It's currently 11:30 a.m. and I just got back from my breakfast rendezvous with Tiana. If I had to describe it, I would say it was unexpectingly and pleasantly surprising. Our surface conversation had somehow moved to a deep topic regarding her experience with love--well after I shared with her about Anna's persistent request to write about an original love story. I wish I had taken a picture of her face when I told her about Ariel's wild suggestion to try an open relationship--it was priceless.
A pair of slim, raven brows scrunched towards the center of her face, resulting with waves of creases to form across her mocha forehead. Her sensuously large, pink lips parted slightly, and her chocolate eyes expressed a hotpot of dumbstruck, detest, and astonishment.
After a minute of silence, her expression intact, she stated with thick New Orleans accent, "Is there water in that head of hers?"
The platinum blond snickered behind a pale hand. It was rude of her to laugh while she was chewing a piece of her deliciously, sweet beignet. Her lack of defense to Tiana's remark had almost resulted with Elsa choking; she deserved it.
"No, girl. I'm serious. Has Ariel been spending too much time under the sea?" she inquired before chewing a section of her beignet.
Elsa forced herself to swallow the piece before relapsing into another fit. "It's Hercules's fault."
The mahogany woman swallowed audibly. "Her uncle-cousin? … Really?" Tiana looked on to this new discovery with profound disbelief as she answered slowly. "I never thought Hercules would be that kind of guy…"
"He's not," Elsa answered. "He's more of an uncensored, walking Google engine."
"Oh… So you mean to say whatever Ariel asks, he'll answer honestly?"
The platinum blond nods before chewing another fragment.
"Well, I'll be…" Tiana folds her arms across her chest, a mischievous smirk forming on her lips. "Didn't think Mr. Steroids was that kind of guy."
"You should hear his encounters with Megara," Elsa adds after drinking a glass of orange juice. "There's not much content yet, but it's getting somewhere--or at least how Ariel bloviates it."
"Can I have an overview synopsis?"
"Innocent boy syndrome."
"Innocent boy syndrome?" the young chef echoed before taking another bite of her meal.
"How do you picture an innocent boy in love?" the pale woman inquired while jabbing a fork through the spongy loaf.
Tiana's lips pursed while a hand drops a fork to rest beneath her chin. "I'm not sure actually… I suppose they would have this look in their eyes when they look at the person they like."
"And how do they act?"
"Bingo," Elsa raised her impaled baked good in her direction before shoveling it in her mouth.
"Oh! It's like one of those innocent, angelic boys busts--what was it called?" she was snapping her hand as if it were a memory-triggering technique, "Precious Moments?"
"Yeah, I couldn't shake off that image of him taking form of one of those innocent looking creations. It's actually pretty cute--well to see Hercules act like one isn't a mile away."
"Hmm…" the mocha woman mused, "I'd love to see that someday… must be nice to be in love huh? After all, it's spring."
"Right," the pale woman agreed, "that's probably why Anna's been trying to get me to write a love story."
Tiana brought a hand over her lips and giggled briefly before continuing, "So back on topic, before we got all sidetracked with all these sub-topics, what's the story about?"
"To be honest, I'm not sure yet," Elsa sighed, dispiritedly. "I can't bring myself to write events if I don't experience it, firsthand. I'm after the realistic ambience to it, not melodramatized bs."
"I hear you," Tiana nodded, "I'm sick of those corny crap they show on movies. It gives me cavities."
The pale woman laughed, "I think your beignets are beating it to the punch."
"Honey," Tiana stated halfheartedly indifferent, " a taste of any sugar can win a man and a woman's affection faster than a love at first sight."
"Mhmm," Elsa agreed wholeheartedly, as she ate the final piece, "I'd like to put a ring on this."
"I'll get Belle to marry you off, and I'll be the witness." She raised her impaled loaf in the air as if it were a holy grail, and announced authoratively, "I grant you my blessings."
Elsa cackled, "I promise to return with sugary offsprings."
