He kept himself quiet, trying not to let his emotions get the best of him.
"Let's both face it," Anna firmly continued after seconds of pause, "you are too needy... and not so very bright."
"But we're so good together..." Ben muttered.
"You think so?" Anna squirmed, "you can't even afford a stem of rose, Ben. I need to be with someone who would be able to buy me whatever I want... someone who would give me a brighter future... I want to get out of this hole and become somebody respected... I hate this dump!"
Ben stood up from the wooden bench he was sitting on and approached Anna with questioning. "The dump you just mentioned is where you were born, Anna... This is your home..."
"My mom's home..." Anna strongly defended, "I will never be home in a place like this. And to be honest, you're just a great lover... but you can never be a great provider... don't drag me down to the mud where you're at now by asking me to marry you."
"So there was never just a bit of a chance? I thought we were getting there?" Ben's eyes started to show a glint of tears. The truth overwhelmed him.
But Anna left him standing there with no more explanation.
In fact, that was the day she promised not to see Ben anymore.
Anna fancied Ben... Ben is a complete hunk of a man. He is adorable, funny, loving and sweet... handsome, charming, muscular and fit... he is tanned, 6 feet, with really expressive eyes. The only issue is that he is not financially capable. He is just a student and a son of a farmer.
But she packed her bags and left her province towards the city. All her life, she had lived in that remote province living a simple but peaceful life. She didn't fit in. She wanted to explore, to have all the fancy things in life... to be able to afford all beautiful things. And she hated her place...
She met someone online... someone who told her she would be treated like a queen at his home should she consider marrying him. She agreed. In her mind, that's an opportunity she must not miss. To every little girl with big dreams, moving out of the country is the only option to be able to achieve what desires she has.
Perry was by then an average aging German, twice Anna's age. He visited the Philippines to meet Anna and process what documents they need so that he can take her to Germany.
Perry wasn't at all charming, although he is very kind and sincere. Anna was a little disappointed at first when he met the German, but she focused all her energy on the material things she'd be able to afford; the places she could go to; and become one of the first from their province to achieve her dreams in such a young age.
Soon, she flew with him, and they got married in Germany.
Little did she knew that marriage was not a piece of candy that you can throw once you dislike its taste. She never had feelings for Perry, and yet, she had to bear the minutes whenever they make love... after a while, she would cry in a fetal position in one of the corners of the room thinking about Ben... sometimes, she would excuse herself from her husband and would take a long bath feeling filthy and conscientious.
At first, life was okay... they dined out, they shopped... but as time went by, she started to know more about Perry. He wasn't rich as she assumed all Germans could be, he was just one of the wage-working people. He works at an office in the logistics, and although he can afford, he was not affluent.
Then, they started to feel the pressure when they had two children. The dine out stopped, the shopping was purely for necessity... and she began to feel less and less important. It had become all about the children.
Years have passed, her duties turned into a routine... even her emotions became routinary. Wake up early to fix breakfast, take care of the kids, clean an area of the apartment, do the laundy, wash the dishes, iron the clothes... things that she weren't doing before at home in her province became her daily routine at her home in Germany.
Until one day, Perry was hospitalized due to heart attack. They almost went broke because of the hospital expenses, as Perry was not insured healthwise... until eventually, he died.
She didn't get much government benefit as she thought she would have; the were only renting an apartment so they won't get anything from that property; and because she didn't work and only stayed at home, she couldn't have been capable to raise her kids in Germany.
She was forced to go home with her kids and whatever savings left for her family by her departed husband.
Upon arriving, thoughts of Ben filled her mind. Is he still there? Is he still the same handsome man she once knew? How is he? Is he okay?
No one picked her up at the airport for she never informed anyone of her homecoming. She was trying to compose in her mind her explanation for not keeping in touch with her folks.
Then, upon stepping out of the bus, she was surprised at all the changes in her province... there was already a small town mall somewhere near their place, big houses had sprung from different places... and yet, their house was still the same shack she left 15 years ago.
