When I step into the gallery hand in hand with Jake, my eyes go wide. It is a bit crowded here and a lot of people are murmuring around the paintings.
Jake squeezes my hand once. "You should have a look around. I know you want to." With that, he releases me and walks off. I automatically smile. Even after all these years, he can still read me easily.
I stare at his back until he disappears into the crowd. Then, turn around and start taking a stroll. Each painting seems like it is saying a story. The small signature at the corner of each painting catches my eye. I would know it anywhere. I immediately recognize who the painter is and start to get a little nervous. I'm suddenly glad that Jake isn't with me. The paintings strike old memories and my mind starts to wander.
My eyes go to a painting in the far corner. Like all other paintings, this one also exudes sorrow and pain. But what attracted me was the small ray of hope that seems to be in it. Even though the dark colors mend together to form a dreary night, the pair of eyes that shine show hopefulness and longing. Like a lost child who is waiting for his mother to find him.
I am so lost in those eyes that I don't even notice a presence behind me. But a familiar tingle goes down my spine and I automatically sigh.
"You grew out your hair."
I take a deep breath and slowly turn. He is wearing a navy-blue suit but his tie is crooked. I almost reach out to fix it for him before I come to my senses. His hands are in his pockets and I notice the watch at his wrist. My heart flutters rapidly at the sight of it. He still wears that watch.
I finally look up at his face. His green eyes immediately make me weak. He smiles shyly and my mind immediately goes to simpler times. His smile still hasn't changed and I realize, neither has my reaction to it. It still makes my heart soar.
"I'm taller as well," I reply but my voice is soft and small, too afraid to shatter what seems like a dream.
He smiles more this time, amused. "You're still short-stack."
The nick-name stabs me in the heart and my breath hitches. Before I could dissolve in all the old memories, Jake appears before me. "Bells, did you notice the crowd? It's crazy in here."
Edward's eyes immediately go to Jake, then go to his hand around my waist. His smile disappears and his eyes tighten.
"Yes, it is getting a little suffocating. I think I need some fresh air." I say to Jake, but my eyes stay on Edward.
Jake finally notices Edward and scowls. "It's been a long time."
Edward stays stiff and doesn't reply. My feet shuffle awkwardly. I desperately want to escape. I grab Jake's hand. "Uh, Edward, you've really outdone yourself. The paintings are…" I falter, unable to complete the sentence.
He raises an eyebrow. "The paintings are?"
Jake answers instead. "They're really good."
Edward simply hums in agreement. But he is gazing at me. I look up at him, his eyes shining with something that I can't recognize. He stares back looking for something, in return, in my eyes. I finally look away when it starts to feel a little too familiar.
"Well, it was nice to see you. We should get going though." I say and then look at Jake. He nods his head at me once.
"Yes, we should." He offers his hand to Edward. "It was great to see you again."
Edward stares at his hand a beat too long and then finally takes it. "Yes. It was." He says coldly and then turns around and starts walking away.
I sigh. I've seen him walk away from me before, but this time it feels different. His goodbye doesn't feel like we are parting. Somehow it sounds like a promise that we will meet again.
Jake tugs at my hand, breaking my chain of thoughts. "Come on, let's have dinner."
I close my eyes for just a moment and sigh. "Yes, I'm starving," I say then and turn around.
An awkward silence descends between us while Jacob and I are having dinner. Both wanting to broach the subject of Edward, but both too afraid of the other's reaction.
I fold my hands and stare intently at Jake, who is staring absentmindedly at his food. Finally, he looks up and raises his eyebrow. "You want to say something?"
"I want to know what's on your mind."
He frowns at me and stares at me like he is trying to read my thoughts. "I was thinking about how much has changed these past few years. And at the same time, it is still the same. I suddenly feel like we have traveled back in time."
I smile lightly. "It does seem like that, doesn't it? Tonight, I felt like I was suddenly replaced by that starry-eyed girl back in high school."
He sighs in defeat. "That part of you never changed, even after all these years."
I hum and ponder on what he is trying to say. But my mind goes back to the last memory of Edward and I immediately disagree. "That girl is long gone. Maybe his sudden appearance made me feel like that. But I'll never go back to who I was back then. My days of running after him are over."
He raises his brows as if saying, "Really?" But I ignore it.
We both have nothing further to say after that, both lost in our own minds, reminiscing old memories.
After dinner, Jake drops me home with a simple kiss on the cheek and a "take care". For the rest of the night, the pair of eyes from the painting haunt me.