I forgot to mention that Tiana is the type to get sidetracked, but I don't mind it as much. She has a tendency to do that, however she never loses sight of what she wants (whether goal oriented or conversation wise). On a positive perspective, this is a good asset. Especially if someone were to interrupt a conversation, Tiana will remember where she left off. It's really fun to talk to her--rather it's refreshing. It is also because of this asset that our conversations are spontaneous, sometimes even arbitrary. She doesn't stray off for too long, and knows when to loop it back on topic. She knows what's important to look at (but sometimes it takes a while for her to see the whole picture).
Safe to say, we fell back on topic after she passed her blessings to me and my beignet fiancé (I promised her sugary offsprings). Well, her beignets are keeping me satisfied and happy…. (if only life were that simple).
"Oh, I almost forgot! You have your bachelors for English, right? Belle's been keeping tabs on everyone in our group. So, you're looking into creative writing?"
"It's more of a side hobby… After all, the field is limited. So being an English teacher is more of my priority."
"You did love your books back then," the chef reminisced nostalgically. "You were never one to not walk around with a book or two on you."
Elsa laughed half heartedly, "I suppose that's the roots of it."
"So tell me about that man you came here with. Is he part of your plan? Is he your sugar?" she asked, "Or some random date Ariel hooked you up with?"
"Far from my plan," Elsa shook her head hurriedly, "Actually, he's a regular at the Starbucks shop I work in. He comes every Wednesday afternoons for coffee at precisely five p.m."
"Sounds like he's more than just a regular," the mahogany woman perceived.
"I suppose. We have had small talks every now and again."
"And it somehow wound you up for dinner?"
Elsa's lips pursed when an epiphany struck her. "Actually, now that I think about it, that was the first time he showed up on a Friday afternoon."
"Wasn't it Global Love Day yesterday?"
Tiana fell back against her velvet chair, her arms folding across her chest and a proud grin on her lips. "He's obviously hinting his feelings to you."
"Does handing a red rose stolen from his friend's garden have anything to do with it as well?"
Tiana brought a hand over her lips and giggled. "He has it bad for you. How long has this interaction been going? Well besides the small talk, is there anything else?"
Elsa's eyes fell on her twining and untwining fingers. "Um… we only talked twice beside the usual, register-customer exchanges."
"Wow, he must really have a big impact on you for you to go out and see him--is it gonna go anywhere from here?"
The platinum blond shook her head before meeting her chocolate eyes. "To be honest, I don't know. What's been occupying my mind all day is figuring out how to write a romance genre," she sighed against her seat, "I want it to be real, but… I don't know the first step to writing it."
Slender, pale fingers dug themselves through a throng of platinum blond weaves. "I don't have any experiences to base it off of."
"Did you consider asking other's experiences of it?"
Truthfully, I have considered asking for my friends' experiences regarding relationships, but I feel like I am crossing a boundary that people would rather choose not to relive. Also, I feel like I don't have the right to…
I've always been the odd seed of the group for as long as I can remember. Sure, I talk to them every now and then, but I prefer to keep things to myself. Because of this, I feel like I've lost my right to understand them. When they opened up to me, I decided to turn a blind eye on them.
It just surprises me that Tiana is willing to open up to a stranger like me.
"I can't possibly do such a thing," the young barista shook her head.
"I don't think it'd be right for me to dig up a past they'd want to forget."
"I'm sure most wouldn't mind for a good cause." Tiana brought a hand to reach for one of her pale hands resting on the table. "Elsa, you're a talented writer. I've read your narrative and essays hanging in our English classroom's brag board a number of times. And if my experience will help you on this project of yours, then I'd be honored."
Elsa gripped her mocha hands and gently squeezed them. "Are you sure about this?"
Tiana smiled melancholy, her thumbs smoothing the back surface of her pale hands, "Ya know my Mama once told me that the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
The platinum smiled patiently, with evident small grooves etched across her flawless forehead, and squeezed their clasped hands encouragingly.
"That he did..." her gentle, southern accent whispered. Her chocolate eyes fell down on their hands with fixed intensity. "It was my third year in high school, three months before Thanksgiving week, when I decided to participate in a community culinary event taking place back in New Orleans. I decided to participate in exchanging recipes, when he first contacted. He says his name was Hubert. And everything after that fell into place. From appetizer to entrees to desserts, we shared so many common interest." She paused to catch her breath and forced a heart wrenching smile when she met her sapphire eyes. She looked as if she would cry any second. "He was the bee's knees... To me at least." Tiana's hands gave her a final comforting squeeze before retracting. "We were so in love, and I actually believed that we would open the finest restaurant people will ever know.