Along the way, she passed by the tree where she broke up with Ben. Bitterness crept inside her as she remembered his wonderful smile, the many times they shared the laughter, and the many times he kept her smiling...
She was standing in front of the house, wondering why it is quiet and securely closed, when she was approached by one of their surprised neighbors, "Anna, is that you?"
"Yes, Cora..." she responded, failing to smile because of mere shame.
"And these are your children? How beautiful..." Cora commented.
"Have you seen my parents?" Anna questioned ignoring the neighbor's comments.
Cora's smiled turned into a questioning one, "I don't think they're there right now... they must be in the rice fields... did they know you were arriving today?"
She shook her head in negation. She entered the shack and left her two complaining children in one of the rooms. She went outside to calm herself down but as she passed by a body-length mirror, she noticed her reflection... she wondered where was the beauty she once had? Where was the youth? Where was the cheerfulness? Fifteen years has passed... all that was left were the lines on her face and the emptiness she was feeling.
She walked... and walked... and walked...
Until she reached the town mall. It was simple and small compared to a city mall but there were lots of people shopping. She stayed there... for how long, she didn't know.
A startled voice... Anna lifted her head and saw one of the handsomest faces she had ever seen... nothing has changed... his built, his charms, his smile... if it were even possible, he's become more attractive.
She leapt towards him in a tight embrace. She cried never knowing the reason why... she's just so happy to see him.
After the emotions subsided, she felt awkward about the situation and decided to unhook her hands to see him and talk to him.
"How are you? You look good..." she commented honestly.
"Thanks... when did you arrive?" he asked.
She looked at her watch before replying, "Oh... about an hour ago, or so... I think..."
"I see... do you want me to tour you around?" Ben happily suggested.
"Of course... thank you..." she joyfully replied.
They had lots of things talked about during the tour of the place. Every once in a while, Ben would introduce people from the shops and some mall personnel. He even took her to one of the expensive restaurants in the mall and gave her a treat. He's still sweet, after what happened between the two of them.
When they were alone in the restaurant, she had finally explained to Ben what happened. After realizing that, Ben continued to listen being a very good friend to Anna.
"I can help you start up," he said voluntarily.
"Really, how?" she queried.
"You can start at one of my shops here..." he said.
"You have a shop? In this mall?" her eyes widen in disbelief.
"Yes... well, I practically own this mall..." Ben said, as-a-matter-of-fact-ly.
"Y-You o-own... t-this mall???" she was almost paralized to have heard another shocking truth.
"Not entirely. My other half and I own this place, and five more malls across the province. I am also involved in real estate... so, just tell me wherever you want to start to work and I can guarantee you a spot..." he said without long pauses.
"Y-your... o-other h-half... y-you're married?" she almost fainted upon hearing another shocking truth.
"Well, I can't say I am. But I love him dearly."
"H-him???" she muttered disbelievingly.
"Remember my classmate, Andy? He was my lucky charm. He was my shoulder to cry on, my adviser... my best friend... especially when you left me. It just happened. A year after we broke up, we became good buddies... I don't know how it happened, but I got comfortable with our situation. And somehow, we did it together. We won the lottery together by combining our lucky numbers... we graduated together... built our companies together... and we were inseparable eversince..."
"Do... d-do you r-really love him...?" asked Anna after moments of silence... tears falling down her cheeks.
"I do..." Ben responded without hesitation.
"What about me? Don't you love me still?"
"You are just a friend I've known from way back, Anna... I can be a good friend to you, if you would set that same limit with me... just friends, nothing more."
Anna cried... "But I never forget, Ben. I still feel the same way about you."
"And yet, you left. Anna, it took me years to forget you... and years to move on. I can never love another girl as much as I loved you... and I can't risk my feelings again knowing that you would only want me now because I can already afford it... let's just both carry on with our lives. I can help you with other things... but I can never love you back... anymore. Andy is now my world... and let's just leave it at that."