The cottage was like it was the first time Minea had seen it. About a year ago, the first time she had come here, Minea was grossed out by the lack of luxury of the place. The unpaved, muddy road and untamed grasses surrounding a shacky excuse of a house was no place for a high-class woman like Minea.
If only I'm not cursed to be ignored by the man I love, Minea thought.
Of course, like most girls, Minea had chosen to fall head over heels over a guy who barely managed to give her a glance. There were many guys chasing after her, but to Minea, no matter how rich and handsome they were, they did not come close to Jay. Jay was stunning, no doubt, and his coldness somehow became a bonus to his beauty. Maybe it was because he was half Cambodian and half Australian, his father being an Australian businessman and his mother a model.
Thinking about Jay's mother sent chills up her spine as Minea started to make her way down the muddy road to the cottage. Minea did not know Jay's mom in person, but she had seen pictures on the internet. Her name was Channida, beautiful with smooth, tan skin and unbelievably long, straight hair that reached past her waist. Channida was an internet sensation back when she was alive, and Minea couldn't see why. Despite her beauty, the woman was a gold digger. Poor Jay in believing his mother was an angel, but to be fair, his father was also at fault for censoring all those information from his son. Any news or posts talking about Channida was pulled down in less than the blink of an eye, and the younger generation only came to know her as the angelic model.
But Minea wasn't Channida. She knew she truly loved Jay, and her obsession had started the first day working as his nutritionist.
"I'm not wrong," Minea whispered as she stared the small wooden stairs. At last, she had reached the cottage. She took a deep breath and looked around. There was a pond nearby, its water as black as midnight and Minea tried not to think what lay at the bottom of it. Instead, she focused on the small wooden steps in front of her. They looked rotten.
Minea drew back from the steps, startled. She heard heavy footsteps coming towards the door and a second later, the door crashed open to reveal an elderly man. He looked to be in his seventies, but the way he came stomping down the steps made Minea believed he was capable of taking down five men without any help.
"Don't you dare come back again," the spell caster's voice screeched from the darkness of the room.
"As if I want to!" the old man yelled back, spitting on the ground, "you and your cursed practices, I was right to walk away!"
A tin cup went flying out of the cottage and soared above the old man's head. It nearly hit Minea as it landed, but she sidestepped quick enough.
"Go away!" the spell caster screamed.
The old man rolled his eyes and was about to stomp away when he noticed Minea.
"You! You're here for her? Seriously? "he asked and Minea looked down.
"Get away from my customer!"the spell caster ordered.
The old man winced and shook his head. With one last stare at Minea he walked up the path and quickly disappeared into the distance.
"You may come in," the eery voice ordered. Minea obeyed and carefully climbed up the steps, closing the door quietly behind her. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and she gulped. Inside was a mess, with incense spreading over the floor and white spirit flags being tossed here and there. Minea stared at the white flags in fear because she knew that during funerals, it was a tradition to carry a white flag along while the corpse was being carried to be burnt or buried. The flag was meant to hold the spirit of those who had passed away and if fallen into the wrong hands, the spirit inside the flag would turn evil and become a puppet to serve whatever sick orders the controller had in mind.
Minea wondered if those spirits were still in the house, peering over her with their white robes and bloodied, vengeful eyes. She was sure the cold breeze on her neck was a sign of multiple spirits following her as she sat down.
"Go away," the witch grumbled.
"Not you, I meant those three girls sitting next to you. Or at least two are sitting next to you and one is sitting on your shoulders stroking your hair."
Minea screeched and crawled away quickly while the spell caster laughed with glee. She could feel her shoulder getting heavier and heavier and knew the witch was being truthful about the third spirit.
"Please...make her go away," Minea wailed bringing her palms together in a begging posture. Her entire body was shaking and the witch only laughed louder. However, seeing that Minea was on a verge of passing out, the witch lazily waved her hand and Minea felt the weight being lifted off her shoulders.
"So you come here for the young man again?" the witch asked, arranging her dolls, "I don't blame you. He's a pretty one, prettier than his mother."
"You know his mother?" Minea breathed trying to control her heartbeats.
The witch laughed a high pitched laugh again. "Do I know her? Of course! Who doesn't know Channida, one of the most beautiful women in the country! In fact, you remind me of her."
"No, she's evil!"
"And so are you!" the witch exclaimed with a toothless grin, "what a perfect match! Two beautiful women coming to me to get them the man of their dreams because their pure, true love wasn't enough to win the guy's heart."
Minea shook her head and stood up. She couldn't take it anymore. "I am not a gold digger. I just want what is best for Jay."
"Says the girl who came to me about a year ago to trap the man's spirit so he would grow dependent on her."
Minea opened her mouth to argue but nothing came out. The truth is the truth and arguing against the witch would just be like digging a deeper hole. Minea turned around and stormed to the door.
