this book," she said adamantly.

They went to a Chinese Bistro, sat down, and she started talking something about God's flawless blueprint on our life. He looked around and was surprised at how many Asian people were around them. He felt like a dimwit compared to these Asians. With squared shoulders and hair as black as coal, they sauntered around confidently. He tried to eavesdrop an elderly couple's conversation. It was so remarkable at how rapidly they spewed out their words. He read the bright orange calligraphy that advertised lo mien. Going to different exotic eateries and tasting new cuisines always ignited his interest.

He suddenly blurted out, "I know a girl named Azia and-" She head up a hand. "I know. I am a friend of hers."

Uh-oh. He thought. I wonder what bad things that she has been telling her. he fidgeted with a pair of wooden chopsticks.


"You should apologize again, Torrance." Wow, he was surprised that she knew his name. He was even more surprised when she said that he should apologize again. He almost laughed out loud, "And get my head bitten off again?" She ignored his rude comment and stated evenly, "She has a soccer game tomorrow. Doesn't she go to your school? Scratching the back of his neck, he nodded timidly.

"Go to her soccer game and come early." She smiled. "Besides third time's a charm." He stared at her incredulously.

"I think you should go, Torrance. We have one life to live. Do you want to come out the other end knowing that there was more you can do, but you didn't do it because you were too stubborn? God has a plan for all of us." Here we go once more, he said to himself.

"As I've been telling you, he has a blueprint for our lives. Accidents are incidents in God's eyes. They have a reason. Because He knows what is going on, nothing surprises God. Nothing has ever surprised God and nothing will ever surprise Him." She paused and then said with a curious twinkle in her eyes, "She could be the love of your life, and the two of you could get married."

Internally, he scoffed at the idea. He knew that would never happen. Me getting married to Azia Rez, he pondered, enchantress of all cruelty- yeah right. He looked up, and she mysteriously vanished like a puff of smoke.

A puff of wind blew though the air somewhat ameliorating his fried nerves. He closed his eyes, inhaled the scent of freshly cut grass, and exhaled though his mouth. His eyes flickered opened, revealing a #18 blue-orange soccer uniform. Her hair was pulled in a high ponytail, eliciting her sharp, angular jaw. He started to make a pathway for her toward the benches. Bending at the waist, she was stretching out her legs, her nose almost touching her knees. That gave him a little more time to rehearse his lines over and over in his head. Keeping his eyes fixated on her, he weaved in and out of the throng, and by now she was stretching out her arm. She caught sight of him. Given that she looked so skittish, he thought she was going to run away. Instead, she was blatantly staring at him as uneasy as Torrance was staring at him. He took a wary step toward her, as she struggled to stand her ground.

"Azia." He said in a low voice.

"Torrance." she stated nonchalantly, licking her lips and switching arms.

"Will you speak to me?"

There was a prolonged pause of stony silence, and he was about to turn to leave. "What do you have to say?" she inquired, plopping down on the bench and placing her hands primly in her lap. He kneeled athwart from her and placed an arm on top of her knee for support, and her posture stiffened like a board.

"Please forgive me, Azia. Can we put the past behind us?" he asked taking a gentle hold on her hands.

"There's nothing I can do to change the yore. Anyway I would like a fresh start, because I want to get things between us right." Her features softened and he told himself to keep talking.

"Just knowing that I've caused you so much pain leaves me feeling like the scum of the earth. It's a sick feeling, one that I wake up everyday with wishing that I could get rid of it. But I can't, Azia, not until we're reconciled." He concluded, laying his head gingerly on top of their enlaced hands. He closed his eyes, praying that would find it in her heart to exonerate him.

Gazing into his pained eyes she contemplated on what she should do now. She knew he meant every word and that he was truly sorry. Why couldn't she just let it go? Just when he thought that she was going to accept his apology, she tore away from him. He thought he had her.

"Good grief! Didn't I tell you to leave me alone? I don't need your apologies, Torrance, and I don't need you. Why can't you fathom that I don't want to be friends with you? Haven't you caused enough damage?" She was shocked by the bitterness in her own voice. Unexpectedly, she started to spin around.

His eyes popped open. "Azia!" he ejaculated, grabbing her arm. She batted his hand away and scurried shakily to the field to warm up for her game. His stomach contracted feeling like someone had stabbed him in the heart with a knife, twisting it in all the wrong directions.

What was I thinking? He was sorry. And what did I do? I turned him down, blowing him off probably forever. Why did I do that? I am seriously beginning to feel like I should have forgiven him. I am so cruel. Why did I do that?

In her heart she knew that the whole ordeal was just an accident. Torrance was one of the most generous and caring guy she's ever met. He was so persistent, coming back a third time to ask of her forgiveness. She was seriously beginning to have second thoughts. A ball smacked her in the head, slamming her back to reality.

