Avila did have a good night\’s sleep. It could be due to her fatigue the day before, or maybe, the soothing voice of Gabriele helped. She woke up with a smile and went about her usual business – preparing breakfast for the family, getting her kids ready for the day\’s lesson and her own job.
A notification popped up on her phone. Message from Gabriele. Heart skipping a beat, she opened up the app to read the message.
\”Good morning, Avila. Have you had your breakfast?\”
That\’s right. She hadn\’t. She\’d been too focused on getting everything else done.
\”Nope,\” she answered him. \”Will grab a bite soon.\” She put her phone down and went to wake the kids up.
\”Do you think I can have some iced coffee?\” her husband asked.
\”Sure.\” She was about to head to the kitchen when she spotted her phone on the table. Unable to resist the temptation, she picked up the phone to check if Gabriele replied. He did. Three messages, in fact.
\”I know you\’re busy but you need to take care of yourself first before looking after the others.\”
\”Do you have fruits at home? Let me know what you have and I\’ll think of a quick breakfast for you.\”
She took a picture of the basket of fruits, sent it over, and went to make her husband\’s coffee.
He was working on his computer when she brought the coffee over. She placed it on his desk.
\”Thanks,\” he mumbled without looking up.
Didn\’t even bother to ask if I\’ve had breakfast, she thought to herself, feeling disgruntled. Do I really have to pay to get someone to show some care and concern for me?
Gabriele replied with a smoothie recipe based on the fruits she had. She pulled out the blender and made it.
\”Here\’s a set of stretches to get you started for the day. Just five minutes. It won\’t take long. Enjoy your smoothie after that. Have a good day! I\’ll see you for your workout later.\”
Avila opened up the video file and sucked in a breath.
Gabriele was dressed only in his lounge pants, hair tied into a man-bun and his beautifully sculptured torso on full display. \”There are some stretches I like to do to get my day started.\” He shuffled around his exercise mat, scratching his belly like he\’d just woken up himself. Then, he got into position and did his stretches, grunting along the way.
Avila bit her lower lip and smiled. She\’d watch this once to admire the beautiful man, then watch it again for the stretches. She deserved that ten minutes for herself.
The stretches turned out to be more than just aesthetically appealing. They were actually effective in getting the blood circulation going and she did feel perked up after the routine. She emptied the glass of delicious fruit smoothie quickly and started the day feeling energized.
She found herself in quite a pleasant mood the entire day despite the usual busy schedule. During the course of the day, Gabriele would send some messages here and there to remind her to take a few minutes off for herself. In the late afternoon, they would work out and just before bedtime, his voice will guide her through some simple meditation to help with her sleep.
Avila liked the new routine. She was surrounded 24/7 by her family, but she still felt lonely. She couldn\’t explain why until Gabriele came into her life. He made her feel human.
On top of working out with her, he would ask how she was, check if she had eaten and walk her through some relaxation exercises when she felt strained from the workload. He couldn\’t help her physically, but his \’presence\’ mattered. He showed her concern when no one else in the family did.
There was one afternoon when she tried out something new for lunch, but the rest of the family members didn\’t like it. Despite putting in so much effort during the preparation, her husband just ordered McDonald\’s for lunch and the kids cheered like he was their hero.
She didn\’t mean to complain about something so personal to Gabriele, but it just poured out of her when she broke down in the toilet. Two hours later, a small bunch of flowers arrived, together with a slice of lychee-rose cheesecake and a tumbler of camomile tea.
\”For the queen who had forgotten to love herself,\” was the message on the card. It didn\’t state who the flowers were from, but it wasn\’t difficult for Avila to guess. All these years of marriage, her husband had never given her flowers.
She snapped a picture of the delivery and sent it to Gabriele. \”Is this you?\”
\”Are you smiling now?\”
He gave her a \’thumbs up\’ emoticon.
She thanked him profusely, but he waved it off, telling her that cheering her up brought him joy too.
That evening, Avila raved about Gabriele to her friends in their whatsapp chat group.
\”Huh,\” Caroline texted. \”Feels like he crossed the line a little.\”
\”Why?\” Avila asked, feeling a little shocked.
\”He\’s an exercise coach. Should just stick to exercising. Sending you flowers feels a little weird. Too personal.\”
\”He\’s my wellness coach. He looks after my overall well-being, not just physical health,\” she retorted, feeling a little defensive.
\”Well, it\’s good that he made you feel better,\” Alicia cut in, trying to diffuse the tension. \”As long as you know he\’s being paid to do so.\”
Avila frowned. Did her friends think she didn\’t know that? Why were they such wet blankets? She decided to stop talking about Gabriele to them. They were not going to take away the only good thing that had happened to her these days. When was the last time someone stopped to care about how she was? Her husband didn\’t even bother asking about the bouquet of flowers she placed in the middle of the dining table.
After that day, Avila chatted with Gabriele more frequently. He was like her \”happy drug\” and she found herself increasingly reliant on their daily conversations to cheer up. Now and then, he would surprise her with deliveries of food or gifts. He was the first thought that came to her mind when she woke up, and the last person she thought of before she went to bed.
Since they\’d never met in person, she didn\’t think it was wrong. While she enjoyed their friendship, she never had the desire to meet him in person. Although, there were many occasions she wished she\’d met Gabriele first. If she were single, she would have asked him out.
One evening, she was doing laundry in the kitchen when a delivery came for her. Her husband was in the living room, so he accepted it on her behalf.
\”You bought something?\” he asked as he dropped the parcel on the kitchen counter.
Avila\’s heart started pounding. \”Yeah,\” she tried to reply very nonchalantly.
\”What did you buy?\”
Shit. She didn\’t know what was inside the package.
\”There\’s a note – For your sweet dreams tonight.\” He read from the card. \”Is this a gift?\”
Avila pretended to look puzzled. She shrugged and walked over to check out the parcel. She hoped he didn\’t notice her trembling fingers when she took the box from him.
\”Well? Are you going to open it?\” he asked.
\”Later. I got to put the clothes in the dryer, unless you want to help?\”
He grinned and left the kitchen quickly. She glared at him in annoyance but at the same time, also very relieved that he did not stay to see what was in the box. After making sure he had gone back to his TV show, Avila smuggled the box using the laundry basket into the bedroom. It wasn\’t until she was safely behind the locked door of her bathroom that she heaved a sigh of relief.