Mia is glammed up, wearing an off-the-shoulder gold dress with her hair styled up for the occasion. Her appearance suits the aesthetics of the fancy restaurant. She is sitting at the top floor, her favorite spot, behind a glass barricade that enables her to have a view of the people below her. They look like ants up here in this beautiful balcony, engaged in each other's companies.
She examines her table, which is filled with plates of delicious Italian food, hot and sizzling. There is a golden candle holder at the center, holding three shining candles that complement the warm and cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. Delicate live music plays from a pianist, filling the place with pleasant tunes. Mia closes her eyes, trying to soak in the ambient melody for a few moments.
There is a small frown glued to her face. Usually she would feel at peace in this type of environment, but feelings of sorrow drown her away. She keeps fidgeting with her dress and looking anywhere, everywhere, apart from her fiancé's eyes.
"What's wrong, Mia? I thought you liked this place," he says.
"I do... it's lovely here," she replies, forcing a thin smile.
"Are you still worried about Max? If you want, I can call and check up on him again."
Mia shakes her head. "No, it's fine."
"Clearly, something's bothering you," Josh persists. "It's been bothering you for a while now. That's the reason I brought you here in the first place. I figured you needed a break from all the stress."
"That's thoughtful of you," Mia mutters, playing with her food. She feels his eyes on her, watching her intently. It makes her stomach knot up.
"There's something you're not telling me," he says coolly.
"This place is just... bringing back some memories," she says, rubbing her bare arm awkwardly.
"Go on," he gestures for her to continue.
"My second anniversary with my first boyfriend," Mia blurts out. Quickly, she bites her bottom lip and she looks away guiltily, worried that she might have upset her fiancé's feelings.
Instead, Josh chuckles light-heartedly.
"This is why I love you. You're not afraid to be sentimental," he states, surprising her. He takes a sip of his red wine and smiles warmly. "Speaking of your ex, I ran into him the other day."
"Y-you did?" Mia squeaks out.
She finally looks at Josh. He is dressed in a tuxedo and his light-brown hair is well-groomed, looking strikingly handsome. He typically hates dressing up, she knows this, but he always makes the extra effort for her without complaint. Unlike a certain ex-lover.
"Zac Goldheart, right?" Josh asks, swirling his wine around. "I almost didn't recognize him. He came up to me and said he was a fan of my work. Took me by surprise."
"I never liked your work," she mumbles. "Or his."
Josh chuckles again. "I know, baby girl. But it's great pay and I'm good at it."
"It's dangerous," Mia says, glaring at him.
"Well, maybe for others, but-"
"So, did anything else happen with Zac?" Mia questions, as she smooths down her dress. She adds wistfully, "Did he mention anything about... anyone?"
"We were talking for a bit, I can't remember about what exactly. All I know is he invited me over at his, for a drink. That's where I met his son, Zac Junior. The kid is around Max's age and he looks exactly like his dad. Seriously, the resemblance is uncanny."
"They always do," Mia mutters, followed by a dejected sigh. "Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"
"It slipped my mind."
"Does he still live in his Gothic mansion? Is he still renting it out to others? Have you seen any of his roommates? What are they like?" Mia interrogates.
"Whoa, easy there, tiger," Josh chuckles at her enthusiasm. "Yeah, he still lives in that mansion. It felt like I was walking into a haunted house or something. Pretty cool. I dunno about any roommates, though. I only met his girlfriend there."
"Oh. What is she like?" Mia asks. She fiddles with the white tablecloth, trying to distract herself from caring too much.
"She's nice," Josh says. "Her name's Amelia. She's got her own kid too. I think his name's Ryan or Ryland or something like that. He's best buds with Zac Junior."
"Wow... it's like... he's got his own family now," Mia gasps out, leaning back against her chair. "He never wanted a family with me. It's the one thing I wanted with him... and he always told me that he's not a family guy, and that his stupid career comes first. Or, at least, that's what he made me believe."
"It's his loss," Josh says. He reaches over and holds her hand. The emerald gemstone of her engagement ring sparkles. "And I'm glad he was an idiot back then - or else I would've missed out on the best thing that ever happened to me."
Mia bites her lip, deep in thought. After having her heart broken on numerous occasions, she has built up several walls to protect herself from getting hurt again. Many men have smooth-talked to her in the past, reciting lovey-dovey statements they thought she'd like to hear. It has made her become distrustful over the years and wary of their motives.
However, as she looks into Josh's sincere, dark-brown eyes, she feels that his love is genuine. She smiles, her green eyes twinkling like her ring.
"It's crazy how much we have in common," Josh says, as he gently squeezes her hand in his. "I'm still spooked by the whole sibling thing."
Mia rolls her eyes. "So, what? I've got six brothers, you've got six sisters. It's no big deal."
"It is a big deal!" Josh argues, making her giggle. A playful smile is on his face. "You've always wanted a sister, and I've always wanted a brother. Wanna trade one?"
Mia shakes her head, still giggling. "You're so silly."
"C'mon, if you could trade one brother, who would it be?" Josh asks. He brings her hand up to his face and nestles it against his cheek, enjoying the softness and warmth of her touch.
"Erm... I don't know," Mia says, pinching his cheek gently. "I love them all so much, even though they're a pain in the ass in their own ways. There'll be a hole in my life if one of them was gone... you know?"
