"I missed you…"
Xue Guangxi whispered with all solemnity as he threw a side-glance towards the lady standing beside him. They were in front of the airport, patiently waiting for the car that would pick them up and bring them home.
Twenty-five-year-old Kang Sola maintained her neutral, poker face as if she did not hear anything at all. However, the slight flicker in her eyes betrayed her.
"No joke." Xue Guangxi added with unmistakable sincerity. The man, the same age as the lady, added the remark when he did not get a response from her. His voice wavered a tad bit.
The additional comment only garnered him a fleeting glance from the lady.
And what was that? A smirk.
Kang Sola smirked at him?
She must have decided against believing him, thinking that he's just bluffing.
If his hands were not occupied at the moment, he would have teased the lady brashly with matching actions. But he couldn't mess up with her now, with his one hand clutching a little boy's chubby hand and a dog's leash in the other.
A few minutes ago…
A pair of twins – one girl and one boy – of age seven had asked their aunt, Kang Sola, myriads of times when the flight from France will arrive.
"Is he here yet, Aunty?" The little boy, Chen Lingtian fidgeted in his seat with wide, eager eyes.
"Why is he taking so long?" The cute little girl, Chen Lihua whined with a pouty long face.
Chuckling, Kang Sola looked up from the sketchbook she's drawing on and lightly squeezed the girl's soft, supple cheeks with her fingers. "Be patient, Xiao Lihua. He's on his way! You've fretted for years and years, now you just have to wait for just a couple of minutes more."
"Xiao Lingtian, sit properly. Just a little while longer, okay?"
The little boy beside her nodded earnestly.
Perhaps Xue Guangxi was just an uncle to the twins, but he's their favorite out of all their uncles. Perhaps it's because he's the youngest, and most fun to be with. Uncle Guangxi may not always be there for them since he's in France most of the growing years of their life, but he never forgot to video call and provide guidance through technology.
That's why the twins grew close to Xue Guangxi despite the distance. In this aspect, Xue Guangxi did a seemingly fantastic job.
When at last the very person they had been most anxious to meet finally showed beyond the gates, both kids jumped with excitement and rushed towards their favorite uncle, Xue Guangxi.
They squeaked and squealed with joy.
"Hahahaha!" The lady stood up while the twins ran towards the young man, the man of the hour.
Xue Guangxi kneeled and welcomed the rushing little boy and girl with open arms. He encapsulated them in hugs and showered them with kisses. "How have you been, my babies? You've grown a lot! Xiao Lihua! Xiao Lingtian! Wow! Just wow!"
It hadn't been quite a minute passed when both kids insisted on gaining their freedom from their uncle's expectant, welcoming, yearning arms. "Ehhh?" Wonder and disappointment oozed from the young man's countenance.
"It's a dog." Chen Lihua pointed out, her eyes not once leaving the dog since it landed on the fluffy animal.
Indeed, obediently sitting on its hind legs at Xue Guangxi's right side was an off-white Labrador retriever.
"It's MY dog. Her name is Lala. I named it after your Aunt Sola! Haha!"
Kang Sola rolled her eyes in the background, but her lips were still curled into a smile.
At the sight of the cute, fluffy, white dog, the kids' anticipation at Xue Guangxi's arrival was replaced with awe. They gawked and surrounded the dog with sparkly eyes and huge, adorable grins.
They petted the gentle animal with caution at first, using their chubby paws.
Xue Guangxi sighed helplessly. He did not expect that his dog would steal the limelight from him. Dotingly, he left his niece and nephew to marvel at the dog.
He stood up and released some of the leash's strap that was crumpled in his right hand to give the dog ample space for movement.
Xue Guangxi and Kang Sola met each other again for the first time after two years. Kang Sola was not just the twins' paternal-aunt and he's not just their maternal-uncle. First and foremost, several years before the twins' birth into the world, Kang Sola and Xue Guangxi were best of friends.
…And if not for certain circumstances in the past, perhaps they could have been more?
He shifted his attention onto the lady. "Sola... How have you been?" His tone… was somewhat laced with the utmost tenderness and care and tentativeness combined, despite his jokes earlier.
Kang Sola answered Xue Guangxi's question, high with energy, "Great! How about you, Guangxi? Tired from the flight, huh?"
"Well, yeah! It's a whopping ten hours, more or less. Who wouldn't?" He outstretched his left arm and invited Kang Sola for a hug. The lady approached unassumingly. A genuine smile adorned her small face. She wrapped both arms around his waist. It wasn't more than a friendly hug.
He wrapped one indulgingly strong arm around her shoulders and gave it a squeeze. "Geez, I can't believe you can still grow much prettier."
He took note of the major physical details since he last saw her: her balayage, waist-length hair with its big waves was still there, together with the thin, black tattoo-inspired choker on her neck that had been expected already to complete her look as if it's a real one. He compared it with the image of her that he had been saving in his gallery of memories: Kang Sola at eighteen, with her pixie-grown-into-a-bob hair and its soft pink and purple highlights. Even before, she had been expressive with her style.
The lady acted as if she was flattered. She cupped one hand on her cheek. "I bet you're dying to point that out, huh?"
"Oh yes! I thought your ugly face wouldn't have any chances left to become any better." He snickered. "Kidding! Kidding! OW!"
Kang Sola pulled away from his embrace, and almost automatically sent her hand flying onto his biceps with much force she could muster.
"You've gotten stronger, too! That hurts! Hehehe! Of course, I'm only kidding! Don't get mad! Save your energy!"
Of course, the young man was just joking because the lady was far from ugly. But, it had been their way of fooling around way back to their teenage years.
"Serves you right, though!" She stuck her tongue at him.
"You shouldn't resort to violence, really. The kids are watching." He retorted and clicked his tongue. "Still so childish, Sola?"
The lady harrumphed. "Look who's talking!" Her lips pulled into a smile. It was just an act and they both knew it. They both had the understanding that it was just a friendly banter between old friends.
No offense was taken whatsoever.