"Boo...hoo... Carlos...it's really you..." From the scent of his perfume, Debbie was pretty sure it was Carlos. As well, his arms felt quite familiar. For the last three years, not a single day had gone by that she had not thought of him.
But Carlos was shocked when she threw herself into his arms.
He too could feel her familiar scent.
"Guards! Call the guards over!" Startled by the strange woman's intrusion, a businessman next to Carlos demanded his assistant to call for security.
"Carlos, you are still alive..." Ignoring all the curious eyes around her, Debbie held Carlos tightly and burst into tears. Tears of joy, she could not hold back.
Carlos' first instinct was to push her away. But somehow, he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
"Pull her away from Mr. Huo!" a woman nearby reprimanded, her tone harsh and shrill. In a flash, the bodyguards, who had been hesitating, charged forward, grabbed Debbie forcefully and dragged her away.
Not believing her eyes, Debbie flailed and kicked, but to no avail. "Oh, Carlos. I request only one minute, please. Only a few words with you," she pleaded.
At this moment, a bodyguard threw a punch at her face. She gave a choked cry; that really stung. She broke free from their grasp and ran towards Carlos again. "Carlos, it's me. Debbie Nian..."
But the look that Carlos gave her was so cold, you'd be forgiven for thinking she was a total stranger to him.
'Debbie Nian?' The woman next to Carlos furrowed her eyebrows when she heard the name.
Right at that moment, Carlos' car came over and stopped, only a few meters from them. The bodyguards pounced on her again.
Despite her protests and struggling, they dragged Debbie away. The same brusque guy that had slapped her now hit her hard on the shoulder, sending her down to the ground with a thud.
As if in a rescue operation, the bodyguards whisked Carlos and his woman to the car. As one of the men opened the door for them, Carlos got in, without so much as looking back.
Debbie couldn't believe her eyes. She saw Carlos holding the woman's hand.
As soon as they were safely seated, the driver started the engine and drove off. Quickly, all the bodyguards got into other cars and followed.
Seeing Carlos leave, Debbie lost her head. Determined, she stood up from the ground and clutching at her hemline, she ran after his car. "Carlos," she shouted. "You can't just leave like that! Carlos..." she screamed at the top of her lungs.
'I can't let him leave me again! Come what may, I'll get him!' she thought. Running fast as she could, she ignored the pebbles, some dangerously sharp and protruding on her path. Passersby watched curiously, but the barefooted woman in a red evening dress didn't mind their surprise.
She ignored everything, ignored their questions and strange gazes that bore into her back. Even the pain shooting through the soles of her soft feet, now bleeding, she completely ignored.
To her chagrin, no matter how fast she ran, Carlos and his team were gaining speed.
Soon, their taillights disappeared in the distance, leaving her gasping for air on this dark night. Staring at the stars in the sky, she wanted to hold back her emotions, but failed.
Crouching on the ground, she covered her face with both hands and broke into tears, weeping uncontrollably.
The chilling cold in Carlos' eyes still lingered on her mind. Did he ever miss her? Had he ever been in love with her, for all the time they had been together?
Inside the car
Stephanie held Carlos' hand tightly, lost in thought.
She stole glances at Carlos from time to time. He too seemed to mull over something. And that only worried her more.
After a long silence, she finally spoke, feigning a nonchalant voice. "Carlos, who was that woman? She must be someone well known to you."
Shaking his head, Carlos answered shortly, "I don't know her."
Somehow relieved, Stephanie rested her head on his shoulder. "Really? I thought you were cheating on me."
Carlos lowered his eyes to look at her and lightly cautioned, "Stop kidding."
"Soon we're going to get engaged, Carlos. This has been long coming, and I'm careful about a lot of things," Stephanie grumbled, avoiding eye contact to conceal her true feelings.
"Don't worry," he assured softly.
When they arrived at the hotel, Carlos walked Stephanie to her room before coming back to his own.
Staring out of the window, he briefly savored the spectacular night sky. Tonight, the stars shone with resplendence. As he loosened his tie, he pulled out his phone and sent James a text message. "Dad, did I date someone before Stephanie?"
A terse reply from James came sooner than expected. "No."
However, as he stared at his phone, Carlos recalled the woman. Annoyed, both at his failing memory and at the woman for showing up to remind him of his current predicament. Shaking off hateful thoughts, he threw his phone onto the bed and walked towards the bathroom.
Straight away, Debbie had checked into the hospital to have her feet treated before going home. By the time she got to the house, it was already 3 a.m. First thing, she went to Piggy's bed to check on her.
Kissing her little bundle of joy lightly on the forehead, she murmured, "Piggy, you know what? Your daddy is still alive. Mommy will take you to meet him, okay?"
The next day, when Irene dropped by, Debbie was sitting on the couch, staring blankly at Piggy.
"Deb, what happened last evening? I heard you left the party earlier last night."
No response. 'There's something odd about her today, ' Irene thought.
"Hey Deb. You gave me quite a scare. When did you come back?" she asked. Getting anxious, Irene scooped Piggy up in her arms and sat beside Debbie. "Did something happen to you?" she asked with genuine concern.
But Debbie just lowered her head without saying a word.
Sensing something was off, Irene turned to look at Piggy. "Piggy, how are you feeling today? Are you feeling better?"
Holding a Barbie doll, Piggy nodded and answered softly, "Aunt Irene, I'm feeling great."
"Sweet girl. Piggy, tell Aunt Irene, what's wrong with your mommy?"
Piggy shook her head. "I don't know. Mommy has been acting like this all morning. She even called Aunt Ruby to ask for a leave."
Upon hearing that, Irene put Piggy back on the carpet and turned to Debbie. "Deb, something must have happened to you. Since I knew you, you've always been a work freak. Is what I'm hearing true?"
Playing with her phone now, Debbie asked casually, "When will your brother come back?"
"Darling, I have no idea. My brother is one heck of a strange man who keeps to himself most of the time."
Hearing that, Debbie dialed Ivan's number.
Irene watched the name on Debbie's screen and wondered what she was about to ask him.
"Hi, Debbie," Ivan's voice came from the other end of the line.
After a short pause, Debbie blurted out, "Do you know... Carlos Huo showed up."
All along, she had never tried to explain to Ivan the scandals about her past. Carlos was a taboo subject in her mind. She couldn't afford to mention his name.
Ivan was stunned. For a moment, he wondered what was on Debbie's mind.
"Can you help me investigate what he has been up to for the past three years?" she inquired.
"And..." She paused for a while before adding, "I want to take some time off.
I need to go back to Y City."