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Title: 7 Women

Leno picked up a photo of seven women displayed on the shelf. Amongst the seven, he only recognized six of them. The two ones at the right were the Delyi sisters. They were never really sisters. But childhood best friends whom everyone thought were sisters. Wasn't it always like that? When you hung out with the same person every day of your life, you somehow grew looking like them. But when he looked at the woman with the rainbow headband, even though he grew up with her, he barely remembered her.

     A lady in bright green dress handed him a cup of milky coffee. "Your coffee, all milk, no water, three sugars," she said. Though her hair had gone darker, and lines started showing at the end of her eyes, she still was the same Xia he knew--pretty and still full of positivity.

     Leno reached a hand at the coffee then he stopped midway. He promised himself he would start being true to himself. No more acting cute. No more pleasing the people around him. And no more apologizing. "Sor--I mean thank you for this. But I take my coffee black now," he said with a half-smile.

     Xia shrugged. "Even your taste in coffee changed. I'll fix it." She went back to the kitchen and started making the coffee all over again.

     He placed the photo back on display. "Have you seen the girls, recently?"

     "Just Jan. We've shopped at the new shopping store that opened up near the pier."

     Right. Jan and her always shopped and did girly things together. With Xia's corporate chic looks and pleasant air, she made every man look at her with desire and conquest in their eyes. Even behind Jan's spectacles, she had the same fire. The scarf at the photo made it more obvious

     It had been years since she began having feelings for her. But she never told her. Her desire contently fleeted on shopping sprees and nail and spa treatments.

     Leno's heart rejoiced for a beat. He thought of that time he caught Jan confessing to a photo. It shocked both of them for a moment, but afterwards, laughter pervaded and then a sense of freedom. It wasn't only him who had a secret.

     Xia placed the black coffee on the dining table. "You should definitely come with us next time," she said.

     "That's gonna be a little weird don't you think?" Leno sat down and had his coffee. The bitter taste assaulted his tongue with its strength. He preferred this instead of the creaminess and sweetness of his previous coffees.

     She began making her own cup. "You used to do it with us, why would it be weird now?"

     "I can't exactly wear and try on the same clothes." He had another sip. He felt emboldened by drinking a black coffee made by his friend. Like it was a declaration of who he was--a male drinking a black coffee. Sounded stupid in his head, but it felt great in his heart.

     She raised a brow. "Just tell us which one's good. We'll go to a men's store, after. You try on some things, and we'll tell you which one's good too."

     He thought about it, it did sound doable. "I think can do that," he answered.

     The offer could not be timelier. He needed new clothes. All the ones he wore, including this brown shirt and baggy trousers, belonged to his father when he was alive. His mum had kept some of them to remember him by. He didn't know he would find them of great use.

     Xia sat down at the table. "Have you told her yet?"

     "Told who?"

     She raised her chin. "You know who I'm talking about."

     Feeling his hands grow cold, he clasped the cup, absorbing its warmth. "I will, soon." He gulped.

     "You should do it this weekend." She snorted.


     "It's Mila's son birthday. Everyone is going to be there. Sena will be there too."

     Sena, the word gave him a mosaic of memories, feelings and sensations: Her laughing from an ice cream that fell on the road; Her road raging about a motorcycle that cut her off; And her holding him when he cried for four hours straight when he found out his father had died.

     Xia's phone cried for attention from the incoming caller: Sena. "Speaking of the devil." She picked it up and answered.

     "Don't tell her I'm here," blabbered Leno in a split second before the call came through.

     She smirked as she started the conversation in front of him. In that time, Leno sweat buckets. He didn't know why. He wasn't speaking to her, she wasn't told anything about him, and yet his hands and pits perspired.

     "Bye now." Xia disconnected the call.

     "What did she say? Was it anything about me?" His voice croaked.

     Her lips stretched out to a big grin. "She's asking for you."

END Notes: Photo owned by: dgtportraits This is an original work of fiction inspired by the photo.

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