"There you go, being sentimental again," Josh murmurs, as he kisses her hand. "It's adorable."
Mia blushes. "Shut up."
Her fiancé snickers, his brown eyes glinting mischievously. "You know there's only one way to shut me up."
"Stop!" Mia exclaims, as she hides her face in her hands, making Josh laugh harder. She peeks through her fingers, glaring.
"It's fun making you squirm," he says with a teasing smirk.
"You're mean," Mia huffs. She lets out a soft sigh, as she strokes her hair. "Anyway... you don't know this, but I did have a sister at one point."
Josh takes a bite of risotto. "Really?"
"Well, she was like a sister to me. We were always so close and we had that connection, when we'd finish each other's sentences and sometimes knew what the other was thinking. It was that insane soul connection that I don't think I'll ever have with anyone again," Mia explains.
"Have I met her before?"
"No... she left me."
"It's a long story."
"I'm listening," Josh says, still shoving food into his mouth.
"We met each other at a party. As you know, my mom's half-Indian and her family were gathered together, celebrating Diwali. Me and Rylo were invited along to this house that was beautifully decorated with scented candles, homemade lanterns and colorful lights everywhere! That's when I came across a beautiful girl there. She was wearing a cute pink kameez."
"This sounds like the beginning of a love story," Josh comments, making Mia smile and shake her head.
"We were talking and we clicked so fast. It felt like we've known each other entire lives," she says. "Her name was Anya, and she was a Muslim. She came to this party because her friend invited her over, but she felt like an outcast. She was glad that I came along since I wasn't following any religions. It was because of her that I learned a lot about Islam and it wasn't long before I converted."
"Wait... what?" Josh says, almost choking on his food. "This is news to me."
"It was a long time ago, so I never felt the need to bring it up," Mia says. "But, yes, there was a period when I identified as Muslim. At the time, I joined because I liked the community and how supportive they were. I liked how much closer it brought me to Anya, spiritually. I liked how there was finally order and discipline in my life, when every other day was just chaotic and unpredictable with my brothers. For a while, I found comfort in a religion that guided me."
"Okay... that makes sense," Josh says, wiping his mouth with a napkin. "How did your brothers feel about this?"
"They didn't really care," Mia says. "In fact, to them it meant nothing. I told them multiple times to not invite their shady friends over to the house, since I didn't want to wear a headscarf all the time. But they wouldn't listen and invited them over anyway. It was just annoying."
"So... what happened? Like, you're not Muslim anymore... are you?" Josh asks, furrowing his eyebrows in puzzlement.
"No, I'm not. Overtime, I just didn't feel connected to the religion anymore. I knew this, but I kept pretending to be something that I wasn't for Anya's sake. Still, she could see through my act. She knew me so well. It wasn't long before she made me confess," Mia says with a frown. "I was worried that it would change our friendship - and it did. Anya became distant. It made me angry and I confronted her about it, which only drove her further away. Eventually, she left me, and I haven't heard from her since."
Her eyes water and her heart aches. "It's like I lost a sister," she says in a pained voice. "And I tried to reach out to her, but I have no idea where she disappeared off to. And it sucks. It sucks so much."
"I'm sorry, baby girl," Josh says, as he leans forward and wipes away her tears gently with his fingers. "People come and go. That's life. I promise you though, I'm never letting you go." His hand brushes against her cheek, and then he tilts up her chin. "Not even an army of men can keep me away from my number one girl."
Mia sniffles, as she wraps her hands around his, clinging onto him for comfort. "Everyone thinks we're meant to be."
She nods. "My brothers used to hate Zac so much. I think only two out of the six liked him. When we first started to date, they'd give Zac so much crap. Overtime, they got used to him, but the hostility was still there. Then after we broke up, I'd date a random guy here and there. They didn't get along with them. My dates never stayed for long because my brothers scared them away. I was beginning to think I'd stay single forever."
She sighs, as she gazes down at their hands. Josh had intertwined their fingers together.
"Then I met you. We weren't even dating at the time and my brothers were already telling me to be with you. It's quite rare that they usually agree on something. Even Leighton, who thinks no guy is good enough for me, told me that I should marry you. That was the first time I was lost for words. I didn't know what to make of it."
A big, goofy smile is across Josh's face, as he listens intently.
"My mom, especially, fell in love with you," Mia rambles on. "She told me that if I wasn't going to be with you, she'd take you for herself."
Josh laughs. "Bless her."
"All my friends kept telling me that I should stop friend-zoning you," Mia sounds exasperated. "It seemed like everyone wanted us to be together. They kept insisting that you were my soulmate and how I was stupid for not realizing it."
"I think so too," Josh says, raising her hand to his lips and kissing the gemstone of her ring tenderly. "I never believed in soulmates, until I met you."
Mia blushes. She looks down, avoiding eye contact.
"There's something I have to tell you," she says, as she pulls her hand back.
"What is it?"
"I'm..." she begins, as she's shifting in her seat uncomfortably. "It's just..." she looks around, hoping for someone to rescue her. Everyone was preoccupied with their own activities. "The thing is..." she looks up at Josh, seeming hopeless and lost.
"Tell me," he says. "Please, babe."
Mia takes a deep breath, as the candle lights flicker.