"Remember what happened to Channida?" she heard the witch said, " her vengeance and greed drove her mad that she set herself and the entire house on fire. Her husband might try to cover it and took the blame to spare his son, but no matter how much protection he weaves around his son, I can't say the young man won't face the same fate. His anger runs too deep...and guess who is the one responsible for his weakness?"
The witch sneered and pointed her finger at Minea. Minea sucked in a painful breath, her eyes large with fear and she was shaking her head back and forth.
Dae covered her heart with her left hand and took a shaky breath. It had been three days now that she had been discharged from the hospital and so much had happened. First, three doctors went into her room one by one and started pulling their hair out as they tried to figure out the cause of her illness. Apparently their lack of knowledge was driving all of them up the roof and Dae could no longer bear to sit and watch them taking turns being depressed. The second crazy thing that had happened was when Arya called her saying that she and Han went to visit the spell caster and saw Dae's grandfather on the way.
The second news made her even more depressed than those three doctors that tried to diagnose her illness. First of all, why on earth would Dae visit the creepy witch? Apparently, the event during their last year of college didn't make much of an impression on Arya. Second, why Han? The science freak dude who tried to teach her String Theory and Quantum Physics ever since high school actually believed in witchcraft? And third, was her grandfather. Dae wasn't on good terms with the old man and she hadn't seen him ever since she moved to Phnom Penh, and even though the old man took care of her after her parents died, both of them did not hold enough sentiments to call each other.
So...the question was why was everyone so attached to the witch?
Dae shook her head to clear away nasty thoughts and continued to focus on the task at hand. Her boss called and told her that the CEO of one of the leading film industry in the country was hosting an event to welcome his successor, his son. She was supposed to write about it and decided to visit the event herself. She was dressed in a pair of white slacks, white heels, and a light pink blouse. Dae also decided to cut her hair, leaving it shoulder length and curled in to make her look more mature.
She fingered her camera hanging from her neck nervously and strode into the building with other businessmen and reporters.
"Excuse me," a guy's voice whispered and Dae felt a hand grabbing her waist. Without turning around, Dae grabbed the person's hand, twisted it, and threw him forward, a defense she learned from her martial arts class.
The person landed on the ground with a thud, causing people to turn around and cameras to flash. Dae looked around in panic, her chest starting to throb with pain again. She looked down and saw a handsome young man lying on the ground moaning, grabbing his arm.
"Are you Bruce Lee or a reporter?" he complained, looking up, his hair bouncing along with his head.
Dae was too paralyzed with fear to answer. Her eyes glazed over as she stared at the camera flashing all around her, her hand clasping his heart.
"Jay! There you are!" a man's voice yelled above the crowd.
Both Dae and the man on the ground stopped moving and looked at the direction of the voice. A guy about their age was making his way through the crowd, followed by a stunning woman and three more guys.
"Oh my god! That must be Jay Kim!" someone whispered.
"He's so handsome! Quick take more pictures!" another person whispered.
Dae groaned and started to back away when she felt a tug on her leg.
"Hey, you," the guy who she supposed was Jay said, "help me up. Quick."
"I said QUICK!Please!"
Dae grabbed Jay's hand and he rose up, tumbling towards her with a small grin. "Thanks, now let's get out of here."
Dae opened her mouth to clarify things, but Jay grabbed her hand and both of them tumbled away from the crowd. Jay tugged her toward a black car waiting near the gate and opened the door to push her inside.
"Wait!" Dae protested as he got in and raised his eyebrows at her. "You want to ditch the company do it alone! Don't drag me into this!"
"You injured my arm when you tossed me," Jay protested staring as the men and the lady rushed out of the gate and ran toward his car, "I can't drive well. I need a driver."
"But I can't drive!"
Jay looked like she had slapped him in the face. Then both of them felt a thud at the window and stared in panic as two men began banging on the window, yelling for Jay to open the window.
"If you can't drive, then treat this as your driving lesson! I don't care! Get me out of here!"
Dae closed her eyes in prayer and began to search the dashboard hopelessly, not knowing where to begin.
"You do it!" She cried, tugging him toward the wheel. Jay cursed and the two of them changed seats. Dae closed her eyes again as the car began moving forward and then starting to speed like a maniac down the street. She looked back and saw the men trying to run after them and a car driving after them.
"I'm doomed," she complained.
"Say that to my left arm," Jay snapped.
Dae looked at him and realized he was driving awkwardly with one arm.
"I'm not a right arm person," he said gloomily and tugged the wheel sharply to the left as they turned the corner. Dae screamed as she fell onto his lap. She looked up at him and whimpered,
"We're both doomed."
Jay took her to what he claimed was his "secret fortress." It wasn't much of a fortress however, just a two-story house outside of the city. It was a nice place, and Dae loved it because it reminded her of her home. Not that her house was as luxurious as this, but the rice paddies and small shrubs and rivers running in between fields made her feel nostalgic.
It was so beautiful that Dae actually stopped dead when she got out of her car and gazed longingly at the scenery.
