The tough side of love

The tough side of love

When a girl realises her relationship with her boyfriend isn't working, she has a tough decision to make.


Illustration: Dennis Wong

This is the fourth finalist in Young Post's 2015 Summer Story competition in which some marvellous books are up for grabs. Each week, we will publish one of the finalists' stories, with the winning entry appearing in Young Post on August 29I pulled on my jeans and grabbed my satchel before heading out the door. 

Bubbling with anticipation, I tucked my hair behind my ears nervously. I was meeting up with Adrian, my boyfriend of three years whom I hadn't seen in person for almost six months. 

 It was raining heavily the day he told me that he and his family were moving to Australia. I was devastated. I had wondered if we were drifting apart, and I sensed that he didn't really care as deeply for our relationship as I did. And if he was living on another continent, it would be harder for me to mend every little crack that kept forming in our relationship.

 It was extremely difficult to cope. I was constantly afraid of losing him. My father had passed away from a brain tumour around the same time that we got together. Adrian was the only one who comforted me through that traumatic period. 

It felt as if he were almost like a surrogate dad. They had this similar sort of air; slightly arrogant yet deeply empathetic. We exchanged quips constantly and he helped brighten my mood, and that was all I ever wanted during that dark and miserable period of my life. 

But gradually, my fear of losing dad slowly transformed into a fear of losing Adrian. 

 I knew it was unhealthy, slowly becoming more and more dependent on his company, but I couldn't help it. He was the only one who really stood up for me when I felt most vulnerable, and the thought of losing him so suddenly was terrifying.

 Before we started dating, we were lab partners. One day, I didn't show up for chemistry class, and he asked my friends where I was. They told him I was in the bathroom. But when I didn't return after 30 minutes, he made a bold move and nearly barged in on me. He knocked on the door to the ladies and yelled: "Rhea! Come out here! You know I can't go in there." 

He spoke with a haughty tone that made me instinctively want to retort, "Go away!", but there was a hint of concern in his voice that compelled me to listen to him. 

Eventually I opened the door. I told him everything; about my dad's condition and my fear of losing him. 

 I believe his role as a listener brought us closer together. A few weeks later, he asked me out on a date, and after meeting a few times, our relationship became "official". 

 But he was never the same once he moved to Australia. When I tried to contact him, he would ignore me. He also didn't seem like himself whenever I did manage to talk to him. Half the time it didn't even seem like he was listening to me. He would suddenly interrupt and start talking about himself, completely oblivious to the way he was treating me.

 So whenever we spoke, I just nodded and smiled. It genuinely hurt to force that smile. I wanted to talk about it, but he didn't seem to care about me as much as he did when my dad had died. Back then, he would text me first thing in the morning to check if I was okay; if I was managing. He always told me to stay strong and not to allow any darkness to seep into my thoughts. 

 I have a habit of over-thinking everything. Whether it was the exam I had just sat through or that one phrase Adrian said to me that I had interpreted as being cold or disconnected. Maybe I was just over-thinking things again ...

 Suddenly, I felt my phone vibrate against my thigh. I fumbled in the pocket of my jeans.

 "Hello," I answered. 

 "Hey, Rhea. Look, I'm very sorry but I'm gonna have to cancel today. I've got basketball practice with Joe," Adrian said.

 My heart sank. It was a classic Adrian stunt; ditch the people who actually cared about him for basketball buddies.

 I found myself wishing he had never started playing basketball. 

 I used to be supportive. In fact, I loved people who were passionate about their hobbies, but ever since he started playing basketball, he seemed different. He often spoke to his mother with an insolent tone and he treated her like a little speck of dirt on his shoe. I felt terrible having to witness it. It pained me to see how he had changed. He just wasn't the same Adrian I had fallen in love with.

 With a sigh, I decided to go to Victoria Park. The calm and quiet atmosphere would be perfect to clear my head and get rid of all the sadness. 