"When people shared stories about failures and dangers of online dating, sure as hell, I wanted to prove them wrong. I believed in Hubert, and the only thing on my mind was meeting him the day after I flew in to New Orleans. And... and..." The mahogany woman's honeyed voice wavered against her quivering frame. "I was so scared," her voice cracked. "I was so anxious to see him... and all those months we promised a life of adventures... We were going to accomplish together... Fail together... Struggle together... It was us against the world." Tiana met her companion's eyes with notable, swelling and fluid eyes. The platinum blond wasn't aware that she was reflecting those same heartbroken eyes. "I was standing there like a fool--a wretched, pathetic fool waiting on someone whose passion was to resort to any means to achieve his goal."
The young chef's breathing shuddered audibly as she attempted to calm herself. She shook as she croaked, "I... don't understand... why people have to be so cruel, Elsa." She took another moment to maintain her composure while a palm brushed a single droplet from her eyes before folding them before her. "It was after I returned to my hotel did I contact him. I didn't know what was happening behind the scene when he was apologizing for his sudden last minute plan. I found out who he really was on Wednesday, the day of the competition. The judges were startled to see and taste the exact replica of another contestant. I saw Hubert for the first time right when they called us behind the scene." Tiana's eyes fell back to her hands, and Elsa followed to see her fingers wringing one another. "He denied everything about me, and called me a plagiarist." A pregnant pause, followed by shallow, ragged breaths, the young chef continued, "The Hubert I knew was compassionate and hardworking, while the one before me was making a scene. Not only was my pride wounded, but something inside me shattered... I lost someone I could depend on."
Elsa extended a hand and gently cupped it over her wringing hands to cease their actions. Unsure of what to say, she platinum blond brought her other hand to cup the other side and soothingly caressed them.
"Had it not been for Lottie..." the mocha woman sighed, "I would have lost face... Lottie had ahold of my phone during the competition and showed proof that I had instructed him how to make these three course meals in a private chat... Hubert was disqualified... However, that didn't make me feel any better... In the end, first place belonged to Remy and Linguini, while my full course meal ranked second." She shook her head despondently, "You know, none of that stuff mattered to me. I was nursing a broken heart for the remainder of my stay at the La Bouff's mansion."
"Tiana..." Elsa finally broke in a whisper. "How did you..."
"Lottie reminded me of my dream. We reminisced our childhood together on wishing on a star, and she reminded me that a minor discord would not get in the way of my dream. I ranked behind a culinary genius, and he visited me personally the day after Thanksgiving. Before I knew it, I was back in the grind."
"What about now?"
"Talking about it aloud made me realize something, Elsa. That is, how it changed me." Tiana paused to wipe another tear from corner of her eye. "Just as success and failure sharpen and improves one skill's, love and heart break can push someone to be the best of their abilities. For a long time, I've been unsure how to resolve this weight, and just now, you helped me find the answer."
I was surprised that Tiana had such a heart breaking story. I never thought she was one to struggle, (Belle had never mentioned any concern over Tiana's behavior on the week she came back) and to think that she had to keep this situation to herself must've been difficult. However, she states that she never regretted her decision. After hearing her story, I saw Tiana under a different light.
Compared to me, I don't think I will be able to cope with her situation as maturely as she had. Especially at the heat of the moment, I would rather run... I don't know how I will resolve and come to get back on my feet.
All throughout Tiana's reminisce, I was tempted to hug and comfort her as I had done with Anna, but Tiana always stood her ground. She is not a coward, nor will she ever turn her back against her principle.
It baffles me how much Tiana had matured when I wasn't looking. It makes me wonder if anyone else had matured in our circle of friends.
Shoot. I'll have to continue later. I had almost forgotten my double date with Hercules tonight (it's currently 3:35 p.m.). I have half an hour to get ready for tonight's event. I'll be back to write back to you.