She heard a whistle blow. "Rez! Get your head in the game!" the coach yelled. She didn't look too happy. Both her hands were on her hips, and she was wearing a scowl on her face. Azia turned around, ready to accept his apology, but he was nowhere to be seen. Her chance was lost. Her heard another whistle blow, this time more piercing than the last. She tried to focus on doing a good throw-in, but throwing up was harder to suppress. Torrance told Roxanne all about the incident and how he got shot-down by Azia. He was whining and complaining to Roxanne, but she would hear none of it.

"And we know that all thing work together for good to them that love God. End of discussion." She declared. He was still dubious, and he began to attend Church with her. His real reason going to Church was to see Roxanne. He soon realized that she wasn't remotely interested, and he started to restrain his feelings for her. Nevertheless, they became the best of friends, even attending college together with a close friend of theirs named Kaden Smith. The three were inseparable, but when Kaden died in the early years of college, which left the two of them in despair. They drew even closer together though the death of Kaden.

I looked up at her, and forced a smile. "That was the hardest time of my life, and I am so glad you were right there with me to help me thought it. When Kaden died, I was furious at the world. Just when things were going well for me, Kaden was gone. Though I refused to listen to you, you persisted and talked me out of my misery. Do you remember what you said?" She tapped at the buttons of my suit soothingly, looked up at the crystal chandeliers of the French restaurant, and then looked me directly in the eye.

"Cease from anger and forsake wrath. A soft answer turneth away wrath; grievous words stir up anger. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."

"Yes, Roxanne, that's exactly what you said. I wept with you, and you brought much comfort to me. Roxanne, you brought me to Jesus Christ. I have given my life to God, and I have been truly blessed ever since. On the day of Kaden's death, I was saved spiritually. Without you I wouldn't have the assurance of being in Heaven with you one day. You were so right. Everything is in God's plan. Looking at your eyes now, I can say that without doubt."

"Torrance, we have been through so much together these seven years. From the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you were something special. I tell you, it was God speaking to me. Who knew digging up some dirt with you could cause me so much happiness?" I chuckled softly, but I took her hand and squeezed it lightly, urging her to keep going.

"God brought us together, Torrance. It was all in His plan, and I could never be happier. I thank Him for all He has given me. I thank Him for you. You're such a blessing in my life. I mean that will all my heart. I can't envision myself sailing though life without you by my side. The summer I was gone, I thought about you every night. There wasn't a day I couldn't help but missing you. Though all the tears of sadness and joy, we've made it. Even if I talk for hours, there would be no way for me to express n words how strongly I feel about you. I love you with every piece of my heart."

"Roxanne, my sweet Roxanne. You're the love of my life, and you will continue to be. You're living proof of an angel. I'm sure of it. You remind me of an opal." Her eyebrows furrowed. "An opal? You mean the gems with all those different colors?"

"Yes," I smiled, "An opal of sundry colors. You're a person with different traits. Let's see, there's benevolence, love, generosity, dedication, honesty, perseverance, -" She threw her head back in laughter, "Okay I get it."

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' My treasure is you. You're a trinket box filled with precious gems." She raised her brows," Torrance! You're quoting scripture!" With a smirk he declared, "Don't seem so shocked. I did read that NIV Bible, you know." She giggled kicking him softly in the ankle under the table, "So it had some use, eh?"

"Absolutely. Isn't it weird how a that petty ring of Azia brought us together?" Smiling warmly, she opened her mouth to protest, but I cut her off.

"I think it's replay time," I silently added, trying to keep the nervousness out of my tone. Her brows creased and once again she opened her mouth to ask what on earth I was saying, but I cut her off. I took a swift glance around the French restaurant, found the director of the orchestra. I gave him a quick nod, and our song began to play. Without missing a beat, I kneeled on one knee and reached in my pocket and pulled out a little sapphire-colored box. With shaking hands, I opened it, exposing a lustrous diamond ring. I could see a tear slip down her cheek and immediately regretted what hasn't been done yet.

I pushed the thought away and slowly recited my devised poem, for I wanted every word to sink in. I help her hand.

"You have taught me that all things are in God's plan-that He has it mapped out perfectly. And if it be in God's Will, my dear Roxanne-Will you give me your hand and marry me?" More tears gushed out of her eyes, and I leaned over to get a napkin. Then by mistake, I knocked over the cremàs. Great-perfect timing, I thought. I bent over to pick up the cup, the drink now drenching the pricey carpet, but she wouldn't let go of my hand. Puzzled I looked at her. She held my gaze for a moment and exclaimed a big, fat


People clapped for us, though I was too busy kissing her to care. Even the manager of the restaurant, who didn't look too happy about the spilt beverage, expressed his glee for us. She pulled away from me with droopy eyelids. "All in God's plan." She repeated.

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