 The peaceful chirping of birds and the swaying of trees in the gentle breeze was very soothing. But I knew that I had to set the bitterness free. So I took a deep breath and shed the tears that had been building up inside me.

 The hot tears seared my face. They felt like acid burning me, punishing me for something I could not control. I knew that he was not going to morph back into the Adrian I loved. I wondered if maybe I should just give up on him. 

 As the thought crossed my mind, I felt the warmth of the sun against my face. It took away the unease and allowed me to relax slightly.

 It gave me hope and assurance. A queer feeling of someone, or something, having my back. Of someone looking out for me. It filled me with a sense of courage to confront what I had been dreading for the past two years. The day everything around me began to collapse; the day he told me he was moving to Australia. 

I knew in my heart that it would have been hard. That the little wounds I had tried to patch up were far from healed.

 Our relationship was long dead. I had always had a gut feeling but I didn't want to accept it. I knew I had to let go. 

 So I grabbed my satchel and hurried to the basketball court.

 When I arrived, I spotted a tall figure and knew immediately that it was him. Adrian was sprinting around the pitch like a ravenous beast, lost in the game and eager to score a point for his team. 

 A split second later, and the ball had flown through the air and landed in the basket, as cheers erupted from the court.

 And then I thought, what was wrong with me? Shouldn't I be happy for him? Shouldn't I be cheering for him? 

 But the more practical side of my mind countered: "Let him bathe in his glory, you have unpleasant news to tell him."

 As I saw him walking over to the bleachers, I slung my satchel over my shoulders and stood up. 

It was at that moment that I saw him leaning against another girl, his head tilted and his hands tugging at her waist.

 I stood there, appalled. And that was when any doubts I had been clinging to suddenly vanished.

My train of thought was interrupted by a loud clap of thunder, and I pulled out my umbrella as the dark grey clouds overhead unleashed the rain they had been bottling up. 

I realised I was quivering from a sense of dread. It was over. I let the tears flow. 

 I was trembling from the cold when I felt someone grip my hand. 

It was Adrian. 

 "What are you doing here? I thought ..." he asked. 

 "You don't have to explain. I get it," I mumbled. 

 "Rhea? What's the matter, you can tell me anything." 

His expression softened as he gazed into my eyes with such intensity that it seemed for a moment like he really cared about me. 

But I refused to fall for his act. 

 Suddenly, I saw lightning flicker in the solemn, cloudy sky. It advanced with a heightened crack of thunder. 

 "You lied to me. You said that you ... that you ..." I stammered ... "Loved me." I uttered the words with an iciness so cold it stung. 

 "I do," he insisted.

 "Liar," I retorted, shifting away from him. 

 "Look, I can explain." 

He raised his palms in surrender. 

 I avoided his gaze, turning my eyes downwards.

 "I can make it up to you. I promise." 

 I felt vacant. And the grim weather further diminished my spirits. It left a bottomless aching hollowness in my chest.

 It took me a certain amount of courage to utter my final words, but once they left my mouth, I felt relieved; like I had lifted a huge burden off my shoulders. 

"It's too late."

 Before I allowed him to respond, I readjusted the strap of my satchel and stood up. I was walking away from Adrian, leaving behind everything we had been through together and all our memories. And I felt better for it. 

 I strode forward without glancing back, clutching the handle of my umbrella tightly, my head leaning against the pole. 

I listened to the light droplets gently landing on the surface of my umbrella; the rain had eased off. 

 The grey sky suddenly transformed into a beautiful shade of aquamarine as the warm summer breeze brushed against my skin, soothing the bitterness. 

I had done what was right, and what was best for both of us.

 As I was walking back home, the rain stopped completely. 

The sky brightened with the setting sun and the tears on my cheeks started to dry up, leaving a slight prickle; just a faint reminder of the pain that was now behind me.

 As the weather grew warmer, I felt some sunshine on my shoulders. It was then that I realised that I should have never doubted myself. I would be fine on my own.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Valerie Yip's The tough side of love


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