Cold was the night. The cool breeze of December caressed her arms as she overlooked the plaza where everyone was enjoying the opening of the Festival of Lights. Then she felt a hand tapping on her shoulder. When she turned around, she saw him dressed appropriately for the occasion.
The awkward ambience made it difficult for the both of them to start up a conversation, so it was the guy who broke the silence.
"It's been so long, Vanessa. I could see you've changed a lot". Her lashes went down and she grinned. Then she looked at him." Well, Paris changed me Fred. How about you?"
Fred couldn't help but stare at her. Though she's dressed luxuriously and her face full of neutral shadows, he could still see the old Van, the one with whom he spent the holidays with since childhood. "Well, this town might have changed a lot, but not me Van. Not me"
" I heard you're now a successful engineer? I still recall those days when you wanted to destroy your blueprints" she replied, and both chuckled. " So how is it going for the now French-citizen CPA?"
" Beyond blessed. But despite my successful career, I still can't stand my loneliness there. You know, missing old faces---friends, family,". " And me?" He interrupted. She couldn't look straight at him that moment. "Well...maybe. I guess?" and both chuckled awkwardly.
He remembered those days when she was still living as a simple province girl---quite different from what she is now. The way she would feed the carabao every morning and how she made rice cakes for him. How they escaped the farm from her father and go to the town and buy some thrifted clothes and other stuff from the novelty shop with him. And how they celebrated the Festival of Lights every year: no money, no food, no other places. It was just him and Van, the Simbang Gabi and the view of the lights in the town plaza that they enjoyed.
Now, tables have already turned. She is now a woman of class, of intellect. The woman who used to love him dearly as he did to her. And there was he---who stayed in this small town. Who never looked for opportunities in the city because he wanted to stay here. Because he wanted to wait, he wanted to be there when she finally decided to come home. He knew that she'll return to this small town. If she still had feelings for him, that he did not know.
"Oh, It's been ten years..." she murmured.
"Ten years, it is. Ten years---and it has always been you"
" Fred? Y---you really waited huh?"
" I told you, a promise is a promise"
" I told you not to... I mean---you could've looked for other women. You see, it's already too late"
" It is never too late or too soon, Van. It is when it is supposed to be. Why, are you already in love with someone?"
" Yes Fred. I've been in love with some guy"
At that moment, the world became frozen. There was a part of him that wanted to walk out, but he also wanted to talk to her. Still, he had the courage to ask "Who's the lucky guy then?" With a smile on her face, she replied, "It's you".
He couldn't believe his ears, and his heart jumped for joy. "So it's still me?"
"It's been you, Fred. Though I went somewhere far away, my heart knows where it belongs. You know, the heart wants what it wants". Tears started to fall down from his cheeks. And she wiped them away and kissed him.
They stood up and found their way around the plaza. He held her hand, and asked "So you're my girlfriend...again?" Then she kissed him at the forehead and smiled. They enjoyed the night strolling around, the fireworks, the December air, the Festival of Lights, and the love that was indeed sweeter the second time around.