Seeing his visitor starting to lean over the edge of her emotions, Jay cleared his throat and thrust his right hand in his pocket.
"Beautiful isn't it?" he asked, "nature makes everything seem so beautiful. It makes my modest house looks like a castle."
Dae nodded and started to take off her heels.
"What are you doing?" Jay asked.
"I just want to feel the water in that stream," she shrugged and walked over to the stream. Not caring that her clothes would get dirty, she sat on the ground and dipped her feet in.
"Woooooow! It's sooo nice! I want to take a bath here," she giggled and Jay rolled his eyes. Seeing his expression, Dae shrugged again and resumed splashing the water with her feet.
"When I was young, I used to jump into rivers and try to learn to swim in them," she continued, "but my lessons got cut short when I nearly drowned. My grandfather was so furious he nearly had a stroke."
"You swim in them?!" Jay exclaimed.
"Of course! It was fun. Do you want to try? It's never too late."
"There might be leeches," he replied and walked away. Dae immediately drew her feet back and stared at the stream again. Of course, why was she so stupid? She should have remembered the hundreds of times she went screaming to her grandfather after getting out of the river and realized a leech had attached itself to her skin. Thinking about it made her shivered in disgust.
Jay had opened the gate and walked inside, and Dae grabbed her heels and followed him. The grass felt so smooth and nice that she smiled and walked slower to enjoy the feeling.
"Yo! Hurry up," Jay called.
Dae frowned and picked up speed. Inside, it was so elegant and stunning. The walls were painted white and the curtains, chairs, and sofas were painted blue. Her favorite color was also blue, but she had never realized how beautiful the color actually was until now.
"Stop gawking and make some food," Jay ordered, slumping onto the sofa and leaned his head back.
"Cook?" Dae asked meekly.
Jay opened his eyes and nodded.
"I can't cook."
"Hey don't you dare raise your voice at me! Maybe before you kidnap a girl you might need to ask her if she can drive, cook, and serve you first. And probably ask for her consent," Dae protested shamelessly.
"What can you do?" he sighed, massaging his left arm. Dae was annoyed by that. She was sure she didn't hurt him that much, and also the guy looked strong enough to handle a bit of pain. Why was he acting so weak? She snorted and looked away from him.
"Fry eggs, Fry fish, Fry pork, Fry beef, cook rice, noodles, boil water-" she began to ramble all the beginner levels of cooking. Not that she was good at them, for she managed to overcooked her eggs when she was boiling them. But Jay did not need to know that.
"Just bring me a bottle of Heineken from the fridge," he ordered and Dae nodded, silently cursing rich people and their rich drinks. She walked into the kitchen, grabbed the bottle, a glass, and went back to where Jay was sitting. Slowly, she opened the bottle and poured the drink into the glass before lifting the drink up.
"Your majesty?" she called and Jay opened his eyes to stare at her pointedly. He ignored the glass and picked up the bottle. Dae watched in horror as he swallowed the drink as if he was swallowing water.
"You shouldn't drink too much," she suggested, tapping her nails on the glass.
"Don't tell me what to do," he snapped.
"It wasn't an order, it was a suggestion," she retorted watching took another gulp from the bottle. Jay loosened his tie and tugged it away. He was about to do the same to his shirt but realizing Dae was there, he stopped unbuttoning and started drinking again.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"What is your name?" she asked back even though she already knew. He must have known that she knew for he stared at her as if she was stupid. Dae cleared her throat and said, " Yu Daela. But people call me Dae for short."
He shrugged and drink again causing Dae to bite her lips with worry. She couldn't be in a house with a drunk man. Staying with him while he's sober was bad enough. Jay's face was starting to get red.
"You are a reporter, right?" he asked.
"I was supposed to write about the event," she explained,"but I guess I have to write about my abduction instead."
Jay turned to her and stared into her eyes. He smiled and Dae was struck with how genuine it was that she smiled back. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gently tucked her hair behind her ears.
"You're beautiful," he whispered. Dae raised her eyebrows at him but she didn't getaway. A voice inside her told her to stay still and she felt an invisible force stopping her from moving. She was helpless, just like every time her chest hurts. Like she wasn't in control of her own body. Except her chest wasn't hurting right now. Now that she had thought about it, it hadn't hurt ever since she met him, and it was as if her heart was saying he's the one.
He couldn't be. Not him. I need to get away, she thought. Regardless, she still couldn't move. A slight movement would cause a familiar tingling sensation in her chest as if her heart was threatening to kill itself if she scooted away.
Dae watched as Jay leaned closer, his lips inches close to hers. She could smell him, his shampoo, his breath, and the smell were so enticing and welcoming. The moment their lips crashed, Dae closed her eyes and lifted her palms up to cradle his face, then reaching both hands up to grab his soft hair. Jay pulled her forward against his chest and Dae smiled.
Strangely, she felt at peace at last.